Friday, January 17, 2014

Temara - Midelt and our first defeat ... & travelogue #3

We left Temara behind us and headed towards the Atlas mountains. Our first leg would lead us to Mrirt, first via bigger and later via smaller roads - potentially unpaved. In the end all roads were paved and in good condition. This meant we had some extra time to stop and play with girls. This had been proven a good method, because typically around the hotel there was no room to play safely (Temara was a real exception here!).

Infrastructure is already ready for the next years. Most likely all broken once it would be needed.
One of the many horse carriages.

Break in the middle of nowhere and playtime...

Another break
Skippy's bike got a special parking place.
Then came the day when we pushed our limits and experienced the first defeat. We wanted to ride from Mrirt to Midelt and we did not want to take the paved roads all the way, instead a little adventure was on the menu. There were many options and we decided to go over the mountains by using mostly white streets. We left Mrirt towards east and instead of riding the longer loop via Sources de l'Oum-er-Rbia we decided to take a smaller road marked as "can be only driven in dry season" in our Michelin map. Sounded good to us.
Beautiful landscape
Action picture of Skippy
The street deteriorated more and more and in the end we rode steep uphill (20+%) with fist-sized stones. That was not nice. My rear tyre did not find grip and was spinning heavily, resulting that the back of the bike was going left and right. It did not take long when we had a sharp curve which had some deeper wash-outs and Skippy fell. I stopped and the hill was so steep that the gear-box alone could not keep the bike. I needed to put the "hand-brake" on and went to see what had happened. It was not so bad, Skippy was still walking without major injuries and the bike seemed ok too. Well, I took "care" of that. I turned the bike and went a bit downhill to park it out of the way at a shady place, also to give space in case some donkey carriage comes along. Some few meters later I dodged the bike on the other side with the result that the camera got a hit and the blinker was loose. Great. We pulled it up again and I managed the remaining few meters.

We walked up the hill and got my bike. No way I would have been able to leave uphill to make a U-turn somewhere without ruining my clutch. So we let the bike roll backwards downhill until to the point where Skippy fell. As the street was a little wider there, I could turn my bike. We were both totally sweaty and - of course - girls were whining. By then three locals came to us where we parked. The owner of the farm made the smart comment that he had no problems to climb up the hill by his horse. Hahaha - for some reason I could not laugh with him then. The same guy offered also his "help" to ride the bike down. We kindly declined.

Since Skippy was still shaky, I rode her bike down the hill back to the "normal" gravel road and she rode the sidecar. No more of those little roads for us - at least for now and especially when we have other options. I needed to remind myself that with our equipment we cannot go where light off-road bikes or other explorers with their offroad-trucks can go. A scene from the LongWayRound series came to my memory: where Claudio the camera man got a local bike, since his Beemer fell apart, and he could ride like in heaven, whereas Evan and Charlie sweated steering their big fat ladies.
20+% uphill with some curves paved with concrete, unfortunately not all.
We enjoyed a beautiful sight on this forced break. Down on the left you see the street we came up from.
And this is the street we wanted to go up.
This early "break" cost us over one hour and finally we continued the "nice" road with asphalt. The OpenSourceMaps were quite ok. Occasionally my Garmin wanted me to take strange looking streets and I asked once in a while locals if we were heading the way we wanted to go. Then the street got worse again. First the asphalt layer was broken more and more, as well as more and deeper potholes to watch for. One still needs to remember that there was anyway only asphalt in the middle of the street and left and right was gravel to handle two-way traffic.
More beautiful landscape passing by.
First snow for this day.
Then there came a welcome surprise. Thanks to some EU money (so the sign looked to us), there was now a really great surface and we got some easy mileage done. As the funding stopped at some point so did the great road and it was back to bad, then worse and then came even worse gravel with plenty of potholes, wash-outs and such nasty stuff. Our average speed dropped to 20km/h. We got compensated for absolute stunning, magnificent, clean(!!!) and solitude landscape. OMG - this was so beautiful that I stopped regularly to inhale the scenes. Then we got some snow and ice on the street :D Just enough to scare us a little ;)
Inviting place for wild camping.
Atlas mountains with the tops covered in snow.
Wild monkeys.
Suddenly I saw something moving fast about 50 meters away and I thought first it was another stray-dog with a tiny tale and beaten face. On a second look I realized those were monkeys! First time ever I saw monkeys in their natural environment. That was a cheer-up :) We continued our slow-motion ride through the mountains with regular breaks for us and girls.

We nurtured our souls with some more of the beautiful landscapes and the mountains with their tops in snow. Skippy had some spooky moments riding through some bigger mud-holes. Maybe the fear of falling into the mud and me taking a picture first before helping her got her concentrated enough and she made it. Good girl :)
Atlas mountains.
The bad street continued, we had been riding far over 5 hours already (this was pure riding time) in 100% concentration and still some 15 km of lousy street to come and only heaven knew what was after that before we would hit the N13. The sun set, we were both exhausted and driving became a real challenge. The road split and the other street looked much better then our planned way (yeah yeah - sometimes the grass is greener on the other side). I asked a local where this other street leads to and I figured out that both roads would lead us to the N13 in about the same distance. We made a U-turn and took the other way. That was good for us and the street turned out to be in really good condition and our speed went up significantly. It was dark when we entered the N13. Some 35 km and we would be at the hotel. We took a deep breath, mobilized our last energy when all the sudden my gas did not work properly anymore. I even got the suspicion that the bike is running only on one cylinder. About 8 km before we were at the hotel my bike stalled and I drove aside. I was really lucky that there were space on the side. Just a few hundred meters earlier was the (side-) barrier and traffic was moving fast here. So I pulled over and Skippy's look was: "What is now? Why the heck do you stop again?". I looked at the gas wires to realize that both were working fine. I tried to start the bike again and it went all fine.

Finally we made it to the hotel all frozen, exhausted and hungry. This hotel was the only one which we found in internet that allowed dogs. It was a bit on the upside for Morocco, but it was worth every cent of it. The room was so spacious that you could play hide and seek. Skippy got an own queen-size bed whereas I got the king-size ;) and the room was warm (with central heating)! Skippy jumped into the hot shower to melt and gain mental strength. I did the same and we took care of our little girls. Obviously it was also a hard day for them being in the sidecar and gotten all shaken up really badly for so many hours. They fell asleep quickly on their own couch. We hit the restaurant and tested the soup as well as the veggie couscous and tajine.

Dirty boots in a fine hotel
Luxury room
Again special parking lot for Skippy's bike.

Extraordinary amount of broken glass besides the usual plastic trash besides the hotel!
Atlas mountains in the morning.
Our hotel with many 4WDs in front.
And here is our travelogue for this part... buckle up:

Click here if you have trouble to watch the video.

~ Ilta & Wolfi

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