Morocco - part 1

Blog Morocco – part 1. Written on: 18-3-2023

Overview day 125 - 130:

Km's Cycled
Marokko - deel 1
Melilla - Nador - Driouch - Ain Zohra - Taza - Bab Boudir - Ahermoumou

The detour

“Taking a detour is usually no problem for the real traveler. In fact, the entire journey of those who travel, just beacuse they want to travel is one big detour by itself. After all, the shortest way is zero kilometers, or just staying at home. “ – Frank van Rijn

On the ferry to Melilla

We are quickly tired of the “touristy-vibe” and sun-tanned pensioners in southern Spain. We stay a few more nights in Málaga, in a very cozy hostel, and on March 5 we take the ferry to Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Morocco. On the boat we meet Karl, our host in Melilla. So far we only had contact with him through Warm-Showers, now we finally meet him face to face. Karl has already made a number of trips through Morocco, both on the motorcycle and on the bicycle, so he can give us quite a few tips and helpfull advice.

Marokko - deel 1
Marokko - deel 1
Marokko - deel 1

Making plans

Michael joins us on the second day in Melilla, he also knows Karl through Warm-Showers. Michael is a Danish man who has been making cycling trips on and off for the past 3 years now. He has just come from Morocco and is making a so-called visa run in Melilla.

We do some shopping and in the evening we all have a nice dinner at Karl’s house. Spanish dinner time of course, 22:00 in the evening. The curry that Isabelle cooks goes down like sweet cake and when everyone is satisfied, the map of Morocco appears on the table.

Karl and Michael turn into our Morocco gurus and we change our entire route up to 4 times. “You have to go here”, “it’s beautiful here”, “you have to go there”, again it is not so difficult to choose where to go, but more difficult to choose where not to go. Merzouga is one of those places that keeps coming back in the discussion we have while enjoying a delicious glass of wine. Michael was in the wine trade in the distant past and he brought a bottle with him.


We can imagine that the average reader of this text has never heard of Merzouga in his or her life. We certainly did not untill recently. Merzouga is a village on the edge of the Moroccan desert dune area Erg Chebbi. The village may be small, but the sand dunes in this area are certainly not.

We open our route planner and enter Merzouga as a stopover. Because we wanted to cycle to Marrakech, this extra stop adds quite a few extra kilometers to the route. So a bit of a detour to Marrakech you could say. But as Frank van Rijn describes it nicely, a detour is usually no problem for the real traveler.

We are definitely adding Merzouga to our Morocco plan.

Marokko - deel 1
Marokko - deel 1
Marokko - deel 1

Finally crossing the border!

After spending two nights at Karl’s we cross the border, finally! When we arrived in Melilla, Karl gave us a warm “Welcome to Africa”. Damn yes, we are in Africa! Someone has to say it aloud before it sinks in, but we cycled to Africa. Not that we are the first to do so, not at all. But for us it is the first time that we do it, and that feels like a great achievement. After giving ourselves a mental pat on the back, we join the queue of cars at the border crossing. After a few minutes, a scooter tears through the row of cars. We wait nicely and disapprove of the behavior of the scooter. But when the fifth scooter winds its way through the row of cars, we also decide to wind our way forward. Crossing the border is relatively relaxed and almost problem-free. It takes a while for the Moroccan border guard to stamp our passports, but that is mainly due to the language barrier. When a colleague joins, it’s done in no time. All in all it takes half an hour.

We leave the stuffy atmosphere and the exhaust fumes that hang under the corrugated iron roof of the border crossing and make our first meters on Moroccan soil.


Marokko - deel 1

It is immediately clear that we left Europe and now are in Africa. And that is not necessarily positive: Plastic. The whole street and wide area is littered with it. What does make us feel positive is the huzz and buzz on the street. Lot’s of things are happening around us. Melilla was no different from Spain in that respect. But as soon as we pass the stretch of no man’s land beyond the border, we cycle in a different world. We also notice in the traffic rules, or rather the lack of any traffic rules, that we no longer cycle in Spain. It’s complete chaos. But when you cycle in the middle of it, you automatically go along with it. We let ourselves be carried away by the flow of traffic around us and that works fine. Because no one obeys the traffic rules, there is really only one unwritten rule left: Everyone must pay attention. Luckily that happens.

