July 13, 2017
Mohamed, our main guide for Morocco, pampered our tired, happy and healthy crew at his gorgeous Riad Bledna just 19 km outside of Marrakech for our last few days on this adventure of a lifetime.
On Day 11 of our 14-day trip, we transferred from the quaint Imlil Valley to a zipline adventure park where Virginia, Jonathan and Celeste were beaming while zipping through the arid Moroccan air and over wide desert canyon formations! Lillian and I enjoyed chatting in the shade while the crew walked the swinging bridge. After our zipline adventure, we made our way to the Riad Bledna Guesthouse where Butler, Anna, and Rankin were speechless with awe of the beauty of the place! Our group enjoyed the traditional Moroccan dinner of couscous tajine with chicken and cooked veggies, especially Ryan who was happy to go back for seconds (not to mention, thirds as well!). After our feast, we changed into our bathing suits to enjoy a dip in the pool. Baker and Cate started a fun game of Marco Polo, with the full moon in the Moroccan sky shining bright, we played and laughed late together into the night.
On Day 12, our group was pumped for our visit to the market, where Bo invested in a flashy fun Rolex watch for a small price of Moroccan dirham. John H. was keen on bartering a shopkeeper down in price to obtain an authentic Moroccan scarf as his fashionable headdress for the rest of the day. After seeing our fill of spices, snake charmers, hand monkeys, and henna artists, we made our van transfer to meet the camels! The camel ride was a blast, as we rode through the palm together atop our steeds, laughing at their names from Lady Gaga to Justin Berber, gleefully shouting in Arabic yelluh yelluh (let’s go!).
For our final day together, our fun crew flew back to the Spanish capital, where we enjoyed a final banquet dinner at, you guessed it (!): Steak ‘n Shake! We were all smiles as we devoured our burgers and fries and sipped our milkshakes. After dinner, we met locals in the park and even played with some Spanish pups! We then had Moonup in the park where we all thanked each other and reminisced on our glorious successes as a collective group.
We are sad this amazing trip is over and truly had an incredible time with all twelve of these amazing kids!
July 10, 2017
Making Moondance History!
Our chattering crew made it to the plane as we boarded our flight from Madrid to Marrakech! We arrived safely and soon made our van transfer from Marrakech to the quaint Imlil Valley, where we stayed at a beautiful hostel. Overflowing with excitement to be in Morocco, we walked around the Imlil valley to see the shops. Bo and Jonathan were persuaded by local shopkeepers to invest in their merchandise, mainly the “jabala”, a large and colorful handwoven Moroccan hooded sweater. We returned to the Riad for a lovely 3 course dinner while lounging on orange Moroccan cushions, eating while enjoying the view through rectangular glass windows of the high atlas mountain scenery. We ended Day 8 with a Moonup on the roof, the moon itself shining down on us as we spoke about what activity or place brings us the most peace. Cate Jones spoke up about how for her the answer is going on a run, while Bo shared about his friendship with dear ol “Mr Bed”. We concluded the day with a smile to one another as we knew the next morning would bring our first day of trekking in Morocco!
We continued to make use of the beautiful roof of the Riad with a breakfast of msemen (traditional Moroccan pancakes), as well as yogurt, bread with jam or butter, eggs, and cereal. We left our comfortable Riad around 8 AM to begin our trek towards base camp of Mount Toubkal. We hiked until 4:30 PM, taking breaks along the way including a lunch break at a small stand looking out over the High Atlas Mountains. Once we arrived, we set up our tents with the Moroccan wind blowing, then enjoyed teatime complete with Moroccan mint tea and cookies. After much conversation and enjoying each other’s company (the girls especially love to chat this session!), we ate dinner family style then headed straight to bed as we knew an early wakeup call awaited us the following morning.
