Monday, 17 March 2014

16th March

Wild flowers on the high, arid plateau
 The next destination was Ouirgane which is 64km, by road, southwest of Marrakech, so a leisurely day ahead driving wise? Our initial destination was Asni a small town that had been mentioned in the guide. Just short of there we decided to do a detour to Moulay Brahim as one of the guide books said that the views were good from there and the scenery different.  Coming out of Marrakech we had already commented that the views of the High Atlas were hazy so didn’t expect much of a view. We climbed a bit from the main road and eventually came onto a high plateau of limestone. The land was being worked, but looked poor, however, there was lots of planting of some type of grass which could have been wheat. Despite the poor soil, it looked green.

Spot the donkey.........
We continued on, as the map showed a smaller road to the left that would take us back to the main road just south of Asni. Going through small villages we were waved at by the villagers - on we went but didn’t find the illusive left turn (of course there are no sign posts). Tamsin mentioned that there was a larger loop that went around a lake. The sat-nav at this stage had been telling us to turn back, which we ignored as we couldn’t find any via point in its memory to use. As we came down through another village we passed a small hotel and then came across a left turn, which we took. The sat-nav then stopped telling us to turn around and showed a route, which we followed. This took us though village and on towards another. Just outside of this village the sat-nav was telling us to go through what looked like a quarry. I found a road around that and the device seemed happy, then the road got far worse and took us into a gorge where the road was now a rough track. After some discussion it was decided to turn around. We searched for an alternate route, but ended up on the wrong side of a river, time to turn around. Retracing our steps back to where we had turned left. I decided against Tamsin's wishes to press on rather than retrace our steps all the way back to the main road.

Scrubby Junipers with the hazy mountains in the distance....
At this point we were passed by some guided tour groups which gave me some hope, after which we entered Lalla-Takerkoust which sits at the top of a reservoir and dam. This was on the map so we turned towards Amizmiz, also on the map. At some point we were passed by a coach and the road was improving, this gave us some hope – wrongly as it soon transpired. We entered Amizmiz which looked more like a building site rather than a town. All the roads were being dug up and there were people and cars everywhere at this point we passed a road sign pointing to Wiregane (Ouirgane??). Still, the sat-nav seemed happy right up until the point it tried taking us down another rough road which was not in keeping with the map. As we turned around and found another route out of Amizmiz we went back to being told to take a U-turn. Tamsin deduced that we needed to go east towards the mountains and road was doing that so we continued. The scenery changed here to green deep valleys with fast flowing rivers and sweeping vistas with the mountains distant in the haze – simply beautiful.  We asked a local lad if we were on the right road to Ouirgane and he told us it was only 5kms away (this we doubted), soon after we came across and interesting set of road signs. None were to Ouirgane, but all roads seemed to go to Ouzguita! Armed with this useful information we carried on. As we dropped down towards a river we passed a road sign stating that our speed could be monitored by a speed gun for the next 5kms. Expecting to come across some decent road and a town as our speed had been less than 40km/h for some time it was a surprise to find the road got worse as it turned and went across a bridge and a river. Climbing back up the other side we noticed that there was a lot rocks and soil that had recently been shifted to clear the road.

More wonderful scenery!
Leaving a small village behind, we continued to climb out of the valley negotiating around boulders and other debris that had been brought down by what we think was a storm a few days before. We also passed another sign in the opposite direction about the speed cameras – can’t think how many tickets they must have issued. Finally we dropped down into another valley and connected with the main road. Our hotel Chez Momo 2 was not far. (N.B. Chez Momo is under the waters of the local reservoir created in 2006).

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