Into the desert

After breakfast we said goodbye to Alicia and Sam. We also met them 20 minutes later when we went to buy something to drink and they had to use a computer at the computer cafè. Last french people!
At four o’clock, we left the hotel on the back of a couple of camels. The ride was not pleasant, so I will probably not do it again. My rear really hurt more than after 100 kilometres in the saddle!

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I can ride backwards!

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After one stop to see the sunset, we arrived in a small village. We got served tea in one of the Berber tents, and also dinner, with some fruits as dessert!

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Then, he taught us to play on some sort of drums, which was really hard, but we got some sounds of it at least!
Finally, we also were far away from the city lights. My camera couldn’t capture the beauty, but beautiful it was!

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More soup!

Sam went and bought bread, and then we ate breakfast on the roof. I cooked more tea, and it seems like you really need a high amount of sugar for Moroccan tea. Andrew and I went with a grand taxi to Rissani (four people in the back seat, three in the front seat) as I needed to withdraw money. There were no ATMs in Merzouga…
We also went by the market, and we ate some sort of “Berber pizza” for lunch (which be haggled down from 49 to 25 per person).
I also bought some sort of dry perfume at the market, and Andrew bought soap.
On the way back, there were not that many people to fill the taxi. We met a Chinese Canadian who also were going back to Merzouga, and we decided to pay for the extra back seat space, which also gave us more space.
We invited him to follow us as we were going to climb the top of the sand dune in the evening, so our soup of people got bigger for a while!
It was a really nice view up there. Apparently, we were also very courageous, as some guy in a 4×4 went to the top and screamed “ONLY THE ONES WITH COURAGE MAKES IT TO THE TOO!”

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Afterwards, we went to eat dinner, and Jake, a friend of Andrew arrived. He would follow me and Andrew on a camel trek the next day!

Welcome to the desert!

In the morning, a family herding their sheep was looking at us while eating and packing. The children also asked for candy for about half an hour.

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There had been raining some during the night, but the tarp kept it out without a problem. The only problem was me, when I tried to strain the pole, and one of the sides jumped loose from the ground.

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It was really nice, apart from the barking, which at least didn’t come any closer!
We went back into the city to refill water and get food for the day. I managed to fall once, as the front wheel went right in the sand, and my foot couldn’t get any grip. At least it was soft, but I got sandy and my rear view mirror came loose.
We wanted to be sure to have extra energy, as there would be no real road at majority of the trip today. Sam discovered a problem with his chain, which he had to change, and I took the chance to re-attach my rear view mirror and put extra bar tape on.

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We started out with 15 easy kilometres, as it was still asphalt. We actually only had 50 kilometres to do the whole day, so even with off-road it shouldn’t be a problem!

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When the road went into gravel, it was easier to just go off-road in the side. We pushed on, with some small brakes, and a bigger brake for lunch under a single tree we found.
The roads we went on looked mainly like this:

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Soon, we had the mighty dunes in our view. It was a really cool view, and something to aim for!

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With 15 kilometres left, we decided to go by GPS direction instead of going by the road. We had some uphills and downhills in the middle of nowhere, but also found some things!

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We came to what we thought was Merzouga, and started looking for the cheapest hotel through the phone. My GPS said it was 4.5 kilometres more, but I just thought I had the wrong coordinate. We found a hotel that should be pretty cheap per person, and decided to take aim at that. Some guy who talked with us told us that this was actually a small village close to Merzouga, so the GPS coordinates I had were right!
We ride the last 5 kilometres on asphalt, which went pretty fast. Into Merzouga the touts started, offering cheap camel tours and hotels. We told them we already has everything we needed, but some guys trying to block the way followed us on a moped and continued talking with us. Really annoying.
We came to the hotel, and we let the French try to get the price down. The manager said he only gave people a discount if they were from a specific place in France, which happened to be Alicia’s village. He honoured what he said and gave us a discount!
I started with taking a shower and then washing my clothes, as both were some days ago.
In the evening, we went to eat dinner. Alicia stayed at the hotel room as she felt bad, but told us to get some coca cola.
While shopping for snickers and coca-cola, we met a nice store owner who loved to talk. I learnt about their currency real (which were not used anymore more than in talking) and some other stuff.
All three of us were tired so we took a relatively expensive restaurant, but with an included big salad as entrée, and some fruit for dessert, the price was fair.
I have now biked from my home in Västerås, Sweden to the desert by Merzouga, Morocco!

Geyser!

After breakfast, taking down camp and go by a petrol station for toilet/water, we continued our ride.

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Our first stop was Source de Bleue, close to Meski, after 20 kilometres. Andrew and Sam took a bath, and we had some tea at the usual place where they try to sell you things (I found a third scarf, really small, that I would like to use while going uphill so the sweat keep out of my eyes).

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We continued, and sadly missed a small 5 kilometre detour which would have taken us through a cool valley. We got a nice view of it, though!

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I had gotten a tip about a natural geyser on the way, so that was the next place we stayed at. There were one big geyser, which was made artificial (I think they just drilled a hole) and a couple of small ones (camel for scale).

