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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After the narrow part, the gorge opened up and both groups reunited at a local swimming hole in an oasis before continuing down-canyon together along the wide riverbed. Occasionally an old caravan trail would cut off a large river curve, which provided welcome diversion - sometimes not for bikers with fear of heights :).









You could ofcourse just follow the river bed, because after a while everybody came together again in a maze of gardens and irrigation canals. Really nice biking, and our heartfelt excuses to the kids there, who sometimes ran away screaming in a panic, scared by our sudden appearence.







The last part of the day, at the end in fading light, consisted of wider parts, more gardens and a side-detour to take a look at some prehistoric rock carvings into the upper canyon walls.
All in all a great day!







Instead of bivouacing, we rented a house from the local caïd (mayor). Which proved a lucky decision, because I had to dart for cover during the night from the roof terrace: a storm was rolling in. Not so much rain it seemed, but very strong winds.
In the morning, yesterday's dry river bed was gently flowing - much to the amazement of the locals. It had rained twice in a years' time, without generating a flow. We could cross without getting our feet wet. For now...



The weather didn't improve, with lots of wind and scattered showers. Were we indeed at the border of the western Sahara... ? A shepherd's hut provided temporarily shelter on top of a pass.







What followed was a great singletrack, maybe 20k long and along the flanks of a gorge: left bank brownish limestone, right bank green-grey volcanic rock. Pure all-mountain/enduro bliss...











The trail dropped us toward the plains below, with a dramatic change in scenery, more savanna-like. A pair of giraffe walking between the acacia trees wouldn't have been out of place :).
We just went cross-country across the plain, occasionally picking up a jeep trail, then losing it again. Pure bliss again.





It had been raining off/on for more than 12h now, but the storm winds still managed to blow up dust devils all around us, pretty impressive. At one of the rainjacket on/off stops, we noticed some dark forms in the distance. A herd of dromedaries was nibbling on the acacia's. The edge of the desert indeed!







Back cross-country to a jeeproad and (for once) the stormwind pushing firmly into our backs. Some clocked 42 km/h in their big ring across those plains! But the river crossings proved more and more difficult...







We just managed to cross the same river bed as we did in the morning. Then a palm deep, now sometimes close to half a meter and a strong current.



But that wasn't the end of it. It continued to rain during the night and in the morning we were greeted with below sights. Remember, this is the same river bed that was completely dry two days before. The locals told us that they hadn't seen such water levels for at least 10 years. And it continued to rain...





High time to say goodbye... we had planned a beach ride to cut the transfer back to Agadir in half, but now our priority was to get out of there and just reach Agadir. The problem is that it almost never rains here and the roads are just built across the river beds - without any bridges. We spent hours zigzagging on secundary roads to reach the widest and shallowest crossings. If we had waited a few hours more because it kept pouring and the water kept rising. Here one of our minibusses for the transfer back to Agadir in action.





Oh the irony...



We got to Agadir without mishaps, but in the days afterwards more than 30 people died in the region we just left. The water had kept on rising and by the time we were back home the army was rescuing stranded people by helicopter. A kind of sour end to an otherwise incredible bike trip - many thanks to my fellow fatbikers for the great company and to the Berber people for their generosity and hospitality - we'll be back :)!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Absolutely outstanding. I can only imagine the logistics that go into a trip of that magnitude.
The logistics were straightforward enough, it was scouting the route that was the most difficult part. We wanted to avoid the "beaten bike paths" and do something original. Through a French author of trekking guide books, I met a Berber guide who supposedly is an authority on the lesser-known anti Atlas trails and old, abandoned caravan routes.
Well... he definitely is, but it was probably the first time he had to explain somebody which route to follow and he was not accustomed to using maps (he didn't accompany me on a bike, but drove a 4x4 to the next pick-up point).
We'd sit together every evening during scouting, me with my laptop with a digital topomap of Morocco and him hestitantly pointing to where I should go the next day - to have at least a vague idea where I should be heading. But when I arrived exhausted at camp the next evening, after some "pretty interesting" routefinding, he'd often say "noooo, you shouldn't have taken that trail, it was the other one !!!" :).
The best was a certain day where he had pointed me over a pass saying "once above, straight in front of you, at the other side of the next valley, there's a village. Go to the old school building and ask for the trail to xxx, because otherwise you won't find it".

On top of that pass, no village was to be seen straight ahead... And the trail vanished...The only village anywhere in sight was much to the right. After a lengthy cell phone call it was decided that it should be the correct village. It took me 5 hours to get there, straight down a mountain and into a steep, vertical canyon before I reached the valley floor. When I got to the village, I met a local guy who didn't understand me (and vice versa :)), I called my Berber friend, handed the phone to the local guy and waited until they finished their discussion and I got my phone back. Only to hear "noooo, you're in the wrong village !!!!" :).

So the scouting went somewhat slower than expected... but the upside was that I sometimes, after mistakingly skipping the easy trail, found true gems that were just (barely) bikeable on a fatbike.
We're going to return there next year and already have some good ideas for some "improvements" :)

How about a bivouac with this view !

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Wow! Super adventure. Pretty ballsy w/out guide w/you. You had cell service? Or sat phone?
No sat phone or beacon, just a normal cell phone and a walkie talkie. But mostly a lot of common sense (and WFR 1st aid, mountain guide & bike tech training - together with very well thought out but limited bike pack contents :)). That I'm very comfortable and used to be without company in outdoor settings helps: I like biking or hiking with a bunch of friends or likewise-minded people but I'm perfectly happy on my own too.
Nowadays even more, because I'm a bit out of shape and solo I can always go at my own rythm without any pressure to keep up or risk of blowing up. On my own, I hardly ever stop which makes up for my lack of speed. On descents/tricky terrain & solo I go like 20% slower/with a bigger safety margin than I'd do in company.
Scouting included, I biked almost 3 weeks in a row on this trip and finished much stronger (and feeling a lot better) than I started out. Zero crashes, even on this terrain.
But again, common sense: there were always locals who knew where I was (more or less, if they hadn't screwed up with the track description on the map :)).
The risk of doing a "Aron Ralston"-stunt were thus limited...
 

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Very cool! How'd you settle on this part of the planet? No worries of weirdo international incidents? No bad guys to worry about? Clear it all thru embassy sort of process? Your ride(s), er bike(s) again? Send info off to manufacturer for plug /support on next adventure? Guide at end of each leg w/support stuff? Great adventure!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Very cool! How'd you settle on this part of the planet? No worries of weirdo international incidents? No bad guys to worry about? Clear it all thru embassy sort of process? Your ride(s), er bike(s) again? Send info off to manufacturer for plug /support on next adventure? Guide at end of each leg w/support stuff? Great adventure!!
Morocco is politically pretty stable, especially after the reforms the "young" king started. I had more to worry about in Burkina Faso a good month ago: two days into our stay, the president (read: dictator) decided to have a law "voted" in order to grant him yet again a few extra years at the helm.
Popular revolt ensued, ending in a bunch of torched government buildings, the president fleeing the country, the closing of all borders and the army taking over - all when we were biking there (to support an NGO)... interesting... to say the least. The airspace opened the day our flight back was planned, whew.
But that's another trip report :)

 
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