8bar Adventures – Morocco – High Atlas – Part 2/2
Photos: Stefan Haehnel
Text: Stefan Schott
You read the second part of the 8bar adventure in Morocco. It’s a sequel. Make sure you have ridden the first part of trip: 8bar Adventures – Morocco – High Atlas – Part 1/2
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– day 3 –
We crossed Moroccan villages that were built
in the old tradition – entirely of clay.
On the morning of the third day we went about 20 km uphill on a busy main road. As this was the only road that led over the ridge, there was no better alternative. Because of the good road conditions we progressed quickly and arrived on the summit of the Tizi n’Tichka passport with its height of 2.260m just before noon. Once there, the wind was cold and icy, so after a short break we moved on quickly. We continued our route on a quiet side road and were rewarded with fine gravel.
We passed by Moroccan villages that were traditionally built – entirely made of clay. The highlight of the day was passing an old ramshackle fortress, known as Kasbah, which had partially collapsed many years ago. At the end of the day we had managed to ride the planned 100 kilometres for the very first time. However, our overall goal was still far, far away.
distance: 116,3km / vertical: 1.508m
total: 213,2km / planned: 315km
– day 4 –
Today’s motto was team-time-trail and we adjusted our targets only having breaks after each 50km ridden.
On the fourth day our route took us along the southern side of the Atlas Mountains. As we still had to cover quite some kilometres, we decided to solely travel on good conditioned roads.
So that morning we inflated our tires and off we went. On the N10, which we baptized “The Moroccan Route 66” due to its vastness and long straight roads, we made great progress. Today’s motto was team-time-trail and we adjusted our targets only having breaks after each 50km ridden. When we left our beloved N10 after 120km that late afternoon, we decided to get as close to the Atlas Mountains as possible so we could start the climb the next day feeling invigorated.
distance: 143,4km / vertical: 1.377m
total: 356,6km / planned: 420km
– day 5 –
Over time the road changed from asphalt to gravel and was getting steeper and steeper as we progressed very slowly through the loose ground.
On the morning of the fifth day we directly went in for the ascent. We started off in Dadès Gorges, which is famous for its hairpin turns. We knew that today would be a challenge and our map showed a steady incline up to the 70th kilometre. Meanwhile, the landscape became more and more barren, the air thin and it was noticeably colder. Over time the road changed from asphalt to gravel and was getting steeper and steeper as we progressed very slowly through the loose ground.
In the late afternoon we reached the highest point of the day at 2.895m, which was also the highest peak of our tour. Up there it was freezing and windy, our thermometer showing a chilly -2 °C. Camping therefore wasn’t really an option having only brought our lightweight hiking tents. The next village was 25 kilometres away and the sun had already began to set. We had to hurry to make it there as we didn’t want to end up descending on gravel roads in utter darkness. So full speed we went. Unfortunately, we went a bit too fast and Stefan ended up with the first flat tire of the trip due to a snake bite.
By the time we arrived it was already dark, but we did manage to find a hotel. Since the town is 2.300m above sea level, nights can become very cold with temperatures below zero. Luckily, our room was equipped with a wood stove. We used that opportunity to finally wash most of our clothing, drying it in front of the oven.
Distance: 98,8km / vertical: 1.991m
total: 455,4km / planned: 525km
– day 6 –
Since there are no cars, few animals and rarely any trees or plants causing noise, the silence was deafening to a point where it almost became scary.
On day six of our journey we drove along a plateau of the Atlas Mountains. All day we stayed above the 2.000m mark and enjoyed the silence that prevailed there. Since there are no cars, few animals and rarely any trees or plants causing noise, the silence was deafening to a point where it almost became scary. The few people living there belong to the Berbers, Morocco’s original inhabitants who are recognizable by their traditional floor-length hooded robes. Because there’s little civilization, we spent most of our day on gravel roads. At the end of the day we finally had a long stretch downhill.
Distance: 110,5km / vertical: 1.696m
total: 565,9km / planned: 630km
– day 7 –
The morning of our seventh day started with a 15km long ascent. It seemed that after those first 15km, only small height deviations would come up although they seemed to be both up- and downhill.
Shortly before the last summit, the road once again proved to be steep uphill. Due to construction work at the pitch numerous trucks came towards us. We were delighted when we finally reached the top, as we knew the last 10km would be downhill.
Compared to the previous days there hadn’t been any extreme ascents on the map, but due to the constant change between up- and downhill we ended up with a vertical total of 2.385m. A major height difference compared to the other days and the most vertical metres so far.
Distance: 113,9km / vertical: 2.385m
total: 679,8km / planned: 735km
– day 8 –
Every few kilometres there was a sign indicating the distance left to Marrakesh: 68, 51, 47…. After a while the wind ceased and we gave all our remaining force and energy
Although we reached our daily goal of 100km the past few days, we still had nearly 160km left to Marrakesh. Having just one day left, we weren’t sure if we would ever make it. Especially because the road conditions were pretty bad. We started the morning off with a 10km long climb. After that it was mostly flat, but a strong headwind limited us to a speed of just 20km/h. When we took a break at 1pm, we had only managed to cover 70km. After our break we continued in full force on a busier highway. Every few kilometres there was a sign indicating the distance left to Marrakesh: 68, 51, 47…. After a while the wind ceased and we gave all our remaining force and energy. At last we arrived in Marrakesh late that night.
Being back in civilization we could immediately feel the change. The streets were overcrowded by heavy traffic and the crowds and noise was extremely overwhelming. At least, that’s how we felt after having spent a week in absolute silence.
Distance: 156,2km / vertical: 872m
– Résumé – everything is great in retrospect! –
We certainly did not schedule a 15km hike over rocky terrain, but by taking those paths we did pass small villages where normally only a donkey could take you.
As soon as we got off the beaten track people were incredibly nice and hospitable. Children seemed amazed and kept running onto the streets to wave at us while motorists honked to salute.
At times we regretted not having planned the trip into detail on forehand, but in retrospect every detour turned out to be a highlight of our journey. We certainly did not schedule a 15km hike over rocky terrain, but by taking those paths we did pass small villages where normally only a donkey could take you. Meeting the friendliest people living far outside of civilization along the way.
A perfectly planned tour is a bad recipe for adventure, and adventure was exactly what we longed for. The most important thing is to undertake a trip like this with people that have a similar attitude and on whom you can always count. So if you are planning your next big trip, take it from us and don’t over plan it. Let loose and experience a true adventure that you’ll never forget.