When I arrived in Agadir, there was little time to enjoy the city, as I was to be spending the day weaving my way up Morocco‘s Atlantic coastline and up into the Massa Valley in a 4×4. It’s safe to say, I was pretty excited. Being the only person on our entire excursion travelling on my own, I was unwillingly nominated to car-hop everyone’s spare seats until a suitable configuration of passengers was achieved, but unknowingly this worked in my favour, as I ended up travelling with fellow blogger Amy and her lovely family for the day!
As the Massa 4×4 day trip is the only Moroccan shore excursion offered by Thomson that doesn’t include a stop at a market or souk, our first point of call was a deceptively large pottery store on the outskirts of town, which was to be our only opportunity to stock up on water, snacks and souvenirs before returning to the boat. I meandered my way around the aisles, taken aback by how beautiful and colourful everything was, wondering to myself if I’d be able to get one of these delicate beauties safely home with me after arriving back in Tenerife.
I eventually talked myself out of buying a full-size tagine, and instead decided to take my chances with a beautiful emerald-green plate. Pleased with my find, having spotted it at the bottom of a very large pile of much less appealing colours and successfully managing to retrieve it without breaking anything, I cheerfully handed over my 70 dirhams to the man at the counter, grabbed a few bottles of ice-cold water and jumped back into the 4×4.
From here, we made our way to the coastal village of Tiznit, which struck me as rather an odd place to bring (I’m describing everyone else here, I’m not your standard cruiser after all) fairly affluent, middle class tourists. Now, don’t get me wrong, from one vantage point you have beautiful views of the dessert-reddened cliffs which would be the perfect backdrop for a souvenir photograph opportunity, if the full length of the beach beneath us wasn’t strewn with plastic litter and other household waste, some of which had definitely been carried on the surf from other parts of the world, judging from the Chinese, Russian and German labels that I saw. It saddened me that no one had taken it upon themselves to clean up the area, especially as we watched more and more bottle caps disappearing into the sea. The buildings nearby were also in a severe state of disrepair and it was clear to see the levels of localised poverty, as we drove by people napping (I really hope they were napping) next to the road in the heat of the day, our Jeeps covering them with a fine shower of sand and dust as we passed. This video gives a general overview of what I mean by this, which is also the exact opposite of what Rough Guides say about Tiznit here, and in a way that my photos just don’t show very clearly; just try to ignore the self-entitled attitude of the narrator.
From here, we powered inland, bumping and bouncing over the rough terrain. It’s definitely worth noting at this point in my review that this excursion is not for the faint hearted, elderly, or the heavily pregnant. Although the Jeeps are super comfortable whilst stationary, the off-road paths are extremely rough in places, and the seatbelts were definitely our saviour at times. The next part of our journey took us into an area of the 33,800 hectare Souss-Massa National Park, just north of Agadir. Here, we stopped to take in the changes of landscape from the coastline, which was particularly lush thanks to some recent rainfall and a swollen river which passed by beneath us, headed towards the Souss Estuary. We took some time here to watch for wildlife and, of course, take plenty of photographs. This part of our journey was far more enjoyable than our brief encounter with Tiznit, as the land here has been protected from the masses of the general public, and their excessive amounts of litter. It was also interesting to watch the farmers in their fields opposite, cultivating their land and crops under the unimaginably hot midday sun.
Before long, we were ushered back into Jeeps, ready to head to our next destination. This was the part of the day that I’d been most excited for, as we were going to be visiting the very edge of the ‘Petit Sahara’, the very edge of the Sahara Gateway before the land becomes 100% desert, which lies at the very bottom of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The colours of the landscape here really took my breath away; the orange of the sands against the lush, green farmland, the rusted browns of the Anti-Atlas against a perfectly, almost-cloudless blue sky. I spent way too long appreciating the geological processes around me, missing any narrative that our tour leaders were offering to the others about what they were seeing, but I didn’t mind. As I let the sand run through my hands, I could believe how soft it was, far from the relatively rough grit that lines most of the UK’s coastline. I paused for a moment to consider the journey each of those small grains had made to be there, having no doubt be blown through to Sudan, into Libya, and back again after the last hundred years or so. Oi you, shut up laughing at me, I spent £10,000 on a geology degree, I need to use it whenever I have the chance!
At some point as we were walking along the tops of some of the sand dunes, someone mentioned lunch and instinctively everyone’s concentration levels plummeted. We raced back to the Jeeps, headed for a small Berber village, nestled between Agadir and Taroudant. After seeing the clay plots in the store earlier in the day, I’d been dreaming of tagine and I wasn’t disappointed. Served with a variety of breads and hummus, our lunch was a piping hot, freshly made chicken tagine, with a potato and vegetable variety for those that didn’t eat meat. It was by far my favourite meal of our entire cruising week, hearty and nutritious, and as soon as I finished my meal I silently cursed myself for not buying one of my own clay pots when I’d had the chance. It was at this point that I made a mental note to return to Morocco in the future, if only to eat my bodyweight in delicious tagine goodness.
As our super-late lunch ended, it also meant that our excursion slowly was too. We drove a little further north to the Aoulouz Dam, a project which was finished in 2014. The views from here over to the edge of the Anti-Atlas mountains, the town of Taroudant and the newly created reservoir beneath were truly stunning, and surprisingly as the sun began to get lower in the sky, there was even a slight chill in the air. After taking the opportunity to take yet more photos, I was well and truly tuckered out, excited to get back into the car and head back towards my next adventure.