July 9, 2019
Greetings friends and family!
We have wrapped up our time in Morocco with an amazing couple of days in Marrakech. After our hard couple of day hiking Toubkal, we welcomed the relaxation and recharging we got at our friend Mohamed’s Riad. Our first afternoon was filled with hanging out by the pool and throwing the frisbee. Yesterday we woke up to a fresh-made breakfast of msemen (traditional Moroccan pancakes) homemade jam, and yogurt.
After breakfast we headed to the markets of Marrakech to try our hands at bargaining like the Berbers. Kaylee quickly showed her bargaining prowess by negotiating prices down to her price point each time! Bobby, Emily, and Keely were brave enough for all us and held snakes and monkeys in the main square. The group then came together to help Lucy through the market with her sprained ankle, and she made it through like a champ. After an ice cream break, we loaded up into the van with all our new souvenirs and headed back to our home away from home at Mohamed’s.
In the afternoon we went back to the pool to cool off before our cooking lesson in the evening. Cecelia, Avery, Hugo and Sam showed off their soccer skills in a game with Mohammed’s friends, while Luke and Riley tossed the frisbee. Once everything was ready, we learned how to cook Breiwart, msemen and kafta tajin. We chopped, peeled, simmered and spiced with the entire rainbow. It was incredible to see how our food has been prepared for the last week.
Mary Deas, Sam, Riley, and Bobby proved to have a knack for the small details that lead to a delicious meal. Mohamed walked us through each step and shared Moroccan wives’ tales as he taught us how to brew the traditional Moroccan mint tea we’ve had three times a day since our arrival.
Last night, we ate the meal we worked so hard over and then shared our last moments in Morocco together. We all tried the Argan oil face masks that were made by the government-supported, female cooperatives here. We couldn’t stop laughing at how silly we all looked with our faces caked in green, looking at the stars. Today we headed back to Madrid for our final day together. We reminisced over good times last night with incredible hamburgers and world-famous churros.
Thank you for this amazing experience friends and family! We have loved our time with your kids. We will miss them dearly.
Margaret and Justin
July 7, 2019
Salam from Morocco!
Our group just finished up our hiking portion in the Atlas Mountains, and we had such a great time! The entire group overcame considerable adversity, and everyone was able to summit Mount Toubkal, the tallest mountain in North Africa!
When we arrived in the Marrakech airport after a very early morning, Kaylee and Mary Deas, our LODs for the day, decided to use our snack budget to buy everyone chocolate croissants. Sam also volunteered to carry Luke’s bags throughout the airport this day, earning respect from his peers and a LOD nomination for the following day. After our mid-morning snack, we drove to the mountain town of Imlil, the gateway to the Atlas Mountains. As it was the Fourth of July, we spent the afternoon catching some ultraviolet rays by the pool and playing Mafia. Before our excellent dinner of chicken, veggies, and melon, we went into the town of Imlil to have tea and practice our bargaining skills as we purchased local Moroccan clothing.
Lucy woke us all up the next morning to prepare us for our eight-mile hike to the Toubkal refuge. After an awesome breakfast of Moroccan pancakes and tea, we loaded our gear onto mules and started our ascent. Despite battling heat, wind, and rain, the group knocked out the hike with ease. We took some time to relax before our first dinner at Toubkal Refuge, and Bobby showed off his card trick skills to the group. We then went to bed in true Refuge fashion in our four mega-beds, as we all shared one room and four giant bunk beds.
We rose early the next morning and ate a quick breakfast to prepare for our long and difficult push to the Toubkal Summit. Despite his shoulder injury, Luke headed the pack and led our 4-hour push to the summit. While Luke was the physical head of our group, Emily was our emotional leader, constantly encouraging everyone during the difficult ascent. Halfway up the mountain, and again at the summit, we sang Lucy happy birthday to celebrate her 15th birthday with Jolly Ranchers and Sour Patch Kids. The group triumphed over high winds, briefs bouts of snow, and altitude, to make it to the summit unscathed. We all spent a half-hour taking in the beautiful views and realizing that we were at the highest point for hundreds of miles.
