04-08-2013, 05:26 PM
Joined: Jan 2010
Here in Missour we had reached the first route described in our main guide book 'Morocco Overland' by Chris Scott. It should connect us to the fun part in the south of the Atlas. In late November all of northern and western Morocco had the same cold rainy weather as Europe, and the Atlas mountains were already snow covered. But with the Atlas blocking off the cold Atlantic weather, we were expecting sun in the south.
So we selected route ME1 on the GPS and hit the road. Although the road was nice with little to none traffic, it was a bit disappointing that it was all paved. There were a few dry riverbeds to cross - and since strong rainfalls occasionally take away some bridges this can always become fun - but right now all bridges were in perfect condition.
Around lunch time we took a small track leading up a hill overlooking a small village and got out some bread and cheese. Some boys were herding their sheep. They had no dogs, so they stayed on the top of the hill and just threw stones down at any sheep running off. They never missed.
This reminded me on the dogs I had met in Turkey years ago: If you met a dog somewhere in the fields, chances were high that it was unfriendly, but always frightened by stones. Every man kept a walking cane to defend against the dogs, but the first defense were stones. Even if you were standing in the middle of an asphalt parking lot, you could pretend to pick up a stone and the dogs would back off most of the time.
We also played a bit with the cameras.
In Beni Tajjite we stopped at a cafe for the Moroccan tea which we had meanwhile become addicted to. Thé à la Menthe as it is called is a green tea usually served with fresh mint leaves and sugar. The small cafe didn't had any mint and offered vermouth leaves instead. It looked like something picked right from the side of the road. Let's just say, that it tasted 'interesting'.
We turned onto route ME7 towards Tazouguerte and finally found the gravel roads we came for.
Halfway to Tazouguerte the road became a bit more technical when crossing a ridge with some larger loose rocks. When a rock rolled away under my front wheel, I quickly learned that putting a foot on the ground is a bad strategy when your bike seat is 37" tall. I didn't fall, but Maddin had quite a laugh about my artistic talents.
About the time we reached the valley leading towards Merzouga the shadows were getting longer and longer. Maddin had a target for the night in his mind and pushed forward.
By the time we reached Erfoud, it was pitch black. We stopped to discuss options and agreed on a hotel marked on Maddin's GPS. When we moved on, I noticed that I had forgotten to take off my sunglasses. I thought we would be stopping soon again, so I just followed Maddin. Now I was wearing dark (prescription) glasses AND my tinted goggles, effectively reducing my visibility to naught. All I saw was his tail lamp.
The GPS lead us southeast out of town onto an area without real roads or paths. Basically the whole plain was covered by tracks leading in all directions. We found a road, but it soon changed into a construction site with deep soft sand, so it was easier to get off the road again.
When I finally exchanged my sunglasses for clear lenses, I found out that my headlight was absolutely worthless: When Maddin was following me, I could still see my own shadow right in front of me in the 'bright' spot of my light. Note to self: Don't drive at night through the dessert - or get some good auxiliary LEDs.
Eventually we found the hotel, and got a good enough deal for the room and very tasty dinner.