Moroccan Road Adventure Day 4
Saddle Skedaddle Moroccan Road Adventure Day 4 – 3rd November 2015
Oulad Berhil to Tafraout - 58 miles – 5740ft
After the chilly conditions of yesterday’s ride, today was welcomingly warm. Over half of the day would be spent on the ascent of three passes, with a few plateaus and small descents in between before the final downhill run in to Tafraout. Initially, the gradient was perfectly manageable, ranging between 3- 5% but the further in to the climb, the more the road pitched up to a fairly consistent 7-8%, with the odd 12-15% spike thrown in just to keep us on our toes - or out of the saddle as was the case for me!
With it being much warmer today, Saaid had instructed the support team to leave water bottles by the roadside for everyone to fill up on. Hpwever, when we approached them Saaid decided they’d been left too early in the climb and needed to be taken further up. It wasn’t going to be possible for him to carry both bottles on his bike, so I volunteered to help. Now that was a first for me; cycling up a mountain should be challenge enough, but choosing to do so one-handed whilst trying to manage the weight of a 10ltr water bottle in the other hand? Crazy, right? I managed it though, with only a small reduction in the pace I had previously been going along at. After a few miles I reached the telecoms mast that Saaid had told me to leave the water by and set it down by the roadside before continuing my ascent to the top of the first pass. I was greeted by the sight of the support vehicle and as has now become customary I yelled out “Hey Omar!” mimicking the often repeated words of Saaid whenever he needed something.
“Hey! Well Done!” came Omar’s reply before he returned to the meal preparations. I dismounted and found myself a nice perch to rest on and take in the views around me, including the ruins of an old Kasbah and abandoned garden terraces just across from where we’d be taking lunch in the shade of some Argan trees.
Lunch despatched and water bottles refilled it was time to continue the climb. The second one was ever so slightly steeper, requiring a little more effort and a little more time out of the saddle to push through. The reward for all that effort was waiting just at the top of the pass; the support vehicle with it’s snack bucket filled with fresh dates, nuts and mini chocolate bars to ensure our energy levels were kept topped up. I pulled off the road and grabbed a handful of dates as a trio of Berber women stepped out of a nearby house and watched with curiosity as person after lycra-clad person arrived. An older lady passed by on the opposite side of the street saying something to me and laughing as she went. I didn’t understand any of what she’d said, but by the way she was gesturing I guessed it was something to do with the amount of leg I had on display (sorry Velominati, I am a flagrant breaker of rule#7), as I had the legs of my shorts rolled right up to avoid getting tan lines across the middle of my thighs whilst cycling along in the sun. Past the hottest part of the pay, perhaps she was right, so I moved the material back down to the intended position. After the next climb it would be descending all the way in to Tafraoute so it was best to cover up a touch against the cooler afternoon breeze.
Once everyone had joined us at the top of the second pass, rested and munched on snacks we were back on the road and making our way up to the third and final pass of the day. Just ahead was a local man, well covered in a heavy looking track suit and cycling along on a very heavy looking steel framed bike. It seemed almost rude to overtake him so initially let him lead the way, but as the slope tipped slightly more upwards one by one we passed him by with a little nod to his efforts as we went. Steeper again than the two before we chipped away at the distance to the top. This time the reward for reaching it was the view down in to the valley, the valley we would soon be hurtling down. With the sun on it’s way to setting we layered up quickly and wasted no time attacking the descent. There is just nothing like this anywhere near where I live; long, twisting roads, snaking their way in a downward spiral and my confidence on the bends was increasing daily as I learned how to shift my weight to guide the bike round the corners.
Bombing along at a little over 40mph with little to no use of the brakes is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, or a very small part of you (ok, maybe a big part) and eggs you on to go faster still, if only you dare! The light was fading fast and the lights we had were not sufficient to see us safely in to the town centre where our accommodation was so our support vehicles escorted us the remainder of the way, whilst mother nature subjected us to a stunning display of colour as the sun dipped below the horizon.
It had been a good, but long days riding and we were happy to have reached the hotel and even more happy that tomorrow was a rest day!