Italy Morocco Pyrenees

May 2015

Part 6: Ait Ben Haddou

Last night's food poisoning really challenges me: Totally dehydrated, starving and energy drained I must riding several hundreds of kms in the heart of Morocco during (surprise surprise) a heatwave.

Rolling down the R703 right before Ait O Jana we find ourselves riding on an ultra wide and straight road with brand new tarmac. It feels to me like they started constructing an airport but halfway regretted it:

Occasionally I meet such walls on the way - no idea how come:

We are heading West but we make a necessary deviation North at R704 to visit the famous Dades gorge. Even if you don't know it the picture will probably ring you a bell:

I am so energy drained that as soon as we make it to the top, I take the picture above, put my helmet on the ground as a pillow and drop myself down to the ground. Yes, I had no strength for anything else. At all. At one of Morocco's highlights I am at the worst situation possible to enjoy it - still glad I made it of course though the happiness is rather a pride I managed to. However, we're still not even halfway to our next destination. Here's is a couple more images I manage to take on our way down while riding (hence they're blurry) where you can see the unique rock formations of that gorge:

We leave R704 behind to join the N10 and head West, mainly riding on fast straights. This is the only good thing about it - they are fast and I can't wait for us to arrive and just drop dead on my next bed. However, the rest of the guys are not as fast as I needed to. In an attempt to raise the pace of the team I take the lead of the convoy doing even 140s (km/h) on predictable parts but they don't follow. At some point I'm wondering what am I really doing since I was feeling like unable to even walk and could barely push the bike into corners. After what felt to me like an age we all fortunately arrive safe at Ait Ben Haddou. Unable to walk more than 10 meters in a row, I push my stuff into my room and drop dead on the bed.

Some decent sleep can do wonders and the one I had really felt so. Those houses made of mud and hay really keep the heat out and my room is no exception. Feeling a bit better I decide to arrange my stuff a bit and I find one of my shirts left in my tank bag for so many km looking like used napkin. I decide to soak it in water and leave it to dry in the bathroom. I am telling this only to give you an idea about how dry the conditions are there: After an hour's chat with the rest of the guys at the lobby I come back to use my bathroom and I find my shirt bone dry. Not just dry. Insane...

The town of Ait Ben Haddou is famous for the scenes of movies like "Lawrence of Arabia" which was one among others shot there. It's a picturesque place but the crazy wind makes the sky look white from all this sand and dust. Under such conditions since I am not fully recovered yet, I use the rooftop of the hotel to help me with the pictures instead of walking around:

I find mood and strength for a short walk later so me and Kim stop at this place selling various stuff including these traditional gates:

Unfortunately it doesn't take long before the owner comes out to break our balls trying to sell us his stuff "pushing" us to enter his place. Denying in a very mild way he turns to us saying "Are you angry with us?" I left his place to call Ariana Grande and tell her I just found the perfect guy to run her PR...

I take a couple of pictures before I head back to the hotel:

The wind tries to break my window, cats are screaming outside, my stomach feels kinda confident for another night of fight with the local gastronomy which I am already kinda bored trying the same 3-4 dishes usually available from place to place, flooded by cumin in the vast majority of the cases. Speaking of cumin, they use it much more often than pepper. They even serve boiled eggs with salt and cumin instead of pepper. I love cumin but I think I already consumed the quantity I would in a decade. With a bit of dinner in my challenged stomach I fall to bed wishing the next day finds me in a better shape.

Next day's sunrise:

Our fleet, desert stained and ready to go:

I must admit that the Riad Maktoub where we stayed offers the best personnel I've seen so far.

Very kind and helpful, even offered to wash my clothes free of charge. At the first moment they heard that we all suffered from stomach problems they offered to make us tea from Luisa herb. It's the first time experiencing people paying attention to other things except our money. Totally contrary to what I faced a bit later when I to the local store to buy some bottled water: The fridge is flooded and the bottles look to me a bit if they were not sealed properly or even branded at all. I say to myself "don't tell me they dare to sell imitations of bottled water!". Since I have no stomach left to risk, I leave the place with empty hands to cross check it. Well... yes! They actually do that too! You can find numerous experiences like this around the net. Hard to comment...

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