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Next camping stop would be Erfoud. When going into a small store to do some shopping, a man which seemed like he had some sort of drug in his body (or were just crazy) started screaming at Alicia because she had biked too close or something. He looked really angry and I though he was going to start a fight; especially when he started touching my bike and gear. A local came to our rescue, though; he told the man to go away, and apologised for the man’s behaviour. This was a much nicer man, who had lived really close to where Alicia lives (think it was 100 metres between the houses) but now he was back in Morocco.
After buying what we needed, we went outside the city to pitch camp, and I started trying to make tea. After five pots I learnt a bit, at least!
Because of the good place I took the chance to use my tarp, and even if it was raining during the night, it was really nice. I was a little bit afraid that the barking dogs would get closer, but no problem!

Do you remember the French?

The family actually seemed really emotional when we left, as both the sister and little brother were crying. After eating breakfast, packing our things and taken some last photos, we rode by the city to get it printed for Hakim. He followed us to the main road, and then it was good bye!

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On our way, a really persistent young kid wanted to sell camels made out of grass to us. We told him and his friends no (they wanted 20 dirham) but they continued following us. We made a spurt until we found a place to have lunch at. We also got the price down – I am starting to get the hang on this!
The children came to the restaurant a couple of minutes later, and more or less watched us eat. The same kid continued following us again, now wanting 10 for it. We told him we could buy it for one, but he didn’t want to. Andrew made a joke and said the kid could buy his chocolate bar for 10 dirham (it was worth 1 dirham) and the kid agreed – so now we had a camel, and the kid had chocolate.
We continued into the Ziz valley, and finally got away from the bad headwinds. We tried to get somewhere, as we had started 1130, and finally we see some touring bikes, and even at the distance I recognise them – the French I met at hotel Cascade in Fes!

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We were all headed in more or less the same direction, so we decided to make a group of us, speaking a salad of languages: English, French, Swedish, Spanish, German and probably something I forgot.
The valley was really beautiful, and reminded me of Grand Canyon, even if the colours were off.

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Sam and Alicia were thinking of setting up camp near a lake so they could have the possibility to swim, but the only village nearby was a military village, so we were neither allowed to refill water there, nor could we buy food. We continued to Errachidia, where we bought food for dinner and breakfast.
We headed outside, as they were usually wild camping, something I had not done since I came to Morocco. We found a place with some trees, looking like an oasis without water, and arrived in time to watch the sunset.

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We got permission to set up camp there, and so we did. Sam and Alicia had bought enough vegetables for all four of us, so I double cooked pasta in my Trangia (took some time to cook food for 4 people in a one man kitchen) and they cooked the sauce thing. At least it was delicious!

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“Mange!”, part 2

We woke, and started with eating.
Then, we took a walk around the village, and he showed us old mosques, their watering system for the farming, and also introduced us to some people, where we ate some bread filled with something and drank tea.

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We also took many photos of the surroundings and the locals. The children seemed to have a great time sliding down the hill, and started following us when we walked away!

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When we came back to the house, it was time to eat more. He really wants us to eat much!
We then went into the “newer” part of the town, where we first went to a cafe to use the wifi, before we headed to a hamam. It was as nice as the last time, with all the warm water, and also a massage. Afterwards, on the way to a cafè, I saw the temperature. Hakim still had three layer of clothes on him!

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Then, we went to print some photos for the people we had taken photos of during the day.
While walking around, waiting for the photos, we went by a big soccer field.
We also met two nice girls we started talking with.

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I took my chance to buy some tea and sugar. The smallest package of sugar was 1 kilogram, so now I had sugar enough for the rest of the trip!
After collecting the photos, and ordered new ones for the girls, we went back to the house. On the way there, we stopped by a small shop, and met some guys, one whom we met earlier. We rode back to the house on their mopeds, the craziest ride in a long time, with three people on each one. Scary!
At the house, he wanted to give us some nice gifts, among other, a tea-pot. I had already given the younger brother a pencil, but also gave some small stuff I could spare. The tea pot would be a fun thing during the next part of the tour!
After eating another delicious dinner, we watched a movie before going to bed again!

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“Mange!”

We started pretty late, and really slowly, with many pauses for changing clothes, coffee and other random things the first 15 kilometres.

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We also saw someone selling apples, 10 dirham per kilo. We asked to buy one apple each, and he didn’t even want to let us pay, so we got them for free. In exchange we gave them Andrews not-so-good cookies, which they seemed to like.
We soon started our ascent to the second top. The ascent was fairly easy, and only 500-something metres, even though it was pretty cold. Some guy reached out some dates for us in the middle of the hill! We ate lunch on the top before beginning our next descent.

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On the way between the top and Rich, we stopped to buy cola at a cafe. The guy wanted 10 per cola, which seemed to be too much, and settled for five without any more discussion. I guess he didn’t have that many customers!
After that, we had over 20 kilometres of mild downhill, and soon it was only 15 kilometres left!

