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The Route of Caravans - 16 Days on the Southern Morocco Traverse

The Route of Caravans - 16 Days on the Southern Morocco Traverse

(Day 7 Arid Landscapes near Foum Zgoud)

In March 2024, Tom Phillips' and friend rode the Route of Caravans - a 700 mile cycle expedition through the Atlas, Anti Atlas, Sahara and Jbel Saghra. 

Challenges included the hottest and coldest towns in Morocco, rough tracks, dry lake beds, sand dunes, deserts and dry mountain ranges. 

Here's his account of the adventure:

Day 1

After the long bus journey to Tiznit from Marakesh we had a few hours riding to an atmospheric camp before a few hours of....... RAIN?

Day 2

Two big climbs on roads,but no traffic on the second and biggest climb as the road was blocked by enormous boulders! Then we had a rough rocky descent in the rain before a spectacular camp in a ravine. It's Ramadan so no food at cafes during the ride. 

(Day 2 Descent to the Ravine)

Day 3

We had a monster 4000 foot climb straight from the camp, but enjoyed dramatic scenery and lush settlements before the summit was reached after nearly 4 hours. The reward was a simply stunning descent to the big dry river bed of the Oued Massa.  

Day 4

The amazing granite scenery South of Tafraout included the bizarre painted rocks. Then we battled up a 6000 foot pass before the long descent down a canyon to Tissint. We tried to buy some fresh food and thought we had failed as the shelves were full of tins and sweets and nothing else. However the word in the village got around and before we left two people came with onions, bread, cake, dates and a potato! Payment was refused. They welcome travellers in Morocco! But especially people who are cycle touring. 

Day 5 

Heading out of the Anti Atlas we had a stop for water and provisions before finally dropping onto a lower plateau. It was fast going with a tailwind and a very different landscape with occasional groups of nomadic Berbers with their camels and goats.  A very friendly shop owner made us tea in the shade of his store and went on a special errand for bread. A final section to an oasis and a camp, shower and wash from a well before winds struck up at dusk and we had to batten down the hatches

(Day 5 Dropping to the Pre Sahara)

Day 6

A Berber brought his large group of camels to the well at our camp in the morning. A few watched us, curious as to what we were! At Tata (the hottest town in Morocco) we resupplied and filled up with about 25 litres of water as the next water was 60 kms away. Having most of our luggage in our tried and trusted Super C Rear Panniers meant our rear racks were able to carry full water bags. Next section of gentle ascent on road into a hot dry wind before a great off road track through a wide flat valley dotted with oak trees sculpted by the camels into umbrella shaped topiary. We decided to camp early and enjoy the amazing views.

Day 7

The spectacular canyon of the Oued Tissint was lined with palm trees and had a flowing river. In Tissint we restocked from the market (delicious oranges, avocados etc) and rested in one of the few open cafes. With 16kg of water my bike did feel heavy, but the next off road section just had one 500 foot climb at a reasonable gradient. We soon left all signs of life behind. We enjoyed another evening of dramatic scenery as the stars emerged. 

Day 8

Heading south from Foum Zgoud there were initially a few vehicles coming towards us from the Lake Iriqui National Park. But soon we were alone on a real mix of surfaces. Good and bad. Some rocky sections, some with ripples caused by vehicle suspension (very unpleasant). A few sandy sections but thankfully not many. There were some super fast single track bits and later we raced along on the hard as concrete dry lake bed. Things got pretty hot with an air temp of 33C but in the sun it felt much hotter. We were thankful to get to an auberge built on the lake bed at the NE corner for an actual non camping night! Mustafa, our host, bought us tea and cold water! Relief!

(Day 8 Lac D'Iriqui)

Day 9

We split the day into two rides. First the rough track off the lake bed and around to Oasis Sacre. By the time we got there it was pretty hot so we then waited until after 4pm to do the ride to Morocco's biggest sand dune, the Chegaga which were beautiful.

