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The Call of Marrakech

marrakech rooftop wide view day
Riad rooftop view

Travelling is made up, like most things, of lots of little moments. Some destined to fade and escape your memory forever whilst others reach that pinnacle of moments. That one moment that whenever you think about it, brings a smile to your face. It starts your head, and your heart, off on its travels again. You might not be there physically but in every other way you are experiencing it all again. That glazed over look in your eyes, as your companions click their fingers trying to make you snap out of it.

Scent stall
Scent stall

I had many moments on my trip to Spain and then Morocco that I know will be with me for a long time, but I think that one special moment where I truly felt the country and its culture in its purity was high on a riads rooftop in Marrakech, overlooking the medina on a breezy, balmy Moroccan evening. My eyes are glazing over as I type. It sounds all too romantic to be true but sometimes those unplanned moments are just like that. A long day visiting the museums and archeological sites around Marrakech had me about as tired as I could be and about as full of culture as I thought I could be.

Badi Palace
Badi Palace
Badi pallace detail
Badi palace detail

 

Marrakech souk
Marrakech souk

All that was needed to finish off the evening after our usual stroll through the Djemaa el-fna and our meal of chicken, potato and olive tajine was a sweet, sweet mint tea on the rooftop of the riad we were staying at. Like many of the riads in Marrakech there were many little corners where you could get just a little bit higher than the other riads in order to have an uninterrupted view of what lay below. And there I was. A sea of twinkling lights, faint distant music from the square and the knowledge that the crazy never ending movement of human bodies and lives, bustled and scurried through the maze of  souks and streets below.

Dusk at Djemaa el-Fna
Dusk at Djemaa el-Fna

Sipping on my tea, enjoying the breeze and overlooking Marrakech, I heard the beginning of the call to prayer. Nothing new there – it’s a constant every day and it pleased me as it always did. But as I stood there and let it waft over me, I heard the beginning of another call to prayer, and another and another. Each one starting within seconds of each other. From around Marrakech all of the mosques were starting their call to prayer. Usually I happened to be down below within the throng of people and streets and would hear only the call to prayer that was in my vicinity. This particular time, up above it all on that perfect evening, I heard them all. It was  a beautiful, spiritual musical moment of the call to prayer sung in rounds. Surrounded by it, the heart lifted and the goosebumps grew. And then one by one, each one ended before the next until the last few words of prayer were sung as it had begun. In singular.

Quietness amongst the bustle
Quietness amongst the bustle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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El Chorro Climbing

I was hoping that upon my return from Spain I would have files full of the routes we climbed, posed mid sequence, with that steely look of determination in our eyes. As I noted – I was hoping. I have some bum shots.  I also have a bum shot plus. A bum shot plus is so much more than the usual bumshot. There is a slight twist to the body so at least it looks like you are more than just a behind and more importantly, people know it is you. You were really there. After all, there probably aren’t that many people who would recognise you by your bum. Anyway, I digress. I was supposed to be telling you all about El Chorro and the fabulous climbing to be had. This would be highlighted by the myriad of spontaneous climbing shots! Lets just talk about the fabulous climbing to be had.

Like all the other places in Spain we had been travelling to, we were surrounded by rock. On our first day we climbed at Sector Castrojo at Frontales. With it being a bit of a suntrap, we needed to get our climbing in quick and then move out before the searing sun burnt us.

On belay duty at Los Albercones.
On belay duty at Los Albercones.

The following day we visited the Los Albercones area. A great little selection of climbs to keep you busy for a good part of the day. Gabi and Zulu express 6a and 6a+ respectively were great fun. Although our day would be shorter considering the sun factor. Still we did our best to tick as many as possible. Along with a young american guy who was on R & R from Germany, we gave our forearms a bit of a workout on the deceivably pumpy little routes. All the while chasing the shade along the cliff. Thank goodness for the shade below to belay in. If it wasn’t for that, we would have needed to leave a lot earlier. Early starts are best in this part of the world when climbing in the warmer seasons.

