Titus - Mission Morocco - Guy's Blog Day 39 November 2022
90km and 1000m of climbing
Gratefully fed, watered and even washed, it was time to hit the road from Talouet towards the desert. Typically for our exploring mission though what was supposed to be a short gravel diversion to a lake ends up in an incredible valley where a ruined castle faces us over lines of donkeys carrying whoever knows what. The almost equally ruined village at the base of the castle ridge is like something out of Star Wars too and before we know it we’ve burned over an hour helping Mick our photographer create some incredible images and taking some personal memory joggers ourselves. The blast down the riverbed double track is almost as memorable as I hope ditches and bigger rocks on the Goldrush gravel bike trying to keep pace with the two 29er Adventure MTBs of Ryan and Mick.
The tables are turned for the next section of the route though as we climb gently on a canyon road with immaculate tarmac and then roller coaster gradually down alongside the ever deepening ravine. Current villages overhang ancient buildings carved into the rocky walls of the valley itself, themselves overlooking the river and vivid green terraces that create a lifeline through the otherwise barren landscape. It’s also an awesome ride as I drop gradually down towing the others into the oasis of Ben Haddou. The sudden bustle of slightly bemused looking tourists spilling out of air conditioned buses here feels totally at odds with how we’re experiencing this incredible world. Our guide, Jamal, and Simon’s local knowledge mean we dodge the overpriced street side cafes in favour of a superb tagine meal on a hidden hotel top terrace. The perfect place to watch the tourists waddle towards the spectacular citadel and then sweat back again. Barely having experienced this stunning, storied landscape any more than if they’d watched one of the many films that it’s been a backdrop for.
While we’re still a long way from the Sahara desert proper, we really start to appreciate the wildness and vastness of this area as we head west and then north east across salt flats and rocky wastes. Heading for distant hills shimmering in the heat but having to check the GPS regularly to keep us on track as trails cross and split like vague veins on parched skin. As the sand gets deeper and the rocks bigger the going has tipped very much back in favour of the wider wheeled bikes again. That means Simon is cursing, I’m grimacing and Mick and Ryan are laughing as we gradually close in on those mountains and the last few miles of the route. I even swap to Simon’s borrowed cross bike with it’s alloy frame and small tubed tyres to give him some respite from the rattling punishment. Not fun in itself but a great illustration of just how smooth the titanium frame and tubeless tyres of the Titus Goldrush I’ve been riding are. The constant chatter and batter of chain on frame is a reminder how rough double ring set ups can feel compared to the so far flawless shifting of the SRAM Rival AXS XPLR gears I’ve been using too. Doubly impressive considering the bike blew over twice while taking pack shots the previous day and both mech and hanger have been persuaded back into alignment by eye.
After the starkly beautiful isolation of the desert tracks the final furlong along a busy road past a manganese mine that has coated the surrounding area in choking grey/black dust is a shocking return to industrial reality. The roadworks afterwards are a reminder that Morocco is working hard to grow it’s economy and ease of transport too, but we’re glad to pull into the roadside Dar Zara gite, even if it’s tagine for tea again tonight.