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We spent 8 nights in southern Morocco in November 2000, and did some enjoyable cycling. November isn’t the best month to visit Morocco, but Morocco is probably the best place to visit at that time of year for a short break from England’s dismal climate.

We stayed in hotels and did day rides. It would be nice to be more adventurous. But we don’t recommend the main roads in the area: those we saw were straight and monotonous. We have a picture of one, by no means the worst. The tracks, though, are often delightful.

Logistic problems for a serious tour will be caused by poorness of the maps, general shortage of information, low population density, and lack of facilities.

We made 4 main rides, all there-and-back: from Ouazazarte to Aït Benhaddu; eastwards along the Drâa valley from Tamnougalt; the Todra gorge; and the Dades gorge. We also pottered vainly around Ouazazarte and Tineghir where we stayed.

Ouazazarte to Aït Benhaddu

Not brilliant cycling, but Aït Benhaddu is certainly striking, though much touristed (hence good food is available). The town is used as a set for biblical films. There’s a small climb on the way, but barely enough to notice.

The Drâa valley

We followed a track from Tamnougalt almost as far as the bridge at Afra. Good cycling, though the schoolkids can be a bit irritating.

Tamnougalt
lies just south of Agdz. You take the track which crosses the river by the ‘4 km Agdz’ milestone. There’s a restaurant, Au jardin du Tamnougalt, whose proprietor speaks good English and serves yummy tagines. He’s a good source of advice. As you may gather from our narrative, the volunteer guides to the ksar are somewhat rapacious: ask at the Jardin what is a fair price. The old road to Afra runs east past the ksar. Directions are generally obvious, although there are a few turnings. We had been told (by our volunteer guide) that we could cross the river at Afra, returning by the road, but either we missed the bridge or we didn’t get that far (or the bridge at Afra is apocryphal).

The Todra gorge

We took a track from the end of the surfaced road (just before the narrow part with hotels) to Tamtatousht: a superb ride of about 18 km. There is no possiblility of getting lost. The track is a little bumpy, but minibuses manage it. Food and accommodation are available at Tamtatousht. [Note (2004): the tarmac now extends all the way to Tamtatousht.]

The Dades gorge

We parked at the café 14 km from the main road. There are striking rock formations here. We rode northwards, to where the gorge becomes narrow and the road has to make a zigzag climb to proceed (see photos). We continued a certain number of kilometres – 5? 10? – beyond, passing attractive villages and ksars. There are plenty of places to eat before the steep climb, but few tourists go further, and there are no facilities beyond.

Travel details

We stayed 3 nights at Ouazazarte (airport code OZZ), 4 at Tineghir, and one more at Ouazazarte.

The service to Ouazazarte changes at Casablanca. The return flight sets out indecently early in the morning and gives you a 5 hour wait at Casablanca. Every morning at Ouazazarte you will be woken by departing tourists wheeling their suitcases around the hotel. Ouazazarte would be a pleasanter destination without its airport.

We hired a car and used it to get to the start of day trips, and to transfer between OZZ and Tineghir. The kasbahs along the way are worth seeing.

If we’d booked a car from the UK we’d almost certainly have been landed with a saloon incapable of carrying bikes, so we rented when we got there. The only hatchback available was a Peugeot 205. Fortunately we were able to squeeze our bikes in; and the cars aren’t so spotless that anyone would mind a bit of scuffing.

When our bikes were loaded we thought the car was full. But Moroccans occasionally flagged us down for lifts, and somehow managed to squat between the forks and downtubes.

Information

Some details: we took the Cadogan guide (though the Rough Guide is more informative) and the Michelin red map (number 969). But the best source of information (unknown to us at the time) is a French web site by Frédéric Ferchaux, which has some good links. Other info will be found on the Trento Morocco pages and John Brewer’s links.

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