July 27, 2018
Wow. What a way to end our two weeks in Europe and Africa. From the alpine peaks and blue waves of Northern Spain, to the desert landscape and vibrant colors of Morocco, we have accomplished a lot and made many friendships along the way. Our last couple of days in Morocco were definitely the cherry on top; this group became even closer than before and saying goodbye to everyone was extremely difficult.
After our three days in the High Atlas Mountains, we arrived to our humble hotel in Marrakesh with dirt on our boots and smiles on our face. Our relaxing afternoon in the Moroccan sun gave us energy for dinner and soccer in the backyard. Jack rallied the group together to play soccer as the sun set behind the city. After dinner, we decided to hold Moonup in the pool. We felt like kids again sitting in the shallow end going around in a circle as Lawton and Caroline P led us in a fun Moonup. The nightly ritual closed with the LOD titles being passed on to Maggie and Ella C.
The next morning we woke up to a yummy Moroccan breakfast. We were quick to run to the vans to head over to camel riding, where our guide taught us a fun rhyme to sing as we rode through the palm trees. Ella M took some awesome pictures and really enjoyed riding the camels. We then rode over to the Marrakesh market for an afternoon of bartering and immersing ourselves in this new culture. The group stopped for a bit to watch the snake charmers play their instruments while their snakes danced. We also stopped in a Moroccan oil and soap store where we tested out different scents and bought some presents for loved ones. All of the girls bought face masks and did them together later that night back at the hotel!
All content with our purchases and overall market experience, we rode back to the hotel to beat the heat and relax for the rest of the afternoon. Colton and Bennett rallied everyone to play games in the pool for hours on end. We played sharks & minnows for a while before switching over to categories – quite the throwback! Once again, we felt like kids playing in the pool! It’s amazing how close this group became after climbing Toubkal. Just give us some water and each others’ company and we’re occupied for hours!
We held Moonup in the backyard again, but this time we sat by the pool instead of in it. Maggie and Ella C asked a very deep question: if you could relive one part of your life OR predict one thing in the future, which would you choose, and what would it be? We sat there for a few minutes thinking of our responses before Caroline D suggested that she would want to know where she ends up attending college. After Moonup, Ella C and Maggie passed their LOD titles to Rachael and Zoe. Mohammad, our local guide, came over and asked everyone to go around and name two things that are different about Morocco compared to the United States. There were many unique responses, from meal etiquette to traffic patterns.
The next morning, we flew from Marrakesh back to Madrid. We quickly settled into our hostel downtown before walking around Plaza del Sol and then heading to our banquet dinner. We sat around and reflected on the past two weeks, recalling a variety of funny moments. We stayed up later that night continuing our reflections in our final Moonup. We fought through the tears knowing we still had a full day of traveling together the following day!
The flight from Madrid to Atlanta was very smooth and we said our final goodbyes in Atlanta. We have had an amazing two weeks with these intelligent, adventure-loving teenagers and we are thankful for you all for sharing them with us. Each and every one of them will go far in life and we look forward to keeping up with all of them! Please keep in touch and let us know if we can ever write a recommendation for them in the future. (:
Xoxo happy trails,
Lizzie & Marshall
July 25, 2018
Hello family and friends! We have successfully made it to the summit of Mt. Toubkal and are now feeling very accomplished and have grown stronger as a group.
It was tough for all of us to say goodbye to Spain after an awesome week and just as everyone in the group was starting to get the hang of surfing, but we were very excited for the week ahead in Morocco. We touched down in Marrakech a little after noon and quickly left the heat, as we began our journey up into the Atlas Mountains to the little mountain village of Imlil. Our first night in Morocco was spent in a traditional Moroccan Riad in Imlil with an incredible roof terrace that provided a panoramic view of the Atlas Mountains and a small glimpse of the upcoming hike. We enjoyed our first Moroccan dinner of lentils and a chicken tagine dish on the rooftop as the sun began to set over the mountains. As the sunset turned into a star-covered sky, we played cards and got to know each other a little better before a challenging three days of hiking. Colton and Bennett taught the whole group how to play the card game President, and it is now the favorite card game of the group. We moved into our nightly Moonup as shooting stars sprinkled the sky and our LODs, Bennett and Caroline D, provided some inspiration for the long hike the next day and passed their LODship to Ella M and Colton.
