Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Day 6 – 232km Sunday 08/04/2012 Nekob (K’nob) – Tazazert – Dades Gorge – Todra Gorge

Wow, what a long and exhausting day! Did so much piste work on rocks that I feel battered and bruised with all of my muscles aching. Had a great breakfast at the auberge (and even better traditional food the night before) and set-out with some basic directions from the kind owner.

Things didn’t start well and I ended-up a long way off piste, bashed my knee on a huge flying rock and had to back-track many km’s. After this false start (but I did get to see loads of nice places) the proper track from Nekob to Tazazert started-off really well and it was amazing to see the remote communities. All the people lived near the river and the land was well utilised for crops and vegetables.

The road soon started to deteriorate as the track climbed high-up into the mountains. 4x4’s were going about 3km as it was so bad in places. That said, I saw three Citroen 2CVs at the top so it couldn’t have been that bad. Still, the views were really amazing but my slow progress did worry me. Things improved greatly on the downward slope and eventually tarmac appeared – it was very welcome after the jagged volcanic rocks.

The views were equally stunning as I neared Boumalne Dades with perfect snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. After a quick refuel I decided to blast down the Dades Gorge. It was a great road with more stunning views and brilliant corners that had my knobbly tyres screaming for mercy. At this point I met-up with a couple of Slovakian guys on kitted-out BMW 1200GS’s. We stopped for a Coke and I showed them the piste that I wanted to take as a ‘short-cut’ to Ait-Hani and the Todra Gorge. They were up for the piste and the café owner borrowed a moped and guided us the couple of km’s to the start of the piste just outside of Msemrir.

It certainly wasn’t an easy route but the Slovak guys were excellent riders and made rapid progress on their heavy machines. I was very tired at this stage and dropped the bike when we stopped to put on warmer clothing. I also struggled to restart the bike a couple of times – I suspect that the 2800m altitude and Afriquia petrol didn’t help me or the bike. Anyway, we motored on but it seem to take forever to complete the piste especially seeing as it looked so short on the map.

The amount of children and old women appearing out of nowhere to beg or sell you stuff you don’t want beggared belief considering how remote a place this seemed. It’s common for kids to ask for a pen or for older people to ask for a cigarette or even money, but these people seemed more desperate and small kids will literally run-out right in front of you. Anyway, at one point this old begging lady came up to us as we stopped for a drink of water. One of the Slovakian guys gave her a €20 note. I was amazed by this generous gesture but even more so when she kept begging for more and started showing us the hole in her shoe. I can only assume she hadn’t realised the value of her gift from a total stranger, or maybe she was just out to get as much as possible.

At this point the Slovakians (never did get their names) suggested that I rough camp with them in a place they know and then we tackle the long piste that leads to the Cirque de Jaffar together. Whilst this was a route that I had planned to do, I still wanted to see the Todra Gorge and I was starting to worry a bit about the bike which seemed to be rattling more than ever. It was sad as they were excellent company but I think that I’ll save the Cirque de Jaffar for another day.

Not to self, if animals are standing by the roadside and facing away from the road then gas it, but if they’re facing towards the road then expect anything!

The Todra Gorge was equally stunning as the Dades but much more focussed and ‘touristy’. The steep, narrow gorge sides looked amazing – at times it felt as though you were riding into a dead-end with a rock wall in front of you. I rode on a little until I was a bit further down the Gorge and camped in a very civilised campsite with great views of the Gorge walls. Anyway, some Asda Tomato Pasta mixed with a packet of Beef Noodles and I think it’s time for bed.

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