Road Construction, Move Back Several Spaces

Ouarzazate (Morocco), 18.04.2014

With chilly temperatures and after a long breakfast I left Tafraoute on a small mountain road leading through a valley with a palm forest, the tall brown mountains rising high on both sides. Traditional mud buildings appeared occasionally, and the sun colored the whole scene gently. In the bright morning light the colors of every element of this scenery contrasted sharply. For over an hour I enjoyed the spectacular natural beauty all around.

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I had planned to reach the dunes at Merzouga today, and knew it would be quite a ride. So I checked several possible routes and chose the straightest one, avoiding small roads. At Tazenakht I turned southeast, towards Agdz. 20km after the village the road suddenly changed into a sand and stone track, there was construction going on. And on and on and on, it didn’t stop. I kept driving trying to avoid holes and stones, with the Mini just a few cm over the ground I could feel every hit on my own back. I checked the map on the iPhone constantly, not believing this was the right track, but it seemed so. Until at one check the location indicator showed to be off the road I was supposed to be on, and quite a bit actually. I was lost in the Atlas mountains, on a road on none of my maps that was just being constructed. No people around, no vehicles, and me in a Mini on a track that was made for a 4WD. After an hour hoping to reach a better road in the right direction I saw I was approaching another road, that the map on the iPad revealed. I almost missed it, since it was even smaller then the one I had been driving on so far. And it had more stones, I had to cross a dry river bed every 10 minutes. Every sand field reminded me how I got stuck in the Aral lake, every stone that hit the car from below felt like on the Pamir Highway, on the stone track I often lost traction on one side of the car and had a tough time steering. It took me another hour of this madness to get back on a normal road. I crossed two villages made of mud bricks, with no roads, and many curious looking people. I tried to look at the bright side: I would have never seen such a remote place had I not got lost today. The downside was that I reached the same road I had left after lunch at 18:00, and should have been 300km to my north east.

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As I reached the tarred road again I had to decide which side to go. I choose to drive on the southern side, through Zagora. Bad decision number two of the day. Half an hour later, on what the map showed as a major road, the tar disappeared: construction site ahead! I thought I’d give it a try, maybe after a few km the road was finished again. Half an hour later, after risking a couple of times to drift off the stone track, I gave up and turned around. On the way back three spanish Jeeps crossed my way, the last one almost ramming me. at 19:00 I reached the place where I had gotten back on the tar road. Ironically, in the last daylight the tar got pretty bad on the stretch from here on back to Tazenakht. The next major town with the chance of a decent hotel was Ouarzazate. I had crossed it on my last trip and remembered it to be nothing spectacular, and full of tourists. But right now it was my only chance, and it was late and dark. I raced through the mountains towards it, to some extent it reminded me of the night race through the mountains north of Tehran, also that one after a day lost in the mountains. As I drove past the film studios at the entrance of Ouarzazate I took a deep breath, I made it. Tomorrow I’ll have to catch up and make up for the km lost today. This day felt like I hit one of those fields in Monopoly where you have to take a card, and mine today read “Construction work ahead, move back several spaces and do not cross Start!”

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Trip data

– Km driven: 682

– Hours on the road: 11

– l diesel/100km: 6,0

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