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Travel: A day trip to the Setti Fatma waterfalls, Ourika Valley, Morocco

On the second day of our little escape to Marrakech, we had booked an ‘adventure day‘ the Setti Fatma waterfalls in the Ourika Valley, up in the Atlas Mountains. I had always wanted to see the Atlas Mountains, so I was really excited when we all came to the decisions that a trip to the waterfalls was the way to go! We booked the trip through our hostel, Equity Point Marrakech, and it cost 250 DH (€25) for the day.

Itinerary:

  • Pick up from hostel at 9am
  • Travel by road about 160k to a herb garden
  • Visit a Berber house
  • Stop for lunch
  • Hike to the Setti Fatma waterfalls
  • Journey home by minibus

Morning pick up

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We ate a quick breakfast and packed a small loaf of bread and some water for the day. We were picked up at 9 and walked to the square where we waited a little, as per usual with these group excursions, for the whole group to arrive and get on the bus. Ready to go, we set off for our drive to the mountains.

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The roads were windy, and often didn’t have barriers at the side. It reminded me of the drive to Pai – although nowhere near as bad! We stopped at a viewpoint to take photographs of the beautiful valley.

The herb garden

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The first stop on this trip was the herb garden. We were dubious about this being a glorified shopping experience as we had been scammed the day before, but as one of the staff at the garden, acting as our guide, started to explain the plants to us we began to enjoy the learning experience.

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We then went about the products they sold and the processes behind making them, then had them tested on us over medicinal tea, which was a hate it or love it experience. Thankfully, I loved it. They didn’t push a hard sell, but we bought a little ‘magic lipstick’ anyway (and just fyi, it looks really pretty on everyone, so no regrets there!)

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It was an interesting experience and the garden was situated in a stunning valley. The weather was amazing, and we went up to the roof terrace to admire the view and the stretching blue sky. It turned out to be a pleasant stop on the trip!

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The Berber house

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If we were dubious about the herb garden, we were even more dubious about the Berber house. These things are known for being set up for tourists, but we were inquisitive anyway after talking to our Berber guide the day before. Our guide taught us how flour was ground using only the power of a stream powering wooden fins which turned a large, circular stone.

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We toured the house, including a bedroom and a living room (with a television hidden behind a thin curtain!) It was clear things weren’t completely basic here, but to learn about certain techniques was an interesting experience anyway.

There was also a gift shop, and I showed serious restraint here. The ‘selling’ here was a lot more pushy than the herb garden, but we expected it so weren’t too put off.

The best decision…

Back in the car, it started to get cold as we the vehicle climbed higher up the steep mountainside. We pulled up to a tiny village, and was told this was the last stop before the car couldn’t go any further. We were faced with a decision – stop for lunch now, or climb the mountain first?

It was Gary who made the decision which saved the day here. He suggested we go up the mountain first. Read on to find out why…

Climbing the mountainside

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We scarfed down the bread that we’d brought and got out of the minibus. We expected a hike, and as we started walking through small Berber villages on a slight incline, with a few rocks every now and the, we thought hey – this isn’t too bad! It was really chilly – we were about 1000 feet up I think – but the group was enjoying it and the couple with a sweet little baby were managing fine.

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Then, we were met with the base of the waterfall – and things started to get hard.

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We were literally climbing up rocks. By the first waterfall, the couple had gone back to the village. The rocks were pretty slippery and my shoes didn’t grip so well.

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But, it was an adventure, and although the sky was starting to grey over there wasn’t any rain yet. As we climbed higher the views became more and more incredible

Reaching the waterfall

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Reaching the third waterfall at Setti Fatma was a great feeling. The climb wasn’t easy (I might have fallen over at one point…) and we all felt a little proud that we had made it to the top – it was a little achievement.

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We took photographs and admired the view and the crashing water. We sat down for a drink and waited for one member of our group who had strayed up the side of the mountain…

Suddenly, we heard a clap of thunder. Shortly after, it started to spit with rain. Group member retrieved by our hero of a guide, we started out descent.

Climbing back with our guide

Our group guide was amazing. He ran across the rocks with sure footing helping out everyone in the group when they needed it. He also filled us in with information about the communities that live in the Ourika Valley. Our guide lives at 3,000 feet up and makes the journey up and down the waterfalls 3 times a day.

He told us that, when it rains, it can take up to a week to get down from where he lives to the town below – where we had started our journey. They go shopping once every few months because it takes so long to do.

He also told us that, when it starts to rain, sometimes groups get stuck and have to stay at the top of the falls for the night until the rocks are safe to climb. I was so glad Gary had decided we would climb before we ate – as the rocks got more slippery from the increasing rain (and we passed someone ascending the waterfall climb in stiletto heels!) I felt very lucky that such a good decision had been made earlier in the day and everything had worked out perfectly.

A delicious lunch

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After our descent it was definitely time fora very late lunch! Starving, we headed to a little restaurant just as it started to pour with rain. There, we ate a set menu of soup, tagine and mint tea. The soup was lovely, and we ate it with fresh bread. I had a lemon chicken tagine with some cous-cous on the side, and it definitely filled the hungry grumblings of my tummy after such a long walk. We were stuffed and couldn’t manage dessert, so we drank a little mint tea instead before jumping back in the minibus to travel back to Marrakech.

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