Like 9 other people, I had to be at the Charles de Gaulle airport very early on saturday the 23rd for our flight to Marakech. We all booked the UCPA's "VTT Atlas -Marrakech" trip, 8 days of cycling in the Atlas mountains near Marrakech.

Leaving early means arriving early, giving us almost a whole day to look around in Marrakech. We started with a visit to the el Badi palace. All of the marble has gone, the palace is now the home of a lot of storks/ooievaars/cigognes, which have their nests on top of the walls. The garden is filled with orange trees, and some big fish are living in the pool. Some nice lighting in the underground tunnels as well, and the doors are getting a little bit tired of hanging around all day long....
Garden of the el Badi palaceSome big fish!
Sunlight in the cavesA tired door
Near the palace is the la Kasba mosque, with the saadien tombs next to it. In the afternoon, we visited a pharmacist/drogist/pharmacien, who had remedies for everything from snoaring to stress and so on. His shop is nicely decorated, a lot of flashy colored stuff in the pots.
la Kasba mosqueSaadien tombsPharmacy
At the end of the day, we travelled to Demnate, which is the starting point of the tour.

Although we booked a cycle trip, the next day started  with a short hike into a ravine. Lots of pigeons, so also a lot of bird droppings :-/  But after that, we got on our bikes until lunch time.
Climbing down the rocksUs having a look at the country side
The lunch consisted of mint tea and a big tasty salad, and was followed by a siesta. A lot of kids were hanging around and looking at us; something that happened almost every time we stopped somewhere.  But it was time get back on the bike in order to reach the camp site.
Lunch time!Biking up the hill
The next photo shows our bikes, still nice and shiny.  The one next to it is not a sunset, but the moon at 10 'o clock in the evening: there really was a lot of moonlight,  but also a minor exposure problem :-)
Our bikes at the end of the dayAn over-exposed moon
Monday started with some very nice weather :-(  It had been raining during the night, and we woke up in the clouds. The dry dirt road was transformed into something muddy and sticky. I have no pictures of this, didn't want to get mud all over my camera. And if someone knows how to get those red-brown stains out of my white socks, let me know! Later on, the rain stopped and the country side changed. We had lunch near the Ait Adel dam, and after a  last climb, the road went mainly down hill to our camp site, an old factory building.
The campsite in the cloudsArrival at the top of the hill

The weather was a lot better the following morning, so we enjoyed the 4-hour hike through the hills. We passed some salt mines/zoutwinningen/salines, traversed a small village (no water, no electricity, but some have solar-powered TV reception!), followed by a river crossing and a long stretch up-hill to our lunch stop.
Salt minetraversing a small villageView on the valley

Some dark clouds were forming behind us, but we had almost reached our camp site before it actually started raining again.
dark clouds behind the hillCountry side
Some dogs tried to keep us awake at night, but they didn't succeed very well.  Wednesday was a real off-road day, no tarmac to be seen. We cycled through some small villages, tasted  bread and olive oil, and to finish it off, a nice muddy road to get from the lunch stop to the camp site. In case you wonder, the white thing on the left is the shower: half a bucket of cold water can do a lot of good when you're dirty, even when the outside temperature is going down quickly. A day without rain by the way!
short stop in a villageOur camp site
That changed a little bit on thursday, it rained when we got up. Normally, we would have started with a hike through the hills, but that was not possible because of the rain of the recent days. Instead, we made a detour by bike, going out of the mountains onto the plains. It started raining again, and with wet tents and a wet camp site, we opted for a dry room where we spent the afternoon playing cards. Near sunset,  the sun came through the clouds, creating spectacular views and nice colors.
us playing cardsA red, cloudy sky just before sunsetred hills behind a mud-red river
After a clear night with a sky full of stars, yet another sunny day. There is snow on the peaks of the Atlas, something that was invisible the day before because of the clouds. We had to adapt our trajectory a little due to the swollen rivers, so we arrived in Marakech before noon, cycling through the small streets until we got to the Djemaa El Fna square in the center of the city.
Snow on the peaks of the AtlasUs near the canal
Jemaa El Fna square
After the lunch break in a small restaurant, we went to the hotel where we took our first warm shower in a week, before going into town to visit the souks. Some people clearly pay too much for too little, you need to negociate hard to get the price down to an acceptable level.

The friday ended with dinner in the relatively classy restaurant of the Foucauld hotel. We walked by the Koutoubia(?) on the way back to our own hotel.Saturday morning was the occasion to spend our last dirhams in town before going to the airport. During take-off , we got a nice view of the city.
Aerial view on Marrakech

And that was that, 3 hours later we were back in Paris.

Thanks to Mohammed, Hussein, Omar, and Ahmed, our guide, cook, mecanicien, and driver.

Photos scanned at 300dpi, and scaled down and converted to jpeg using the ImageMagick tools.

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