So, starting at the beginning, we headed back 20km to find the road to Dades. At the end of a long day these villages had seemed daunting, and dirty, but on the way back through they were far nicer than I remembered. We stopped for some veg at a local place in Imilchil.
I waited with the bikes as we had gotten a reasonable amount of attention stuck behind a van in the middle of the village. There were many French greetings, and several people asked for food. I think I was called something nasty by one of the girls, but these are not starving Africans from the tele.
Maybe we are wrong to have a policy of not giving stuff away, unless they help us. We paid some lads to help us find the road later in the day, but we cannot feed the whole of Marocco, these people have food and water. Mobile phones, houses... We also don't have panniers full of pens and sweeties.
I like the interaction with those who ask for nothing. Those who just want to talk. A man stopped to ask where we were going yesterday, then told us in broken English that the road was good. He asked questions, and showed an interest in us, but didn't demand anything. Some of the children just walk past and say hello, they giggle and encourage each other, but they are happy with a few words. Lots of them just wave and smile, that feels good too.
Anyway, heading south we left the Tarmac. We did a couple of hours on gravel, over rocks sticking out where the dirt had been washed away, through dust and mud and even a couple of puddles from the irrigation. You could see where the rivers cross the road when the ice is melting from the mountains.
We climbed up the sides of mountains, and dropped down into the valleys. It felt awesome, and the views were amazing. The photos don't do it justice, they look too flat, and the sense of scale is gone. Everything is so big. At times we are riding a kilometre apart, but we're still well in view.
We met some German off-roaders on the track who assured us the road was good and we exchanged stories of the places we had already been. Then we met children running from the fields with their sheep and goats up to the road. They all want you to stop, but only for bonbons.
This was the cause of my first drop. I slowed as the child ran up to the corner, but too much, and then I hit neutral and lost momentum on an up hill gravel hairpin. Doh, sorry Mo! The pannier took the weight and dented a little, but there was no real damage. The child looked very guilty, and uncertain, but still asked nervously for bonbons we don't have.
Do people really ride through the mountains throwing pens and sweeties from their bikes? Should we be doing the same? Is it the return for letting us see their beautiful country? For sharing with us their beautiful land?
We are buying from small shops, eating fruit and veg we assume is grown locally to be sold in their markets. Most nights we cook on our camp stove, and most lunches are locally made fresh bread with fillings. We are staying in small hotel campsites, run by local people.
I hope we are giving back something for our time here. It is cheaper to camp in Cornwall by the way, and the facilities are generally better there, but the life experience is definitely here. Marocco is a place for reflection.
In our hotel at the entrance to Dades Gorge we met German bikers, and Australian ladies travelling with a guide. After our long day we also ate food from the hotel. Couscous with lamb and vegetables for me, and chicken skewers with chips for Zane.
It's hard work standing on the pegs off-road for hours, the meal was well earned