MOROCCAN WILD EXPERIENCE
I could have never imagined how easy it would be to find and feel a different culture rather than the occidental society as I felt exploring the wonderful Morocco. If you want to run away from the occidental world and feel in another age, believe me, it is not necessary to expend a big amount of money in flight tickets to get to the farthest point on earth. Sometimes, what you are looking for is closer, just open your eyes, beautiful places are nearer than you thought.
I spent 11 unforgettable days traveling alone in Morocco. As I didn’t have enough time, I decide to organize the trip according to the main places I dreamt to visit: Marrakesh city, Sahara desert, Atlas National Park and Essaouira city on the Atlantic coast.
My main goal was crystal clear: shoot stunning photographs and feel deeply the Moroccan culture and its nature, always trying to avoid tourist places, which was mostly impossible.
Equipment used in Morocco: Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm + XF35mm
Come check out more pictures here: www.josecarpin.com
What a wonderful welcome! Marrakesh is such a crazy city. From the moment I arrived there I felt in love with its culture: stunning ancient buildings such mosques or palaces, museums and of course street markets and its labyrinthine Medina Souks, I was impressed.
Locals are different than us, obviously because their culture is completely different. People are friendly and they are always trying to sell anything they can to you, sometimes taking advantage of tourists. Indeed, they are very picturesque and photogenic people.
Rather than spectacular old buildings or museums, what I liked the most was walking through the Medina Souks and watching local people in Jemaa el-Fnaa square, such a crazy experience! There you can feel the real experience of the Moroccan lifestyle: street market sellers chasing tourists trying to sell them useless souvenirs, weird and exotic spices scents coming from food markets, people selling exotic animals or children playing football around.
Marrakesh is well-prepared to support tourist needs. It is easy to find affordable accommodations and cheap restaurants to eat Moroccan yummy cuisine, like Kefta tagine, Couscous, Zaalouk or B’ssara. Prices are really cheap too and you can eat from 40 dirhams.
I managed to shoot really great pictures in Marrakesh everyday. However, it wasn’t easy at all, in fact, it was pretty hard because locals don’t like to be photographed by tourists, well, that is totally understandable, isn’t that right?. So what to do? I worked hard on my photographic skills: time goes against you if you want to shoot stolen portrait. Locals already know what you are going to do, so you don’t have enough time and options. One shot and probably the last one. Sometimes they will come to you demanding you to delete their picture already taken, sometimes they will scream at you scaring you, but sometimes you get lucky. After being trying to shoot in this way, I realize that it wasn’t polite and it was not good for my personal integrity. So I started asking if I could take a picture to everybody who was enough picturesque and unique, and it worked out. Also I paid for portraits in cash, and it worked.
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 600 f/8 shutter speed 1/60seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 1600 f/4 shutter speed 1/140seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 400 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/1250seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 400 f/11 shutter speed 1/45seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 800 f/4,0 shutter speed 1/25seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 400 f/16 shutter speed 13seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 800 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/160seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 800 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/60seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 800 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/55seg
I had the opportunity to recently visit the Namib Desert and Kalahari Desert in Namibia, one of the most beautiful and wonderful countries I’ve ever been without any doubt. However Sahara desert is a different experience in a different part of Africa, concretely located in the south of Morocco, north of Africa.
From Marrakesh to Merzouga (gates of the Sahara desert) there is a distance of 600 kilometres, and it takes around 12½ hours by car, so it is better to split the trip in 2 days to get there. During the trip I had the opportunity to visit some stunning places like Aït Benhaddou and Todgha Gorge canyon.
During the trip I realized how beautiful and wild Morocco is: much of Morocco’s landscape is mountainous, and Atlas National Park dominates the centre of Morocco. However, the mountain slopes progressively into rocky valleys to end in immense plateaus, deserted landscapes and small shepherd villages.
Merzouga is located in south-eastern Morocco, a direct access to the Sahara desert, about 55 kilometres from the Algerian border. There I spent an unforgettable night sleeping in a Berber desert camp, watching the desert starts and the majestic Milky Way, singing local Berber song around the fire camp and eating their traditional food. Berbers are very friendly and polite. Their social structure is tribal and they ride camels as only transport. The majority of Berber tribes currently have men as their leaders, that’s why I didn’t see any woman around. They invited me to enjoy the fire camp to listen to their folk songs. I took advantage of the situation and started to take pictures of the magic atmosphere I was taking part of.
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 200 f/2,0 shutter speed 1/4000seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 800 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/80seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 200 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/450seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 800 f/1,4 shutter speed 28seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 1600 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/50seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 1600 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/50seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 1600 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/20seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 1600 f/1,4 shutter speed 25seg
ATLAS NATIONAL PARK
High Atlas is an enormous mass of mountain range that is located in central Morocco in Northern Africa. It covers a huge extension of land (49,000 hectares) and it covers part of Morocco from the west at the Atlantic Ocean to the eastern Morocco close by the Algerian border.
Jebel Toubkal is located in Toubkal National Park (inside the Atlas National Park). At 4,167 metres is the highest peak of Morocco and North Africa too.
