A rider's journey through Morocco

The following article was provided by rider Bren Christiansen, who took part Bike Odyssey's Othello bike tour of Morocco following the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the country in September this year. Information on how to donate to relief efforts can be found here

All images courtesy of Chris Jallard.

When I decided to take a bike tour Morocco and Spain earlier this year I knew I would have an incredible journey. How could it not be amazing cycling with friends and other like-minded people?

But on September 8, the world was notified an earthquake had devastated Morocco. Could we still go? And would it be safe?

Our tour company, Bike Odyssey, assured us we would not be in danger and told us that the people of Morocco needed our support – and would appreciate our tourist dollars. It felt like the right thing to do. 

When we arrived at the Medina in Marrakech there was little evidence of the earthquake: some buildings were bolstered with scaffolding and other structures were under repair, but it was obvious the locals had worked hard to restore the Medina ready for the daily tourist trade. The place was bustling and such a great vibe that it stole my heart.

As our group rode out of Marrakech, with our sights set on Ouirgane, I felt so free and excited to be on tour and I was looking forward to a fantastic day in the saddle. But my enthusiasm dissolved into confusion and heartache when we came across the first evidence of real earthquake victims.

Ruined houses reduced to piles of rubble, or buildings cracked across their centres, families living in tents near sites that had previously held their homes. Witnessing this left me feeling overwhelmed and confused, how could I help these people?

I felt terrible for staring at the destruction, but I also couldn’t look away. The hardest sight was seeing the school of Asni in complete ruin. It was comforting to see the children did still have a school to attend, albeit a school constructed from tents, perhaps that offered some normality in otherwise harsh living conditions.

We passed through Asni a couple of times, and discussed what we could do to help. I felt privileged and somewhat embarrassed to be there, but on the other hand I was also humbled to be able to witness the plight of these stoic and resilient people.

What we heard the most from them was that they needed tourism. They needed people to come and visit, to spend their money and allow that to trickle down through shop keepers and restaurant or hotel owners to the artisans, growers and workers in these small communities.

These communities were so welcoming and the people of Morocco were a delight. We rode through town after town, with children shouting "bonjour", or trying out their English skills.

We saw and talked with people going about their daily business after what must have been such a devastating experience – losing whole families, and extended families, to the earthquake.

On my return home it was difficult to know what more I could do, the problem seemed so large. But I think small things can make a big difference. If you can join a tour through Morocco, that would be awesome. Or if you can find a reputable organisation to donate to, that is also excellent. We saw the aid from organisations being used and I stress how much it helped the people of Morocco.

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