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Index : Holiday Reports, Travel Blogs and Trips Away : On The Road in Morocco Part 3 - by Berberman

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On The Road in Morocco Part 3

Read Part Two

We awoke in the early hours of the morning the rally was due, to the sound of large aircraft landing one after the other bringing with them spares for the vehicles competing, fuel, food, chefs, field hospitals doctors etc. At mid day we heard helicopters and we knew the rally was upon us, they were televising the leaders. Within a few hours the whole place became one big open-air garage, with vehicles being stripped down and rebuilt, restaurants, and tents where the drivers and navigators would grab a few hours sleep. We were fortunate to meet Colin Macrae who was driving for Nissan, plus the Mitsubishi Team. We stopped up till 2am taking every thing in, it was a sight not to be missed.

When I got up at 7.30am it felt really weird, there was no sound from outside. I opened the blinds to find the rally had departed including all the back up and the aircraft. All that was left was the rubbish to be cleared up and the large tents, toilets, showers, etc to be dismantled. It was time for us to leave.

Dakar Rally

Dakar Rally

Dakar Rally

Dakar Rally

We wanted to visit Mezouga on the eastern side of Morocco, famous for its drifting sand dunes, a distance of 750 miles next to the border of Algeria. The map shows that there is a road, but we found out from a local that the caravan would not survive 10 miles of the journey. It was an off road track only to be used by camels,(known to the ;locals as 8x8ís) 4x4ís and a crew with good navigation experience. (I get lost going to the Midsummer Music & Leisure Show at Lincoln)

We drove back to Agadir then headed east and to the north the snow clad mountains of the High Atlas

A Typical Overloaded Vehicle

Cattle Going To Market

The Atlas Mountains

A very busy two-way road, once again overloaded with trucks grand taxis, tourist coaches, and carts been drawn by donkeys and having to contend with cycles and pedestrians as well, when passing through the towns and villages.50 miles east of Agadir is Taroudannt population 60,000 surrounded by a high red-mud walls which circle the town. You can only enter through huge gates. We parked outside the wall, amongst the tourist coaches, paid a local a few Euros to look after the caravan and took off on foot to explore. We were hassled by young boys as soon as we went through the gates to be guided around the town. We didnít want to be guided and it was very difficult to get rid of them. If you did, another took their place. We sat in an open-air cafť and ordered two teas and were given a bill 40 dirham. I refused to pay and got up to leave, he dropped his price to 10 dirham. We were in a tourist trap!! We left. A few miles down the road in a village we stopped again, it was the opposite. We were once again were tourist coaches donít go and the people were smiling and making you so welcome.

We pressed on to Ait Benhaddou 20 miles from Quarzazate. Deep into the Berber Tribe Country, famous throughout history as warriors. The Berbers inhabit both the mountainous and the desert regions of Morocco, including, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. They are very well known for their silver jewellery and of course their famous hand made rugs. Many still live in Berber tents and move around as nomads with their goats and sheep.

Ait Benhaddou

Ait Benhaddou

Ait Benhaddou has one of the best-preserved Kasbahs in the whole of Morocco. Itís huge. To walk the narrow streets and to climb up to the fortified granary, with the super views overlooking the hammada (stony desert) It was here that they filmed Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth and recently, Gladiator. No hassle here.

Defat Kasbah

We stayed at Defat Kasbah a couple of miles from Ait Benhaddou ,beside a river with mountains as a back drop. Defat Kasbah is not a camping site but an Auberge/Restaurant owned by some French people, but run by Moroccans. We were invited in to stay here when we were trying to turn the caravan around to retrace our steps, due to road/bridge being washed away in a storm. Once again we had to enter via some double doors into a garden/courtyard surrounded by a wall. We were the only van there and we had sole use to the swimming pool! It was so nice we stayed for several days and toured the mountains and Berber villages, returning in the evenings.

