Day 11: Tata to Igherm

Wednesday April 17, 2013, 90 km (56 miles) – Total so far: 993 km (617 miles)

The heat in the tent during the night was nearly unbearable, I was coated in a fine layer of sweat and my hair was dripping wet as I lay there trying to get to sleep in the stuffy air. The temperatures in this part of Morocco during the night were surprisingly high. After an hour or so leaking a worrying amount of sweat I finally drifted off!

Rising early I dismantled and packed up the tent as well as I could, stocked up on food and water for the day and heading out of Tata. My route today would at first take me through some flat desert and small hills to the small village of Tagmoute before starting to climb high into the mountains and up to the village of Igherm which rests just below 2000m.

Tata Main Street
The flat road out of Tata

I made my way out of Tata with a fantastic wind building up behind me. It blew me along the flat desert all the way to the start of the first hills. The hills and mountains in the area I was cycling into were something to behold. Huge rock formations seemed to jut up out of nowhere and each of them were coated in strange swirling designs for the majority of their length. They made for a pretty unusual sight.

The road I was taking cut in and around these mountains winding it’s way gently up the valley floor. This gently rising road would take me all the way to the small village of Tagmoute located on the edge of an oasis. The road was extremely quiet and the scenery was great so I had a lovely morning winding my way up the valley.

If anyone is cycling this road, there is a campsite part of the way along this route around 15km outside Tata as far as I remember but note that it only opens in the winter time, I’m not sure of the exact dates but it had been closed for a good while when I passed by. Other than this, along the way there was very little in the way of life, I came across a herd of camels by the side of the road at one stage but that was it all the way to Tagmoute.

The first hills
An example of the strange rock formations that accompanied me all day

Arriving into the village of Tagmoute I was absolutely starving. All I had eaten all morning was some bread/nutella and a couple of small snacks. I cycled by the main square of Tagmoute without even realising it due to the small size of it and the lack of shops. I went searching for some cooked food but all I could find were 2 small shops in the entire village. Wandering into one of the shops I attempted to ask where the nearest place to get some “mekla” (fast food) would be. Everyone in the shop was in agreement that there was no “mekla” in the entire town. I had been hoping to stock up on a big meal here to give me energy for the huge climbs that would await me after leaving Tagmoute. However it looked like I would have to fuel myself on snacks. I raided the shop of cakes, biscuits, chocolate bars and crisps and packed my panniers full. I’d need it for the climb ahead. After a quick chat about Messi and Ronaldo (two names that everyone in the world, no matter where they are seem to hold in reverence!) I made my way back onto the bike and winded my way through the outskirts of Tagmoute.

The first few kilometres cycling after Tagmoute were fantastic. I winded my way through a beautiful oasis, covered in the shade of the palm trees towering over me on either side. All good things must come to an end and this one came quite abruptly. I was spat out of the oasis and soon the road started to rise sharply. What followed was the toughest section of climbing I had done on the trip so far.

The outskirts of Tagmoute
Cycling through the large oasis after Tagmoute
One of the many small lizards that you see darting across the roads in this region
An impressive location for a house/tomb

The climb started steeply and continued the exact same for 6-7 kilometres. The gradient was brutal and there was no let up at all, it was one of the most unadulterated climbs I have ever done. I put my headphones in with some fast music and tried to set a good rhythm up the climb. I was only averaging 6-8km/h up these hills and the climbing and the heat were so intense that I had to take breaks nearly every kilometre. It was a serious struggle but I finally made my way out of the lush valley and into the barren mountains above.

I spent the next few kilometres winding around barren mountains with some great views down below either side of me. The landscape for this section was very barren with not many signs of life. Slowly I started to see more and more greenery until I was back in another lush landscape. I continued on through some great scenery climbing all the way to the small village of Igherm at just below 2000m.

An example of some of the horrible climbing this road had to offer!
One of the several terraced fields that were built along the side of the road
Looking back with most of the climbing now behind me
Passing small villages on the way into Igherm

Having eaten no proper food all day I rolled into Igherm and was instantly on the search for food. I spent 10 minutes searching but there were no street food or restaurants and the cafes were only serving drinks. I finally found one cafe selling small items of food. The omelette was the only substantial thing on the menu so I ordered two and quickly devoured them. After this I still had to decide what to do for the night. There was still a small bit of light left so I had the option of either looking for a hotel here or heading out of town on the road to Tafraoute and looking for a wild camping spot. I hadn’t done any wild camping on the trip yet so I headed out of town in the direction of Tafraoute. The light was quickly fading and I was getting some strange looks heading out of the village at this time. I started on the climb out of the village and into the countryside.

I was a bit outside of the village now on one of the climbs when a car passed me, turned a corner and then pulled in at the side of the road. I passed on by and continued up the hill. Checking back, the driver of the car was on his mobile to someone while looking up the road. I continued on around a hairpin thinking nothing of it. Towards the top of the hairpin I looked back again and it seems the guy had caught me looking at him as he started the car up again and drove on. I was waiting for the car to pass me but it never did.

Being a bit edgy I doubled back a bit and noticed that he had pulled up a bit further up the road hidden from view. The fact I was in a foreign country, in the middle of the countryside, as it was turning dark fueled my imagination. I was nervous about looking for somewhere to camp and was therefore edgy and perhaps overly paranoid. Due to this, something felt off, maybe it was just my overactive imagination but it was like the driver of the car was almost following me. The fact he had pulled into the side of the road and pulled out his mobile phone just as he passed me had set off alarm bells in my head.

Honestly it was most likely just a coincidence but like I said, I was edgy and did not want to take a chance on it. Maybe I was being stupid but it just didn’t feel right so I chickened out and descended the country road to the village, locking eyes with the man who was still on the phone as I passed. I sped into the village and headed for a run down hotel which I had passed earlier. This place was pretty damn bad. The room I was shown had crumbs all over the bed and again it looked like the sheets hadn’t been changed in over a year. On the bright side thought it was only 30DH (€3) for the night! This place didn’t even have the police forms that you are supposed to fill out in every hotel in Morocco to say exactly where you have spent the night. Due to this I assume it is not registered and is only supposed to be for Moroccans to stay in. Either way I was glad to get some form of a room for the night. I again doused myself in insect spray and drifted off to the sound of traffic passing by the window outside. It had been another tough yet scenic day and I had another tough one ahead tomorrow.

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