On Moroccan roads tour cyclists sit somewhere between camel riders and road vendors. Actually no. Road vendors -with their large flat cumbersome trolleys laden with fresh fruit- actually get right of way from cars.
That’s when the road exists. Often, seemingly ‘normal’ main roads crumble away to nothing, revealing the coarse gravel and dust beneath like an infected wound; but as a tour cyclist this does nothing to deter from the joy of travelling. It simply adds to it.
We’re a family of cyclists. We’ve cranked our way across our homeland of New Zealand and rolled from the Atlantic to the Black Sea through Europe. But nothing we’ve ever done on a bike before is even remotely comparable to the adventures (and challenges) we’ve faced in North Africa, with its isolated settlements, crumbling white buildings, and broken roads.
Not far from the tourist route subsistence farmers work beneath baking winter skies. Sickle in hand gathering harvests of parsley and other legumes grown along the Mediterranean’s Fertile Crescent -There are no tractors here; horse and cart rule the fields.
As tour cyclists this is where the best Moroccan experiences can be found, in the form of welcoming waves of farmers calling us over to enjoy a sweet mint chai, before wishing bon-voyage for our remaining trip.
It’s where couscous and vegetables was delivered to our bike trailer during a brief lunch stop in an unmarked settlement, by people we’ve never met before, and probably never will again.
And where friendly locals helped to fix one of our bikes’ snapped rear axles using an antiquated welding machine, before flatly refusing payment. Their only request: we enjoy their country.
Traversing the back roads we’ve met everyday Moroccans who have opened their doors and lives to us -complete strangers- inviting us into their world; sharing evening meals called Tajines, tending their cows to offer fresh milk, and heating up buckets of water over a fire pit, so we may enjoy a refreshingly warm (ladled) shower -Paradise at the end of a long cycling day.
If there’s one thing we’re learning from being here, it’s that the condition of the roads do nothing in reflecting peoples’ attitudes towards travellers. Moreover, their authentic hospitality and genuine support adds to the many reasons why we tour cycle as a family.
Learning to appreciate the broken roads of Morocco.
Off the beaten track.