21 Apr 2017

Morocco, part III: Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside…

What was your seaside growing up? Mine was the quintessential South Coast English sort: gentle dunes, salty water, goose pimples (often), picnics behind stripey plastic windbreaks (always), games of cricket with my cousins, sandcastles, 99 flakes, seagulls, chips (lots of vinegar please) on the way home, and falling asleep gritty with sand and covered in freckles in the back of my mum’s Ford Escort to the tune of Paul Simon’s Graceland on repeat. Imagine the Famous Five filtered through Martin Parr and you’re about there.

Since then I’ve explored the top layers of the Great Barrier Reef, all be-rainbowed with tropical fish, and dipped from snowy river meltwaters into bath-hot sea on two sides of a Turkish peninsula. (Less romantically I’ve also forded hip high mud flats to freeze my lungs stiff on the Norfolk coast). I love swimming in fresh water and dip my toes into the paradise that is the Hampstead Heath Ladies’ Pond on a summer’s day with glee; but saltwater will always be my first love. It buoys you up, it heals your skin, it makes your hair mermaid-wavy with no effort, and gives you the ravening appetite of a hungry wolf. 

In the case of the Moroccan Atlantic coast, the waves will also tumble you upside down like a gemstone in a barrel, leaving you gasping and giggling till the water runs back out of your nose. It will get inside your wetsuit so that after half an hour you have to run back up the beach to wave at Faizel the drinks man to warm your insides with some hot sweet mint tea (“Seulement un peu!” you must say as he waves both honey bottle and sugar jar at you). Luckily you’ll be attached to a surf board and practicing popping up in very baby waves, so at all times you’ll feel only enjoyably free and abandoned. The sun will be shining fiercely, filling you with vitamin D, but you’ll have your parasol ready stationed in the sand when it’s time for a nap, sketching, reading, or a snooze.

After my time in Marrakech I hopped on a bus and was driven through a whole lot of flat, semi-desert. In the distance, mountains loomed like cut-outs waiting to be flown onto a toy stage, resolving as we drew closer into voluptuous folds in shades of dust, newsprint, and sepia. From Agadir I was transported by taxi through a warm night that smelled faintly and pleasantly like fish, Jess Glynne and Clean Bandit on the car radio (“plus fort” I yelled and he turned it right up), to arrive at Marocsurfcamp in Tamraght.

I’d signed up to their six-day surfing and yoga retreat and it was bloody brilliant. Tamraght is just a little further away from the main centre of surfing in the area, Taghazout, and as such has more of a village-y feel. Evening walks would cross paths with kids leaving school, women popping to the corner shop for a tin of cat food, families playing together or teenagers snatching a quiet moment to canoodle as the sun set. 

Everything is a little ramshackle; lots of building and landscaping is happening all along the coast and I bet if I went back in a year or two everything would be shinier. Luckily for me, I caught it at the perfect level. There are enough surf lodges that you don’t stand out, but locals aren’t sick of tourists yet and so you can exchange a nod and "salaam" with the older men, wave cheerily at the women prepping dinner, and make google eyes at the babies to your heart’s content. 

The camp itself is lovely; a rooftop yoga studio allowed me to stretch out every morning as the sun rose around me; Khadijah (pictured below admiring the view of the sunset from our terrace) and Fatema in the kitchen spoiled us all rotten with three delicious meals a day (and unending supplies of tea and cheer); the instructors (the two Mehdis, one below assessing conditions!, and Said) were patient, good-humoured, and lots of fun to be around.

After only 24 hours with the other guests I knew I’d made some true friends. (Jesse, Asa, Alex and Marine, below, to name just four).

We travelled to different beaches each day depending on our mood and that of the wave gods, picnic lunch packed, stopping off to buy massive bunches of very tiny bananas to keep us well-fuelled. 
In the evening I walked a few minutes down the road to Villa Solaria where Lena (below) led another yoga class on a terrace overlooking the sea itself.

After a much-needed series of flow sequences, hip and shoulder openers and that all-important time in shavasana I would potter back to tagine, kefte, baked fish, or whatever delight had been prepared that night. Exhausted by our efforts we lazed around post dinner chatting, reading, writing journals, before retiring to do it all again the next day. Little excursions to the souk in Agadir and for a second lunch of fried fish and coffee in the ‘bustling metropolis’ (ha!) of Taghazout kept everything varied and despite not sleeping all that well I’ve never felt more relaxed. Some views of Taghazout below...central London at rush hour it ain't.

This is Momo, who works at La Terrasse d'Argana in Taghazout. I admired his lightbulb plant holders (below) and when he brought our coffee over he also made me a gift of one! In return I made his portrait. Do visit the cafe, which has fantastic views (above). 

As someone who isn’t naturally very sporty or well-balanced I enjoyed the surfing itself way more than I was expecting - and yes, I managed to stand up a few times! 

The sole cloudy morning meant Jesse and I could take a little stroll up Devil's Rock and make a canine pal. Don't worry, the sun came out about ten minutes later...

I didn’t take as many photos during my time at the coast because I was feeling too damn lazy to pick up my camera. This is in fact an ideal state of affairs for one’s holidays (but perhaps not for one’s blog posts!). For phone snaps and Johnny-on-the-spot reports, scroll back through my Instagram feed.

Can you see why I didn’t want to come home? 

Check out the other packages the camp offers here, and do contact owner Maria with any questions. She was extremely helpful beforehand (it was especially brilliant to know I would be picked up from the bus station and dropped off at the airport).

If Morocco isn’t your bag, see where else your yoga could take you…I booked initially through BookRetreats and they also come highly recommended with a prompt and personal query service and easy search tools.

Keep up to date with Lena’s yoga practice here and her photo travels here.

And then all that’s left is for you to book your flights!


Mohit Panwar said...

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