Los Albercones, Frontales
Los Albercones, Frontales

Tops for me though in the cliffs that we climbed in the El Chorro region, was Desplomandia. A good 20 minute drive from where we were staying, Desplomandia sits above a green hued lake, making for a fantastic view and dependant on which cliff you are at – that elusive requirement of warm day climbing. Shade. It was bliss. From the rock quality, the routes on offer, the view and the coolness to bask in. Saying that though, the first two warm up routes we jumped on at the Bueno Sombra sector were totally missable. Polished like you wouldn’t believe and the climbing awkward. Halfway through the second one, I thought – “Stuff that for a game of soldiers” and lowered off. Better things to do/climb with my time. A bit further up the cliff line we jumped on some great single pitches such as Alobeitor, a 6a with lots of lovely pockets.

Bueno Sombra, Desplomandia
Bueno Sombra, Desplomandia

We climbed again the next day at Desplomandia but at Poza de la Mona. Again in beautiful, beautiful shade. We had some friends with us this time. A young german couple (the very couple that had alerted and averted me from the Alhambra disaster!)

Desplomandia view
Desplomandia view

The drive throughout El Chorro and surrounding villages is stunning. Gorgeous rock, green fields, olive plantations and little villages perched on high points and winding down. The days were drawing to a close and our time in El Chorro was up. It had been great to settle for a week and develop our own el chorro rhythm.

La finca la Campana
La finca la Campana
View from the cliffs at Desplomandia
View from the cliffs at Desplomandia

The drive ahead to Madrid was long and it would be city life for another couple of days before we jetted off to Morocco. Spain was also drawing to a close. I felt like I had a good bash at it and was feeling content with my travel. But the desire to return was also there and still so much to see. So, a farewell with a bang. Sangria, flamenco dance, my beloved Picasso – it was all in Madrid, ready to bid me a fond farewell. Hola and Adios!

Flamenco in Madrid!
Flamenco in Madrid!
Me and my guy Picasso
Me and my guy Picasso

 

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Point Perpendicular and Sapphire Coast.

As they say – ‘Best laid plans’…..
I’m not going to go into too much detail. Just a bullet point of events. Nevertheless, apart from one really foul day, I had a good time. But also needless to say…..I will be needing to head back. I have a few unticked boxes on my trip list.

PLANNED EASTER JAUNT

  • Overnight drive to Point Perpendicular
  • Cruisy camping at Currarong Holiday Park
  • 3 days climbing at the Point
  • Drive back to Melbourne

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

  • Overnight drive to Point Perpendicular
  • Cruisy camping at Currarong Holiday Park
  • 1st day climbing at the Point. Fab!
  • Early morning wake up with Gastro bug along with all attached symptoms. In tent bed until 4.30 pm next day.
  • Overnight rain flooded campsite and tent. All bedding wet. All clothes packed wet. Only dry item – bathers!
  • Rained continuously all the next morning. Road into Point Perp closed for the rest of the week.
  • Cut losses and decide to leave early taking 2 days to drive back along the Sapphire Coast to Melbourne.
  • Lovely weather and drive. Fish and Chips on the Eden pier.
  • Arrive Melbourne

A few nice pics of the trip. Some pretty speccy coastline along the way.

View on our first day of climbing at the Point
View on our first day of climbing at the Point

 

Narooma and it's 'Picasso' blocks. That's what they looked like to me anyway.
Narooma and it’s ‘Picasso’ blocks. That’s what they looked like to me anyway.

 

It's a fence. At Tilba Tilba. But  a very nice, hand built fence.
It’s a fence. At Tilba Tilba. But a very nice, hand built fence.

 

Bermagui
Bermagui

 

Fish and chips and boat watching at Snug Cove, Eden
Fish and chips and boat watching at Snug Cove, Eden

 

Lots of scope to be arty with your pier photography. Snug Cove
Lots of scope to be arty with your pier photography. Snug Cove

 

No-one told me there was a party. Oh...they're not balloons.
No-one told me there was a party. Oh…they’re not balloons.