Saturday 16th November
All that was left to do now was walk back to the village of Imlil. The plan was to stop in Aroumd where we would have a final trek lunch, then walk back to Imlil to get the minibus back to Marrakech.
The walk down was pretty uneventful; there was an odd bit of ice every now and then but other than that it was plain sailing. My body and legs were stiff from the day before (I never will learn to stretch and warm up) so I was tentative and still the slow mountain sloth I am, but hey, I got there.
I was told by Reduan to have more confidence in my strides while walking downhill. Apparently the mountain didn't want me to be scared of falling so I was to trust in my feet and go for it. As soon as I tried it, I went right on my arse. I will not be trusting my feet for a while again!
Poor Simon, still suffering with a twisted ankle walked so far down before getting a lift off a mule! I don't know whether I envied him or not ... it'd have been nice to have the break from walking, but it did look a bit precarious up there at times!
After what seemed like an age of walking we got to the minibuses in Imlil. What a relief! Although now it was time to experience life on the other side of that road edge (what I'd not been looking forward to since experiencing the way up on day one)!
It took about an hour to get into Marrakech and we arrived at our hotel: Hotel Almas. It was a pretty nice place to stay, and as I'd been a solo traveller I got a room to myself. As soon as I got in, I called home and let my family know I was still alive and (kind of) well! I forgot to mention that signal in the mountains is few and far between; even when you had full bars, it didn't guarantee that you'd be able to send/receive messages! So now, being able to communicate and access WiFi was a welcome return to normality.
All I wanted to do was shower and nap! I did get a lovely message off Bob inviting me to have drinks with a few of them at the bar opposite the hotel, but all I wanted to do was chill out so politely declined.
A short cat nap later the minibus came back to the hotel to take us to a restaurant for our celebratory meal. Mohammed had chosen a traditional Moroccan restaurant for us to dine at. The food was lovely, but at times peculiar. Sweet and savoury is often mixed (icing sugar on savoury noodles, sweetened peanuts in chicken dishes) and it's just something I can't get on with! My favourite part was the pickled chilli peppers; I'd definitely have more of that!
At the end of the meal we were given our Charity Challenge medals and treated to a belly dance from a local dancer. We then headed back to the hotel; some of us to sleep, others to stay out a little later and give themselves hangovers from hell the next day!
The following day our flight wasn't until the evening so we got to spend most of the day exploring Marrakech. Lovely Gemma and Kerry said I was welcome to spend the day with them, however, I was quite happy to have some time on my own. I'm quite an independent person, and I really do like my time to myself. Being part of a group is lovely, but I always need time out with my own company afterwards, even if just to recharge my own mental/social batteries!
I didn't venture far around Marrakech. I found you couldn't walk for more than a couple of minutes without being tormented by someone trying to sell you tat, and the (lack of) traffic rules made me feel I was a step away from being mown down! I wanted to pick up some little bits for gifts but after about an hour of wandering, I returned to the hotel to read, relax and wait for the transfer to the airport.
At the airport we said goodbye to Mohammed and boarded our plane. I had a much needed glass of Prosecco on the flight and once again willed for time travel and teleportation to exist ... I could not wait to get home!
When we arrived back in Gatwick it was time for the saddest part; saying goodbye to everyone! It felt worse this time as when I arrived back from Everest Base Camp I had so many fond memories that I knew I would do something similar again. This time as my experience hadn't been so great, I felt like it was the end of a road. I've said to myself and to every person who's asked since I got back that I would never do another summit. I'd be happy to take part in other challenges, but I'm tucking my [international] mountain wings away for at least a long time now!
That night I arrived back at the Travelodge I'd started my journey on, and the following day I took the train back to Cumbria. Home. At. Last.
For at least a week after I returned home I suffered with restless nights. When I did sleep I dreamt that I was still on the mountain, and when I woke I was completely disorientated, again, thinking I was on the mountain and feeling like I had to get up so I could start walking again.
The nightmares and stress of it all have subsided a little bit, but I'm sad to say whenever I think of Morocco now I just have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's such a shame as EBC changed my life in so many postitive ways. Toubkal, I feel, has put me further back than I've ever been.
Maybe I need time to heal? Maybe I need to go back to Nepal? At this minute I don't know.
Toubkal ... it was an experience!
I'll probably thank you some day ... just not quite yet!