Scottish adventurer, explorer and travel writer Alice Morrison is resting at home in the Atlas Mountains after walking 1,400km across the country with a team of Amazigh Berber companions and six camels, following in the footsteps of the dinosaurs.
It was in the Sahara that Indiana Jones for girls discovered the traces of ancient animals she hoped to find when she set out on this last expedition.
Morrison has now traversed the length of Morocco, splitting its expeditions into parts: first walking the length of the Draa River in 2019, followed by 1,000 miles across the Sahara and this time, starting in Corona time with all the extras precautions relating to the discovery of the dinosaur never remain discovered by any other explorer. This latest adventure, across the Sahara from Oued Chbika to Guerguerat on the Mauritania Border began in November 2019 and ended in February and saw her and her team face sandstorms, water stress and camel heat, but it was worth the dream come true its for finding dinosaur footprints. All the while Morrison aired podcasts and movies on YouTube, and this winter, turn it into a book.
The main events of this trip were finding dinosaur footprints and, surprisingly, the story of Covid, she says.
To attract sponsors it is good to have a goal and I knew I was going to go to a dinosaur site, so I was hoping to find some evidence for that. When we did, it was like touching history. I put my hand in the footsteps of an animal that lived 100 million years ago and that feeling of being part of a world that is so much bigger and taller and more fabulous than you, I saw very significant. I was in ecstasy. We all were. Brahim, Addi and Ali, my team, who had to listen to me for nine weeks talking about dinosaur footprints and making fun of me with every chicken bone and nail, had never seen dinosaur footprints, so we were all at a height . They said they now know what to look for if they will find them all the time.
Alisa has also witnessed how the global pandemic has affected desert nomads and Morocco in general.
In Covid terms none of us are sure however if you look at the figures there is 10% of the death rate in Morocco compared to the UK. Because the health system was not prepared in the same way, Morocco closed very quickly and heavily. Also, the population is much younger with an average of 19 years old, and older people care at home, plus plenty of sunshine for Vitamin D and fresh food grown almost next door. I am not saying that one is better than the other, it is different.
Now settled in Morocco, Morrison was always destined to travel. Born in Edinburgh, she was just six weeks old when her parents moved to Uganda and she spent the first eight years of her life running in the African Bush and wandering in the foothills of the Moon before being sent back to Edinburgh for school. . and university, where she studied Arabic and Turkish. After that she was back on the magic road in Dubai, Syria and Egypt, where she explored from Damascus to Luxor, before a career in journalism on BBC News, online at www.supanet.com and running Vision + Media, a target quango in the growing creative industries in North West England that was the victim of government cuts in 2011.
Riding her bike, she embarked on the DAfrique Tour, cycling from Cairo to Cape Town – 12,500 km through ten locations in 100 days, leading to her first book Dodging Elephants: Leaving the Mice Race for a Race Cycling – 8000 miles across Africa.
Next was the Marathon Des Sables, the hardest trail on earth, six marathons across the Sahara in six days and to give myself the best start she moved to Morocco to train in the sand and sun. That was in 2014 and still there.
When I came to Morocco I fell in love with the whole country. It’s the warmth of the people, I’m learning something new every day and it ‘s the most beautiful place. You have the high Atlas Mountains with small Berber villages and walnut groves, white sandy beaches on the coast and the desert which is extraordinary and has a wild beauty.
Now 57, she lives near Imlil in her home with Squeaky the rescue cat, in an Amazigh Berber family complex of 25 people. When she is not traveling, she writes about her adventures, such as her first Atlas trip on the Atlantic Trek from the highest point in North Africa, Mount Toubkal in Agadir on the Atlantic coast. Next came Morocco at Timbuktu: An Arab Adventure, the BBC2 book and documentary series, and her third book, Adventures in Marocco, the story of her life there, hard times, hilarious times and always interesting.
Living in a village where society is structured differently from the UK’s most familiar nuclear norm is fascinating to Morrison, who is also learning the Berber language. It is fun and I associate with women, but I am treated like an honorable man, she says. It’s a small, sustainable rural community, but Morocco is dependent on tourism and Covid has been a disaster and is causing hardship. People are resilient and are giving their time, waiting for tourism to turn back.
Despite Covid, Morrison was given permission to undertake this last expedition after organizer, JP Jean-Pierre Datcharry of Dar Daif, spent hours at government offices explaining their security measures.
We were always worried that we would be stopped because for the government it is its pain that some European women and her team go out all over the country, in the desert doing kindly know what. I was very lucky. Just being outside and being under the sky and sleeping every night in my tent and getting up every day and starting through good ground was amazing. But it was not easy, it was 40 degrees plus heat and very hot even for the camels, and we ended up high in the snow.
Sitting looking at the view of the mountains from her terrace as she looks forward to writing her travel book Morrison is delighted.
For many careers I went to the office, wore a suit and waited for such a life. Then I became redundant, which is grim, but I thought, or not, bike racing across Africa. I spent my surplus on it.
Yes, I was scared of failure and if Id had a husband and children I would not have done it because you would never take that financial risk. Was it something reasonable to do? No, but I was always striving for freedom and I did.
Alice Morrisons Atlas Expedition is sponsored by Craghoppers and the NTT DATA UK Inclusion and Diversity team and hosted by Dar Daif Jean-Pierre Datcharry.
For more Alice adventures visit her website www.alicemorrison.co.uk Podcast: Alice in Wanderland Instagram: @ aliceoutthere1 Twitter: @ aliceoutthere1 Facebook: Alice Hunter Morrison
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