Stage 19 - Tinmel Mosque
Hotel mornings never result in early get-always, but not a problem this morning, as it was overcast and cool at about 14° and we had plenty of time for the day’s ride. I regretted setting off without cycling jacket, especially as I could discern grey clouds up ahead, suggesting rain. Roads very quiet, this being the 2nd day of Eid, and it was relatively straightforward getting out of town.
We headed south on the R203, back toward the Atlas Mountains. A good road surface and even a bike lane. The first 30 km very simple, climbing steadily but at such a low rate, (~400 m in that 30 km) not really noticeable. Stopped for a stretch but not coffees after 90 minutes at Tahnaout. The road then starts to twist and turn, and climb.
We’re going up the Aït Mizane valley, following the river of the same name. The countryside is unexpectedly green, the slopes forested with pine and cedar. An irrigation ditch paralleling the road is surging with muddy water. As we climb further, that irrigation system disappears and we’re close by the river; this too is flowing with water - not in flood by any means, but still a serious creek.
This is starting to look more and more like south-central BC. Coming through one stretch, we can see a whole range of very tall High Atlas peaks, with plenty of snow on their upper slopes; this explains all the water coming down the Aït Mizane, I think.
We’re up and over the first main hill at 50 km, then a fast downhill with lots of curves and tight corners, eventually finding the lunch van at about 60 km. The remainder of the day climbs again, with an almost continuous series of sharp local hills but always gaining altitude in the end.
The road degrades into a messy tarmac, lots of small potholes and cold patches; not really wide enough for two vehicles; gravel shoulders, mostly. Drivers remain polite, though. A huge number of motor bikes on the road today, going both directions. The views up this road are truly pretty, but then as it looks so much like BC, that’s not surprising. The sun has come out after the lunch stop, so I’m finally warm.
We see a very large Kasbah perched on a hilltop and I wonder if that’s our destination. It’s not, but very soon after we do identify a large building which sure enough is the historic Tinmel Mosque. Establish in 1173 and apparently at one time the centre of a Berber dynasty ruling Morocco, extending as far north as at least Seville. Partially restored in the 1990s, it shows some of the beauty it must have once embodied.
Dry camp tonight; no shower but at least a local café owner some 50-75 m away allows use of his eastern toilet.
No chance of uploading photos tonight (1-2 bars cellular only); I suspect this situation will continue until we make the coast in another 5 days riding.