20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog















I had a nice lie in and then only a 3.5 hour bus ride to get to tineghir but arrived with a raging headache (yellow fever?) and was biting the heads off the various touts. I guess I was like a Berbere with a sore head. I was hungry but decided to lie down for a while before finding a restaurant, I slept for about 2 hours and headed out about 8pm to find everything had shut. It's the Islamic new year today which may explain it, thankfully I always have some spare food in my bag so had snickers and biscuits for supper.

Stop Press, I've just read that Big Sam has been sacked, I head into the hills for one day and it all changes.

I set my alarm for just before sunrise this morning with the intention of hiring a bike and cycling to the Todra Gorge from Tinighir. After a couple of snoozes, I got up, hired the bike from my hotel and headed off. I knew it was 15km there so I was looking at a 30km round trip at least. I gathered very quickly that the bike I'd hired was a dog; front dérailleur not working and stuck on the middle cog, only 2 or 3 or the rear gears working, seat too low but the bell worked. I was knackered after 10 minutes at which point I realised that I'd left with nothing to drink. Again everything was closed but I did pass a small shop where the man got on his ladder and dusted off a half litre bottle of water for 3Dh. Another 5 minutes down (or up) the road I turned a corner and was confronted by an enormous hill, I mean really big, I'm talking hairpin bends here. I got off the bike, sat in the shade and stared at it for 10 minutes. I had a chunky kit kat and a cigarette, always useful for hill climbing and made a decision. I decided to push the bike up and see what was at the top, freewheeling back down again wouldn't be any hardship. It took a while but I got there and my worst thought came true, it dropped back down on the other side. I seriously considered turning back, if I went on I would have to climb it again to get home. Stupidity got the better of me and I whizzed down the other side, it was shallower but longer than the way I'd come up. The road eventually levelled off again, I did start contemplating what I was doing, riding into the desert with very little water left, no idea if any shops were going to be open, my legs were already like jelly and I had a big climb again to get home. Another village appeared and this too had one shop open, I bought the biggest bottle of pop he had and cleaned the poor guy out of change as I only had a 100Dh note.

At least I was now confident that I wasn't going to die of dehydration so carried on a bit further. The road kept fairly flat but every now and again would drop down again, every downhill section made me consider turning around at the fear of not getting back up them. Then I guessed I was there, Gorge View Hotel and names like that filled the next town as the valley narrowed right down. Yet another downhill section let through an Oasis filled with campsites and into the start of the gorge. I wasn't that impressed, it was pretty but far too built up and certainly not something I would cycle 15km to see. I kept doing the next bend trick - "I'll turn round after the next bend, then the next etc". Another steep drop and that was it, I'm going home - but lots of tourist were at the bottom of that hill and I had to see what was there. Thankfully I did because at the bottom the walls of the valley narrowed to about 30m across where the river came through the gorge proper with 300m high walls on both sides. OK, it was very impressive and worth cycling 15km to see but the strong contrast in lighting made it very difficult to photograph and I still had to get home. I cycled a few hundred metres into the gorge where a couple of restaurants have set up under the overhanging walls.

Somehow all my senses of up and down must have been out, cycling back was easy. All the sections I had thought were level had been up hill and most of the steep downhills were gentle climbs going back. I only had to push up the one big hill in the middle, freewheeled more than half of the way and was back in under an hour, no wonder the way there nearly killed me. I was proud of myself, despite the stupidity, I did a 30km bike ride on a non-road-worthy bike with 3 gears, climbing more than 200m, in the desert 1500m above sea level.

As soon as I got back I checked the buses out and found that I could leave within an hour so I went back to the hotel, packed and left, now missing lunch as well as breakfast. I thought I may be able to reach Agadir by the end of the day but fell short at Ouarzazate where I ordered a huge meal before doing anything else.

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