Titus - Mission Morocco - Guy's Blog Day 28 November 2022
Over the top to Talouet
25km - 1000m
Waking up to a proper Moroccan mountain breakfast of thin porridge and armour-plated bread served by the ever-smiling ‘Wayne Rooney’ was a better start to day 2 than we’d been expecting 12 hours earlier. The dawn sun blasting down into the barren valley onto the few patches of vivid green growth balanced precariously on the terraces below the houses was an unforgettable sight too. That meant so much back-and-forth shuttling for photographs that even our awesome hosts gave up waving and went about their normal days, but at least they knew why it had taken us so long to get into the mountains now.
More wow moments occurred every few metres as we threaded our way through the rock fields that had full stopped our Transit transfer last night. Goat herds, donkey jockeys and ancient women bent double under wardrobe-sized bales of spikey ‘fencing’ shrubs’ gave us curious glances as we winched ever upwards. Occasionally scrambling through big boulder washes in stream beds.
Simon was definitely hating on the old cross bike he’d borrowed for the trip, while Ryan and Mick were relishing the MTB gears of their Titus Silk Road and On One Whippet adventure MTBs. I was mostly in the 40 x 44 tooth bottom gear of the AXS XPLR but the tubeless Tuareg tyres were still finding grip fine and apart from a couple of pushed sections to save my knees from exploding the lighter bike made the epic climb surprisingly doable. Thanks to work on electricity pylons tracking over the summit with us the trail surface was mostly excellent too, with switchback after switchback creating a perfect gravel ‘Alpe D’Huez’ experience. With a couple of video stops for YouTube content, it was still over two hours before we topped out through a gap in a chunky dry stone wall.
That opened up incredible views into valleys in front of us but also revealed that our blissfully broad and mostly smoothly graded trail only existed on the climb side. What we were faced with was a moonscape of savagely jagged tyre and trip-hungry rocks with a vague singletrack snaking through and over them. Ryan was taking his life in his hands trying to ride the first sections on the Silk Road, using the fork bags on his Selcof carbon forks as bumpers to slide between gaps in the rocks. Top Enduro rider Mick didn’t fancy his chances of getting down with his tires or himself unscathed though so he was pushing and carrying for most of the upper slopes like we were.
That made the ribbon of singletrack we eventually found even more appreciated though, even if it certainly wasn’t the smoothest and sniper rocks everywhere made progress careful not courageous. The bikes were proving tougher than expected though, with the titanium Goldrush frame proving remarkably smooth despite just 40mm tyres and only Simon on the borrowed cross bike being really battered as we worked our way downwards.
A mountain spring filled empty bottles though and rough double track led into the first village for the usual exchange of surprised looks and “Bonjours”. Following the banks of a dry river we raised average speed significantly higher and raised dust clouds to match into the small town of Talouet. Straddling the ancient road towards the Sahara Talouet was busy with locals and the perfect place to grab supplies and collapse into a roadside restaurant for a 4 course banquet of breads, salads, omelettes, tagines and fruit. How fast and gratefully we ate was a clear sign how hard we’d actually pushed ourselves the first day and getting over the pass today.
With an auberge just across the road and at least several hours riding to get to the next similar spot, we made the decision to regroup and recover ready for a big push the next day. That also gave us chance to scout for photo spots for the bikes, which led us to the local casbah (small castle/fortified building). The 20 dirham (£2) entry price proved well worth paying when what looked like a mud wall ruin turned out to be hiding incredibly ornate tiled and decorated rooms. A perfect example of the surprises we were finding at every turn of our Moroccan adventure and after another tagine, a much-needed shower and sleep we were ready for the next big push towards the desert.
But that’s the day 3 story...