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 !!