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Old 04-13-2013, 09:24 AM   #21
pip_muenster OP
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Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Oddometer: 492
Bad Dunes

After three nights at Erg Chebbi it was time to get moving again and from here on we wanted to use as much dirt roads as possible, starting with route MS6 as described by Chris Scott. According to him it should offer 'nasty hummock scrub, dunelettes and feche-feche' - and be a struggle for big bikes. Cool, let's go.

The first stop at the gas station reminded us that tourism is taking over. Within minutes someone came by to advertise his bike work shop / tour company and wanted to take a photo of us for his website. We filled up to the rim, as we were expecting 300km of offroad piste before the next pump.

Then we went into 'downtown' Merzouga to buy some food for the next days. The very first house looked like an abandoned police station, but more important, there was a red post box on its wall. The box hang from a wire on a hook and looked like it had fallen down more than once. That seemed like the perfect place to drop the postcards I had bought and written in the last days. We had no idea if this post box was still in service or how long it might take for the cards to even reach Fez or Marrakesh, so the cards would have their own little adventure.
(Actually, when they finally arrived they showed a stamp from Marrakesh only 2 days later - and then took 2 more weeks to get to Europe or America. That's about the same time as for a card from the US to Europe.)
In town the only shop we saw was about the size of a garage - in fact, I doubt that a car would fit in there. Space was so limited that customers had to stay outside on the road. We scanned the shelves, wondering what we could eat in the next days. Since choices were limited, we settled on cookies, some bread and canned tuna.

Our route took us to Taouz where we left tarmac. We followed a great gravel road through the hills which allowed us to take up a bit of speed.

After a while we closed up on a cloud of dust from two BMW bikes. They on the other hand were riding in the dust of a 4x4, probably a tour guide who also carried their luggage. We had been approached by several people offering guidance on this road, and this was presumably one of them.
I can't imagine having to stay in the dust of a 4x4 along such an interesting road and was very happy that we were on our own.

We followed a bit trying to figure out how to overtake safely. One of the riders looked a bit insecure, and he probably never expected someone from behind. Luckily the road split into several parallel tracks and we passed about 100ft on his left side. The other rider looked much more confident and also looked back to his buddy frequently. He immediately moved to the side to let us go by.
Now it was time to charge the 4x4. With the clout of dust he could barely see anything behind him, and additionally he expected some bikes there which were supposed not to overtake. So that thing was all over the place.
I had no choice, but to go all 'Robby Gordon' on him, wishing that cars were obliged to have a Sentinel on board ... Actually bumping him was more or less out of discussion, so I moved as best as I could into the sight of his mirrors and flashed my lights, while at the same time squeezing the life out of my tiny, tiny horn.
After what seemed kilometers he moved to the side and we shot by: 'beep, beep!'

(photo: maddin)

Later the soil changed into a wide bonedry flat. The ground was hardened sand, except for the track itself which consists of very soft fine sand / silt. In a car, I would have preferred the smooth drive in the tracks, but on the bike it was much easier to ride over the bumpy hard soil than to stuggle with the soft sand. Sometimes however, it wasn't possible to avoid the sandy parts.

We reached a small settlement and stopped to check the gps. There was a waypoint somewhere here, but it was not entirely clear which way we had to take here - maybe because Chris traveled in the other direction when he wrote the guide book. While we stand there some kids came running and pointed us to the north, definitely not our direction. We thought about that, looked on the map and remembered the party we just had passed. That should be the easy route usually taken by travellers between Taouz and Zagora, so we went on straight east instead. The children followed us with a bicyle, maybe hoping to make some money by helping the stupid foreigners in the sand.

The track we had chosen passed between some fields and wire fences and was all fesh-fesh (bulldust) with deep ruts. Just when I thought I'd got the hang of it I got caught in a deeper rut and had my ankle pinched between the engine and the side of the rut. Luckily, I just went through with just a bit of pain from my foot.
Maddin had less luck and fought hard to get through. So I rode a bit, waited for him to catch up, rode a bit more and so on. One time I saw him vanishing in a cloud of fesh-fesh and set my camera on video, waiting for the things to come. When the dust settled, I saw him lying underneath his bike.
(About 2 months later I was sitting on my PC, reviewing the footage when - for the first time - I noticed, that he had actually been frantically waving at me for help. I called him and apologized for standing around dumb and videotaping him ...)

The track opened up once we left the houses behind, but was still all deep soft sand. Sometimes it was possible to find harder ground next to it, but basically it was all sand.

When Maddin got stuck, it took me only one look onto his face to decide that I would dig it out for him - he looked totally exhausted. I shoveled enough sand away, so that we were able to lay the bike on its side. Then we refilled the hole and picked up the bike. Success!

It wasn't the last time, one of us got stuck ...

At some point we had to cross a dry riverbed which was especially sandy, with a steep incline on the other side. We made it and decided to have a longer break as there were trees providing shadow.

(photo: maddin)

The road got a bit better, but not for long. This time, a few hundred meters of dunes lay before us. I went ahead, checked the route and waved Maddin on, when I found a way.

(photo: maddin)

By the time we got through the sun was already low above the horizon. About here the GPS map (Olaf-map) showed a single Point-Of-Interest 'Bad dunes' and Maddin explained to me that we had made it through.
I thought about some of the photos I had seen in other reports, thinking that 'bad dune' could be much, much worse. Maybe this had only been the beginning?

Anyway, we found a hidden spot behind a dune and set up camp. We both had small tents I know as 'Dackelgarage' - or sausagedog-garage, if you will. The canned tuna for dinner could have been better, but apart from that, this was a perfect spot.

It took me a while to fall asleep, wondering whether my foot would still hurt the next morning and whether this was the end or just the beginning of the 'bad dunes'.
Reports: Nordkapp - Mt. St. Helen - Black Sea - Iceland - Morocco - Balkan

pip_muenster screwed with this post 12-29-2014 at 01:56 PM
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