A Month In Morocco
2 Police Stops
1 Speeding Ticket
2 Suspension Breakages
1 Army Landcruiser nearly hit
1 Diplomatic Incident
Photos (more to be added)
Morocco Overland 2012 - a set on Flickr
7th Oct to 10th Oct
After a fantastic trip to the Western Sahara with Waypoint-Tours last November 2011, my good friend Rod Hunt and I decided an Overland trip back to Morocco was a definite for October 2012. We’ve both been visiting Morocco for 10+ years so know the country well but are relative newcomers to 4x4 and Overlanding, this did not deter us.
After trouble with the Landcruiser 95 I purchased last year I rejected it under the Sale of Goods Act and got a 99% refund back in March. First requirement was then to get a replacement and the search was on for another 95. Somewhat surprisingly my old rejected cruiser turned up at a garage just round from the Ace Cafe in London, but £1500 cheaper than my refund. I knew it had a Moroccan repair and suspension lift but otherwise sound so went and had a look.......and bought it back
One of last year’s lessons learnt was I don’t do ferries well, so to minimise we took the Plymouth/Santander route saving 4 hours of ferry time. Then a blast from Santander down to Jerez De Le Frontiera.
Next was supposed to a quick blast to Algeciras then early ferry into Morocco. Got to Algeciras fine but found we were too early to get tickets from Carlos so hung around had a coffee and then got the tickets (with cake and cider), wouldn’t bother again but more on that later. We were supposed to be on the 11am ferry and all was looking good until Acciona’s highly proactive and diligent staff decided to wheel in and unload a lorry load of 45gallon drums, at 10:50 :facepalm:
This delay meant we arrived at Tanger Med just behind a ferry full of local fresh back from pillaging Greece of its cheap tat. Probably 100+ mobile bric-a-brac stores were waiting to get through customs ahead of us. Needless to say with this getting through custom was delayed.
This is where our first incident happened, officially in that no man’s land between Spanish exit and Moroccan entry. One of the mobile junkshops in front of us suddenly reversed back, I did the same to avoid a shunt, straight back into the car behind! Slowly getting out of the truck, it occurred that we probably didn’t have insurance cover, then I saw what we had hit a beaten up old Renault 19, hitting probably straightened out of few dings! The driver was ballistic, shouting in French, doesn’t really wash with us, it’s English, Arabic or Tashlehait. Words were exchanged; cars passenger confirmed no damage so off we went.
Somehow in our haste the clocks on the gps, mobile and truck ended up 2 hours out of sync, we blamed all the automatic time adjustment. Next destination was Azrou, gps said arrive 19:00 and the truck said it was 14:30, sounded like an easy drive. About 19:30 passing through Meknes was when we realised the clocks were out. Anyway got to Camping Amizigh at Azrou for our first night camping.
Next day was our first day off road, on a route I picked out from Olaf/Google Earth from Azrou to Midelt. We headed from Azrou along the Route Touristique to Lac d'Afennourir then up over a 2000m peak through to our destination at Centre Timolay. Turned out to be an amazing first day, saw the first wild monkeys I’ve seen. Lac d’Afennourir would make a fantastic camping spot and the mountain involved a lot more low range than expected.
Then we hit my first navigation error, all the routes were meticulously planned and loaded onto both the lap top and my Garmin Montana gps. About 5km after crossing Oued Oum Er Rbia the route on the Garmin stopped dead in the road. Still not entirely sure why but probably my IT skills. This left us picking our own route on the fly, sure we may have crossed someone’s freshly ploughed field and made a few wrong turn choices but eventually we hit the road into Midelt.
Accommodation for the night was camping at Centre Timolay just outside Midelt, nice modern facility with camping, motel and rooms in the newer building plus a good restaurant and a bar! Not long after setting up camp Peter Girling of Atlas Overland arrived with his latest tour group. After introducing ourselves to Peter it was time to share tales of Moroccan adventures over a few s with the group.
