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The (back) road to Marrakech

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I had camped on the outskirts of Ouazazate and after chatting with a local in one of the cafe’s, I was informed that the ‘back’ road turning right off the N9 to Aït Benhaddou was very pretty and much nicer than the main N9 to Marrakech. What never came over in the conversation was that ‘road’ was once again a very loose term! It started out as tarmac but after a few kilometers became quite rough ->

You need imagination to call this a road!

Climbing started as soon as I left the N9 and just went on and on, but as I crested the first small pass I  got a taste of the views that make it all so worthwhile ->

After hours of climbing, I crested the first pass.

It’s safe to say I enjoy my downhills, but this next one was pretty difficult because of the state of the ‘road’. I had to be very careful to watch my speed due to the very real danger of breaking my bike, or more likely, a part of me. On an unloaded MTB it would have been a buzz, but loaded touring bike – forget it. I was a little miffed I have to say!

The descent was pretty cautious.

I covered just 43 km on this first day and when I stopped at a local campsite for 20 dh (just £2) I was pretty exhausted from the climbing I had done. I certainly slept pretty well. As it was about 220 km total distance to Marrakech I worked out it would take me four days to get there. Of course I was wrong.

Next morning I set off in pretty good spirits, knowing today would be another day of climbing. I wasn’t prepared for just how steep it got though and again after just 49 km I was shattered and looking for a place to camp. Thankfully as I passed a local Auberg out came the owner trying to induce me to take a room. I explained I was on a tight budget and we agreed I could camp for 20 dh, I was well pleased!

I woke to find it raining, that fine drizzle that gets everywhere and because I was in the mountains it was quite cold. After a good breakfast, on went the goretex jacket and off I went. I only had a rough idea how far it was to the Tizi-n-Tichka pass and knew I would get there sometime today, I hoped the weather would improve by the time I did.

Near the pass it was cloudy, but the rain had ceased.

At 2,260m the Tizi-n-Tichka pass is a major acheivement and I was elated to join the throng of tourists who had bussed it to the top. It had taken me two and a half days of almost constant climbing to get here and I had no problem asking for the obligatory photo of me in front of the summit plaque!

A very happy me at the summit.

It was cold. Very cold. On went the goretex and winter gloves and I started my way down. I had no idea what to expect, but was totally blown away by the descent, which went on for over 30 kilometers. That’s not a typo, 30 kilometers! and even then it continued on a downward trend for another 20 km.

Over 30 km of good quality tarmac to get off the pass.

As I said earlier I had planned for it to take 4 days to get to Marrakech, but after so much downhill I harbored plans of maybe reaching Marrakech today (3 days in total) if the road didn’t trend uphill again. It would be a huge effort though as the first half of the day was spent finishing off the climb and at the start I still had about 119 km to go. I can’t explain where the extra energy came from, but I reached Marrakech at 4:30 p.m. and after a bit of faffing about made my way into the Medina and found a cheap hotel, with wifi – yippee!

Time for a little R&R, get my washing done and explore Marrakech a little. Catch up with me in tomorrows update…



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