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Stage 21 - Country Lanes

Dew on the tent this morning, which is the first since leaving the coast over three weeks ago. But as I don’t have to carry the wet and therefore heavier tent, it’s not a cause for fuss. A little disconcertment this morning, as I discovered in the final moments before leaving camp, that my route for today’s track was not on the Garmin; nor were any of Stages 21-27. I was positive that I’d taken care of all this before leaving Vancouver in early April, but they’re not there now. Possible user error?! Oh well, I’ll follow Mark, and I’ve got redundancy in the shape of printed cue sheet and my odometer.

My legs surprisingly feel not terrible this morning, and we make our way out of camp via some narrow twisting lanes through houses and a few small communities. Then we’re into the early morning sparse traffic of Taroudant which seems a lot larger than expected, given that we’d camped right beside it last night. By the time we’re clearing the city, we’ve joined Dennis and Richard, two of the stronger riders in our group. There’s a bike lane on this highway, and nicer, no hindering winds this morning. Dennis and Richard seem to be in a relaxed mood, so we’re happy to draft along in their company.

We’re passing through relatively uninspiring countryside this morning; essentially arid if not outright desert, with scrub trees, some sheep and not much else. The Atlas looms off to our right, as we track southwest along it’s southern slopes. We stop for coffee in Ikenderte, a smallish village. Even those 15-20 minutes or so result in heavy legs for me when we push off again, and I admit to struggling a little to hold the pace as earlier. But as we’ve got only a little over 20 km to the lunch break, we hang in for the hour or less that it takes.

The lunch stop is a short way up from a sharp turn off from the N8 highway onto P1006, a narrow and very quiet country lane. We’ve also come up off the plain into the first stage of foothills; so some rolling ups and downs as well as twists and turns. This is delightful riding even on this rumbly tar and gravel surface - no problem riding two abreast as we can hear motor vehicles approaching from the front or the rear (and there’s very little traffic in any event). Mostly I hear my own breathing and birdsong. Occasional goats bleating - it’s very pastoral country. Mark and I lose Dennis and Richard right after lunch; they push off a few moments ahead of me, is my excuse for the day. No matter, just over 30 km to go, and the ride is pleasant and it’s still only 10:20 or thereabouts.

Mark breaks my illusions by reminding me of the two climbs ahead. So we take care of those: 200 m up, a good down and then the final 300 m ascent before yet another down to the designated campground d.. By now the morning is decidedly warm. The first 200 m hill is ok … the second hill is an effort, about 10 km long with grades up above 10%. Definitely the steepest section of this tour so far. Keep calm and spin gets us over the top. We catch glimpses of the Atlantic way out there. Thereafter a very nice downhill and we’re into a private campground, complete with multiple (and very clean) showers, washing machines and wifi. Perfect.

We set up under a grove of Argan trees for which Morocco is famous: the nut produces oil used for both cooking and in a slightly different derivative, for cosmetic purposes.

Chef Mark has secured a real treat for dinner from the markets of nearby Agadir: bluefin and albacore. Several whole fish, fresh caught and on the grill tonight. I can smell these now cooking, while writing this note. It’s a truly beautiful evening here - not much wind to speak of, and the mood is good.

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