Very Nice to meet you Peter, hope the trip went well
More to follow
From Midelt we had a long drive west to Essaouira to catch up with some old friends and take stock before hitting the pistes. Fairly uneventful drive apart from getting stopped by the police for overtaking on a solid white line, stern talking to any we were on our way. We spent a day in Essaouira catching up on news from the last year. Big news was the Game of Thrones film crew being in town filming Season 3, can’t wait to see the end result.
P1020883 by Trackasylum, on Flickr
We then took some back roads down to Tafroute, got fined for speeding on the main road, 72 in a 60kph, stupid really as we’ve driven the road hundreds of times and knew there were police where we got stopped. Our route from here was new to us up over to Imouzzer Des Ida Ou Taanae the across the Sous Valley to Tafroute. Last time we visited was 2003 so we took the opportunity to revisit the Blue Rocks. Since our last visit there a graded paste all the way down and the rocks had received a fresh coat of paint.
That night we stayed in the popular cheapie Hotel Tafroute. Word of advice – don’t bother it has gone hugely downhill. The bathroom and toilet facilities were appalling and there are much better options for a stop in town and campsites a little further out.
P1020973 by Trackasylum, on Flickr
Now on we were aiming for as much piste as possible. Our first, and one of several, was from Chris Scott’s fantastic Morocco Overland Book. MA3 was our chosen route and despite the rain of late September didn’t seem to have suffered. A large part is along river beds but this wasn’t a problem, the big river rocks occasionally meant the route was a little indistinct but route finding was easy. All in it took us about 9 hours from Tafroute to Tata. That night’s stop was Camping Municipal in Tata. Chock full of French camper vans as many popular sites are overwinter.
P1030044 by Trackasylum, on Flickr
Our next choice was a hybrid of MA9 and MA6, we took the section of MA9 from Tata to Akka Iherne, where we joined a fairly new asphalt road up to about KM87 on MA6. Probably worth noting if you wanted to make the route a little faster.
P1040014 by Trackasylum, on Flickr
Here on it was MA6 and one of the highlights of the trip. Chris suggests doing this route from North to South but, dare I suggest it, I think it’s better in reverse. If you’ve done this route you probably know why! We had a long low ratio climb up through the Anti Atlas heading north taking about 2 hours end to end. About half way we spotted some 4x4’s heading towards us on a single track ledge. Rather than push on we stopped on one of the hair pins to let them pass where there’s space.
As we’d been working the truck hard for a few hours whilst we waited I popped the bonnet to let things cool down a tad. I’ve said before we’re complete overland novices but through this site I’ve picked up a little basic understanding of how to go about things. One of the things I picked up along the way was if you meet others on the trail to say hello or wave and establish if everything’s ok. Logic being you would want someone to stop and help if you were in trouble and you may find out valuable route advice. Simple basic courtesy and good manners imho.
So picture this if you will, an organised Raid heading down a steep mountain piste finds another foreign 4x4 pulled over with the bonnet up and two English guys stood around. You’d think the tour leader would
1. Wave or say hello
2. Ask if everything’s ok?
3. Thanks us for waiting to let them through and
4. Tell us how many sodding vehicles were in the group
Did they? Hell no, we had to flag down the 5th vehicle and ask how many were in the group, 10 apparently! Maybe I got it wrong with the above but when we worked out the origins of the group I wasn’t surprised :evil:
Given there were more to come we waited for a while and nothing arrived so on we went. Eventually we arrived at the top of the ascent to breath taking views of the Issil Plain. Now this was my plan and reason for reversing the route. If you don’t know what’s coming the view is stunning and the reason why I think Mr Scott’s route is the wrong way round.
P1040031 Panorama 1 by Trackasylum, on Flickr
As we descended down onto the plains, we found the rest of the tour group, blocking the piste with a flat tyre, however this lot seemed more pleasant and after a few minutes we squeezed past and headed up to the road from Tazenakht. My plan here was to then head north onto MH9, the track picked got us within 1/2km before turning into a goat track Light was fading so rather than try find a way through we went back to the road and onto Taliouine for a night at Camping Toubkal, although we had a room rather than camping.
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