The Adventure really starts here…
Up til now it’s been fairly ‘civilised’. Though I look upon that word in a different light since crossing the Sahara. (That sounds soo pretentious, doesn’t it?!). But seriously, thus far it’s been a journey of city to city, urban to rural and back again, little real rough living – unless you count my fellow travellers. From here on it gets a little wilder. Not hair raising wild, that simply never happened. Not even when it got a little hairy (sic!) in the slightly dodgy terrain further south – more about that later. But there was a definite shift after Marakkech. I’ll put some video clip links to show just how much the land changes and with it the outlook to this journey.
Leaving the rush hour in Marakkech felt a bit surreal. I can handle rush hour in my own town (Dublin), this felt decidely odd – be cautious, I thought. No hassle though and soon we were on the road out and away from the last big town we’d see for a long time.
Bland straight main road to begin with. Cold and rain was on the way.Thirty miles in and the wind has blown the mist away – now we can see where we are headed. Up ahead, jagged, massive, wide, snow capped mountains! We knew this was the day we’d ‘do’ the Tiz n Tez (or Tiz N Test or any number of spellings similar, if you ‘do a google’ on it).
It’s a famous mountain pass through the Atlas mountains. a mecca (?!) for Bikers from all over Europe. So I cant wait to get and play on the twisties! Slight flutter of butterflies in the tummy now as we get ever nearer to the jaw dropping view ahead. We’re aiming for the highest, most spectacular part – a fair distance into this range that, now we get nearer seems to have drifted in from our left and now dominates the horizon ahead.
If you can imagine, The French Pyrenees – The Col Du Tourmalet, often seen as part of the Tour De France route. Or for us in Ireland – ‘Sally Gap’ in the Dublin/Wicklow mountains. Right – now multiply that by one hundred and you get an idea of what’s to come – not a very accurate description, but the nearest I can come up with. Tiz N Tez is over 2000metres high. 100 miles from start to end. It appears first as that bit of a gap between mountain tops – the bit with the mist, the snowy top and its own microclimate too! We stop for fuel about halfway there, I am accosted by street sellers, this time I dont mind as it’s silver they’re selling and I have a bit of a magpies eye when it comes to silver. Sadly though I have no money to hand! Argh! I tell the seller and show my genuine disappointment. He smiles and just asks “Swop – what do you have to swop?” Ahah! A man after my own heart – I get to work with the haggle and the deal. To cut a long story short, I not only have a good laugh with him but we both ended up happy – him with 2 day glo vests and a pair of shades / me with a beautiful little silver box. Both of us left thinking we’d swindled the other!
So, now fueled and grinning I left the village and kept on – ever upward. About 40 miles in and the weather changed yet again, this time to serious rain. Nobody cared – we all knew that one of the most impressive landmarks of the continent (well – that’s my opinion anyhow!) was coming up and we got to play on our Bikes on it…. o.k – so they were only Honda C90s – so what. The little Gappers are perfect for this. Really atrocious road conditions (video to come), no matter. This was still all good. Near the top and the rain became snow! Still all good. We’d had a bit of hail, we were freezing cold, we knew we would simply have to stop to defrost soon, but still – all good.
We finally got to the summit (pics later). Stopped. No one had a working camera – every single one was non functioning after the climb in the rain, hail, snow and bitter cold! Ian and the car had carried on a little further, to the start of the long descent. He pulled into a local Cafe / rest stop and warned them the mad bikers were on the way and to get the coffee on.
We arrived – I immediately got my long johns, mitts and inner glove liners from the luggage I had stashed in the car – I’d only just packed them thinking I surely wouldn’t need them from Marakkech on! Wrong! I ran back to the cafe and stripped and got into dry undies -soon to be warm. (Callum was not – he was so cold he was unwell – and our glorious leader made no allowance at all for this, now or later. This led to bad feeling that did not go away for the rest of the trip. Details later / back to the Tiz N Tez for now).
In the cafe, the staff put four gas heaters out for us to huddle around. The locals, moved away from the blazing fire in the corner to let us soft tourists get at it. We were like little kids in our delight at the road we’d just come along- all apert from Callum, who I think actually had the start of hypothermia. Not good.
After much coffee, some cigarettes and a serious ‘adjustment’ of undergarments we headed back up to the crast – hoping we could get one camera working at least, so we could record the moment.
To appreciate this I am so glad I managed to get some of it on video. Again – the quality is not high / but considering I spent much of the time holding the camera mount in my left hand to stop the damn thing vibrating so much it switched off, it’s not bad. Oh – and I still kept the Bike pointing the right way too!
a bit later and you can see just how much the weather changes and the road deteriorates.
That’s it for now.
Even now – I do grin when I recall that ride!