Day 15 - Through the Desert to Erfoud

Okay, the stuff about guns and dead Moroccans yesterday was pure fiction. We did hear something in the night, Sam and I looked for it, and it drove off mysteriously in the direction of Algeria. Just a little artistic license. Now back to the real story.

We get up after sunrise and Mike is feeling a lot better, so we continue on the tracks.

On the piste

Now we are travelling through very barren desert, with nothing but the odd bush and occasional line of acacia trees. Lines of camels wander across our path. We marvel at their economy of stride.

Ship of the desert

Then, to our left, is a wide flat spot. Sam decides this is the place where he can get some action shots of Elsa in the Sahara, so I'm instructed to take pictures while he bombs about in the sand. Mike takes some videotape images too.

In the desert

In the desert

Then Sam stops and I look at him through my binoculars. He's picking up bones from a camel skeleton and strapping them to the front of Elsa. Seems a strange set of souvenirs but Sam explains he wants to show them to the children he teaches back home. We carry on with several parts of a camel stuck on Elsa.

Some point after this my GPS, which had worked perfectly, hangs up. I'm looking at the display, and it is telling me its 2.5km to the next waypoint. A minute later, its still 2.5km. I press some buttons. Nothing. Even the off switch won't work. I pull out the power lead, plug it back in, and its back online. This happens again, about twenty minutes later.

Then it happens a third time. But when I reconnect it to the power lead from the cigarette lighter socket it has done a hard reset. It doesn't know where it is, and its lost all the route waypoints as well as all the campsite waypoints I've made in the past two weeks.

Its no great job to re-initialise it and quickly enter grid references for the next few waypoints from the book. But its a bit annoying. I don't know what caused it - possibly the heat, although the spec for the unit claims it can cope with the temperature we have in Elsa - so maybe its the power from the cigarette lighter. It doesn't like Sam putting the main headlights on, since this causes a power dip that makes the GPS think its been switched off. We blame it on the CIA mucking about with the satellites.

Mike is still not happy with the heat of the day. We register over 40C in Elsa. Getting stuck and having to dig the Nissan out doesn't help, since when Mike exerts himself it makes his condition work. And he doesn't like to stand around while Sam and I dig.

Baz hard at work

There's a small village across a dry lake bed. Someone in the village is flashing lights at us - probably children playing with mirrors. We decide to head for the village and make some decisions.

As we pull into the village we get the usual tail of small children. There's a welcoming sign for a cafe, so we park the vehicles outside and are ushered in.

Desert Cafe

It's a small mud building with a sign above the door. We get some drinks and Mike and Carol have some omelettes. Inside the door is a crude, hand-painted picture of Mickey Mouse, done straight onto the plaster. Around the walls are postcards and pictures and stickers from other travellers. There's a big Michelin map of the area on one wall.

Looking out the door, we see typical village scenery, with locals sitting in the shade of the acacia bushes. It is perhaps the most African view of the trip.

Desert Cafe

After some mint tea we get down to talking to the people here. There's a couple of young men who run the cafe, and some small children nervously looking in the door. They enjoy looking at Sam's books of Africa, and Sam gives them some beermats - something probably never seen in this part of the world. I show one of the children how to flip and catch them, and then they spend the next ten minutes fighting over them to try and successfully flip them themselves. I expect beermat flipping to be a major sport in Morocco in a few years.

The someone starts tapping their fingers and Mike joins in. Soon my harmonica is out of my bag and I'm playing along. Hardly traditional music but it was fun.

We decide on our route. The guidebook tells us how the tracks become soft and sandy ahead, before Rissani, and after digging Mike out enough times we decide it may be better to head north for the main road. It's still quite a drive, but the locals assure us its a good piste. After more mint tea we leave the cafe.

To the north of the village, there's another dry lake bed, walled in by high mountains.

Desert Cafe

Eventually we see a gap in the mountains that the locals had told us about, and head down it. Then we are on a desert plain, with small villages and a multitude of tracks. Its hard to know which ones to follow, so we soon end up on soft stuff. We have to dig Mike out again, and Sam manages to get Elsa stuck for the first time!

Desert Cafe

Eventually we hit the road at the small town of Mecissi. I head into the small shop and buy half a dozen bottles of Fanta and Cola. We drink them eagerly. On the way to Erfoud the wind picks up and desert sand starts to drift across the road, covering the edges. Before dark we get to Erfoud, and find the campsite, which is quite a luxury, with unsmelly toilets and a sizeable wash area. We spend the night in comfort.

Where's Elsa?
- A Day In Erfoud