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Morocco by MTB

Written by: Dan Empfield
Added: Mon Dec 19 2011
Last Modified: Wed Dec 21 2011

The pictures at left were taken by Basque photographer Paulino Oribe.

Nights were cold, days were sometimes cold and sometimes not. It was late Fall in the Atlas Mountains and it can get mighty cold up there. As you might guess, it can be the abject reverse in Morocco during the summer.

The first day ended at 2,300 meters above sea level (just shy of 7600'). We stayed in a set of rock and mud structures at Tizi n'Tazezert. The word "tizi" equates to "pass" in Berber.

The descent from this pass marked the start of the second day, and it was mighty technical for a greenhorn like me. My mouth formed an "O" several times while careening down a rocky 4000' straight drop.

One of those magical, serendipitous moments occurred as several of us swept into a village, and we did not know which of two routes to take out of town. We were forced to wait for the rest of the group to arrive, and we were surrounded by villagers, mostly children and adolescents. They were admiring our bikes.

So, we took a risk. I asked one of them if he'd like to take my bike for a ride. His eyes got big around, and soon he was off and riding. All the others queued up, and pretty soon a half-dozen of us were standing there as all our bikes were out on "test rides."

Then the old men, dressed in traditional djellaba robes, some with turbans, asked for a ride. Which they got. All the bikes came back, everybody was happy, altogether a successful cultural exchange. Orca/Orbea's Suzanne Karklins caught some of this on video.

Children in rural communities would run out of schoolhouses as we approached. They'd line the roads, shouting Bonjour! as we approached. They'd wave to us, and the more adventurous—boys and girls both—would give us a hand slap as we rode by.

They were almost—to a person—averse to having their pictures taken. We would always ask first. When a picture did get taken, it was always with permission.

One very opinionated woman—a matriarch of a rural village—took charge of breaking up and handing out pieces of energy bars to the kids all around us. She volunteered that she was not at all happy with President Obama, because he sat on his hands, she felt, far too long allowing too many Libyans to suffer during the recent uprising. English to Spanish to Arabic and back the other way accurately—or inaccurately—recounted the conversation.

After the riding was over, we made our way back to Marrakech and its Jemaa el-Fnaa, or city square. This place is pretty crazy, night and day, and is the gateway to that city's medina, a crazier place still. It's a swap meet on LSD, and you'd better be armed with a GPS once you enter or you'll play heck finding your way back out again.

A link to a fuller recounting of this trip sits on this page, further down, just below this gallery.

  

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