After the great overnight stay at Ait Benhaddou we left Action Couscous and headed up windy roads to the mountains, stopping at Imlil from where we walked (or if not up to it, donkeyed) up to the small village of Aroumd.
The route took us up via the high (2260m) Tizi n'Tichka Pass which is supposed to have spectacular scenery, though to be honest was more notable for the incredibly persistent, in your fact sellers. One of the guys on our tour had to physically shove the shopkeeper he'd just bought an item off to get back out of his shop after he tried very hard to make him buy more – not cool. He had just bought a crappy dyed rock, so I guess the guy thought he was fair game… but glad it wasn't me. I just had a tail who'd noticed me glancing at a necklace, and was coming p banging on the windows of the bus trying to show me others afterwards. Not my favorite Moroccans.
Our host up in the mountains was a friendly and cheerful chap though, seen here pouring us sage tea – like mint tea but different herb and actually really good. These herb teas are still made with a green tea base so not great for sleeping sadly, but tasty.
They were great cooks there too – his wife seems a master of spice usage. I had expected Moroccan spices would be used quite strongly but in fact they were generally pretty lightly used, just adding a little flavor rather than blasting you, so it's a bit more of a subtle art.
This is what couscous with 7 vegetables looks like – one of the best-known Moroccan dishes.
I didn't sleep well in the gite (basic mountain inn) there unfortunately – woke up halfway through the night with a really, really bad coughing fit that I just couldn't suppress or stop, kinda felt like I was wheezing and choking. Not much fun for the poor guys in the room with me either!
The next morning we just did our own things, I went for walk up the mountain a bit. There's an ancient holy site (rock?) there, but non-Muslim aren't permitted to see it, so you wouldn't go for that specifically. Still it was a nice walk up the hill, waving hello to the guy with the big block of tiny goats, having a look at the aqueducting they use to irrigate the orchards, and chilling.
Lunch was a Berber omelette, sizzling in a tagine and delicious with all the Moroccan spices, olives, fresh herbs, and tomato. I have tried to replicate it at home and it's not bad but nowhere as good as the real deal!
They also served us a big platter of make-your-own-pasta-salad mix which was very welcome as we were all getting pretty sick of the “don't eat the salad!” supposedly-safe food options elsewhere. After two weeks, I was almost starting to crave “normal” food, or at least different Moroccan food :).
We walked back down after lunch and headed on to Essaouira on the coast via very windy roads.