On the way down, Lucy sprained her ankle but still led our trek down the mountain. Riley, our killer LOD voluntarily carried Lucy’s bag down the mountain for her. Cecilia showed us her grit as she pushed through a cough and made it up and down the mountain successfully and with admirable patience. Once we all made it back to Toubkal basecamp, we relaxed for the afternoon and reflected on our experience. We played mafia, and Hugo was the first winner of the game this summer, navigating the group with his wit to win us all over. After dinner, Riley and Avery, our LODs for the day, asked us what we would take away from our experience summiting Toubkal, and Keely shared a quote with us that we’re still hanging onto: “when you think you can’t go any further, you still have 60% left to give.” This quote was a perfect description of our group during the hike, they showed awe-inspiring positivity and encouragement throughout the hike, and we were all able to summit because of it.
Today, we hiked down from the Toubkal Refuge back to Imlil, where we enjoyed a picnic cooked over an open flame. We then stopped to say hello to a few camels. After Keely, Avery, and Bobby hopped on for a second, we continued to Riad Bledna in Marrakech to relax by the pool once again and decompress after some technical hiking. Lucy, Mary Deas and Kaylee made some new local friends in the form, of two little girls who danced with them by the pool while the rest rotated into a friendly game of soccer with our host Mohamed and his family.
Tomorrow, we will take on a new challenge in navigating the Marrakech markets on our last full day in Morocco and have a Moroccan cooking lesson! We have all had a blast of a trip and we are excited for the last few days.
Thanks so much!
Justin and Margaret
July 3, 2019
We have just wrapped up our two days in Llanes, where we kayaked down the pristine Cares River and surfed off the coast. Kaylee was the first to test the waters when she tumbled seemingly unprovoked out of her kayak. Luckily Luke was there to help her get back in, although barely because he was laughing so hard. Cecilia and Emily killed the game as our two woman team, even savings Justin’s paddle for him in his time of need. Hugo showed us all what was up when he dominated in our first successful game of Ninja!
Next we indulged ourselves with some locally known corbatas and pamelos (delicious pastries native to Asturias) and hot chocolate. After we relaxed back at our apartments, we made our way to the beach to get our surf on. After squeezing into wetsuits for our second time that day, we all were excited to take on the surf on the beautiful beaches of Llanes, with a backdrop of cliffs that fell drastically into the ocean. Sam, Lucy, Keely and Bobby comprised our Moondance surf team, as they looked like naturals by the end of our first day! Everyone pushed themselves physically during the surfing portion, and we were all much better surfers for it. We were all exhausted from the long day of water activities, and we were thankful to get to relax by our apartments and play cards that night. We cooked out with hamburgers, chips and ice cream. After some frisbee, we had a story-telling Moonup where we all got to know each other even better!
Today, our last day of surfing, Mary Deas was getting up like a professional, totally at peace in the water. Riley, after serious determination, is excited to now claim that he successfully surfed! Avery caught all the waves and surfed a few, never losing her killer attitude and bright smile! Overall, it was a successful trip to Llanes, as we were able to get some time in the water and time in the sun. On our way back to Madrid we saw the most insane hail storm!!! We never know what lies around the corner, but we are going to find out what’s in store for tomorrow in Morocco!
Until next time,
Margaret and Justin
Riley: Thanks dad and mama for the opportunity to go on this incredible trip! Having tons of fun; happy Fourth of July!
Sam: Thank you mom and dad for being able to experience the great adventure. This has been the most amazing trip yet, happy forth of July!
Bobby: Hey Mom and Dano! I miss you guys tons and tons. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be on Moondance for the first time. I love you guys, tell everyone I say hello. Happy Fourth of July!
Mary Deas- Hey mom and dad! I am having so much fun, and I miss y’all so much. Happy Fourth of July! I can’t wait to tell y’all all about my trip and see you soon!
Keely: Hey mom and dad! I’m having so much fun. Spain was awesome and I’m so excited for Morocco! Thanks so much for sending me and happy Fourth! See you soon!
Hugo: Hi mom and dad! Thanks for letting me go on this amazing trip. I’m having super fun and everyone is nice. See you in a week.