The first day we cycle no more than 20Km to Nador. We crossed the border and that was the goal for today. We treat ourselves to a delicious lunch by the sea and take a walk through the town. There is a friendly atmosphere and we feel some of the jitters we had when we got on the bike for the first time. Morocco is going to be a bit different from Western Europe. We therefore make two agreements with ourselves:

  1. We never leave without at least 6L of water.
  2. We never leave without enough food for 24 hours.

Generation Y

The next day we jump on our bikes, feeling excited. The first impressions of Morocco are good and we are looking forward to the weeks ahead of us. Unfortunately, our navigation does not seem to know any road in Morocco. Inconvenient you could say. Because without our technology we are painfully lost. Without navigation we are “forced” to stick to the main road that leads to the next semi-large city. If we find a hotel with Wifi we can fix it.

In addition to water, food and inflated bicycle tires, WiFi has become one of the first necessities of life. Whether we like it or not. But it can no longer be denied. Finding the right way, looking for a shop, booking an overnight stay, wanting to communicate with someone in another language, our hands almost automatically drop towards our pocket to take out our smartphones. We depend on our technology. And now that our navigation is not working, the reality sets in. 

Cycling to Africa, what adventurers! Yes, as long as we can connect to the Wifi.

The main road to the next semi-large town, Driouche, is a busy road with many cars, but fortunately they can’t drive very fast beacause of the potholes. The road also has wide shoulders and we share it with many people on foot, by bicycle, and with a bunch of donkeys. The route is not very nice, mainly due to the immense amount of plastic. No matter how far we look, the plastic remains an eyesore.

More Dutch people

On the way several cars stop to ask how we are doing, where we come from, people are interested. We manage with some basic French but in-depth conversations are impossible. One of the passers-by suddenly speaks fluent Dutch, what a coincidence. He lived in the Netherlands for a number of years, but went back to Morocco. He shows us the way and wishes us a good trip. For the first time in ages we have been able to speak Dutch with someone again.

In Driouche we stop at the first hotel we see, unfortunately closed. The word “fermé” brings back memories of France. We stop at a cafe to ask if there are other hotels nearby. And again someone can speak Dutch. He sends us to the nearest hotel and the owner there also speaks Dutch. This can no longer be a coincidence. And it turns out it isn’t. We cycle in the Rif Mountains and from this area many labor migrants left for the Netherlands in the 1960s. The children and grandchildren of this generation therefore often have a connection with the Netherlands.

Cooking together

The motel where we stay is basic but meets all of our basic needs. The most important: Wi-Fi. Because we are married we can sleep in one room. We update our navigation and are allowed to use the kitchen in the adjacent café.

We start cooking and the café owner is very curious. He watches with interest how we go about, he clears some kitchen-space for us, lights a gas burner and is very helpful. We are offered a knife, then the pan has to be put on another stove because the fire is better there, he offers us a piece of meat, which Isabelle politely tries to reject, then she is offered coriander, then lemon and she has to use bottled-water that he gives her because the tap water is not tasty.  When Isabelle wants to wash up just before dinner, the café owner signals that she has to eat and he does the dishes. If Rob makes an attempt to wash up after dinner, he is not allowed either. We are already for dinner the next day, but if we indicate that we will continue cycling, we are offered to have breakfast together.


We were already told that we would probably be stopped by the police. That is quite normal in Morocco. The police want to know exactly where you are and when, so they can guarantee your safety. Whether that is really necessary? We don’t think so. But we, and the locals, certainly do not experience the police checks as annoying.

The section between Driouche and Ain Zohra is the worst. We have to show our passports up to 3 times and we are closely followed by three private detectives who keep a close eye on every move we make.

They’re in an old Mercedes car, 3 officers. Every time we overtake them they pass us again and then wait for us 3Km ahead. This goes on all day long. Sometimes someone gets out and that officer becomes a “passerby” who is later picked up by the same Mercedes. We just smile and wave.

In Ain Zohra we are invited to spend the night with someone we meet on the way. In Dutch of course, but the fact that we can speak Dutch here no longer surprises us. Before we can really go to his house, however, the police wants to check his papers. Without us having to point out who our host is, our private detectives have already tracked him down. We drink a cup of tea with the police and then cycle under escort to our host-address.

