May 23rd, 2017
A trip based on the taste of mint tea! Morocco, your memories are filled with the intense blue of the sky and the hot dry air that burns your nostrils and fills your throat, the warm smiles of the people, the wonderful hypnotic eyes of the Moroccan girls.
It lets you return to a much simpler life, that of the indigenous ‘Berber’ people who inhabit the Atlas Mountains.
Your days are filled with ‘the basics’ Food and how to cook, water, where to find it, and where to sleep?
Days filled with beautiful smiles permanently fixed to our dusty faces, 4 riders, 3 BikHers, 1 local ‘Berber’ guide, a 4x4 and 500kms with 10,000 meters of climbing.
The original plan was to ride from Fez to Marrakech, using the 4x4 for the long road transfers to the Atlas Mountains, then to drop into the valleys and cross the Atlas range by climbing up to around 3000 meters to discover the Jbel Saghro area.
A long ride along dusty tracks and trails, incredibly diverse terrain, deep gorges, surprisingly green valleys, volcanic rock and rolling hills covered with the stunning red of thousands of poppies.
We spent the nights in villages in the mountains, where there is no electricity, running water, and cooking is done in front of an open fire, telling stories of our travels, whilst eating Tajine and drinking mint tea. There’s very little motorised transport here, mules, and horses are the only means of getting around and transporting goods.
We sleep in bare simple ‘Gite d’Etape’ rooms, with Scorpions and huge beetles to keep us company, sometimes we only have a mattress on the floor, our sleeping bags and some heavy woollen blankets to keep us warm at the height of 2000 meters, and the mountains get cold at night!
We have Hassan and the 4x4 for support during the day, at first it seemed too much, but we’re so happy for his help and guidance, he goes ahead and talks with the locals to arrange accommodation, food and water, and on occasion the jeep is needed to transfer us when we run out of light and time, our daily schedule changes by the minute, the plans simply going out the window as we stop to take in the scenery, get lost and lose the trails and take photographs, the ‘adventure’ is real sometimes!
Occasionally we get lost; we have to ask local shepherds if a river is passable, maybe it’s too deep or in flood, the women and children who’re washing their clothes in the rivers point us in the direction of fords and crossing places.
We spend the penultimate afternoon in the luxury of N’kob in the oasis there, a dip in the pool and a rest under the berber tent khaima, back to the 21st century for a time.
But I spend some time under a billion stars, just one last time with no light pollution at Bab ‘N’ali, the stars and enormity of the sky is humbling, this last night before the final rocky singletrack that seems to flow forever without end, but end it must, the journey is finished.
Of my companions, what did I discover? I found that fatigue, the occasional adversity, mechanical issues are the bond that joins us, the most beautiful things is the ‘adventure’ the support, the way that everyone took a role when it was needed, mechanic, decision maker, guide, the natural qualities of my friends appear as if by magic, their characters strong and forthright, they’ve made this adventure beautiful, by just being human, no room for self, or selfishness in the face of the mountains.
For me, I learned that I love to travel, and that to make the journey real I had to immerse myself for a time in the culture and reality of the people, to eat and talk with them, sleep in bare rooms, roll back the clock a hundred years, savour the smells the diversity, travel broadens the mind, traveling back to the 21st century was difficult, I felt like I didn’t have time to ‘decompress’.
And what of my bike? The guys at Saracen gave me the perfect tool, with Fox suspension giving me the comfort I needed, Mavic the perfect tyres and Madison the perfect riding kit.
But in the end she was just a tool, a medium to carry me on this fantastical journey, my legs turned the pedals every day, but I never felt tired, the emotions of the scenery and the journey leaving me wanting more and more, emptied out of the day to day cares of our current times and worries, I span in circles with my feet for 500kms, 10,000 meters of climbing, and simply found myself.