Dades Gorge

March 12, 2023

Okay, I’ll reiterate what I said earlier about stereotypes. Northern Morocco, coming out of Tanger Med to Chefchouen, and south of Chefchouen, is not what I thought of as stereotypical Morocco. It’s very green.

For the past few days, we’ve ridden through what I thought Morocco would look like: desert. Not Sahara Desert sand dunes, but just desert. Our friend Michal referred to it as “African Utah”, and that’s a pretty good description. It looks a lot like parts of Utah and New Mexico, with flat-topped mesas that look kind of like Monument Valley, and vast rocky desert with adobe-looking buildings sticking up. Some of it reminds me of riding through the Navajo Nation.

It’s also practically overwhelmingly friendly. Old men dressed in traditional Gandoura wave from the roadside as we go past. Young children wave, and many run into the road and stick their hands out, palms facing us, wanting to slap hands as we pass by. Others make twisting-throttle motions, wanting us to rev the bike up (the best: a young boy of maybe six, holding his mothers hand, looking down as if he’d recently been scolded, and with his other hand to his side where his mother couldn’t see, making the twisting throttle motion. I laughed in my helmet and revved the bike a few times for him). None of these people can see our Texas license plate before we go by, or the Polish number plates of Lukasz and Marcin. But it’s obvious we’re tourists from our bikes and gear. And it’s obvious that we are welcome here.

After returning to the bikes from the Berber Camp, we loaded up and headed down the road again, this time towards Dades Gorge. We stopped in Tinejdad for lunch, and there the owner of the restaurant, who of course spoke no English, told us that we should do the loop from Todra Gorge, just north of Tinghir, up to Agoudal and back down to Dades Gorge. I had actually planned to do this loop, but I wasn’t sure if Lukasz or Marcin would be up for it, as I was aware that at least part of it was unpaved. While sitting there, Lukasz googled it and started reading off his finds on the internet:

“World’s Most Dangerous Road”
“Difficult piste”
“Takes eight hours or more to complete”

With each quote, he was definitely more convinced that they would take the direct route to the hotel. I was more convinced to do the loop. And Marcin wanted to follow me.

We finally agreed that they would follow us through Todras Gorge and another hour or so up the mountain, but if the road turned bad, they would head back.

I’m glad they decided to at least try the first part, as I think they enjoyed it and got a good look at some incredible Moroccan scenery.

I’m also glad they eventually had the good sense to go back down and take the main road to our hotel in Dades Gorge.

We split off around 5pm about 20 miles south of Agoudal. It turns out the road to Agoudal, with the exception of some potholes and some shallow water crossings, was great, and we were able to make good time. And the road just after Agoudal was exceptional, except for a bit of snow. I was telling Diana that it was a shame Marcin and Lukasz hadn’t joined us when we rounded the corner and ran smack out of pavement, into a muddy, snowy, rocky two-track.

End of the “road” part of the road. Or viewed another way, the beginning of the good stuff.

Now I was glad they hadn’t come this way. And I was loving it. Diana wasn’t too sure at first; with the exception of the Dalton Highway in Alaska, this was her first taste of off-road. And this was no highway.

The snow and mud only lasted a short distance, and once we dropped a bit in elevation, it was dry. The “road” is about the width of a car. It’s dirt, with lots of rock; not loose rock but the kind that juts sharply out of the ground. One side drops steeply for several thousand feet. It’s not a cliff, but if you were to drop a motorcycle off of it, you wouldn’t be pulling it back up. You’d live though, as long as you could slow your tumble to a stop.

There are definitely some epic views up here.

The scenery was spectacular. We were at high altitude with clear skies and distant views. I turned the GoPro on and off several times over the course of the ride, but somehow now I have no video from the GoPro. I am bummed about that, but fortunately Diana had the nerve (and sense, or lack of it) to capture some video with her iPhone from the back of the bike.

The dirt road eventually turned back to potholed pavement and we continued through Tilmi and several other small villages until we arrived at Dades Gorge. To be honest, the Gorge itself isn’t as impressive as Todra, but the overlook just south of the gorge is a popular photo spot. It was too dark as we passed by this evening, so we decided to wait until morning and return.

We arrived at our hotel for the evening, La Gazelle du Dades, just as the sun was setting, and met Lukasz and Marcin as they were arriving. This hotel didn’t have the greatest reviews online, but it turned out to be much better than expected. The room was comfortable, and dinner was good. I think some of the online reviewers must have been expecting a five star resort for their thirty bucks. You get what you pay for, and we felt like the rooms were good quality for the money we paid, though the dinner may have been a bit over-priced. I’d definitely stay there again if we were headed back through this area.

In the morning, we led Marcin and Lukasz back up to the scenic overlook and the gorge for some quick photos.

Outside our hotel the next morning, ready to go.

At the overlook near Dades Gorge.

At the top of “Not-The-Most-Dangerous-Road-In-Morocco”. But still one of the scenic spots.

This was our last day riding with MotoJary (the Polish guys), as they were headed back toward Spain and we had another week to go in Morocco. We rode together toward Ouarzazate, and had lunch at an outdoor grill before saying our temporary goodbyes and going our separate ways.

Our last meal together. It was time for something besides tajine. Turned out to be some good pizza.

Saying goodbye to Marcin and Lukasz, or “Doober 1” and “Doober 2”, as Roza calls them.

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