Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Morocco, April 2012, pt 3

Leaving Erfoud behind us we continued west via Alnif and Tazzarine, then south east into the Draa Valley towards our next projected overnight in Zagora. meeting lots of these guys en route,

and some of these critters,

before securing a room here:

Refreshed after a good dinner, night's sleep and breakfast set our sights on M'hamid; the so-called end of the road. It was a fantastic ride down through the desert and, reaching the end of the tarmac we amused ourselves with a little, gentle piste riding,
before enjoying mint tea and conversation with these chaps:
Then it was off back to Zagora for a photo next to this sign, which will be well known to any visitors to the town:

From Zagora we crossed the Tizi-n-Tinififft (yes really) pass to Ouarzazate. It was a horrific ride, with high winds on the far side, so occasionally MBM and me were down to walking pace. We arrived in one piece however, found a place to stay for a couple of nights and, next morning caught a taxi into the centre, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the sunshine:

From Ouarzazate we pointed the front wheels at Marrakech but first, on the way, we stopped off at Ait-Benhaddou:
Chatting with an English couple here revealed that the back road to the top of the infamous Tizi-n-Tichka, previously a piste, had recently been surfaced. So off we went on a delightful sojourn through the backcountry. On the way we saw cave dwellings,
and found another satisfying cafe:
It's my second trip on the Tichka and I didn't enjoy it either time. The bends, IMHO, are endless and tiring on a bike, but eventually we arrived in the heat of Marrakech. For the first time on our trip we found hotels with no vacancies but eventually, aided by the database in my trusty Garmin satnav, we were ensconced in a very comfortable out of town place, from where we took a taxi into the centre and the delights of the Place Jemaa el-Fna:
I ate the spicy sausage and chips with relish (that's to say it tasted good rather than a reference to the condiment; of which there was none) but Bernie found it hard going with a particular afterburn he enjoyed for couple of days following the feast.
After the dubious wonders of Marrakech (I'd give it a miss next time; far too touristy) we hit the road north, stopping for tea in a small town whose name escapes me. I amused Bernie by leading him around the pedestrians partaking of a busy market, threading a way through in my determination to find the inevitable cafe - which I did:
Suitably fed and watered we continued north and found ourselves crossing a wide, upland plain which just begged for an overnight camp - so we did:
This was to be our final camp of the trip but it was a very pleasant break. Bernie, armed with my trusty Nature Pure water filter, found the necessary liquid with which to quench our thirsts and rehydrate our camping meals:

The meagre puddle looked disgusting but it's testament to the efficiency of the filter that his efforts were rewarded with water of the crystal-clear, eminently palatable variety.
Moving on next morning we paused on the outskirts of Khenifra for a mid morning snack. The fresh pancakes produced by the lady owner were just out of this world, particularly when accompanied by orange juice and a milky coffee.
Then it was back to the ride across country to find a hotel in Meknes which enabled us to visit Volubilis the next morning.
The remains at Volubilis represent the most important Roman site in North Africa and really are quite remarkable if, like me, you've never seen anything on this scale before.

The mosaics are quite stunning, so I apologise for the poor quality of this pic, which fails to do them justice.
Our visit to Volubilis will be forever etched in my memory for the argument I had, in French, with the ticket attendant, who tried to fleece me out of a considerable amount of change. He was adamant I'd not given him a 100 dirham note, but I stood my ground, refusing to leave without satisfaction, as busloads of tourists formed an ever-lengthening queue behind me. My Yorkshire stubbornness (is that a word?) paid off though. He coughed up, but only after I'd called him a "voleur", (thief).

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