Day 22: More meandering in the Moyen Atlas

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Fri 26 Nov 2010 20:01
Day 22: Thursday 26 November 2010. Somewhere between Oum Er Rabia and Itzer, Morocco. N32 53.440 W005 14.566. Distance driven 127 km.
I should have reported this yesterday, but having travelled for 3 weeks, and based on a 20 week trip, were are 15% into it and have travelled 3,300 km or about 15% of the total 22,000 km. So, I guess we are on schedule.
Last night was cold, really cold.  We were in bed by 2000, wearing thermal underwear and a thermal hat in my case!  When were packing for this trip, back in the UK, it seemed stupid at the time to be packing thermal underwear and a down duvet for a trip to Africa.  Last night we we rejoiced in our "stupidity"!
Today we continued meandering through the Middle Atlas and it has been absolutely beautiful. We started at 1900 metres in cedar forest and ended at 1800 metres, again in cedar forest. In between we have been down several valleys to about 1200 m.  The road has deteriorated all day and now, about 50 km from the main highway, we are on a mainly dirt track which has frequently been washed away with water running off the mountain.  Fortunately, it is dry as it would be a nightmare in the wet.  We stopped this morning in a small village, Oum Er Rabia, and were taken into a Berber house for the local The de Menthe (Mint Tea) and a breakfast of freshly made bread and scrambled eggs fresh from the hens. Wonderful!
All day we have driven through forest, through deep valleys and along mountain plateaus.  Everywhere, there are Berber shepherds tending huge flocks of sheep and in the valleys they are ploughing with donkeys and wooden ploughs.
[An aside here.  Windows 7 operating system comes with Windows Mail and Windows Mail comes with the American Heritage Spelling Dictionary. It is not possible to select an option with a proper English, English dictionary.  This bloody American Dictionary continually tries to correct my pretty good, if not perfect, English English spelling.  Expect a future tirade against Microsoft!  Why should we Brits have our beautiful language corrupted by Microsoft? OK, if the misguided Americans want to use their own corrupted form of  spelling , then let them but why should we Brits have to put up with it? What will happen to future generations of Brits who have this Microsoft garbage thrust down their throats before they have learnt to spell proper English.  This aside was brought about by my using the word "ploughing" above. Microsoft's  American Heritage Dictionary tells me this is the wrong spelling but all it offers as a substitute is: "sloughing", "pouching", "laughing" and "plugging"! What happened to the act of using a plough? Is this extinct in the USA?}
Tonight we are again camped "wild" on a flat grassy plot by the side of the track among the cedars. In the 5 hours we have been here we have been visited by two shepherds and not one vehicle has passed by.  We are surrounded by abundant dead timber and have a huge camp fire to keep us warm.  We have just fed on barbecued spicy chicken and roasted butternut.  Life is pretty good!