Marrakech Express Rally

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 eleven: Midelt to Fes

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

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Day twelve: Fes to Chefchaouen

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

 

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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…..

 

 

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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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.

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