Monday, November 11, 2013

Morocco November 2013

Outside the hotel before the off on day 1
Sorry to anybody trying to contact me last week or bringing bikes for repair to find my doors shut again................I was in Morocco............ as usual putting myself under pressure on a bicycle.......

Before I went on this trip with Duncan and Nick I was thinking of backing out as I had so many things going on business wise ................but now I am back thank goodness I didn't as we had a great trip.

The call to prayer is never far away
We stayed in a very pleasant hotel just south of Marrakesh and just a few miles from the airport. The main thing for us with these hotels is food quality as we tend to eat a lot of it ............this place was great ....lovely fresh salads ,great fish and with the French influence---- fantastic variants of potato dishes,and as usual puddings were minimal and not great.......which suits us fine!! Fully inclusive on the drinks rounds things off really nicely!!

Anyway to the cycling..........   We were totally unsure what to expect to be honest ,as there is very little written about road cycling in this area and into the High Atlas mountains. Roads generally are not great .......... the main road leading NE into Marrakesh is at present being resurfaced so will be lovely in a few months time but for us last week was interesting to say the least..... as we were competing with mopeds ,taxis, lorries ,road making equipment and endless dust and a road that was was worse than a cart track presently..............but amazingly you get used to it and by the 5th day of cycling it all seems normal. There are two main roads leading from Marrakesh to the start of the rides into the mountains..............one really good.....the P2017 (smooth surface and an actual cycle lane ) and the other is the R203...........quite narrow,no cycle lane and after 20 miles of this juddering surface you will know about it............ Nick bit his tongue at one point !!. In the mountains the roads are generally fine especially the road leading up to the ski resort from the Ourika valley. However the fact that our top speed on the whole trip was only 36.8 miles an hour compared to our best in the Alps of 58mph.....lets you know that they are not perfect .

Duncan negotiating mini ford in the Ourika Valley

Weather at this time of year was fantastic. pleasantly warm (max around 32-34 degrees centigrade)with sunshine every day and very little strong wind .............just the usual niggling headwind one always has when cycling.

Five rides undertaken ........three of which were truly stunning..........I just love cycling in high,remote mountain environments and this has been a great taster........ all being well the High Atlas will have me on them again but next time cycle touring through them ..........that would be a real , real treat and I hope I am lucky enough to do it !!

Day one took us out on the dreadful ,juddering R203 to Tahanaoute which is a great little town on market day. The ride from Marrakesh is a continual 1-2.8 % ascent which is surprisingly demanding as it never goes downhill and you are juddered nonstop for 20 miles. Once out of the town the road starts to get steeper and gradually takes you up towards the High Atlas and things become much more fun.We carried on to Asni and then Duncan turned onto a rough steep road for a foray upwards  but Nick very sensibly thought we may be biting of a bit much for day 1 and we retraced to a previous junction and moved on through My Brahim with some stunning Alpine like hairpins ( Nick was mobbed by a group of young children wanting to high 5 him here !! ) and then onto Mosquee where we had a coke and water and were lucky enough to have before us a mouth watering descent which took us from a well watered Mediterranean feel to an arid and barren environment which was really hot and felt fantastic..........especially as from the barren landscape appeared a huge reservoir at Amzough El Quabli (great names ). This day ended with a fairly long drag along a busy road , once again being resurfaced and pretty hard work really.

So day 1 64.38 miles,3858 calories,4757 ft climbed. Nice intro................


Along with the old Mercedes taxis the PEUGEOUT 504 has to be the most ubiquitous car here. Dad made a good choice bringing one of these back on our return from kenya in 1972........except things don't rust in Morocco !! 
Nick and Duncan enjoying this descent.

The towns or villages were fascinating. You feel like you are on set in a Mad Max film
See what I mean................. and I moan about the state of my bike shop...........
Nick on hairpins before the onslaught of his fan base of young children held him up !!
And you moan about where you live........... but notice the satellite dish so all is o.k..............
I told you it was arid in some sections.........
And again...............
Coke stop.............for once Duncan getting the money wrong .......telling us he had been charged £30 for 3 cokes..............
Haribos anyone........... seeing the lithe , lean people in this environment makes you feel embarrassed at the way we overeat and disease ourselves .......another lesson learnt .........or did I think I already knew that..... Addiction of western people to sugar and white flour is a powerful failing..............and WILL kill or maim you at some point............. More about this later ...............sorry !!


 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Morocco Day 2

After yesterday's warm up Duncan and I were desperate to get higher into the Atlas mountains and so we did !

It was a respectable ride today ............we climbed from Marrakesh at 1358 ft to 6121ft in towards Mt Toubkal pretty much non stop with temperatures around 32 centigrade burning off 5110 calories over 80.5 miles ................... but it was the stunning scenery and the local Berber people that we both felt were awe inspiring.

Happy as Larry with worn out bicycle tyres....
Are we are on the right road ........Duncan checks his Garmin !
Newly laid road leading to Marrakesh
This is the tough road to the mountains........
This is 10% climbing .......I know it doesn't look like it
Happy lean people .............we all need to learn lessons !
In these mountains you are still seeing real Berber people living in real clay built houses tiered one on top of the other into mountaineous rocky slopes. They are poor............in money terms .............but not in their lives. They are lean and not fat.............this immediately deserves my respect............. humans are not meant to be obese ..... we are naturally strong ,well muscled animals......... and I couldn't help thinking back to the sights down below of people who have completely lost sight of this and value money and their possessions above their own dignity.............people who move from the hotel room to the breakfast room to the sun lounger to the lunch room to the poolside to the room to change before the aperitif before the evening meal which leads onto after dinner drinks and then coffee and cake............................... and then back to the laughter and converstion high in the Atlas mountains .....of young children running on dusty roads with a plastic bottle as their only toy and yet beaming with a truly natural smile . Women carrying huge bundles of lemon grass up steep climbs, bent double, but straightening to return your smile with strong faces and bright shiny eyes. Wow what a difference........what a contrast in the way people can be............. this has been the greatest lesson of this trip. I was thinking all of this throughout this strenuous bike ride when Duncan turned to me and out of the blue said " These people are poor and have very little .......but they have everything ". Enough said.
This is about 5500 ft into the High Atlas.....32 degrees and nonstop climbing