Marrakech Express Rally

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Date Change for Marrakech Express 2015

Posted on: December 24th, 2014 by John Brigden No Comments

Due to a clash of events in April we have decided to change the dates of the Marrakech Express. The new dates are March 30 to April 13. The rally is, as before, starting and finishing in Malaga, Spain as there are frequent flights to Malaga. Call Finella on 01420 478304 if you would like more details. Or email her on finella@2cvadventures.co.uk

Alastair Caldwell to defend title

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by John Brigden

Alastair Caldwell, winner of the first Marrakech Express, has confirmed that he will defend his title in 2015. Hayden Burvill was his navigator in 2014 but no navigator has been announced for 2015.

Marrakech Express Rally featured by the Daily Mail

Posted on: May 7th, 2014 by marrakech

 
British newspaper The Daily Mail featured the Marrakech Express Rally on its website. Click to see the story with glorious photos of the 2CVs and the spectacular scenery.

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The last day: Chefchaouen to Malaga

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 by Jo-Anne Skelton

Today we had an incredibly early start: 5 am wake up, 5.15 breakfast, leaving Chefchaoen in the pitch black at just past 5.30.  The views last night had been stunning but now we were all rather stunned getting up at this time and making our way back to Tangier and eventually on to Malaga.  A long but inconsequential day, it really did feel like the journey was coming to an end. No regularities or time controls today.  Our control boards and stop watches were sadly packed away.  It was difficult not to feel gloomy as we descended into a fog-laden valley.  When the sun eventually did came up, it did so without any of the majesty of the Sahara and the terrain – although pretty enough – was already incredibly Spanish-looking with numerous flower-decked villas standing by the road, gently easing us back into a more European frame of mind.   There was also a return of numerous policemen and speed traps, which a number of us got caught in.  Perhaps they were just checking that we were not be the types to be crossing the country with illegal substances obtained in the Rif mountains; stashed under the bonnet or in our glove departments.

After a very long day and a ferry crossing included, the competitors rolled back into the hotel in Malaga where they had been flagged off nearly two weeks prior. They were met with glasses of champagne and great big smiles. Toby was visibly relieved that the cars and competitors had all made it in one piece. Everyone seemed very happy.  Any frustrations about some of the route book or the difficulty (or not) of some of the stretches of roads used in the regularity events were forgotten or joked about. Everyone seemed to find it hard to wrench themselves away from their beloved 2 CV – some vowing to be back for more sometime soon. 2cv Rally Morocco

Finella, Toby, John T, John B and Fiona: The owners and directors of 2CV Adventures

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Alastair and Hayden                                                       Tim and Pat

 

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Nick and Leslie                                                              John and Judith

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Dave – a happy mechanic making good

With a bit of downtime to repack and get ready for the flight home tomorrow, everyone managed to spruce themselves up and came to dinner eager to hear the final results of all the regularity events combined, calculated, checked and double-checked in order to determine the overall winning team….

Much merriment ensued after dinner as tales of daring, keen driving, over-steer, under-steer, fantastical speeds(downhill and up, around corners and flat out) were discussed, dissected and presented by Toby. On four wheels, three wheels and at one point quite possibly on two – these cars had bounced and flown across pot holes, river beds, dust bowls, speed traps and icy mountain tracks.  They had; defied the laws of gravity whilst hugging corners around cloud-covered passes, kicked sand in the faces of slower competitors across the desert plains and almost been washed away at the start of the rally by copious amounts of Spanish rain. Drivers and navigators had laughed together and argued together, they had sat in stony silence, cried, bellowed, beeped, flashed and occasionally crashed.The mechanics had re-sprung, replaced, smoothed, wrenched and welded so that every morning all the teams had to think about was easing themselves into their comfy seats, unfurling their maps, get out the route book, fire up the Brantz, reset the GPRS and set off on the adventure ahead.     Friendships had been forged, memories stored and collectively thousands of miles of digital footage had clicked and whirred into life on GoPros, smart phones and other technical wizardry.  A relatively small group for a rally had created a great amount of comraderie and shared experience and in the process had also had quite a lot of fun.

