Italy Morocco Pyrenees

May 2015

Part 7: Marrakesh

After a wild night with sandstorm a beautiful day starts at Ait Ben Haddou and my almost fully recovered stomach from food poisoning makes me feel so much better. We all got sick but I had the most severe symptoms. This intense reaction of my system resulted in me suffering for the shortest time which to be honest I preferred compared to others who wee still "meh" at their best.

After breakfast we soon jump on our sand covered bikes to make it to Marrakesh. At this point I see Pete struggling to get his short leg over his saddle and his bad stomach didn't help him at all. The last night's cumin flooded dinner didn't either. He ditched it after a spoonful. I wonder how it would have tasted if we haven't ordered something stomach and tongue friendly especially for him beforehand...

We all ride on N9 for a shorter ride compared to the previous longer ones. Here's Pete 'n Kim overtaking a funny truck as I follow them:

After spending several days around the desert we find ourselves climbing up the Atlas mountain in a much different landscape:

A short stop after Aguelmouss is necessary to enjoy the view:

A few km later we reach the highest point at 2260m, at Tichka:

It ιs literally freezing up there, enough to forget that we were under heatwave only a couple of hours ago. Still I want to enjoy the view and the spot but this is not a dead easy thing to do undistracted as the "hello mafriend where ar u from" repeated infinitely by locals trying to sell you stuff doesn't allow much to enjoy. It's a nice ride though impossible to regret. Keep in mind that heavy traffic and terrible tarmac is nothing rare around there.

We soon ride again to continue North going down the mountain:

The N9 brings us inside the forest of Koulla and our eyes are surprised by the amount of green after so many days of desert brown, we even see fog!

Funny trucks pass through frequently:

After all this beauty we make it to Marrakesh. The city welcomes us with its awful odour and insane traffic. It's plain chaotic. I've already mentioned many times the harassment on visitors from locals but Marrakesh is another level - like 10 times more terrible. Some OK guys are still around obviously as everywhere but the rest are beyond belief. I appreciate more and more the women and the donkeys of this country. The only ones who don't test your boiling point. Seriously, in no irony or demeaning attitude. Quite the opposite.

The riad we rented has no space for our bikes so we pay some totally mafia looking guys who are supposed to be in charge of a thing that wanted to look like a parking lot. We are told to take all of our stuff off the bike - even a paracord bracelet I had on my handlebar! At this place we accidentally meet an Italian family of bikers that we previously met on the ferry to Morocco a couple of weeks ago. What's impressive about it? Guess the age of the oldest guy...82! Not impressed yet? He is on his brand new BMW 1250. Still not impressed? With his wife and their luggage on it!

My bed for tonight, and the riad's door

Walking around Marakesh often feels like walking in a war zone:

John feels brave enough to try a local barber:

Fortunately you can't really see how the barber's sink looks like and trust me you don't want to. I guess you can imagine my answer to the barber's proposal to trim mine too...

We get some diarrhoea and nausea pills from a kind girl in the nearby pharmacy just in case since some of the group are still stomach challenged. I ask that super friendly girl if they sell off such stuff around that time every year and she says "Yes! Not only you - even we locals suffer as well!"

There's all shorts of vehicles, under any possible load, crossing those backstreets at any possible speed regardless if it's crowded or not:

That view from the top of a cafe we sat at for a while give an idea about Marrakesh:

There's turtles in those bird cages:

Narrow can be VERY narrow in Morocco:

I insist to see this as a genius solar art bicycle rather than what it was initially purposed for:

Marrakesh becomes one of my strongest culture shocks. And yes, I allow new places to shock me rather than playing the adventurous numb. I think that's the way to get to know them better. Marrakesh feels like the dodgiest area in Athens on LSD. At the same fraction of time you have your eyes and nose flooded by intense and contrary experiences. Maybe the nose suffers more as it goes: Cumin, shit, fish, perfumes, meat, spices, cumin again, shit again, fish again, desserts, orange juice, tea and all over again from the start. The menu for eyes is not less rich: All shorts of tiny stores cramped in those narrow backstreets. However, the ultimate thing takes place at night at the Jemma el Fnaa square: Countless grill places grilling everything possible, squids, fishes, sausages, chickens, lamp chops etc, with long benches where all people sit together (best food so far by the way), men in dresses and black hijab doing belly dance, one guy was doing some short of solo street theater screaming to some pigeons while in the middle of the square huge horse trucks offer fresh orange juice (nice ones). I stop to look at a store with woodcraft and a one eyed cat jumps out to look me in the eye while behind me lies a semi destroyed house with a beautiful oleander tree. Yep...that's Marrakesh...sober!

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