The next morning, Ella M and Colton woke us up early for a hearty breakfast before beginning our ascent to the Mt. Toubkal basecamp tucked high above in the mountains. We stopped half way to basecamp for a well-deserved lunch break that rejuvenated the group for the second stretch of the trek. Ella and Colton kept the group moving through the afternoon until the basecamp, a castle built by the French Alpine Club, came into view and motivated the group for the final mile push. As we strolled into basecamp, we quickly threw our packs down and hurried to the front desk for much needed snacks before resting. We ate an early dinner and got ready for bed soon afterwards because we knew we had an early wake up call ahead of us for summit day.
Our new LODs, Jack and Rachael, got the group up and moving for breakfast at 5am and we were off to the summit of Mt. Toubkal as the sun just began to light up the sky. Jack and Rachael were great picks as LODs for a challenging summit day, and they worked together to keep the group motivated and focused on the goal ahead. The summit finally came into view as the group took our final water and rest break and prepared for the final push to the top. As the group reached the summit, we began to sing the words of our group’s theme song, Morocco by Moon Taxi, and celebrate together. Our guide, Ahmed, volunteered to take pictures of the group celebrating at the summit and then we made our descent back to basecamp for a celebration lunch and afternoon naps. During our afternoon of rest, Maggie and Caroline D played card games with our head guide, Mohamed, and his son, Omar. Before dinner, Caroline P and Ella C joined in on a card game with a group of high schoolers from England who had also summited Mt. Toubkal that day, and they all shared their experience during the hike. That night we had Moonup on the basecamp terrace overlooking the sunset in the valley and reflected on our rewarding day. Jack and Rachael asked the group to go around and say the hardest thing they had ever done, and many of us declared that summiting Mt. Toubkal was now the hardest thing we had ever done, but also the most rewarding.
The next morning we slept in until 8am until our new LODs, Lawton and Caroline P, rallied us for one last meal at base camp before beginning our descent. We enjoyed a great lunch cooked and served by our porters towards the end of the trail and finished the final stretch of the descent to the bus waiting in Imlil.
After a two hour bus ride from Imlil to Marrakech, we have now arrived to our Riad in the city for the next two nights. This place is amazing: a bright blue pool, green grass, and large, spacious rooms. Zoe was the first one to run and jump into the pool in the large backyard, where the group spent the rest of the afternoon getting some much needed rest and relaxation. Not a bad way to spend the rest of the trip!
We will send out another update after we have all landed safely in Atlanta on Friday,
Marshall and Lizzie
July 20, 2018
Surfs up north!
Hello from Madrid! We have spent the past two days doing water sports and we’re feeling accomplished and motivated! We are looking forward to more fun in Morocco and are reflecting on the past couple of days with gratitude. This group rocks!!
Colton and Ella C were super supportive LODs for kayaking and surfing. They kept us all excited and entertained throughout the day – they’re both really good surfers too!! Once we got to the river, Caroline D and Zoe immediately hopped in a kayak together and giggled the entire way down the river. Our group pulled over for lunch on the riverbank and our guide lent us his paddle board for us to try. Ella M did a handstand on it! We were all very impressed with her balance.
We had some time to spare between the river and surfing, so we went to Llanes where Marshall and Lizzie surprised everyone with local sweets! Everyone tried different Asturian pastries and enjoyed the views of the ocean, getting us excited to surf the blue waves below us. After the pastry shop, we met our surf guides to grab our wetsuits before heading to a secluded beach for our surf lesson. We practiced popping up on the boards on the beach before running into the ocean. Every single person stood up on his/her board at some point! We were all very impressed with one another. Jack fell in love with surfing on day one and told the guides that he would wake up at 6a.m. the following day if that’s what it took to get the best waves of the day. We were sad to leave after such an accomplished afternoon, but the LODs reminded us that we would be back in the morning for one last surfing session.