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Alastair and Tim

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John T and Reg

As reputations lay at stake, long-standing rally-ists and friends eyed up the trophies with delight as the winners were announced and loudly applauded.

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Pat and Tim

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Father and son team: Sean and Mike

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Michelle and Reg

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Nick and Lesley

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Alastair and Hayden, declared the winners!

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One could sense a bond with both the 2 CV’s and Morocco had been emerging throughout our journey – even amongst the hard-core Paris to Peking pro’s. They all totally rocked the cars and the Kasbahs. Both competitors and crew had at some stage in the last two weeks spoken of their deep respect and admiration for the car and the country.  Most wanted to buy the car and many wanted to return to Morocco some time soon either on another rally or with loved ones as part of another holiday. We were all enchanted.

The most enthusiastic were already thinking about what other 2 CV adventures might lay ahead; trips were being dreamt up across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.  With a lot of TLC and respectful driving they had already come far … and with a good set of tulips and a trusty GPS there are really not many places that the 2CV can’t go!

I’m sure it is pretty safe to say the 2CV adventure has only just begun…..

 

 

Day twelve: Fes to Chefchaouen

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 by Jo-Anne Skelton

 

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Day eleven: Midelt to Fes

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 by Jo-Anne Skelton

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Day ten: Merzouga to Midelt

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 by Jo-Anne Skelton

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Whilst we were sad to be leaving the desert, we now had to focus on another long journey ahead of us with a 460 km drive to Midelt.

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Instead of carrying straight on at Erfoud and taken the ‘main’ road north to Midelt we turned west and on to Tineghir and the Todra Gorge.  We passed by or through more biblical looking towns either nestling amongst lush date palmeries or crouching at the foothills of the Atlas mountains slowly appreciating that the rocks were getting sheerer and the roads were getting narrower.

 

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Just before we got into the Gorge, we got stuck for about twenty minutes in some road works where we watched a precariously perched CAT excavator tried to do its best at digging away at the centuries hard rock face. It made me think the Highway Agency really has it very easy.

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Soon after this point I also saw a most bizarre sight for Morocco … a half naked man, around 50 or so, sporting extremely tight leopard skin leggings, bronzed torso and a very proud white and pink Mohican.   Could this be someone who had fallen off his own Marrakech Express some years ago and just decided not to go back?  Admiring his chutzpah, I mused that I could think of many worse places to just ‘turn-on, tune in, drop out’; as he lazily dodged the mercs and lorries going about their daily business up here in a fault in the Atlas mountains, he seemed completely oblivious to the stir that he was creating in his wake.

The Todra Gorge is famous for its trekking and mountain climbing.  Taking a more grounded approach in the car, I found it to be a glorious mass of perspective-distorting geology. At one point sheer rock is looming at odd angles above you, towering over buildings, cars and people, giving the feel of being transported to some sort of miniature world. Apart from the tourists, it also seemed to be the meeting point for many brightly dressed children who splashed about in the crystal clear river, singing, chanting, clapping and playing drums.  It seemed like a joyous place to stop and hang out for a while.  Unfortunately we had to press on to our regularity event some four and half clicks around the corner.

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Turning again off the main road and going even more ‘off piste’ we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere – but on greater inspection realised that high in the rocks were a number of caves, visibly being lived in.  We were at this mid-pint in the regularity control for about an hour and during that time became aware we were being watched…and before long we had a few visitors who nimbly ran down from their dwellings, over jagged rocks to stare inquisitively at us. Mostly men and women who seemed quite old but very, very fit. A bit later a couple of young men on bikes also stopped and when we explained that we were waiting for some little French cars to come past on a rally, they politely suggested that this was not the road for tourist cars – pointing excitedly at the map and showing us that to get to Midelt we really should have gone north at Erfoud to Ar-Rachidia and that we most certainly were going the wrong way.  Once the competitors had driven through, and they had seen and heard the throaty 2CV’s in all their glory, they seemed satisfied that we knew where we were and what we were doing and bid us a cheery farewell, cycling up the steep incline at great speed, seemingly with no effort at all.IMG_1179

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Lunch was just down the road at an Auberge.  All of the drivers were already sat in front of the most delicious smelling feast and soon we too were tucking in to a great tagine full of meatballs and cheese. A different and satisfying meal bolstered us all for the remaining 230 kms ahead. On the subject of food as we headed back out on to the road we started to notice the changing nature of the geology around us. Rock formations that we thought looked like slab upon slab of curved chocolate marble cake with the occasional mille feuilles thrown in for good measure.

