Stage 6 - El Wahda Dam
A late start due to the hotel breakfast room not being open for business until 7:00. That dining room then almost totally filled moments later with chattering Lycra-clad folks devouring the buffet. I felt a bit sorry for a group of 4 ladies who came in about 7:15 expecting a quiet breakfast themselves. But they seemed to cope well enough.
Backing up a moment; riders meeting this morning at 6:55 … while many of the 24 riders here wear Lycra riding shorts, not all. All keep shoulders covered, and I think all have bare legs to some extent at least. Apparently, it’s ok - this according to Omar, our Moroccan interpreter (who himself is a very experienced tour leader; trekking, etc.). I suspect however that as we move into the High Atlas and interact with far more conservative communities, adjustments to clothing may well be required.
Anyway, finally got away shortly after 7:30; a long sweeping downhill out of Chefchaouen but in the opposite direction from from our entry the other day. Kudos to Doug and Sharita of TDA for mapping out this stage; very quiet rural roads, initially dropping down into a long highland valley, fields of barley (I think) plus more fields being worked by both donkey-drawn plows on the one hand, and the occasional mechanized tractor on the other. I don’t know that I had many expectations of Moroccan landscapes, but it certainly wasn’t this highland pastoral greenery, rolling hills, streams and rivers.
Jacket came off less than 30 min into ride; today will be warm and that late start won’t help. After about 10 km, I had started to climb, the first of three today. A slow start to this first one, but soon enough it bites nicely. I feel better than Thursday, for sure. Scenery is really wonderful - everything so green.
The second climb of the day gets us to the lunch stop at ~58 km, and I take a bit to catch my breath. The fresh fruit, oranges, melons, bananas (which taste like bananas are supposed to taste like), being offered is again restorative; I wonder how long we’ll keep getting this sort of fare. I push off again after about 45 min? …never sure about how long I spend at these stops, anticipating the promised downhill. Another one of life’s little illusions, as this ridge line goes up and down and up again interminably it seems. And it’s getting hotter. Finally after another 10-12 km of mostly up, I crest this extended second hill and get rewarded by a very cooling, curvy descent to yet another valley floor.
Across a bridge and into another administrative Province at about the 72 km mark. The Governor of this Province clearly isn’t fussed in maintaining its roads; the usual tar and gravel surface now degrades to a broken, potholed tarmac wide enough for maybe a small car, but more dirt and gravel than anything else. This goes on for remainder of the day.
The third climb coincides with the local school letting the kids out for the day. Most are good, ranging from shy waves to testing their English (or French or Spanish) hellos. Some others reach for rocks (pea-size gravel, mostly - these kids don’t hold a candle to the feral children of Ethiopia, fortunately). Others attempt to form a human chain to block the way, but they so far disperse at the last moment; just seeking a reaction, I guess.
The climb continues up and away from villages and schools and kids; I reach 500+ m elevation and I’m in a pine forest. Long needle pine trees… sort of like Lodgepole Pine? I must research that when on Wi-Fi. I stop a couple of times in the shade to cool down, squirt water on my head and arms and thighs. The forecast was 22° but this is definitely warmer than that.
Finally crest this final hill of the day, and it’s down down to camp.
We’re set up this evening on the shores of a reservoir; very remote, only an unattended barley field behind, and further back from that, olive groves. I stretch out (something I’d better try to do every day, I’ve been remiss since leaving home 10 days ago) and then spend the afternoon drinking soup, tea - rehydrating and relaxing. Tent goes up somewhere in there, but I leave the organizing of inside to later, once the Sun has gone down.
Full moon tonight.
PS. I’ll download the day’s photos off camera onto the phone tomorrow when in Fês.