Leaving Marrakech I found myself on the N9 towards the Tizi-n-Tichka pass. My intention was to take the N8 and R210 East towards Demnate but somehow was funnelled amongst the traffic onto the N9. No worries, I thought, I will cut North via a side route. Oddly though my efforts kept swinging me back onto the N9. Initially it was frustrating. Various maps were useless and were less than representative. However it proved to be a good route and took me past farms and villages. Increasingly the road worked its way up into the Atlas and offered wonderful views. Finally I took a turning North towards Sidi Rahal on the R210.
The ride across and down towards Sidi Rahal was quite exhilarating. I camped past the highest point but with great views of the snow capped peaks to the South and the Great Plains to the North. Once at Sidi Rahal I had to make my way East to Demnate. It took some effort to get up to Demnate and the heat made it all the more difficult. As a town Demnate appears unremarkable but provides an important crossroads in each direction. I continued climbing into the pine forests before reaching Imi-n-Ifri and a wonderful Gite.
Imi-n-Ifri (grottos mouth in Berber) has a natural bridge created by a collapsed cave. It is quite an extraordinary sight and with care it is possible to walk through it.
I wandered down after dinner and the air was filled with the sound of toads. One jumped close to my feet and in the dark I took a picture.
The Gite is quite near to the cave and the river continues behind it carving deeply through the rocks.
It was all quite beautiful and unspoilt.
I stayed two nights at the Gite and enjoyed wonderful hospitality from the owner who was a retired mountain guide. I was in two minds about what to do next. I could take the road over the Atlas to Skoura and recommended by a friend. But I feared the heat in the South for cycling (it had already been unusually hot) and looked instead to traverse the Atlas East towards the Ait Bouguemez Valley and La Cathedral. Finally I opted for the latter. Ait Bouguemez or ‘happy valley’ had only recently become accessable to travellers and I had heard it described as ‘like Nepal’. I decided to ‘do’ the R302.