Day 10

End of the 'Real Deal Desert Riding' as the route notes say. The initial rocky plane led to a real sting in the tail with soft sand and dunes and we encountered the odd camel train and 4x4. The driver for a tourist in a 4x4 stopped and dashed to us with a large bottle of cold water which we drank like nectar. Eventually we were spat out at M'hammad Ghislain and satisfied with our crossing of the desert sat and enjoyed several coffees. We took the opportunity to jet wash the chains on our bikes which were caked in sand and in a grim state. By 3pm we decided to head on North and had a steady few hours to the next town, Tagounite, where we  found an excellent camp spot in a palm forest just beyond the town.

(Day 11 Heading East)

Day 11

Heading North all day, but still hot going towards midday. After a great section through the Dra canyon we hit a hot rocky plane that took us to Zagora. The rough surface and heat were a test and after a three hour break in Zagora we enjoyed cooler conditions for the final 30kms. After sourcing some water from a school teacher we found another idyllic camp in the palm groves.

Day 12

We enjoyed the easier riding up the Draa valley, with lots of Adobe villages, many abandoned. It was a very traditional lifestyle for many there. Donkeys carrying grass, women collecting water from taps. Lots of over excited children going to and from school. It was our final palm plantation camp tonight as the Jbel Saghro beckoned. 

Day 13

Waking up to birdsong in the palm oasis was a treat. Riding initially through cultivated fields of courgettes, squashes and other crops we eventually ascended into a beautiful valley of Argan trees with an impressive multi-layered mountain as a backdrop. Then our route became continuously steep but with ever more spectacular views over tilted canyons of red and black basalt and other green tinged rock. The views, ever more sensational, distracted us from the physical effort and reaching a high undulating plateau we found a camp spot and enjoyed a well earned tea drinking session. 

Day 14

A cooler morning as we started at 7000 feet and then descended past some very remote settlements before reaching the Dades. We sped through  Boulmaine Dades  and found a quiet Auberge further up the river.

Day 15 

The ride up the Dades Gorge was lined with lots of cafes and auberges. Then above the first set of hairpins we encountered wilder and rugged terrain with little traffic and cooler weather. Much cooler than any other days so far but at 6000 feet plus that was not surprising. Dust blowing in from the south heralded the arrival of potential storms, rain and even snow. 

(Day 16 10,000 ft Pass to Imichil)

Day 16

Final day of the 'official' route. A mega climb from the start headed up to the high point of 9500 feet where the route crosses the Atlas. Dusty, sandy skies and gusty winds made it interesting at times.  Dramatic canyons to the East provided a stunning backdrop.  It was a fast run into Imilchil which is the coldest town in Morocco. We had some cycling to do to get to Beni Mellal, and snow was forecast. 

Day 17 

The forecast had been predicting rain, snow, wind and cold temps for a while with the chance of getting stuck in snow we had to carry on. A minor road, rough and unsurfaced in places weaved its way up remote valleys and through some very poor settlements where life looked hard. There was more four legged transport on the road than four wheeled. With several passes to cross including an 8,000 foot pass to finish it was hard work as the weather deteriorated and at times it was even snowing. The last section was a 4,000 foot descent. We got very cold as the rain was quite steady now. We were relieved to get to Tagleft and find some accommodation.

(Day 18 The Ride Back to the Bus Stop!)

Day 18 

A sublime ride over the Northern edge of the Atlas Mountains. All tarmac but virtually zero traffic until we go to the final 3000 foot descent to Beni Mallal. The mountains were ochre and green after the rain and dusted with fresh snow. The amazing last descent of the journey took us from alpine snows down through cactus forests and then to lush pastures with olive and palm trees. 

Read technical info on the ride here

You'll see some great videos of the ride (plus Tom's other adventures) on


Our bikes performed amazingly. Just one slow puncture and some oil on the chains. As on other remote and rough tours our Super C Rear Panniers were fantastic. Quick to get your luggage off the bike (buses, auberges, obstacles, etc). And they take all the punishment, leaning against rocks, lying down in dirt, dragging past thorn bushes etc. They are also now super dusty, but a wash will sort that out. 

For a summer tour I'm considering a pair of Super C Front Panniers (used on the rear) as less luggage will be carried but I still want the fail safe durability of cotton duck. 

(Day 11 Up the Draa Valley)

Super C Rear Panniers are expedition stalwarts - tried and tested over many years all over the globe.  Made from waterproof but breathable cotton duck waxed canvas, they keep everything safe, dry and fresh.

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