caïdat de Telouet, Morocco - Polarsteps

The morning we finally left Taddart the road barrier was wide open; we packed up for the last time and said our goodbyes-- Abdul from the gîte waved us on our way, the owner of the convenience store we'd frequented daily sent us off with bracelets with the Hand of Fatima hanging from them, and we had hugs and a heartfelt goodbye with Omar, who had also done us the favour of calling friends up the road to check that our side-route to Ait Benhaddou was open and had a friend in Telouet watching for us, to put us up in a maison d'hote for the night. The wind was immediately a huge factor in our climb, sometimes gusting so hard that we had to get off and walk the bikes because it was strong enough to send us one way into the guardrail or the other way into the road; switchbacking up through the mountains meant it could also be a fierce headwind or, occasionally, a tailwind that pushed us effortlessly up an incline. We gained elevation fast and the snow piled up at the sides of the road; we could see how deeply snowed-in the road had been, and how much work the small team of snow ploughs had been doing to clear it. It was about 17km of climbing to get to the top; we would finish one round of switchbacks and another, going even higher, would appear around the corner. The climb was fine for us-- any road that trucks go on can only be graded so steeply-- but the wind was a challenge, the strongest we've ever experienced and making some stretches literally unbikeable, the only way forward putting our heads down and walking our bikes against the gusts. We started the ride from Taddart with Kevin and Juan Miguel, the other two cyclists who were stuck at the gîte; they were significantly less loaded down than us, and we leapfrogged a bit as they pulled ahead, then stopped for tea while we passed them, then passed us again before we all met at the top and rode the rest of the day together. The top of the pass is 2200 metres/7200 feet above sea level, the highest we've ever been on our bikes. The route is historic; for many years it was the camel caravan route over the mountains between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. The hours of descent afterwards were, cycling-wise, absolutely the best it ever gets; it was windless on the other side of the mountain, it got gradually warmer as we scooped down to lower elevations, we had new bike pals to ride with and share road snacks with, the views were big and striking and snowy, and when we got on our side-route to Telouet the road was well cleared and almost entirely free of traffic; aside from the occasional goatherd we had the whole quiet landscape to ourselves. We got to Telouet in the early evening; Omar in Taddart had contacted his friend about getting us to accommodations, and we had neither a contact number nor a doubt that Mohamed was going to find us-- and sure enough, when we stopped in the middle of the main street through town, he was there to meet us, a bearded man with kind eyes, a multi-coloured turban, and a hooded Berber robe with colourful pompoms sewn onto it. The price we were quoted was high and needed negotiating-- something that's more or less expected, and also that we normally avoid doing because we hate it, but Kevin dove in and secured us a better deal for two rooms at the maison d'hote, and then for dinner for four at Mohamed's restaurant across the street. The maison d'hote was connected to a family's home, and our bikes slept in a stable with some sheep, who ended up getting tethered for the night when Kini poked their head in and saw one of them climbing and chewing on their bike. Dinner was tagine with chicken, vegetables, and dried figs; fresh bread, some soup, fruit, sugary mint tea and fresh lemonade, on cozy couches under a propane heater. We went home across the road fed, warm, sleepy and accomplished-- the mountain pass that we'd spent five days waiting to cross finally behind us.
  1. derailed
  2. 🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲
  3. caïdat de Telouet