June 27, 2017
Hello Spain and Morocco families,
After completing our final trekking day of the trip, our crew reached the beautiful Riad Atlas Toubkal, a safe haven of a hostel complete with air-conditioned rooms to refresh us from the intense Moroccan heat. James and McKee lounged on the balcony outside their room, enjoying a chat while looking out over the bustling Imlil Valley village below. Our group ventured into the village to peruse the stores and bargain with the local shop owners to purchase sweet treats and handmade Moroccan souvenirs for friends and family. That night we enjoyed a family style meal at the dining room in the Riad complete with Moroccan cushions and open windows that let in the evening breeze. After dinner for Moonup, our LOD’s McKee and Carolyn urged us to reflect on what we would hypothetically do with the last hour of our life, and our group grew even closer as each person shared their thoughts. We soon retired to our rooms as the next day would consist of a fun, full day of activities!
We woke up to the Moroccan sun shining bright, inviting us to enjoy breakfast on the roof of our Riad. With full stomachs and high spirits, we then met our guide Mohamed to head into Marrakech. Before reaching the city we stopped at a zipline adventure park where despite the heat, we walked swinging bridges and clipped our harnesses into cables that led us zooming over the Moroccan landscape. Doug, Clay, and McKee soon became zipline pros and McKee even mentioned how his fear of heights seemed to vanish due to the exciting nature of the activity. Lily started off hesitant after doing a couple 360 spins on her first zip, but soon got the hang of it, beaming in her typical fashion. After finishing our 4th zip, the longest and most exciting one of the day, James enjoyed some cool, refreshing chocolate ice cream while Lucy, Georgia and the other girls stuck to the more traditional treat of Moroccan mint tea.
Soon we were off on our next adventure, headed towards Marrakech for our camel tour through a local resort. From the sweltering heat to Lucas’ camel taking him off on an unexpected personal tour, the activity began with excitement and laughter. Soon the guides organized all the camels, with us mounted atop, like ducks in a row. Liz received some surprising “kisses” from Clay’s camel walking a little too close behind her. Sarah Cat and Jessica laughed throughout the ride, and we were all stunned and pleased to have finally made it to this much anticipated part of the trip.
That afternoon, we ventured to the Marrakech market to enjoy the sights and sounds of this particular cultural immersion experience. Jessica, Georgia, Lucy, James, and Clay were excellent at haggling with the merchants, whether the merchandise consisted of watches, handmade key chains, or jewelry from the Sahara desert. After wandering through the various shops, Carolyn, Jessica, and Georgia decided to receive intricate henna designs from the persuasive local Moroccan women. On our way out of the market, the snake charmers mesmerized us with their act, and Doug was the only one brave enough to “pet” the garden snake!
For our final night in Morocco, we enjoyed a Moonup around Mohammed’s pool at the absolutely gorgeous Riad Bledna. We discussed the most memorable parts of the trip for each of us, then went to bed to prepare for our travel back to Madrid the following day. The next morning we enjoyed msemen (Moroccan pancakes!) before setting off to the Marrakech airport to return to Madrid. Our flight went smoothly, and our first experience with the Madrid metro to find our hostel in the city center was a success. We soon left our backpacks behind to enjoy an evening stroll around the beautiful city of Madrid. After being adventurous with new foods in Spain and Morocco for the past two weeks, we treated the students to a final banquet at Steak n Shake! Our crew was all smiles as we ended this unforgettable trip in the green grass of the Central Park in Madrid, reflecting on our takeaways and the lasting friendships we created over this journey. Muchas gracias, shukraan, and thank you session 1 students for a true trip of a lifetime!
Anna and Tyler
June 24, 2017
Trekking in Morocco has been a once in a lifetime kind of experience, full of wandering through Berber villages, camping in the backcountry under the North African stars, and enjoying traditional meals together on colorful tapestries and hand-woven patterned mats.
Our flight from Madrid to Marrakech went smoothly and our group was so enthusiastic to have reached our second continent of the 2 week trip! (That makes for a total of 3 continents in the past 2 weeks!) We began our Moroccan adventure in the ski town of Oukaimeden where we would camp at our highest elevation yet: just over 8,000 feet. Clay, Doug, McKee, James, and Lucas made it to the top of the highest hill by our site, taking in the new views looking out over the High Atlas Mountains. After a delicious veggie dinner with Moroccan spices, we retired to our tents to get a good night’s sleep for the first day of trekking beginning the following morning. The sun was hot, and the air was dry, but this didn’t stop our morale from being high! With Hussein as our fearless mountain guide, we trekked through the arid climate to a lovely riverside campsite in a shady grove surrounded by plum and walnut trees. Lucy and Sarah Cat were a huge help in setting up the tents for our second night camping in Morocco. Georgia led our crew in a game of spades, and Carolyn told us jokes and funny stories late into the afternoon. We enjoyed our beautiful camp spot late into the evening, where we ended our day with a moon-up reflecting on which Toy Story character we would be and why (great question, thanks to Lucas and Elizabeth, our LOD’s for the day).
