2011 Morocco – Day 12 – Zagora / Merzouga

As you can see from the first picture I was on my way quite early. Above Zagora there was still fog and it was not very warm. Actually it was just before 0 degrees. The night in the hotel was not particularly great, since my room had somehow again gaps and it pulled and besides no heating was there. I had already thought about buying at least one fan heater for 10€, but that really wasn’t worth it, because most of the rooms didn’t have electricity and I had to get rid of the thing again.

Besides, there weren’t any, I didn’t look for them either. The next point, however, would be also those if they are present, ailing power lines, which would have caused another fire. Anyway, from here on it became quite cold in the rooms every night, which one should consider before, if one would rather look for a more expensive lodging with heating, as also warm water in the price class is not a matter of course. Also one should check all this before whether it is 1. there and 2. works and 3. also after 10 min still works. With the warm water I had made bad negative experiences in the price range. Mostly there was not or only for a short time.

For 20€ you should get TV, air conditioning with heating and bath, at 10€ it looks very bad. This time it went the way back again, the N9 in the direction of Marrakesch. I wanted to turn right at Ichehihen towards Rissani to see the landscape and the dunes. Again I drove back the impressive Draa valley to turn right in the small village. A policeman stood at the crossroads. I was a bit confused because I didn’t really know if he was asking me to do anything. To be on the safe side I pulled over to the right, waved my passport and said I wanted to go to Rissani. He was extremely nice and thanked me, whereupon I did the same and disappeared again from the gentleman in uniform. After this idea I had the brilliant idea to burn some Stoner-Rock and to elicit some typical sounds from the stylish car radio. I drove again right before an Internet cafe ran and took my Netbook with me.

CD-Rs were available of course and also the Kyuss-mp3’s could be burned. The stupid car radio didn’t work at all. That was a bit tragic for me, as I was really looking forward to it, after the CD had worked so well until then. While I drove on I tried it constantly, because also no other radio station worked I did not try it again in another Internet cafe, but cursed the dirty radio. That reminds me again of point 2, which I already wrote above at the hotel selection. Immediately after leaving the village I went a little uphill out of the valley into another valley. However, the valley was very extensive and should go according to my memory approximately up to before Rissani. On the right side some sharp hills, which I would have liked to have seen from the proximity, in addition a Wadi and on the right side the Atlas in very far distance.

Here I made the first encounter with a proper stone desert. If there had been no road through it, one would simply not have been able to go through it. To the left and to the right were meter-high sharp-edged rocks scattered in the landscape. On the right side of the road there was probably an attempt at a rest stop. There were hardly any villages left. While the Draa valley was continuously built-up, there was not a single place here for 10-30 km and only a few low-growing plants. Otherwise everything was covered with dust and smaller and larger stones. In between, three somewhat more physical women walked with their luggage through the desert, where the next place is 20 km away. After my last experience I didn’t want to take anybody with me, but they just didn’t fit into my car. In between I stopped from time to time in the middle of the road, because there was no traffic at all.

The road was completely okay, but there were no vehicles anywhere. This is an ideal paradise to drive relaxed or just to stop and take some pictures. On the right and on the left some dust streams whirled from time to time through the area. At one point I stopped again, because dozens of them could be seen at a distance of about 2km. Those were small whirlwinds with a diameter of approx. 1-5m and some dozen meters height, which moved over a dusty surface in the sunshine. Sometimes one disappeared, sometimes another one was added.

A little outside a small village, I stopped. Meanwhile the civilization became meager. The village had just enough electricity and some lamps but probably no running water, because numerous women were gathered at the village well and were washing laundry. A little further the landscape finally became savannah-like. Some trees grew in the middle of a dusty and completely flat surface, which invited me to leave the asphalt road for a short time and drive onto the runway. It didn’t take long and the road wasn’t visible at all. Here I made immediately for the first time acquaintance with a corrugated iron runway. If one drives too slowly, then this is reflected in an abnormal wobble of the whole car. From a speed of about 30-50km/h this becomes bearable. I made a short stop under a tree to have a look around.

The sun was already extremely oppressive in January, I couldn’t imagine how it should be at 10-20°C higher temperatures with the best will in the world. Sometime I had enough again and drove back on the road to Rissani. After many more scattered villages after another impressive landscape I reached Rissani. The city was already much bigger than the other smaller villages before, the traffic was much denser. At a small kiosk I stopped to get drinks and cigarettes. In front of me was a young woman who exchanged a plastic bag full of white powder, probably a kind of flour, for a few coins. Here the poverty was as strong as in the villages before.

I drove further from the N12 on the P21 in the direction of Merzouga. The landscape became flatter and flatter. In the back I had now the last foothills of the Atlas. Everything changed into ever stricter Sahara. Shortly before Merzouga one could see the huge yellow-orange sand dunes on the left side. In front of the dunes everything was built with houses. As far as I could see there was no possibility to drive close to the dunes, because either the tracks were missing or I couldn’t see anything properly. A look at the map after the trip shows me that in the northernmost part of the dune field everything is undeveloped and also leads to slopes. But I drove up to the buildings, where also the dunes keep the highest and drove from the road to the numerous tracks leading to the Kasbahs. I had looked in the LP before what the night costs here, but was not really willing to spend the night here. But maybe it would have been worth it.

The runway was extremely terrible, since to corrugated iron also numerous small stones came. In addition there were also small sand fields shortly before the houses into which I threatened to drive. However, everything went well, however, the underbody was maltreated strongly by the stones. I tried to drive a little back and forth to find a passage through the Kasbahs, which proved to be very difficult, because the road outside was very difficult. Everything looked very deserted around this time. I therefore decided to turn around again, as my time had already elapsed with a glance at the clock. The sun threatened to set again. I hadn’t managed half the way back to O. yet, but only a little more than 300 km with almost continuous driving from 10.00 a.m. in the morning.

I had to make up my mind because I had to return the car the next day. I wanted to go as far as possible via Rissani, then to Errachida and finally the parallel road via Goulmina and Boumalne back to Ouarzarzate. That should be more than 300 km and it was after 16.00 o’clock. So I drove back to Rissani as fast as possible. From Rissani the landscape became very green again, because there was a lot of water underground. At Errachida were numerous hills in the desert, which were provided with entrances. I did not really know what that should be and stopped briefly. Immediately two types arrived and meant something with water. I should come nevertheless with, which I could not do however due to the lack of time. I took a quick photo and continued to shoot. In Tinejadad the sun was shining all over my face while I was driving through the city. I hadn’t had much of a quiet ride before and had literally raced.

Now the sun went down and it was still a distance up to my put goal Boumalne. There I wanted to find a hotel and continue the next day. The journey in the dark was again horrible. This time there were also more vehicles, which did not make it however necessarily simpler. Often somebody and something appeared on the road, so that I did not get very fast forward. When it had become completely dark, I drove off the road and some hundred meters on a runway. There I got off and looked at the extremely clear starry sky for a while. Now I did not have to give myself more time pressure, it was now too late for that.

After some time I finally reached Boumalne and was happy not to have run over anyone. It took me more than half an hour to find a hotel in the small town. The first hotel located directly at the big intersection in the city center had no warm water. I went now into a hotel located approx. 100 m further. They had water according to own statements. I remember that this time it had cost approx. 120Dh, although the equipment was not so great. I checked the warm water and the sockets and later went to the internet cafe at the corner to surf a bit. Later it turned out that I had forgotten the third rule. The warm water ran only for approx. 5min, then it was used up. Again nothing was with a warm shower and the night became again quite cold so east of the Atlas.