May 19, 2007 GMT
Beaucoup de gas

Arrived at the great Erg Chebbi, which is as amazing as everyone says. Needless to say, James and his pal Gunter (on a DR400) did the 40km circuit around the dune on piste (and off, when the bike got dropped!)

james at erg chebbi.JPG
We declined the offer of a 5am watching of the sunrise over the dune and opted for the far more civillised 7pm version....
erg chebbi.JPG

We headed on through the most amazing scenery (strata of deep reds and malachite green), via free camping 'comme les berebers' where even in the middle of nowhere, there'll be an audience, watching your strange rituals of trangia stoves and tent-erectage.

Onto the Vallee du Draa, where our little desert campsite had a pool! Alas, the 'melange' of (we now suspect) dirty well water and an untimely lunchstop in the fabulously monikered Agdz, meant that James was laid low with a viral and bacterial infection, which involved a visit to the local doc (only opened 3 weeks earlier!) who, after an ultrasound exam, pronounced 'beaucoup de gas' and prescribed a plethora of antibiotics and an anti-vomiting injection.

400 Dirhams later, we limped on, through the stunning Todra Gorge - best roads and piste yet, hair-raising bends (the sort to give mothers everywhere kittens) and fun water fording, testing James' bike handling skills whilst not feeling tipettytop.

fording the ouad.JPG
(note Imogen not on bike at this point!!)

Onwards through strange little towns, one of which necessitated a stay due to James not feeling on top form, and, in the daylight of the following morning, reminded the intrepid twosome of Mos Eisley spaceport.... those that know will understand!! ("Never has there been a more wretched hive of scum and villany" - a tad harsh, but the local copper, when hearing of our night time destination said "c'est pas sophistique")

Next rendezvous was Beni Mellal, home of trekking guide and friend of aiki pal Paul, Abdoul. A couple of days respite at his auberge in the mountains, with his glorious cook Fatima (check out, and James was duly summoned to give a demo at the local aikido club, where the Sensei is 4 times Morocco weight-lifting champion and a dan grade in 3 different disciplines.

beni mennal aiki pals.JPG
Note the colour of Sensei James's dogi and Imogen's very cool hakama (result for IM!)

A couple of bike free days then beckoned in Marrakech as the temperature gauge hit the 40 mark... souks, snake charmers and all around the sights and smells of Maroc's most famous Imperial city.

Next stop, the Atlantic coast....

Posted by Imogen Mitchell at May 19, 2007 05:23 PM GMT

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