Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For the Christmas week we stayed in stayed in a small hotel in a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and explored the nearby mountains. The view from Dar Tassa is truly spectacular and we felt very welcome in the colorful cushioned living area, catching up on books and knitting. Our host, Mohamed, played mother hen, ensuring that there was enough heat in the lounge, coffee or mint tea, hot water for showers, taxis for walk shuttles, and even hot water bottles in our beds at night! He presented us with a fantastic chocolate cake on Christmas eve to make it a memorable event.

We struggled with the language barrier at the 13th century Tinmal mosque and nearby markets, and the feeling that we were being taken as tourists. Only Ali really felt comfortable negotiating with the traders for lower prices.
It was windy and rained a few times, but we walked about 10-15 miles a day in the mountains (a good thing, with the lavish breakfasts and fantastic tagines, bread and lovely desserts for dinners!). On cultural tour days, I ran on the path winding above the lodge - exhausting on the steep trail up, but exhilarating on the decline!

People mostly smiled at us as we guessed our way through unmarked mud streets in Berber villages, but the toughest part was cross-country route-finding! Our Spanish topo map had trails marked that we never found and we often had to just bushwhack on compass trend... which was fine until we came upon deep ravines and once a rocky cliff! We were continually traversing unstable slopes, and all ended up with spiky spines in our hands... Ali and I spent a fun day shopping in Marrakesh while the guys met up with a tour guide and had lunch in a Berber household.

The last night, after we laughed ourselves silly about the strange beet dessert, Mohamed arranged for the guests to dress in Berber garb and the lovely staff girls (we'd only seen briefly before) joined us for tea and put henna on our hands while we listened to Berber music.

The week was a great way to avoid a commercial Christmas and it was my first time without email in a few years! We played games, laughed together and the physical challenge left us falling into bed at too early an hour to get bored. A 3 minute video (shot with my ipod nano!) follows; click on the box to start.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Last night was the Stitch and Bitch (Knit club) Christmas party. Will and PoshTater cooked us an AMAZING vegetarian feast!
We all went home with Secret Santa wool and a challenge to show our resultant creations at the next mtg in the new Year.
Really a fun group, left to right - Nicola, Mary, Sue, Niki, me, Danielle, Lauren, Zarich, Will and Elizabeth.
Oh yeah, and Parsnip the dog!