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Andrew saw a bike which resembled a touring bike, so we went in to check out who owned the bike. We met a guy we couldn’t really speak with, and decided to continue.
Suddenly, the guy was biking behind us, talking about photos, and we thought he wanted a photo of us as he started showing a bunch of photos for us. Then, he started talking about us staying at his place, so we decided to follow him home!

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Hakim was living with his parents, his sister and his brother, and they also had his niece as visitor. We didn’t really do much more than enter before we had a plate of schmim and a big bread in front of us as a first meal.

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Some time after that, we got another meal, couscous. Everything tasted delicious, and all the time he was telling us “Mange!” (French for “Eat!”).

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In the night, we slept at what I think is a real Moroccan bed, as everyone was sleeping on those. Really nice experience!

Snow angel!

During the night, I went to pee at the toilet on the inside of the oil changing place. I got a shock when something moved and I saw a dog walking out of there, I totally missed her on the way in!
We woke up to what sounded like two dogs fighting outside. After eating a breakfast of cookies and tea, we started again.

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View from the gas station

We soon came to a valley we rode through. The entire way made me think of what Nepal, or likewise, would look like.

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We also met a caravan of motor homes, there were maybe twenty of them!

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After some more nice riding, we were at the top, Col du Zad, at 2178 metres.

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It was pretty cold, so I made a snow angel!

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Near the top, some people in a polish car with trailer had waved to us. We soon met them in the downhill, as they were unpacking their bikes. Apparently they were on an organised biking trip. We got a phone number so we could meet in the evening, as we would go to the same place.

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We stopped for lunch in Zaida, and soon ten or so bikers stopped and had lunch with us. They were all different sorts, some who rode all day, and some who got picked up or left off by the van.
Now we only had the last part to Midelt left. The road was pretty flat, and it went even better with the wind on our side. At the last couple of kilometres the bicycle computer hit 45-55 at what seemed to be average!

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We also got a view of some strange plateaus in the middle of everything, and the high Atlas mountains!

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We passed through another small village which had a soccer field.

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Washing clothes?

In Midelt, we first went to hotel Atlas, as it was recommended. At a price of 60, showers costing extra and no wifi, it felt like a bad deal. A guy led us to another hotel, 75 with all this included, and told us to come by his shop to drink tea later. We had just showered and I had started my uploading of pictures when he came back, and we followed him to his shop, and he seemed happy even though we said we were not going to buy anything. Seems like he didn’t believe us though. After showing us stuff “for free” he seemed to get a little pissed about us not buying anything, and wasn’t as friendly anymore.
We went to our friends’ hotel, and had a really nice dinner with them. Also exchanged facebook, so now I can contact them if I go by Poland in the future!

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Back to the hotel, and we went to sleep.

Sweden? Looks like it!

After a scrambled eggs with bread breakfast, we started pretty late. We started with head wind and uphill, so we were glad we didn’t try to go the extra 15 km the day before to Azrou.
After some uphill, we got down hill at least, with some good views!

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After a long pause with some pan au chocolate and tea/coffee, we started the pretty hard climbing up again. The landscape kept changing, and I got to admit it really looked like Swedish autumn!

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We continued the climb, and after a while we saw some cars parked. They had seen some monkeys (which is pretty common in this forest), it was a cool sight!

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We continued the climbing which not really looked like it would end. It went colder, and we took a brake with some nice men at a fire, close to what would seem like the highest point for today.
We came to Timahdite, and started with getting a dinner. This was a really non-touristic place (good change from Ifrane), and the dinner was really cheap with different foods and drinks!
We went to a hotel people told is about, 2 kilometres outside of the village. He wanted 350 dirham for one night, so we figured it must be a really fancy place – nothing for us!
We went on, as we wanted to take a look if there were a cheaper place. We asked at the petrol station, and there weren’t any. We got the idea to camp there, so that we could use a toilet, and we even got to use the oil change place as shelter!

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We went to bed at seven, and after an hour of talking, went to sleep. Early night!

Coldest place in Africa

Me and Andrew went out and ate bizarra and bought some food for the day. I said goodbye to Rochdi and then we started biking!

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We drank tea at a gas station and ate a chicken lunch in Imouzzer before doing the last climb. It was already getting cold, but Ifrane would get colder! After the last climb, we had climbed 1300 metres.
In Ifrane we tried to find the cheap hotel we had seen on the Internet, but their map was wrong (we came to a park). Some man told us that it was only downhill to Azrou, but as we were really tired we tried to find another hotel, even though we knew Ifrane is an expensive place.
We asked some guys, and got led to an apartment. It was not that expensive though, probably because it was off season, but the place was pretty nice!

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We made some toddy to get the heat up before going out in the small town buying some food for the evening and tomorrow.

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As we had a kitchen, we made some cous-cous with tuna.
A friend of Andrew told him over Internet that we apparently were at the coldest place in Africa (Google it if you want to). Didn’t expect that, but it was cold with 3 degrees Celsius in the night!