Monday, April 25, 2011

Morocco Bike 5 - Imlil to Ansi : Wet Feet and Fresh OJ

Last full day of biking in Morocco we arrange with the guy running our hostel to have our bags sent out of the Mountains via taxi to Ansi, we climb up over the pass to the east of Imlil and out the next valley. The climb was highlighted by the kid who held onto Alex's bike for 15minutes uphill I had to bribe him with a pen to get him to leave and even then we had to ride like hell to escape. An hour and a half and 600 vertical meters later we had reached the pass enjoying great views all the way up but not before being stopped by a guy on a motor bike who sold this tired sucker a necklace for the Mrs.

This kid would not let go of Alex's Bike. We had to bribe him with a pen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jebel Toubkal Day 2 - Only Idiots Ski North Africa's Highest Peak

Of course the Sun came out and any question that we had about summiting went away with the clouds! I gave my skis and skins a good test and they seemed like they would work so we headed up, passing a group of about 10 British folks that were moving painfully slow. There were a few sections of exposure that were a bit sketchy with the old skins but other than that it was relatively straightforward. The wind looked like it was really howling at the top and a few people who had already summited told us it was not pleasent up there. The skiis came off at about 4000m and it was a bootpack to the top. About halfway up the bootpack I realized that crampons would have been really really handy, nonetheless we made it to the top for some incredible views of the desert to the SE and to a sea of clouds to the NW. It was pretty weird seeing palm trees and desert while standing on snwo in ski boots! The way back down the bootpack was a bit of a terrifying experience without crampons and made me realize why I like to ski right from the top!

We were so lucky the sun came out.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jebel Toubkal Day 1 - Why are those fools carrying skis?

I ski far too much. We arrived in Imlil a small village in the mountains outside of Marrakech, it was raining for the first time on he trip and we were supposed to go for two day hike with more than 2.5km of elevation gain. Living in Vancouver, something was familiar about this rain, and it gave me an inkling that just maybe it would be snowing at our destination. Our host "Lachen" must have heard me thinking because about 15 minutes later a two sets of skiis arrived and you could see dollar signs in his eyes. Negotiations ensued (which like every negotiation in the trip thus far I felt that I lost) and a few minutes later I had rented my second set of skiis in Africa.
Hard fought negotiations for rental skiis with Lachen and his son

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Morocco Bike 4 - Jebel Saharo Traverse

The days out of the sun really helped to rest the legs and we were raring to go for this day. I had read a few trip reports of some other people completing this ride and was really excited about it especially since after the heat stroke day in the Draa Valley we were unsure if we were going to be able to do it. It was going to be the most remote of the biking days thus far so we brought tons of water as we didn't want to run into the same problem that we had in Tzgui! From Boulemene Dades we took another grande taxi up into the Jebel Saharo Massif to about 1900m and once again got dropped off in the middle of nowhere. We put our bikes together and began to climb up through the mountains past a town where they sold expensive hand made mugs, which of course we bought, mostly because I am a sucker. 

Neat over priced hand carved wood beer mugs - I am a sucker and bought one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Skiing in the desert stinks but foozeball with Moroccans doesn't

A few days off to lick our wounds and to stay out of the moroccan sun. For some reason we decided that not all piles of sand are made equal and took a cab 350km to merzouga to see the dunes there. Merzouga is a bleak bleak grey town that I would not want to spend more than one day in. When we arrived the wind was blowing the sand everywhere making it very unpleasant, even more unpleasant becasue we were sleeping in a "Berber Tent" that was full of sand, dust, birds, mosquitoes and the sound of large Belgian fellows snoring.

This Cabbie was nuts, constantly yelling in very conversation that  he had but somehow smiling at the same time. The guy in the back is his cousin, technically we rented the whole cab but apparently family members don't count.

Morocco Bike 3 - Agdz to Zagora Piste in the Draa Valley

Biking right from our mud walled kasbah hotel we start down the draa vally the first 17km are on a paved rd and we make good tome passing villages full if kids on the way to school which is a total of 48 hours over six day a week in morocco!
The road deteriorated to a piste and rose and fell along the wall of the valley. Despite being a route with similar starting and ending elevations we finished the day with over 1400 m of climbing. 

