Gouffre de Friouata

On the way back to Ifrane, we spent a night in the National Park of Tazekka, near Taza, northeast of Fez.  In the morning, we drove up and down the mountain in slippery snow (turning to rain) in order to reach the mouth of the Friouata cave.

The cave extends for about 3 kilometers underground: here is a map from the National Park’s website.

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We straggled through the rain into the welcome center, donned hard hats with head lamps, and followed our guide into the cave.  (I’m going to call the guide Abdelrachman for his kindness until I can remember his real name.) My favorite part was the opening, the massive sinkhole of this karst topography.

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At the bottom of the sinkhole, we squeeze through a smaller opening into the cave itself:
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Tempting to pet the bat as we go by:
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The hike was like a dark, underground muddy rock scramble, with the occasional bridge over streams or standing water, and ladders to simplify the climb to higher or lower levels.
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There was an abundance of stalactites, stalagmites, and interesting formations of all kinds.  These formations grow at a rate of roughly 100 years per centimeter.  The cave counsels patience.
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And impermanence: some of the stalactites have been broken by earthquakes and tremors.
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At the end of the cave system, Abdelrachman played the rock formation like a cross between a drum and an organ.  I’ll try to post a link to the video on vimeo.P1000669

But, as is often the case here, the most amazing display (in my eyes) was the kindness and care Jeremy received.  He was carried bodily through most of the cave by Abdelrachman and by our West Point friend, James.
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For my part, I was happy to have faced down my claustrophobia, and to have received this muddy badge of honor from Abdelrachman:
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Indeed, a good time was had by all:
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