During the summer an intrepid band of seven Blundell’s pupils set out to go to Madagascar. . . then it was changed to Ecuador. . . and finally at the end of term they got on a plane to Morocco after the situation in both the previous two destinations had deteriorated so much that it was unsuitable for a school trip! There had been an awful lot of build-up training and anticipation was high, despite the large queues and long journey to Gatwick from Blundell’s.
The first phase of the trip was a community project on the edge of the Sahara Desert, which was a little bit of a shock to the system for the pupils. The project was helping out at a local school in one of the poorest parts of Morocco, helping to renovate the grounds while the pupils were on their school holidays.
The second phase was the trekking phase, and this was through the beautiful Atlas Mountains to the south of Marrakech. The slight change in temperature was a welcome change for the group after a long journey up into the mountains and to the first village where we met our guides in the gite. Everyone was keen for the first day of trekking and it started with a fantastic walk up a valley to a spectacular mountain pass, before descending to our campsite for the night in a riverbed. We stopped at numerous Berber villages along the way, during the holiday of Eid Al Kabir, so were witness to the traditional celebrations, which were both fascinating and a little terrifying with men dressed in goat skins chasing the young of each village! The third day was perhaps the most challenging, and by this stage some were beginning to suffer with blisters and other challenges bought on by trekking in the mountains! The whole team pulled together and made it through to the end with a welcome stay in a gite and some very comfortable beds in comparison! A challenging yet highly rewarding section of the trip for our Blundellians.
The third and final phase of the trip was the rest and recuperation phase which took us to Essaouira and Marrakech. Essaouria was a welcome change from the heat and the dust of the Atlas – it is a large and bustling town on the coast, where the group had their first experience of a Moroccan souk, which was a nice gentle introduction compared to Marrakech! The Atlantic Ocean was a welcome sight after the heat and dust of the desert, although it was surprisingly quite cold! The pupils were allowed a certain amount of freedom here to go and explore what is a very historic and busy port town, with some of the freshest and most delicious seafood you can get in Morocco. Hotel Ali, where we stayed was just steps away from the main market square which is oven-like in the heat of the day, but at night comes alive with snake charmers and market sellers. Marrakech is a bit of a sensory overload – there is so much hustle and bustle and things to see and do. Gone was the refreshing breeze from the Atlantic, replaced by occasional sandstorms blowing in off the Sahara, which certainly made al fresco dining on the last night interesting – gritty! We finished off the trip with the 20 Dirham challenge – the group had 20 dirhams each, and 20 minutes, to find the tackiest/ worst souvenir available. Despite some strong entries of dubious looking dolls, and some downright odd ones in the form of hair taken from the floor of a Barbour shop, the winner was the Marrakech key ring, on which Marrakech was spelt incorrectly!
Overall, the trip was a huge success and all members of the group had a rewarding and challenging time. The fact that it was so last minute and unknown only heightened the challenge for the pupils and they showed great resilience and flexibility to absorb the changes without complaint and conduct a World Challenge Trip to remember. They certainly contributed in a meaningful way to a rural Moroccan school and engaged with travel in a sustainable and responsible way – a wonderful trip that I, and the rest of the group would highly recommend.