The thing that stands out most about our journey from Agadir, on the Atlantic Coast, to Merzouga, not far from the Algerian border, is how strikingly varied the scenery is and how often it changes. The brilliant red Mountains of the Anti Atlas range change to pale yellow, then flat, stoney scrub, then breathtakingly steep gorges and green palm valleys at Dades and Todgha, black hills, and finally the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi.
I would have to add in a special mention here of Hercules. Between the scrublands and the gorges, we passed through Ourzazate, the location of Atlas Studios, and fortunately for us, the filming of the new 3D Hercules movie. More about that in another post by Adam, suffice to say I spent a dutiful afternoon on the edge of the set remaining completely still as the pecs of leather clad muscle men brushed past my nose (literally, but obviously I couldn’t make a noise to complain whilst the cameras were rolling) to enter the “village square”. It was quite an afternoon.
Our journey east took an initial dip south, along the R105 to Tafaoute. We’ve done separate posts about our week in Tafraoute. It’s a very worthwhile deviation.
From Tafraoute we took the R106 to Igherm, then Taliouine. The first part, for about 10km, is very potholed and we had to take it slowly with the campervan. For the rest of the journey to Marzouga, the road conditions were excellent. Much better than we had expected. The main roads are well signposted, the side roads are mostly in Arabic.
All along the way east there are plenty of places to wild camp. It was our preference: really quiet, on our own, amidst great scenery. When I say on our own, it is surprising how many people appeared at the van to say hello. Here are some of the places we stopped. The third of these is in a cafe parking area – the owner was more than happy to let us stay.
We got into the habit of having an advance party set off on foot an hour or so before the van. Adam’s in training for a 10k when we get to Greece, so he set of running, and I enjoyed the walk. There were almost no cars but I did pass shepherds with goats, old ladies carrying bundles of sticks twice their size, girls collecting food for their donkeys. They all stopped and said hello, or offered to share their lunch. It was nice to be able to smell the almond blossom instead of whizzing past it in the van. Whizzing is maybe a bit of an exaggeration – we didn’t every really go very fast.
The campervan has been great at giving us the freedom to stop where we want, for as long as we want, and not worry about finding a hotel or guesthouse for the night.
We stopped each day for bread and provisions. At one house we were invited inside to see the clay oven, and where their bread was made. The dough sits on hot pebbles to cook. About 20 members of an extended family crowded into the room with the oven to explain the procedure and chat.
At Skoura, about half way, we stopped for a couple of nights. Market day is a Monday, people from all around head into town, and then head back out laden with straw, hay, vegetables. We stocked up too (not so much with straw and hay, but with vegetables).
Along the N10 from Skoura are the Dades gorges, and the palmerie nearby. It’s incredible how well irrigated the land at the foot of the valley is. It’s so green.
The road to the Dades gorges is in excellent condition, albeit very twisty. It’s about a 30km detour off the road; worth it. It was super windy when we were there, perched in our van for the night right at the top of the cliffs. There are several cafés and restaurants by the roadside.
The Todgha gorges are a little further along the main road. A little more touristy but the further you go past the main gorge, the quieter it gets. There are lots of pegged ascents up the cliff sides and it’s a very popular climbing destination. We watched some crazy people making their way up what looked to us like an impossible cliff face.
The dunes of Erg Chebbi was our most easterly destination, and the towns of Merzouga and Khamlia. There are separate blog posts about those towns. For us, it’s an absolute must-see destination in Morocco.
We took about 20 days to travel the 650km from west to east, but the actual travelling could easily be done in 2 or 3. At a snail’s pace is the way that seems to suit us.