Much of the road around Aït Hani and between Tizi-n-Tirherhouzine and Midelt could easily come straight out of the film The Big country and certainly could be used define the term ‘panoramic view’.

The emptiness of the roads was also quite extraordinary. The 2 CV’s might have played tag with each other but otherwise there were no other cars to over-take and pretty much no oncoming traffic. This stretch of Morocco is about as far away from the congestion of our roads in the UK as is possible. Frankly I’m surprised we didn’t bump into Jeremy Clarkson and the boys pulling a few J-turns.

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Images: Alex Broadway

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A few couples chose to play some music to accompany them across the agoraphobia-inducing vastness of the plains; mostly classical, turned up to the max. Other than the scenery, there were no dramas. Although at one point a small huddle of 2CV’s stopped at the side of the road to rubber-neck as John Rowe topped up his tank, looking magnificent in flat cap and berber scarf combo.

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Images: Alex Broadway

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Eventually we reached our destination. Well, the blurb in the brochure was right – Midelt is slap bang in the middle of Morocco in the high plains between the Middle and High Atlas and does not seem to be the most exciting part of the country.  But after our truly epic day, we were tired, the cars were dusty and most of the group seemed ready for a good night’s kip and so were happy to stay put in the hotel restaurant that night.  Here we drank good wine and revisited our long and varied journey so far, we spoke about the splendour of the Gorge and how all school children should be made to come to the great plains on geography field trips in order to study the incredible number of different rock formations, and thus instil a love of geology at source . We reminisced about our time in the desert, which already seemed a million miles away and that many of us had fallen just a tiny bit in love with.

 

 

Day Nine: Desert day off

Posted on: May 5th, 2014 by Jo-Anne Skelton

At about 5.45 am we were woken up by our hosts, rapping on the little blackboards hanging outside each tent, reminding us that it was time to get up and out for our camel ride.   I had been slightly hesitant about this trek the previous evening, having been warned that being up close and personal to a camel was not exactly the nicest thing to subject oneself to on waking. Apparently they smelt and ‘were inclined to spit or sneeze’. Toby also gleefully informed me that they had ‘really terrible halitosis’, but despite this description reminding me somewhat of an ex, I actually found myself genuinely excited to be confronted by our kneeling group of slightly bored-looking, cud-chewing animals.  At the start of this journal, I compared the 2CV’s to the reindeer in ‘The night before Christmas’ and now I find myself comparing the camels to the seven dwarfs in Snow White …. grumpy, sleepy, sneezy, dopey …you get the gist. They made me smile just looking at them.

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I was extremely glad to get into the saddle; whereas the sand had been cool yesterday evening, it was now freezing and given that I had despatched with my flip-flops in order to get on the camel more easily, the ground felt more like snow than sand. Top-tip: wear something a bit more robust at this time of day! My camel seemed docile enough and sure enough after a bit of grunting (on the camels part) and clinging on for dear life (on my part) were were up,up and away, slowly plodding along through the half light.

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Image: Alex Broadway

Dear reader – please, please put this experience on your ‘bucket list’.  Having had the privilege of also witnessing sunset over the Grand Canyon some years ago, I personally feel that this was a more serene, gentle experience but I fear my writing does not do justice to the wonderful feeling of sheer joy as we gently ambled into the sunrise surrounded only by softly changing pink and blue sky and miles and miles of undulating burnished sand ebbing and flowing into the distance.  The silence is unique; it’s not exactly total silence, as you can hear the sound of the soft-shoe shuffle of the camels as they carefully navigate their human cargo up the dunes. This is punctuated occasionally by a light peal of nervous laughter from a fellow rider as they get to grips with either the camel under them or behind them – but it is pretty near pin-drop perfect. Everything is soft, muted and mesmeric. After about fifteen minutes we dismount and clamber up the dunes by foot, once again taking slightly different routes to our different posts, eagerly waiting for nature to do her thing.

