Preparation, & the journey to Marrakech
There are a number of UK airlines – BA plus the budget ones – offering flights to Marrakech. The famous Irish one tempted us with offerings of £30-odd quid each way. But then there’s the little hidden add-ons which most of these guys are prone to tag onto their headline air fares. A couple of quid here, a fiver there, a tax on breathing cabin air, and all of a sudden you’re up to almost “normal” air fares. Besides, Michael’s plane flew out one day earlier than we really wanted, so we chose Thomson Fly instead.
With all the “hidden charges” the cost came to £158 per head, return, Manchester to Marrakech. However, we’d also pre-paid for an extra 5 kilos of luggage allowance, because it’s very difficult to pack a full set off off-road motorcycle gear – including helmet, armour and heavy Moto-x boots into one 20kg bag.
I won’t bore you with every detail, but about 4 weeks before departure, Thomson Fly brought the outward flight forward by 24 hours. This was bad enough, making people take an extra day’s leave from work. But then, they cancelled our flight! Now Dave was scrabbling about trying to find an alternative, with sky-high prices as well now.
Just before buying new flight tickets with BA, Dave happened to ring Thomson Fly about a different matter, and discovered our amended flights were not cancelled after all – it had been a mistake. A little joke eh? What a sense of humour these guys have.
Flight times were pretty horrid; 06:30 from Manchester, meaning having to be there for 04:00 ish. As most guys had already had to take an extra day off work, a leisurely drive up the day before, with an overnight stay near the airport was not possible. Therefore we more or less travelled all night to get there. The idea of a very early night, and getting a few hours’ kip before a midnight departure went out the window for all of us. Panic & last minute emails meant I didn’t start packing ‘til 22:00, and JRB began half an hour later I’m told. This could be a night of a few beers while packing, but sadly, no sleep.
By car from house to house, transfer to Dave’s truck at 02:00, then finally we picked up JR from Derby at 02:30am. The stench as he climbed into the pick up could have stunned mosquitoes. He’d enjoyed his packing, with “the odd glass of port”.
Check-in went OK, with several bags weighing 22-24 Kg, but I’m embarrassed to say mine was 27.5 kg and JRB’s 2 bags came to 33kg! Fair play to Thomson Fly, they didn’t complain. Phew. (Bill’s excuses – I’d taken some group items – guide-books, two-way radios, music, chargers, well-stocked First Aid kit, basic tools, plus some cold weather clothing as well – knowing that cold weather, or even snow, in the High Atlas is not unheard of)
An easy flight of 3 hours 15 minutes ended with a wake-up landing in Marrakech at 10:00am.
We made our way out through the current construction work in the air terminal, into sunshine, blue skies and 20 degree warmth. We soon located the couple of drivers that William had sent to get us.
We squeezed 5 tired bodies and 6 big heavy bags into 2 ancient Mercedes 240 Diesel taxis. The windows were stuck open, and all the winding handles were missing. Which was fine, as some of us stank after Port, beer, and a night of no real sleep.
We were whisked away amidst urban wasteland and acres of rubbish strewn over the parched ground. Many a Metropolis has its less salubrious suburbs. Even Nottingham.
This was neither a glamorous or exotic introduction to one of Morocco’s most vibrant cities. Nevertheless, I felt, “we’ve arrived, this is it, this is so different to home. Let the next adventure begin”.
The elderly Mercedes jostled for position amongst light traffic, and donkey drawn carts piled high with bric-a-brac.
A seemingly endless trek southwards, towards the hazy distant peaks of the High Atlas ahead, finally brought us to an area known as Tameslohte.
JR began to whistle the familiar banjo theme from “Deliverance” as we left the highway to bump and grind down a dusty, unsurfaced trail.
It felt like miles, but in fact we were only 15km or so from the centre of Marrakech.
We were very surprised to enter a walled Olive Grove, with half a dozen low rise, pink plastered buildings, surrounding a cool & pristine swimming pool.
The French owned, Auberge de Tameslohte, looked ideal.
Fabienne, one of our French hostesses welcomed us warmly, and before you could say, “Jack Robinson”, we were soon showered, shorted, and sitting around the pool, sipping locally produced cold beer. Delightful indeed.
Our room – plenty big enough for the whole group, was a huge, tent-like structure. The walls were solid, and finished in typical straw-filled, rough pink plaster. The sloping roof of our “marquee” was a double layer of white fabric, substantial enough to keep out the elements, but light and airy enough to allow a cool breeze to flow through.
This one was the biggest “tent” in the complex and would actually sleep 10, but with just 5 of us in residence, it was surprisingly spacious and very comfortable indeed.
(For future reference, there were 8 single beds arranged in 2 sets of 3, plus 2 separate singles, and a double bed. White curtains divided the space into 3 discreet sections, offering a degree of privacy for mixed, or family groups)
A clean and functional toilet & shower block was just adjacent, in a separate building. We were surrounded by trees laden with ripe olives; the pool a mere 25 paces away, and a well-stocked bar & restaurant beside it. We could want for nothing more. It's perfect.
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