One thing I’m learning about northern Moroccan towns is that they tend to sit high up on a hillside. What’s even worse from a cyclist’s point of view is you usually end up climbing to leave!
However the road to Ouazzane was some of the best cycling I have ever done, through beautiful scenery and gently rolling hills. The road surface was in general pretty good and I didn’t allow vehicles to bully me into riding on the rough verges, only occasionally annoying the odd motorist in a hurry.
The landscape was changing dramatically to open farmland very reminiscent of what I cycled through in northern France, but here it was a much lusher green. I found the local farmers very friendly, always ready with a wave and as I pulled into the roadside cafe’s for a mint tea or coffee, they were usually a pretty friendly bunch too. Very different from the busy towns, where it was hard to avoid being wary of someone approaching you.
Today was a relatively short day of cycling (66 km) so I arrived in Ouazzane mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to have a look around. Lonely Planet lists this as an ‘authentic’ Moroccan town and for the life of me I can’t work out what that means. If ‘authentic’ is very run down and pretty grubby, then that’s what I found. To be honest I was very underwhelmed and the only plus was there were no touts about and I found a cafe with wifi. I pitched up for the night ready to move on in the morning.
I made an early start for Moulay-Idriss as this was a longer day of cycling, at 95 km and I had decided I would take a cheap hotel room when I got there. It was tough going, as the rolling hills had now turned into stiff climbs (in total I did 1183 m of climbing) and the landscape was changing back to trees and orchards along the roadside. I passed many people on donkeys carrying their wares, but I was mindful not to point a camera at them (this is a big no-no unless you get permission) until I sighted Moulay-Idriss in the distance and a donkey coming towards me. I dropped the camera to waist height, sneakily pressing the shutter as I freewheeled down hill and was amazed I got a half decent picture ->
By the time I arrived at the turn-off and the climb up to the town, I was pretty exhausted and the sun was beginning to drop over the horizon (the picture below was taken the next day as I cycled down the same road!).
Finding the only hotel on the main street was pretty easy, but getting the bike up the steps into it wasn’t and as soon as I got to my room, I showered and cooked my evening meal, then flopped into bed. I would have plenty of time in the morning to look around the town, as tomorrow was an easy day.
Breakfast was included with the hotel and was very much enjoyed. More so than Moulay-Idriss itself, which was very similar to Ouazzane, very run down and for me, not much to enjoy. On the way here just 2 km up the road I had passed Volubilis, the Roman ruins site and it had always been my plan to go back and visit. This visit more than made up for the disappointment of Moulay and you can see the spectacular pictures in my next post…