Road to Taroudant – Doing the Funky Chicken

Cycling from from Agadir to Taroudant on a bikepacking trip in Morocco, a story on the road to Taroudant.

I woke up alone in a single bed which was good, because neither of us would have slept if we had been sharing it. Morning sun light bounced off the green gloss painted walls of our room when I threw back the curtains. The sky was blue and my tummy was rumbling. We showered and went for breakfast. Several coffees, orange juices, croissants and pieces of bread smothered in amlou later, we bounced the bikes down the hotel staircase.

‘Fancy a coffee for the road?’ I asked hopefully. Dan looked at me with a face that said, ‘We slept late, we took ages over breakfast and we should get going,’ then from his mouth, the words, ‘If you really want one…’

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if I wanted one or not, but I always feel a bit apprehensive before setting out on a ride that takes me into the hunger zone, which for me is about two hours. Interestingly, there are thousands of shops and cafes in Morocco, probably tens of thousands, maybe even millions and they’re scattered all over the place. Yet still, I have a fear of starvation, despite the bike being loaded with 2kg of dried fruit and nuts for emergencies, not to mention noodles, soup, porridge and the all important tea bags. Just before we hit the road, we picked up a couple of oranges and bananas to be on the safe side. I can get a little bit irritable when I’m hungry, some call this hangry. I do everything I can to avoid it.

morocco high dan12 2014-12-14 001Dan had selected a route that mostly kept us away from the main roads. We followed small paved and tarred roads through the flat valley of the Oued Souss, where there was little traffic.

village in the oued souss valleyWe rode past wetlands, villages and surprisingly green countryside. There was a lot of water in the river and with it life. Songbirds in the trees, cormorants and herons in the lagoons and a stork nesting high on a minaret. I had hoped to see flamingos, but it was not on the cards this time. There were tractors towing ploughs and farm workers scattering seeds by hand some goats in the Argan trees.

goats in argan treesBananas flourished under enormous polytunnels and orange trees sagged with crops of clementines or satsumas. (I can’t tell the difference though Dan claims he can). Everything looked fresh and crisp, like an army of OCD cleaners had been brought in for a spring clean.

morocco 2014 high atlas 2014-12-15 015We took shade breaks and photo breaks and the all important lunch break. Our arrival in Issen seemed timely for a spot of lunch . It’s not always possible to order from a menu in Morocco, best to have a look and see what’s available. If you see a coffee machine, you will probably find coffee, if you see a tagine on display outside a place, then tagine will be available and if you see upturned bowls on a table with date stones scattered on the ground, there will be harira and if you smell burnt oil, you can possibly get hot chips. If you see a menu that has two dozen choices, don’t get overly excited, prepare yourself to find that only a few of these will actually be available and remember that couscous should only be eaten on Friday.

genesis ioId with wildcat gear and alpkit luggageDan went inside to see what we could eat; meanwhile, I sat in a chair stretching my legs. Squinting against the light to see what he was up to, I turned around to see him making a chicken impression. This looked particularly daft as he had his bike helmet on and the chin strap was waving as wildly as he was. Next thing I see is him squatting and reaching around as if he was about to catch a poop. He held the imaginary object up to show the man in the kitchen then began shaking his right hand up and down at the speed of light. I almost wet myself from laughing so much. I should say that Dan speaks a reasonable mount of French and even a few words of Arabic though he’d taken sign language to a new level.

omelette and cokeHere’s the result of the charade.

moroccan day moth or butterflyThis wee fella dropped in to say hello. Any idea what it is?

On we went, past cactus hedges and olive trees, easy miles on narrow lanes.

cactus hedge on the road to taroudantWhen I see plants, I see food. This is a prickly pear that is not quite ripe. They have a bright red flesh which is sweet and juicy  when the skin reddens.

prickly pearA pair of dogs lay sleeping under the shade of a tree, another lay bloated at the side of the road in a forever sleep.

‘Did you see that dead dog?’

‘What?’

I pedalled harder to catch up with Dan.

‘Did you see the dead dog?’

‘No. You’re the one who keeps seeing road kill.’

I found it hard to believe he hadn’t see it as it was the size of small donkey. A few minutes later he stopped. I came alongside to see why and found a tortoise. It looked very much like a rock.

tortoise under the bicycle wheeltortoise and rock‘There, I do see things.’ He said, smugly.

Then we came across a pair of tortoises going at it hammer and tongs in the middle of the road. Dan told me to move them to safety. I rolled my eyes and rode off.

copulating tortoisesFor a while, I felt a bit guilty, but soon there was a welcome distraction, a couple of plastic chairs and a table at the side of the road. It was time for tea.

I needed the loo, but as there wasn’t one, we pedalled off towards Taroudant for the final leg of the day, bewitched by the snow capped mountains to our left and the moped loaded with a couple of bicycles that passed by.

You may have noticed I have a new Brooks saddle that I decided to ‘break in’ on this trip. I was advised against this but felt that it would be a good test. I was slipping forward for most of the 73km ride and decided to make an adjustment when we got to Hotel Chambres des amis.

The end of the road to Taroudant

As we closed in on the city’s walls, I saw a mosque that looked familiar. I told myself it was silly to think that. After all, there are many mosques, however, I was right. We’d stayed at Said’s guest house before and we rode straight to the door.

mosque beside chambres des amisSaid had been expecting us and greeted us warmly. He even gave us our old room and filled us in on the events of the last year. He told us about the devastating floods that we’d missed only a few weeks earlier and that hundreds of people had lost their lives. Crops had been destroyed, bridges had been swept away and livestock had been drowned. He said it had been the worst flooding in living memory. He also told us of his first trip to Paris, his eyes wide as he relived the adventure. Heated homes were a surprise to him and the cost of coffee a shock.

We unpacked and prepared for a visit to the hammam. I could hardly wait to get into the hot rooms and take a long slow wash. I decided to have a scrub too, as a treat.

hammam in TaroudantI felt like a newborn baby afterwards and had a cup of tea before going into town for dinner and an early night. The muezzin’s soft call would come before dawn.


You may have missed
Part 1 – 48 hours in Marrakech

And if you have more time and want the next installments
Part 3 – To the waters and the wild
Part 4 – Highs and Lows on the road to aoulouz
Part 5 – Riding in the slipstream

 

Meraid Griffin

Freelance writer, adventurer and public speaker. Descibed in the Sunday Times as a 'modest explorer'. Nothing modest about me.

4 Comments:

  1. Brilliant

  2. Jem (Sooper8)

    Wow, what a story you tell! Great write up.
    That wee beasty looks amazing; it had ‘see through’ bits on the wing. Some insect spotting person must be able to identify that quite easily?
    Is that true about couscous only on a Friday?

    • Meraid Griffin

      Thank you.
      Couscous is traditionally eaten on Fridays after prayers.
      I’m hoping someone will tell me what the creature is, my hunch is a day moth of some kind.

Fancy sharing your thoughts