Sunday, 24 October 2010

September 16th - Getting down the mountain

It was 2 of the most uncomfortable hours sleep I've had in a while.

Thankfully Darren didn't snore, either he was too tired, or I slept through it, that was some small relief at least.
My ribs hurt, and I couldn't get comfortable, and without the sleeping bag, I was freezing cold, so for the next two and a half hours I tossed and turned, waking just before 6, without the aid of the dulcet tones of "La Nouba" coming from the iphone.

Surveying the muddy mountainside in the early light of dawn, I can honestly say, and without any embarrasment, that I felt physically ill at the prospect of getting the three of us safely out of the mountain. I am a fairly confident, and capable offroad rider, but knew that the ride up here had taxed me in the dry, let alone now, with everything waterlogged and muddy.
Darren too, had confided in me that he'd lost his confidence after the tumble, so I knew that it was going to be a real test for the three of us... Like I said, It made me feel physically ill. Along with the fact that unlike my own compo rations that tend to block the system up, Darrens chicken casserole from last night had decided it was time to vacate the premises, and a panoramic dump was in order.

It hadn't long been light, and we'd started packing up the kit, when we spotted Jason approaching on foot, with a local shepherd.
As it transpired, he had dropped his bike twice, and some nomad sheperds had come to his rescue, helping him right the GS, and taking him in for the night, giving him a place to sleep in their tent.
They had been fantastic, cooking him a hot meal, and baking bread for him.

Jasons' french was better than ours, and he and the nomad had established a good rapport. The nomad had made it clear though, that it was too dangerous to go forwards towards Tilmi, and that we had three hours maximum before the storms hit the mountain again, so we had little option other to backtrack to Agoudal, and back down the Todra. Dissapointing, but in light of the situation we were in, it seemed like the safest option.

I knew the track back was going to be difficult, setting off was the hardest, as it was uphill, and everywhere was just so muddy, the Grand Wazoo went down within a hundred yards, riding the pegs, there was no warning, one minute up, the next, sideways and on my back. This did little to inspire Darren, who dropped his GSA twice, then got bogged down.
Eventually, we made it to Jasons bike, and firmer, though rockier, and rutted ground.

The ride out took us 4 hours of hard slogging. On one of the rockier decents down a narrow path, a jutting rock caught the nearside pannier, spinning the big bird 180 degrees, and sending me off over the front and into the rocks. Thankfully that would be the last time I'd lose control of the Grand Wazoo, but both her and I had taken a bit of a battering in the space of 12 hours.
Darren, getting target fixation on a steep drop, dropped the GSA in a very tricky spot. Thankfully more sheperds appeared, and helped him recover it although it did look like they were all going to go over the side at one point.
They didn't ask for reimbursement, but we paid them well, likewise did Jason with his hosts, hopefully continuing to pave the way for any other travellers that needed help in future on the Atlas.

We reached Agoudal, and took a breather. My panniers had taken a licking, and were in need of some repair, Jasons mirror was off, and Darrens was dangling by threads as well. We were cold, and muddy, the bikes looked like hell, but we were back on solid ground, now for the Todra gorge, again.

We made Tinerhir by 3pm, refuelled, restocked our water supplies, and set of for Ouarzazate. Bikershome was to be our only B&B during the course of our trip. I'd been in correspondance with Peter before we left, and had co-ordinated our arrival from Merzouga, two days earlier. We were hoping to rendezvous with Shad and Alan there too, like we'd arranged back in Erg Chebbi.

As we left Tinerhir, the storm hit, and followed us out along the N10 to Boumalne.
From there on, the weather wasn't so great, nothing like the 45 degrees of Erfoud and Merzouga. Stopping for a smoke outside El-KelaĆ” M'Gouna, I retrieved a text from Alan to say that He and Shad had made bikershome, and were off into town for food.

Timecheck: 16:00. I estimated that we'd be in Ouarzazate by 5.

As we hit Ouarzazate, I was point, followed by Darren, with Jason bringing up the rear. The storm had now hit us again, and along with the rain, came severe cross winds. Looking in my mirrors, Darrens' two spotlights showed a 45 degree angle to the road. It was a feat in itself, struggling to ride at that angle, and whenever a passing car broke the side wind and we lurched violently to the left. Visibility was limited, but soon enough, and on time, we rolled into Ouarzazate, wet, and minus Jason.

We waited with hazzards on, in the rain, in a layby on the edge of town, 20 minutes later, and Jason arrives, he's waited the crosswinds, and the storm out. We waste no time in getting to Peters place.
As if we're expected, everyone's outside to meet us, along with Steve and Ewen, 2 guys from a party of 4 that had gone ahead of us several days earlier from Portsmouth.
We park up in the garage, not before Jason ingloriously drops his bike on the gravel outside. We are just so worn out and tired, it's no wonder.

Shad buys us three muddy travellers a cold beer, and we go inside to shower and clean up. Bikershome is fantastic, our hosts Peter and Zineb are some of the nicest people you could meet, Peter offers me the use of the workshop to repair the panniers and bikes, first on the list of jobs for the morning.

For the time being, we chuck our gear in our rooms, shower, eat, smoke and drink...
I was glad to see Shad and Alan again, and the 5 of us regale each other with tales from the last two days. Steve and Ewen are introduced, and they tell us about their travels, and their falling out with the other two they were riding with. (petty things like losing a fork, and riding speed etc) It made me realise how lucky we were to still be together this far into the trip.

None of our little group were without fault though, however, I was thankfull that we all seemed to be at least tolerant of each other, and their faults, and this was what had kept everyone together so far.

Despite having had 2 hours sleep in two days, and having promised ourselves an early night, we're all up till 11pm, chatting, and planning the route from here tomorrow.

Shad and Alan plan to head for Marrakech along with Steve and Ewen. Alans' girlfriend has flown out, and he'll be staying in Marrakech with her until the 20th, when he's hoping to rejoin us somewhere over on the continent again.
Shad plans to head for Casablanca, and my plans were always to head for Demnate, and the Cascades D' Ouzoud.

My chest and right hip are a hue of mottled black and green, and it hurts to laugh, cough or sneeze, but tonight, we're warm and dry.....

Tomorrow we repair the bikes.

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