Having decided it was finally time for me to leave the relative tranquillity and calming ambience of Essaouira, I searched for and found a new destination. Instead of taking the obvious north east route to Marrakesh, I've headed further down south along the Atlantic coast as there are a couple of towns/villages I've been advised to visit. One of those was Taghazout (pronounced tag-ra-zoot).

The 2.5 hour bus journey cost me 80 dirhams (including 2x luggage) which equates to a little over £5.50 GBP. Very happy with that and especially so considering my last country of 2015, glorious Greece, would get you a ride down the road for that amount of money.

I'm staying at a surf hostel but this was always going to be the case considering practically all the hostels here referenced 'surf' in their names meaning Tahazout was all about 'the surf'! I figured I'd spend no more than 2 days here of which one I'd use trying to surf but as it happens, both of those suppositions wouldn't happen. At my first morning breakfast, I met an American guy named Robyn and his Austrian girlfriend, Lisa. They had arranged via the hostel for a day out to Paradise Valley and kindly invited me along. Now, I'd heard loosely heard of Paradise Valley in Essaouira but at the cost of 400 dirhams, £30 GBP, I was never going to sign up. As I'm much closer to its location down here, the cost was halved to a much more tempting 200 dirhams £15 GBP. This included lunch and with decent company accompanying me, it was no brainer and so I signed up.

 

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Paradise valley is located in the high Atlas mountains and is best known for its abundance of rock pools and small waterfalls. We would see plenty of the former but none of the latter. Oh well.

When you arrive at the entrance, you trek for around 30 minutes to reach deeper into the valley and therefore one of the top spots as shown by our guide (and hostel owner). On route we would meet two separate couples bringing us back to the essence of travelling: people.

Oblivious to all of us at that moment, those four people would actually spend the remainder of the day and night with us and together we would all share some beautiful sites together.

 

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We found a mountain puppy, or should that be she found us. We took care and carried her for our entire stay and brought her back to the entrance where she could be better looked after and would hopefully find her Mother again. Doesn't that just break your heart...

 

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The other thing Paradise Valley is well known for is something Robyn told me about on the journey up: people jumping off the rocks into the water. This didn't overly interest me but I'd enjoy seeing him and anyone else there attempt the jump if that was their thing.

After a 20 minute walk we made it to the spot to eat some lunch, a tagine followed by mint tea, of course. An hour or so later we walked the extra ten minutes to the spot the hostel owner wanted us to reach. It was immediately clear that in addition to beautiful water and cliffs, 'the jump zone' was the obvious observable attraction here.

Naturally there was some light banter and a little faffing around amongst our now group of 7 (excluding the hostel owner). Whilst this was going on, I thought sod it, I'm just gonna jump. (The other guy in the pic is not with our group).

And so I did.

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The others followed suit and we all concluded upon completion that it felt fantastic. The build up (albeit a brief build up in my case, the fear, the adrenalin and then the the actual jump). It was great and I was glad I did it.

But............ it didn't end there.

Take another look back at the first two pictures above and look for the next high up rock-platform. Surely not!?

Well, the hostel owner said people do jump from there (and even higher!) but we all dismissed this and remained chilling on the rocks drying off. But it wasn't before long that curiosity entered into the mind of one of the seven us. This person slowly climbed the extra rocks to reach the next height level, some 4 or so meters higher, just to take a look down and indulge their curiosity.

This person was me - the oldest by some 7 years on the next oldest person in the group, and much older than the rest.

I remember this next part quite vividly. It felt sooooo much higher than before and the edge of rock was angled in an upwards direction, which really didn't help. It was very nervy just looking down at the rest of the guys and speaking to them and so I didn't manage too many words but within one minute of being up there, I'd taken my top off!

Wait, was I really going to do this!? Especially as I hadn't even see anyone else from another group do this.

I distinctly remember breathing heavily multiple times before doing something rather gutsy but somewhat foolish and actually jumping off...

 

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Crazy fool. Did you note the bad posture directly above - arms spread out like an Eagle!

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) I hit the water at an angle so I'm currently suffering what I think is muscular back pain proving this was neither big, nor clever and needless to say nobody else followed suit this time round. To be fair, I hadn't done the jump for those reasons, I actually did it as part of the ongoing battle I have within to challenge myself and do things I never ever could imagine myself doing - starting with travelling solo those many months ago let's not forget, let alone countries nobody expected me to visit.

So I had again proven I really could conquer my fear and therefore conquer my mind, albeit at the expense of ageing body!  I'm no adrenalin junkie and I'm far from feeling 'in my prime' but yet I broke down a mental barrier that was held up by reinforced steel. Anyone of those younger, more adventurous people could have done the jump but fear got the better of them this time round, but it didn't me. Sadly though my back pain meant I needed to rest up a little which on my second full day which is why I'm sat typing this up and not with everyone down in the water surfing. Grrrrrr :-(

 

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You'd be forgiven for thinking that the reference to 'bonkers' in the post title was purely for all the above reasons but in actual fact, it was more to do with the fact that the hostel owner, a chilled 'smoke-head', had lit-up and enjoyed five 'smokes', if you get me, during the time we set off to reaching paradise valley.

Having consumed at least that amount during the rest of the day, he easily entered double figures by the time we were to set off back off home again. I didn't even know consuming this amount daily was even possible!

I had the front seat and so I ensured I particularly alert - in case his reactions were not but in all fairness, he seemed partially in control at least. I'm guessing he's had a lot of practise at this over the years. I chucked a couple of times though when I look over and caught the eyes wide open glare often associated with pot-heads except this clown was driving all of us home for the next hour!

Thankfully we made it home and at that point I asked him how much of the 'special stuff' he smokes a day. His response was between 15 and 20 'normally'.

Welcome to south Atlantic Morocco folks - who'd have ever guessed it...

An experience that neither some words nor pictures can do justice and one that I just kept thinking to myself my friends are never gonna believe today...

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