INTO THE DESERT, PART 2 – FROM MERZOUGA TO ZAGORA

A 300 kilometres track through the desert

Getting out of Merzouga, instead of staying on the main road, we turn and take the track that will lead us in the heart of the desert, through some incredible landscapes… It really isn’t easy to find words to describe the immensity of the spaces we’re crossing. One minute we have the feeling to be on the moon, and the next we’re on Mars… Finding a tree is a challenge, but we’ll have lunch in the shade after all. A crew of over equipped 4WD drive past us, and we have to jump on the food to keep it safe from the dust!

After driving through a dry out lake, an absolute unique experience where the track is no longer more than a line on the map, we have to navigate visually to find our way. The sand, covering everything, just gets deeper and deeper… But we’re not ready to deflate the tires and that just makes it more and more complicated when it could easily be done… Anyway, we’re lucky on this one because at this moment we come across the crew of 4WD that passed us earlier, and they stop to tell us that further is no good, and that they even had to use the winch to get one the vehicles out. Seeing their equipment (and the light weight of their cars compared to ours), we’re thinking that if they couldn’t do it, there is no chance we can and so we turn back and follow them to the closest village.

We were indeed very lucky. Because if we have had to continue for this long before getting stuck where they did, we wouldn’t have had enough petrol to turn back… That’s another lesson learned, and we’re simply grateful for our scouts! Back to the village, we get our maps and GPS out to try and find some other way around. Well, that’s to say one the crew’s driver asks us what GPS we’re using to navigate, and although we have the Garmin, we’re simply using the app maps.me and that seems to be very funny in his eyes… Anyway it is a very good app, and we do have all the tracks in there, even the way around! So when the people of the village asks us a lot of money to show us the way, we decide to turn that offer down and take our chance on our own.

By the time we’re ready to leave, a French couple in a fifth 4WD joins us, and are more than happy to follow everyone and not be on their own for this tricky part (well just like us actually!). We all finally get on our way, and have to follow the dry out river bed on several kilometres before being able to cross and get on the other side to make our way around the sandiest part. There surely is less sand than on the track, but it still quite a technical bit and our first real sand experience!

Once out and back on the track, one the guys from the crew throws us a fresh beer to celebrate and they all get going. We stay back with Mahbouba and Olivier, the French couple, and decide to drive with them for a while, as we’re going in the same direction anyway. We discover ourselves a common passion for the search of special rocks and fossils, indeed we can spend hours bent in two scanning the ground… Later on, we don’t resist and make a stop in a kind of hotel, in the middle of an absolute nowhere, baring the name of Dinosaur KemKem. The owner welcomes us with a smile threatening to split his face in two, so large is his smile… A shared pleasure, for sure, specially when the giant tajine he’s prepared for us comes in!

In the evening, a sand storm comes in, again, as we’re already inside the tent falling asleep. We have to pack the bottom part in emergency (the part where Ebi is sleeping in) once more… We had hopes that the walls of the hotel would protect us, but obviously nothing stops the desert winds!!

The next day we manage to get to Zagora, with a lot of stars in our eyes… Being back on the sealed road is like a punishment after such an adventure, and our co-travelers, of the same mind, go their way for some new ones while we drive along the Drâa valley to meet the Atlas Mountains once again…

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