The plan was to leave Zagora to Tamegroute and its palmeraie, continuing across the Jbel Bani (pass at 850 m), past Tagounite, across the pass of Tizi Beni-Selmane (700 m), down to Mhamid. I would then come back to Tagounite, fuel up, and leave to Foum Zguid by the “middle” piste. Distance-wise, it was 95 km to Mhamid, 30 km back to Tagounite, all tarred, followed by 165 km of piste.
By 7:45 AM I was back on the road. The scenery was your average stuff for this part of Morocco: desolated hamada, the brown tones being broken up solely by the greens of the palmeraies. On the top of the passes, there were great views to be had of this assembly of colors. As I approached Mhamid, sand started coming into the picture. At 9:10 AM I was the end of the tar road on the other side of Mhamid, i.e., at the beginning of the La Piste de la Soif. And what can I say about Mhamid? Well, I can say that I have been there! I can also say that I have seen the famous mural “Tombouctou 50 jours.” … And that’s pretty much it!
By 9:45 AM I was back in Tagounite, fueled up and ready for the piste to Foum Zguid. As far as this passage, here are the highlights:
·Slow motion – it took me precisely 6 hours to the minute to do the 165 km to the heart of Foum Zguid (average speed of 27.5 km / h.)
·Sand – no problems. As a matter of fact, during the 6 hours, I was on 4 wheel drive twice for a grand total of 4 minutes!
·Stones – If sand was no problem, the stones surely were! I have never ever, ever seen so many stones! As a matter of fact, I have never ever even thought that there were that many stones on Earth! On the first ½ hour right after the Oasis Sacré (Km 65.8), the worst part as far as this plague, I made 5.9 km!
·LakeIriki – After all the shaking, rattling and rolling on the stones, you get to the dry bed of this lake and can not resist stepping on the gas. And stepping on the gas I did! At times it felt like I was on a runway ready to take off. Not to be tried at home!
·Scenery – You get precisely what you came here for: pretty desolating views! The route that I chose goes thru one little village, Zaouia. Other than that, I only saw 2 or 3 small groups of nomad tents and a few nomad children.
·Navigation – pretty straight forward, just follow the waypoints. At the Oasis Sacré you have the choice of going left directly to LakeIriki. I was conservative and stayed on the main piste to the right. … And got hit by the worse of the stones. If I had the chance to do this again, I would probably take the lake option. The pistes converge after the little village. At the end, there are two options: one closer to the mountain on the right, the other by the middle. Pick one and run with it! (I picked the one in the middle, but could have as well picked the other one!)
By 3:45 PM I was in Foum Zguid! It did not take me long to realize that this town had absolutely nothing going for it! Nothing! The town, the setting, the hotel, nothing was right! So in less than 10 minutes, I was back on the road heading for Tata, the next big town on my planned itinerary (140 km due west, all surfaced.)
The drive to Tata was uneventful. I took it slow, taking advantage of this chance to unwind a bit from the drive from Tagounite. Rolling easily, by 5:15 PM I was in Tata looking for the Relais des Sables. Tata itself is not very distinguishable a place either, but compared to Foum Zguid, it is in a whole different world (then again, so are most places on Earth!) The hotel was very basic, but quite pretentious and expensive for what it offered, but in a place like Tata, you take what you can! Once checked in, it was back to the usual end of day routine: unload the car, et cetera, et cetera, and go to bed!)
The beginning of the Piste de la Soif in Mhamid
Stone field between Tagounite and Foum Zguid
Stone field between Tagounite and Foum Zguid
In the ex-Lake of Iriki
. . .
Can't come to Morocco and not see camels!
Day 11: From Tata to Sidi Ifni (Thu, Feb 22)
The original plan for this stage was to start in Foum Zguid, and go thru Tata and Imitek to Tisgui (205 km, all surfaced). Close to Tisgui I was to leave the main road into a piste heading west thru the valley of Tazegzaoute to somewhere on the road between Igherm and Tafraoute (nearly 35 km of mountainous stuff, i.e., more stones!) I would then continue SW on the surfaced road to Tafraoute where I was to overnight (another 30 km or so.) It was not a very long day to start with – 265 km all together. Given that I was starting in Tata, i.e. 140 km closer to the end, the day was even shorter! So the plan needed to be reconsidered. While doing so, I decided that this day was going to be one of rest, piste free, for the truck and for the driver! The revised plan called for leaving Tata to Imitek, up to Igherm, and then south to Tafraoute, where I was to have lunch. I would then continue west to a hotel all guides raved about at the Col de Kerdous (215 km to Tafraoute, plus 50 km to the col, all surfaced.)
