ARM­CHAIR TRAV­ELLER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

WildCaribbean:Treau­reIs­lands: Be­yond the post­card-per­fect palms of the Caribbean Is­lands lies a stun­ning di­ver­sity of land­scape, from rain­forests to vol­canic peaks. Sun­day, 7.30pm, ABC1.

TheClip­per­tonEx­pe­di­tion: How did life evolve on the most iso­lated atoll on Earth? A rare glimpse into a unique ecosys­tem. Fri­day, 5.30pm, SBS. Ian Cuth­bert­son colour­ful patch­work is of­ten seen along the banks as the clothes are spread out to dry.

Mules, it must be said, are not the most co-op­er­a­tive of an­i­mals; watch out, as they can bite and kick. How­ever, rid­ing a mule in­stead of walk­ing to the pass next morn­ing is re­lax­ing and comfortable, even with two side bas­kets of lug­gage. Trained from a young age, the mules obey their han­dlers’ com­mands. Mine is a Speedy Gon­za­lez char­ac­ter, con­stantly be­ing told to stop, as it wants to be at the front, not at the back where it has to stay.

It’s so re­lax­ing that I start mak­ing up songs about the moun­tains, the trail and the hik­ing while watch­ing an­other group zigzag down on foot.

It is ob­vi­ous civil­i­sa­tion is nearer when we find carbonated drinks and chocolate avail­able at the top of the pass. It’s an ex­am­ple of the en­ter­prise that Ber­bers are known for through­out Morocco.

For thou­sands of years the Ber­ber peo­ple have in­hab­ited North Africa, fight­ing to pro­tect their ter­ri­to­ries. Orig­i­nally wor­ship­ping a plethora of gods, of­ten re­lated to the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, most have be­come Mus­lims since the ar­rival of the Arabs, al­though they still wor­ship saints. Their lan­guages are still used through­out the coun­try while tra­di­tional Ber­ber mu­sic has con­trib­uted to the renowned mu­sic of West Africa.

Liv­ing in a harsh en­vi­ron­ment, sim­i­lar to the one we are hik­ing through, the Ber­bers have had to be en­ter­pris­ing. To­day this can be seen in the cities where they typ­i­cally own and run hanoots , the Moroc­can cor­ner store.

From our po­si­tion on the backs of the mules, far down be­low is a patch of green, the town of Imlil, mean­ing lunch and just a short, flat walk to our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. Imlil is a peace­ful town built to cater for tourists, fea­tur­ing cafes, ho­tels, sou­venir shops and lots of car­pets for sale.

We have re­laxed and en­joyed our ride (and walk), ap­pre­ci­ated those stun­ning views, stayed in a tra­di­tional Ber­ber house and ex­pe­ri­enced life as it has gone on for cen­turies in this awe-in­spir­ing re­gion of Morocco. All just 60km from the madding crowds of Mar­rakesh, but it seems so much more re­moved.

Check­list

In­trepid Travel runs trips that in­clude hik­ing in the High At­las. More: www.in­trepid­travel.com. To or­gan­ise an in­de­pen­dent hike with a guide, con­tact Hike Morocco. More: www.hike­morocco.com. A spe­cial place to ex­pe­ri­ence the hos­pi­tal­ity for which Ber­bers are renowned is Kas­bah du Toubkal in Imlil, which has stun­ning moun­tain views. More: www.kas­bah­dutoubkal.com. Su­san Kuro­sawa’s De­par­tureLounge re­turns at the end of Fe­bru­ary

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Free flights to Europe with Is­tan­bul to Paris tour; Daintree lux­ury at half price; ex­tra days on of­fer with Aus­tralian car hire. Th­ese and other money-sav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in Travel&In­dul­gence’s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily:

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