After a most amazing breakfast everyone was fully refreshed and fortified and raring to get back on the road for our journey on the old caravan route, up through the High Atlas mountains via the jaw-dropping Tizi-n-Tichka pass and eventually winding down into Ouarzazate, the film-making capital of Morocco, otherwise known as the ‘door to the desert’.
Today was another long day of beautiful, breath-taking scenery and a little bit of drama thrown in. Climbing out of Marrakech and 47 clicks into our journey we started our climb on the Tizi-n-Tichka pass. This road, being the only main route between Marrakech and Ouarzazate delights and petrifies drivers in equal measures depending on your stomach for heights, roads with few barriers and lumbering five tonne lorries. It was nothing short of spectacular and is definitely not a road for the faint-hearted!Image: Alex Broadway
There were many opportunities for some great panoramic views, although unfortunately places are limited to actually stop and catch your breath. At the official ‘viewpoints’ you have to jostle for views amongst a couple of coach loads of tourists and souvenir shops but somehow we managed to one-by-one overtake some of the slower moving vehicles eventually turning left off the main pass onto the road to Telouet and the Ounila Valley and our High Atlas regularity start.
Immediately we regained a sense of remoteness and freedom. Certainly the competitors had relished the road so far with its never-ending switchbacks in a car that seems totally at one with the mountains and environment here.
Nearing the Kasbah Telouet the colours of the rocks slowly merge from granite grey topped with slowly melting snow through to the rich red earth of more warmer climes. At times the scenery was almost Martian, with deep red imposing rock face and earth all around you, but then, on turning a corner you are confronted with a lush valley of palm, eucalyptus, poplar and mimosa trees.
It was somewhere along this road, after the regularity event, that Reg and Michelle in ‘Daphne’ “came a cropper” with a local coming the other way. It was indeed a head-on but luckily, apart from being a bit shaken and stirred, no one was hurt. Apart from Daphne that is, who had more than her pride dented with a seriously crumpled zone on the front of her bonnet. The spectacle proved irresistible for a number of children on their way to or from school and by the time we rounded the same corner quite a crowd had gathered. The ‘insurance man’ was summoned at great speed, an interpreter and somehow the deal was done on a dusty road on the way to Ouarzazate with the minimum amount of fuss.Image: Alex Broadway
Reg insisted that despite the “big bang” it didn’t hit that hard – and although he did concede to be a little over the centre of the road (track) there was enough room on the inside to “get a truck through”! After a little negotiating and hand-shaking the local left with a slightly damaged old merc and 650 Euros in his back pocket which everyone seemed very happy with on both sides. ” This is what’s known as a result” Toby declared, and we all went on our way in search of Laurence of Arabia via our lunch stop at a little place near Tournat with some competitors pressing on to Ben Haddou some 70 odd kilometres down the road or only stopping once they had reached our destination of Ouarzazate.
It was this last section of road through many little Berber villages that I really began to feel that I might bump into Laurence of Arabia or Jesus of Nazareth, both filmed in this area and also got my first glimpse of a camel. Very happy days!
We arrived at the Ouarzazate Berberer Palace in good time, although sadly just a little too late for the tour around the Studios – and met up with the competitors who were ecstatic about the days driving. Although there had been a few frustrations about the section of road that was chosen for the regularity section everyone had by now fully fallen in love with their cars. At the 7.30 John T explained that as there had been a bit of a prang and one car was now off the road, they had decided to cancel that days stage. Some were probably a bit more relieved than others, but notes were pleasantly swapped about the respective handling of the different cars and all the competitors seemed to be completely blown away by how nimble and flexible they are around mountain roads. As we sat down to an excellent buffet meal including the most delicious beef tagine that was sweet and succulent, we talked about the marvellous views they had seen out of their windows (when not trying to maintain their 50.5 kph average speed during the regularity event) and what a joy Morocco is generally. John and Judith Rowe, an experienced team (recently back from the Trans Am rally) seemed to be seriously considering buying a 2CV when they returned to the UK, with John saying the car was ” bloody good! … the car has surpassed all expectations” explaining how it “flowed” and was an excellent choice of car for this particular route. Nicholas Pryor and Lesley Stockwell, also regulars on the rally circuit were poetical about the “absolutely amazing drive that day” loving the views from the “top of the Atlas mountains, the scenery, the lovely, lovely climbs and the people”.
Over a few well deserved drinks, Reg and Michelle reassured everyone they were absolutely fine whilst the mechanics got to grips with the task of rebuilding damaged Daphne which included completely replacing the engine and the gearbox, making good and hammering out the bonnet. By the end of the long night the lovely Daphne had most of her beauty restored and the only real evidence of the little skirmish on the mountains, was a green bungee cord in place over the bonnet, and even that she managed to wear with pride, almost as a badge of honour.