I am leaving Nkob late and with bad luck: there is wind and it’s against me. Perfectly against me. I revise my ambition downward and will try to just make it to Agdz.
I have no other option now than heading west until the coast, and then going south through the only road of the Sahara. The fight with the wind, an always hopeless fight unavoidable on a bicycle, may last a long time …
Just at the exit of town, I meet the most special cycle tourer: he is bumming around between the coast and Errachidia, with a bike decorated with many belts, a teddy bear, a speed limit sign, a spare wheel, and a tamagochi. All kind of gadgets he received from tourists. Yet he has a proper gear, with a gas stove and a tent with blankets.
The landscape has an impression of déjà-vu: a long straight road paved in the middle of a valley surrounded by eroded mountains, a few houses and palm trees here and there. And still this wind making me move at a ridiculously low speed.
I am continuously passed by 4L cars. It’s the 4L trophy on its way to Zagora or Ouarzazate.
I can’t even reach Agdz and camp in the palm tree oasis some 10 km beforehand. This valley of the Draa is beautiful and fertile. The kids are “normal” again, we can play football (even if they don’t know who Henry and Trezeguet are, only Benzema and Messi) without them wanting 1 dirham. My lazy dinner consists of the 1 kg box of dates bought earlier on the road, and it’s a delicious way to make big reserves of sugar.
The next day starts the same way the previous one has ended. Sun, wind, dates, and 4L cars. I slept well and warm, as I am just below 1000 m again.
From the time I get out of the palm trees until Adgz, I am overtaken by the sponsored 4L again, outnumbering easily the local cars.
From Adgz, I don’t follow the main road until Ouarzazate but keep going west towards Tazenakht. The good news is that the road is paved all the way, when I have been told several times it was a piste with phosphate trucks. The bad news is that the wind is against me all the time again. It’s frustrating, as I get more tired for a shorter distance cycled.
Fed up on the road, I make the test of cycling back for a few meters, in the other direction: I don’t even have to pedal on the flat, the wind pushes me strongly enough. Unfortunately that’s just a test and not a solution, I must keep heading to the coast.
I camp in a dried river bed on alluvion, in a part with more sand than small stones. It is kind of sheltered from the wind on two sides, but it is still cold and noisy.
In the morning, I have hard time to fold the tent with the wind, still here to annoy me, as it did during the whole night. It is not directed directly against my cycling direction this time, and a bit weaker than the previous days, so it feels like a better day.
I pass the cobalt mine of Bouazzer / Bou Azzer. The road is sometimes worth no more than a bad piste, and the trucks going back and forth on it don’t help.
The lunar landscape is gently accompanying me until Tazenakht, that I reach around noon. It is a town on the big N10 road.
As I have seen for too long now, stones on my right and left, and wind against me, it takes quickly for me to stop at the tables next to the roasted chickens in Tazenakht. Soon at my table arrive a whole chicken (and not a baby one), rice, fries, bread, and an avocado juice (my new addiction, it could be a meal in itself). That’s the double of what people share among 2 or 3 at the neighboring tables, but I managed to make everything disappear at the exception of a wing and a leg. I didn’t think I was so hungry, but the wind must have worked towards it.
From Tazenakht, the road is a long stretch of 85 empty kilometers until Taliouine. The wind shows up again and right against me. It’s chilly this time, as there are passes above 1800 m. The night comes a bit later now, between 18:30 and 19:00. I am not as close to Taliouine as I wanted to, and I don’t want to have a bad night with the wind slapping my tent rain fly. There is no place where the wind is quiet, but luckily just 300 m from the road I find a shelter for goats, an open house made of rocks. The difference of temperature is already significant, and I set up my tent inside for extra comfort.
After a good night, I finish my chicken for breakfast to get the energy to finish the little way up to Tizi n’Zbein above 1900 m. The road is rather flat but quite high and cold. And for once the wind is not against me this morning, and even slightly behind! I make 45 kilometers before noon and reach Taliouine, passing many signs for saffron. And Taliouine seems to be the capital of it.
There is a long and pleasant descent to the town of Taliouine, where I loose 500 m of elevation that I will have to climb again later on the way to Igherm. There are snowy peaks not too far, and it could be Jbel Toukbal at 4167 m high, the highest point of Morocco and of Northern Africa.
At the entrance of Taliouine is the House of Saffron, yet another shop that made itself a museum/exhibition to sell at twice the price compared to the little shops nearby. But it is worth a visit to get a taste of the saffron tea. The dose is 12 stigmas with the tea leaves in a 1L tea pot. And it looks and tastes strong.
I buy some grams to make tea later, and the saffron joins the chiba in my small collection of herbs that “heal everything”. If the little box containing 1 gram for 17 dh (1.5 €) is the same product that sells at 30 € / gram in France, there is here better business to do than in the Rif. Around 150 flowers are needed to produce 1 gram.
After Taliouine, I am leaving that main road to join the coast not in Agadir, qualified as a retirement place for old white people by cyclists I met, but in the south, via Tiznit. That road will take me through Igherm and Tafraoute for a last leg in the mountains. After all, there won’t be much of slopes in the rest of Africa, so I’d better make the most of it now.
As soon as I turn, there is very little traffic and the wind rises. It seems accurate that the wind starts in the afternoon and comes from the coast towards the interior. The road is pretty empty. I only pass a couple of douars, villages without service or shops, just houses together. The valley has tents of nomads every kilometer, so I can always spot goats or sheep somewhere on the rocks far around me.
The sun “moving” from east to west, I get it in the face in the afternoon. I survive only 1 hour without the cheche on my head before my face is burning. It is really an essential item outside on these roads.
As I am close to 100 km, I push the cycling until late. It is 18:30 when I reach Azaghar n’Irs, a small village, and my only option is to ask to camp nearby. There is only one shop of dry cookies and sweets open here, and I catch up on chocolate. I can’t catch up much as I can’t even finish a tablet of the local chocolate Maruja, tasting nowhere close to good chocolate (it seems only the worst of Spanish food gets exported to Morocco). All the kids of the village come here too, buying sweets and cookies. The same kids that would beg for sweets and dirhams to all the foreigners on the roads …
I am allowed to stay in the big empty souk yard. But while I set up my tent, Hassan the guard tells me to fold it and takes me to a spare guard room of the city hall. We have a good discussion with some of the locals before I crash into a good and tight sleep.