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Morocco Overland: From the Atlas to the Sahara - 4WD, Motorcycle, Van, Mountain Bike

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  #1  
Old 10 Apr 2012
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Jebel Siroua Trip Report

I've spent the last few days on Jebel Siroua and crossing the high passes. Much of this info will be known to Maroc regulars, but maybe will be of use to newer visitors to this wonderful country.

Having dropped Reggwensie off at the airport, I headed over Tichka to try to get to warmer and drier weather on the south side of the Atlas. However, it just got colder and wetter. The top of the pass was sleety, and snow at the very top, so I didn't linger. It dried up further down, but still cold. I took the turn off to Telouet, rather than the main road to Ourzazate. It's a nice country route and one I'd recommend. There are nice new shiny signs for Auberge Tasga at Telouet, so I decided to check it out. It's about 5k beyond the town at the end of a twisty piste at the mouth of a gorge. Food is good and local girls provide after dinner entertainment using only a big drum and some some complicated rhythms. Then the guests dress up and join in the dancing! A very cold night, fully dressed, in a bag liner under two doubled up blankets, but a wonderful crisp sunny morning.

I continued down the road to Ait Benhaddou, then the main road to Ourzazate. I checked out the Municipal Camping which looked OK but very busy, then headed over to Bikershome just to see where it is. There I spotted signs for Camping Palmerie. It's relatively small, but well run and has good food to order. Much warmer weather now of course, so a comfortable night.

Next morning after a very slow start I set off back up the main road to travel west to Askaoun. I could have taken a piste out of Ourzazate, but then I wouldn't have found the barber shop at the Ait Behaddou turn off. Definitely recommended. Travelling west the piste starts as tar then changes to good piste. About halfway along it turns into a new super-piste, but of course that's the wrong way and leads to a dead end at a very high village. Back tracking onto the correct route I continued over the two high passes. After the first pass, the piste deteriorates significantly and became a real test of man and machine. At the top of the narrow defile down to Askaoun, man gave up and had to stop for the night. That was the frozen breath camp.
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Old 10 Apr 2012
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I started down the rocky descent to Askaoun and crossed the dodgy looking concrete bridge. I then picked up a passenger, a shepherd making his way down, and he was good enough to rebuild the piste in front of me as I drove down it. I had a look down the road south of Askaoun and found what would have been a great camp site . It off a bend in the road, but as the road's a quiet one it would be OK. Turning round, I headed north up the Aquim piste. Route finding is a little tricky through some of the villages, but if you just keep going higher you go the right way. At the top there is a magnificent view of Toubkal. It's even better when you take a walk over to the ridge west of the piste. The drop off is very dramatic, being countless hairpins more or less straight down. At the bottom I turned back south along the parallel piste aiming for Aoulouz. I camped by the side of the road that night as it's very little used and very peaceful.

Into Aoulouz next morning it was market day, so very busy and a bit chaotic for the re-supply. Next it was over the Test heading back north. I thought I would drive up the piste from Ijoukak to see if I could camp. It's very tight and very exposed and was the end of a long day, so was bit hard on the nerves. Having to do a three point turn to get round a hairpin involving reversing a van backwards towards a 100m drop was the highlight. However, it was worth it as I found a great camp site at the top. Although at 2100m, it was a comfortable night.

Next morning was nice and warm so I delayed the drive back down as long as possible. As it turned out the descent was OK. I then turned back up the main road to Marrakech expecting to be there in no time as it's only 100km or so. There must be more bends per km on this road than any other in the country and lots of slow lorries so it took nearly three hours. Once in the town it was simply a matter of getting to "our" hotel which can be seen from the road in, but streets were closed and it took a bit of back street driving to get there. After all that it was full, so off through rush hour evening traffic to find another one, and here we are.

Of course it was all to quick and I tried to do too much in the short time I had. Siroua was only picked because it was so relatively close to the airport, but it turned out to be a lucky choice, as the pistes are as interesting as the Atlas ones and feel more remote.

Pics and data in a week or so when I get back home
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Old 21 Apr 2012
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Photos are here
Flickr: Morocco2012
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Old 18 Jun 2012
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So you bought a Defender! Good to see you went out to NA again this year.
My plans to drive through Libya have to wait a little I'm afraid.
All the best, also from Ted!
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