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Stage 16 - Hollywood Sahara

For whatever reason, last night was the first on this trip that I really had a good look at the stars - perhaps because we were on the outskirts of town, the night sky was very clear, very bright with stars. The Big Dipper right above the camp as I fell asleep and with the warm evening, I hadn’t bothered putting on the fly so it and other constellations clearly visible whenever I surfaced during the night.

Today was effectively another half-day ride, so that a late start (breakfast at 7:15 instead of 6:15) was the program. A little warmer than we’d been having in recent days, but still a great morning with a slight following wind for most of it. We almost all stopped for coffee or juice in Ouarzazate, approximately the half-way point of the day’s ride. Mark had found a spice shop he wanted to visit, so he and I and Brad headed that way first, and in the way of groups, Mary, Eric and Terry came along as well. We found the ‘La Caravane des Epices’ the most exotic spice place I think any of of us had ever seen. The proprietor dons a white lab coat and commences to give us a show and tell on all the spices and oils on his shelves, and in the various baskets and bottles arrayed about. While Mark had a shopping list, the rest of just free-ranged.

And certainly news to me, but apparently these towns, and the immediate area, a little Hollywood Sahara; several films shot here, not the least being Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator and on and on (I’ve actually seen some of these!).

We ended up having coffees, still in Ouarzazate, on a terrace besides the Taourirt Kasbah, a 19th-century palace; while some elected a tour of the Kasbah, others pushed on to Aït Ben Haddou, still another 30 km or so down the road. I’m glad that I did the latter, as the road over the last 20 km turned north into what rapidly became a stiff afternoon headwind. I’d almost forgotten the negative effect of a strong headwind on my willpower; more than a little demoralizing as 13-15 kph being about the best I could manage in that last hour of cycling. At least this time, no huge amounts of sand blowing across the road and eventually we made it the end.

Rest day tomorrow.

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