June 27, 2016
Our last day in Morocco was a bittersweet one. We were said to say goodbye to Mohammad and the beautiful Atlas Mountains, but we were also very excited to explore the market in Marrakech. Bryson was eager to try his hand at bargaining with the shopkeepers. We approached the market the morning of our flight to Madrid, eager to make lots of exotic purchases before we returned to Europe. Katie Rose had her mind set on getting a small tea pot. Sarah was intent on looking for gifts for family. Many of the girls, like Hannah, Caroline, and Kate were mesmerized by all the beautiful jewelry in the market. But as it were, our time in Morocco had to come to an end, so we headed out of the market, past a few snake charmers (which caught Thatch’s and Miles’s attention), and on to the airport.
We returned to Madrid, but this time we were staying in the heart of the city. After our banquet meal, we got the chance to explore the beautiful city. Olivia said that she wished we had a whole extra day to enjoy Madrid. As we walked around, Lacey, Caroline, Olivia, Bryson, Kate, and Thatch stopped to listen to a harpist street performer. Miles, Grace, and Katie Rose caught the sunset over the city behind the royal place. Our final Moonup took place at a park within the city, led by LODs Sarah and Grace. Lots of reminiscing and laughter filled this night as we prepared for the journey home. We all agreed how thankful we were for this adventure and so many new friends!
June 26, 2016
The morning we awoke to head to Morocco, you could feel a buzz within the group. Everyone was so excited to start this new part of our adventure. Thatch started singing Toto’s song Africa at breakfast to get us in the mood. After navigating the Barajas airport in Madrid we boarded our plane. We all watched from our window as the landscape changed into the arid deserts of Morocco.
Upon our arrival, we met our guide Mohammad and headed for a drive outside Marrakech, where we would begin our hike. The bus ride was a chance to learn a little bit about the country, Islam, and the languages spoken in Morocco (Arabic, Berber, and French). Miles had learned a little about Islam in school so he had plenty of questions for Mohammad, especially about the current month of Ramadan. We all greatly enjoyed our first authentic Moroccan meal, but were even more excited to start our trek. Our other guide, Rashid, had a great sense of humor, and some in our group, like Bryson became fast friends with him.
The trail wound through some small villages giving us the chance to interact with some locals, if only for a moment. Sarah mentioned how moving it was to see people with much less material goods were still so happy! The heat was getting to us for sure, but we were motivated by the prospect our first camp out of the trip. Caroline really appreciated our Moonup that night under the stars. Kate even said that Moonup was her favorite part of the whole trip!
Our next trek was a full day of hiking to the village of Imlil. It was a pretty strenuous trail with a lot of switchbacks climbing up a tall hillside. Our girls Katie Rose, Grace, and Olivia kept each other’s spirits up and rejoiced together when they reached the top. That night we stayed at an auberge, or hostel, in Imlil. Before dinner, we had some quality group time over some card games. Lacey even mastered Banagrams, winning the first game she ever played!
Our journey to the Sahara began the next day, but more importantly, it was our own Miles Green’s birthday! We all got up a little early to sing him happy birthday. Along the way we stopped at a kasbah that was the film site of many movies like Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. Our destination for the night was another auberge, the Chez Pierre, a hotel carved out of the red mountains. We all slept well that night knowing that tomorrow camels were in our future.
After another bus ride we arrived in Merzouga, Morocco’s gateway to the Sahara. We took some time at the pool before our camel trek to cool off. Perhaps nobody in the group was more excited to meet her camel than Hannah. Before we knew it, we were off into the desert where we should spend the night. Once at camp, we had many festivities to keep us busy including listening (and trying to replicate on our own) to some live Berber music. Caroline, Thatch, Lacey and Hannah all tried their hand at playing the drums. Another Moonup under the stars made for everyone’s favorite night of the trip. Katie Rose, Sarah, Grace, and Miles were the first to climb to the highest sand dune to get a closer look at the stars and a better view of the lights of Merzouga in the distance.
