Andrew Malloy was the lucky winner of a prize we gave away at The Cycle Show last year - a place on our Southern Oasis Cycling holiday in Morocco. Here he tells all about his Moroccan experience.
"Still reeling from the shock that I had won a holiday courtesy of Explore, it was time to board our flight. We were however still a little apprehensive of what to expect; although we were fairly confident cyclists we had never been on a cycling holiday and were unsure of what Morocco would offer. The trip would far surpass our expectations though, taking us from the busy city of Marrakech to remote towns and villages with mountains and deserts in between.
Upon our arrival in Marrakech we were greeted by our friendly Tour Leader Muhammad.
There was no cycling on the first day so we set off for an exploration of Marrakech; this first stop was like something out of a movie with souks, snake charmers, the lot! Next stop we visited the new town which was like any other major city with chain restaurants, but we managed to resist temptation and sample the local dish of lamb tagine.
Next day we had the opportunity to meet the other travellers on the trip before leaving Marrakech and heading towards Ourazazate, ‘the gateway to the Sahara.’ The drive was really spectacular, taking us over the High Atlas Mountains, passing snow-capped peaks at an altitude of over 2500ft. One of the highlights of the drive to Ouarzazate was visiting the fortified city of Ait Benhaddou, a Kasbah which had featured in films such as Lawrence of Arabia and the TV series Game of Thrones.
Leaving our hotel in Ourazazate we headed up over the Tizi n'Tinififft mountain pass to begin cycling down to the Draa Valley. The group consisted of mixed cycling abilities and everyone helped each other so no one was left behind! The cycling throughout the trip was exciting and varied from pedalling through remote villages and across lunar landscape type desert to descents from mountains into valleys.
From there, each day of the trip was varied and the differences in landscape were often fascinating. Travelling from village to village gave us the opportunity to see the traditional Berber people of Morocco and how they lived - they were often very surprised to see the group in our cycling lycra!
The nature of the trip saw us stop in different hotels every night which was a new experience for me. The hotels were basic but very traditional which I believe added a lot to the character of the trip. One highlight was the camel ride to our overnight camp in the desert. This was a great experience and the tranquillity of the desert was brilliant and the sunset and subsequent night sky were excellent. The sky was so breath-taking in fact that, rather than sleep in the tents, many of the group chose to sleep outside under the stars.
Initial apprehension about the trip was forgotten as soon as we arrived, the friendly nature of the Tour leader and guides were excellent and they organised the days superbly. It was great to be involved with a group of like-minded people who were looking to explore Morocco. Having never even considered a cycling holiday before I won this trip, I was surprised at how great exploring places by bicycle is. It allowed us to visit more places than on foot and get a lot more interaction with the locals than you would on a tour bus. The trip overall was excellent and totally surpassed our expectations, we are now in the process of deciding what other cycling holiday to book with Explore."
By Andrew Malloy
Andrew travelled on our Southern Oasis Cycling tour.