• Wednesday , 24 May 2017
Monkeys feasting on tampons: Morocco part II

Monkeys feasting on tampons: Morocco part II

Camping wild in the lush, evergreen forests of the High Atlas Mountains was an amazing experience; to actually have a large troop of endangered Barbary Macaques visit your camp with their newborn babies in tow was simply spectacular, for about sixty seconds. Like a gang of feral teenagers desperate for cash the monkeys descended on our camp to steal anything not hidden or tied down. They were smart enough to know that food comes in plastic bags so the simian mob grabbed anything in plastic (we were packing up camp so unfortunately we had a lot of stuff unsecured). As we gave chase and pretended to throw rocks most of our stolen things were quickly carried away as the troop dispersed up trees, down trails, or up onto the big rocks surrounding our camp. The Macaques were very quick to determine there was nothing to eat in our gear and soon abandoned our possessions on the ground for us to collect.

The worst of the carnage came from a large Ziploc bag containing hundreds of tampons Shannon had just brought back from our trip home in April. The bag had been immediately ripped into and as the monkey ran away from us a trail of brilliant while dots streaked into the forest. We gave chase and found our thief high atop a boulder with the remaining loot in the torn Ziploc. The monkey would take a single tampon, bite into it, and then throw it down before reaching into the bag for another one. We were being robbed in slow motion. Finally, after countless tries, the monkey threw the bag down in frustration. Shannon and I spent the next ten minutes collecting all the tampons over the wide area of devastation. We separated the collection into two piles, those “with” teeth marks and those “without” teeth marks. Because, as everyone knows, using a tampon with monkey bites is how a girl gets cooties.

The High Atlas Mountains make a great backdrop for a roadside lunch stop on our way up over the Tizi n'Test pass.

The High Atlas Mountains make a great backdrop for a roadside lunch stop on our way up over the Tizi n’Test pass.

We went to the Dades Gorge to see...well...the gorge but the Dades river was as beautiful and remarkable as the famous slot canyon carved through the mountains.  Anti Atlas Mountain range, Morocco.

We went to the Dades Gorge to see…well…the gorge but the Dades river was as beautiful and remarkable as the famous slot canyon carved through the mountains. Anti Atlas Mountain range, Morocco.

Shannon talking a sunset walk through the Dades Gorge.  Anti Atlas mountain range, Morocco.

Shannon talking a sunset walk through the Dades Gorge. Anti Atlas mountain range, Morocco.

A typical oasis campsite in the Moroccan desert. It has been very, very hot while we have been in Morocco and green trees and shade can't be beat when you are living outside. Surprisingly we found ample, affordable camping throughout Morocco. During our 7 week stay here we camped all but 6 nights.

A typical oasis campsite in the Moroccan desert. It has been very, very hot while we have been in Morocco and green trees and shade can’t be beat when you are living outside. Surprisingly we found ample, affordable camping throughout Morocco. During our 7 week stay here we camped all but 6 nights.

Mike enjoying the cool temperatures in a spot that rarely sees the sun. Dades Gorge, Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

Mike enjoying the cool temperatures in a spot that rarely sees the sun. Dades Gorge, Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

Water is everything in Morocco. Here the Todra River brings the valley to life at the edge of the Sahara Desert. High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Water is everything in Morocco. Here the Todra River brings the valley to life at the edge of the Sahara Desert. High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Oasis sunset in the High Atlas.

Oasis sunset in the High Atlas.

Camped in the High Atlas Mountains on a popular fishing lake, near Imichil, I tried my hand at catching a fish but had no luck. A local Berber fisherman came over and wanted to help sort me out. We didn’t speak the same language but we both knew fishing so we understoodd each other clearly. It seems the fish here have very small mouths and my hooks were too big. He was daintily poking through my lure box to see what I had available. He really liked my clear plastic floats. I ended up trading one of these floats for a bag of his small hooks. A new friend made and both of us happy with our barter.

An hour later two young boys walked by our camp. They had a hand-line of monofilament tied to a stone for weight. They both looked a little down as they made sideways glances at my fishing setup leaning against the tent. My first thought was that the boys were envious of the nice fishing gear that the foreigner had but after striking up a conversation with them I realized they didn’t care about my gear only what kind of hook I had. It seems they had lost their only hook to a snag on the bottom of the lake. I had a spare hook to give after my recent trade. I showed the boys the proper knot to use as I tied a new hook on their line. These fellows were beaming as they departed on the lake trail, back in the game one again.

In places, the Todra Gorge measures just 33 feet across, but the cliffs are more than 500 feet tall on either side. We made sure to camp nearby so we could ride through in the morning, the best time to see the sun light up the walls of the gorge.

In places, the Todra Gorge measures just 33 feet across, but the cliffs are more than 500 feet tall on either side. We made sure to camp nearby so we could ride through in the morning, the best time to see the sun light up the walls of the gorge.

Picnic lunch with sheep, a cedar forest, and a lake;  a pretty kick-ass afternoon. Ifrane National Park.

Picnic lunch with sheep, a cedar forest, and a lake; a pretty kick-ass afternoon. Ifrane National Park.

Looking at scenes like this it is hard to believe this is North Africa. Ifrane National Park is in the Mid Atlas Mountain range of Morocco and much of the park is forested with Atlas cedar. We wild camped here and it was one of the best campsites of the trip. Lake Aguelmame Aziza, Ifrane National Park, Morocco.

