Travels in Morocco Part 2: Snowy Peaks & Busy Streets

Leaving the Atlantic coast behind, we headed northeast to the small mountain village of Imlil, gateway to Toubkal National Park. Most out-of-towners have their sights set on the summit of Jebel Toubkal, and this small town definitely sees its fair of trekking poles and hiking boots tramping through its streets. Clocking in at 4,167 m (13,671′) above sea level, this peak is the highest in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, and it is also the highest in North Africa.

Opting for a “slightly lighter and marginally faster” alpine climbing strategy, we strapped on our sneakers and layered up with all of our beachwear for a 2 day ascent of this big hill.

The last stop on our “Surf, Couscous, and Camels Tour 2015” was the ancient city of Fes. Not having visited this labyrinthine marketplace since the age of 5, this was a dizzying experience of memory lane colliding with carpets, colorful pointy-toed shoes, and the inescapable, slightly putrid odor of the famous leather tanneries. The largest of the three tanneries in Fes, the Chouara Tannery, is almost 1,000 years old. There are no signs (that we could find) directing you to the entrance, so finding the place became a discussion of “since that last turn, is the smell getting stronger or weaker”? It took us a while, but we found it in the end!

 

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Kiteboarding in Morocco: Dakhla, Western Sahara

This spring included a visit to yet another dry, windy, and extremely barren coastline. Located on the northwestern coast of Africa, the territory known as Western Sahara is bordered by Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. Dakhla is a small peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Western Sahara, and it has become an international destination for windsurfers and kitesurfers alike. With consistent thermal winds that blow year-round, this is essentially one of the windiest places on earth. Add water, sand, couscous, mint tea, and you’ve got a pretty incredible place to play.

The Professional Kiteboard Riders Association (PKRA) now schedules Dakhla into their international contest agenda, and I managed to be there at the same time as their annual competition. Taking advantage of an incredible flatwater spot, this event showcases powerful wakestyle riding by the best male and female riders in the world. If board-popping, knee-twisting, un-hooked riding isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Dakhla is surely one of the best places I’ve been for wave riding, cruising, and any other style of riding that floats your board.

If you’re not into watersports, your best bet is just bring your sunscreen and a good book. Be sure it’s a thick one.

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Chris Werner Photography is an adventure sports and lifestyle studio located in Lake Tahoe, California and specializes in La Ventana kite surfing photos, skiing photography, and Lake Tahoe rock climbing photography.

Babiche - Superb work. It is exciting to see Morocco in color. My fatehr lived in and photographed Morocco 1953-1954 in black and white. He and my mother had a great time. They were given the royal treatment as we had just liberated Morocco from the Nazis during World War II. The people, the country and the architecture were incredible to experience and record back then. It is great to see that there is so much beauty still there and that someone like yourself with such a good eye can obtain images that do justice to such an interesting culture.August 11, 2015 – 5:29 am

Jaime - So rad!!July 17, 2015 – 11:50 am

Travels in Morocco Part 1: Exploring the Coast

As much of Europe winds its way out of winter, the beaches and coastal towns of Morocco have usually been basking in the sun for some time. Although we’ve had more warm weather in California these past few winters than we would like, a little adventure is always welcome in this household. We hadn’t been “across the pond” in a couple years, and it seemed like another trip to Africa might do us some good. Turns out there’s some surf on the coast of Morocco, and they’ve even got some snowy peaks to walk up as well.

With throngs of tourists weaving their way through the beaches and souks of Western Morocco, it’s normal to see most locals carrying on without so much as batting an eyelash. Needless to say, foreign visitors do present a unique economic opportunity, and there will always be a new friend around the corner ready to welcome you to “Morocco, your second home”, and then advise you on your next souvenir purchase (“why come all the way here and not buy something to take away with you?”). The local tourist economy continues to adapt over time, teetering somewhere between selling traditional Moroccan goods and catering to the bizarre tastes of foreigners (handmade leather goods seem to have universal appeal, but most of the bohemian fare touted in the souk wouldn’t be worn by any self-respecting Moroccan).

If you’re looking for an edge over all the other carpet, handbag, and knickknack vendors but you’re feeling short on original ideas, it doesn’t hurt to rent out a camel or two. Looking more akin to a centenarian with poor hygiene than the cute creature in Disney’s “Aladdin”, most of these rent-a-camels might do better with a good dunk and scrub in the ocean than just pacing back and forth next to it. That being said, they do have an infectious smile (see photo #2), and they do seem to offer a surprisingly fun white-knuckled ride, though after all was said and done, we did opt for an alternate form of  transportation in the end.

 

 

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Kitesurfing in Mexico: La Ventana, Baja California

This winter I made it down to Mexico to visit one of the meccas of the kiting and windsurfing worlds, La Ventana. Although the majority of kiters here are from the west coast of North America (British Columbia folks have a strong presence here), I met plenty of riders from farther afield.

With strong, cross-shore wind almost daily from December through February, this small fishing village is a beacon for windsports enthusiasts. Some are cashing in on their annual two weeks of vacation, while others show up in October and don’t pack up until March.

No matter what your itinerary, La Ventana is an easy getaway.  Just book a flight to Los Cabos or La Paz. A relatively short drive from either of these airports (2 hours and 45 minutes, respectively) gets you to La Ventana, where you can get your wind-riding fix by day and meet your cerveza quota by night.

If the wind isn’t blowing or it starts to feel a little like Groundhog Day just hop over to Todos Santos on the Pacific Ocean side of Baja for some surf. Otherwise, head North to La Paz to snorkel with whale sharks and explore the capital city of Baja California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Werner is an outdoor action sports photographer based in Lake Tahoe, California.

Outside Magazine: USA Edition 2014

Outside Magazine went with one of my photos for the last page of this summer’s USA edition (cover photo is not mine). Outside Magazine runs a “Parting Shot” at the very end of every issue, and this image worked well with the patriotic color scheme.

This photo was taken at the City College in Santa Barbara, CA.

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Chris Werner is a Lake Tahoe rock climbing photographer and outdoor photographer in Truckee, California.