Stage 20 - Huge Descent
Updated: May 5
Definitely chilly this morning, but not as cold as I’d feared. Still pulled on wool undershirt long-sleeved, and wore my silk long john’s over cycling shorts. Cold weather gloves and non-matching buff ‘round neck. Note: this is not a tour for the Velominati of the world.
This morning’s climb up to another pass in the High Atlas definitely went up and up, but generally the grades not severe at all. The views back down at all the switchbacks were really something; I’m not sure any of my photos will be worth much, as I was shooting back toward morning sun. The first summit at ~26 km while the real (2100 m) and final at ~34 km. The wind up here is positively icy and blowing hard … luckily there’s a comfortable tea / coffee shop in which to take shelter. The interior of this has both fireplace and old wooden skis ready for deployment. The nous nous is welcomed.
Somewhere or other on the climb up, I’d shucked my jacket and fashionable long john’s; both now pulled back on for the coming descent. The scope of this descent isn’t really apparent from the mountain tea hut; only when pressing on for 100 m or so does the world open up below us.
I’ve had lots of superlatives when trying to describe the High Atlas, but this view out and down is another scale in the wow factor. We can see some (at least) of the switchbacks below; but the scale of it all is almost overwhelming. I can’t recall such a descent - another first for me, for sure.
The road down starts smoothly but very quickly the tarmac is broken by rock falls (and winter ice, snow?); the pavement about 1-1/2 car widths, at best. The really steep bit goes on for almost 30 km, abundant tight curves, with occasional vehicles requiring attention. I’m sure happy to have my mountain bike brakes. It’s tempting to steal sideways glances out at the views, but much more prudent to concentrate on the next stretch of road. We stop repeatedly on the descent to look out and to snap photos.
Somewhere around 60 km the road finally flattens out, although it’s still slowly losing altitude. A bit of a head wind now, but we (Brad, Mark and I) quickly cover the remaining distance to lunch stop at ~70 km. A refuel and we continue.
The headwind stronger now, but manageable. The route turns us off onto a rough gravel track; well, more adventure. Finally emerging onto another tar and gravel highway, somewhat busy with traffic, the headwinds now definitely noticeable. Oh well, only another 40 km to go; head down, I ride in the drops for much of the way into camp. That is, except for another turn off onto yet another gravel bit. My butt is getting a good work out today.
All good things come to an end; we roll into camp, and Doug greets us with a cold beer. Wonderful treat at the end of a long day - so appreciated!
This camp is a proper (private) campground; clean ablutions and hot showers. Chef Mark is grilling steaks on the bbq. Great end to a fabulous day.