The next morning we woke before sunrise to watch it creep over the dunes. From there, we rode our new camel friends back to the hostel for breakfast. Another long bus ride took us back to where our Moroccan adventure all started, Marrakech. The trip may be winding down but we still have one more big adventure to tackle: the market!
Cullen & Mimi
June 20, 2016
Surf’s up! Our time spent in San Sebastián was short, but oh so sweet. The day began with an early morning surfing lesson, an activity we were all very much looking forward too. At Pukas Surf Eskola we all squeezed into wet suits and grabbed our boards. Our instructors, Jaime, John, and Nacho led us to Zurriola Beach to begin. Once there, they started going over the basics: how to sit on our board, stand up, and catch a wave. Some of us, like Miles, Bryson, Thatch, and Grace had surfed before and picked it back up pretty quickly. Some were first timers, like Hannah, but our teachers told her that she had the “flow”. One of the instructors only spoke Spanish, giving Katie Rose the opportunity to practice and learn from him. We all struggled a little bit though, falling off our boards every once in a while, but always enthusiastically getting back on board to try again. Kate and Lacey’s hilarious senses of humor kept everyone’s spirits up. Sarah’s positive attitude and enthusiasm was very encouraging as well. After our lesson we had the chance to explore the city of San Sebastián. We all agreed that this was one place we’d love to come back to, maybe even live someday. The old town (parte viejo) was our favorite part to explore that day, we had so many beautiful old buildings and cool cathedrals to see. Today was also an opportunity for us to test our navigation skills, Olivia, Lacey, Katie Rose, and Miles all use the maps to help us find our way through the winding streets. At lunch we got the chance to try some authentic seafood. That night, our LODs Katie Rose and Olivia led us in a wonderful Moon Up on the pier. We all went to bed excited for another morning of surfing. The second morning of surfing really gave us a chance to test what we had learned. Miles and Thatch didn’t even need the instructors’ help to catch a wave. Caroline really showed her skills too. She jokingly said to us “I mean I guess I consider myself a surfer now”. Everyone was able to ride a few waves to shore now. We all certainly felt proud and accomplished.
Probably should’ve listened more in Spanish class this year….. P.S. Learned how to roll my R’s – Bryson
Hey Mom and Dad!! I’m having an awesome time in Spain!!!! Love and miss y’all!! Oh, and happy Father’s Day, Dad!! – Sarah
Hi Mom and Dad! It’s been soooo fun doing this Moondance trip. I’m really using my Spanish. Say hi to all the kids for me. Love you and see ya soon! 🙂 -Katie Rose
Heyyo Fam Jam!!! Miss y’all so much! Hope VA had fun at camp & Will isn’t in trouble! Hope the twins had fun! Thank you so much for allowing me to have this amazing opportunity to explore the world! Momma, hope you had awesome time in NYC! Daddy, happy LATE Father’s Day! Hope you enjoy your gifts! Love you guys see yah soon! P.s. I’m fluent in Spanish now & a pro surfer sooooooo #jealous #exploring -Hannah
Hey guys!! Having a great time, love y’all, miss y’all, and see y’all soon #arrrrrriba#imonanewlevel-miles
Hey y’all thank you so much for letting me go on this trip. I’m having a great time and I’ll see y’all soon. P.S. Happy Father’s Day Dad #1958 -Thatch
Hey mom and dad!! Happy late bday and Father’s Day, dad. We just finished hiking and surfing in Spain and tomorrow we are leaving for Morocco. San Sebastián is my new favorite place!! I wish y’all could see it. I have made some great new friends and I am having a great time. I love y’all so much!! P.S. Show turner this and tell him I love and miss him.
Hey mom and dad! I’m in love with the country Spain! We just got done surfing and hiking there and we are heading to Morocco tomorrow!!! I wish you could see it. I’m definitely going to move to San Sebastián later. Love y’all and miss y’all! Have fun in Canada! Happy late Father’s Day dad!! P.S hey Martha!! Have fun in Iceland!
