Snakes, boars and lions – hiking the Ameln Valley

Hiking the Ameln Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco
Approaching the village of Oumesnat

The wild boar meant business. Blocking our path more effectively than even Gandalf would have done, he gave a haughty snort of derision and impatiently scratched at the ground, sending clouds of dust swirling into our faces. I assume it was a he. No lady would ever behave like that. The beast was enormous, and although I’m now safely back home and everyone knows that size increases with time, I’m going to say it was as big as a small cow, or at least a calf. Hubbie disagrees slightly with this estimate, but what does he know.

Standing in the middle of an orchard in the Ameln Valley, sweat trickling down between my shoulder blades (only partly due to the intense mid-day heat), visions of boar attacks, Lord of the Flies hunts and being gored by tusks simultaneously flew through my mind. There was only one thing for it.

Run!

Feeling rather encumbered by all the cameras dangling around my neck, I stopped some time later and realised hubbie hadn’t followed me. Apparently he wasn’t going to be intimidated by a mere piggy and had proceeded, successfully, in out-staring the animal which eventually scuttled back into the dense thicket. Mopping my brow and trying to regain a shred of the dignity lost during my retreat, I returned to the battle scene amidst incredulous statements of “you could at least have taken a photo!” Damn it. I didn’t think of that in my panic.

So here is a lovely photo of…not a wild boar in the Ameln Valley.

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

We were travelling though the Anti-Atlas Mountains with Wild Morocco, and decided to stop for a couple of days in the Ameln Valley to do some hiking. As with anywhere in Morocco, hiking is never just ‘hiking’! It involved wild animal encounters, lashings of sun-cream, getting lost and the inevitable invitation to tea.

Armed with an inspired yet simple photo map from our guest house, Chez Amaliya, we set off along the Ameln Valley, traversing argan and almond orchards, wheat fields and dry river beds to explore. And to find a lion!

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

The photo trail seems easy enough…

The first part of the trail was relatively easy to follow, and hubbie, in charge of navigation, did a grand job of matching up lumps of rock, barren trees and cacti with the map images. Further on though we dabbled a little in one of our favourite past-times.

Getting lost.

The trouble was, after the devastating floods of 2014 the Ameln Valley landscape no longer mirrored our map photos, resulting in several scenic detours. And one wild boar encounter.

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

One of the iconic argan trees in the Ameln Valley

The few locals we met along the way clearly weren’t used to foreigners ambling by every day. The women would hurriedly cover their faces with their headscarves when they saw hubbie, and small groups of men tinkering with tractors would cease conversing and watch me as I shuffled by, looking ridiculous with a white pashmina wrapped around my head against the sun. Some avoided eye contact, whilst others, often in the seclusion of the orchards, would offer a shy smile and appeared delighted when we attempted a little of the Berber we’ve picked up over the years. We didn’t see another tourist all day in the Ameln Valley, and it felt like we’d discovered the ‘real’ Morocco.

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

Ready for some mint tea after hiking in this heat…

It was in Oumesnat that we were invited for tea.

These situations can sometimes be a little tricky. There are occasions when we don’t have time to stop, and can’t really face yet another mint tea, small talk and worrying about whether the family expect payment. However to refuse would be churlish and considered almost rude.

Yet today was different.

We came cross the amiable Mustafa who offered to show us inside his family’s 400 year old traditional Berber house. Today it is treated like a little museum and is an enchanting insight into how life used to be. Little has changed except a few hidden light bulbs here and there.

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

The kitchen of the 400 year old house in Oumesnat

Upstairs in the colourfully adorned guest quarters we met Mustafa’s father, who had in fact been born in that very room some years before. Sitting chatting over our mint tea, we learned about the significance of different women’s shoes, and were introduced to the family’s prized teapot collection. Clearly a symbol of wealth and status. Oddly enough, the jewel in the crown was in fact a teapot all the way from Manchester, a city just an hour from where we live in the UK! A long way from the Ameln Valley!

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

Mustafa doing the mint tea honours in Oumesnat

Some while later we bid farewell to Mustafa, his dad gently snoring with the radio on in the background, and continued along the trail to search for a lion.

It took some time, a bit of squinting and the trialling of different angles, but finally we spotted it. The famous Ameln Valley Lion’s Face Rock protruding proudly high above the village of Asgaour, keeping a watchful eye on the sleepy villages below.

Can you see it?

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

Can you spot the Lion’s Face Rock?

By this time the heat was getting intense. The sun-burned rock of the towering mountains glowed a fiery orange, and even the locals had retreated inside to the relative cool. So it was time to find our way back to the guest house, which of course was easier said than done. Our map said turn left at the lone palm tree. Yet there was rather more than one single tree to choose from. In the end we straight-lined it, stumbling over rocky river beds, sliding down sand banks and bumping into several Ameln Valley cacti, before finally coming within sight of Chez Amaliya.

Hiking the Amelan Valley, Tafraoute, Morocco

“Turn left by the palm tree”…erm which one exactly?

Then I nearly trod on a snake…


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Exploring the Ameln Valley in Morocco

18 Comments

  • Frank says:

    Nice adventure and some great photos. Just like a woman, run away to let the husband to deal with dangerous animals and then complain we didn’t get a photo or at least rip off a body part for posterity. Hmm 🙂
    Frank (Bbqboy)

    • Heather Cole says:

      Well, it’s a lady’s prerogative to play the ‘woman card’ when she feels it appropriate. And that was one of those times 🙂

  • Annika says:

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure!! Looking forward to doing some trekking in Morocco later this year too, but I had no idea of boars or snakes – both would be scary! So no worries for lack of boar pictures, I would have slowly retreated too 😉

    • Heather Cole says:

      Glad it’s not just me…though my retreat wasn’t exactly slow! Hope you have a fab time trekking!

  • Tim says:

    Very cool experience and after a bit of squinting I was able to find the rock lion. Funny that the prized tea-pot is one from Manchester. Another great adventure.

  • Nic from Roaming Renegades says:

    Oh wow, those views are amazing! I would love to explore this area and go climbing in the mountains.

    • Heather Cole says:

      There must be some good climbing here, although the best place to climb in Morocco is the Toubkal NP…

  • kami says:

    I was in Morocco few years ago and saw some stunning landscape but not as amazing as these! What a gorgeous place! I wish I went there too, the scenery is breathtaking!

    • Heather Cole says:

      I love Morocco, but each time I go am constantly surprised at how it just keeps on giving. So much beauty to discover.

  • Jolanta says:

    LOL, you guys do get lost a lot, don’t you? But then getting lost in that landscape with those views doesn’t sound that bad. And you got back to be able to write all about it and show us your photos, so that’s what counts! Thank you!

  • Crysta says:

    Awesome photos! This looks like such an interesting place to visit.

  • Alli says:

    I love these photographs! I really like the photo of you looking at the photo trail 🙂

  • Simone says:

    Gorgeous photos Heather & I love your writing style! 🙂
    Simone

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