To do this you must have a 4X4 there are no metallic roads just tracks rising to over 10,000 feet in places.This is where we gain over the campervans as we could unhitch and use the 4x4.

On the Road To Quarzate.

Back on the road we passed through Quarzazate stopping to pick up and send E-mails then on through the Valles du Dades known as the Route of a Thousand Kasbahs. Its one big oases scattered with almond a fig trees stretching for more than 50 miles through Boumalne Dades to Tinerhir a bustling former mining town, as you are leaving Tinehir you take a left turn sign posted Todra Gorge. For about 4 miles you follow this road through villages climbing high over some hills which twists and turns and are narrow in places. You begin to think you are on the wrong road and keep a look out to find a place to do a U turn, then you turn a hairpin bend to drop down into a valley which is full of palmeraies and Berber villages it is stunning, out of this world. We stay at Camping Le Soleil must be one of the best sites in Morocco. (Read about this site in Out & About June 2005 Issue)

Todra Gorge

Off Roading

Off Roading

To our surprise we meet up once again with Dot & Jim Jones they carry motorcycles in the back of their van. When we say we are going to make a day tour through the Todra Gorge and off road through the Atlas Mountains they decide to meet us later in the day. Due to them having small fuel tanks on their bikes we carry petrol for them. We pass through the Todra Gorge a massive fault dividing the mountains from the desert which rise to 300 metres at its narrowest point then up high into the mountains on a track just wide enough for one vehicle, rising to 2800 metres. It was up in these mountains we came across a Berber camp living in caves.

We meet up with Dot & Jim

We could not see any adults just children from babies strapped to the backs of ten or twelve year olds running bare footed towards us. We were coming off the side of the mountain at a steep angle and they started climbing over the vehicle. We were frightened to stop,there were so many. We soon left them behind. Half an hour later we entered the valley we saw the women from the camp drawing water from a well and filling plastic bottles. We were about half a mile past them when Dot & Jim caught us up and as we were refuelling them, two of the Berber women who we had passed at the well, came running up to us. Of course bare footed.

The two Berber Women

All communication between us was with sign language. They were Mother and daughter. We departed some ten minutes later minus our wool socks!1 We got back to the camp site late that afternoon. A super day out. We spent a week a week in this area before driving to Zagora. A former French administration post.

Entering Zagora.

The sign to Tombouctou.

You enter this town through a horseshoe archway This is where Michael Palin stopped off on his way through the Sahara and had his photograph taken by the well worn sign with the words ďTombouctou 52 JoursĒ ( By Camel )

We to stay here for a week at Camping díAmezrou, exploring the palmeraies eating figs, olives with a glass or two of wine, meeting old friends who had made the trip from the east coast.

Road to MíHarmid.

We drove down to MíHarmid the last town where the Draa River, once a great river which ran down from the Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean now disappears into the Sahara Desert never to be seen again.

Lunch with Mastaffa

Lunch with Mastaffa

During our stay we were fortunate to have had the honour of being invited to lunch by a very well to do Berber by the name of Mastaffa. His beautiful house hundreds of years old was up an alleyway in a village just south of Zagora.. It was like a museum full of old relics from the Berber Tribes, antiques, and beautiful carpets, etc. We were served lunch by his manservant on the roof terrace overlooking the village. He spoke perfect English and told us many stories. Before we left I was offered 500 camels for Liz!! (Thatís another story)

What No Bridge

Read Part 4

This article has the following linked sections

On The Road in Morocco
A fantastic tale of a caravanning trip of a lifetime around Morocco
On The Road in Morocco Part 2
Part 2 of a fantastic tale of a caravanning trip of a lifetime around Morocco
On The Road in Morocco Part 4
Final part of a fantastic tale of a caravanning trip of a lifetime around Morocco. Including useful facts and figures about the journey and country

Index : Holiday Reports, Travel Blogs and Trips Away : On The Road in Morocco Part 3 - by Berberman

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