As I was traveling alone and I didn’t know the mountain routes, I decide to hire an adventure travel agency from Navarra, Spain: Naturtrek, which organizes adventure trips for adventurous like me. As I supposed, Naturtrek was highly professional and they provided me with an excellent local mountain guide from Morocco, who was an excellent person and friendly man. Naturtrek also offers different adventures around the world. I highly recommend them for travellers and adventurous who are alone and want to reach their adventure goals.
After a long trip, I finally arrived to Atlas National Park. The route starts in Imlil, a small Berber village at 1,740 metres, being the most famous route to summit Toubkal. The mountain guide I hired was there already waiting for me. Minutes before starting the adventure I was hypnotized, facing the huge mountain range in front of me, thinking how beautiful would be to have a 360 degrees view from the top of Jebel Toubkal.
Day 1 – From Imlil to Neltner Refuge
(Total distance hiked 11 km, slope up 1,500 m, time about 5½ hours)
The ascent takes 2 days. As I said, the route starts in Imlil at 1,740 metres and it takes about 5½ hours to reach the Neltner Refuge at 3,207 metres. After 30 minutes hiking I started crossing the valley of Imlil, a rocky dry valley where I saw shepherd mud houses perfectly camouflaged in the mountains. The atmosphere that surrounded me was so spiritual and it teleported me to another world.
After about 3 hours, the valley connects with the small settlement of Sidi Chamharouch, which has built around a Muslim shrine. There is a huge spiritual white rock that nobody knows how it got there. A tiny mosque was built next to the rock and local Muslims go on a pilgrimage there. At settlement are numerous drink stalls and cafes where is possible to drink a wonderful orange juice and get a bit recovered.
Before sunset I finally got to the Neltner Refuge. I sat next to the fireplace and soon felt myself warming up. Inside I spent the whole afternoon talking and sharing travel stories with friendly foreigners from other countries. After dinner I went out of the refuge. The temperature dropped to -5 degrees Celsius but I could see the Milky Way again. I’ve been taking some stunning pictures again. I was closer to the top of Morocco.
Day 2 – Jebel Toubkal, reaching the top of North Africa
(Total distance hiked 19 km, total slope up 1,000 m and total slope down 2,500 m, time about 12 hours)
Definitely it was harder than I was expecting. I couldn’t sleep at all, perhaps under 4½ hours because the altitude (3,207 metres), indeed, I was really tired. I started the final ascent at 5:30AM, not fun at all. The night was pretty cold and completely dark. After about 1 hour climbing the sunrise suddenly appeared. Its burning colours started covering the top of the mountain peaks around and I felt fortunate, I was witnessing a stunning nature event. In this moment I realized how incredible Mother Nature and Jebel Toubkal are. After 2 hours climbing, I saw the last stretch, there it was, the highest peak of North Africa waiting for me, Jebel Toubkal. At last I reached Jebel Toubkal at 4,167 metres, it was a huge effort, but I forgot the fatigue because I was freaking out with the awesome 360 degrees views.
After this I started descending carefully and slowly. Soon I put on the crampons as the snow was turning ice. After 3 hours I arrived to the refuge again. I had a lunch break and then I continued coming down to Imlil. At night I arrived to the accommodation. Certainly it was an unforgettable adventure that I recommend to everyone.
Imlil – Neltner Refuge: 11 km, slope down 1,500 m, time 5½ hour
Neltner Refuge – Toubkal: 4 km, slope up 1,000 m, time 4 hours
Toubkal – Neltner Refuge: 4 km, slope down 1,000 m, time 3 hours
Neltner Refuge – Imlil: 11 km, slope down 1,500 m, time 4 hours
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 800 f/16 shutter speed 50seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 800 f/1,4 shutter speed 27seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 800 f/1,4 shutter speed 1/12seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 800 f/16 shutter speed 1/17seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF16mm ISO 200 f/16 shutter speed 1/60seg
Near the end of the trip, Essaouira was indeed a great farewell. I didn’t know what to do, so I just improvised and I decided to visit the Atlantic coast and take a well-deserved rest. What a surprise! I really like this town. Essaouira is a lovely tiny fisher town, pretty beautiful and cosy, which is surrounded by old fortress walls that still enclose part of the town. What I liked the most was its medina and fishing harbour. The medina is home of local artist and crafts businesses. Its streets are tight and labyrinthine. You don’t know where you go but … wherever you get is always another magic part of the town.
I had the opportunity to visit the fishing harbour where local fishers are selling fresh fish like sardines or conger eels. People there were more polite and friendly than in Marrakesh, probably because it’s a less touristic place. I also discovered that Essaouira is a famous kitesurfing and surfing spot.
People are very picturesque and more accessible than in Marrakesh, so I took advantage of this and I shoot a lot of pictures. Locals are calm and observer, looks like they really enjoy observing foreigners. Their faces are wrinkled by the sea and dark by the sun. Most of the locals are lowly but not poor.
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 800 f/16 shutter speed 1/400seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 200 f/2,8 shutter speed 1/2200seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 200 f/2,0 shutter speed 1/4000seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 200 f/2,8 shutter speed 1/2200seg
Fuji XT-1 + XF35mm ISO 200 f/2,8 shutter speed 1/3200seg