Skoura Lhadra, Morocco - Polarsteps
The landscape changes drastically after Settat; it gets really deserty, the dirt turns red, and striking hills spring up around us. This is always an exciting bike trip day, where we go down the road and find ourselves somewhere distinctly new.
A car pulls over in front of us and two Moroccan men around 20 get out with big smiles and ask us if they can take photos, then take turns having their pictures taken with us; they're really excited, and it's hilarious to us.
We pace ourselves getting to our destination, a gas station rest stop where drivers can spend the night in exchange for a small fee to the security guard; we're crossing our fingers that in a stretch of very minimal options they might be willing to help us out with camping.
The rest stop is a whole complex with a restaurant, kids' playground, and some shops; we lean the bikes and sit on some steps to take a moment, but we're pretty quickly approached and engaged in conversation in English by Ibrahim, the Berber man who owns the store selling artisan wares. We ask about camping and he says yes, he can help us; it's still too early to set up, so he invites us to peruse his shop (we buy a couple of small things for some kids back home), and we go over to the restaurant and have mint tea on the patio. Ibrahim goes off to town on his motorcycle, saying he'll be back in an hour; in the meantime, we cook our dinner in the parking lot and start to get anxious as a couple of hours go by and the sun starts setting. To our relief, Ibrahim finally gets back at dusk and shows us into a gated and fenced side-yard; there's a bit of an orchard and several Berber men live in little rooms along the side of the building. He offers us space in his room with him-- we get a lot of concern from people here about how cold we must be-- but we're insistent on staying in our tent, so he sets us up in the recycling shed in the yard and gives us some big sheets of cardboard to keep animals out. There are a ton of stray dogs and they spend the night working out their stray dog politics all around us, so we don't get the most solid sleep, but it's a good, safe, impromptu camp spot, with a night guard and at least six Berber neighbours aware of and keeping an eye open for us.
We make our coffee and breakfast in the parking lot again in the morning; Ibrahim hangs around and chats a bit with us, and then drifts a little into Weird Man Territory with me, and I pull out my Fake Husband Tom From Canada and it's immediately effective at shutting it down.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