July 12, 2016
Our last day in Morocco was an exciting one for sure. We awoke ready to tackle the markets and take on the challenge of bartering with shopkeepers. Everyone had something special in mind that they wanted to buy. All the boys, Max K, Ben, Eugene, and Max Y were intent on getting some “flowy pants” as they called them, and boy were they successful. They all sported them proudly to our banquet dinner and walking around in Madrid. Ella V. and Ashley were very intrigued… And maybe a little scared by the snake charmers. Don’t worry though, they watched from a safe distance. Reed, Elaina, and Emma were very happy to find all the vibrant cushions and fabric that filled the market. After a fun-filled adventure in the market it was off to where our adventure all began, Madrid. Returning to the Spanish capital felt a bit like coming home for this group. We all enjoyed the opportunity to explore the heart of Madrid. After a delicious final dinner we headed to a famous park in Madrid called El Retiro. Ashley and Sarah were our LODs and they led us in the final Moon Up in which we talked about our favorite parts of the trip and what we were going to take away from these three weeks. Janie and Ella V talked about being appreciative and thankful for what they have. Ben said he loved hiking in the Atlas Mountains the most. It was a great way to end the trip, reflecting on all the fun we’ve had. As we headed back through the park Janie made sure to say hello to every dog she passed by. As we approached the hostel we were surprised to happen upon some dancing street performers! It was a fun show and a great way to end the night. All the kids went to bed eager to see their families but sad to say goodbye. What an amazing trip we’ve had. Thank you for a great two weeks guys!
July 11, 2016
Salam alaykum! Greetings from Morocco! As our plane descended onto African soil Ashley exclaimed that Morocco was nothing like she had expected. We hit the ground running headed straight outside Marrakech to a village called Imi Oughlad where we would have lunch and start our hike. Mohammad began to teach us some basic Arabic words. Ella V has also been trying to learn as much about Morocco as she can. Ella V has been the best in our group when it comes to interacting with the locals. Our hike followed a beautiful trail through the red High Atlas Mountains. Sarah snapped a lot of pics along the way as per usual. Ben also took some cool time lapse photos on top of the mountain. At camp we had a delicious Moroccan dinner and slept in tents for the first time on this trip! Eugene and Elaina both said how much they missed sleeping outside from their previous Moondance trips, but have loved the lodging on this trip as well!
The next morning we had a big day of hiking ahead of us, but we were all excited to tackle it. At lunch, Emma got to show off her expert tea pouring skills which she had been honing since we arrived in Morocco. She’s looking like a local now. The next day we had a long drive, but were motivated by the fact that our camel ride was fast approaching. We stayed at a beautiful hotel carved out of the Dades Gorge, one of the most beautiful sights in Morocco. After a restful night of sleep and a delicious breakfast it was onto Merzouga, gateway to the Sahara. We were so excited to meet our camels, majestic steeds that they are, but first we had to rinse off in the pool and wait for the heat of the day to die down a little bit. Reed and Janie befriended/started a splashing war with some Moroccan boys that were swimming in the pool as well. Unclear who the winners were. Before we knew it, we were called out to the sand dunes and got to hop on our camels. Max Y. rocked a scarf wrapped around his head turban-style to protect himself from the heat and sand. Ashley of course got plenty of Go Pro selfies of her riding the camel. Max K. is the group’s camel-whisperer. He interacted with them much easier than the rest of us. The camels seemed to love him. Sarah and Ben snapped lots of landscape shots of the dunes as well. We had Moonup atop the sand dunes led by our hilarious LOD duo, Janie and Reed. We rode back out on our camels the next morning. From there, we had a cross country drive back to Marrakech. Tomorrow we will brave the markets!
