The delights of Luton Airport and the Holiday Inn Express were my starting point for this trip. Pretty grim both. I flew from Luton because it was the nearest airport with direct EasyJet flights to Marrakesh, and overnighted in the Holiday Inn Express the night before because there was a train strike the next day and getting to Luton would have been difficult. EasyJet was passable and got me and my bicycle there in one piece and more or less on time. Marrakesh airport was a bit of a trial, taking over two hours to get through passport control and collect baggage, which then had to be x-rayed before entering the country, with a long waiting time. I was met at the airport by the local guides of Saddle Skedaddle, the company I’m touring with, and taken to a very nice hotel in Marrakesh to meet the group and spend the first night. Which was mostly sleepless because of a nightclub in the street outside and noisy patrons and their even noisier motorcycles. I thought Morocco was an Islamic country. Nightclubs ? Alcohol as well, even Moroccan brewed beer. All okay apparently as long as you don’t get drunk and flaunt it.
Why Saddle Skedaddle ? No, not the name, but why an organised tour ? Well, I have wanted to do some cycling in Morocco for a long time, but have never felt brave enough to do my normal solo touring. Indian Country, as the US Cavalry used to say. I felt the same about Mexico. So, an organised tour where you are guided and looked after, with hotels and meals provided, and no trying to work it out for myself, seems sensible. We are a group of eleven - a young couple with all the bijou cycling gear from Austin, Texas; a Chinese American retired tech guy from Silicon Valley; an English early 50s couple from Birmingham (Bournville !) / Shropshire; a couple of 30 something single bike enthusiast English guys; a sixties couple from Dorset with what I take to be West Country accents; a single 60s something English woman. I am the oldest, I believe at just short of 70. The Texas Americans are fleet of bike and head the pack, together with the Shropshire Lass. I am the Tail End Charlie, with the support vehicle keeping a discreet distance behind me, and just making sure that I finish the day’s ride and haven’t croaked. The tour guides and helpers are all Moroccan, and very attentive and helpful. Abdel and Simo are the main guides. For some reason, they have nicknamed me Ibrahim. I’m not sure exactly why. I will find out. They have nicknames for us all, I believe. I guess watching us from their minibus, they must have interesting conversations about us. I would. I'd love to be a fly on the wall..
I, however, have the Gucci-est bicycle ! At least I think so. I have brought my Moulton New Series Speed, which dismantles so that I can put it in a large Samsonite suitcase for the flight. 20 inch wheels, Campagnolo Super Record groupset, very nice and high end. Lots of oohs from the other riders and the locals. I may be the slowest but I have the goods. I think I should have paid a bt more attention to the amount of climbing that is going to be involved and changed the gearing, but I'll cope with what I've got. Some of the other cyclists have brought their own bikes with them, some are renting from the tour company. All the bikes are high end enthusiast type machines.
DAY 5 - Tafraoute Rest Day
DAY 6 - Tafraoute -Agadir
DAY 7 - Agadir - Immouzer
Day 8 - Immouzer - Marrakesh
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