Amizmiz, Morocco
31° 13' N 8° 15' W
Apr 13, 2008 11:27
Distance 53km

Text written in: English

Cycling the Moroccan Hills

The day our tour began we were all breakfasted and rearing to go at 8:30am, but, as luck would have it, the bus company sent the wrong size mini bus for our group.  There was no way that 13 people and their gear for 9 days was going to fit in!  So, we were left waiting around for a bigger one.  It came but only had seat belts in the front seats.  So, Mike and Jude drew the short straw and sat in the front of a mini bus following along behind all our new companions.  The drive to the start of our mountain bike was only 1 hour away so we chatted to the driver in hand signals.  He did not speak English and we do not speak Arabic, French or Berber. 

Part way into the trip, our driver stopped on the side of the road and jumped out.  He opened the bonnet and we thought - oh my, what is going on here!  He pulled out a large piece of newspaper, hopped back in and got us on the road again.  Only in Morocco!

Just after a town called Amizmiz, we met our bike guide Rasheed and bike mechanic Mohammhed who were taking us on a 40 km ride in the foothills of the Atlas mountains.  Mohamhed was driving a support vehicle with all the supplies for fixing our styley GT machines.  He was also there in case there were people who couldn't handle the pace and wanted a break. 

8km into the ride Rasheed informs us that his Berber friends have invited us over for morning tea.  Apparently this is not usual on these tours and we were really lucky to get to experience Berber hospitality so early in the tour and so unexpectedly.  Everyone was very pleased to tuck into the large hunks of Berber flat bread dipped in olive oil, which is the traditional Berber breakfast.  We also got treated to some fresh mint tea.  Rasheed even gave us a fabulous demonstration of how it is made.  Dry green tea herb is used along with a very generous bunch of freshly picked mint.  The herbs as well as a very LARGE chunk of sugar is stirred into boiling water and left to brew.  The result is a super sweet minty drink served in small shot type glasses.  Very refreshing.  You have to say "Saha" to everyone before you drink.

Bloated, we hopped back on our bikes again to check out back country Morocco at handle bar height.  The trip followed the Oued river, crop terraces and olive groves up into the hills.  There were some amazing downhill sections where we were absolutely flying.  Rasheed was a great guide.  Rasheed, Justin, Mike and Jude made it to the top of the ride a good 30 minutes before everyone else.  So, we had a good break and time to quiz Rasheed on Morocco.  He spoke French, Arabic, Berber and English!  We were soon to learn that most people in Morocco were like that - in fact, some speak Spanish as well!  He gave us a geography lesson by drawing pictures into the dirt - most amusing.  Mike also drew a fantastic map of New Zealand so that we could show him where we come from. 

We said good bye to our bikes in the Ourgaine valley where we had a late lunch and then did the drive to Imlill (1 hour) where we met our mountain guide Houssain.  He took us on a 45 minute walk to Aremd where his family live.  This was to be our homestay for the next 2 nights.  

Photos / videos of "Cycling the Moroccan Hills":

All ready and rearing to go for our bike ride... only to find out the mini bus will not fit us all in! The beginning of our 40 km ride through the Moroccan countryside.  Its a beautiful and rather hot day!  Lucky there was lots of downhill. View from the saddle Jude enjoying a morning cycle in Morocco. Mike had the first and only injury of the whole trip.  AND, it was only the first day!  His shorts got caught on his handlebars and Mike went flying.  No more baggy shorts on bikes from now on! Busting it up those pink clay roads. Jude going for it, not too much uphill to go! Mike, riding hard on his bike. Mike, Justin and our bike guide Rasheed.  Rasheed was a great guy who even took us to his mates place in the hills for morning tea - sweent mint tea, berber bread and olive oil.  What a treat!