The following morning, Georgia and James were our chosen LOD’s to help us embark for our second trekking day in Morocco. We hiked through Imskar to a Berber guesthouse in Tizi Oussem. Lily and Sarah Cat were all smiles and positive energy on this trek, despite the rather warm weather. Upon arriving, we enjoyed a tour through the Berber village and interacted with the local children, counting in French and teaching them a fun Moondance chant. We ended our day under the stars on the roof of the Berber guest house, discussing where we hope to be in 5-10 years. The following morning our third and final trekking day in Morocco would commence: the cloud cover kept us cool as we passed through the Tizi Mzzik saddle- a grand total of 8,753 feet, making it our highest elevation of the trip! Our crew made it to the top successfully, where we all celebrated with a goofy Moondance chant and dance. Upon our descent, Jessica kept us smiling with her descriptions of the fun restaurant scene in Nashville. We hope to reunite at a honky tonk once this adventure of a lifetime must come to a close. 🙂
Clay: miss you guys, see you soon, Morocco is something I’ll never forget!
Lucy: hey everyone, I’m having a great time in Morocco!
Sarah Cat: hey fam, Morocco is so cool, see you in a few days!
Doug: hey parentals, I’m having fun in Morocco!
Lucas: having fun in Morocco, can’t wait to see you in a few days.
Elizabeth: hope all is well, I’m having a jolly ol time in Northern Africa, see you soon!
Lily: hey guys, Morocco is supah fly, love y’all!
McKee: loving Morocco, loved Spain even more, surfing was a highlight of the trip so far!
Georgia: hi! Morocco is riveting, can’t wait to eat Taq with y’all soon!
Carolyn: yo yo yo it’s your daughter, having a blast see you soon!
Jessica: hey fam, miss and love you guys, see you soon!
James: I’m having tons of fun, thank you so much for this experience, Morocco and Spain are beautiful!
June 20, 2017
Our stay at the surf and beach town in Llanes was a success! Our group enjoyed the spacious apartments at Castiellu, a convenient ten-minute drive from the beach of Adrín. On our first visit to the beach, Doug and Clay sprinted joyfully to the crystal blue sea, to be greeted by the refreshing water. We explored the coves by the cliffs and admired the barnacles and sealife. James was our master at building sandcastles.
We enjoyed a dinner in town that night, and rested up for our first day of surfing the next morning. Our surfing outfitters handed out wetsuits and surfboards while we eagerly waited to jump in the ocean to learn the new skill. McKee quickly became a pro at catching waves while Sarah Catherine, Lily, and Elizabeth stood up on their boards with huge smiles on their faces. Lucy was the paddleboarding champion making it all the way around the rock island!
Back at the Castiellu lodging, Lucas, Georgia, Lucy and Doug battled off in a heated card game of spades. Later that evening, our crew enjoyed Spanish delicacies for dinner and Darío took us out for ice cream and a nice stroll around the old town of Llanes. With a canal running through, Jessica and Carolyn enjoyed their Dulce de Leche ice cream as the sun sank below the horizon.
We had our moon up under the stars looking out on the Spanish seashore, with the mountains of the Asturias region in the background. The next day we enjoyed a second morning of surfing, where some students perfected their skill in the activity and others lounged on the beach. After having lunch in town, we made our transfer to Madrid, ready for our travel day to Marrakech tomorrow!
-Tyler and Anna
June 18, 2017
Greetings from Spain!
Our crew has really enjoyed hiking through the beautiful Picos de Europa in the Asturias region with our glorious outfitters: Darío from Spain and Tom from Whales. With Clay and Georgia as our first LOD’s, they led us valiantly through the gorge following the Cares River. McKee and James were sure to point out mountain goats on every turn. Soon enough we found ourselves in Sotres, soaking up the gorgeous views surrounding our mountain hostel. The comforts of our lovely hostel made us feel right at home. Lily and Doug found some locally made chocolate from a village shop, and were kind enough to share with the group. With James and Sarah Cat as our next LOD’s, they were able to help lead everybody to the base of Pico de Urriellu! With the sun beating down, Elizabeth, Jessica and Lucy never stopped smiling. Lucas and Carolyn led us back down the peak after witnessing a breathtaking sunrise from our beautifully situated Refugio in a panoramic kind of landscape. The bells of the cows and the “bahs” of the sheep acted as background music for our Spanish trekking portion. Tomorrow we will begin our next activity and we can’t wait to surf the Spanish shores as we head to Llanes!
More updates to come! –Tyler and Anna
Lucy: Hey fam, I’m having so much fun and happy Father’s Day Dad!
Doug: Crushing it out here in España, happy Pa’s day Daddy-o!
Elizabeth: I love and miss y’all, I’m living up the last few days of being 16 in Spain and loving it.
Georgia: Feliz dia de Padres! Spain is amazing.
Sarah Cat: Happy Father’s Day Dad, I’m having so much fun!
Lily: Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love Spain.
Carolyn: Hola! Happy Father’s Day! I am loving it here.
Lucas: I’m really enjoying Spain and everything it has to offer! Love you guys.
Clay: Happy birthday Kelly! I love you guys and thanks for the opportunity of a lifetime!
James: Thank you for sending me on this trip, I am so thankful and having so much fun.
McKee: Spain is unreal- never seen anything like it. I am having a blast with a great group of people. Happy Father’s Day!
Jessica: Happy Father’s Day Dad! Feeling very accomplished after our hike. Love y’all!
June 15, 2017
Hey Spain + Morocco 1 families,
We just heard from the leaders, Anna & Tyler, that the group made it safe and sound to Spain. They are all excited to get the adventure started! Please stay tuned for trip updates after their trek.
-Moondance Administrative Team
June 14, 2017
Hi Spain + Morocco Families!
We’ve heard from our leaders and the group has boarded the plane and will soon take off for Madrid. The summer has officially started! Once everyone touches down in Madrid, the Moondance Office will call all families to check in.
-The Moondance Administrative Team