My Photography

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Marrakech- Terres D'Amanar

I was going through my pictures on Picasa this week and realized there was an entire album full of pictures that I meant to post about and never did! It's almost embarrassing how old these are—they're from our trip to Marrakech last March when we visited Terres D'Amanar.

Terres D'Amanar is a difficult place to explain. Basically it's an adventure park with ziplines, treetop obstacle courses, hikes and the like. I had heard of it long ago, and when in and around Marrakech Othman and I had considered going there more than once, but never quite made it. Despite the descriptions I'd heard I wasn't and our perusal of its website, we still weren't sure exactly what we would find there, but I was determined that that trip would see us visiting this fabled place in Oukaimden's foothills.

We woke up earlier than we might have otherwise on Saturday the 22nd of March, and headed towards the mountains. I love the drive from Marrakech to Oukaimden—the flat, hot, semi-arid desert landscape is much more heavily populated than seems likely, and feels like it will stretch forever around the road. You drive for 20 or 30 minutes once having left Marrakech, enter a small town, and when you emerge on the other side you're suddenly in a green valley, with hills and mountains stretching up and forward, blocking out the sky. It's an incredibly sharp and breathtaking transition.

We then headed into the Ourika valley and kept our eyes peeled for a sign indicating where to turn off the main road. Once we did see it I could hardly believe it wasn't misplaced—the road it told us to turn on wasn't much more than a mud path almost entirely made of potholes, wide enough for no more than one car. But turn we did, and followed it up and around, up and around.

Knowing Terres D'Amanar to be quite expensive, and a popular attraction for schools and tourists (mostly Moroccan) alike, at first I was surprised to see that the road was in such a state of disrepair. But then I remembered that in this country a pot-holed road isn't going to stop anyone, and if it isn't going to stop anyone then no one is going to bother fixing it. It's one of those Catch-22s that made me wish the King would decide to visit there, because anytime the King is passing through somewhere not only does the trash get cleaned up and flags get put out everywhere, but entire roads get repaved!

The road seemed like it would never end, and the cars (and even the tractor above) that we met coming the other way made me convinced we'd all die as we edged around each other extremely close to one precipice or another. Nevertheless, the views on journey were stunning. 

Finally, once I had almost given up hope of ever reaching there, we saw an entrance gate, made our business known and passed through. This guy was there to greet us, and we found our way to the parking lot. 

At the ticket booth we considered our options and decided on a course that included five ziplines over huge drops into valleys far below and two long suspended bridges to cross. The next group would leave in an hour or so, and we had some time to kill. I wandered around and took some pictures.

When the group before ours was making the last leg of their course we were able to watch and snap some pictures (we of course were not going to take a camera or phone with us on a zipline so have no pictures of ourselves doing it). Othman has a pretty strong fear of heights and was looking a bit pale, but I felt nothing but excitement. I told him the bridges looked easy-peasy but the ziplines were probably going to scare me. He nodded silently and didn't say much at all.

After a 3 minute training introduction and suiting up with harnesses and helmets we were off to the first suspension bridge along with four other 20-something Moroccans. Our harnesses got strapped onto the wire cables and we were off, stepping gingerly on the wooden slats with WIDE spaces between each. I. Was. Terrified. Halfway across going at a snail's pace (and it was LONG) my hands started cramping because I was holding on so tight. One of the Moroccans ahead thought it'd be fun to bounce up and down and make the entire bridge jerk around, and with wide eyes I held on for dear life. Interestingly, Othman, with his vertigo (and the view below was gorgeous but very far down) was just fine behind me. Once we reached solid ground again I asked him how on earth he had stayed so calm, and it turned out to be the engineer in himhaving inspected the harness and the bridge and deeming us to be safe, he had no fears. Take a look here for a short video that shows the scary bridge (the picture below is the second one) and gives you an idea of what its like.

That done, it was zipline time, and oh how fun that was! Flying through the cold mountain air with nothing but wind and birds in your ears was magical, and the views were just lovely. Five ziplines of different lengths and in different areas certainly were not enough.

All in all, despite the bumpy ride up, the rather high price and the surprises we had on the course itself, we will most definitely be returning to Terres D'Amanar! Having done the Parcours Arien, next time I want to try the Accro Park which promises to be a totally different experience. Along with horseback riding, kids areas, restaurants, hiking and more, this place offers something for everyone and it definitely worth a visit.

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