Sunday, February 1, 2009

To attempt a Tamjilt...

I left Fez aiming for the highest pass over the Middle Atlas mountains. I wasnt or was any one else sure if the road was open ha. I asked the guys at the petrol station and they said impossible, as one of them filled my fuel bottles with a lit cigarette in his mouth. I asked a police man and he said it was open but that it would be difficult. Before the hills it is a nice flat plane which has a ton of farming going on which makes it hard to camp in the wild as such. So I pulled and got chatting to a farmer who said I could stay in one of his workers little rooms. Haaa my own little bed of planks, which I obviously put my mattress over as I am in no way as hard as a fricken Moroccan farmer. So began probably the funniest night of the trip, sitting beside a nice warm log stove shooting the shit with the locals. One of the girls who is like a house maid, Fatima, was ripping the piss out of me the whole night asking me to put her in one of my bags and take her to Ireland. It was a huge farm and I got the grand tour off Mohamid the father as he proudly showed off his big collection of tractors and bulls.

The whole family plus the long lost inbred cousin

A much more beautiful and comfortable pillow than mine

The road to another mini adventure

I headed off towards the hills then, loaded up with food and water, once past Ribat El Kiber it was pretty much no mans land. To get to where the climbing starts you have to cross a river that runs right over the road. Freezing cold melt water with stones hitting my ankles, from the start I knew I was in for an interesting time. A wonderful winding road gently climbing up and up. Really gotta take my hat off to the road builders around here. Before this trip started I had a vision of what I roughly wanted to see and more so the feelings I wanted to experience and it was on this climb I got them. Beautiful blue sky and just warm enough to keep ye toastey even though we were as high as the Pyrenees? So I had loads of time sitting on warm rocks sipping coffee and just feeling the massive views. All day I climbed away the only people I seen was a guy on a donkey and two shepards off up the hills with their flock. Now people inhabit every square inch of this planet but it really was the loneliest romantic adventure so far, just no one around. This obviously had me thinking the road aint gonna be open but we kept going cause ye never know eh. We camped out under the stars and cooked by starlight before it got too cold. My spoon which is half fork and half spoon, a spork, was already in a bad shape having snapped all the prongs off the fork end but as a spoon it was doing perfectly fine, who uses a fecking fork anyway? But sure while I was tucking into my dinner I snapped the bloody thing in two. Yes Yes Yes, it would have to snap in two while I am in the most remote place of the trip so far. So I did what any intrepid wildman would do eh, I whittled my own spoon out of a branch! I know he is a huge fan of my blog so he will be mortified by me thanking him, but cheers Ray Mears. Loving his Bush Craft and Survival techniques haaaa. I only use the wooden spoon to stir food I am boiling as I cant get it smooth enough to dare put it in my mouth haaa! But it was a proud moment nonetheless.

Dream start

My only company for the day, lazy git

God how I appreciate good weather

Thankfully it did not swamp the road

So the next day we trundled on aiming for a town up in the hills, only to get there and find its not a town but an area? With nothing in it, nearly all the second day we met no one. Then we got to the snowline and things got really messy. The road vanished under ice and frozen snow and it became difficult haa. Eventually I had to push and drag the bike over icy ridges, nervously walking over frozen pools and occasionally plunging ankle deep into the water haaa. At one stage we where making only twenty meters at a time before having to catch my breath. If the weather had been anything but perfect I would of gone back as the road was beyond anything ye could cycle and it would be an absolute mission for twenty Kms over the pass. It was the most effort I had put into the trip per km so far. Finally the road was blocked by a snow plow so we had a look around and the men were no where to be seen. Spirits where lifted though because obviously the snow plow was clearing the road. A jeep pulled in behind me and three men got out and they were in bits laughing at the fact I was up here. I tried to figure out where they where going once the snow plow moved but we were struggling with the old Arabic to English thing. They basically said I should turn around or I would die up here haaa. I was trying to tell them once that plow gets moving I am going over haaa. We all walked down the road to look for the Plow King and found them in a bull dozer opening the road that was under about two meters of snow. Haaa I clearly would be turning around now but even then I was wondering could I pay some mountain people to get over the pass with donkeys haaa, mentally I was in a focused state of mind on getting over it haa. That was not gonna happen, anyway I scabbed a lift back down the mountain off the lads, I had cycled up and had no qualms about taking a lift over roads I had cycled already, the lads turned out to be some sort of civil servants inspecting how the road was doing. On the way back down we stopped and chatted with men who appeared out of the rocks and they where swapping forms and just chilling out chatting. It was really nice to meet some of these people who live right down in the valleys. Mega friendly people sharing out bread and oranges and we had a snowball fight with the kids. And thats where our newest term came into existence, as I had been heading for a town called Tamjilt, pronounced Tamjeelt, the lads where rippin the piss out of me for even thinking about it, saying Tamjilt and pointing at me laughing, I deserved it haa. When we got to the bottom of the mountain another jeep approached us and where asking about the pass, when we pulled off I just said Tamjilt and laughed at the other jeep, the lads where loving the call! One mans adventure is still just another kids playground.

