June 25, 2018
Hello family and friends! Thank you for allowing your sons and daughters to join us on our first session of Spain + Morocco, they truly made our job easy. From our first few days of trekking in the Picos de Europa of Spain to the summit of Mt. Toubkal in Morocco, the group had continued to get closer and closer and were clicking as a unit at the right time as our summit was a challenging one. We loved watching them all hang out as one big group as we relaxed by and played in the pool at our luxurious hotel, where we spent our last two nights in Morocco and began to wind down. Sydney, Drew, and Ella took full advantage of the pool and enjoyed some Moroccan sun and an afternoon swim.
On our last day in Morocco, we enjoyed a visit to the Marrakech Souk, where the kids learned and practiced the art of bartering and we learned all about the famous oils and cosmetics of Morocco. Our market visit began in the town square filled with snake charmers and live performers. Spencer was able to negotiate a great deal on two “Louis Vuitton” duffel bags for the price of one for himself and Aiden, and the two boys left the shop with duffels in hand and full of confidence. John Curtis was able to negotiate for half the price of a chess set board in one of the nicer shops among the Souks.
Later that evening, we dressed in our traditional Moroccan clothing and rode camels as the sun began to set with views of Mt. Toubkal off in the distance. Aiden and his camel led the group through a field of palm trees as the baby camels followed along side. It was a fun activity to cap off a wonderful trip. That night we gathered around the pool underneath the stars as the head of the outfitter, Mohammed, asked the students to share Arabic words and traditions they had learned as we explored Morocco. It was a great way to reflect on our time in Morocco, and Mohammed shared more about the Moroccan culture with us as we enjoyed a late night snack. Mohammed reminded the kids of their task to learn five Arabic words during their time in Morocco earlier that night at dinner, and Cameron and Caroline quietly snuck off to the Riad’s library after dinner to learn their remaining words and spoke with the cooks to learn more about Moroccan culture.
On our final night of the trip in Madrid, we explored the city and visited Puerta de Sol, Plaza Mayor, and Mercado de San Miguel. Outside of the San Miguel Market, James bartered with a man to purchase a rose for Lizzie to show his appreciation for the trip. We found a traditional, local restaurant for our banquet dinner that night with many great Spanish dishes on the menu, although many of the kids opted to order chicken fingers and cheeseburgers instead.
It was hard for us to say goodbye to such a good group this morning in the airport. We loved seeing Hadley emerge as a group leader and her efforts to bring the whole group together as one and will miss Olivia’s constant giggles throughout the trip. We strongly encourage everyone in the group to keep in contact with us and to use us as a resource in the future. Safe travels and happy trails!
Marshall & Lizzie
June 23, 2018
Hello friends and family! We successfully summitted the tallest mountain in Northern Africa! We have a lot to share, so sit back and enjoy (:
Our night in Madrid was short-lived, yet full of good times. We sat outside in the cool Madrid-night breeze for our last Moonup in Spain before flying to Morocco. We all went around and shared the top activity on our bucket list while the roar of the nearby airplanes soared over our small circle. Aiden shared his passion for biking and expressed his goal of becoming a professional cyclist. We made him promise us that he’ll remember us when he’s famous one day. The next morning we shuttled over to the airport and flew over nine miles of ocean before our touchdown on the hot Moroccan ground.
After meeting our guide, we rode over to the small, hillside town of Imlil. We went for a stroll through the backcountry markets where Spencer, Jimmy, and Drew bought authentic Moroccan robes. Cameron and Caroline bought matching scarves that they have worn every day so far to shield from the desert heat. The entire group sat on the rooftop of our hostel and enjoyed local tea and a spectacular view of the night sky. We were lucky enough to witness dozens of shooting stars, which were the perfect backdrop for our first desert Moonup led by Olivia and Sydney.
The group as a whole has become so close and this memorable night was just the beginning of us getting even closer as a family. We woke up bright and early the next morning and began our ascent of Mt. Toubkal. LODs Caroline and JC rallied the group as we climbed nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain before reaching base camp. We had an early Moonup here and fell asleep talking with one another before waking at the crack of dawn for our summit bid. The hike from base camp to the summit was very challenging, but the camaraderie in our group kept us chuggin’ along at a slow, steady pace. Everyone was so encouraging of one another and after nearly six hours of hiking uphill we reached the top! The views were spectacular and well-deserved. We didn’t stay long since we were exhausted and eager to descend, which we did quite rapidly. Hadley kept the group chuckling the entire way! When we got back to base camp we had a long talk about our accomplishment. The group agreed that it wasn’t the summit or the view that left us feeling accomplished; it’s the friendship, encouragement, and morale that tie us together. After hiking down and heading back to the city, we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon by the pool at our urban hotel.
We are thankful for Ella’s French skills, which have been a huge help for us at meals! She has been practicing speaking French every day since we’ve been in Morocco. Today the group is exploring the Marrakech market and enjoying a camel ride outside of the city. We are excited to fly back to Spain tomorrow, but we will miss our time in Africa. This group is extremely close and each person contributes a bright, unique personality. It will be extremely difficult to say goodbye as they board their flight back to the states on Monday, but we will cherish our final hours together with some well-deserved rest, a dozen inside jokes, and a final banquet in Madrid. Be on the lookout for a final update after we return to Madrid!