By 7:45 AM, after a rather bad breakfast, I was back on the road. The drive to Tafraoute was pretty uneventful. At the exit for the piste in Tisgui, I still hesitated. I looked at the beginning of the piste, looked at the map, back to the piste, but ended up staying with the new plan – rest day for all. And I am glad I did it because the scenery along the road was to be extremely interesting. My French guide defines the views around here as being époustouflant. And by golly, they are right!!! (Like me, you may have never heard of this word before! If that is so, my on-line dictionary says it means stupéfiant, as in mind-blowing!) Indeed! Absolutely incredible rocky mountain formations with all this parallel lines in it as if they had been combed by this giant comb. Quite unique. The scenery from Igherm all the way to Tafraoute was not less impressive: the road meanders thru fields worked in little terraces shored up by stones and doted with almond trees (all in flower at this time of the year.)
By 11:30 AM I was in Tafraoute, and what a disappointment! The town itself is in a beautiful setting, between two mountains, but other than that, it does not have much going for it. And it is absolutely packed with “Refrigerators on Wheels (i.e., RVs!) Not my type of place so I decided that I would not even stop. One hour latter I was at the hotel at the Col de Kerdous. The place is indeed special. Right on top of the pass (1100 m), with incredible views west onto the plains, it really deserves a stop. Per revised plans, this was supposed to be my end point for the day. During lunch I revised yet again the already revised plans: I would continue on to the Sidi Ifni on the coast (130 km, all surfaced.) By 1:20 PM I was back on the road. The trip was uneventful. The first part of the journey is “down hill” all the way to the plains that start a bit before Tiznit. I crossed this town without stopping and continued on to the coast (which you reach just before Gourizim.) From here all the way down to Sidi Ifni, the road hugs the shore.
I arrived to Sidi Ifni around 3:00 PM. I stayed at the Hotel Suerte Loca, a veritable institution in town. I have to admit that when I pulled up to the hotel, I had quite some doubts about the place. Once I came in, talked to the people, and saw my suite, I was convinced! And I do not want to convey the wrong impression: Suite 14 was a suite because it had a bathroom, that’s all. For that privilege, I paid €5 more: all the way up to €12 a night. In addition to a bathroom, Suite 14 had a little balcony facing west, to the beach, the sea, and the sunsets! After one week of desert, it felt absolutely magic going to sleep with the sound of the breakers down at the beach. Yes, I could have stayed here for months! (And from what I saw, I would not be the first one to get “stuck” in Ifni!)
Having seen the sun setting from my room and dinned at the hotel, I set out on foot for a beer at one of the two bars in town (Suerte Loca does not serve alcohol.) But it was already a tiny bit too late for the drinking crowd, so I turned around immediately and returned to the hotel. I worked a bit on the log and went to bed.
"Combed" mountains between Tata and Igherm
"Combed" mountains between Tata and Igherm
Terraces with almond trees: detail ...
... and panoramic views
Small mountain village near Tafraoute
The sea at last, near Gourizim
The beach at Sidi Ifni (from my room at the Suerte Loca)
Sunset from my room at the Suerte Loca
. . .
The Suerte Loca in Sidi Ifni
Day 12: Around Sidi Ifni (Fri, Feb 23)
At this point of the trip I was ahead of the plan, so I decided to spend an extra night at Suerte Loca. I would spend the early morning doing errands and working on the net and then I would take off south by the piste along the coast, towards Plage Blanche. I would then turn around and return to Ifni.
In the morning, while working on the net, I found out that I would need to cut my trip short to take care of some family issues – yes, real life goes on out there! I ended up being stuck on the net until pretty close to noon. I then fueled up and left heading south along the shore. It turns out that the first 46 km of this old piste have either already been asphalted or are in the processing of being so! A few kilometers before a place identified as Foum-Assaka on the Michelin map (but which I never saw), the tar finishes and the piste starts. A few kilometers further the piste crosses a wadi. Once on the other side, you are supposed to have two choices: either go inland towards Bou-Jerif, or continue along the shore. Both pistes looked to be in very bad shape, and the one by the shore had a few spots that seemed to be nearly impassable. As I said to someone before, if I had to, I would most likely have been able to continue. But I was alone, I did not know what was ahead, and saw no point in continuing, so I turned around. By 2:40 PM I was back in town having lunch at the Bellevue, the other hotel in Ifni. After lunch (nothing to write home about), I drove a bit around the city and then returned to Suerte Loca to work on the log as I waited for the sunset. I had dinner at my hotel, hung out down below at the café for a bit, and then went upstairs to my room.