Fun and games

Its worth the effort for a hot dinner with a view

Game over

Ahmed, in a Jellaba, super friendly old guy

Reflecting on my failed attempt

I was not actually too dissapointed with the road being open as I had some precious moments of warm weather in some pretty high hills. It also led me to a wonderful cycle along the plains below the hills which again gave me more romantic feelings. The sun was scorching my nose and hands, flat empty land with the mountains hazily in the distance, the tarmac was long gone and we were on a gravel road with the amazing feeling of being in the real Africa haaa. There where no Thompsons Gazelles or cheetahs but the goats and sheep out on the plains under the heat haze provided a surreal atmosphere to the views. Needless to say I enjoyed the hell out of the sunny weather as I knew it would not last once I got to back to the main road south of Fez.

Little kid on a donkey, we shared an orange, it was a cute moment

Ribat el Kiber

A typical mountain house, got a refill of water off them

Another day or so later haa, was a very windy day so I pulled in at what appeared to be an abandonded building with two lads hanging out, one in the traditional Jellaba. I cooked up some pasta and we chatted as best we could. Later on a guy came along and opened up the door to the house to accfept a delivery of gas bottles. It was a shop and a one room school. Eunice, the owner, invited me to his house across the road for some tea, which turned into a feast when his mate Hassan came along too. He had good English and had studied Chemistry in uni. I got the full Moroccan hospitality including the famous sweet tea which they pour holding a beautifully ornate teapot high above the glass! It got late so I camped in his garden, later that night I went over to his shop which a few of the local young lads hang out at. I got Arabic, Berber, Spanish and French lessons off Hassans younger brother Mohassein, a teenager. I also got to tick another box, meeting Berbers, the mountain people. It was seriously freezing cold but we all hung outside the shop eating delish chocolate topped cakes and generally messing around, probably the latest I had been up in a long time, toes almost frost bitten but I was hanging out with real hardy mountain folk so I was not going to bed till they were haaaa

Take whatever shelter ye can to eat!

Eunice showing off Moroccan style

I really do forget where I have camped sometimes so when I wake up and open the tent door it can be kinda weird if I am still half asleep wondering where the hell I am. So when I was woken up the next morning by the sound of an avalanche I was freaking out till I remembered I was in Eunices garden haaa on a flat plateu, but it was the most insane wind of all time. It led to the absolute harshest conditions of the trip so far haaa, really dramatic eh, no joking it was a bloody nightmare. Hail stones all day and bitter unrelenting wind. So far I have only fallen a couple of times on ice, that day I was blown off my bike about fifteen times, once right across the road and into the ditch. Ye know when people say, sure its an experience, yeah but that only afterwards when your laughing about it on the couch, when your in it ye can pretend ye love it but ye fecking dont! I spent all day climbing again, I was pushing my bike at one stage the wind was that bad, just horrific. Stopping so often to catch my breath, I am a wimp eh, flat roads ment nothing, in the wind its all climbing, sometimes ye cant even breath its that bad ye have to turn your head haaa. I stopped to eat, once in some trees for cover and once in a V shaped cut in the rock beside the road, horrible day but I really was loving haaa cause it just cant last for ever. I finally make it to the town Boulemane, the most dramatic entrance to a village ever, basically situated right in the middle of the mountains, the main road leading into an almost Holywood filmset entrance of huge rocky hills on either side. Nestled away on the main road but ye feel like your a million miles for anywhere, yet here I am sitting in an internet cafe!

Prayer time five times a day belts out from the tower speakers

I camped just outside the town last night, waking to find my tent almost collapsing under the fresh overnight snow. Had a monster feed as it absolutely baltic out and the beautiful wind is howling away again. Cycled about 2kms along the road in a smashing headwind, went through a tunnel and was litterly blown back out the way I came so I walk Celona through it. Just so we are clear on this ok, the wind is fucking crazy harsh haaa! Not long after the snowplow man aggresively turned me back despite my protests. I get back down to Bouleman town and I have to wait in line with the cars while they argue away. A policeman said the road would be open in an hour so I nipped down here for a quick post. Really excited to even get past thi

Boulemane with the dramatic entrance in distance

Celona had a chilly night

Waiting for the road to open, exciting times!

My route will hopefully take me to the far east side of the high Atlas moontains as most of the roads will be closed. Then fingers crossed I will get onto the Anti Atlas then back north to the Tizi Itchy pass I think its called, which hopefully will be open which drops down onto Marakech. The distance is huge so I have put off having a peek at the Sahara as its so far south and I will see it in Egypt I think haaa.


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