Lizzie & Marshall
June 18, 2018
Hola fam! Thank you for your patience on this trip update. Although we’ve been anxiously waiting to send this to you, we’ve also been very caught up in the moment. Lots of laughs and moments of excitement. Life moves very quickly on this side of the globe!
We didn’t catch much sleep on the overnight flight from Atlanta to Madrid, but we did manage to catch some Z’s on the bus ride from Madrid to Picos de Europa. We immediately woke up as our bus winded around the alpine roads of the National Park and up to our backcountry, European-style hostel. Our meal for night one did not leave us hungry; we filled up our sleepy (yet jittery) bodies with pasta, salad, french fries, fish, bread, and flan. That night at Moonup, Lizzie and Marshall passed on the leadership to Spencer and Hadley, who stepped up as the first Leaders of the Day (LODs) for our first day of backpacking.
The next morning Hadley and Spencer guided our group through some stretches and hyped us up for 8 miles of trekking through the steep backcountry between Caín and Sotres. We stopped for lunch at a beautiful overlook of the Spanish granite where a herd of goats accompanied us, probably because we had yummy snacks in our packs. Parents beware: everyone wants a pet goat now. That night we settled into our new hostel, which was high above the clouds. Our Moonup overlooked the high Torres of the National Park, but it wasn’t the view that brought us closer; it was the circle of praises that we threw together to compliment one another. We call this the nug jug and we use it to go around and give nugs to those who deserve a little extra praise. Annie received many nugs for helping Lizzie surprise the group with their Moondance swag bags filled with fun Moondance surprises! That night Spencer and Hadley passed on their LOD titles to Annie and Aiden.
The next morning we threw on our Moondance swag and our day packs and descended into the valley before climbing up the Spanish countryside to an extraordinary view of the snow-capped peaks in the National Park. Aiden and Annie took turns orienting the map and navigating our group through the rocky trail. It’s safe to say this is a group of knowledgeable outdoorsmen and women. We were exhausted by the end of the day, but our excitement (and surprise cliff bars from the trip leaders) kept the group chuggin’ along. Our guides also surprised us with patatas bravas in a small backcountry tienda at the end of the trailhead. AND, to continue the surprises, JC bought a giant chocolate bar and offered a piece to everyone in the group, including the guides. We are very lucky to have a group of compassionate students!
That night at Moonup, Aiden and Annie passed on their LODship to JC and Ella, who woke us up the next morning and navigated us to not one but TWO alpine lakes! Our hike wasn’t as long on day three compared to the hikes on days one and two, but we certainly soaked up the final views of the white peaks before winding down to our costal hostel in Llanes. Ella and JC led the group in a deep Moonup before passing their leadership to James (who everyone now calls Jimmy) and Caroline.
The next morning Caroline read a quote to everyone and Jimmy followed with some motivation and inspiration. We strolled down the Asturias coast to the río where we hopped in kayaks and paddled through the blue and white alpine water. We pulled out when it turned into brackish water, right before the river opened up into the ocean. There were lots of splashes and laughs on the river, especially when Drew and Aiden flipped their kayak! Thankfully it happened right as we were approaching our rocky, sunny lunch spot. Sydney and Cameron took the front of the flotilla and navigated our group right alongside the river guide. After the river, we made our way to the beach where everyone followed Annie’s lead for the surfing portion. Annie helped the surfing instructors teach the rest of the group how to hold their balance and shred the rumbling waves of the Asturian coast. Olivia said that surfing has been her favorite part of the trip so far! She got awesome GoPro footage of everyone.
We are now en camino to Madrid where we will stay near the airport tonight and then head to Africa tomorrow afternoon (no big deal). Be on the lookout for another trip update from continent #2! Until then, here are some shout outs from the group!
Lizzie & Marshall
Annie -happy Father’s Day dad!! Miss you all fam
Hadley – happy Father’s Day Rod! I miss Mexican food.
Spencer – happy Father’s Day dad I love you.
James – happy Father’s Day dad
Caroline – happy Father’s Day love youuu
Olivia – happy Father’s Day dad love you and miss you xo
Ella – happy Father’s Day dad love and miss y’all!
JC – happy Father’s Day I love you don’t forget to call Mr. Garrison
Drew – happy Father’s Day see you soon xoxo
Sydney – happy Father’s Day I miss you see you soon!
Cameron – hi dad xoxo happy Father’s Day
Aiden – happy Father’s Day looking forward to seeing my shoes and having a nice steak with you
Lizzie – happy Father’s Day dad! Love ya mucho xoxo
Marshall – happy Father’s Day dad thanks for all you do can’t wait to see you at the end of the summer
June 13, 2018
Hello Moondance Families!
The flight arrived last night and all is well! The trip is officially underway!
We look forward to hearing from the group soon.