Showing posts from June, 2021

Into the Atlas Mountains

 “If you climb to that ridge and keep walking south you will reach the Sahara Desert, but it will take you a week,” says the guide. Tempting as the thought is, I decide that a half bottle of tepid water and the apple in my rucksack won’t get me through such a trek and it would need a bit more planning. The guide instead leads the way up through a small cluster of Berber market stalls selling carpets, tagine dishes and the inevitable collection of beads and necklaces that seem to populate markets the world over. The temperature is in the mid-20s, but that is cool relief from the searing average of 32C in nearby Marrakech. Coming out of the city, the Atlas Mountains rise on the horizon as you approach and the road deteriorates as the car begins its ascent. It is a lush green landscape of willow, cherry and pine trees, with cactus plants scattered among them. From the village of Sti Fadma, set at around 1,500 metres above sea level, the trek is a brisk and sharp hike along well-trodden pa

Take a stalk on the wild side

  The sound of a cuckoo wakes me in the morning after a night in a rain-battered tent on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is a bird that is all too rarely heard these days and its call comes from a sprawling hazel forest close to the Burren in Co Clare. It is an area more famous for its rock-blistered limestone landscape, which despite its apparent barrenness is one of Ireland’s most diverse areas for flora. I have pitched my tent in a place where herbalist and forager Cearbhúil Ní Fhionnghusa has gone back to nature, growing organic vegetables and harvesting the rich resources that grow at our feet and which most people pass by. Cearbhúil walks me through her 3.5 acres of Burren land that lies outside Lisdoonvarna and from its highest point overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, the Twelve Ben mountains in Connemara, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher. Pointing to the herbs and healing plants we come across, she explains their properties and uses. “The purple flower of vetch