Planning a Trip to Morocco

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Joff
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Planning a Trip to Morocco

Post by Joff »

I am in the process of planning a Morocco Trip for Mar/Apr 2009. It looks like we may end up with quite a large group (10-15) that may make logistics a little hard. The current thinking is that we will do 2 weeks, offering up some grade 2/3 on the first week and then the second week look for some 3/4 in a smaller sized group.

I am finding it a little hard to find information on rivers. Unsurprisingly the best source so far is on UKRGB.

Does any know any thing about “les gorges de toudra rivers”?

I would be keen to hear others experiencea with rivers in Morocco which would help us plan a trip. I am little concerned we will be able to find a bit of 2/3 but anything harder 3/4 would be harder to find.

Also, would be keen to here recommendations on accommodation. I suspect the first week we may need a degree of comfort (hostels etc) and the second week it wouldn’t matter as much as the group would be happy to camp. Does anyone know how camping is view in morocco? Can you free camp?

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Adrian Shanahan
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Post by Adrian Shanahan »

Joff,

You want to get in contact with Mr Rob J Coffey he ran a trip there last year totally down the lines of what you are looking for. I'm sure Rob would be willing to answer a question or two should you ask nicely. You can get him through his web site Live once media / adventure right here. If you PM me on your email address I will send it on to Rob for you.

Adrian

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Post by Dave Manby »

I've got some old river notes from the 1980s which we used when we went there in '86. They are in French but if you want them let me know. they cover a good few rivers.

Here is the account of our running a little bit of the N'Fizz

Spring 1986

Three days to paddle 8 kilometres.

Morocco, an unlikely destination for a kayaking trip, and if it had not been for a chance meeting with a couple of French paddlers stopping in at the London River Rats I would never have gone. They were working in London and learning about the greatest cuisine in the world - curry. They had come down to the River Rats to see the lecture I was giving a lecture on Corsica - then still a new and also strange destination for paddlers. Afterwards one of the duo asked if I had been paddling in Morocco. After checking what month it was, (it was not long before that Slime fell victim to the Wye Bother Canoe Club expedition to the subterranean rivers of the Sahara April Fools joke), I asked for more information. We spoke at length and they promised to send me further information. They did; sending photocopies of magazine articles written by Pascal Jullian the local expert and pioneer of Moroccan paddling.

To cut a long story short about a year later nine of us arrived on the banks of the N’Fiss river south of Marrakech. We read the guide; “Vallée Fleurée, belle gorge, belle Kasbah Grade II-III 30 kms. Grade III-IV 2 kms. , voire Infranchissable Débarquement OBLIGATOIRE”. We drove up the valley and saw the Vallée Fleurée, belle gorge, belle Kasbah, Grade II-III 30kms., Grade III-IV 2 kms. and then drove back down dismissing the idea of lowering our level of paddling to these insignificant rapids. We parked and some of us hiked down the “Partir dangereuse” the gorge; it looked fine, there seemed to be no problems. Since we had travelled all this way we should at least paddle something. So we hiked back to the minibus joking about the “French” and the fact that the river was easy. We had such a superiority complex it was a miracle we could get all our heads into my Sherpa minibus. The guide did say something about “Par hautes eaux” but even so we could not see it being too difficult - in high water we reckoned it would be a royal flush. We were superior, “centaurs of the river”. So we put on. It was now gone 1.00 p.m. but it was only eight kilometres to the take out and Alan would drive the shuttle. Off we set, joking about the small drops, playing it stupid, making every possible eddy on the rapids, giving frantic hand signals to those who had not hiked the gorge. We were having a laugh. We got to the end of the gorge and relaxed and set off drifting the last three to four kms. out to the take-out. I seem to remember Ross Purdy even taking his legs out of his trusty Pyranha “Freestyle” and resting them on his deck. Much fun was made of “voire Infranchissable, Débarquement OBLIGATOIRE” the French standard of paddling and my French translations. We drifted on down the river laughing and admiring the scenery. As we drifted around a bend the river banks steepened and a second gorge appeared. We had not seen this. Ross put his legs back into his kayak. The Joking stopped. Débarquement might well be obligatoire but looked problématique. This was getting serious. There was a narrowing of the river and it dropped away - suddenly. We got out to scout. It was hard. A narrow long chute about a metre and a half wide was guarded by a one metre opening drop followed by a two metre drop followed by a five metre drop and once you entered the chute you were committed to running the rest of the gorge. Below this five metre drop there was a short stretch we could not see because it was under the overhang we were standing on. We even tried lying on our stomachs with someone hanging onto your ankles and lowering you over the edge but still we could not see the river. When the river reappeared it fell over another drop and then gathered itself together in a stilling basin before it set off down a further set of drops. Here there was a chance to pick up the pieces and gather the group together again before finishing the gorge. There were a further three drops that we could see from our view point on the overhang, then the river turned right and disappeared round the corner between the vertical gorge walls. We could not climb any further downstream to scout the rest of the rapid, our overhang was as far as we could get down the gorge. OOPS. I was not looking good. Discretion was better than valour. Jokes about the French finally finished; our superiority suddenly ceased. We started looking for portages. None was available at river level. We had to carry out. So we paddled back upstream for some way till we got to the bottom of a gully. Then started 300m of almost vertical kayak hauling to the top of the gorge.
..…

