Paradise in the Mountains

Disclaimer: There is simply no possible way that I will be able to capture the gorgeous mountains and rivers of Akchour in words.

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No better place to begin my attempt at explaining the best weekend of my life than at breakfast. My friends and I woke up at 4am, crammed tightly into an Al Akhawayn van and began the long drive. One thing that you’ll quickly notice about other countries is the culinary differences. Most places other than the US have freshly squeezed juices. In this case, I was trying a freshly blended apple juice. Being vegetarian, I am in love with the natural sweetness of fruit, so freshly made apple juice sounded right up my alley. I quickly learned that I much prefer the fresh orange juice over the apple.

While in Morocco, you simply must try the harcha. The best way I could describe it is that it is similar to cornbread… but denser. It is most common to eat it with cheese (la vache qui rit) but I prefer apricot jam (ou bien, confiture).

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Located in the peak of Le Rif Mountains, the road to Akchour is terrifying. I am certain we have all seen photos or videos of mountain roads that zig zag down cliffs. Well, I got to experience it. Most of the time there weren’t guardrails, but the view was worth it. Carsickness has nothing on the majesty of these mountains (neither does The Smoky Mountains for that matter). Be prepared with your swimmies on beneath your clothes, because 1) the restroom costs 2DHS to use and 2) you won’t wish to wait any long than you have to.

This picture was taken from the parking lot. You have to hike through the canyon to get to the best spots.

Don't be fooled, the hike was far from paved.
Don’t be fooled, the hike was far from paved.

I just took a 1.5L bottle of water with me, but next time I will definitely plan ahead. There are several places along the trail to stop and enjoy the views. The fresh air and the sound of the river easily soothe your soul. A picnic lunch would be perfect. Even though the parking lot was packed, people go to all different places in the canyon, so you’ll never feel like you’re in a crowd.

We basically followed the river to the best spots. The further up you go, the clearer the water gets.
We basically followed the river to the best spots. The further up you go, the clearer the water gets.
“God’s Bridge”

This is the part that pains me. I was unable to capture the top of God’s bridge in the photo. It was actually pretty thin, so it made the experience have even more of a paradise feel. Nonetheless, as my friend Aimée writes in her blog, some of the best moments are the ones you can’t capture with a photo.

This was where we could no longer continue without swimming–hence why I left my camera behind. On the way up, we had climbed (up AND down) cliffs, crawled over rocks and crossed very roughly made stick bridges. I originally did not plan on swimming at all because I usually just get a headache from the reflection of the sun on the water. But the water here was so clear. I could see every detail of the river bed with ease. That, coupled with the fact that there was no way I was going to miss out on what was just around the riverbend convinced me that not swimming here would be a crying shame.

The water was ICY! What else would I expect from a mountain stream, right? A word of advice: don’t be afraid to make some noises while you adjust to the water temperature. I was very vocal with my “Ohhhhs” and “Awhhhhs.” It helps. Go ahead and let it out.

As we passed under God’s Bridge, monkeys swung on the cliff walls above us–sending little pebbles down on our heads. I did get hit with one but luckily it wasn’t big enough to do any damage. This was also the first time that I saw monkeys in the wild!

Not far past God’s Bridge, we found the best swimming hole–as we would call it in WV. After gathering up a lot of courage, I even jumped from a 6 meter rock that hung above a small waterfall. “Aim for where the bubbles end!” I recall very vividly looking down into the water and having to hold my heart in my chest so it wouldn’t jump out. “This is what study abroad is about,” said Aimée. Needless to say, I survived. And I jumped many more times after that.

Akchour is nothing short than a paradise. I could have spent days there letting the crystal clear water carry all my worries and aches downstream. Even though I didn’t get videos of my cliff jumping or pictures that could do this paradise justice, I made life long memories with amazing people from around the world.

What else could I ask for?

With much love,

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