I think my boyfriend is awesome. He’s tall and handsome and Scottish (the dream) and probably the most honourable person I know. He’s also big into outdoor sports and adventure activities, and given how great I think he is, I tend to end up tagging along and joining the activities myself. Which is interesting given my lack of 1. general coordination, and 2. general fitness. Recently whilst in Morocco we decided to have a go at mountain biking in the Atlas Mountains. I had never actually mountain biked before, so it was rather a baptism of fire…
We hired bikes from a little shop in the valley of Imlil for 400 dirhams (£30ish) each and set off up the mountain to the start of the trail. I felt like an instant pro with my helmet and gloves on: lookin’ gooood. Yeah, that lasted about 3 minutes as the heat of the Moroccan day and my impressive lack of leg muscle made the uphill ascent torturous! It was TWO HOURS of hairpin bends which we approached at the speed of a slug. Thankfully boyfriend was by my side and chivalrously pushed both bikes up the mountain while I wheezed slowly behind him thinking I would probably faint any minute… Yep, that’s love alright.
About three quarters of the way up the mountain I was thinking I should really renew my gym membership, either that or just keel over and die. I glimpsed up toward the continuous hairpin bends ebbing into the distance and dug quickly in my bag: chocolate and glugs of cool water made the prospect all the more acceptable.
Finally, amazingly, we reached the top of the mountain many sweaty minutes later. Wiping the droplets from our brows, we climbed back on the bikes to begin the ride. From this point on, the journey was absolutely incredible!
We started with a very bumpy hairpin decent to the river over large rocks and gravel. It left me exhilarated but a little nervous – the bike kept skidding out from under me as I hit the brakes too hard but I learned to master the suspension, my hands gripping the bars so tightly my knuckles were white. As we reached the bottom of the road I could see the shaded river bubbling through the valley and we skidded to a halt for a delicious picnic lunch made earlier by our guesthouse whilst we soaked our toes in the cool water.
Before long we were off again and after a bit of intense midday heat and uphill struggle on the rocky road the other side of the valley we were back swooshing down the mountain roads with the wind rushing through our hair. The dusty trail provided spectacular views of the Altas Mountains and the thrill of having only a sheer drop to your side.
Every so often we’d whizz through a little hamlet where a few kids waved us by as we swerved to avoid a crossing chicken, or we’d pass a lonely villager carrying goods on his mule, smiling and nodding to us like we were totally crazy to be biking down these roads.
It was a whole day of exercise having started in Imlil at 9am and not pulled into our finish point in Asni until 4pm. We were hot and exhausted but exhilarated. Our final 20 minutes of riding were down a beautifully smooth and winding tarmac road with the mountain views sprawling out in the distance. I kept a close tail behind and watched my boyfriend fly down the mountain with his t-shirt billowing in the wind, chuffed with what we had achieved and relishing another adventure with him. An incredible end to an incredible day.
Photo credit: most of these are by the man himself Mr Owen Ensor