By the time we got to the top of the gully it was 6.00 p.m. and getting dark so we abandoned the kayaks there. We still had to make our way through the scrub to the road in the gathering gloom. It was 11.00 p.m. and pitch black when we finally got to the road, the minibus and food and water. The following morning we walked back to the kayaks. Dave Higson stayed back at the van; he has polio in his right leg. He had been phenomenal in the dark the evening before crawling and cursing on his crutches as we fought our way out through the scrub; it was sensible he stayed behind. Jon Gatfield set off with us but legged it out once we got to the steep parts and his vertigo took over.
......…

We lowered the kayaks back down into the river below the blind corner - it was flat! We floated out the flat to the end of the gorge and loaded up the kayaks on to my minibus and started off for another river. We relaxed, we were heading elsewhere, I was busy translating the French and selecting a new destination. Here we go again, the hubbub in the minibus returned to its normal level; good friends bantering. Alan was driving. Alan is not a kayak paddler. Alan has no input into the decisions. Alan kept on driving. Alan also kept stirring the conversation, Alan shoving his oar in (I told you he was not a kayak paddler). I was the (partial) French speaker. I was looking at the guide. I was trying to find a river of interest in the region to head for to make up for the two days of non-paddling. I was half listening to the banter. I was sat next to Alan. Then someone in one of those quiet moments a quiet voice of someone said “The French said it was impossible”. OOPS, I turned to Al “Turn the bus around. We’re better run it”. The bus went silent. Just for a moment. Then the banter / arguments / hype / anti-hype started up. It was obvious we were going to paddle it. It had just needed someone to put their head above the parapet . Someone had provided the prompt by mentioning that the French said it was impossible. It would be a first descent as if that mattered, I don’t think anyone in the group cared about “First descents”. First descents to us were just like cream on ice cream - nice but not really necessary. We camped above the gorge and in the morning paddled the river. It was just as hard as it had looked. Watching Ross come out from under the overhang as he lead the opening drops was brilliant and then seeing him getting pinned on the last drop above the stilling basin out of our reach and then like a Norman knight jousting using his paddle as a lance to push himself clear was enough to give you a heart attack. The stilling basin was a welcome relief but the second half of the gorge, only partially scouted (really, we had only seen it form way upstream and way above) was still to be run. Once we had all gathered in the stilling basin Mike Hewlett lead this next stretch. I remember seeing him run the first two drops and then seeing the rest of the rapid unfold raise an arm with a “thumbs up” sign before hastily grabbing his paddle entering the last part of the rapid and disappearing around the corner.

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Simon Westgarth
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Post by Simon Westgarth »

Adrian Shanahan wrote:You want to get in contact with Mr Rob J Coffey he ran a trip there last year totally down the lines of what you are looking for. I'm sure Rob would be willing to answer a question or two should you ask nicely.
Rob went with Deb Pinniger and Water by Nature. A good trip none the less.

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hhzoombird
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Post by hhzoombird »

Some links:

Maroc thread on UKRGB - There are other threads on Morocco too - Search on all the speligns.

"The Poly" Morocco trip 2004 has a list of some of grades and logistics.

There is a guidebook - Its in german - "Maroko Zu fuSS und mit boot" or something like that.

We looked into doing it under our own steam, but chickened out of organising the logistics ourselves - ended up going with "Water by nature" on a guided trip - it was really, really super.

yurperjoe
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Post by yurperjoe »

Hey,
you could always contact Stuart Woodward at Canoe Control.
I know he's been running trips out there for a while.
I'm sure he'd give you some advice.
J
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buck197
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Post by buck197 »

I'm sure Mark R visited Morocco recently and could help if you pm'd him.
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Chris_Eastabrook
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Post by Chris_Eastabrook »

Some information on our trip last easter. Go a bit earlier than we did and take something to keep you happy on a minibus for many hours.

