Day 13: Tafraoute to Ait Baha Region

Friday April 19, 2013, 74 km (46 miles) – Total so far: 1,163 km (723 miles)

The day started off rather lazily, I had 2 days to cover the 150 kilometres to the airport so knew I could take it easy. Upon checking my bike in the morning I discovered I had a puncture. I turned my bike upside down in front of the cafe/hotel and set about the slowest puncture repair I’d done in a while. Once finished I was offered some mint tea by two older Dutch tourists who were staying in the same hotel.

We sat for well over an hour discussing and debating all manner of different topics like the increasing pervasiveness of technology on modern life, the intricacies of the economy, how to determine success in life, whether democracy is a viable political structure and the ethics behind begging and giving money to charity, among various other topics that sprung up! It was nearly too early for a long chat like that but it was an interesting way to start the day. I thanked them for the tea and conversation and headed out of Tafraoute to start the long climb I had been putting off all morning.

For the first part of the morning I had to retrace my route back up the mountain pass which I had descended the evening before, a gut busting 400m climb! It was nearly 12 by the time I reached the bottom slopes so I had the strongest heat of the day to accompany me on the way up.

The steep mountains lining the valley
A busy mosque in the middle of the countryside
Looking back down Tafraoute Valley
The final hairpin

After another good workout I reached the viewing point at the top and sat back relaxing in the sun. After a quick chat with some friendly Moroccan guys who stopped in their car, I began the final part of the climb which turned south, off the road which I had taken yesterday. There was a bit more climbing than I had thought there would be but I was well rewarded. What followed was a dead straight descent which plunged me into the next valley. I let go of the brakes and went for it, reaching a new top speed, just over 67km/h. It’s not that fast realistically but on a touring bike with loaded panniers it felt pretty damn fast, my ears even popped on the way down.

Resting at the top of the climb
The lads who stopped for a photo
The road north

After a good start to the day the rest of it ended up being quite frustrating. Rain clouds descended into the valley I was travelling through and it rained for the first time on the trip. I like coming to hot countries like this in the Spring/Summer as I’m nearly guaranteed no rain for the entire trip. Being from Ireland where it rains most of the year this is a pretty big thing so it was a kick in the teeth to get rain just as I was on the home stretch.

To be honest though, the rain wasn’t really that bad, it was the strong headwind and the design of the road that frustrated me the most. I was cursing the designers of the road as it climbed higher and higher along the edge of the valley. Each short descent seemed to be followed by a longer climb. Silently cursing the road designers for my deflated mood I kept going and finally rounded a corner to see a downward gradient sloping away in the distance. The sun had come out again just in time and just like that my mood went right back up again. It’s amazing the way a combination of the weather and the road can affect your mood so much on trips like this.

Feeling good again I glided downhill along the side of the valley in the sunshine for the next hour. There were some huge drops into the valley below which made for some great views.

Sheets of rain closing in
Kasbah Tizourgane

The light was beginning to fade so I had to decide what to do for accommodation. I hadn’t wild camped on the trip yet and this valley seemed like an awesome place to pitch a tent so I kept an eye out for some wild camping spots. I scouted out a few places and on my third attempt I found a lovely clearing hidden below the road overlooking the valley below.

This spot was perfect so I set about putting up my tent in the clearing. I left the flysheet off the tent as it was far too warm at night around here to leave it on. With the tent set up I sat back eating my now staple diet of bread/nutella while watching the sun set over the valley.

The road skirting the edge of the valley
My wild camping spot for the night

I ended up having a surprisingly great nights sleep as the road was pretty quiet during the night. From my tent I could see the lights of the towns in the valley below me and the stars high above me in the sky. I drifted off to these sights and to the sound of drums and singing drifting down from a village high above me in the valley.

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