THE OG BABY PROOFERS: Trekking through Berber Villages in The Atlas Mountains
Do you know who Berbers are? I didn't either before I went to Morocco. They are natives of North Africa, and not only are they the original baby proofers, but they are the original pre-Arab inhabitants of the region.
Mountains are my jam. I feel happy to my very core when I'm in them, and when we travel, we always try to find some sort of mountain trek. Morocco is blessed with the picturesque Atlas Mountains, conveniently located about an hour and a half from Marrakech. So, ignoring my jet lag rule about taking it easy the first few days of a trip, we headed to the mountains the day after arriving in Morocco to start our 3 day trek. The mountains can wait, but we can't.
We began our trek in Imlil, a small town and the jumping off point to do village to village treks, or, if you are a bad ass climber (and don't have a baby strapped to your back), Mt. Toubkal—the highest peak in North Africa, standing at 13,671 feet tall (4,167m). And she's a beautiful one. Here's part of it behind Z.
Tea breaks for days! Can't complain about the views of Toubkal and the surrounding mountains though.
So we began our hike up and around mountains. Part of the inspiration to start this blog came from a young couple we passed on the trail. They were close to saying a quick "hello" as they carried on down the mountain, but then they noticed little baby feet sticking out from either side of me, then started up conversation.
We went back and forth with the usual convo "what's his name", "how old", "oh wow, big boy, huh?"
As they started walking away, they said, "We left our 1 year old at home so we could do stuff like this". Ding! And the Born a Backpacker idea was born.
But I digress. Back to the trek.
But before I do, another tea break.
The trek wove up and around Toubkal. We had a guide, Aziz, and a cook, Ismail, who doubled as a mule master. The mule that came on the trek with us was so key. Not only did the mule carry all of our food and drink for the 3 days, but also carried our pack.
Ismail and his mule
I wish this mule came on every hike. I hate carrying weight on my back unless it's a cute baby who waves at everyone they pass.
At around 5pm, we reached the Berber village where we were staying. Kids came running, trying to make eye contact with Z, but then would hide behind a rock or tree when I tried to catch a glance. Once they built up enough courage, they came closer, first touching his hands, then moving up to his hair, then full on kissing him on the lips. Whenever this happens traveling (and it happens a lot), it's makes me grit my teeth and give a very fake and very awkward smile, because as cute and endearing it is ... germs on germs on germs on germs on germs.
Arriving to our homestay with our guide, Aziz.
So, why are Berbers the original babyproofers? Because they ARE. After hiking all day long up mountains and exhausting my body, chasing an active baby around and making sure he's not getting into anything dangerous doesn't sound like something I would have energy for. So, it was a pleasant surprise when we got to our traditional Berber guesthouse and saw a perfectly clean room with small mattresses on the ground and the electrical sockets out of Z's reach. It was magnificent.
Check out that electrical socket 4 feet high! Win!
I didn't have as much energy as padre, but in fairness, I did the baby carrying on the hike.
It was basically wrestling match after wrestling match. Everyone needs a mattress room.
The next 2 days were filled with beautiful views, friendly people, an unbelievable amount of tea, tagine after tagine of delicious food mountainside, and conversation with our guide to get a better idea of Berber culture. All around an incredible 3 day intro to Morocco.
Best way to learn what sheep say.
Still lookin' fresh even though they hadn't bathed since the US.
Ismail loved Z and made him bomb ass tagines and always wanted to feed him more.
Kids being kids
Erbody got a donkey
Everywhere we looked, there was some village, camouflaged in the mountains.
Jamie wanted people to think he was a movie star, hence the shades.
Damn cute nuzzles.
Lentils all day every day.
Z in his pointing phase before we taught him how to wave.
We would leave our homestay at the same time in the morning and hike at a decent pace, but somehow Ismail and his mule would get so far ahead of us that he had time to prepare a delicious meal for us. And the views weren't so bad either.
"I just woke up. What is going on? What is this creature? Who is this guy?"
Did I mention I love the mountains?
I apologize for the dorky pose
Another mountainside lunch
And more food than we could possibly fit in our stomachs (but we did managed)
At night, it was cold. Like, really, really cold. We all had many, many, many layers on, and I couldn't walk around at night without a huge blanket draped over me (I admit I'm a drama queen - but it was cold). We did this trek in March, which is the end of their winter, so if you do decide to do this, just come prepared.