Moroccan Road Adventure Day 3
Saddle Skedaddle Moroccan Road Adventure Day 3 – 2nd November 2015
Ijoukak to Oulad Berhil 53.9 miles – 3840ft
As the saying goes, what a difference a day makes! We awoke to find the day gloriously sunny but Saaid had warned us not to be too optimistic about what was to come as it was sure to be cooler once we reached Tiz-n-test, the highest point on today’s route and the highest paved road in Africa! There was however the promise of a fabulous view across the valleys far below so it would be worth the climb.
Beginning the journey by heading to the beautiful 12th Century Tinmal Mosque, it was an easy start and the brightly shining sun soon had everyone peeling off outer layers. Remembering Saaid’s comments from earlier we all stashed our warmer garments in our jersey pockets for later, though the support van would meet us at the top of the pass for lunch so we could leave more layers with them, if we had them that is! Leaving the mosque behind, the climb towards the pass felt no more challenging than any of the previous days in terms of the gradient and as we got higher up, bathed in sunshine the jerseys started to be unzipped. Just where was this coolness we’d been warned about? If anything we were feeling a lot warmer as we ascended.
Well within a few snakes up the mountain that question was soon answered as the goose bumps began to prickle up my arms and the view began to disappear in to the mist that lay up ahead. Whipping my windproof jacket out of my back pocket I contemplated how I might possibly get it on without stopping when I hear a shout from behind “I’d stop and do it Helen!” It was S, who had been diligently keeping me in her sights as the mist had thickened and it became clear that we were actually now in a low lying cloud.
Deciding she was right, I paused momentarily to shrug my jacket on and get moving again as quickly as possible. I was also now keenly aware of the need to pee! The colder I got, the more this need impressed upon me and being a mountain there are not many opportunities to relieve oneself, particularly not if you’re a female! Fortunately, thanks to the cloud swirling around us visibility was limited so I yelled back to S & Saaid (who had now caught up) to stay where they were as I trounced up the mountain until they were obscured from view. Happy that no-one could see me I chose the only flat surface available and assumed “the position”. No sooner had I done this I heard the distant rumble of a vehicle. They say you can’t hurry love, well it appears that you can’t hurry a pee either, because try as I might, I could not go any faster. So there I was crouched on the mountainside with my bare bottom exposed to the truck load of men that was now rolling by. The only thing I could think to do to make me feel less awkward was to smile and wave as called out a cheery “Bonjour!” It made them laugh anyway!
That small amount of embarrassment over with and needing to keep moving I called down that it was now “safe” for Saaid and S to proceed and we all pushed on with the temperature dropping more as we climbed further up. Saaid had promised us lunch at the top in a café called La Belle Vue, ordinarily that may have been the case but not today as the low clouds had completely filled the air. The lack of view was not a concern, but getting warm was and like manna from the gods there in the corner of the café was a roaring fire. We immediately swarmed around it¸ assembling chairs to maximise the number of people within reach of the heat that was emanating from the hearth. One by one more shivering cyclists arrived and we rotated around so those just arriving could sit closest whilst we all keenly awaited the lunch that Omar was busy preparing for us.
Cockles warmed with a hearty soup and omelette we braced ourselves for the descent, torn between wanting to go to fast to get back to the warmth of the sun as quickly as possible and needing to go slowly because we couldn’t see more than a few metres in front of us we opted for somewhere in the middle, stringing ourselves out so the person behind always had a view of someone just ahead and eventually we broke free of the cloud and in to the sun. That made the rest of the descent a whole lot more fun as hands no longer needed to be clamped tightly round the brakes. We happily gave in to gravity and let the bikes freewheel the rest of the way down the mountain in to Oulad Berhil.