After our easy start in the cities of Tangier and Fes and a nice easy introduction to camping at Chefchaoun, it was time to get serious with a drive over the 4WD trials of the Atlas mountains. We met up with Nick and Lillian in their Land Crusier for some serious adventures. We got more than we expected…..
Initially, we had a lovely drive down through the cool cedar forests around Azoru and Ifran to Midlet, where the temperature started to rise and the landscape changed to desert scrub. Poppy was learning how to handle the Land Rover very well as we used the mostly smooth roads to give her a feel for the weight and handling of the truck, which is quite different from a car, with the engine breaking down hills rather than overheating the brakes one of the many “tricks” on the lesson plan for the day. Poppy excelled at driving the truck, building up confidence as she went along as she had done the previous day with the navigation systems. Nick and Lillian commented on how confident she seemed in the corners.
After Midlet, we headed up into the mountains, stopping to let down the tyre pressures from hard road settings to softer gravel offroading settings. This spreads the tyre’s footprint and allows for better grip on the uneven surfaces we were expecting.
The route we were trying to take was spectacular and even has a name, the circuit Jaffar, it was known to me as Duncan and I had taken the route about 5 years before, it was challenging but passable then. Poppy once again took the wheel on the early sections of the route, which were not so technical. learning to handle the truck on loose gravel hairpins with no barriers was great for her confidence.
When we came to a twisty bit on the map I took over as the road had been swept away and a steep diversion was in place, by this point we were in the low ratio box with the differentials locked slipping and sliding down the steep diversion. At the bottom of the hill we came to a boulder field where a river had swept away about 100m of the road, the tyre tracks came to an en
Walking across the boulder field with Nick we could not see a path that even our very capable vehicles could manage without a lot of spade work, to get to that point we had already been bouncing around a lot, so we tried going down the valley in the river bed, a challenge enough, until we met a French guy coming back from trying to get through that way, he told us that the route was blocked by a large boulder field.
Poppy asked “what do we do now Dad?” and I replied, “we go back…..”
As it was already quite late we headed back down the 30km track looking for good wild camping spots, after about 30min finding one on a flat saddle promontory sticking out from the track, this was a good spot as it caught the breeze and was flat, so we set up camp and got stuck into pasta making.
As we cooked and chatted an ominous black cloud began to develop over the mountains, and the distant clap of thunder caused us to look up, timing the flash of the spectacular lightening to the thunderclap we reckoned it was about 25km from us.
Then it was 10km
Then is was 5km
At that point we had a short, discussion with the others and decided that exposed on a ridge in metal trucks was not the place to be in a violent lightening storm. A rapid packing followed, ie we threw everything in the back of the truck, put the awning away and dropped the roof in about 4 minutes, by which time the lightening was even closer and the rain was pouring down.
Both cars, lights on, headed rapidly down the mountain as the lightening struck around us, each strike causing a little squeak from Poppy, specially when we were on the more exposed sections of the track, however finally we found ourselves in a small village with a communication mast and telegraph poles much taller than our trucks and felt safe.
We found a parking spot near a dam and its associated buildings and so were able to settle down for the night after a bit of chat with some villagers as we asked permission to stop for the night due to the storm.
So Poppys first proper low ratio rough 4WD driving and wild camping night was a bit more exciting than usual
So now we have to plot a route around