After some well-deserved showers and rest, we went to a local restaurant for one last Asturian meal. Rachael and Jack kept us all entertained at dinner with their jokes, and once again we had a fun dinner filled with laughter. Next, we got together for Moonup where Ella C and Colton passed on their LODship to Caroline P and Maggie…
We are now back in Madrid after a morning of surfing and a bus ride back to the big city. Day two of surfing was a lot of fun and both Lawton and Bennett rode waves all the way to shore! Tonight we will have our mid-trip Moonup and get ready for our flight to Morocco. We will send another update after our hiking portion in Morocco!!
Until then, here are some more shout outs from our pro surfers!
Ella M – Hey mom and dad! I am in the car right now heading to the airport hotel! We finished our two days of surfing and tomorrow we are going to Morocco! I can’t wait!! I can’t wait to see y’all soon in just less than a week! Love and miss y’all, xoxo el
Ella C – Hi fam. We’re going to Madrid now and Morocco tomorrow. Surfing and kayaking was lots of fun.
Caroline P – hey mom, dad, benjamin and lucy!!! I had the best time in Spain climbing, surfing, and kayaking!!! Love and miss u guys and see you in a week!!!!! xoxo
Caroline D – hey mom & dad! We finished another day of surfing and now we are on the way to Madrid right now & then we’re going to Morocco!
Rachael – Hey mom and dad, I’m in the car right now otw to the airport hotel then I am flying to Morocco tomorrow. I am having a splendid time. I am really good at surfing now I think I will go pro. Anyway see you in a week. Love u
Maggie – Hi fam, in the car rn going to Morocco tomorrow. Spain was so fun and cool but, I’m excited to go to Morocco. I loved surfing and learned new surf tricks, Caroline P and I also liked playing on the beach too. Love you guys!
Zoe – Hi Mom and Dad! We just got back from kayaking and surfing in Llanes! It was so so so fun! I loved going surfing this morning and yesterday evening. We are about to fly to Morocco and I am so excited! Can’t wait to tell y’all about everything when I get back! Love you!
Colton – Hey family, we are heading to the airport hotel in Madrid and flying to Morocco tomorrow. Kayaking was cool but surfing was so much fun. I got up a few times and it’s a great feeling to ride the waves. We should definitely go surfing next time we go to a beach. Love y’all and see y’all soon!
Lawton – Hey mom and dad. I have been having a great time on this Moondance trip and I can’t wait to see you guys. We are currently in a bus heading to Madrid to catch a flight to Morocco. I’m having so much fun and see you soon!
Bennett – I’m still having fun. Surfing was good. I’m going to Morocco now!
Jack – Hi mom and dad we are about to go to Morocco and I’m really excited. Surfing was really fun and I got pretty good at it.
July 19, 2018
Hola a todos!
We have been having an absolute blast here in Spain! We have hiked all around Picos de Europa and are now settled into our hotel in Llanes, on the northern coast. Everyone is in high spirits and the group is loving getting to know each other.
Once everyone had arrived in Madrid, we packed up our bus and headed north for Caín, Spain. We arrived during light showers, but the rain didn’t stop us from enjoying the village. We walked around the little town, bought some snacks and postcards, and enjoyed the 360-degree views. After dinner we had our first moonup, where the students went around and shared why they chose this trip. Safe to say, everyone is looking forward to a challenging, rewarding adventure! Marshall and Lizzie passed on the leadership to alumni Rachael and Lawton to serve as Leaders of the Day (LOD) for the first day of hiking in Picos de Europa.
