We avoided the main roads and drove to Ifrane where we would start our exploring! We stopped for a tea in Ifrane which is unlike any Moroccan town we had come across! As we drive into the valley where the town lie - Swiss style chalets were appearing from within the pine forest, perfect kept roads, ski hotels named after the alp peaks! This was a town built by the French who had since left and was now occupied by Moroccans and visited by local tourists for the winter snow and skiing! Very bizarre but worth a quick look.
We carried on to our lake tour starting just north of the town. We drove through alpine forest dotted with small lakes. It was a truly beautiful drive but was to be the 'easy' part of our day!
We drive on to the Village of Ain Leiuh where we would stop for lunch and then start our off road journey! Our drive there through the Atlas mountains was spectacular with amazing viewpoints everywhere.
There wasn't much food available in the village so we bought a cooked BBQed chicken off a street vendor and ate it with our hands and some bread!
We continued our drive through more breathtaking landscape until we reached a lake halfway to our destination. We stopped for a wander here before going on. We then continued to the waterfalls at the end of the route.
Once we arrived at the waterfalls there were surprisingly busy in comparison to other places we visited! That along with knowing we only had three hours of daylight left made us decide to plan our route to home for the night.
We had two options 1. Go back the way we had come along roads or 2. Navigate our way through remote track for over 100km that lead near enough straight to our hotel.
We took option two! The first 50km which took us 2 hours was amazing and I can't begin to describe the views. I will make an effort to upload more pictures when I'm home.
We passed a lake which was so pretty and had lots of wildlife including Monkeys!
We then drove on - the lake had been useful as it was marked on our map - none of the tracks we were traveling on were. We only knew we needed to head east. After leaving the lake besides farmers and sheep herders we didn't see any other cars or people. We passed a dried up lake which had a rescue plane in it - perhaps we should have thought why?
At this point we came to the end of roads that had once seen Tarmaced and entered into narrow rocky mountain ledges! Before things got a bit worse we were humoured by this sign!
We hadn't been over 7km hour for hours! The roads got progressively worse with landslides wiping out a lot of the track and our wheels were at the verge of 100's of meter drops! This was remote land - farms that didn't see outsiders or vehicles and roads tracks that were only used by donkeys! The few people along the route generally were surprised to see us and dropped tools to stare and return our wave!
It had got to the point where turning back wasn't an option and light was going fast! We were in a hugely dense forest area and said we would continue driving until we lost light or the roads became impassable! We would not have been able to turn our car round anyway! We had everything on board in case this scenario happened - water, tents etc but I wasn't keen on sleeping out here! We continued to drive and after a couple more hours (in which we both remained silent and I think I said a prayer) we reached a vehicle and they pointed us in the right direction.
We arrived at our hotel at 7.30 almost an hour after sunset and on roads you don't want to be on in the dark!
Though it was a dangerouse route that I wouldn't recommend it when your losing light it was the most amazing route ever for views! I didn't take so many pictures as my hands were shaky but here's what I did manage to get.
There's an amazing rock formation in the above one if you look carefully. I do have lots more pictures that I will sort through and upload another time!
We stayed for the night on a campsite near Midelt with lots of other 4wd explorers and motorbikes who seemed to have laptops, GPS units, snorkels, radar - perhaps we were a little unequipped? However, with Jamie's sailing experience and my map reading me did make it! I wonder what the other explorers would do if their equipment failed? I wonder if they would have been able to navigate back?
I think in future we would think twice about doing a route like this so late in the day. We should have camped out and waited until sunrise!
Today we are off on a long drive to the Sahara - no roads but hopefully a little less eventful!