#05 – Cycling the Middle Atlas Range

Published by Bas on

Fes

Moroccan food is amazing. You see harcha and msemen everywhere. Harcha is some kind of corn bread, often sliced into cubes, and msemen looks like a sweet pancake. It goes well together with any jam combined with a soft goat cheese. They sell it on the corner of every street and it is eaten during the whole day.

While I stayed in the hostel to work on my video, suddenly there was a very loud sound. Everyone looked up to the canvas sheet that was covering the communal area. It was raining. People laughed and looked to each other, with disbelief in their eyes.

Altough it was couscous day in Morocco, I ordered a Tajine with chicken for dinner. A German guy and an American woman joined me at my table, sharing some travel stories. Back at the hostel I met some other people to chat with. Since I don’t meet so much other travelers, it felt good to be among them for a while. One of the guys even shared a very delicious Norwegian “apple juice”.

Dark clouds

It was time to get dirty and getting out of my comfort zone again. The next morning I peddled myself out of the city to enter the countryside again. There are big boulders spread over the land, and being stacked as fat, solid fences.

The sky was mostly covered by clouds and as the day passed, they became darker and I was getting closer to them, both horizontally and vertically. Thunder started to rumble far away and the rain was dropping on my skin. When I passed a house, there was a woman who invited me inside for some shelter.

Half an hour later I was eating with three other men. We eat from the same plates and they shuffle the best pieces of fried fish towards me. Two more men came out of nowhere to join the table. It appeared that there was a Dutch couple in this house only two months ago, and a Turkish cycler one month ago. What a coincidence, and what absolutely lovely people.

Moroccan whisky

The father and mother of the family I was staying at, went up early to get to work. The oldest son and daughter took care of me very well. In these parts of the country people need eachothers help very much. Combined with their religion, which tells them to take care of one another, it’s in their blood to be hospitable. I couldn’t thank and appreciate them enough.

After cycling through the beautiful landscape and the berber villages, I went to recharge myself with some tea and food. Suddenly a Welshman on a bike popped up and joined me. Unfortunately he’s cycling in the other direction. We exchanged some experiences and information. I adored his idea of not using his phone and therefore use a paper map for navigation. Later that day my phone started to malfunction and would force me to do the same.

While making some footage of a remarkable flat peak in the Middle Atlas Range, a man on a donkey and a man on a bike invite me to stay at their place. I entered a cozy living room, in which we warmed up and drank a lot of Moroccan Whisky, which is tea with lots of sugar.

Lost connection

The next morning my phone wouldn’t charge, and I have to do without it soon. The remaining energy left me enough time to draw out the route of today on a piece of paper.

I wasn’t sure if I was on the right route, but I reckognized some points from the few pen marks. And to be honest, I didn’t mind if I was on the right track or not, because I was surrounded by one of the most stunning and untamed landscapes I’ve seen on my trip so far. Waterfalls coming down from an overhanging rock, flat mountain summits and lots of small Berber villages.

In a city I asked someone where I could buy a paper map of Morocco. He went to three different places, without any result. At the cafe where he worked I drank a tea and ate some bread. When I was finished, they refused any money from me and welcomed me to Morocco. The enormous nice gesture gave me a load of healthy energy and mood.

Time will tell

I woke up. Phone dead.

Time is a strange thing. It guides us through the day and it let us do specific actions at specific moments. My only source for knowing what time it is, is my phone, which did not work for the entire day.

Today I would have to listen to my body. I woke up when I was rested. I ate when I was hungry. I took a break when I needed to relax. I went to sleep when I was tired.

I haven’t been able to spot a clock on a general building, inside a cafe or in a house. In order to set up my tent before the night would arrive, I asked a local about the time. In the evening I found out that my camera also shows the time. But still, it was a nice experience.

Moooooh

My phone would charge again the following day and it was just at the right moment. With my dead phone I wasn’t able to navigate, and it also seemed that a paper map is difficult to find. I put some kWh into my phone and I was now able to search for some nice looking roads in the mountains again.

And beautiful roads I found. I passed a mountain ridge which was blocking the clouds that hang above me for the past few days, so sunny weather was about to come back. From this mountain ridge, still the Middle Atlas, I saw some snowy peaks in the far distance, which must be part of the High Atlas.

With my two index fingers beside my head and yelling “mooooh”, I try to ask if the white liquid I was drinking comes from a cow. My Berber hosts understood my body language, confirmed it by nodding their heads and enjoyed the action for the whole evening.

Colors

In the morning I was invited for breakfast and tea. Almost everything on the table was self made. The olive oils was pressed from their own olives. The bread is baked fresh every morning in a clay oven. The butter. So easy and so delicious.

Today was a colorful day. The mountains showed white, yellow and reddish rocks, among green vegetation. The different flowers represented almost all main colors of the spectrum. And the gigantic turquoise reservoir was the finishing touch.

During my daily visit to a cafe to drink a Moroccan tea, I met a 69 year old man from Belgium. He spend the last three nights on a small sandbar in the lake, which is connected to the main land because of the low water level. I was easily convinced to spend the night there also. And it really was a small paradise. I took a short swim, washed my clothes, got dinner from the man and spend the night under a sky completely filled with stars.

Missing the ISS

Three happy dogs have been laying near my tent for the whole night. Their barking woke me and I stepped outside my tent. “Over there you can see the planet Venus”, said Erik, the Belgium guy standing next to me in his campervan. “And you just missed the ISS, which just passed by”, he added. It was nice to have some companion, but our paths seperated after breakfast.

In the morning I face the last major climb of my route through the Middle Atlas range. Having done this climb before the hottest part of the day, it was nice to slowly descend when it actually became hot.

In search for a spot to pitch up my tent, I stumbled upon a shepherd. “How are you doing?” He asked, in almost fluent English. A bit surprised, I told him about my situation, whereupon he invited me to his house. At his house I was treated with a warm shower and I could wear a traditional clothing.

Speeding up

After leaving my host I faced a day of much flat terrain. This was the space between two mountain ranges, the Middle Atlas and the High Atlas. For the biggest part of the day I followed a canal. During the day I noticed the increased mental and physical capacity of my body, caused by cycling for more than two months now. Without too much problems I cycled about 110 km.

Cycling long distances is not my goal. But the road beside the canal was busy during the time I was searching for a place to camp, so I just kept going. When I became lightly desperate I tried something new. I found a bed and breakfast and asked if it was possible to just put my tent on the grass and leave early in the morning. It was not a problem at all, and I even got a shower and got invited for a delicious and large dinner. Credits to Les Perles de Zaraba.

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