The Splendor of Morocco

The Splendor of Morocco

I spent already two months on the African continent, in Morocco, a beautiful country

On 26th January I arrived on the African continent. First I was in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. I wanted to slowly immerse myself in Africa and Morocco. But then all happened very quickly! In my search for a place to sleep, I came closer and closer to the border. Suddenly I found myself in a traffic jam. Many people wanted to get to Morocco and there was a lot of honking and pushing. I didn’t feel like turning around and went straight ahead.

Even more people on foot and with big plastic bags headed for Ceuta, Spain. They couldn’t cross the border so easily. I had the feeling that all the misery of Africa was concentrated here but compared to other border crossings it probably wasn’t so bad.

Do I want to cross? Should I really go to Africa? It was a little bit too late to ask such questions! Best to go right ahead. At the border I was greeted friendly and nicely. I quickly had my passport stamped and I’m allowed to stay for three months!

After a few hundred meters I had passed the crowds. I rode on a beautifully paved road for a few kilometers. In a newly built town, I found a room in a brand new hotel for 15 Euros. The room was very spacious, with an equally big bathroom, wifi, very modern!


I was really happy to finally have reached Africa.

Along the coast going south, new hotels and resorts are being built. They even included a few bike trails!

This changes after Tetuan, the first large town. A lot of traffic, dust, and the first mountains.

My first destination was Chefchauoan. I spent the night before the turn off to the town. Early in the morning I tackled the first serious mountains. Again I asked the question, why I do this to myself? But early in the morning and after a good night’s rest, I was happy to take on the challenge.

It took me until noon before I reached the top. After I found the old town, I decided to stay here.


Everything was very colorful


I decided to leave the bike at the hotel


I was on my way again before the traders put out their wares in the narrow alley. First downhill and then of course uphill!


Even so this weren’t the real Atlas Mountains yet, I already had a lot of respect for them. At time the uphills were very steep, especially on the smaller roads which didn’t have a limitation for the maximum gradient.

The first view of Fes wasn’t too impressive: one satellite dish next to the other!


After I learnt that Medina means Old Town, I found it and of course that changed my impression.


Amongst other things, Fes is known for its leather goods. Right in the middle of town there is a tannery.


The old town is a labyrinth of small alleys which no GPS can navigate.


Like in any other tourist town, all traders call out Madame, Madame.

It’s good to be back in nature.


Again I had no clue what I was in for. After Fes one enters the real Atlas Mountain range.

I climbed higher and higher. I didn’t want to camp at 1,200 meters because I thought it’d be too cold. Fes is at 300 meters. So I continued, assuming that eventually I would descend. Wrong! 1,300 meters, followed by 1,400 meters. Finally I camped somewhere in a beautiful ceder forest and it wasn’t too cold.


During the next days the route continued to climb to over 2,000 meters. The roads through the ski areas are closed when it snows. Even so it was early February, there was no snow.


The mountain passes offer gorgeous views.

Following remote roads I came to the small town of Boumia where there were no tourists. There was a simple, small hotel which was very clean and had wifi. I liked it so much that I stayed for two nights.


My publisher had given me the task to shorten my draft, Therefore I was on the lookout for a quiet, affordable place to work. This place suited me well.


Especially because here I found these delicious Maroccan mandarines.

Slowly, I entered the high Atlas Mountains.


I hardly descended below 2,000 meters and I kept my tent packed.


I came across many of these „Berber-Homestays“, very simple but I could warm up in the room with the traditional stove,. Dinner was servied in a tahine which was made of veggies, meat and usually potatoes. It takes a least two hours to prepare and keeps hungry cyclists waiting. 😉


It was stunningly beautiful, remote and quite.


And just in time there is another motel or a berber-auberge.


Now I had really reached the high Atlas Mountains. At 3,000 meters you’re on top of it all.


In every travel article, I saw photos of the Dades Gorge and I really wanted to go there.


After I had passed the highest mountain passes, I thought I had reached the Dades Gorge.


It was simply stunning!


And it was an adventure to descend the other side.


After 50 kilometers, I met people again.


Even so it was beautiful, it wasn’t the Dades Gorge.


The area is very remote, totally quiet, and for tourists in camper vans not easily accessible


The „real“ Dades Gorge is only a short, narrow passage on a paved road. But I was very wrong thinking that now I was on my way downhill.


In certain places the river Dades had carved out such a narrow passage that the road was routed quite adventerously around the rocks.


And here Jörg came cycling, catching his breath! I enjoyed my last piece of chocolate and he was on a day trip. He stayed at a small campground some 40 kilometers away.

He mentioned that he cooks at night and that is always an attraction for me. He encouraged me to check out the campground.



It didn’t take much to convince me. This was the place i was looking for and I wanted to stay longer to work on my book.


