Morocco Atlas Mountains
February 2024

Immouzer - Marrakesh
11 February 2024


Another chilly morning start, initially climbing up to our high point and then a sharp descent down to meet the mini bus for a return to Marrakesh.  Up and then down has been the usual pattern of our cycling.  The views were stupendous down the valley, as we rolled past small villages with the inevitable gaggle of children, past donkeys hauling feed up the incline, and small herds of goats and sheep being watched over by some tacit and inscrutable shepherd.

Following a sandwich lunch - not our usual feast provided by the travelling cook - we piled on to the bus and drove back to Marrakesh, along a very impressive peage motorway, with service areas where you would think you were in France, except for the tagine food served rather than the usual hamburger and sandwich.  Morocco does have some very good infrastructure - some of the roads like the motorway, lots of phone masts and good coverage wherever we have been.  Around the cities and the connections between are rapidly developing.  However, out in the sticks there is still a sense of many things and the style of life being as they have been for centuries.

Along our routes, even in some of the more isolated parts, the Gendarme Royale have been in evidence, parked at cross roads and roundabouts, stopping drivers and checking papers and vehicles.  It seems to be a thing here, something that we don’t get back home and probably would’t put up with in our policing by consent culture.  In the cities like Marrakesh the local police are much in evidence doing the same.  Traffic, especially in the cities is chaotic, with a huge number of small motorbikes speeding and weaving around the place.  Chaotic, confusing and it looks dangerous.  Priorite a droite seems to be alive and kicking on some roundabouts, although not all.  Confusing . That’s a French invention, but I think even they have given up on it.  I wouldn’t want to drive in Marrakesh.  Or cycle. The style of driving here belongs to the pre-deterministic school of motoring, namely if it is your day to die you will die no matter how you drive, so it doesn’t matter how you drive; if you are killed by a another driver, then it was your day to be killed anyhow.  So, that’s okay then !  It’s a way of thinking that possibly comes from the Muslim tradition of the culture.  It seems to me to be a bit of a careless abrogation of personal responsibility and respect for others.  Mind you, there’s elements of this thinking and way of driving in Birmingham where I live, especially amongst some of our Country Cousins.  It’s not pleasant and does not make for a calm and peaceful environment.  Perhaps it’s just my age, but I don’t like it !

We are back for our final night in the Hotel Bab where we started.  I made sure to get a room at the back, to avoid the nightclubs and motorbikes on the road outside.  But, throughout the evening a DJ was playing loud thumping music in the restaurant / bar area, to pretty much nobody, until 11 pm, when I took myself down and pointed out the illogicality of playing music for nobody but making sure that the paying guests in their rooms upstairs couldn’t get to sleep.  The message, delivered in a mix of my schoolboy French and fluent English,  was received and understood and the music was turned down and shortly after finished.  Thereafter, the night was quiet, only interrupted at 6 AM by a succession of Muezzin doing their loudspeaker stuff from the various mosques around.  I wonder does anybody take any notice  ?  Give me church bells any day.

My cycling companions will leave at various stages today, back to the airport and on to their final destinations.  My flight isn’t until 7:45 pm, so I’ve arranged for a late check out so that I can keep my room for most of the day before heading off to the airport in the late afternoon. I’ll probably take myself off for a look around the souks and a little light lunch before a short siesta in order to prepare myself for the rigours of EasyJet and Luton Airport, and a late night arrival at the Holiday Inn Express before heading back home by train tomorrow.

It’s been a companionable trip, with a good group of fellow cyclists who have all rubbed along and enjoyed each others’ company.  Out guides and leaders have been wonderful, and you couldn’t have wanted better.  They have especially kept a careful eye on me as I hauled myself up the mountains and made sure that I didn’t take a wrong turn, and made it to the end point each day.  The enroute picnic lunches have been a real feature, and always something to look forward to.

This trip has been useful for me, as a look and see exercise, dipping my toe in to a bit of the world and culture that I’m not familiar with.  I’ve worked out that Morocco is a place that is safe and welcoming - well, except for some of the city driving and traffic.  Outside that people are friendly and cheerful, welcoming, and there is a proliferation of places to stay, eat and drink, even in some of the more isolated places.  Roads and traffic out in the sticks are benign by and large.  So, if I did come back, I think I would do some solo touring cycling.   I think it could work.

DAY 1 - London - Marrakesh

DAY 2  - Marrakesh - Ait Ben Haddou

DAY 3  - Ait Ben Haddou - Amsouzart Valley

DAY 4 - Amzouzart Valley - Oulet Berhil

 DAY 5 - Oulet Berhill - Tafraoute

DAY 5 - Tafraoute Rest Day

DAY 6 - Tafraoute -Agadir

DAY 7 - Agadir - Immouzer

Day 8 - Immouzer - Marrakesh

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