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Tassaout valley - High Atlas, MGoun, Morocco

Tassaout Valley, early Oct 22, WM account

We walked 2 days down this magnificent and fascinating valley as part of a traverse of the M’goun Massif [link to Traverse page] in October 2022.

Day 1 – From Tassagaiwelt down Tassaout valley

A luxurious lie-in to 7.30, emerging to a morning of light cloud and porridge for breakfast. Everyone is cheerful after good sleep and with an easy walk ahead. 

We walk along the contour towards the village, above almond terraces and below steep, unstable boulders. The village is poor and basic, but the school is freshly painted bright yellow and blue and implies hope for the future.

Across an expanse of rocky river fan, we join the road and start an enjoyable 4hr trudge down-river, above a vivid patchwork of little irrigated fields, orchards and trees, the far bank changing from red-purple slopes to orange cliffs, with gorges retreating away with their own little riots of colour between their cliffs. The river rushes cheerfully through the middle of the world it sustains.

The trees are just turning towards Autumn, so sport a multitude of greens and golds. Villages nestle on the hillsides above their precious fields. 

The cliffs get more dramatic as the valley descends, steadily, towards a mid-course gorge. Just above the turn of the river into the gorge, the hamlet of Imin Ikkis perches (at 2,100m) on a rise between two wide incoming rocky river-beds, our tents visible among trees beside some houses on the far side.

This is a very pleasant place, our table sitting smugly in an orchard in the shade of some young walnut trees. We eat a delicious lunch of salad and vegetable omelette mush. Cheerful, leisurely talks.

I draw a bit in the afternoon sun. Supper is soup and vegetable tagine – no surprises, but always welcome. And we play some Hearts.


Day 6 – on down the valley to Ait Ali n Itto

We make another leisurely breakfast of porridge and bread in our orchard as the sun hits the cliffs across the valley. It is a really magical moment. We pack and leave at 8, to begin a completely delightful day's walking.

We tramp along the road for an hour through the gorge below the river junction where we camped, enjoying the contrast between the greenery in the narrow bottom and the oranges of the crazily eroded cliffs above them.

After a while, we sit on grass by the river to swig some water, then just hang around in the sunshine with a sense of ease and luxury after the rigours of the high walking behind us.

After a bit more road, we drop down to a track by the river to start a really beautiful 2.5 hrs among trees and little fields of maize and livestock in the valley bottom. We cross the river several times, boots off twice, and splash through the steam as it invades the track from time to time. 

There are many memorable moments: a Berber village tightly packed on its rocky spike dead ahead of us; looking back up the valley to the light sparkling off the stream descending through scruffy grass and rock and scrubby trees, and behind them the glue of the verse ochre cliffs; a pair of patient little mules labouring under enormous bundles of wood, chivvied along by a young girl with a stick.

It is a real delight.

We rejoin the road and are soon climbing the path to our gite at Ait Ali n Itto above the junction where the Megdaz road heads up a wide, rocky valley to the south.

A good lunch in a light, ornately furnished upstairs room: salad, a lentil dish.

A luxurious short kip.

The afternoon involves a mule ride up valley to the Berber village of Megdaz, a remarkable if possibly over-restored World Heritage Site. We climb up pole-ladders through the dusty little chambers of the castle – apparently 500 years old (impossible to tell with these materials) – to the creaky mud roof, to gaze on the village in its so-green bowl in the high mountains.

We walk back.

After a clean-up, we play hearts, scoff a superb chicken and veg tagine and play a final session of Scrabble.

By William Mackesy ()

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