Looking at scenes like this it is hard to believe this is North Africa. Ifrane National Park is in the Mid Atlas Mountain range of Morocco and much of the park is forested with Atlas cedar. We wild camped here and it was one of the best campsites of the trip. Lake Aguelmame Aziza, Ifrane National Park, Morocco.

National parks are managed a little differently in Morocco and free range sheep and goats are common in the wilderness area. The local shepherds brought animals by our camp once or twice a day and it was fun to watch the herd up close.

National parks are managed a little differently in Morocco and free range sheep and goats are common in the wilderness area. The local shepherds brought animals by our camp once or twice a day and it was fun to watch the herd up close.

The endangered Barbary Macaque is native to the Atlas Mountains. Their favorite food appears to be imported cotton tampons stolen from American tourists. Photo by Sheff Doc Photos (sheffdp.com)

The endangered Barbary Macaque is native to the Atlas Mountains. Their favorite food appears to be imported cotton tampons stolen from American tourists. Photo by Sheff Doc Photos (sheffdp.com)

It is aways a treat to finally meet with other overlanders that we often message with on Facebook, but have never met in person. Dan (from The Road Chose Me) and his traveling companion Emily (Sheff Doc Photos) camped with us for a couple of nights in Ifrane National Park.

It is aways a treat to finally meet with other overlanders that we often message with on Facebook, but have never met in person. Dan (from The Road Chose Me) and his traveling companion Emily (Sheff Doc Photos) camped with us for a couple of nights in Ifrane National Park.

Our last three weeks in Morocco we strictly stuck to the mountains and covered all four mountain ranges: Anti, High, and Middle Atlas Mountains and the Riff Mountains. During this time we were fed by the kindness of strangers, ate some of the best cherries we have ever had, and were interviewed and filmed by a famous Pakistani TV personality for a documentary he is making. The lonely roads through the mountains were beautiful and stress free.

British Columbia, Canada?...Nah, we are leaving our lakeshore campsite in Imichil Morocco.

British Columbia, Canada?…Nah, we are leaving our lakeshore campsite in Imichil Morocco.

So many unique and wonderful things to buy, so little money and room on overland motorcycles. Fez, Morocco.

So many unique and wonderful things to buy, so little money and room on overland motorcycles. Fez, Morocco.

Volubilis is a partly excavated Roman city dating from the 3rd century BC. It is situated near Meknas, Morocco. The ruined city was all but deserted when we were there. We had the place to ourselves to explore and watch the sun set.

Volubilis is a partly excavated Roman city dating from the 3rd century BC. It is situated near Meknas, Morocco. The ruined city was all but deserted when we were there. We had the place to ourselves to explore and watch the sun set.

Many of the mosaic floors at Volubilis remain intact. Depictions of Roman life, legends and art were captured in these tile floors. Many are over 2000 year old and, exposed to the sun and weather, it is amazing that they are still here.

Many of the mosaic floors at Volubilis remain intact. Depictions of Roman life, legends and art were captured in these tile floors. Many are over 2000 year old and, exposed to the sun and weather, it is amazing that they are still here.

White storks take flight from the ancient Roman city of Volubilis.

White storks take flight from the ancient Roman city of Volubilis.

More amazing mosaic tile work at Volubilis.

More amazing mosaic tile work at Volubilis.

There are not a lot of dogs in Morocco. One afternoon, we came to a stretch of road that seemed to have a dog in every corner. The dogs were watching the road intently. After a roadside rest stop we fell in behind a bus and saw why the dogs were all here. The bus door was open and someone was tossing lumps of bread to each waiting dog as the bus slowed for each corner. We have seen this scene one before in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. In Bolivia we figured there was no other “dog road” like this in the entire world yet here we were in Morocco witnessing the exact same thing.

Even with Ramadan causing a slight wrinkle in the daily execution of our trip, our time in Morocco was fantastic. It has been like no other place we have visited on this trip and is an easy place to travel by motorcycle.

Chefchaouen, the blue city, is an idyllic little town in the Rif Mountains.

Chefchaouen, the blue city, is an idyllic little town in the Rif Mountains.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Notice something strange about the corn on either side of the road? Yeah, not much corn but a whole lot of marijuana. In the Rif Mountains hash production is the primary industry. We rode through field after field of pot for roughly 60 miles around the town of Ketama. Ketama is the epicenter of hash production in the Rif and a million miles away from government control. A real wild-west shit show out here. Rif Mountains, Morocco.

Notice something strange about the corn on either side of the road? Yeah, not much corn but a whole lot of marijuana. In the Rif Mountains hash production is the primary industry. We rode through field after field of pot for roughly 60 miles around the town of Ketama. Ketama is the epicenter of hash production in the Rif and a million miles away from government control. A real wild-west shit show out here. Rif Mountains, Morocco.

Week after week of scorching sun and high temperatures had us believing it never rained in Morocco. The morning we rode the supposedly stunning coastal highway along the Mediterranean we got soaked and the fog and mist hid the spectacular views.

Week after week of scorching sun and high temperatures had us believing it never rained in Morocco. The morning we rode the supposedly stunning coastal highway along the Mediterranean we got soaked and the fog and mist hid the spectacular views.

We are now back in Spain witnessing a coup attempt in Turkey while Thailand begins to enforce draconian laws making it difficult to ride a foreign motorcycle in their country. For now we head north and east with our eyes on the Balkans, Bulgaria, and Turkey and hope things settle down on our way to Southeast Asia.

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