Day eleven… Managed to have around 40 seconds of warm shower water – absolute luxury and I decided that ignoring the many insects around me was a small sacrifice to make. After finding a larger shop in Meknes for supplies to last us several days, we decided a longer drive time today of around 5 to 6 hours was in order. Took a more quieter route south along the R712 via Khenifra and Imichil. Climbed several hundred meters up (3000m). Dramatic landscapes and beautiful views. Plenty of goats being herded (had to stop to avoid collisions) and donkeys being ridden or simply standing in the road. Driving through the rural villages, there were often kids running alongside us waving. A mixture of rough tracks and newly tarmacked roads. The R704 road was either a blessing or a curse – I have not quite decided which! The newly surfaced road ended and a single track wound its way around the mountains at 3,000m high with a sheer drop to the left. Stunning scenery although couldn’t quite appreciate the views given the precarious road conditions. There were no passing spaces and reversing would have been impossible if we had met another vehicle coming the other way. The gods were on our side as the only passing place was taken up by a Swiss couple in a campervan. After a quick chat which may have been the last conversation ever and after an hour of sweaty palms and slow manoeuvring, we made it down to Msemrir where we took refuge in what appeared to be someone’s backyard (the ioverlander app has not failed me yet!). The owners were very welcoming and happy for us to stay for the night. They cooked us a delicious chicken tagine. After a long, nerve-wracking ride through the Atlas mountains, this was absolute sanctuary and the first proper Moroccan dinner and hot food we had had since Gibraltar.
Holy shit… where to begin.
We ended up driving for 6-7 hours, albeit with a decent break in a Carrefour along the way to load up on supplies.
I had wanted to head down to the road through Msemrir towards some interesting looking mountain passes but was not expecting what we encountered. It started off with steep climbs up winding roads, forcing me to drive in third, then second, then first gear just to get up impossibly steep roads. The altitude kept on increasing, 2,000m, 2,100m, 2,200m, and so on. I was starting to get a headache by this point, but things appeared to ease when we came across a lake providing a brief chance to have a break.
We passed through many small, remote, and poor rural communities, with children getting far too close as we drove past. The road was okay up until the last hour when the tarmac stopped and the gravel road began. Calling it a road is doing it justice, since it was more of a track, being very narrow, barely wide enough for our car, slippery surface, and as Rach says it had a shear drop down one side the whole way. It had loads of incredibly sharp turns, reminding me of a road I drove in Malawi many years ago. I have never been so nervous driving before, gripping furiously onto the steering wheel, desperate to keep the car on the track and not plummet a thousand feet down a mountain. It even snowed at one point, and the mountains were snow capped in parts.
Thankfully, after an hour of horrendous driving, testing and improving my driving skills no end, we began to descend and made it, but I’ll be aiming to stick to lower ground in future!