Give me an email if you have any questions.

Chris

http://www.chriseastabrook.co.uk/biogra ... ns/morocco

Duncan S
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Re: Planning a Trip to Morocco

Post by Duncan S »

Joff wrote:
Does any know any thing about “les gorges de toudra rivers”?
It has rather good climbing in the gorge, river didn't seem something you would bother paddling. Sorry I can't be of more help.

Joff
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Post by Joff »

Thanks for the information everybody!!

I am starting to try and finanlise a plan so there may be for few more specific questions..

Thanks everyone..

Joff
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Post by Joff »

Hi Again,

I have a question on the Ahensal. Different groups seem to take varying lengths of time to do the popular stretch from cathedral rock. Mark's group doing 50km in a day and some of the Commercial groups taking 5 days to do the same distance.

I think we would aim to do it in 2 days with one camp overnight. Or possible 3 days if we could include the section 15km further up river from Cathedral Rock described below:

"Access: from the cathedral rock lodging, deux hours (by 4x4) drive on a very bad road to reach the iron bridge (take in). Take out at the level of the cathedral rock lodging.

Description: 15 Km class III/IV. beware of low bridges and branches
Another superb section that you absolutely need to discover. Juste before the end of the gorge sections, the river passes though a tunnel created by the fall of a big rock. Beware of branches that might obstruct it".

I would be interested to know if anyone has any knowledge of the section above Cathedral Rock as I am not sure if it is worth the logistic hassle to go the extra 15km upstream that I suspect will take a fair while and make a boats a little heaver with another days rations... No raft support so everything will be going in our boats..

Are there specific camping spots that we should be using or just stop where ever looks good? Can we camp at Catherdral Rock?

One question on Grading? Is it really 3/4 or more 2/3 with the odd 4?

Many Thanks,
Geoff

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Mark R
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Post by Mark R »

Joff wrote:I have a question on the Ahensal. Different groups seem to take varying lengths of time to do the popular stretch from cathedral rock. Mark's group doing 50km in a day and some of the Commercial groups taking 5 days to do the same distance.

I think we would aim to do it in 2 days with one camp overnight.
This was our plan - the trap is that - if you've made good progress - as the day wears on and you begin to think about stopping for the night, the gorges keep getting deeper and deeper and only open out just before you hit the lake - you need to camp right away then. We didn't ...

If you carry on into the lake section, you're paddling it all and it takes (I think) 2.5 hours head down, from the first slack water.
Joff wrote:Or possible 3 days if we could include the section 15km further up river from Cathedral Rock described below:

"Access: from the cathedral rock lodging, deux hours (by 4x4) drive on a very bad road to reach the iron bridge (take in). Take out at the level of the cathedral rock lodging.

Description: 15 Km class III/IV. beware of low bridges and branches
Another superb section that you absolutely need to discover. Juste before the end of the gorge sections, the river passes though a tunnel created by the fall of a big rock. Beware of branches that might obstruct it".
I think - from what little I saw, it's away from the road - it's rather more creeky and serious than the section below, more at the grade 4 end. The river going underground rather implies that, in any case ...
Joff wrote:Can we camp at Catherdral Rock?
Image
Joff wrote:One question on Grading? Is it really 3/4 or more 2/3 with the odd 4?
We had low water - a bit of both really. There is one really dangerous rapid inlow water, inspect ahead ...
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Joff
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Post by Joff »

Thanks Mark,

That is great info. Thanks for the Headups on the Sieve as well.

You mentioned the Zate Valley in your notes. Where exactly is this valley?. I cannot find it on any of my maps.. Do you have a town name which is close to the valley?

Geoff.

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Pete C.
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Post by Pete C. »

We tried to get up a trib to the Ahensal that joins just at Cathedral Rock. Lovely gorge, looked like 3/4, but we had a nightmare getting there in our 2WD, bald-tyred minibus. I think it's different from the upper Ahensal, though...

The sieve's on a right-hand bend with some big rocks on the right bank. We snuck it down a channel a bit further left.

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Post by Chris_Eastabrook »

Stuart & I thought about getting on that Trib about 30-50Km upstream of Cathedral Rock to save a long drive but it was far too low!

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Post by Mark R »

Joff wrote:You mentioned the Zate Valley in your notes. Where exactly is this valley?. I cannot find it on any of my maps.. .
Um, my memory fails me but it's only one or two drainages away from the Ourika (main tourist road to Toubkal); the difference in terms of development is amazing.
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Joff
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Post by Joff »

Is this the valley?

Image

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Post by Mark R »

Umm ...
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