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Well, if I thought that the sunset was beautiful yesterday, then sunrise was even more breathtakingly so today. I am sure most of us took the opportunity in this magical place to have some time of quiet contemplation, putting our busy lives into perspective and possibly have a feeling of ‘being at one’ with something bigger than us.  Scanning the horizon you could see little clumps of people dotted around the peaks of dunes – and despite the occasional whir and click of a camera or smart phone, we were all very respectful of our immediate neighbour’s silence and thoughts.

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There is also something almost sensual about the curves, dips and hollows of the dunes that continuously change subtly in front of you.  A dune that looked as though it could be cupped in your hand was probably a couple of miles or more away.  The texture of the sand is like nothing you can experience on a beach – it is fluid, velvety.

Once dawn had risen in all her glory, we were back on the camels and returning to our camp, delighting the camera crew as we provided plenty of images of camel-train shadows and silhouettes.

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Images: Alex Broadway

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After saying a fond farewell to our four-legged friends we literally decamped to the hotel about 20 km up the road. Arriving at the Kasbah Tombouctou, and ignoring the rather garish large fake camels that adorn the entrance to the hotel – we found another typically warm Moroccan welcome and a fantastic little place mixing traditional mud render, architecture and ambience with quirky fixtures and fittings.

As a free day – a couple of the group went out and had fun zipping backwards and forwards on sandy planes and dunes.  Whilst others relaxed by the pool and soaked up some more of the Moroccan sun, others studied the Grand National form and tried to find out more about the horse they had just drawn in the sweepstake.  We heard that a couple of kilometres away runners were on day two of the Marathon des Sables prompting many of us to comment that whilst it was one thing to go across the desert in a 2 CV it was another thing entirely to run 147 kms; “totally bonkers” laughed one driver – adding that most of the runners were probably French.  Joking aside, there was much respect for the feat of these driven men and women wanting to conquer this part of the Sahara.

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Images: Alex Broadway

After a great day and as night fell on us and the 2CV’s once again I think we were all a little bit sad that the next day we would effectively be starting our return journey home.

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Images: Alex Broadway

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New video of the 2014 Marrakech Express Rally

Posted on: May 2nd, 2014 by marrakech

 
Below is a video comilation of footage from this year’s rally. See the 2CVs amidst the glory and majesty of the Moroccan landscape.
 
 

Day Eight – Ouarzazate to Merzouga

Posted on: April 23rd, 2014 by Jo-Anne Skelton

Toby greeted us in the morning with a cheery “hello” telling us that ” the boys did an amazing job last night putting in a new engine and gearbox ….bashed everything straight and made her look a bit more respectable!”  It was good to hear. With 377 kilometres to drive today, it would have been a great shame for Michelle and Reg if they had to travel in the crew cars. So we had a good early start out of Ouarzazate and after some fairly flat desert road into the Draa Valley following the river and lush date and henna plantations passing the occasional imposing Kasbah along the way.

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Image: Alex Broadway

Our first time control was just outside the village of Agdl where again we attracted a lot of interest from a group of boys wanting to play football on the road. In my broken French I explained that some ‘petit voitures’ would be coming along the road shortly ‘vitesse!’.  They decided to hang around and see for themselves and found a good vantage point on a bank parallel with the line we had drawn on the road.  There was much anticipation.  Daphne, resplendent with her new green bungy pulled up and after a quick exchange of paper work and times being jotted down pulled away from the line to cheers from the small crowd.  Alastair and Hayden, arriving a couple of minutes later also did not disappoint, not only did they straddle the line neatly and expertly (of course) but they also did it to the sound of The Rolling Stones pumping through the open sunroof.  Everyone passed through the regularity event to increasing excitement of the watching boys, who eventually went back to their business kicking a football down the road chanting “Chelsea” “Chelsea” in boisterous tones.

Turning off the main valley road that would have taken us down to Zagora we continued eastwards, stopping for lunch at the delightful Restaurant Auberge Enakhie where we ate Moroccan salad and soup overlooking regimented palm groves. Some drivers took the opportunity to do a spot of sunbathing next to the very inviting swimming pool.

