My wife and I arrived in Imlil on a sleepy early afternoon in May. As it was still early in the hiking season not many touts were around and most taxi drivers to Marrakech weren't expecting sweaty new clientele until 5pm. With most doors being closed and fruit flies being the most active of the locals, we began hiking up the road towards our pension. A young Moroccon by the name of Hussein approached us seemingly from nowhere asking if we were looking for our hotel. As we had pre-booked the Gite Atlas Mazik we said no thanks and kept on walking. He persisted, eventually pulling out his cell phone and asking if my name was Booq and a German national. "That sounds vaguely familiar," I thought,"I am Buck and live in Germany." I realised he was the pension owner and was looking for us. My wife had included our arrival time in her reservation and so Hussein had come to escort us to our home for the night. Success!
That night we wandered Imlil's empty streets looking for a local meal when we spotted Hussein sitting at a local sandwich stand. If it was good enough for Hussein, it was good enough for us. The meat was fresh from the butcher's next door and the mint tea had minimal backwash (we found this out after partaking). A joy to eat, the food was anything butt that night. To put it mildly, I slept intermittently that night and spent the next two days hiking on a liquid diet with side orders of immodium.
We awoke late thanks to my stomach rumblings and began the walk out of Imlil and into the Atlas. Very quickly the tress dissappeared making way for short bush and rock. Even quicker it became clear I shouldn't have been hiking a 4,000m mountain. I made my best impression of taking a nap under a tree while my wife had the unenviable task of waiting. It was now or never as the weather was perfect, our time in Mrocco was limited, and most importantly I hate giving up so after an hour I did my best impression of a zombie and marched to the refuge in approximately twice the time it should have taken. I had a quick snack and then hit the hay in an effort to recharge my batteries.
With a gorgeous sunrise from the porch of the refuge,we got an early start to the day but my body quickly reminded my that I hadn't retained any food in the last 24 hours and my legs turned into two lengths of driftwood. If it weren't for my wife, I wouldn't have made the summit. Her encouragement and patience got me to the top where we were surprised not only to find the same birds that live on top of almost every European mountain, but also a stray dog. A few tail wags and an ear scratch and i was feeling ready for the long descent back down to Imlil and some homemade couscous at Hussein's.
Jebel Toubkal, at 4,167m, is the highest mountain in the High Atlas Range and Northern Africa. Most ascents of it's brown rocky peak begin in the small town of Imlil, where the pavement ends and the rubbel begins. Guides and donkeys can be hired here to assist climbing in the area. Stocks and supplies can be bought here, though there are drink stalls along the trail and most guides will bring supplies and cook dinner at the refuge for you