The Hotel Taddart in Midelt was perfectly comfortable, it was just rather soulless. It had barely opened and thus had a rather odd ambience about it. An overly large and wannabe grand reception area, adorned with Morocco’s best weaves draped on the floors, was deserted and ornately carved alabaster aside it had the feel of the Overlook (Overreach?) hotel – or whatever the hotel is called in The Shining. It was standard almost formulaic 4* fare and it could have easily been in the Algarve, apart from costing a third as much. But we weren’t complaining it seemed absolute luxury just to be out of the southern heat. The Sahara was fantastic but it was heavy going and riding at any time of the day after 10 am borderline unbearable. And we weren’t even quite yet into June. How people lived through July and August down there is hard to fathom.
We were unsure where to head next. Rabat had been our original intention but a quick deco at the map revealed we had underestimated the distance and so we set off for a much more modest distance target in Meknes. Pouring over guide books for somewhere decent to stay
and eat, the former we had only managed in Fes and the latter arguably never, we settled on the Lonely Planet’s “Top Choice” the Riad Bahia – also a top choice for nosh. Vince ever the realist in terms of pricing (you get what you pay for) remained unconvinced, but it seemed the best bet and for me it had to be damn good for me to leave the bike away from where I was staying for the first time this trip. Don’t believe the “oh they just let you park the bike right inside the hotel reception” bullshit you read in all the bike travel stories, that had never happened once, even in £15/night places. It may happen in the dive-iest of dives but we’d never come across it. Far more reliable was the “pay someone to watch your bike with their life” advice, well in the morning of course. And so we did that.
Initial impressions were encouraging, the central Riad courtyard was indeed charming but then 36 flights of stairs and various buildings stuck on the roof later we came upon our accommodation. Even I was disappointed so Vince must have been catatonic. His room was
marginally better than mine, in that it’s marginally better to lose an arm than a leg but the real problem was the drainage – it was as if the main sewer of Meknes’ ran underneath our floors. The bathrooms stank and unfortunately over the course of the evening the smell permeated the bedrooms. Yeuch – the worst place we have stayed in and it wasn’t even reasonably priced. Great top choice!
Far more enjoyable though was the journey itself to Meknes. There was something rather relaxing about knowing we had a relatively easy day and yet again we were rewarded with a peachy ride. The route through the middle atlas, which runs at about 6000ft was traversed at the perfect temperature for riding - low to mid twenties. Again the terrain was different on this route to the one that traverses the atlas to Fes. The Cedar forests were much denser and wild monkeys ran to the road. Primates aside it was more alpine in feel that the Fes route, due to the density of the tree line. It obviously got pretty cold up here as there were snow barriers at frequent intervals where they must close the passes
in the middle of winter following heavy snow.
The middle atlas was interesting as a demarcation point. The top was a desert plain, albeit relatively cool. Anything south of the plain involved hotter and hotter temperatures, partly because of the location and partly the altitude. Also the skin colour changed at this point as you descended into the start of black Africa. Descending the plain to the north fertile lands returned and the desert was left behind as was black Africa. To the west of the middle Atlas the High Atlas reared its still snow capped peaks – good climbing apparently. To see snow having been in 50C+ heat in the sun in the Sahara the day before was totally surreal.
Perhaps we had seen too many wonderful things which are so abundant in this amazing country because we had found little of interest in Meknes and we weren’t sorry to leave it and our smelly rooms behind.
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