The story of this day was really the villages, all very basic made out of mud brick with no visible commerce, it took us until 2 pm to realize that we were not going to find a place to stop to eat at in any of these town, leaving us to cycle in the middle of the day in the desert heat ughhhhh. At this point we crossed the river to the more populated side of and found a place to rest. 
In the Afternoon it becomes increasingly evident that there is a severe lack of candy, money and writing utensils amongst the kids of morocco as every kid we pass assumes that we are carrying a trunk full of pens to give out to them.  We finish the day by getting lost in the "Palmerie" (the maze of palm trees shading the crops in the valley bottom) before making it to the highway N9 to hail a grand taxi to Zagora. We finally catch pokeroo and find he first beer of the trip, unfortunately I have heat sickness so badly I can't really enjoy it.  
Second half of the day, white line is our route

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Morocco Bike 2 - Ait Benhadou to Agdz via Piste to Tizgui

A "grand taxi" Ie old yellow Benz ride through ouarzazette with mohammed we pick up supplies and drive through the rock filled arid landscape to the beginning of the 'piste' to tzgui, our first crack at the dirt tracks. It is amazing, the scenery that we didn't think we could beat from yesterday got even better, a great gradual decent for 20km we head to the ouzud tzgui (waterfall) carefully attended by Armen who has clearly been there for a long time and is so set in his ways he has a monopoly on all the shade in the oasis with his sitting areas so we really have no choice but to join him for tea and lessons about how to act properly in a waterfall oasis 

After lunch we head into town to get more water we had defended down to 1000m and it was hot very hot. We may have over estimated the towns reliance on capitalism as it turned out there was only one store in town and it had to be opened to serve us, we would have never found it were it not for some school children who happily showed the way. Getting water was a relief, so much though that we didn't care that we had to push the bikes through a river valley for the next two km to get back to the rd. Again amazing scenery. 
Bikes in the back of a Mercedes 240 sedan aka a "grand taxi" - these guys would go anywhere for you so they became the preferred mode of transport.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Morocco Bike 1 - Tiz n Tichka to Ait Benhadou

Dropped off at
2300m at the tiz n tichka pass where of course there are about 5 souvineer shops where local Berbers tried to sell us fossils Aka heavy rocks to take with us, we politely declined. 

The decent begins nervously as it was both our first times with paniers, perhaps a busy highway in the high atlas was a poor choice for a test run. 

4km later we take the turn off to air benhadou via teluoet the road is comparatively empty and defends slowly into the green valley below. Despite the hours of research, the scenery is way better than I could have imagined, green terraced fields red rock gorges and snow capped mountAins in the background 

We are still up at 1700m High at a 'cool' 27 degrees but as we are covered head to toe excluding our shins it feels a lot hotter a few hours later we arrive at teleout for lunch on a roof ' terrace panoramic' and get our first taste of Moroccan food it was amazing( salad, tagine, rice with almonds) and has yet to be beat on the trip. 

The afternoon starts off with a climb back up to 1800m before alternating climbs and recents that would leave us as 1400m after the next 42km to ait benhadou . A strong and gusty head wind develops that we would learn that we would not miss for the rest of the trip. 

A quick climb up to the top of the apparently famous kasbah. At ait benhadou and we sleep pretty good!
Jumped of the buss and after making sure that our bikes were ok, and avoiding Morocan's who actually tried to sell us fossils (we politely explained to them that we were not exactly looking for extra weight at the time) we hit the road and tried not to fall off!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Surprised Sunset

Fiddling around with my new timer on the balcony and was treated to this!

Planes planes planes trains and Marrakech's best taxi driver

Thirty hours of traveling was made bearable by a two things; firstly was a the 33 year old Spanish last who was returning from visiting her 18 year old boyfriend in toronto. They met on the Internet, chatted for two years and by the time she found out he wasn't old enough to remember bad 80s music she was too in love to care. The second is Air Canada's excellent choice in onboard entertainment options Ie game 3 of the 1987 Canada cup final Canada vs the soviet Union. Watching Gretzky in his prime was almost as good as the bad tv graphic and the hairstyle and fashion choices of the Hamiltonian fans. Canada started the game with a line of lemiuex gretztky messier with coffey and Bourque on defense.

The great one in his prime...