July 5, 2016
Happy Fourth of July and greetings from San Sebastián! We have arrived at the second leg of our trip, surfing. The first day began at Pukas Surf School where we suited up in wetsuits and got our boards. The instructors began by teaching us the basics before we made it out into the water. Our California boys Ben and Max Y. were already pros at surfing compared to the rest of us, so the instructors let them catch some waves on their own. We had some naturals in our group as well. Janie and Eugene were able to shred some waves after only a couple tries. We all had a blast even though there were more than a few tumbles off the board. After the lesson we had a free afternoon. We decided to take that opportunity to have a beach day. Janie, Elaina, Ella V, and Sarah took to boogie boarding out in the water. Ashley, Reed, Max K., and Emma all headed to the beach volleyball court for a match. After a few hours spent in the sun we were all spent, and in need of showers to get all the sand off of us. After a bit of rest at the hotel we headed back out into San Sebastián to explore el parte viejo, old town! We enjoyed looking at all the cool architecture. We even stopped at a field to watch a local soccer match between two young teams. That night Moonup was led by our LODs Ella V and Max Y. Afterwards, we discussed ways that we could celebrate Independence Day while still keeping a “low American profile.” In the end we decided to whisper the Pledge of Allegiance together at the end of Moonup. Day two of surfing gave us a chance to show off what we had learned so far. The weather was a little colder, but that just made us the more thankful for our wetsuits. The instructors let us try and catch waves on our own this time, or “fly solo” as Emma liked to call it. Ashley brought the GoPro out to record some videos of herself surfing too. This was our best day of surfing by far. Sarah, Max K., and Eugene were all standing up like pros. Surfing ended too soon, and we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our next journey. We were sad to say goodbye to this beautiful city, and Spain and general. We are even more excited to head to Morocco!
Max: Having fun. Thanks for sending me on this trip.
Eugene: See ya soon. I’m having fun. Love y’all.
Elaina: Thanks for sending me here, I’m having lots of fun.
Janie: I am having so much fun! Miss you guys! Tell George I said hello.
Max Y: Having fun, there was a dog we named loaf, he was cool. He was on a strict diet of bread. Bye!
Ben: I am enjoying this trip so much! I am so glad you let me go on this trip. We are about to head to Morocco and I am very excited. How’s Meru?
Emma: I am having a lot of fun!! I miss y’all! Can’t wait for y’all to meet me here!! Morocco is next! See you soon. Love you.
PS Bring my computer with y’all!!
Ashley: I’m having so much fun!!!! Miss y’all lots! Tell Chase I said hi!! I stood up on the surf board!!! Love y’all see you soon.
Reed: hey!! Hope y’all had a good 4th of July….I had a fun one here!!! I miss y’all and hope your having fun with the new puppy!!! Ily!
Sarah: I miss and love you! Having a beautiful time, thank you for letting me do this!
Ella V.: heyyy! Im having so much fun here! Thanks for sending me on this trip, I’m having the best time! Cant wait to tell you all about it. Love and miss yall so much (and grizzly) see you soon <3
Mimi: Hey fam fam! (Im assuming you’re reading these, mom). Our second time around and we’re still having a blast! Coolest kids in the world, in the most beautiful landscapes. Don’t worry; Cullen is making me wear sunscreen. Can’t wait for you guys to visit all the places were seeing! Much love.
Cullen: Hey family! Everything’s going well on our second session. Miss everyone so much hope you guys are doing great. Lots of love.
July 3, 2016
After arriving from the States in Madrid, we wasted no time in heading north to León to find the Picos de Europa Mountain Range. The bus ride gave us the opportunity to admire the changing Spanish countryside: from rolling golden hills to massive green mountains. The roads got a little windy, making Ashley and Reed a little nervous, but our bus driver saw us through. When we arrived at our destination, the small town of Caín we decided to take a walk around to get to know each other. We have some avid photographers in our group. Sarah, Ben, and Max Y. all began snapping pics of the scenery and local fauna. We were eager to get to bed and rest for our first day of hiking. The first day we followed along the gorge of the Cares River. Many goats lined the trail and Ella V. did her best to interact with them. A little fog didn’t prevent us from seeing all the beautiful mountains surrounding us. We stopped for the night in the town of Sortres. Before dinner we decided to pass the time with Bananagrams and some card games. Elaina and Eugene introduced us to a fun game called Kemps. We also had the pleasure of visiting a cave where the famous Cabrales cheese is made. Janie and Emma were some of the few brave enough to try the stinky variety. Max K. joked that the dark cave could be the location of a horror movie. The second day of hiking featured a lot of uphill as we made our way to Pico Uriellu, the most famous mountain in the range. LODs Reed and Ben led us in Moon Up on top of the mountain overlooking the rest of the park. It certainly was a beautiful view. The last day of hiking was back downhill the way we came, with lunch again in Sotres. We passed lots of friendly cows, which Ashley and Ella V tried to befriend. We were sad to say goodbye to our hiking guides, Darío and Ruth, but surfing was in our future. Tomorrow… San Sebastián!