The next morning, Lawton and Rachael woke us up and motivated us for our 10-kilometer hike from Caín to Poncebos on the Ruta del Cares. While hiking, we came along a giant rock overlooking the Cares River, where our guide asked us who wanted to come forward and take in the amazing views. Ella C was our first taker, eager to make the most of the moment! We came along many goats along the path and the group loved taking pictures of all them. Once we reached the end of the route, we hopped in the vans and headed to Sotres to our alpine hostel for the night. Rachael and Lawton led us in a very scenic Moonup overlooking the valley and snow-capped peaks. They asked everyone to go around and share their highlights of the day before passing on their LOD titles to Ella M and Jack.
We woke up the next morning from a long night’s rest and were eager to get going. Jack and Ella M moved the group along as we hiked up to a hidden hostel at the top of one of the mountains, where we ate lunch and rested. Afterwards, we hiked back down and headed to the Lakes of Covadonga where we slept for the night. The group enjoyed playing card games and ice breakers before a hearty dinner full of laughter. At Moonup, Ella M and Jack had everyone go around and share their favorite part of the trip so far. Caroline D shared that the energetic dinner was her favorite part so far! This comes to no surprise, since this group is full of energy and good laughs. After Moonup, Jack and Ella passed on their LOD titles to Zoe and Bennett.
The following morning Bennett and Zoe woke us up for a full day of hiking around the alpine lakes and skipping rocks. Throughout the day, clouds would roll in and cover the views, leaving us secluded in the clouds and wondering what lies beyond. It was a neat experience and our group really bonded. At the end of the day we packed up the vans and headed to Llanes to our coastal hotel. Maggie and Caroline P kept us entertained at the hotel by performing a skit for us and sharing stories from their past Moondance experiences together. After a dinner in town, we all gathered inside to hide from the rain showers for our first Moonup on the coast. Zoe and Bennett led Moonup and then passed on their LOD titles to Colton and Ella C.
We will spend the next two days in Asturias kayaking and surfing before we head back to Madrid to catch our flight to Morocco! We will send another update before we head to continent #2. Until then, here are some shout outs from our people!
Ella M – Hola mama, papa, grace, and Ms. Debra and Esmerelda! Spain is gorgeous and I am having so much fun!! We have been hiking and we are going surfing tomorrow and then heading to Morocco! Miss you so much! xoxo
Ella C – Hi family. Spain is fun and very pretty. Llanes is very cool. People are nice. Tell the dogs I miss them. Not monkey.
Caroline P – hey mom, dad, Benjamin, Lucy. I am having a great time in Spain!! everything is so cool!! love u and miss u tons!! xo
Caroline D – hey mom & dad Spain is so awesome and I’m loving it here!! We are surfing tomorrow in Llanes and I’m really excited. See y’all soon!
Rachael – Hey fam, I am eating a lot of food currently especially bread. I’ve had a fun time so far, we finally finished hiking in Spain today so the rest of the Spain portion is gonna be super exquisite. Take care of the girls for me, See you soon Xoxo Rae
Maggie -hi mom, dad, Charlie and Stella, I am having a blast in Spain, we are currently eating dinner right now in this town and it’s so fun (there is a lot of bread here too) anyways I’ve only been gone for a week so I hope you don’t miss me too much. Miss you guys!
Zoe – Hi Mom and Dad! We’re having a lot of fun in Spain right now. The hikes have been really challenging but rewarding. Tomorrow we are going surfing and kayaking in Llanes, and I’m so excited! I hope Miami has been fun and that Kyle’s white coat ceremony was good! Love y’all! See you soon!
Colton – Hey Mom, Dad, Berkeley and Dallas I’m having a great time. The hikes are fun and the views are really pretty. We go surfing tomorrow and go to Morocco soon. See you soon.
Lawton – Hi mom and dad I’ve been having an amazing time at Moondance. We are going to surf tomorrow and we just finished hiking. See you soon.
Bennett – my trip is good. The hikes are fun.
Jack – hola mom and dad I’m having a lot of fun in Spain. The hiking is fun and I’m excited to surf tomorrow.
July 15, 2018
Hi Spain + Morocco Families,
All students have arrived safely in Madrid and the trip is on its way. We can’t wait to hear more from them!