Highs and Lows on the road to Aoulouz

There is a wonderfully restored Riad in Ouled Berhil that you’ll find in guide books and where we stayed last year, however, we stayed at a small budget hotel you won’t find in any book. Surprisingly, we had a private bathroom with a flush toilet and there was a TV if Moroccan soaps float your boat. Talking of soap, it’s rarely provided so bring your own or you can buy hotel sized bars in any shop for about 1 dirham. When we arrived, we passed Imini Pizzeria and found this hotel about 100 metres further along on the opposite side of the street.

Since the freshly made vegetarian pizzas and chips were so good last night, and a most welcome change from tagines, couscous and brochettes, we decided to return for breakfast.

With full bellies, we returned to the hotel to discover punctures three and four. Once again plans for an early start were scuppered. By the time we finally hit the road it was noon and I was almost ready for lunch.
somewher between ouled berhill and aoulouz

No sooner than we had we left town, we hit the dirt, a narrow hedge lined, baked mud soft rolling trail. Pretty soon we arrived at a village – Tlat Lmnabha Igoudar, not that you would know it, as there aren’t any signs. However that’s what it says on the electronic map though it’s also known as Souk Tieta Igoudar on a detailed paper one. Some towns are named after the days that markets are held, hence the name souk, the Berber word for market.

Souk el Had – Sunday (first market)

Souk el Tnine – Monday (second market)

Souk el Tieta – Tuesday market

Souk el Arba – Wednesday market

Souk el Khamees – Thursday market

Souk el Sebt – Saturday market

As we didn’t arrive on a Tuesday, the village was empty, a complete contrast to our previous visit which happened to fall on the busy market day. We ate a snack and picked up some lunch, the usual, bread and triangle cheese. To add variety, we stocked up on a couple of dry Madeline cakes.

road ouled berhill to aoulouz

We made a slight error after crossing a bridge, we zigged when we should have zagged and ended up on the tarred road.

kasbah ruinA quick backtrack to the fork had us on the right path to the ruins of a Kasbah where I had a quick comfort break. Eventually we were back on the road which was quiet, with only light traffic.morocco high dan0 2014-12-16 003

It’s extremely pleasant riding the roads this way, side by side, chatting, laughing and sharing what we’re thinking. Vehicles of all sizes toot to let you know they are coming so there is time to move into single file. Cycling the road to Aoulouz is fun.

morocco meraid griffin cycling road to Aoulouz

Drivers are courteous, giving a wide berth, waving and sometimes calling out encouragement on hills and tough stretches as if they remember well how tiring cycling can be. Quite often they look back when they realise I’m a woman and not exactly young.

Sugar cane, olives and pumpkins grew in the fields, peas were in the pre bloom stage and farmers sowed new seeds, taking every advantage of the moist soil. There are winners and losers after the rains; an old man, wearing a dusty brown djellaba and a blue turban, his face weary, stood near a neat pile of breeze blocks, resting. He was leaning on a shovel, in the midst of his home, a collapsed heap of mud and thatch. A couple of thin floral mattresses and a broken fridge lay discarded at the roadside, a few salvaged belongings carefully stacked under a tarp. I shed a tear and pedalled slowly, not consciously, more that I was looking for something to lift my spirits. argan nuts
Trees, often planted as a symbol of life and hope, the answer. Today is the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. As I write this blog, listening to stories of the holocaust, I am reminded of Anne Frank, and her love of a single horse chestnut tree she could see from her secret annexe. In her diary, she wrote:

‘Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.’

The argan trees were full of yellow nuts that looked like lemon drops and that prompted a song, not all of it of course, just the lines I could remember. Somewhere Over the Rainbow ‘Where trouble melts like lemon drops, way above the chimney tops…’ not the Judy Garland version, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ukulele one with a sort of reggae beat. My speed and spirits picked up and we found ourselves in Aoulouz.

There are two hotels in town Hotel Souss and Hotel Sahara, both cheap, about eight euro each and both with shared bathrooms and squat toilets. Now we were at an altitude of 700m we would rest. Rest? Dan and I live by the sea, where there are no hills worth talking about. We needed to acclimatise, honest, but first we had to eat.

Chips, bread and tea arrived promptly. A wasp landed on Dan’s neck and he slapped it. He jumped up; flailing his arms wildly and I could see it had dropped inside his t-shirt. I never saw anyone pull a top off so quickly. I was glad it wasn’t me, bad enough that Dan was in a café with a bare chest, I may have caused an even bigger stir.

hotel sahara aoulouz

With the drama over and just a small swelling from the wasp encounter, we finished our food and booked into Hotel Sahara. Rooms facing the road are the warmest.

bikes in the garage at hotel sahara

Bikes stored in the garage.

shopping in aoulouzWe bought shampoo, a toilet roll and a sachet of washing powder then stopped for a quick donut and glass of tea on our way to the hammam.

donut and tea in aoulouz

That night, I had a tagine for dinner and Dan had an omelette. He ordered a vegetable tagine for dinner the following evening. They had never made one before!
washing clothes at hotel sahara aoulouz

Next day, was laundry day. We spent the morning on the rooftop scrubbing and rinsing everything. I’d forgotten how hard this work is, even watching can be exhausting.

laundry on the rooftop at hotel sahara

morocco 2014 high atlas 2014-12-18 002Later on, I called my mum and dad, I wanted to check in and wish them happy christmas, just in case I didn’t have any wifi for a while. Dad answered and said, he’d seen a few of my pictures on Facebook. ‘Your mother said, “Does that Meraid one have no shame? Putting a photo of her smalls on the Facebook for the whole world to see.” ‘
Me and dad had a good giggle.

Tea and msemmen in aoulouz

We took tea and msemmen before climbing a hill above the town. On our way, we passed a house that was shared by a cow, a turkey and a couple of chickens. A little girl tried to sneak a photograph of me on her phone. Everyone has a phone, even if they are old style and this has caused many Tele-boutiques to close down. Since my first visit to Morocco in 2011, I’ve noticed a drop in the number of cyber cafes, internet access by phone growing in popularity. I turned to the young girl, invited her to take the shot. She came closer, her smile widening with every step.

sunset over aoulouz dan watches

We watched the sun melt away and returned for dinner and an early night. The vegetable tagine was a winner. I had ‘moo’ tagine, even though I’d asked for ‘baa’.

The full mapped route Agadir to Ouarzazate 

If you missed the earlier part of the story, here are the links
Part 1 Marrakech and a change of  plan
Part 2 Agadir to Taroudant
Part 3 Taroudant to Ouled Berhill
This is part 4
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.

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