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

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  #1  
Old 6 Nov 2010
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Is there a low level route through the Moroccan Atlas Mountains?

A strange request, I know, but let me explain;

Last year we traveled, by Land Rover, to Morocco. We were hoping to get south of the Atlas Mountains to tour some of the desert.

For various reasons the trip went 'belly up' and we didn't make it.

We did manage to travel on the N9, south from Marrakech as far as Taddert before turning around.

There were many reasons for us giving up which I shan't go into here.

The reason for this post is that my wife suffers from severe vertigo/motion/height sickness. She managed to travel over the Spanish Pyrenees, from Ceuta to Ouazaine to Kenitra and on to the aforementioned point on the N9.

We are hoping to return to Morocco in 2012 and the plan is to travel with a group from Tanger to Fes then to Zeida. From here the group intends to cross the Atlas to Todra, via Lac Tislit using mountain pistes. This part will not be possible for us.

So the point of this post; how high/extreme is the N13 and N10 route from Zaida to Tinghir compared to the routes I have mentioned?

Using Google Earth it seems to follow the valley floors and alongside a river. Looking at the relief lines it doesn't look too bad but I'm sure that some of you have traveled this road and can give a better insight. What we are trying to avoid is shear drops and switchback curves (a few are possible but not too many).

Any information/photos/video of this route would be really appreciated so that we can work out if the southern part of this trip is possible. If it's okay then we can go around and meet the group at Todra for the trip to Zagora and across the desert.

Thanks in advance.

Belinda & Ralph
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Old 7 Nov 2010
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I believe the high point on this route is the Nzala Pass, about 15km SE of Midelt, just after the N15 turn off north. Iirc, it's more bendy going up (see pic looking north), tops out at only about 1900m and is then more gradual down towards the desert.
I think if your wife managed the Pyrenees (depends where I suppose) she'll manage this. It will take 10-15 mins over the top and is a nice way to Tinerhir. The Ziz Gorge right around the tunnel south of Rich might also present some exposure too.

Ch
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Old 7 Nov 2010
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From Fez to Zaida you could travel by the R503 via Boulemane, but the N8/N13 route via Azrou is much prettier, crossing the Col du Zad at something like 2100m. Although it's high there's no drop offs and therefore no perception of the height and the road is fairly straight.

Zaida via Imilchil to the Todra is now 99% tarmac or wide balasted hardcore piste and whilst it's a wonderfully hilly and scenic route it's not as frightening as the Tichka. North of Imilchil there's a horrible drop off but you wouldn't presumably be coming that way.

If you don't want to go that route, what I'd suggest is to take the N13 as far as Rich, then join your friends in Imilchil by heading west on the R706 which is a lovely and easy route. The route south from Imilchil via Agoudal and Ait Hani to Tinerhir is practically 100% tarmac.
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Last edited by Tim Cullis; 7 Nov 2010 at 17:59.
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Old 7 Nov 2010
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Thanks very much guys. This is exactly the kind of info we need.

Between you, you have now given us 3 options from Zaida to Tinerhir which seem possible.

As I said in my post we managed to travel on the N9 to Taddert (which I think is the Tichka you refer to, Tim?). So if these routes are 'less scary' than that we should be onto a winner.

The Pyrenees we crossed was between San-Sebastian and Vitorio-Gasteiz, en route from the UK to Algeciras.

The route to Imilchil sounds good because it puts us very near Lac Tislit where the group plans to spend the night in the Auberge.

Tim, although you say the road from Imilchil to Tondra is mainly tarmac, how is this route compared to the Tichka on a scary scale?
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Old 7 Nov 2010
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Yes, the route to Taddert is the Tichka.

I've done the route Imilchil to Todra four times this year, most recently in late September, and as far as I can remember there's no serious drop offs that are visible from the road.
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Old 7 Nov 2010
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Thanks Tim, you have just made our day.

I assume that the routes you referred to from Zaida to Imilchil are similar, if so then we are good to go and can start counting the days.
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Old 7 Nov 2010
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Depends on the actual route from Zeida.

The route through Boumia, Anemzi and Anefgou is tarmac all the way to Anefgou. Anemzi to Anefgou is a new tarmac road that is one of the most beautiful in Morocco. Then between Anefgou and the junction near Imilchil the route is balasted hardcore. No serious dropoffs.

The route via Tounfite and Arghbala is a difficult piste in places and between Arghbala and Imilchil there is a really dramatic gorge with a dropoff that will have your passengers screaming to be let out.
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Old 10 Nov 2010
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Once again thanks for this.

I shall now have a good study of the map (and google earth) and work out the options.

I may well be back to pick your brains further (if you don't mind)

Cheers

Ralph
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