Todra Gorge and El Khorbat

Carved by the Todgha and Dades Rivers, Todra Gorge cuts through the High Atlas Mountains with walls up to 400m high in places. It was a great place to both spend an atmospheric couple of nights in and to go for a 10km walk through.

We started at the narrowest part of the gorge, with 160m high walls towering above, in places just starting to catch the light of the rising sun. There were some nice reflections on the small stream running through, with my iPhone dealing with the extreme contrast of light and dark better than my camera.

A short way into the gorge is a hotel which has been abandoned due to rocks falling from above, a seemingly obvious risk with building there…

The foundations of a replacement hotel could be found close by, in a much better site with more light and no risk from rockfall or flash floods.

We headed up a rocky path to a wind swept ridge as shadows retreating across the valley below. The landscape was very similar to that of Central Australia, which I saw walking the Larapinta Trail.

Heading a little higher there were good views of mountain ranges in the distance.

Coming down the other side of the ridge we stopped for tea with local nomads. The sons were away with the animals leaving their 80 something father with some of the wives and young children. The children are uneducated, with no money to pay for schooling, and it’s a 15km journey each way for them to visit the weekly market to buy supplies. Apparently they were born here rather than in a hospital or medical facility. Members of the family live in these caves all year round. It’s a traditional but extremely hard way of life.

Further on were views into the distance.

And below the village of Ait Oussalem village from where we started, completing a loop.

The village and valley was green and lush closer to.

After lunch in the village I walked back through Ait Oussalem to return to the hotel.

Beyond the gorge is the oasis town of Tinghir, home to over 40,000 people either side of a fertile green corridor running down the valley.

Around it was a barren landscape.

To end with photos from a few stops near Erfond on our way from the Erg Chebbi sand dunes to Todra Gorge. These seemingly endless series of mounds of earth are old wells, dug by local tribes (each had their own line of wells) from 2m to 25m underground to access the water table of a nearby oasis, digging more as they dried up.

The edge of the Sahara is surprisingly rich in fossils remaining from when the area was underwater millions of years ago. This local shop extracts and polishes them into these incredible objects, though I suspect the vast majority are fake.

The ksar (fortified village) of El Khorbat dates back to the 1860s, but felt newer when exploring the dark alleys given regular maintenance of the walls.

It is home to a wonderful restaurant and hotel, and Musee des Oasis, a nicely presented museum of Berber history.

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