Morocco – Day 7 – Mirleft -> Tizi n’Test -> Marrakech (406 km)
The Tizi n’Test road is marked as R203 and crosses the High Atlas between Taroudant and Asin. This is one of the most spectacular roads in Morocco. The road climbs to a height of 2,100 meters and the views are breathtaking. You have to have really a lot of courage and considerable skill to climb to the pass. The road is narrow, and mostly does not have any protection, and the depth of some of the gaps reaches up to 500 m. In addition, it is really damaged. Rocks and sand lie in many sections. If that was not enough, it is quite busy, and passing a bus or truck is definitely a big challenge, especially if it is on the side of a precipice.
That day we stopped frequently. In many places, there are simply amazing views. During one of the stops, even before the Tizi n’Test summit, we stopped to take some pictures, and even let our drones go in the pass to make a few nice shots. Then we lost one of them. A moment of inattention and it crashed into the slope. Unfortunately, we did not see exactly where it happened. Nearby bar workers helped us in the search but unfortunately to no avail. Only the last attempt of searching paid dividends. The drone was lying about 70 m below the edge of the pass. Fortunately it was not seriously damaged.
Coming from the south, the approach to Tizi n’Test is very steep and about 30 km and the exit towards Asin, continuing to Marrakech stretches over 70 km. You really have to make a lot of cornering. I have not overcome them all in one day in life. I admit that this passage was a great challenge for me for several reasons. First I rode at the ankles, and other friends had what seemed like road tyres, and trunks and luggage to boot. In order to keep pace, I had to really stretch myself on the bends on a motorcycle respectively making myself up.
We arrived in Marrakech in the afternoon. Since we were running out of our drinks reserves, and as you know one needs to take care of one’s health, before arriving at the hotel we stopped to stock up with an appropriate range of drinks.
Marrakech. I should probably have to write a separate article about this city and the people since this city and its atmosphere made a great impression on me and drew me to deeper reflection. What I saw and felt will remain in me for a long time.
We amused ourselves a little longer because after dark we went to the famous Djemaa el Fna square in Marrakech’s medina (Medina is an old quarter of Arab cities). Every evening a big market with stalls takes place where you can eat very well and all around musicians, drummers and singers were setting themselves up. Thousands of people gathered in the square, and it is they who make up this amazing atmosphere. They are nice and smiling. I saw them stop where musicians were playing, sit on benches or directly on the ground and listen to improvised concerts. I have seen couples that seemed to have come just to this selected concert. Right next door you could try your skill in ‘fishing’ for a bottle of soda with the help of rods and reels and elsewhere get a tattoo with henna (and not only) or meet a snake charmer. If you ever come to Marrakech watch out for thieves because the city is full of them. I saw for myself how several of them tried to steal from their victims.
A large part of the square was occupied by stalls with “bars” where food was served. It’s easy to notice that some of them designed for tourists are more colourful, the food is presented in a different way, cutlery appears next to the plates and the prices are several times higher than literally right next door.
Having learned from the experience, we just headed to the next row of stalls where mainly locals ate, and often-whole families. You have to try to imagine this for yourself or see the pictures, but it is even better to go and there and try yourself. There is a kind of kitchen in the middle where a variety of dishes in large bowls and pots are prepared. I suppose that some of the dishes are also prepared in a small back room and brought from there (chips, calamari, etc.). The kitchen is served by several men who serve small dishes of food.
You have to have some patience and set yourself up for someone who may seem like they are just about to finish eating in order to take a place at a common table on the bench. You sit down and then one of the men puts grey paper on the table, which the first dishes quickly land on. You eat rather quickly, starting with shredded eggplant, and later a very tasty fish is served (species unknown to me), calamari, fries, tomato sauce, chicken bits, pieces of bread, etc … After just a few minutes, you are filled with food. After finishing the meal, you wipe your hands on gray paper, pay a fixed fee – you can eat as much as you want, but you must remember, however, that the next customers are waiting behind to take your place. It was one of the best meals and most diverse that I ate in Morocco.
Then I went literally tens of meters to buy fresh fruit squeezed from juice. Later, I had a small coffee and cake and decided to absorb it literally in the medina. I entered the small streets with hundreds of shops and a few minutes I was literally lost. I was very curious to see what it all looked like. I watched as residents bought things, how to bargain and how to choose goods.
You can learn a lot from this and take advantage of the opportunity. You can be almost certain that if the local buys a commodity, firstly it will be good, and secondly, the price will be “local” and not “tourist”. In this way, I bought some very nice utility items that have become trip souvenirs such as the ornate, handmade openwork light … for the equivalent of 2 Euros, as well as bracelets or local cosmetics, oils and soaps.
After about an hour of walking I decided to return to the square. Luckily I had a GPS, which showed me the direction to return. Imagine my surprise when I entered the square not street, but through one of the shops.
Marrakech acted as a lens, which focused and showed that somewhere on another continent, in a distant country with another faith, culture and traditions, people can live happily. They probably have their own problems, face challenges but they are smiling, very open and curious. Meeting them, seeing how they have fun and how they live has given me a greater perspective and, in turn, allowed me to gain a greater distance to my own matters.
Advice: Always but always take a second, backup pair of gloves. At some point, I saw the Pawel stopped and it was a typical pit stop. I decided to also follow suit because I saw a lot of beautiful prickly pear cactus fruit at the side of the road. Without a moment of thinking, I alighted from the motorcycle and went to the first available bush to pick some fruit. A day earlier, we had eaten exactly the same ones and they tasted perfectly. I thought that we would have some for the evening. And then something unexpected happened. Literally after a few seconds, something began to burn me and poke my hands. It was a terrible feeling. The fruit fell out of my hand, and I was not able to bend even a single finger so as not to cause a terrible pain. I looked at the glove that I had put on and discovered that hundreds of small needles were pierced in there and in my hands I even had to take off the gloves. To this end, I used the teeth. Unfortunately, when I saw my bare hands, it turned out that they were still dozens of needles. The problem was that they were very difficult to remove. I went to the motorcycle and took out a pair of tweezers. Then, I spent a few minutes on removing the hellish needles. My hands survived but the gloves are lost forever. At this point I realized that I had in truth taken a second, warmer pair, namely Gore-Tex ones. Well, I was terribly hot but there is always the matter of safety and security. In the evening, I told the story of what happened to me. It turned out that Tomek had a spare pair, a second pair of summer gloves, which I borrowed. Here again I really have to thank him for it.