Our much anticipated Day 10 consisted of waking up at 4:10 AM in order to make our summit dream a reality. We left Basecamp just before 6 AM, trekking uphill with a beautiful sunrise to greet us as we marched east towards the summit. Baker and Cate were our chosen leaders for this challenge, and they led us valiantly towards the top: sitting at 4167 meters, i.e. 13,671 feet. We arrived at the summit of Jbel Toubkal at 9:25am, a surprising and satisfying feat for our tired but happy and healthy crew. We enjoyed spending time together at the top, soaking in the views and munching on Moroccan snacks. We all participated in a fun group cheer, shouting “WAAANNNAA” and dancing along as a group on the top of this North African peak that we successfully summited for the first time in Moodance history. After taking many photos, we began the descent down the mountain. Ryan was all smiles when helping our team get safely down the steep, scree-ridden slope. After a long walk, we arrived safely to Basecamp to enjoy resting, journaling, playing cards, and enjoying each other’s company for the rest of the day.
That evening, Lillian, Jonathan, and Virginia gazed at the stars strewn in the sky like sequins embroidered into a fine Moroccan tapestry. For our final day of Moroccan trekking, we woke up at 6 AM, broke camp down, and proceeded to eat our breakfast to then march down the mountain. Butler and John Harrell would be our LOD’s for this final day of hiking in the High Atlas mountain range. Celeste and Butler turned into mountain ninjas as they handled themselves carefully down the steep rocky descent. Rankin the tank kept our morale high with her consistent smile as well as great attitude on and off the trail. Anna Carroll kept the group laughing when inventing a name for the unruly mule, who she dubbed Ricky and continued to provide humor for our final day trekking in Morocco. Since the end of our successful summit ascent and descent of Jbel Toubkal, our crew has enjoyed a lovely stay at the paradise of the Riad Bledna guest house just outside of Marrakesh, thanks to all of Mohamed Nour’s hospitality.
Our crew’s shout-outs:
Celeste: Morocco is amazing and I am proud of summiting Mt Toubkal!
Cate: I had the best time hiking in Morocco, can’t wait to see y’all in a few days!
Lillian: Hi family! Morocco is great! Tell Bodie I miss him.
Virginia: Hey! Loving Morocco. So proud that I summited Toubkal. Can’t wait to see you in a few days!
Butler: I love Morocco so much and can’t wait to see Yoli and Taq.
Jonathan: Morocco is so amazing and I can’t wait to see you all!
Anna C: Hey guys miss y’all, super proud of making it to the top of Toubkal! Love y’all!
Rankin: I am having such a great time in Morocco, and cannot wait to ride a camel!
Ryan: Morocco is awesome and I miss yall. I broke 2 brackets so could you schedule an ortho apt for when I come back? 🙂
Bo: Sup fam, just enjoying my last days across the pond. See y’all in a few.
John H: Howdy… I summitted the highest peak in Northern Africa successfully.
Baker: Hey fam! Morocco is awesome, and the hiking was very rewarding. I’m excited to see you guys in a few days, Peace!
July 5, 2017
Our first day surfing was a success on Andrín beach, even with the gnarly waves! Cate showed us how it was done by getting up on her surfboard multiple times. Baker and Bo kept things light by consistently joking with each other throughout the day. Our team enjoyed a picnic lunch together under the stunning cliffs of this magnificent beach, where we took cover from the Spanish sun.
Virginia, Lillian, Celeste, Rankin, Anna and Butler initiated an exciting sandcastle building contest that soon had the whole group coming together and competing for the biggest and best masterpiece they could possibly create! That evening, we caravanned back to the apartments in Llanes where we would get ready to go out and enjoy a dinner with authentic Spanish cuisine. Laughter, friendship and joy was shared by all at the table as we ate and drank late into the night. We concluded our day at a fantastic moonup spot overlooking the ocean and the mountains. Jonathan and Cate urged everyone to share their favorite 4th of July memories and traditions, and we commemorated this holiday together as a group.
