High Atlas Mountains in Morocco

Winter really sucks for bicyclists in Stockholm. I longed for warmth and adventure, and like so many times before, I poured over maps to see where I could go. I picked Morocco, and spent Christmas Eve on my own in Marrakesh. The morning after I rolled east in gorgeous biking conditions to my biggest bike adventure ever.

Rolling out of Marrakech at sunrise, Atlas mountains in the background

I reached the Tizi n’ Test pass at 2093 meters well after dark in bitter cold, and took in at the tiny “hotel” as the only guest. I got a room with absolutely no heating, triple blankets and a shower with lukewarm water. For dinner I shared a stew with the brothers running the place. In the morning I got to peek behind the Atlas mountains, into the vastness of the Maghreb hills and plains that slowly merges with the Sahara desert.

This is what adventure looks like, the view east from Tizi n’ Test

The road down on the other side was pretty insane (there are videos of others biking this road). It is even on a list of the most dangerous roads in the world. Well down on the plains I found thriving farms, even lakes. It was a humbling moment – there are people living everywhere!

Wheeeeee…

The scenery was breathtaking, and every day was a feast to my eyes.

Hills in Morocco
Gorgeous roads in Morocco. Yes, it is hacked into the side of the mountain.

The climb up from Agdz was tough, but nothing compared to the last two days of my trip. After the spectacular Dadès Gorges I biked on mostly gravel along road R704 which just went on and on and on. At dusk I passed Col du Ouano at 2910 meters.

On my way to Col du Ouano, not exactly crowded

Eventually I arrived absolutely exhausted to Agoudal where I spent New Years Eve with a Russian expat family. We toasted when it was midnight in Moscow, they then went to bed early and left me alone by a huge fireplace with most of a bottle of Russian champagne, half a bottle of red wine and a feeble internet connection to my friends. One of the most memorable nights of my life.

Incredible rock formations

The day after was even tougher. After gorgeous biking I arrived late afternoon to Tizi N’Isly, hoping for a cozy hotel. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to stay, so I realized I had to bike for another 50 km on R307 to El Ksiba. Pitch dark, wild crazy stray dogs chasing me, sometimes long slopes of 10% uphill. I got a chain jam, and while fixing it under the milky sky I decided to push the experience to 11 by listening to Dare I Care by Julian Casablancas+The Voidz in my earbuds. After a minute, I turned off the music as it felt like I had turned it up to 12! Then finally the downhills, my goodness. It just went on forever. I first used just my rear brake until my right hand cramped from the effort. Then I switched to just the front wheel brake until my left hand cramped. Back to rear brake, and so on. The first thing I reached in El Ksiba was a deserted but well groomed park with street lights. It felt like rolling into Geneva. Weirdest experience in my biking life.

The next day I finished my biking in Kasbah Tadla, where I bumped into this store. It sold two things: Eggs costing 18, and eggs costing 19.

Cheap eggs to the left, expensive eggs to the right

Tour details (grading from 1 to 5)

  • Time of year: September to April, but it can be lots of snow, so check that out in advance
  • Difficulty: 3 (but a few days are 5)
  • Duration: 8 days
  • Scenery: 5 (the rock formations along the road are spectacular)
  • Comments: Don’t bike after dark, or you’ll encounter aggressive stray dogs! Make sure the mountains aren’t filled with snow.

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