July 27, 2017
Staying at Mohamed’s Riad Bledna Guesthouse has been nothing short of paradise. For our first night, we enjoyed a traditional couscous with veggies and chicken, all of us appreciating the home cooked meal in a proper kitchen after eating in the Moroccan wilderness for the past three days. Afterwards, Michael, Belle and Courtney were eager to jump in the pool and enjoy the pleasant temperature at night before calling it a day.
The next morning brought Day 12 of our action-packed trip. Katie, Carter and Charlie absolutely loved the msemen (Moroccan pancakes) for breakfast, and afterwards we all changed into our bathing suits to jump into the pool awaiting us! Grace was kind enough to lend everyone some of her sun bum banana-scented sunscreen, as we all certainly needed it! After lunch, our crew prepared to head into town to tackle the market and all the fun it brings.
Eads and Connor would be our LOD’s for this unique and entertaining time at the Marrakech market. Duncan started our group off strong with a purchase of a fancy looking watch, while Julia invested in some Moroccan elephant pants to wear for our upcoming camel ride! We all had fun bartering and bargaining, before heading back to the van to transfer to meet our camels. Riding into the sunset, camels singing (or groaning?), and everybody beaming, it was the perfect grand finale to our Moroccan adventure. The crew is looking forward to our final night in Madrid tonight, where we will circle up for our last moon-up, reflecting on all we have taken away from such a time together, before heading back to our very own US of A.
Signing off for the summer,
Anna Nott and Tyler Nachand
July 26, 2017
Salaam aleikum (peace be with you) from the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco!
Our crew spent the night of Day 7 in the always charming SHS Aeropuerto Hotel, before heading out of Madrid to fly via good ol’ RyanAir to our exotic destination of Marrakech, Morocco. On Day 8, Belle and Charlie were the appointed LOD’s for this not so seamless travel day, and they were nothing but helpful and supportive leaders to Tyler and myself. The plane ride went smoothly enough, as our crew landed safely and cruised through passport control to meet up with Hahmed, our fearless Berber mountain guide for our trek up Jbel Toubkal. We hopped in the van and made our transfer to the quaint Imlil Valley, stopping for lunch by a Moroccan river under a shady bridge that kept us cool from the blazing sun. We enjoyed our tuna sandwiches, locally sourced crisp apples, and delicious bananas before completing our ride to the cozy, safe haven of the Riad Atlas Toubkal. We enjoyed quiet hour at the colorful Riad, and spoke with some fellow British travelers who had just returned from their own climb to the top of Toubkal, a feat we hoped to accomplish in the coming days. Soon enough it was time for dinner and we enjoyed a feast of traditional tajine on the roof of the Riad, with inspiring views of the High Atlas surrounding us. Afterwards our crew circled up in Moroccan lounge chairs for a Moonup under the stars, where we all shared which place brought us the most peace. For Duncan it was the golf course, while Katie said she feels most at peace at the bottom of a swimming pool- looks like these two may have a future in the Master’s and scuba diving! After going over our plan for the following day, we headed to bed early to get some solid rest for our first day of trekking in the High Atlas!
On Day 9, Courtney and Connor were our courageous LOD’s, leading us from the Imlil valley to the basecamp of Toubkal. Grace kept her position in the front of the line, working hard with a smile on her face the whole way. While the sun was out in the morning, our crew was fortunate enough to have cloud cover for the last, more challenging part of our uphill trek. We soon reached the fortress of a refuge: Les Mouflons, where Carter and Eads were so excited to discover how spacious and luxurious our lodging would be despite its mountain refuge title. The group rested, played cards, and had tea time until it was time for our supper. The Moroccan mountain refuge cuisine was extraordinary, including some delicious pasta with fresh tomato and basil, chopped veggies with spices to put on top, and a sizzling chicken tajine. Bananas were the fruit of choice for dessert as we all refueled our bodies with potassium for the summit day to come. After a Moonup outside on the balcony under the stars, our group snuggled up in their travel sheets and long underwear with anticipation of the exciting summit the next morning.
On Day 10, we awoke at 4:45 am ready to tackle the Toubkal summit! Michael and Grace would be our brave LOD’s, urging the group to pack well, dress correctly, eat breakfast and get some good stretching in before heading up the mountain.. Julia showed great perseverance on the ascent of Jbel Toubkal, remaining positive and motivated despite feeling nauseous and fatigued. The group was very encouraging all the way to the top where they had a photo shoot using Grace and Carter’s cameras to snap quite a few quality summit shots. Before beginning the descent, the group sang a song to both Tom and Darío (our guides in Spain) which Tyler captured on video, followed by an enthusiastic and energizing call and repeat chant led by Tyler. After a couple slips and 3 hours of descent, the team arrived once again at our mountain fortress.
On the final day of our trekking portion in Morocco, our group headed down from basecamp and back to the Imlil valley. We enjoyed our final Moroccan feast on the trail and even petted some mules who were just so friendly! Soon enough we made our transfer from Imlil to the adventure park for a zip line thrill, then headed to our final destination in Morocco!
Anna and Tyler
July 21, 2017
Hola from Llanes!
