Cycle Touring in Morocco

March 22, 2020
TL;DR: I tried to cycle back to the UK from Morocco. Corona virus stopped me. I'm now back in the UK, sat at home in my pyjamas, figuring out what to do next.

The penultimate day cycling through Morocco with the Atlas mountains in the background and me looking blissfully unaware.

Cutting the trip short

Just over 2 months ago, before covid19 hit the headlines, I handed in my notice and started getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.

I was planning on cycling across Morocco then up through Spain and France back to the UK. After this I was planning on spending 6 weeks climbing new routes in the Himalayas.

Obviously covid19 put a stop to these plans. I'm now back in the UK after a frantic 24 hours booking flights and getting a night bus halfway across Morocco.

Flights were being cancelled every few minutes just as I was about to board

I had an amazing time cycling across Morocco. Instead of ruminating about how it all went so wrong, I've put together a list of things I'm grateful for during my time in Morocco.

  • The long conversations with friendly locals
  • The desolate desert beauty
  • The hospitality offered when trying to find places to stay along the road
  • Getting to know a completely different culture
  • People checking I wasn't dehydrated
  • The joy of arriving at the top of an unknown col and seeing a wicked decent on the other side
  • Not getting bitten by rabid dogs
  • The tagines that didn't make me ill
Rest day meal in Foum Zguid

My time in Morocco

A lonely desert road

In the end, I only spent three weeks in Morocco; two and a half weeks cycling, and a rushed few days trying to escape the country.

My only true regret for the last few weeks is not bringing my camera to Morocco and relying on my phone camera and a knock-off Go-pro to take photos. I didn't take my camera to save weight and in case I got mugged. Southern Morocco is actually incredibly safe and I should not have been concerned about this.

Budget Moroccan hotel

The cycling

I cycled from Agadir to Errachidia via Tafraoute in the Atlas Mountains, where some friends of mine were rock climbing. The cycling can be split into two parts; the first few days going through the mountainous Anti Atlas, and the rest of the trip spent cycling just North of the Sahara desert. The cycling in this part of the country is amazing! Twisting mountain roads, incredibly desert vistas, not much traffic and few angry dogs.

Another lonely desert road

The long steep roads in the Anti Atlas have some incredible climbs, with a particularly memorable 1000m climb heading out of Tafraoute. The days cycling through the desert were sometimes eerily quite. The huge open plains and small oasis towns blurred together.

Ready to set off for another long climb A Google Earth screenshot showing the town of Zagora on the Horizon

I got food poisoning halfway through the trip whilst camping 20km along the longest blank stretch of road. I decided to press on the next day and left at 6am to avoid the midday heat. I cycled 110km, fuelled by the few biscuits I had managed to force down. The stars, sun rise and scenery were surely stunning but I wasn't really able to take them in.

A few things I found amusing in Morocco

The going rate for a tube of pringles (a European luxury in Morocco) is roughly 25 freshly baked pain aux chocolates. This abundance of cheap pastries helped me whilst I came to terms with the fact that my trip was over.

In a rural shop you can typically only find one variety of most items like bread, cheese and chocolate. However they all stock a disproportionately large yogurt selection. Morocco was colonised by France which shares a similar yogurt obsession.

Bikes aren't allowed on trains but there appears to be no law limiting how high you can stack luggage on mini vans.

Standard Moroccan traffic

Back in the UK

When I saw the below graph after finishing my last day cycling in Morocco, part of me realised that the trip was over. I wasn't ready to fully accept this and set off on a cycle touring trip around the UK. I made is as far as Cambridge before coming to my senses and heading back home.

A lovely camping spot somewhere in Lincolnshire Feeling like spring on the outskirts of Cambridge A very rare sight. No tourists looking at the Corpus Christi clock!

What next?

I'm now unemployed during what could be the worst recession of our generation. I had no idea about the upcoming pandemic when I handed in my notice and don't regret my decision, but the next few months are certainly going to be interesting.

Thanks to all my friends and family who have helped me over the last week!