I had been looking forward to this initial Atlas Mountain exploration, and my first taste of life in Morocco, for quite a while.
When reflecting in hindsight, you realise sometimes expectations are met, and sometimes they are not.
And sometimes, they by far exceed.
Upon arrival, we heading to Imlil after a comfortable journey from the airport. The climate is much warmer and we were all very excited for the imminent trip ahead. Travelling with Nikki Barnard, Alan Porthault, John Roberts, Howard from The Right Altitude and his wife Jo; we were full of high anticipation and expectation for a jammed packed adventurous mini trip.
We were staying at the Kasbah Du Toubkal. If you haven’t heard of it, I don’t need to direct you far to find out how truly exceptional this place really is. Nestled within the Imlil valley, we arrived in the dark of evening, making it untenable to fully appreciate the spectacular views and natural beauty situated 6000ft above sea level. What we could fully appreciate at this time was the amazing fresh and tasty authentic cuisine, impeccable and personal service from the staff at the Kasbah from the off.
After a comfortable and cosy night’s sleep, some of the best yogurt I have ever tasted at breakfast, (and I am a BIG fan of yogurt) Howard told me to go and check out the view from the roof terrace.
I climbed the stairs and there I stood. And stood. The peace, the quiet and the view of such undisturbed beauty swept me away. Truly one of the most beautiful and exceptional places I have ever seen. And I have only just arrived!
Soon after, we headed out, gaining some good height (taking us to the snowy trails of 2700 m), being treated to a fresh orange juice at a wonderfully supervised ‘checkpoint’, and even being able to appreciate the wonder of a cloud inversion at the top - this place was quite out of this world.
The weather was warm. It felt as though the climate was fairly constant, although our skilled running guide, (who put us through our paces!) Hassan, had told us that it had been raining the week before. Considering we were running on very varied terrain, careful consideration was needed to traverse or descend scree paths, snowy trails and rockier terrain. What a great selection to keep both mind and feet occupied! Panoramic views of the valley through runnable paths with good challenging ascents and descents, and a hybrid of heat with snowy peaks made this feel quite a new kind of mountain running.
Wildlife was friendly and welcoming, from the miniature goats (fearless on steeper paths) to the reassuring mountain mules, added to the gentle giant persona of this setting. I ran and felt pleasantly warm (this was, after all, an African climate) – and yet, we discussed the skiing possibilities of the Peaks in front of us. As I reiterated many times on this trip, it can be rare for everything to come together in such a succinct way when out for a day on the trail. But good landscape, new and challenging ground, good company (animal and human alike) and I have had two runs which I will find hard to ever forget.
It was great to also meet the owner of the Kasbah, Mike McHugo. He was instantly welcoming; a very down to earth and approachable man who took an interest in our running pursuits and shared his own experiences of cycling in the area. He has a real passion for the location, the people and the community and it is wonderful to hear about how the Kasbah and the surrounding villages are able to work together.
After the Kasbah, we headed to experience Marrakech. It was a wonder with it’s sights, smells and savory treats, as well as having the opportunity to potter around the famous markets to really appreciate this cultural experience. People were so friendly, and there was so much to take in! This high energy was a big contrast to the calm tranquilities of life surrounding the Kasbah, but it added to understanding the diversity and beauty of Morroco. This seemed a place where no two locations, or experiences, are the same.
Below is a little video where I speak more about our trip, share further pictures and talk about our trip to come – we could not be more excited!
Both Nikki and I are very excited for our upcoming adventure, supporting The Right Altitude on our running training camp. You can learn more about the Right Altitude, and express interest in future trips by clicking here, or alternatively, do get in touch with me via my facebook page to learn more. More info about the Kasbah can be found here, as well as this outstanding review.
Many thanks to Salomon Sports for their support, as well as Outside Shop.