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Having visited the ancient Anti-Atlas on Thursday, on Friday 13th March, our last complete day, we were off to the High Atlas mountains. These were much younger – formed by uplift over only the last 60 to 10 million years! We only went into the ‘foothills’, but they seemed pretty high to me, and they were certainly beautiful.

But first we stood in the garden of our temporary home, as some had heard the Black-crowned Tchagra. Sadly, we didn’t manage to see it at this time, but I took a picture of a Common Bulbul, (they’re everywhere), possibly the one which sang outside our windows every morning.

Some of the food serves at the Atlas Kasbah is grown in its garden.

Our first stop revealed some extraordinary folding, caused, as for the Anti-Atlas, by the crashing of the African plate into the Eurasian one. (That is still going on – the Alps are still getting higher. My 2007 OU geology course taught me that the Mediterranean will in due course disappear!)

Another dried-up river bed to the left

The next stop involved a short upward stroll.

The next, a longer stroll along a nearly dried-up river bed, in Paradise Valley. First a few steps downstream.

Moorish Terrapins
Red-veined Darter
Blue-eyed Pincertail

And then upstream, the flow having transferred to the other side of the road by going under it, and then apparently either diverting under the geological feature or just drying up, the rest of our walk being alongside a dry river bed.

Blue Rock Thrush (Collins Bird Guide: ‘blue colour difficult to make out at long range, mostly looks all dark.’ Indeed!)
A Barbary Ground Squirrel, a long way from the ground, on the wall opposite
Black Wheatear
A geological fault
Black Wheatear
Mohamed waiting for us

There followed a long, climbing, drive to our lunch place.

We ate our packed lunch in the Café Restaurant Le Miel. (Again they were happy for us just to buy drinks.) We were meant to wonder at the Cascades of Imouzzer. But they have not had the slight trickle of water for at least two years. (Here is a 3-minute video I found on YouTube about the Imouzzer region, made in 2015 when there were still trickles of water over the Cascades.)

Having eaten, we were driven up to much nearer them, for botanical reasons, but it gave a chance to look at the rocks more closely. From this angle, to me they look like a bearded old man, sitting with his wide sleeves dangling, his hands resting on his knees.

Looking down at the village where we had eaten

Two flowers were particularly sought.

Narcissus cantabricus, the White Hoop Petticoat Daffodil. It’s tiny. I loved the way the sun was shining through its petals.
Polygala balensae, a milkwort – very pretty flowers and very fierce thorns

We moved on to this rather unprepossessing spot, at 1300 metres altitude, (whose whereabouts we were told never to reveal, even were we able, because hordes of twitchers would drive away the bird we had come to see).

Which we did, at a great distance:

Tristram’s Warbler, normally only found at higher altitudes

Finally we moved to perhaps the most beautiful spot of the whole week (though that’s a difficult pick), high, high, high, at 1550 metres, in the (still only) foothills of the High Atlas. First our attention was drawn to several examples of the Moroccan Day Gecko.

And in due course to this dwarf iris, the Barbary nut (the tubers used to be eaten).

How’s this for a rockery garden? All natural of course.

And for the rest of the time, at this our last stop, we just enjoyed the views, and a slight, cooling breeze.

On the next day, Saturday, 14th March, we did not need to leave the Atlas Kasbah for Agadir Airport until late afternoon. Half the group had a cooking lesson in the kitchens, and the others went out with Philip and James, to review the first morning’s sightings, and to see some more. (They saw a Black-crowned Tchagra at last.) I did neither. I had not yet managed even to read the hotel’s own information folder, and really wished to do so, nor had I had a chance to wet the new swimsuit I had bought a few days before coming away. So, having achieved the former, I was then obliged to spend time here.

With its views outwards

and inwards.

For a long while I had the whole pool to myself. (In the event the water was too cold for me actually to wet the swimsuit.)

We ate the tagine our colleagues had prepared in the morning at lunchtime, and the afternoon whiled itself away. In due course we said a reluctant goodbye to those who had been looking after us so well, the more so for knowing what we were going back to.

I had a window seat again on the plane.

I feel so blessed that I was able to take that holiday, for which I had been longing for months, before the clampdown enforced on us by this horrible virus, Covid-19. As I said in the first post in this series, Morocco had already banned flights to and from 25 countries the day before we left. (We ten travellers knew about France, but not about how many countries the ban extended to. Our leaders did. Philip was looking at his screen constantly for news.) Two days after our return they added the UK and others to the list.

Now the Atlas Kasbah is shut down, like pretty well the whole world. Here on my own, thankfully with the company of my felines, I’m grateful for the telephone, and all the media, which allow me to be in touch with friends and family and the wider world. I have this extraordinary sensation of fellow-suffering, not just with those I know, in the UK, family on both coasts of the US, friends in France, the company both employed and holidaying which I so enjoyed in Morocco, but also with every single one of the world’s 7,800,000,000 people. Every single one of us is having to contend with the same fears and concerns and ignorance about the future, most of our fellows without even the resources that we have in the first world. I’m going to avoid a cliché, but this is something we do all, every single one of us, face together.