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Morocco Biking through 1001 nights and 1002 encounters...

Riders: Andreas Tonelli (organizer of the tour), Hisham Ghourdmani (local guide from Atlas Sport Marrakech), Jessica, Tina, Adi and Davide

Some weeks ago I participated in an Enduro Mountain Bike Adventure Tour through the high atlas in morocco... I still struggle to find the right words to describe it because it was just so ... I don't know, just so "wow"... But how goes the saying...? one picture says more than a thousand words...
Coloured landscapes, dark woods, medieval villages...

Arriving in Marrakech a day prior to our tour was really nice to discover the city a little bit...

At my hotel in the ville nouvelle...
Can you see the mountains of the high atlas far away?
harvesting olives in a city park...
direction place Djemaa el fna and the old town...
Marrakech is also the "pink city"...

The Place Djemaa el Fna and the old town are specially known for a great spectacle at night, so see for yourself...

The minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is one of the landmarks of Marrakech. Place Djemaa el Fna (just opposite the mosque) is protected by the UNESCO as a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intagible Heritage of Humanity"...
dancers...
outdoor kitchens...
the spiciest spice tea and spice bread i've ever tasted!
musicians... i didn't take a picture of the serpent charmers though...
vendors and their customers...

After this fantastic evening our group was ready to start into the mountains the next day...

Starting the adventure...
After a short drive we stopped in Amizmiz to have some tea and stroll around a little bit...
on the souk...
I can read arabic...!
guess for yourself...
newspaper first!
Thé à la menthe is very important... On every occasion... Can you smell it?

Here some riding impressions of the following days...

there was so much dust... But this is obviously what you expect when going to Africa for a bike adventure...
Africa? Or maybe it's the grand canyon...?
in every village we were cheered by the local children...
a typical "ohh, wow, so nice" landscape...
same, same but different...
not an easy trail to start in the morning...
dust...
More dust...
did i already mention it was dusty...?
magic hills...
this looks so much fun...
the children sometimes ran with us for many kilometers... a good workout for them!
We spent almost every night at a different place. From very simple to very luxurious...
One morning we had to start very early because we had to pass some road works before 7 am. It was quite adventurous because the road was very narrow... I'm still glad that on the long, long single lane part we didn't meet another car!

After an only short ride we arrived in a very remote village where our host showed us around and we afterwards had lunch...

Salaam alaykum!
as donkeys were one of the only means of transportation in the atlas for many centuries, you find many, many trails which turn out to work as good for mountain bikers...
On the right you see the only television of the village.

After lunch we had to pack our bikes on donkeys. I first thought that this is a little bit exaggerated as I'm used to push or carry my bike for a long time. But in the end I was happy with this solution as it was very hot!

The donkey caravan...
Wherever we went, close by almost every village we found a meticulously groomed soccer field...

The following downhill was one of the best of the whole week...!

Freeride!
And stunning views...
So nice to see lush green closed to the villages... Unfortunately it hadn't rained for about 3 months. So let's hope it's raining soon!
Am i in Australia?
It was already getting dark when we approached the final descent down to the lake...
October is just the right season for cactus pears, grenadines and some other delicious fruits...

After this long day in the saddle we spent a night at the La Roseraie in Ouirgane – a five star resort where also the king sometimes spends a little holiday – which was nice to get the bags freshly packed and to sleep in a very comfortable bed.

The next morning when we were putting our bikes together and about to start our tour we had very timid but curious spectactors... (Yes, Morroco is also the country of perfect camouflage as clothing, houses and even animals are often earth-coloured. Sometimes we could hardly find the trails because they're almost invisible.)
Nice riding through – again – magic landscapes...
This time we had lunch in a town...
Just so beautiful...

In the afternoon we arrived at Coopérative Marjana where argan oil and other agricultural products are made and sold by local women. The argan tree is endemic to this stretch of land in Morocco and the whole processing from fruits to oil and its products is traditionally done by women. To press one liter of oil you need the fruits of 4 – 5 trees and it takes you about 2 days. By buying from a Coopérative you not only support one woman but her whole family and ensure they don't have to move to the city. There are two sorts of argan oil: cosmetic and alimentary. The difference is that for the alimentary oil the seeds get roasted so the oil tastes very nuttily.

At Coopérative Marjana. You can see argan fruits on the bottom right...

After buying some argan oil we started a rather long car trip to Oukaimeden, high in the mountains. The station is situated at 2700 m.a.s.l, about 90 km south of Marrakech. In winter it's a famous ski resort.

Oukaimeden.

I took some photos and enjoyed a good shower but unfortunately then I had a kind of breakdown either because of the for me unfamiliar heat or because of not having enough salt in my drinking water. So I stayed in bed for this evening...

The coming day will already be the last day on the bike...

Can you see the old houses?
wow! that landscape!
My bike in its natural habitat...
a typical "very slippery when dry" trail...
Strange to see those medieval looking houses with satellite TV...
this is me...!

Photo by Andreas Tonelli

Enduro mountain biking has a huge potential in the Atlas, as you can find trails of every difficulty and the heat makes going downhill of course much more comfortable than going uphill...
Moroccan trail mix... Yummy!
We had lunch at another family's home...
Already on the last meters...
Then we had to drive back to Marrakech, pack our bikes into our transport bags and enjoy the last evening...
and What an evening it was...!
Last time in the souk...

Some serious thoughts to finish... How is it to travel by mountain bike in a country where this bike costs more than many people earn in a year? This was a big concern for me prior to the trip. Arrived in Marocco I didn't think about this so much. I experienced the riding as outstanding, definitely, but I more saw my bike as a mean to make great experiences in this country and therefore didn't put the riding itself in the centre of my interests. It also let me see more of the country than by hiking or driving around by car. In my opinion it is very important to only do such tours if your interested in the culture, the encounters and the landscape and not only in seeking adrenaline . Take your time to look, smell, feel, taste, listen, touch...

As a conclusion I can say I had a wonderful week in Morocco and I hope I will come back one day! Inchallah! The landscape is just spectacular! But it's not only the landscape, also the people we met were – curious of course – but also very helpful and often cheering us (not only the children).

Thanks to everybody who was involved! Shukran!

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Created By
Madlaina Walther
Appreciate

Credits:

Photos and text by Madlaina Walther, 2017 – all rights reserved.

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