Jbel Sarhro

Now on the main axis Errachidia – Agadir, this very long road, crossing Morocco from west to east between the High Atlas and the Middle Atlas, my plan was to follow it until close to the coast. That would take me to Ouarzazate today.

The weather forecast yesterday was pessimistic in the region, so I am glad to wake up with a big blue sky. It was starting to
get grey, cold and windy, so I got out of the Agoudal mountains right on time. However, I noticed on my map an alternative to the main road: another scenic road/piste crosses Jbel Sarhro of the Anti-Atlas, before joining back the main road in Tazenakht. That makes 250 km instead of 200 km. It’s a good deal for less traffic and more views. Moreover, there are plenty of “What’s the road condition of …” on the internet about it by 4×4 drivers. And those internet results seem to be a proof for roads worth to take, albeit uneasy. And after all, I wouldn’t leave the Anti-Atlas alone after crossing the Middle and the High ones. Regarding Ouarzazate, I don’t miss much by not crossing it. It is called “the gate of the desert” but is more of a big boring town. Only the cinema studios, as Gladiator and many big budget movies were shot here, would be worth a look.

 


 

So I head towards the Jbel Sarhro mountains and the pass of Tizi n’Tazazert. I find on the way real cookies, i.e. with featuring chocolate, pack enough bread and venture on this lonely road to Iknouen. On the program are 40 km of asphalted road followed by 60 km of piste.

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Mountains ahead, Anti-Atlas this time

 

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I figure out a trick to prevent the kids from stopping their games and running to me from far away shouting “un bonbon” or “give me something”. The area is pretty empty but there is a house here and there with one or several kids. Kids, like adults, don’t like pictures, and just taking my camera out of my pocket transforms the “bonbon!” into “nooooo!” and freezes them.

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The bad news is that there are clouds ahead of me, and clouds behind me, getting closer and closer. I don’t stop as the forecast was positive from tomorrow onward and just hope they will somehow fade out.

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Petrol pumps to get the water out of the wells into the fields

 

However, when stopping at a shop in Ait Marsit, at the beginning of the piste, the clouds finally catch up with me. And start to throw little white balls. Which quickly turn into snowflakes, and then bigger snowflakes. It will be night soon and the land is being covered in snow. The elevation is 2000 m, and I have yet the Tizi n’Tazazert pass at 2350 m to come. So I am waiting in the shop for I’m not sure what.

But comes by Youssef who invites me over. Apparently this piste receives enough tourists in the “normal” tourists months, which are from spring to autumn excluding the too hot summer weeks, and he is used to hosting some. That’s how we get to his house, 50 meters from the shop (Ait Marsit has 300 inhabitants), and watch the snow going on more and more, making me think that I should have stayed in Boumalne-Dadès. The first snow of the year here is cutting the TV signal on the satellite dish every 20 minutes. But we have a good evening in family and dinner around a goat’s most delicious and subtle part, the head.

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Lucky in the snowfall

 

 

It’s hard to get up when I’m still tired and the temperature difference between under the 4 blankets and out in the room (or outside) is huge. The brother has already left for school and we breakfast bread dipped in honey poured in olive oil. The day will be cold but beautiful: the perfect blue sky has returned. There would be no traces of the grey, foggy and snowy evening of yesterday if the mountain behind the house was not all white.

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Youssef’s workshop with welding, forging and wood turning facilities

 

The first task of the morning is to finish my ascent of the pass Tizi n’Tazazert, there are only 300 meters of elevation missing to reach 2350 m. It’s freezing. I can see the High Atlas behind me, white as well, and the not-yet-open road I took between Agoudal and Dadès must be worse and completely untakable. So that was a lucky crossing I did.

 


 

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On the way up to Tizi n’Tazazert

 

Once reached the top of Tizi n’Tazazert, the view is superb. There is a surprising café-auberge right on the top, and another one a bit further. A woman with goats is roaming here too, she looks unhappy that I am taking pictures of the animals. The wind is strong and makes my camera drop off the tripod.

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From the 2350 m of Tizi n’Tazazert

 

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The auberge

 

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Downhill now, straight south

 

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Another Atlas range and another fantastic viewpoint

 

So from now on, it should be 50 km downhill until Nkob, with wonderful views all around. The descent is however not fun at all. I am super slow because the piste is made of stones. Sometimes it feels more like going down a staircase than a road. I cross a truck pouring gravel over it at places, but it doesn’t really improve the condition. Fortunately the fantastic landscape make it up for the bad piste.

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I should join the river and the oasis later on

 

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Wind + staircase piste

 

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The road “works”

 

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The promenade of a man

 

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Once down the mountain, I still have 20 km to go along the oued. The land is cultivated in some parts, and as usual it creates a striking contrast between the green lush and the hostile stone ground as soon as the water is not directed there. Here, petrol pumps take the water out of wells and the canals distribute it around the fields.

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Arriving by the end of the electric line

 

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Oasis

 

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Aren’t baby goats as cute as kittens?

 

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End of oasis

 

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After the oasis, the last kilometers of piste are special again. There is some mining ongoing for phosphates, but apart from it it’s a whole land of desolation. It looks like a volcano killed all life and hope here.  

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I finally reach Nkob and the asphalted road, but it’s already 5 pm past. Tired enough, I decide to stay here, get a nice kasbah with unlimited hot shower for 50 dh and stretch on the rooftop.

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Nkob

 

Nkob’s center has many kasbahs. There are nice new ones with sometimes tourists on top. And run down ones with goats in the courtyard.

Time to go out for dinner, a treat with grilled meat. People start to leave the main street to go inside the cafés, as it’s a Champion’s League evening, and Barcelona is playing. This has a much more powerful calling effect on the men than the mosque calls for the prayers.

And when I said football and FCB – Real was a big thing here …

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The Amazigh butcher as much Moroccan as Barca-fan

 

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Across the road from the Barcelona butcher, the Real Madrid one

 

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And a Picerie as referree

 

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