Read more: hot footing in the High Atlas continued

Last updated at 14:36 08 July 2002


This evening we are tired, not from the walk, but from the heat.

The meal of couscous, the traditional semolina-based dish which is a staple of Moroccan cooking, is served with delicately spiced local vegetables.

It has been prepared by Mohammed's brother and is simply delicious.

The group is happy but wary of the effects of the day's sun.

We chat on the veranda from where I look down on an almost biblical scene, a tethered ass crushing barley, sweeping an arc under the driving of a child.

That night, as feared, the heat takes its toll and 'the one flush toilet' becomes a shrine for several.

The next morning two decline the hike.

But it is a nuisance rather than a crisis and after the obligatory porridge, the rest of us push on out and upwards, discovering vast valley floors and manageable peaks, with fast-running streams in which to cool down.

As the week progresses we relax and, in the still cool evenings, strangers become holiday confidantes.

We agree it has been a worthwhile trip, although one that it would have been better to attempt outside the summer months, when walking conditions are cooler.

Looking out across the lush valleys and beyond the peaks where the sun is rapidly exiting the day, the place takes on a spiritual calm, epitomised by the phlegmatic Mohammed.

While we struggle to find our footing on the scree and stumble and miss our step, this mountain man seems to glide effortlessly just above the terrain.

His presence is quiet and becalming and in the evenings he joins our group, patiently answering our questions about his way of life which, in contrast to ours, seems narrow but certain.

One built on an unquestioning faith and family.

And humility in the face of such a vast and awesome mountainous backdrop.

Travel facts

Exodus ( tel: 020 8675 5550) offers an eight-day 'Atlas Panorama' walking holiday from £489.

This includes return flights from London Gatwick to Marrakesh with Royal Air Maroc, accommodation, transfers, guides and porters.

There is a further local payment of £25 to cover most meals.

Flights from Manchester and Glasgow can be arranged.

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