Lucy: Hey mom and dad. Spain was so cool and completely different from where we have already been. We are on the way to Morocco tomorrow. My group is amazing and hilarious. Happy Fourth of July. Love y’all both<3
Avery: hey mom and dad and holdy ! I miss you guys so much but Spain and Morocco is the best. My group is a lot of fun and the surfing was a lot of fun. See you guys soon happy Fourth
Luke: John, Eric and Michael I miss you guys a lot and I’m having lots of fun. My group is sick and my leaders are cool. Love you.
Emily: Hey mom and dad (and Ashley haha) I miss y’all so much but I’m having a blast in spain! I love my group and my leaders are the coolest! hope you guys are having the absolute best time in Galapagos and I can’t wait to see y’all in a week. Tomorrow we’re going to Morocco and I’m so excited!! Xo and love y’all so much!
Cecilia: Hello, dear friends and family of mine. I am having fun on this trip so far. The views are pretty cool and my group is nice. Hope all is well and I really hope y’all are taking good care of Larry. I love and miss y’all and will see y’all on the 10th.
Kaylee – hey mom dad Camille and wallace. Spain is so pretty and fun. I love my group. Happy 4th of July love and miss y’all so much!
July 1, 2019
¡Hola from España!
We are so grateful for the awesome weather and incredible hiking we had these past few days in the Picos de Europa National Park. After a day of travel by planes, and vans, the group arrived in the small mountain town of Caín. Upon arrival, we fended off jet lag by walking up to a powerful waterfall that came out of a cave. We also played games by the crystal blue Cares River, followed by an awesome dinner of pasta, french fries, and a Spanish take on chicken tenders.
We awoke the following day to a traditional European breakfast of bread and jam. Lucy and Riley were chosen as our first pair of LODs (leaders of the day) for their ability to bring the group together. The two of them told us our plan for the first day and motivated the group through the breathtaking views of our first hike. We followed the Río Cares for 12 kilometers, through hand-dug tunnels, on thousand-foot cliff faces, and past bearded goats, all to reach our final destination of Poncebos, where we refreshed ourselves with sodas in glass bottles and ice cream. During our hike, Bobby shined bright as he made sure to talk with everyone, and he even volunteered to serve as a photographer on multiple occasions. After the hike, we drove a few minutes to Sotres, the highest village in Asturias, to spend the night.
On our second day of hiking, Sam and Avery, our friendly card game extraordinaires, continued to bring the group together just as they did on the bus to Caín two days before. We hiked over 11 miles, taking in pristine views of vast mountains, including Naranjo de Bulnes, the most famous climbing peak in Spain. We passed through a small mountain town called Teilve for lunch, when Avery, Cecelia and Riley began to juggle soccer with our guide Carlos and two Spanish children, Marcos and Jaime. After our lunch break, Keely took the lead while Emily helped sunscreen and checked in to make sure everyone was doing alright, and we hammered out the rest of our hike with gumption. Marta, our other Spanish guide, told us riddles, and we quickly learned that Mary Deas is our resident queen of riddles. After this long day of hiking, we all got ice cream, as is customary, and drove to a typical mountain refuge by Lake Enol to hunker down for the night.
We started this morning in the Enol mountain refuge to hot drinks and thick fog. Our third set of LODs, Hugo and Keely, were chosen for their positive attitudes during the difficult second day of hiking, and they led us through our final hike. We trekked a few hours through the fog and mist this morning, passing dozens of cows en route to another high mountain refuge. Luke kept us entertained on the trail with his myriad of stories and riddles, while Kaylee showed us all what a good attitude and easy laugh can accomplish. Once we finished the hike, we headed to the beach town of Llanes, where we will be surfing and kayaking. After an awesome dinner of cachopo (a cheese-filled Spanish pork chop), we’re all pretty amped to take on the waves and the rapids tomorrow!
Talk to you soon!
Justin and Margaret
June 28, 2019
Hola Spain + Morocco Families!
We heard from our Leaders late last night, and the group has arrived safely in Spain. The trip is off to a great start. Stay tuned for more stories from their adventures!