Everything starts like this, just a few words.
– Dario! In February I have a week of vacation, I would like to go for a ride, can you? Can we do it?
-Mmmh February … That’s going to be difficult …! well, you know what, … Let’s do it, come on!
After some beer-based discussions, the choice falls on Morocco, and from that moment the desire to travel, to ride, to feel free, takes over, and this is already enough to put the classic stupid smile on your face, without ever thinking about anything else!
For the route we take inspiration from the trace of Naturaid 2017 – modifying it according to our needs and according to the available time- designed and tested by the legendary Maurizio Doro, an itinerary among the hardest and wildest he created, entirely in the mountain range of the High Atlas.
In the 600km we have chosen, we will often and willingly stay above 2000 meters above sea level; but we are the “Ruji”, so what’s the problem?
In fact, the desire to leave and pedal goes hand in hand with the desire for adventure: therefore the more complicated it is, the better.
The arrival in Marrakech has a significant impact: it is full anarchy! Once we retrieved the boxes of the bikes we negotiate the cost of a taxi to get to Demnate, departure and arrival of our bike trip. The owner of the Gite proves to be an exquisite person, extremely available and immediately puts us at ease. We spend the evening assembling and setting up the bikes, the tension is felt with every breath.
The alarm rings: we arrive at 7.00 in the morning, the time of the departure, with 25kg bikes, the hope of having thought of everything and with a shiver down my spine. The first pedal stroke releases all the accumulated adrenaline and off we go: my gaze crosses Dario’s and I realize that we both have happiness in our eyes. A real, sincere smile is on our faces!
Immediately that foreign land makes us understand that it will not be easy days, an immediate climb with a constantly changing road surface between sand, dirt, holes, gravel and pebbles constantly alternates meter by meter. The trucks we meet are the ones of the photographs, loaded beyond all limits and with an infinite tail of dust; people say goodbye, everyone says goodbye, everyone says goodbye to everyone, with loyal respect.
You start to sweat, you struggle, the weight of the bike is felt, the dust, the heat, the air, the climb, and the road that demands constant concentration. A whirlwind of sensations that usually accompany cyclists, but just look up, turn your eyes, inhale the new smells, observe the new colors and all that oppression vanishes, and the kilometers pass, the landscapes constantly change, tea cultivations and Berber settlements are becoming less frequent.
It’s starting to get serious, rocks and slopes seem to get along to disadvantage pedal strokes, but in that moment our minds overwhelmed the difficulties, and we feel free, simply free! A feeling so satisfying that it overcomes every physical and mental difficulty.
At every glance Dario and I see each other happy, in those moments nothing would have stopped us.
The evening comes so quickly that it is almost a shame to stop, after about 95km, in Tabant, on a Gite marked on the track, but when you stop, you understand that the load of emotions, of things seen and people crossed is difficult to digest, just too much information to store.
We met shepherds, children and women all the way, and only one real thing remained impressed in both our minds: despite their poor life, despite the hostile and wild environment that surrounds them, we never met a sad look, an observation that will stay the same from the first to the last day. We find kindness, respect and helpful people, a unique hospitality!
Day after day we see indescribable landscapes, fortunately the camera helps us remember, because the Atlas is incredible, it changes color at every curve, at every altitude it has a different morphology, from the north to the south side it changes its face, it seems to be in two different environments, with continuous shades of green, with tea cultivation and Berber villages, in the arid dry of hot rocks and the villages of mud houses along the poor waterways.
This trip proves well above expectations, but we realize that the 600km in 5 days that we had set ourselves are not feasible, and not because we are not prepared, not because we cannot do it, but because it is an environment that it obliges you to its rhythms: everything that surrounds us, the road surface, nature, people, everything forces you to live them, to breathe them, to enjoy what little they can give you, but which has a fundamental importance.
Km after km we learn to understand the territory and we learn to manage breaks to eat something, to find dried fruit and especially drinking water, at every occasion we fill our bottles and eat something. In each village, even the smallest, you have the opportunity to eat and find supplies. Only in the most high altitude areas it is really difficult to find something, but even if scattered in the most remote corners of the High Atlas, one survives.
We still have with us the necessary for cooking and sleeping: stove, pots, cutlery, tent, mattress and sleeping bag, the bike packer kit, and of course our Cutthroats, which made us feel comfortable despite being loaded as mules: in my opinion, the best adventure bike.
And so it was also when, on the second day, less than 6km from Anergui, our daily destination, after 90 difficult kms, 30 of which immersed in an extraordinary gorge, despite an old Berber shepherd which stopped us and tried to tell us something, we faced a landslide that literally blocks every passage of the gorge; after an initial patrol on foot, all we had to do is load the bikes on our shoulders and face the unknown: in this case too, our Salsa were easily pedaled, making us overcome the effort made and letting ourselves be guided to the Gite where we had to stay overnight.
The third day is the most difficult one due to the altitude, starting immediately with 1700m D +, which however proves to be simpler than expected: the road surface is asphalted or gravel, but well maintained, and it makes things a lot easier. The first hours of the day pass quickly, we relax despite the climb, we enjoy the views and the journey without difficulty.
We ride km without realizing it and crossing very few people: we are in the heart of the High Atlas, halfway through the crossing. In the evening we spend the night in Agoudal, in the highest Gite in altitude of the Atlas, at 2500mt, a mandatory stop for the crossing. On the front door an unknown number of stickers of the various past events of them: enduro motorcycles, off-road vehicles and also the one of our Maurizio Doro, who depicted him, perhaps in the early 90s, with a steel mtb with 26 ‘wheels and a trekking backpack on his shoulders: a hero!
The evening gives us an incredible starry, the milky way can be touched with a finger, the best feeling of freedom.
The following morning, due to a misunderstanding with the Gite boy, we left at 5.30 am without breakfast. The first pedal strokes immediately make us taste the bitter cold of the high altitude, -5 ° maybe even less, the first part all downhill, dressed with everything we had, the cold affects us, especially the hands, which just don’t warm up, and we can not wait to start the climb, a climb that will lead us to overcome the last step, over 3000mt.
The sun begins to peep and kissed by the first rays we allow ourselves a tea with biscuits: 15 minutes of peace and mental refreshment before the final climb, a breakfast with the stove and a fire lit with a few dry branches.
After several kilometers of ascent, we reach the top almost at lunchtime and we are enchanted to watch the show behind us. As soon as we cross the plateau at a high altitude, we remain dazed for what we are entitled to: 20km of gentle descent that will take us to the Dades gorges, giving us an increasingly incredible panorama, meter by meter, so vast and imposing that it seems like we are able to touch it with a finger but that actually makes you feel so small and vulnerable in the face of nature, capable of creating such a spectacular painting.
From then on, everything would have been downhill, in the true sense of the word: We can say that our journey is over with the arrival at the gorges and the crossing. The last night we spend in a camping in Tamellalt adjacent to the Dades gorges, knowing that the next day we will face the last 100km by bike to move to Skoura, where we will take a taxi to return to Demnate, to the Gite where our trip began.
The decision to get to Skoura we made it along the way.
Do not underestimate the journey back to Demnate by taxi, 5h30 ‘of curves, ascents and descents immersed in the Atlas, practically another crossing.
The only thing that I regret a little is the time: I would have liked more days, to be able to complete the track we had set ourselves, but I know that even if it had been 7, 10 or 15 days, in the way we lived this experience it would have never been enough, because it was the trip you didn’t expect.
Last but not least, I understand those who fall in love with Morocco after experiencing it, and I feel lucky to be part of it, because I have not only seen it, I lived it. —