The Monkeys of Azrou

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The monkeys are very obliging, they come to check if we have food as soon as we arrive. It’s a family group of 7, with one top male looking after two females, a teenager and a baby, plus a couple of lesser males hovering about on the fringe. We catch some lovely photos in the evening sun. A local carpenter comes by with beautiful bowls he’s made from Cedar wood but we don’t have space in our van to take more things, so we politely decline and instead give him one of our fleeces to take home with him for his son, as well as a jar of Frank’s lemon marmalade for his wife. Rather than increasing our load, we decrease it :-)

Another van arrives with two young Frenchmen. We get chatting and end up inviting them into the warmth of our Emma and later for a hot meal. They are not just on a physical but also a spiritual journey, aided by a French shamanic teacher as well as heavy use of hashish, to find themselves and their inner happiness. It looks like they have a long journey in front of them, as one carries a lot of sadness in him. They laugh as they describe their mode of travelling: when he feels a wave of sadness welling up – another knot releasing in his body – he goes to the back of the van and lets the tears flow while the other one drives on with his friend crying his heart out in the back.

It seems to me a good idea to stop ingesting so much dope if you are emotionally fragile, but what do I know…?

We are neighbours for a night. The next morning, Frank digs a hole for our compost and finds some incredibly tough oak, for our fire-wood stash, while I walk around amongst the magnificent centenary Cedars, taking in the feel of the forest.

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There’s something slightly eerie about the place this morning, possibly helped by the fact that it is a grey day with a bitter wind. It feels as if the forest is preparing for something, maybe there will be a snowstorm. It feels like the trees know something I sure don’t, and they are talking to each other… I come across a small herd of sheep which passes by noiselessly, furtively disappearing into the forest as quickly as they came, and Frank spots a mysterious woman amongst the trees, deep in prayer, clad in black with golden tassles on her headscarf. By the time he gets the binoculars out she seems to have evaporated.

(We politely declined sharing our neighbour’s pipe. We are crazy enough to have these experiences while straight! I mean, just look at the picture, how the stones are all arranged at the foot of this cedar, sitting in rapt attention)

Our sad French friend is in the woods, hugging and dancing around a tree that spoke to him. The other one is doing some maintenance work on their van. He shows us their little oven, which is a really neat design for a small vehicle:

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Suddenly, I have an urge to get away from here as soon as possible, so we pack our things, say good-bye to the monkeys with a few handfuls of peanuts (Frank gets clouted and hissed at by the Alpha male when he stretches out his hand to try and touch the back of the mother with child!) and we set off, waving to two other campervans who pass us on the way out of the forest, people we met on the camp site in Fes. I have spotted an organic farm on the map, some 50km away, which offers spaces for campers, so that’s where we head for next.

From Azrou in the direction of Khenifra, the road passes through very poor arid, rocky landscape. In the countryside lonely houses duck down against the rock, sheltering from the wind and the villages look windswept and forlorn. There are large barren areas, sometimes punctuated by the colorful murals of a school building. Somewhere in the middle of the stony landscape, we pass one that looks to me like some kind of harsh military school. I would not like us to get snowed in here. Luckily it isn’t snowing yet, although the rain has started in earnest. This must be a blessing for the parched land.

After some time, the landscape changes again and opens up to a fertile plain with large fields, all tilled and ready for the next season’s planting/sowing. Somewhere, we turn off left and after about 6km suddenly the road drops in a number of tight s-bends into a valley, lush with vegetation. When we get to the bottom, we carry on along the river for another kilometre before turning into the farm. It’s really bucketing down now, so we get thoroughly wet trying to find someone who will let us into the compound. Rain is probably so rare here that everyone just goes into hiding when it happens.

Eventually we are settled in and hooked up to electricity so I can continue with writing the blog. The stove is on and we listen to the, by now, slightly unfamiliar sound of rain drumming on our roof.

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For more monkey and forest photos, click here


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