It was getting colder and colder and I didn’t feel like continuing. This Berber family gave me a Jilaba which is a long coat. It’s very warm but not at all useful for cycling.

One day I woke up and it looked like that:


How lucky I was! I was so happy to be here and not somewhere in the Atlas Mountains and cut off because of the snow.


Here I was comfortable and could even enjoy the snow.


This was the first snowman that Fatima, the family’s 14-year old daughter had made. It had snowed before but this was the first time that the snow stayed.


 After eleven days I had finished working on my book for the time being and I left the campground „Pattes de Singe“. It had been really pretty here, a great place to work, great food, nice company, and when I didn’t sit at the computer, there were nice things to do.


In this magnificient landscape


(courtesy of Jörg)

After many days of little cycling, I was very eager to get started again and decided to cross the Atlas Mountains again and head for Marakesh.

By now I had seen many kasbahs. These dwellings or fortifications are made of only straw and clay. They need constant maintenance or they crumble.


On the Route de Kasbah there are beautiful new buildings to admire (on top : Kasbah Amridil)


One of the more famous ones is the town of Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou (below).


Then it was back to the mountains and the snow, climbing the Tizi N’Tichka


And after an uphill comes a wonderful downhill.


During the night it had rained for the first time and continued to do so on my way to Marakesh. I heard that it had snowed again in the mountains and that the pass had been closed. I had been lucky again!

The nicest thing about Marakesh was a bottle of wine! The first one in this Muslim country.


I enjoyed Marakesh more than Fes. The town also has a Medina with its narrow alleys but there were more view points and open spaces, where I could orient myself.


From here I went straight to the ocean to Essaouira. I had been told to further shorten my book and was hoping to find a quiet place to do this.


Unfortunately I couldn’t swim in the ocean because it was too cold. This spot is becoming popular for kite surfing but the surfers use wet suits.

Outside the city it wasn’t very touristy.


Maroco is being drowned by plastic bags and the wind does ist part. Sometimes one only sees plastic bags in the fields. Let’s see how long it takes until people realize that sheep and goats can’t eat the stuff.

Outside the towns and in the tourist areas, it’s not so bad.


Above the cliffs was a beautiful spot to camp, no one in sight.

Thanks to Sun-Desk inTaghazout I could finish work on my book. The place proably had the best internet in Moroco and I could even choose and download photos.


In case someone needs to work while on tour, I can highly recommend this place.

I stayed four days and enjoyed a bit of holiday in the evenings. I camped outside the town where the surfers enjoyed the waves.


And then I could dedicate myself once again to cycling. From now on, I spend every day on the bike and cycled along the gorgeous coast. Straight to the Sahara.


Thanks to Jean-Baptiste’s blog, I had some indication where I might be able to find water. That really was a huge help. It was published three years ago and a few things have changed. I shall send him an update.


I had just left Guelmim, the gateway to the Sahara, when I met my first fellow cyclist, Walter. He braved the headwinds and cycled from South Africa north. He reassured me that I would be able to reach the south by way of the west coast.

On the first day I met Giuseppe, an Italian cyclist, who was on his way to Dakhla. In the first town, I noticed the advantages of being with a male companion.


The first city we reached was Tan-Tan and as usual we were thronged by youngesters. But they left me in peace and Giuseppe bore the brunt. When a man is in sight, the woman isn’t interesting.

No one else bothered us.


It looked like quite a distance to the border with Mauretania.

On the second day Carl from Berlin, joined us.


And then there were three of us…

For me it was quite a challenge to practice my social skills. Giuseppe spoke virtually only Italian and Carl only German. Speaking German with Carl was easy, with the people I communicated in French, and I hoped my best that Giuseppe understood my Spanish.


In the beginning I fould it difficult to be with others but then I was happy to have company in this very remote area.


Things went quite well. All of us enjoyed the tremendous space and the question where we would camp at night was resolved by the police or the army. They had no interest to have wild campers in Western Sahara. „For your own safety“ they informed us where the next police station or military camp was and that we should camp there. Once we reached there, they were expecting us.


Western Sahara is a politically contested region and every 1 to 2 kilometers there was a security check. For us this was fortunate. The soldiers were friendly and gave us water.

For the people who lived there, it wasn’t so great.


From the road one doesn’t really see the amazing cliffs. The sentries have the best view points and the most romantic sunsets.


We had amazing tailwinds traveling north-south. But be aware when the road turns, for example past Dakhla. Suddenly the speed went from 25 km/h down to 10 km/h.


There isn’t much to do Dakhla but I could stock up on muesli. The town is supposed to be a hotspot for kite surfing but who dares to come to Western Sahara these days?

Tomorrow I’ll have to head back on Route National 1 for 38 km and against the wind! Giuseppe and Carl will take the bus back to Guelmin and I’ll be on my own again. It’s another 340 km to Mauretania.