Friday, March 3, 2017 | Morocco – Fès-Meknès, Fès | Win & Petra
After enjoying fantastic weeks at the coast we feel attracted to the interior of the North African Empire. From Guelmim we head 420 kilometers east along the Anti-Atlas mountains to Foum Zguid within two days. The desert will be our destination.
A NIGHT AT THE POLICE STATION
At Tarhjijt we stop for the night, because we have planned a slight detour for the next day to the Valley of Amtoudi nearby. Two very interesting agadirs (grain storage facility) should be perched high up on a hill overlooking the Berber village Amtoudi.
It’s already getting dark when we arrive at Tarhjijt and we still don’t know where to camp tonight. This is our chance to test if we are allowed to park at the local police station. We read about it in one of our guide books. Indeed, we are welcome with handshake and are invited to park next to the police station. Police, your friend and helper.
The next day we get done the detour to the Valley of Amtoudi and as well the remaining 340 kilometers to Foum Zguid in one go. The fully developed regional roads are almost empty. That gives us time to look around and wonder. Time and again completely different landscapes of rocks and stones appear in front of us. Mother Earth had been extremly constructive during the making of these masses of rocks back in the days.
THE DESERT IS ALIVE
Elated and with sufficiently much water on board we start our desert expedition for several days. Kilometer by kilometer we jolt on rough pistes passing massive rocks that continually alter their appearance depending on the altitude of the sun. Sometimes dark brown, sometimes bright red to purple. The endless fields of stone around us shine sandy brown, dark grey and even blue. Stone as far the eye can reach, a hard prickly bush or some solitary grasses here and there . Solitude and nothing but a horizon – as it seems.
At a late hour we park our vehicles right beside the piste. Silence. A bird twitters. Silence. From afar we can hear the sound of a car. Some minutes later the car appears. The driver gets off, salutes with a friendly “La bas?” (How are you?) and shakes hands. He just wants to know if he is on the right way to Foum Zguid and continues his trip after he excused not to follow our invitation for dinner. He has still to go some 15 kilometers and it is already getting dark.
In a group of four we enjoy the silent evening in the middle of the stony desert. We chat with each other and faraway in the darkness we watch a small light. Is there somebody coming up to us? It seems to be a camp fire and also a headlamp. Tonight we won’t find out what’s going on in front of the mountains. But the very next morning the binoculars help to clarify the situation. It is a nomad, who made camp there with his herd of dromedaries and now continues his way early in the morning to find food for his animals.
It seems to me that I could hear some voices from afar. I cock my ears. It sounds like a cheerful chattering. Do we get visitors? Actually children appear soon accompanied by a young girl. They are on their way to school. To Foum Zguid on foot. We have no idea how long already these five are on their way. Later on our route we even can’t find a house or a tent where they could have come from. The only thing we know is, that they still have another 15 kilometers to go until they arrive at their school.
Susanne rummages around in her charity box for some shoes, which should fit one of the girls. Some minutes later the kids bid goodbye and move on equipped with new pens for school and a new pair of sneakers.
A long time we look after the kids and are just baffled about their long way to school.
SOFT WAVES OF SAND
“This is exactly how I always imagined our journey. Vastness and free camping in the middle of a sublime landscape. To be alone without any needs having everything necessary with us. No man far and wide.” Win is not the only one who goes into raptures when we arrive at Erg Chegaga the next afternoon after many kilometers of pistes.
I am melting away at the sight of softly curved sand dunes that contrast strongly with the glorious blue sky. What a sight and we are in the middle of it!
With our enduro Win makes off to the stone desert for a while and enjoys the fascinating nothing, that is intangible much at the same time. Great moments of happiness.
More moments of happiness the boys experience when driving off-road over smaller and bigger sand dunes. This is the ultimate test of the expertise of vehicles and drivers. Susanne and I capture the sensational maneuvers on camera.
Not possible to capture on camera is the Fata Morgana, we are misled on our way to the erg (= sand). We are sure to see the big Iriki Lake in front of us. We clearly can see the sparkling surface of the water and can make out even reeds and men fishing in the distance. The whole thing is just a figment of our imagination.
Two days later, just as we pack all our stuff and want to move on, eagle eye Susanne makes a dramatic discovery in the battery storage. The console, that has to keep the four batteries (75 kilogramm each) of our cabine safely in position, is broken. At several spots on top of that. The high-grade steel construction obviously didn’t withstand the strain caused by off-roading.
Fortunately even this time our personal truck engineer Stefan knows how to deal with it. The two batteries on the the top level will be removed and fixed safely to the motorbike rack on the back of the truck. This makes sure to avoid any further damages especially of the batteries. The two left batteries on the lower level will still provide electricity. Perfect!
ABBAS AND THE OASIS
Let’s go to Oasis Sacrée our next stage of our journey. There we meet the eremite Abbas. He lives alone here with a herd of goats, runs a kind of desert camp and farms a big vegetable garden, all organic of course (apart from the cigarettes). He probably is a doctor and lived in switzerland for many years. He speaks German, English, French in turns and offers us some tea in the style of Berber. We can’t work out him and can’t make sense of the discussions he is having with Susanne.
We will never forget Oasis Sacrée and Abbas.
To those who want to know facts and details Wikipedia offers the following:
Oum Lâalag is an oasis located 50 kilometers southwest of M’Hamid El Ghizlane in Morocco at the old trade route to Timbuktu, only a few kilometers from the border of Algeria.
The oasis is approximately 15 hectares in size and is presumed holy by the nomads. According to local beliefs, a fairy lives at its source. A bivouac camp site is available in the oasis, which offers ecologically sustainable tourism. The high dunes of Erg Chegaga can be reached by camel or 4×4 off-road vehicles.
The oasis is part of the 123,000-hectare Iriqui National Park, which was set up in 1994. In its vicinity live houbara bustards, ostriches, Barbary sheep, dorcas gazelles, oryxes and hyenas.
(Source: Wikipedia )
At the end of our desert trip we want to get cut a working makeshift solution for our battery holder by the local carpenter. Two young guys from the village offer help and usher us to a carpenter’s workshop. The first carpentry may have the wood, but not the machine to cut it exactly. The second one may have the machine, but the one who is able to operate it is out of town for two days. So let’s ask the village blacksmith after all, if he is able to weld high-grade steel. Under the direction of Stefan he welds and stiffens the existing console perfectly. Fortunately later that evening within two hours everything is well repaired. All involved are very satisfied with the result.
We fell in love with the desert. We are addicted to it. Even a week later Win and I decide to visit Erg Chebbi as well. This time we will spend some days on our own in the desert, Susanne and Stefan have other ideas.
From Oasis Source Bleue at Meski we take the national road N10 to Boudnib. A little distance out of town a piste leads to Arfoud through a stone desert landscape not far from the border to Algeria. Our friend Mohammad from the camp ground Oasis Source Bleue gave us the advice to use this route of 95 kilometers. He should know it, because he often organizes guided tours through the desert.
Along the east route of Erg Chebbi occasionally we come across some nomads or just their tents