Moroccan Roll: A father and son bikepack through the High Atlas

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This wonderful story comes from photographer Sebastian Stiphout and documents this trip to Morocco with son Luca for the adventure of a lifetime.

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There are a few things my 15-year old son Luca and I asked Santa for this past Christmas. Instead of unwrapping a heap of stuff under a tinsel-wrapped tree we wanted to discover a new country, explore it by bike, and come home rich with memories and experiences.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that my son enjoys riding bikes as much as I do; grateful for the luxury of being able to combine my job as a photographer (which I love) with my passion for riding bikes and very lucky to be able to travel to some crazy places together with my son. Last year, we spent 10 days bikepacking the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides Islands and we go on as many small adventures on weekends and during school holidays as we can. We’re always driven by curiosity and the search for physical and mental challenges.

This past year, however, my workload made any big summer trips impossible. But the prospect of waiting until next summer for our next big trip was unbearable for Luca and I. Therefore we needed a winter destination (we live in Munich, Germany) that was quick and easy to reach and that offered the essential ingredients mentioned above. Most importantly we wanted sunshine, adventure and open roads.

Morocco has all of that and then some. The plan we devised was to fly directly to Marrakech, the fabled Moroccan city that sits at the foot of the High Atlas mountains. Just the two of us, two gravel bikes loaded with minimal but self-sufficient gear, and to go riding. To make it a bit of a challenge I picked a route that would cross the High Atlas mountains twice and take us over and around the mountains via a good mix of gravel and tarmac roads. Almost 700km in total with about 17,000m of elevation gain … Holy crap.

That was the plan anyway. But as so often happens in life, things turned out differently than we initially envisioned. But, more on that in a moment.

The route Sebastian planned out before leaving for Morocco.

I didn’t divulge all of the route details to Luca, hoping to prevent a general mutiny on his part. I tried not to think about it too much myself either. You see, we weren’t exactly at peak fitness when we rode out of Marrakech on day 1. November and December in Munich are grey, wet and dreary — not really conductive to riding and training. And since I still can’t get friendly with the whole Zwift thing, we lacked the necessary milage in the legs.

In other words, let’s just say I was expecting pain in the first few days of the trip and pain is what we got.

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Arriving in Marrakech was surreal, to say the least. A short 3.5-hour direct flight took us from our familiar surroundings into a very new and very different world. Straight from the Bavarian capital, shrouded in cold, grey clouds with dirty patches of snow covering the ground, directly to the narrow, dusty alleyways of the Medina, full of exotic smells, sights and sounds, a wholly exciting and foreign world. And we made that mind-boggling leap from one world to the other in between breakfast and dinner.

What follows is the story of our adventure, told in photos and captions. Scroll down for details on the bikes we rode and the gear we carried.

Enjoy!

Luca’s gear

Bike: 62cm Rose Pro Cross Gravel Ultegra (aluminum)
Drivechain: 50/34 x 11-34
Wheels: Rose R Thirty Disc carbon rims
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One Allround Evolution 700*38c
Bags: Alpkit frame bag, Topeak Frontloader handlebar bag, Rockbros saddle bag.
Clothing: Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts, Rapha Brevet Insulated Jacket, Rapha Explore Technical T-shirt
Shoes: Quoc Gran Tourer gravel shoes
Backpack: Mission Workshop “The Hauser” Hydration Backpack

Sebastian’s gear

Bike: 59cm Rose Backroad Gravel Ultegra (carbon)
Drivechain: 50/34 x 11-34
Wheels: Rose R Thirty Disc carbon rims
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One Allround Evolution 700*38c
Bags: Alpkit frame bag, Topeak Frontloader handlebar bag, Rockbros saddle bag
Clothing: Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts, Rapha Brevet Insulated Jacket, Rapha Explore Technical T-shirt
Shoes: Quoc Gran Tourer gravel shoes
Backpack: F-Stop Lotus 32L

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