More and more beautiful

The further we cycle into Morocco, the more beautiful the surroundings become. Wide views and huge snow-peaked mountains. We hardly encounter cities and there are actually no villages allong the way. Occasionally a few houses and often there is also a small shop. We think back to the Meseta and Extremadura in Spain. We were warned that we sometimes had to cycle 30Km before we arrived at the next village. For Morocco 30Km between villages is closeby! 

From Taza southwards the environment changes from “beautiful” to “very beautiful” and then to “spectacular”. We cycle from the Rif Mountains into the Middle Atlas. The highest mountain tops are covered in a thick layer of snow, but we cycle, a lot lower, around these mountain tops in 25 degrees Celcius and blue skies. The plastic is also drastically reduced but is always present.

Reaching the limit

The most beautiful routes are of course the least traveled routes. We don’t like cycling on main roads, not just because of the traffic. We plan a route through a National Park with many altimeters, let’s see what 4000Km of training is worth. However, the road turns out to be a gravel road. In itself it is possible to cycle, but not if the road also has a slope of 20%. That afternoon we become acquainted with the term “hike-a-bike”. There are parts so steep that we have to push our bikes up, and even that is barely possible. We slide back down until we find grip on the gravel again. The limit has been reached for us, we make a third agreement:

  1. We stick to roads with road numbers as much as possible

Numbered Roads are (almost) always asphalted and maintained. The road we are on now is great for mountain biking. Not for our city bikes with a 30 kg load.

All we can do is stay positive. And that might seem harder than it actualy was. The weather is wonderful, the surroundings are beautiful and we still have all the time in the world. We don’t let a tough climb ruin our day.

As soon as we can, we adjust our route, that is after more than 10 kilometers of slogging. But we can now go back to the regional asphalt road.


We arrive late at our intended destination for the day. There should be a campsite in Bab-Boudir. And there is, but unfortunately “fermé”. Our most heard French word.

With a lot of effort and being sent back and forth through the village 4 times, we manage to refill our water and continue cycling. We set up our tent in the woods just outside Bab-Boudir. After all, wild camping is legal in Morocco.

Our tent is set up again and we eat out that evening in the woods. It’s not going to get any better.

Marokko - deel 1
Marokko - deel 1


We are awakened by a stomping sound around our tent. Maybe a deer or a boar? We will never know. It’s about 8 o’clock, so whatever our alarm clock may have been, it’s a good time to get up. The sun slowly peaks through the treetops, time to make coffee.

We are now cycling into day 6, to Ahermoumou,  we only decide at the last minute to stop there because we see that somewhere there is a B&B where people once pitched their tent. We will try to arrange the same. This time we are in luck. The place is even more beautiful than our place in the woods and we can take a shower. Our hosts speak English and the next day is the weekly market. So we stay for two nights.

We are spoiled with trips to panorama points for the sunset, delicious food and a tour to the market.


When you arrive somewhere in Morocco you get offered tea and food, whether you ask for it or not. It is part of the hospitable culture. So also in Ahermoumou we get tea and food. For two days. Paying for it? They don’t want to hear about it, after all you are a guest. That will not happen so quickly in the Netherlands, where you are no longer a guest at a hotel, but simply a paying hotel-customer.

We continue to cycle through the Middle Atlas for a while before turning towards Merzouga. From Ahermoumou another 500Km to Merzouga, of which about 200Km through the mountains.

Marokko - deel 1
Marokko - deel 1

Morocco part 2

Thanks if you’ve gotten this far into this blog.  Morocco is a beautiful country and so many nice things happen every day. It is difficult to keep the blog short, so we don’t. We are now already further into Morocco and are trying, with good wifi, to start our Morocco part 2 blog. To be continued……..

Dit bericht heeft 2 reacties

  1. Willie Janssen

    Tis weer geweldig om te lezen , prachtig

  2. Thomas & Rosa

    Dear Isabelle & Rob, a pleasure to read your blog, really an enrichment. Makes me thinking of my Marocco adventures 40 years ago, then still without plastic, even without police or detectives following. Take care in the high Atlas, strikingly beautiful but as well the area of Maroccos professional Cannabis production, involving easily stress and tension (at the end by foreigners), being a lot of money involved. But anyway, Marocco is a beautiful country, and still today an adventure. Big hug from both of us!
    Thomas & Rosa, Pazo de Chaioso

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