Hey fam! It’s Caroline. I’m having a great time! We are leaving for Morocco tomorrow morning and Spain has been amazing. I love it! I hope y’all had fun in Jamaica and I hope Turner is lovely as ever. See y’all soon! Love you! (Ps. The food is actually so amazing and I’m getting overfed! Yes!! Woo! @elizabeth)
Hey mom and dad and Matt!!! We’ve gone hiking and surfing and tomorrow we head to Morocco! I’m having so much fun and miss u guys! Can’t wait to see y’all! (Ps. Happy late Father’s Day dad your the best!! Pps. Liv and I say hi @grayson and @helen!!!) love u all -Kate
HEY DUDES!!! Happy late birthday momma marg happy late Father’s Day father bean!! I bet y’all were hoping for something long and nice like the other people wrote but that’s not me so… I haven’t been kidnapped or killed yet so you’re welcome!! Miss y’all!! Ok bye <3
June 18, 2016
“Y’all, we’re in Spain”. Our group repeatedly exclaimed this as we stared out the window on the bus ride to Caín. That was our mantra during the first few hours after touching down. It still felt difficult to grasp that our Spanish adventure had begun. After a very long plane ride we met up with our guides, Darío and Ruth and headed north. Miles already had met up with them, having flown in from Barcelona, which gave him a chance to practice some of his Spanish. We stopped for lunch along the way, at a restaurant situated next to a castle, much to the group’s amazement. Katie Rose, or KR as the group has affectionately begun calling her, and Grace ;gave us all a quick lesson on Spanish words for types of foods and how to order. Back on the road we were all thankful that Thatch asked the driver to turn on the radio, which gave us a chance to listen to some authentic Spanish musica.
At last we began to see the Picos climbing out of the horizon, jagged mountains like truly nothing we had seen before. Hannah said going through them felt like we were in a painting. Our first night, we stayed at the Albergue el Diablo at the base of the mountains. Hiking began the next morning with a little rain, but Kate and Caroline, our first LODs did a great job of keeping everyone’s spirits up despite the inclement weather. Bryson helped too by leading us in a few trail sing-a-longs. The hike took us through the gorge cut by the Cares River, which had some of the bluest water we had ever seen. The scenery was spectacular along the trail with the Picos towering over us shrouded in fog. While the hike was enjoyable, we were excited to reach our next destination, Albergue Peña Castil. We took a break from working out our bodies and worked our brains with a few games of cards (courtesy of KR) and Bananagrams. Sarah showed us a thing or too with her quick spelling skills. At dinner, our trekking guides taught Olivia, Grace and Kate a little about Spanish history. They even taught then a few words in Euskera, the mysterious language spoken only in the Basque Country. Lacey had those around her laughing hard throughout the meal from all her funny stories. Our night didn’t end there however. Darío and Ruth took us to the Cueva de Cabrales, a cave where the famous cheese of Asturias is made. Miles was very excited to try this unique variety, but Caroline and Lacey were a little put off by the funky smell. Regardless, everyone in the group was pleased with this surprise adventure.
Our second day of hiking entailed about 8 miles in total, deep into an old shepherd’s village and back to Sotres. As we climbed to the top of the hill to gain a better view of the valley Sarah shouted to the group “guys get up here its beautiful”. It certainly was. Thatch marveled at how similar it looked to the backdrop from Lord of the Rings. Hannah and Miles kept themselves busy on the hike back by having breath holding contests with Darío. Kate stuck it out with Olivia, Grace, and Thatch as they chatted about cars. Our third day of hiking was the longest but most rewarding. Hiking beneath the massive Pico Urriellu and alongside some beautiful waterfalls were just a couple of highlights. We ended where our trek started, at the Cares Gorge.
We just said goodbye to our new friends Darío and Ruth and headed on to San Sebastián.
… Surf’s up!