Rest Day A (unscheduled)
Accommodation: Kasbah Tigmi N’Oufella, Anguelz
When I wake I feel quite weak still but am ready to eat. Hussein rustles up some pancakes, which taste a-ma-zing! Shaun and Steve are also feeling the effects of yesterday – even though they could probably have ridden today, we decide it would do us all good to have a day off, so we book another night here. We are staying in a kasbah, or citadel, with high ramparts, outbuildings and a tall keep (in which we sleep). The setting is also pretty special, on the lush, forested flood plain of the river Ounila – the contrast of the deep-green forest that flanks the river against the red mud-brick buildings of the village and the red rock of the hillsides and rock towers is wonderful and a real tonic. That morning I sleep, eat, hydrate and revel in the beautiful, traditional Moroccan décor of my room in the keep, complete with vaulted ceiling, as the desert air gently wafts in through the chinks in the loosely shuttered windows.
Shaun and Steve hatch a plan to jump ahead a couple of days on our route, to get us back on our itinerary – Hussein books us a cab to Aghbalou for the next day. Miraculously, the night we miss (at Arba Tighdouine) is the only night we hadn’t pre-booked any accommodation (because we couldn’t find any). Later, we eat on the roof terrace, with stunning views of the Atlas, and Steve and Shaun explore the village.
Transfer Day B (unscheduled)
Vehicle transfer from Anguelz to Aghbalou
Accommodation: Top Ourika, Aghbalou
That morning, bright and early, and feeling pretty much back to normal all round, we take our cab – a beige, battle-worn Peugeot 505 estate. Hussein joins us, taking the opportunity to do some business and visit family. Our bikes are strapped to the roof rack with an intricate arrangement of bungees and rope. We aren’t quite sure if they will stay on, but we don’t have much choice!
The road to Aghbalou passes Kasbah Telouet, now a tourist attraction, and we stop for a tour, marvelling at the mosaics that adorn the walls and floors. Later, as we wind up and over a high pass, driving beside bulldozers carrying out road improvements, their tracks clawing at the gravel as they teeter on the edge of huge drops, we stop for some food at a roadside café. The bikes are still on the roof – phew! I’d mostly been eating carbs for the past 24 hours, but, encouraged by Hussein, I chance some meat. My stomach doesn’t seem too impressed, though.
By the time we arrive at our accommodation, we’ve dropped a lot of height and the air is almost humid – a stark contrast with the dry air we’ve had for the past nine days. We thank Hussein and say our goodbyes. After some deft negotiation by Steve (based on security concerns around leaving our bikes downstairs and visible from the busy road), we get the penthouse suite! Our room has its own gated (lockable) entrance and we have a huge balcony, looking out over the Ourika river. We even get our dinner brought up to us! And then, I’m back in the toilet for a massive loss of fluids once again. Oh dear. We go for a quick drink at a nearby riverside bar before we head to bed in our penthouse.