We’re on the road at 8:30am, after I lose the key to the bike locks for half an hour – doh! Everyone is pretty annoyed, me included. Despite the rest days, this has been a very testing trip to say the least, and occasional frayed tempers, while rare, are inevitable on something as big as this. It has been an amazing trip, but we’re each getting pretty weary. Two days left. Make the most of them, I say to myself. And thankfully, this one is a stonker.
We’d wanted to set off early to avoid the thunderstorms that flare up in the afternoons above 9,000ft – all the more so because today has the highest point of our trip, and we’ll be off-road on remote singletrack. We pass the resort’s six motionless ski lifts and begin a steady climb on gravel doubletrack.
We reach the high pass, the 9,606ft Tizi n’Eddi, surprisingly easily, but then we did start at 8,600ft! It all feels surreal. But amazing too. Aside from one more climb today, it is pretty much downhill all the way to Marrakesh – we congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come. Blimey, it has been tough – but extraordinary too. We perch atop a jumble of rocks, with patches of snow not far above, and look back where we have come and then ahead toward the descent that lies ahead. Oh my, that looks amazing, I think – a ribbon of singletrack cutting across the steep flanks of the peak above us, slicing through a jumble of boulders before opening out onto more open, but still steep, moonscape.
After a couple of short carries through huge boulder fields we are off, careering along exposed, loose sketchy scree, then onto firmer, but still scary-steep, ground whooping and hollering as we rocket down the narrow track, clouds of dust billowing behind us. This is properly good! It’s the highest descent any of us have ever done too. A fitting almost-end.
As we ride into the village of Tizi N’Tacheddirt, a local hostel owner, Mohammed, ushers us into his gîte for sweet mint tea. We’d love to stay but tell him we have a place booked ahead and need to press on. We buy some snacks from him then begin what really is our last climb, a steady tarmacked road. Along the way we pass a group of about 25 Brits on a hiking tour and they whoop and holler and clap as we go by, which is really nice! The descent to the town of Imlil is fabulous, with the scent of the pine forest all around as we swoop around the hairpins and into town. As per the plan, I go into the local climbing shop to say that we’ve arrived. Then, 10 minutes later the owner of our accommodation arrives, with a mule for our bags – one last taste of rural Morocco wouldn’t be complete without a mule! A short walk later we arrive at our awesome, chilled accommodation and relax on the roof terrace, gazing at the mountains, drinking and generally feeling good about life! Just one more day back to Marrakesh. Bittersweet.