The start of our journey through southern Morocco…
Bad timing placed us in the peak of the rainy season at the heart of east Africa, and led us to abandon our journey short of Rwanda and Uganda. We’ll happily save it for another time. We needed to dry out; and dry out we have. According to locals, most of the route we have taken, so far, through the Anti Atlas range in southern Morocco, hasn’t felt rain yet this year.
The Anti Atlas is a region of stark contrasts. High and aromatic wildflower meadows at its peaks are separated from the harsh expanse of the Sahara desert in the south via caravan routes that funnel through red cliff gorges with oases at their floor. It is a spectacular place. We decided to start pedaling from Agadir, a rather touristy coastal town, pushing across a dusty expanse to the foot of the mountains in search of piste (gravel and dirt) roads that would carry us south towards the Sahara.
Big climbs, old maps and a chance meeting with a mountain bike guide led us through some amazing and challenging corners of these mountains…
Also, first, here are a few photos from our short stint in Casablanca:
Here are a few photos of the Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca…
Touristy water guy.
Entering the Anti Atlas… a long climb.
Glad to see desert plants again.
Ancient terraced fields.
Around every corner is a kasbah or agadir ruin.
A large kasbah outside of Ait Baha.
Berber bee hives.
Discarded orange peels used to attract bees and make orange honey.
We kept seeing these rectangles painted on buildings; finally found out that they use the marked areas for voting.
Bright colored doors stand out among neutral stone and mud brick buildings.
Wild camping in a gorge before our huge push through the big range.
Gin whipping up pasta.
Finally burned wood in the Vargo the following morning. Works well; boiled water in under 10 minutes.
A hill-top fortress.
Starting the ascent up the valley and into the heart of the Anti Atlas.
Once at altitude the mountains are taken over by an incredibly aromatic array of wildflowers.
A very dramatic landscape. Unfortunately, this road, according to Tracks for Africa and an old map we have, was supposed to be piste, but has been paved in the last couple of years.
Passing women harvesting tea and wild herbs.
Switchbacks up, switchbacks down.
I love the style and look of arabic; unfortunately, I can’t read it so who knows what the signs say that fall in the background of the obligatory bike photo.
Perfect timing… we ran into Gabriel, a mountain biking guide from Germany, who pointed us towards some gravel and dirt routes…
He shared his highlighted maps that show his research from the last few weeks. I am slightly envious of his job, I must say.
And with that, we took off down a dirt track that would save us a day, and promise a steep descent into the Ameln Valley.
Unfortunately, the road came to an abrupt stop (literally) and we were temporarily kidnapped by a local family who insisted we stay for tea and couscous.
The Moroccan long pour.
Couscous with a family who warned us of the hiking trail that would drop into the valley, “It can’t be done with biciclet.”, they argued.
The beginning didn’t look so bad, quite nice actually.
Then it got tricky.
After an hour of getting beaten up by thorny bushes, and tackling rocky ledges, we hit pay dirt.
Many of the old roads here have since been paved. Gabriel mentioned this has been tricky for a mountain bike guiding company, they find a good route, then come back the following year and it’s been tarred. Great for Moroccans, bad for us.
Descending into the Ameln Valley.
Hard to believe we were on the other side of those mountains 2 days before.
The palmerie of Ameln.
A lot of GPS trial and error with signage in Arabic.
The Painted Rocks of Tafroute…
… done by a belgian artist Jean Verame in 1984.
At first we were planning to cycle right by, but upon further inspection, the area is neat to explore.
A few of the rocks have been slightly modified by locals.
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