The sound of running water trickles past my ears as I repeatedly shake parts of my body to get the flies off. The warmth of the sun soaks into our skin as we lie lazily beneath palm trees, I look around and think to myself “No wonder this place is called Paradise Valley.” We were told to come here by a friend we met in Essaouira so we got on a local bus and jumped off in the place he had described to us. The minute we had gathered in a huddle on the dusty road side, a friendly man came over to us and took George with him to show him his garden. Minutes later the two came back with a huge squash that looked like a pumpkin, all different shades of green and yellow. It was a generous gift from him to us and it proved very useful when we were camping out in the valley with just firewood and a tagine pot. We had no idea how to make the next stop of our journey but pumpkin man put us in a van, our rucksacks strapped to the top and our bodies packed inside sat on top of each other.
We got dropped off somewhere and had no idea where we were. The beauty of the place was breath taking but it was starting to get dark and I was wondering what on earth we were actually going to do. Everyone I was with are go with the flow types who frequently told me to just “chill out” so I put my trust in their trust in the idea that things always work out and off we marched, clambering over rocky terrain with bags full of vegetables and snacks (always be prepared food-wise!). We met a very helpful man who guided us to a place we could camp and’ started a fire to make tagine on before night fell. Upon arrival, some of us jumped in the clear river by our camp and had an evening swim with the fish and turtles. A very welcome cool down and wash after being covered in dust, dirt and sweat from the days hot sun. Again, I took my portion from the tagine pot first before everyone else dug in with bread. Take a bowl and a spoon with you whenever you go backpacking – they prove very useful.
The next week consisted of waking up to the sound of fish jumping in the water and birds singing in the trees, washing ourselves and clothes in the river, cooking on an open fire, climbing over rocks, drinking fresh water from the stream, sleeping on the earth beneath the stars, crapping in the bushes, swimming in the river, exploring caves and living hand in hand with nature – as it should be. This was one of the most valuable weeks of my life, so I am glad that I didn’t let being coeliac put me off travelling. With a load of fruit, vegetables and a camp fire you can’t go wrong so where there’s a will there’s a way and we just have to figure out how to do it.
A very lovely man ran a little cafe by where we were camping and he did omelettes, tagine and other dishes so breakfast and lunch was covered here. Also of course, always take snacks with you wherever you go, in Morocco I found that the best snacks I could buy from the street shops were yoghurts, packets of toasted corn, dairy lee triangles, and from super markets there was more choice, packets of nuts etc. Then there was all the gluten free cereal bars I’d brought from home, squashed in my rucksack. Of course I was jealous of my friends eating copious amounts of bread for 1 Dirham to keep their tummies from growling but that’s just the way it is. We met some really nice guys in Paradise who invited us for dinner too and they were very understanding when I explained about being coeliac, we had a delicious bean stew, omelettes, tagines, fish. You’d be surprised how easy travelling gluten free can be, all you have to do is give it a go :). As our friend Youssef said “Never a problem in Paradise!”