Our crew has had an absolute blast on the Spanish shores, soaking up the sun, the surf and the sights! On Day 6 of our trip, the clouds provided an excuse to head to the Río Deva in Panes, Spain for some kayaking. Michael and Grace were our fearless LODs as our group entered into this activity for the first time! Charlie and Michael were quick to jump to the front of our line of kayaks, while Belle and Courtney enjoyed their position chilling and taking it easy in the back. Connor let Grace paddle for him, while Katie and Eads enjoyed splashing around on our lunch break. Duncan kept everybody laughing with his constant over-exaggerated, goofy paddling technique. After our river adventure, we headed to a local cafe for a special Spanish treat: a giant chocolate covered flaky pastry to share, one which was absolutely to die for, called a palmier. We finally did it: we found a cultural specialty that everyone in the group devours with not a crumb left on their plate! Our group then transferred to a local beach in Llanes where we enjoyed exploring the coves and caves by the waves. Julia and Carter were brave enough to jump in the cool, refreshing ocean. After our beach visit we returned to the apartments to change and get ready for our Spanish feast, that is our final dinner in this lively, inviting country. We devoured the croquetas, tortilla, salchichon, and ribs while sharing laughs and memories from the trip so far. We ended our lovely day with a Moonup sharing activities we dream to yearn to learn.
On Day 7, we woke up to partly sunny skies: absolutely perfect for our surfing day! We enjoyed a breakfast of Spanish croissants, yogurt and fruit at our apartment home in Llanes, then packed our bags to plan ahead for our transfer to Madrid later in the day. Then, it was time for wetsuits! The North shore of Spain would not make us chilly in the least, as we piled into the van and headed down the dirt road to the most beautiful beach in Asturias: Playa Torimbia. Grace was queen of the waves, while Belle and Michael did a swell (!) job surfing too, for being from Virginia, at least J. Our crew enjoyed the ocean so much, and we all worked up an appetite in the water to feast at a local pizzeria afterwards! We are now on the bus en route to Madrid, and we absolutely cannot wait to experience all Morocco has to offer starting tomorrow!
Hasta luego amigos
July 20, 2017
Hey Spain and Morocco families,
Hola de España amigos! Our crew has really enjoyed the Picos de Europa trekking portion of our two-continent explorin’ trip! After picking up the group in Madrid at the airport, we made our transfer to the small mountain village of Caín! Our group bonded quickly on Day 2 of the trip by scouting out the nearby viewpoints and taking photos together. The sun shone bright with not a cloud in the sky as the majestic Picos surrounded us. We enjoyed a classic Spanish 3-course dinner! For Moonup, we circled up in a nice grassy spot by the river to contemplate our personal and collective goals for the trip. Charlie shared how he wanted to stay present and appreciate each moment of the trip, right in line with the Moondance philosophy! Soon we hit the hay as we knew Day 3 would bring our first hike through Asturias region.
Belle and Connor were our first LOD’s (leaders of the day) for hiking on the Cares gorge trail through this beautiful limestone mountainous region. Our group was blessed with crystal blue skies on our first trekking day in Spain. Connor made friends with the local mountain goats during our rest break, and Julia kept us guessing on how to figure out her tricky snaps game! Soon we reached Poncebos, a small village where we then transferred to Sotres. Our new mountain village home brought new viewpoints, and we all enjoyed some local ham and Spanish pasta for dinner. We ended our first hiking day with a Moon Up under the stars, looking out onto our trekking route for tomorrow!
Charlie and Katie were our LOD’s for the 10km trek up to the base of Pico Urriellu. Unfortunately, due to an allergic reaction to a prescribed antibiotic, and a hurting ankle, Michael and Julia headed to Llanes with me (Anna) to save strength and preserve their health for the Moroccan trekking to come later in the trip. Our group of three enjoyed crepes in town while soaking up the ocean views. Meanwhile the rest of our crew made it to base camp at ~6000 ft, where Eads and Katie enjoyed a well-deserved snooze on the Refugio’s giant bunkbeds. After dinner at the Refugio, the group circled up for Moon Up at one of the most beautiful spots yet, where each person recounted their favorite childhood memory. Carter shared how her childhood imaginary best friend led her to her real best friend! Soon the stars were shining bright and it was time to call it a night to wake up early the next day for the descent.
Duncan and Courtney were chosen to be LOD’s down from basecamp at Pico Urriellu on Day 5. Grace and Charlie led the pack down the mountain at a lively pace, and Katie did a wonderful job of looking out for the group as a whole, monitoring each student’s well-being and keeping morale high! Belle was all smiles on this trek, loving every minute of being with all of her new friends. Once everybody made it down the mountain and back to Sotres, our whole crew was reunited back in Llanes for the surf days to come! As Grace would say, shaka bra!
Until next time,
Anna and Tyler
Duncan: Spain has been great, it’s beautiful, love y’all!
Courtney: Happy birthday Wyatt!! Having a great time in Spain, love and miss y’all!
Belle: Having so much fun!! Spain is amazing! Miss y’all xoxo
Charlie: Spain is really cool. Miss you!
Julia: Having so much fun! Love and miss y’all!
Michael: Having a great time! Spain is a beautiful country and the people here are cool!
Connor: Just got back from kayaking which was a blast, Spain is beautiful, hope Charlotte is well!
Carter: Please return Redbox cds in room or you will get charged, stay cool! Xoxo
Eads: Hey! Spain is great miss y’all !!
Grace: Having fun in Spain, I love and miss you guys!
Katie: Please tell Ella, Lola, and Jacob I say hi! I don’t wanna leave! Love you, bye!
July 16, 2017
Hello Spain + Morocco 3 friends and family!
Tyler and Anna let us know that the entire group made it safely to Spain, and they are off on their adventure. Please stay tuned for more updates!
-Moondance Administrative Team