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What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The camel ride to and from the Berber camp at Zagora. We were treated to a spectacular sunset as well and sleeping out under the starts is an experience i will never forget (wow!!!). Essaouria was a nice ending to the trip too. The weather prevented our planned hike in the Atlas, however, a eventful time trying to cross a flooded river because of a flash flood provided more entertainment than anyone bargained for. Ait Ben Haddou was really good too - it and some of the Kasbahs (fortified buildings or villages in the Atlas Mountains) reminded me slightly (construction-wise) of the palaces, viliages and monasteries in Tibet and Ladakh at a distance.
I also found Marrakesh enjoyable, however, I take Exodus trips to get away from the touristy stuff and in Marrakesh, it hits you face on - I'm not a shopaholic (just get enough to give my friends souvenirs)!!! That said, the performers in the main square were, lets say, interesting (gave me a laugh) and it was still interesting to see the range of goods in the souk (market).
The less said about the belly dancers in Marrakesh, the better (no, nothing untoward happened)!!!
The leader, Mustaphah, once he got to know us was a great bloke with a good sense of humour and he looked after us well. Despite being a Muslim, he showed us where we could get a few beers on a night time in Essaouria and Marrakesh. ;-)
On a more serious note, when the floods hit in the Atlas, he made the sensible decision not to proceed with the walk in the mountians and behaved in a professional and friendly manner when trying to get us across a flooded river. He made sure he knew where we all were and that none of us were in any danger. Top notch lad who kept a smile on his face throughout.
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Take what you need and leave behind what you don't need. On many similar trips with Exodus and other similar companies (or the few times I've been independent), you see some people who've got their packing down to literally a medium sized backpack, a camera and that's it. I've not got it to that level yet, though reckon I've got packing down to about 30 to 40% of the level of that when I did my first Exodus trip in Uzbekistan. Oh, and remember to leave enough space to take a small bag with a few basic medical supplies and ointments (plasters, cough sweets, antiseptic cream, Immodium, toothbrush, etc.).
Also, the clothes and other goods they've taken with them should be practical for the trip and easily laundered. My mind does boggle when I see some people bring along half a wardrobe and what use a woman had for a pair of four inch high heels on another trip I just don't know (packed away as she knew she'd made a mistake and there would not be a chance to 'dine out' up in the Indian Himalayas). You can tell straight away when it's the first time someone has done one of these trips!!!
You have to face the fact that the conditions you face in more remote areas will be basic. Take it on the chin and have a sense of humour about it. Take what comes, be prepared to muck in when necessary (you know who your true friends are when they share their Immodium with you). AND INTERACT WITH THE LOCALS!!! DON'T WALK AROUND IN A BUNCH LIKE A TYPICAL TOUR GROUP!!!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I'll definitely be doing further Exodus trips again and have a return to Tibet in mind (I want to see how it's changed in the last ten years). I'm also looking seriously at the trekking options now - Lake Titicaca and the Inca Trail, Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp, etc.
As regards a shorter trip, Killer Whale watching in Norway is top of my list now, but all these trips will have to wait until I can get the money together. As one elderly lady said to me that you keep adding to the 'list' of places you want to go. Travel is definitely an addiction!!!
Oh, and if anyone on one of these trips says they're from Sunderland up in the North East of England, they're Mackems, not Geordies - Geordies are from Newcastle!!!