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After lunch the scenery became more arid.  With some fairly long (and fairly boring) roads.  However as each mile passed through villages and towns hewn from the red rock looking like something straight out of Star Wars, so our excitement increased about getting to our desert camp at Merzouga. We had heard a couple of days ago that the UK was suffering with bad air quality as a result of Saharan dust swirling above the South of England, making air pollution a real problem; as we climbed across the desert on windy roads we were starting to get a sense of those winds.  The 2CV’s were being buffeted around a bit, but they were doing well.  Because it is so rocky, with sparse vegetation, until you try to open the car door it is impossible to get a sense of how windy it actually is.  Yet still we passed lone nomadic Berbers going from A to B – often sitting on donkeys loaded with crops, wrapped up against the elements.  You start to see that the traditional dress is also completely practical – keeping the extremes of both wind and heat out in order to go about daily life.

 

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The road fifty clicks away from Rissani  is a long stretch of road that was blighted both by huge pot holes and something else quite shocking – rubbish.  Thousands of plastic bags littered the area giving a new meaning to scrubland. Disappointing, shocking and a stark reminder to all of us about how ‘modern living’ impacts us all, everywhere.

Eventually the Erg Chebbi dunes stretch to the right and in front of us so we turn off the main road and start to follow a track (and our GPS particularly) out into the desert. We passed through a deserted mining outpost and into what can only be described as ‘moonscape’.  Looking ahead the horizon seems large and infinite and yet somehow two-dimensional at the same time.  Sometimes we seemed to be heading towards a great cliff of rock in the far distance (the border with Algeria) and other times large dunes loomed up in the middle-distance.  Time and space are a bit distorted here but we seemed to be driving for longer than we had anticipated before getting to our camp. According to our GPS we should have been reaching our destination point – but actually we had arrived at well, nothing – no camp, no 2 Cv’s … nothing.  Now was an unfortunate time for our GPS to have gone on the blink and we started to feel quite alone in a vast expanse of rock and sand.  Without any immediate points of reference  it would have been quite easy to have got completely and utterly lost. Luckily the GPS was still showing our route out, so it was quite easy after a slight feeling of mild panic on my part as the navigator, to retrace our route and get back to the little deserted ‘village’.

 

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Images: Alex Broadway

Whilst trying to get our bearings without the use of any technology, it was with absolute joy that we saw John and Judith come to our rescue with their trustworthy sat nav and GPS and off we went again leaving plumes of dust in our wake until we reached the fantastic Camp La Belle Etoile.

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I can honestly say it was the best glass of sweet ‘Berber Whiskey’ (mint tea) that we were presented with and that I have ever tasted.   The Camp is grouped around a central fire pit with an avenue of traditional tents making up your ‘room’ for the night.  Inside there is a double bed covered in a mosquito net and behind two curtains a loo and a shower.  The bed is soft, the tent colourful; out of the ordinary indeed – and far more luxurious than I was anticipating!

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We just had enough time to drop our bags before walking up and out into the Sahara to watch sunset.  Fifteen minutes or so up dunes and along ochre coloured sandy ridges, before we settling down in small groups on different vantage points to watch a golden sun set over a land that only a few of the group had seen before.  We were awe-struck by the sheer chameleon-like beauty of it all. Many of us had been a bit parched and tired on arriving, but as soon as the sky and sand started to change colour and depth, that all soon dissipated as we let the beautiful aura and silence of the desert gently wrap itself around us.

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Top left hand corner image: Alex Broadway

We all had the most wonderful night.  After feasting on traditional Berber food including delicious sweet/savoury ‘pasties’ (or Berber Pizza’s as they were introduced) we were entertained around the fire pit.  Unlike the previous experience in Marrakesh which felt a bit Disney-esque, this was completely authentic and soon the rhythmic sound of singing and the beating of drums and percussion instruments (large castanet-type cymbols) had got most of us off our feet and dancing around, clapping and grinning from ear to ear.  When this all calmed down a number of us strolled up the dunes to lay on our backs and just look at the stars above (or below?) us.  The previous days temperature and fallen away and the sand was cool to touch, like water.   We managed to get back into the tent just as the lights most definitely went out at 11.30 as the generator stopped and we were plunged into a total and instant silence and darkness.

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Image: Alex Broadway