High Wide and Handsome
By Bike Through the High Atlas Mountains
In February of 2011 I went to Fitur, Spain’s main tourism fair, held in Madrid. I walked through the Morocco section and saw a poster for a beautiful mountain-top hotel, the Kasbah du Toubkal, in the High Atlas Mountains, and when I stopped to have a look a delightful lady called Aziza began talking to me. I’m a travel journalist, and, to be honest, a beautiful hotel is a beautiful hotel (although as I was to find out later, very few are quite as enchanting as the Kasbah du Toubkal), but then Aziza handed me a black-and-white postcard of a group of laughing young girls, and told me the story of Education For All. I was hooked…all she had to do was reel me in.
So begins the story of a past-his-best sixty-odd-year-old’s bike ride through Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains. The six-day diary tells of the highs and lows – physically as well as emotionally – as a group of cyclists, most of whom were either pushing or well past sixty, and a fair percentage of whom had recently had some sort of medical intervention, took to the back-ways and rubble-strewn tracks of the High Atlas. A small adventure of sorts, but the main purpose of the ride was to raise money for Education For All, a Moroccan charity that builds boarding houses to enable young girls from the poorest families from the most remote mountain villages to continue their education. A Different Life tells the engaging story of Education For All.