On the plateau I lose the trail a few times and must pull out the GPS; after all it only takes a few drops of rain to cancel the trail. As I go ahead I realize or, better, I remember that distances are enormous and the perception one has when reading a map is totally different from the real thing; travel times are long, and I start to think that I probably will not reach Gourcif, where I planned to stay for the night, before dark.
More than once I have to stop in the shade to recover some strength and not tire too much, I do not want to make evaluation mistakes that may cause falls. In the early afternoon I stop for more than an hour at a little grocery store in the middle of nowhere, near a paved road. Very kindly they invite me to relax, the sun is high and the sky clear; sitting in the shade out of the heat my energy slowly returns, and I take the opportunity of drinking a lot while observing the people passing along the road and stopping at this little store, isolated in the middle of the plateau surrounded by the mountains. People stop here not only to buy something but also to say hello and chat with the owner or with other people stopping by. I understand that this is a meeting point, a place where to meet or hitch a ride. I get on my bike and the heat convinces me to choose the paved road over the last kilometers of trail and I am able to reach Gourcif; I roam the city looking for a hotel but there is a lot of chaos, I am tired and do not feel like driving in such a bedlam, so I head out on the road I came from, making for a hotel I noticed previously. It is affordable and even the room isn’t bad, above all it seems clean even if it looks like a brothel with its red walls; unfortunately, the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, but the boy makes a phone call and half an hour later I am presented with a chicken and vegetables Tanjin that I inhale, literally.
Since I intend to leave early the next morning to avoid the mid-day heat, I go to bed right after dinner, even because there are no attractions to justify staying up ‘till the wee hours of the night. On October 12, I leave early enough but as I take the trail I am hit by a very strong wind which makes it impossible to proceed, therefore I decide to skip the first part to directly climb the mountains using the paved road. This is wide and smooth with no wind for many kilometers but then it starts climbing becoming tortuous with many exposed parts. Sometimes I think I am going the wrong way, but I decide to trust the GPS route and I reach 2000 meters above sea level.
The mountain villages are composed of a few houses with a few habitants who live off sheep-farming in these isolated places; as soon as they hear the sound of my bike engine breaking the silence they look out with curiosity and the kids run towards me. At a fork in the road I make the wrong turn and, in maneuvering the bike on rocky ground, I lay the bike on its side while two little girls watch while sitting on a dry-stone wall. I start cussing in the quietness as soon as I see that the tank on that side is slightly leaking from the bottom, not a big deal but I have to switch to that tank until it is empty in order not to lose more gas; the importance of having gas is second only to having water to drink. As I begin the last 50-km-leg on a plateau, I lose the trail again and rely on the GPS for a few hundred meters, but the trail ends in a small canyon, probably dug by water, impossible to climb. After riding along one side of the canyon looking for a way out I have to backtrack to the last fork in the road, to try to understand if the trail had changed in time since the route I had on the GPS was a couple of years old. The new trail leads me to a house of shepherds where I don’t see anybody. A few dogs exit the shed barking and as I get off the bike to knock on the door for information, the barking dogs multiply to a dozen; they surround me menacing and start to growl showing me all their teeth, their aggressiveness increasing; I pick up a stick and try to keep them at bay, but I am really scared, I never found myself in such a situation. Fortunately, a Berber woman comes out alerted by the barking dogs and throws a few rocks to drive the dogs away allowing me to relax; somehow, I am able to explain that I am looking for the trail and to understand that I must cross the canyon. I leave the house under the watchful eye of the dogs that keep barking at me until I am near a ruin 50 meters away. On foot I try to find the trail the woman told me about, but I do not succeed, the canyon walls are too steep to climb, so I give up and consider setting up the tent inside the ruin away from the wind and far enough from the dogs.
After I assemble the tent, since the sun is still up, on foot I resume looking for a passage for me and my bike but again without success. Studying the road map, I decide that the morning after I will backtrack for a dozen of kilometers to take the paved road for Midelt, my scheduled goal for that day.
Before dark, the head of the household returns home; I think he’s about forty years old but look much older, he is wearing a heavy wool jacket with a sleeve torn halfway down from the shoulder, every time he speaks the denture in his mouth move, a clear indication that it is not his own but was probably handed down by his father or bought from someone else, which is normal around here. The man somehow lets me know that it is better if I do not get close to the house to avoid being attacked by the dogs, that the trail for Midelt that climbs the mountains, is difficult or no longer exists, I am not sure which, and that I have to go back. Better not to launch into dangerous adventures. I fall asleep early right after sunset; during the night I sleep with an eye open, constantly worried I will miss a sound indicating the dogs are closing in. By 4 am it starts raining and I curse my bad luck, thinking of the muddy trail I will find in the morning and of dismantling the tent and loading the bike under the rain.
I wake up at dawn of the 13th and see that the ground is dry while the tent is still wet, so I pack and load the bike and then decide to stay inside the tent waiting for it to dry to prevent it from getting moldy inside the bag.