After a frigid night in the Hotel Akabar, our group piles into a van to take us a ways away from Marrakesh, thank god. Cool city, but the cycling – well, let’s just say I’m sure the Saddle Skedaddle people have decided it throws a damper on things when you have a bunch of your cyclists being mowed down in the street on Day One. So off we go, our group of 13, all of whom seem very nice unlike some of the snotty arrogant people on our AlpCycles trip (cough Penny cough). And then there are our guides: Sayeed, Khaled, Muhammed, Muhammed, Muhammed, and Muhammed.
Basically if we go with the name Muhammed, there’s a high chance of getting it right.
After we stop and as we’re getting our bikes ready, we’re followed by 2 cute little urchins, and I feel compelled to give them something. But what? A Slim Jim? A quarter? Aha! I settle on a banana and the grapes my mom stuffed in my bag way back in Chicago about 4 weeks prior (or at least it seems that way). Note to self: next time going to foreign country, pack fun little things to give to the local kids. (This is what I tell myself on Day One – note that this is before the Children of the Corn started showing up.)
I also make friends with a little goat, who does a amazing vertical leap of about 10 feet to join us, and then after I scritch his little head for a while, decides I’m his bestie for life.
We then set out, and while I’m getting my sea legs, so to speak, I realize one minor detail that’s slightly inconvenient: I can’t breathe. I mean I KNEW this before, thanks to the bronchitis that’s happily settled into my lungs, but it becomes more obvious as I’m trying to cycle. Especially since – and pay heed here, as this isn’t in the guide books – Morocco is all uphill. Yes, it’s true – like the whole country was built on an Indian burial ground or something. Because there we are at a steady 5% grade for HOURS. No downhills, just up! I kid you not.
Lucky for me, I have the company of 2 of our guides at the back – Khaled and one of the Muhammeds. This means that when I stop for pictures, I get the benefit of Khaled’s wisdom, and thus I learn about the formation of the mountains here. In a nutshell, the Anti-Atlas mountains came along first, then there were, umm, glaciers and stuff, and floods, and then poof, the Atlas mountains appeared.
At least that’s how I understood it.
(to be continued)