Travel Writing


“Quick, there’s a man coming up the mountain with a sheep on his shoulders,” my husband announced excitedly.

I stuck my head out of the tent just in time to see the assistant cook with a large shaggy chocolate and white sheep draped across his shoulders.  He gave us a cheery smile as he clung on to the wriggling animal and strode purposefully by.  

A few minutes later we heard the unmistakable sound of knives being sharpened.    The meat eaters in our group enjoyed their meal that night.

We were trekking in the Jebel Sahro region of South East Morocco, a stunning area, seemingly unchanged for generations.  We encountered nomadic families somehow eking out a meagre existence from the barren land.  The more fortunate were the proud owners of a camel or two.  One evening a herds-women guided a flock of about 100 goats around our campsite.  We sat on a rock and admired her skill in controlling so many animals.  I had thought that the landscape was going to be dusty and arid, but it offered much more.  The rock formations were fantastic, huge grotesque pinnacles shooting up into the cerulean sky.  The colours were ever changing, the mountains glowing orange in the morning sunlight, changing to shades of purple as the day progressed.  Now and then we would stumble across the luminous verdant green of an oasis, complete with palm trees, a stark contrast against the harsh environment.   An oasis would usually mean a dwelling, which was hard to spot as it blended in seamlessly with the sandy brown landscape.  Our arrival would be announced by the barking of a dog, not there to guard against humans, but to protect the goat herds from wolves.  Inquisitive children would peek at us from doorways.   One afternoon I drew water from a well and joined a nomadic woman on the bank of a parched river bed to do my washing.  Her head was covered by a cerise scarf.  After exchanging “salaams” we sat together in the shade of almond trees, scrubbing our clothes.  Bees buzzed overhead in the delicate white blossom.  I guessed she was a new mother as dripping baby clothes festooned the branches around her.

The freezing nights spent under canvas were a small price to pay to enjoy such a remote area.  At night we would gaze up at the vast night sky.  “Night River,” our Berber guide said pointing to the Milky Way.  We felt privileged to be there and to be able to explore the area on foot.

On our last day we trekked to the summit of Amalou n’Mansour.  At 2,712 metres it’s the highest mountain in the Jebel Sahro.  We were rewarded for our efforts by the magnificent view.  On one side we could see an overview of our entire trekking route and in the opposite direction the snow capped peaks of the High Atlas hovering on the distant horizon.  It was a fitting finale to a glorious journey.



Scared of a Skink!

There we were, sat under a rock seeking shade on a gloriously deserted beach when a King’s Skink, a sinister looking large black lizard, emerged and scurried towards us.  He didn’t seem afraid of us and, as I scrambled to my feet, I said to my husband “are they aggressive?”  Not knowing the answer and not wanting to find out we decided to find another rock to sit under.  We were sat in Rocky Bay on Rottnest Island in Western Australia.  Rottnest is located 18 kms off the coast and we had got there by ferry from the harbour town of Freemantle.

We were nearing the end of our holiday in Western Australia and Rottnest was to be the grand finale.  We were staying on the island for 4 nights and were very lucky to have found accommodation through the Rottnest Island Authority.  It was the end of January and therefore the school summer holidays.

Our first impression of Rottnest Island had not been favourable.  We had arrived on a sunny Saturday following Australia Day and Rottnest was heaving with people.  Both bars on the island were busy and had loud music and karaoke.  As Rottnest is an “A” Class Public Reserve and home to a colony of Quokkas (marsupials, which look like a cross between a kangaroo and a rat), it was not what we had expected.

However, the next day we explored the rest of the island.  No cars are allowed on the island and people get about by cycling, walking or taking the island bus.  We took the Bayseeker bus, which does a round the island trip stopping at 18 spots enabling you to hop on and off.  It was nice to escape the day-trippers milling around the shops at the main jetty.  The west of the island was deserted and the scenery was stunning.  There were beaches suitable for surfing, snorkelling or swimming.  We swam in crystal clear water.  The south side of the island was good for swimming/snorkelling in the morning and the north side was good in the afternoon.  The reverse was true if you wanted to surf.  We visited West End and Cape Vlamingh (a 3 km walk from the bus stop).  At Cape Vlamingh there was a short boardwalk, providing spectacular views of the wild ocean, where, from July to October, whales can be spotted.

Rottnest has a shady past as it used to house an Aboriginal prison.  Most of the prisoners were convicted for things considered minor these days and had led a miserable existence on the island.  Information on this and other aspects of Rottnest, past, present and future can be found at the Rottnest Museum.

Back on Rocky Bay, having been disturbed by the King’s Skink, we were lucky to see an Osprey swoop above the beach.  It was a fitting end to a memorable holiday.

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