Cycling The Anti Atlas, Morocco

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:

Casablanca Hassan II Mosque
Here are a few photos of the Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca…
Casablanca Hassan II Mosque
Casablanca Hassan II Mosque
Casablanca Hassan II Mosque Casablanca Hassan II Mosque
Casablanca Hassan II Mosque
Casablanca Hassan II Mosque
Morocco Portrait
Morocco Portrait

Touristy water guy.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Entering the Anti Atlas… a long climb.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Glad to see desert plants again.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Ancient terraced fields.
Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Around every corner is a kasbah or agadir ruin.
Kasbah, Anti Atlas, Morocco
A large kasbah outside of Ait Baha.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco Bee Hives, Anti Atlas, Morocco
Berber bee hives.
Orange Peels, Anti Atlas, Morocco
Discarded orange peels used to attract bees and make orange honey.
Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco
We kept seeing these rectangles painted on buildings; finally found out that they use the marked areas for voting.
Kasbah, Anti Atlas, Morocco
Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Bright colored doors stand out among neutral stone and mud brick buildings.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Wild camping in a gorge before our huge push through the big range.
Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Gin whipping up pasta.
Vargo Titanium Stove - bike touring
Finally burned wood in the Vargo the following morning. Works well; boiled water in under 10 minutes.
Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco
A hill-top fortress.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Starting the ascent up the valley and into the heart of the Anti Atlas.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Once at altitude the mountains are taken over by an incredibly aromatic array of wildflowers.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
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.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Passing women harvesting tea and wild herbs.
Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco Bicycle Touring Anti Atlas Morocco Bicycle Touring Anti Atlas Morocco
Switchbacks up, switchbacks down.
Surly ECR - Bike Touring Morocco
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.
Anti Atlas Mountains, Morocco Mountain Bike Guide, Morocco
Perfect timing… we ran into Gabriel, a mountain biking guide from Germany, who pointed us towards some gravel and dirt routes…
Mountain Bike Guide, Morocco
He shared his highlighted maps that show his research from the last few weeks. I am slightly envious of his job, I must say.
Bicycle Touring Anti Atlas Morocco
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.
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco
Bicycle Touring Anti Atlas Morocco
Bike Touring Anti Atlas - Morocco 2014-04-anti-atlas_41 2014-04-anti-atlas_42
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.
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A lot of GPS trial and error with signage in Arabic.
2014-04-anti-atlas_55 2014-04-anti-atlas_56
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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