The plan this morning was simple. Breakfast in the hotel at 7:30am and departure at 8:30am. There’d be a briefing at the bikes before leaving and we were to pay any bills we’d racked up at the hotel. Time for a few more photos of the Le Palais des Cerisiers, “The Cherry Palace”, when I returned my room key.
I hadn’t expected we’d stay at something that would look like it belonged in the Swiss Alps. But we were at 1,500m altitude in the Middle Atlas area of lakes, rivers and lush valleys. Plus the largest cedar forest in Morocco. The owner may have thought it’s appearance helped attract European tourists? Given the altitude it was much colder this morning. It was a overcast too so we could encounter some rain today. I wore another long sleeved layer over my usual t-shirt and hoped my summer gloves would be warm enough.
Our first stop was at Ifrane National Park, less that 10km from the hotel. We went in search of Barbary Macaque’s – one of the most renowned old-world ape species. It is a macaque species native to the Atlas Mountains. There is also a small introduced population in Gibraltar.
We walked around the cedar woods for 15 minutes. With no Barbary Macaque’s sighted we were back on our bikes feeling short changed. Billy had been talking these up since the briefing on Sunday night. We pulled into a car park another 2km down the N13. Abdoul took some action shots of our entry to the car park.
We immediately saw the apes and parked our bikes in an orderly fashion to get a closer look and take photos. The photos below are both by mine and by others who shared them via WhatsApp. There’s was no shortage of Barbary Macaque’s. They seemed to enjoy our company although I suspect they were in search of an easy feed. A local entrepreneur was in the vicinity, selling raw peanuts. One of our group purchased a bag and offered them to the Barbary Macaque’s.
We spent quite a bit of time observing and photographing the Barbary Macaque’s. It was interesting watching them go about their business, they were so human-like.
It was soon time to crack on though and I was keen for a coffee. My double espresso was some way off. By the time we stopped to regroup in Timahdte, some 24km from the ape’s, it was approaching 10am. There was to be no drinks break here unfortunately for me.
We made another lengthy stop 50km from Timahdte at Hotel Meteorites, Boulajoul. This place was in the middle of nowhere but pays homage to the Paris Dakar Rally. The rally traversed these parts of Morocco from 1978 to 2007. This proved to be a very popular place for photos with the group.
I could have gone into the hotel in search of a coffee but didn’t want to miss the group departing. Luckily we stopped 11km later in Zaida at Restaurant Meouia for a drink. It was a bit of a log jam parking the bikes out front of the café. This confirmed the T7 was a tad too tall for me in such situations. I seemed to annoy a couple of others in the group with my feeble parking efforts. So I elected to dismount and push the T7 into position. All this parking drama had warmed up more than my frustrations. Time to remove the extra layer that had served me well. It was now 11am. I crossed my fingers the double espresso Abdoul ordered on my behalf was half decent – and it was. Interesting café. I’ll pass on the raw meat and beef stock for morning tea, thanks.
After our well earned drinks break, we continued on the N13 to Errachidia. This stretch of road would prove to be one of my favourites of the entire route. It was definitely my favourite to date. The long sweeping corners, excellent road surface and spectacular canyon vistas were superb. In particular, following the Ziz River through the Ziz Gorges. We stopped a couple more time before our lunch break to regroup and admire the scenery.
After such a great ride I was looking forward to lunch. We also needed petrol. We found a gas station about 6km from our hotel in Errachidia. At the time, we didn’t realise how close we actually were. While the fuel was welcome our lunch venue wasn’t – well at least not welcoming to me.
Within sight of the spectacular Ziz Gorge, we were eating at a gas station pizza restaurant. This was about as far from the traditional Moroccan meals we’d been enjoying as you could get. I’d become accustomed to the lengthy delays associated with a traditional Moroccan lunch. Waiting this long for an average at best pizza was asking too much. Something to do with Ramadan and the usual place not being open was the excuse for the venue.
At least the bottle of water I gulped down was cool. Seems like it’s a challenge to get icy cold drinks of whatever variety in Morocco. I guess the locals prefer them cool and not cold? When in Rome …
After lunch we had a short ride to Auberge Tinit, our hotel in Errachidia. I was looking forward to an ice-cold beer but cool will do. My first impressions of the hotel on arrival were favourable.
Again beer was in short supply. I don’t know where they came from but I found our supply hidden at the bottom of the fridge near the hotel bar. But it seemed like that was all the alcohol there was. I took one and all but skulled it.
When I went back to get another there were none left. Abdoul, as always, had a plan. Intrigued I went with him and another from our group eager for more alcoholic beverages. We all went in the support vehicle.
Abdoul’s plan consisted of going to nearby hotels with licensed restaurants. After finding the manager he’d ask about buying some beer and wine from them. We went to several so it ended up being a sight seeing tour of Errachidia, but for a good cause.
The conversations were in a Berber dialect so my best guess is they went something like this:
Abdoul: “I’d like to enquire about buying some of your beer and wine please?”
Hotel manager: “Fat chance!”
Abdoul: “See these tourists with me, they can’t get by one day without alcohol. We’re happy to pay top dirham.”
Hotel manager: “It’s not on. I can’t risk getting offside with the local police chief. You know the rules. Sorry.”
This was the story at the three hotels we visited. We went back to Auberge Tinit empty handed. Dinner was more traditional Moroccan than we’d hoped for (i.e. alcohol free), but still delicious!