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Old 12 Dec 2014
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High Atlas traverse by Mountain Bike - help please re accomodation, food, route


A small group of friends and I are looking to travel mostly on non-paved roads and tracks by mountain bike, with small panniers west from Imilchil to Marrakech over 10 days at the end of May / early June.

It will be a 2 week holiday rather than a longer trip sadly, so we ideally want to be quite specific about where we stay en route so we don't lose days etc.

I've decided on a provisional route which seems to be somewhat well ridden by the guided tour community, though we want to go independently carrying our own gear. See below and attached for route.

Aside from an emergency shelter, sleeping bags and mats we plan to stay in gites, B&Bs, homestays and hotels as needed.

I've had a look through the HU forum and got a copy of the excellent Morocco Overland but also have some questions, and am hoping some of you can help - I'm keen to get responses from anyone, be it with MTB, motorbike or 4x4 experience.

- Any good suggestions for accommodation?
- For villages where pre-booking might not be possible how likely / easy will it - be to just turn up and try to find e.g. a gite / homestay?
- How easy is it to buy food for a couple of days at a time along the way?
- And breakfast and evening meals in the villages?
- Language-wise will we be ok with French or will it be Berber in some places.
- Any other considerations?

We all have offroad mountain bike touring experience, some of us in the Anti Atlas.



The key points of the route are below and I attach screenshots from MapSource using Olaf maps, of the provisional route. Note the ride starts on Day 4 (3 days to get us and bikes from Marrakech!) ...

Day 4 Imlilchil-Anergui
Tislit Pass
Tasraft village

Day 5 Anergui-Zawyat Ahansal
Melloul River gorge

Day 6 Zawyat Ahansal-Abachkou
Ait Bou Guemez valley

Day 7 Abachkou-Ichbbakene
Tessaout River

Day 8 Ichbbakene-Tamzrit
Tessaout River

Day 9 Tamzrit-Tighza

Day 10 Tighza-Azgour
Afra village

Day 11 Azgour to Oukaimeden
Azgour gorge
Ourika village

Day 12 Oukaimeden to Imil
Tacheddirt village

Last edited by alfa147; 13 Dec 2014 at 13:46.
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Old 13 Dec 2014
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Late May/early June is a great time of the year to go, Morocco should be at its greenest and the daylight hours are fairly long. My biggest concern would always be hydration, so chug-a-lugg loads of water each morning before setting off and stay hydrated throughout the day. Keep an eye on each other as it's easy to lapse. Lots of mint tea with sugar! You might also want to buy teta-packs of 'assiri' which is a milk/yoghurt fruit-flavoured drink with added sugar.

You don't say how many there are of you, but there's generally no need to book ahead. Most villages will have hanouts (grocers) with basic food stuffs. You'll find snack places in larger villages like Imlil, but it's rare for small remote villages to even have cafes, so for breakfast and evening meals you will need to rely on where you are staying.

You won't stand a chance with any of the Berber dialects. Mime is the easiest, people running gites will speak some French, maybe even English.

4. You descend over 1,000m into Anergui which is really bad news the next morning. I've stayed a couple of times at Gite Chriffi in Anergui, N32 03.936 W5 56.181

5. From memory there's nothing much at Zouiat Ahansal, it's a dead end off the piste, but Dar Ahansal (N31 50.789 W6 06.797) by the side of the piste is recommended by a friend, see photo below.

6. Nice easy day. There's literally 30 or 40 accommodation options in the Tabant/Agouti area, e.g. Gite Filou (N31 38.235 W6 29.213). You could also go just a couple of km further that your map shows and stop at Gite Ziferte (N31 40.971 W6 41.684)

7. This piste to Demnate has been much widened and is tarmac now at the far end. When you come to a narrow section, just a 200m beyond Gite Ziferte, look to the left for the dinosaur footprints in the rock (this is the reason they didn't widen the piste here).

And also spend 40 minutes or so clambering down and through the Imi n'Ifri natural bridge. You could stop a few km short of your intended destination at Gite Toufghine (N31 25.650 W6 52.598).

12. Unless things have changed dramatically there's no piste south from Tizi n'Eddi, just mule tracks. The photo below is taken from the Tizi n'Tamatert and Tizi n'Eddi is at the top left. I've trekked over the Eddi pass and can't imagine doing it carrying a bike plus luggage, though I suppose you could possibly hire locals to help you porter the bikes over.

Another option is to take the track west from Oukaimdene (near the big radio masts), see http://tinyurl.com/oqfzv4g This is an exhilarating descent and brings you out eventually on the tarmac road to Asni.

"For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
and enlarges the world in which you live,"
Irving Mather (1892-1966)
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Old 14 Dec 2014
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Tim's reply is bang on. Never a problem with language as they are all so eager to help. I think it would be very hot late May so hydration when cycling a big issue. Eat local food straight from vendors. Avoid pre made & western foods. Good to take some water purification as quite easy to obtain local water nbut npt sure what effect that would have on our delicate tummies! Good for you to do this without an engine. Accommodation will be fime in my experience sometimes ive stayed with the people ive asked if there was somewhere to stay!
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Old 14 Dec 2014
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Tim, thanks what a fantastic detailed response - thank you so much!

There will be 4 of us.

Have you ridden any of the routes we're proposing? (aside from that south of Tizi n'Eddi)

Anything else you think we should know about the routes themselves e.g. trail conditions aside from what you've detailed above?

Re Day 5 is the trail through the Melloul River gorge piste or mule trail? Am thinking we need to be aware of river levels. Also Day 7 Abachkou-Ichbbakene has a lot of miles ... we may split or even consider heading due south from Abachkou on mule trails to cross Tizi-n-Rouguelt. Day 10 route finding to Azgour may also be tricky looking at the EWP 1:160k (Marrakech sheet)?

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Old 14 Dec 2014
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Chris thanks very much for your response too. Good advice on water (key as you say) and food. We'll be burning a lot of calories so will need to eat a lot! From experience it could be as much as 6k cals per day. Eating enough will also be important ... and making sure as much of it as possible stays 'in' as you say re hygiene. Good to know your experiences of accommodation too, sounds like we should have a few options in most places in the route.
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Old 15 Dec 2014
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Ah, had another look at your map for day 5 and now realise what you are proposing. I was last in Anergui about a year ago and the gorge route was cut, and had been cut the previous time as well. But even if it's not mended you might be able to get through on VTTs. You can see pics of the far end of that piste at Morocco: 'A piste too far' trip - ADVrider

I've done I think all of your routes. Day 10 is the Zate valley and this was "interesting" at one point near the Tichka pass where the track had been washed into a gorge, but would have been OK on VTTs.
"For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
and enlarges the world in which you live,"
Irving Mather (1892-1966)
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Old 16 Dec 2014
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Thanks again Tim that's all really useful and good to know someone has done all of our route before!
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