Thursday, 14 October 2010

September 14th - Erg Chebbi

Bike on fire, desert crashes and camels.

We were up at our usual time of 6am, squeezing in the redbush brew-up, before bidding Jurassic camp, complete with man eating ants goodbye, riding the Gorge Du Ziz on to Errachidia, and then onwards to Erfoud.
By now, Morocco was how I'd imagined it to be, happily less "westernised" than the bigger towns we'd passed through initially.

I lagged behind after riding through Errachidia, it was still fairly early, and I once again needed to feel some sort of solitude, and time to reflect on where I was.
It wasn't long though before I came across the rest of the team at the side of the road, bustling yet again around Alan's Tenere.
I must give both Alan, and the trusty Yamaha credit, that despite the odds stacked against the bike, and the number of campsite repairs thus far, Alan's patience, and the Tenere had been doggedly forging ahead without complaining, however, this time, things had taken a slightly worse turn.

Alan had been carrying a plastic jerrycan of fuel on the rear rack, to slake the thirst of the hungry Yamaha, and somehow, this had become dislodged, and had forged a bond with the exhaust, resulting in the can melting, fuel catching light, and the rear numberplate melting before anyone spotted the disintegrating can jettisoning it's hazardous load off the back.
The drama was over by the time I'd caught them up, all that remained was a charred numberplate holding on by one bolt, and a melted can lying off the road.
What's next we wondered, as we set off again.

Erfoud was bustling, it was a tourist destination I guess, but without the "Touristy" vibe to it, which I found pleasing. We stopped for fuel, and a quick conflab. Jason, Shad, and Alan set off, while Myself and Darren chose to have a coke break and a 5 minute leg stretch.
We turned off the N13 in the town, and instead, took the R702 across to Dar Kaoua, where we promptly ran out of tar road, It was there one minute, and the next, sandy, corrugated tyre tracks, not even pointing anywhere in particular, in fact, there were several, heading in all different directions.
We had the bikes for the job, so in unison, we rose on our pegs, and rode into the desert like the captains of two ships, standing at their respective helms.

For 18 miles we rode the pegs over the corrugations, rocks, and soft sand, stopping every now and then for some photo taking, and checking that we were still on track.
We reached Merzouga without incident, but concerned that the others would be worried, as I'd guessed they'd taken the N13 down, and were wondering why we'd taken so long.
As we rumbled between the small houses in the village, entering town via a more unorthodox route, we caught sight of Alan and Shad approaching us from the left, joined not long afterwards by Jason.

As it transpired, that despite leaving Erfoud before us, they'd doubled back into town, and taken the same route out as us, coming up behind us.
Alan and Shad had raced across the corrugations, leaving Jason to fend for himself, so when a patch of loose stuff had his GS over, he found himself alone with his downed bike, with no choice but to roll a cigarette, and wait until the guys noticed he was missing. Alan and his Tenere had in the meantime had yet another drama to contend with. One of his panniers had burst, and it took a while to notice, but by this time, the desert was littered with a trail of food, socks, underpants and other assorted items.

Nevertheless, here we all were, Merzouga, final destination for the day, and only 12pm Midday, and with a temperature on 45 degrees, we sought shade on the veranda of a cafe and rested.
Now, there were touts here too, but thankfully not as pesky as elsewhere. Darren bought yet more fossils to take back, including a slab so wide, it barely fit the panniers. I bought some silver jewellery, while Shad negotiated with a guy called Yusuf for a campsite, complete with swimming pool.
As it transpired, "Palais des dunes" was a fairly good find. The swimming pool was perfect, and Jason & Myself wasted no time in getting wet. Darren hadn't brought shorts, and no amount of coaxing would convince him to get in with his Y-fronts.
Shad & Alan had decided to spend the afternoon riding in the dunes, (not adjusting tyre pressures to suit)

Two hours later, and they returned, looking severely the worse for wear, not only had Shad been violently thrown over his bars hitting the sand, but it would seem they had spent the last two hours digging both bikes out, and moving them 100 meters. All this while we were languishing by the poolside.

Not to be defeated, they had elected to try again in the evening. (The tyre pressures still hadn't been talked about). Jason, Daz, and Myself had elected to take a camel trek into the desert, and camp out in the bedouin tents instead, returning to base in the morning.
Before we left, it was discussed that Shad and Alan were going to leave camp early, and head for Tinerhir, and the Dades and Todra gorges, we would meet up in 2 days in Ouarzazate.

The camel trek was an experience, aside from the three of us, we were joined by a Spanish and French couple too.
90 minutes by camel left me feeling like John Wayne, and camels constantly crap, well, Jason's one in front of me did anyhow.
The food at the campsite was rank, and old, the bread, whilst aesthetically good, was stale, and I ate very little.
in fact, we waited so long for it, that the three of us contemplated walking back to camp, and hitting the road. We didn't though. There was a bit of a sing-song going on at the table next to us, and several of us joined together in a bit of hand percussion. We slept under blankets, underneath the stars...

Tomorrow, we too leave for Tinerhir.

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