The next morning, the sun was hiding from us this time, but that did not keep us from surfing the waves. John and Ryan enjoyed some Spanish ice cream from the local cafe by the beach, while Jonathan proved to be the king of the waves this time around. Rankin was a stellar surfer as well, improving greatly from her first day and impressing us all! After our second surf session, the whole crew enjoyed eating pizza at a lovely pizzeria, where we all ate our fill to then be nice and satisfied for our transfer to Madrid. Tomorrow we travel to Marrakech, and we couldn’t be more excited!
July 3, 2017
Tyler, Darío and I met our second session group with much excitement and anticipation at the airport in Madrid, where we soon made our van transfer to Caín. The crew settled in nicely to our first hostel in the mountainous Asturias region. For our first Moonup, we enjoyed learning about one another’s desired “B-level” superpower, from Lillian’s desire to speak any language, to Jonathan’s wish to communicate with animals. We all made sure to get plenty of good rest that night so that we could be ready for our first hike into the Cares gorge of the Picos de Europa.
Anna and Baker, our first LOD’s, started us off on the right foot, as we walked along the winding trails with the river rushing below. That evening just before dinner, we soaked up the views of the western and central massifs, with Spanish shepherds herding their sheep nearby. Celeste and Rankin posed high up on a rock for our wonderful photographer (and leader) Tyler to take a snapshot with a mountainous backdrop behind them! Next our group took a trip to the cheese caves of Sotres, where Virginia, Jonathan, Cate, Baker and John were bold enough to try the freshest blue cheese available in Spain: straight from the cheesemaker’s cave! Later on, Bo entertained us with his comical acts and love for Coke, as we enjoyed Spanish tapas at a lovely hotel restaurant in Sotres. John and Butler would be our LOD’s for the following day, for our grand trek up to the base of Pico Urreillu. The climb was steep but our desire to reach the top was greater. Our group did so in style, and we were feeling tired but accomplished upon reaching the mountain Refugio. We closed out the fantastic day of trekking with a Moonup for the books under the Spanish stars. Ryan and Virginia would lead us the following morning valiantly down the mountain to a wonderfully cooked lunch below. Cate was all smiles on this 3rd day of trekking, always maintaining a positive attitude and encouraging demeanor. Our group transferred safely from Sotres to Llanes, where we all are looking forward to the coming days of surfing and relaxing on the beach!
Until next time,
Anna and Tyler
Virginia says: Hey fam! Living it up in Spain, can’t wait for Morocco, loving the hiking, and miss y’all especially Cappy!
Lillian says: Having a super fun time, found good food to eat, and trying new things, love y’all!
Anna says: Hey mom and dad, I’m having so much fun in Spain, the hiking was tough but I felt so accomplished after, hope you have fun in Bermuda, I miss you guys!
Cate says: Love and miss you guys, having so much fun in Spain, can’t wait for Morocco!
Rankin says: Hi I miss you guys! I’m having a blast, the views while hiking in Spain are incredible, and I’m so excited to see y’all!
John says: Hey fam, can’t wait to have protein powder back at home … went rock climbing on the beaches of Spain today, it was awesome!
Bo says: Besh is alive and well! Having a great time!
Baker says: Hey Mom hey Dad, Spain is awesome, hope all is going well in Charlotte, and sorry for not calling when I got to Madrid!
Ryan says: Hey Mom and Dad, I’m having a great experience, meeting lots of new people, and thanks for this opportunity!
Jonathan says: I love y’all and I’m having a great time! Spain is even better the second time around
Butler says: I so enjoyed the first hike by the river in Spain, really looking forward to the next part in Morocco! Miss and love y’all!
Celeste says: Thank you so much for sending me on this trip I’m having so much fun and I love the group!
June 30, 2017
Hey Spain + Morocco 2 friends and families!
Anna and Tyler said that all students have arrived safely in Spain, and they are off on their adventure. Stay tuned for more updates!
-Moondance Administrative Team