At the start of 2019, I embarked upon a trilogy of expeditions that might take me 4,000km proper throughout Morocco.
I turned the primary girl ever to stroll the size of the Draa River and, from there, crossing the Sahara to Guerguerat on the Mauritanian border.
I discovered a misplaced metropolis, explored the tombs of the giants, ate numerous goat trachea wrapped in stomach fats and intestines, and confronted horned vipers, quicksands and the deathstalker scorpion alongside the way in which.
The third leg of my expedition was deliberate for June of this yr. Then coronavirus hit.
I’m an explorer. I really like being open air and the liberty it offers you. I reside in a household compound in a small village populated by the Amazigh folks (additionally known as Berber) within the Excessive Atlas Mountains, with the household cow beneath my bed room, and a terrace that appears out at a panorama of three,000m+ peaks with the minaret of the native mosque set within the center.
So when Morocco went into strict lockdown on March 20, I felt imprisoned and claustrophobic. The principles meant no going outdoors your own home in any respect apart from important buying, and for that you just wanted a written permission from the federal government.
On our first day, the temperature reached 50 levels (Image: Alice Morrison/PA Wire)
For 14 weeks, I raided the biscuit tin and regarded out over the mountains longingly, however the legislation was clear and, particularly as a foreigner, I didn’t need to break it. I watched enviously on social media as all my pals within the UK posted photos of their walks, runs and bike rides outdoors and tried (and infrequently failed!) to be glad for them.
One factor I used to be fortunate to have was firm. Life right here is communal and there are 4 Amazigh households, with 15 kids between them, and me and Squeaky the cat dwelling inside our compound.
I used to be by no means lonely, and since we have been our personal bubble, I nonetheless bought my ordinary hugs and kisses from the little ones and shared scorching buttered pancakes, day by day gossip and candy mint tea with the ladies mid-morning.
The minute the strict lockdown was lifted, I began planning the ultimate stage of my Morocco crossing with my expedition organiser, Jean-Pierre Datcharry. Our route took us throughout areas of huge wilderness nowhere close to any giant cities.
We have been like the camel trains of their ancestors that used to journey up and right down to West Africa buying and selling (Image: Alice Morrison/PA Wire)
No coronavirus in any respect had been recorded there or in my village, however nonetheless we needed to persuade the authorities that we posed no threat. I took a take a look at and my three three Amazigh guides Brahim, Ali, Addi and I stocked up on masks.
We set off within the boiling warmth from Nador on the Mediterranean Coast, aiming for Ouarzazate, the place I had began all these months in the past, with 1,400km throughout the Atlas mountains forward of us.
On our first day, the temperature reached 50 levels. I couldn’t bodily drink sufficient water, it simply poured straight out of me and my Scottish face was a deep puce.
Then Brahim, considered one of my guides, uttered the deadly phrase: ‘It’s too scorching for the camels.’ Not phrases you need to hear at the beginning of an expedition.
I hope that the explorations I do can present some much-needed escapism (Image: Alice Morrison/PA Wire)
Considered one of the camels, Lachlan, merely went on strike. He sat down and refused to go any additional till the solar lowered and the temperature dipped to a ‘delicate’ 44 levels. As we bought increased and additional south, the temperature dropped and we picked up our tempo.
Folks showered us with hospitality as we handed. It was fig, apple and almond season and farmers would come working from their orchards with armfuls of them picked from the bushes.
Once we entered the excessive desert plateau of Rekkam, we have been welcomed by the nomads who reside there of their monumental black goats’ hair tents, woven by the ladies. The tribes hint their heritage again to the Arabian Peninsula and the primary wave of Arabs who introduced Islam to Morocco within the eighth Century. They advised us proudly that they have been ‘folks of the Crescent Moon’ as they slaughtered a sheep in our honour and roasted it over the open hearth.
It was fascinating to find the standard ways in which folks farm the land and herd their animals, utilizing wood ploughs, scything the hay by hand and gathering brushwood on their donkeys within the mountains for winter gasoline. I felt like I had been transported again to a distant previous earlier than machines, when folks needed to work exhausting for his or her meals and heat.
It was fascinating to find the standard ways in which folks farm the land (Image: Alice Morrison/PA Wire)
Once I talked about that it was like one thing out of the Center Ages, Brahim laughed. He pointed on the crowd who had gathered spherical us within the village and have been filming us on their mobiles, and jogged my memory that was precisely what they have been saying about us – ‘that we’re from a legend.’
He was proper. In our lengthy cotton robes and headscarves to guard us from the solar and with our six camels, laden with tents and baggage, we have been like the camel trains of their ancestors that used to journey up and right down to West Africa buying and selling gold and slaves and salt in centuries passed by.
Doing this exploration within the time of coronavirus was difficult and tough. We didn’t come throughout one single case of the virus on our journey however like in every single place else native communities have been exhausting hit economically and socially. Colleges and mosques have been closed and many individuals had misplaced their incomes as a result of collapse of the vacationer business and its knock-on results.
This has been a horrible yr by anybody’s reckoning and the world has been turned the other way up, however I’ve been fortunate sufficient to have the ability to pursue my dream of finishing this expedition.
If the pandemic has proven us something, it’s how vital our pure world is to us (Image: Alice Morrison/PA Wire)
It was an infinite privilege for me and the group to stroll by means of historical past on this manner. Most significantly for me, although, was the liberty of being outdoors once more exploring the wild and distant landscapes that stay untouched by our human troubles.
I now have a e-book to write down concerning the expedition, so I shall be spending winter hunched over a keyboard – however I’m additionally planning my subsequent adventures. I’ve two doable explorations lined up for subsequent yr however, in fact, I should see how coronavirus pans out.
I’m actually optimistic although. If the pandemic has proven us something, it’s how vital our pure world is to us, how a lot we have to join with it, and that we want different people to outlive and thrive.
I hope that the explorations I do and the tales I deliver again can present some new insights and understanding, in addition to some much-needed escapism.
My Life by means of a Lens
My Life By means of a Lens is an thrilling sequence on Metro.co.uk that appears at one unimaginable picture, and shares the story that lies behind it. When you have an expertise you want to share, please e-mail [email protected] with MLTAL as the topic.