We’re here: N31.52107 W5.92985. It’s the car park of a small hotel within the Dades Gorge valley, called La Kasbah de la Vallee. Hassan, the apparent owner, has done us a deal where we get to stay here for free in return for us eating in his place tonight. It has a log fire and a liquor licence, so that sounds like a good deal.
The weather: more desert conditions. Sunny all day. It’s so dry that Charlie’s become statically charged and attracts my arm hair when I stroke him.
We got up this morning and listened to Chris Evans (ice causing havoc on the A1 in the UK apparently – hours of queues – I’m not missing that one bit) before burning off from the campsite in our convoy of two. It’s just like the good old days in the Picos de Europa mountains. Not before we had had another tussle with our TomTom though. The town names in it don’t match our Michelin 742 map. It seems that the letters ‘A’ and ‘E’ are sometimes interchangeable, maybe ‘I’ too; some place names have an apostrophe in one book/map/satnav and not another. Some names seem totally different. We’ve also noticed that our satnav seems to have roads a few hundred meters in the wrong place from time to time, resulting in the thing trying to get us to turn left into the desert.
Driving back out of the gorge and into the town, it immediately became apparent it was market day and psuedo-chaos ensued. Nothing like as bad as some of the towns, and with a bit of gawping at the vehicle market at the end of the town we were off. Back along the road leading west, nothing much happened except:
- We passed a stationery car full of young men who were flagging people down with a water container. Presumably they’d either (a) actually broken down or (b) were onto some sort of scam. We didn’t find out at the lorry in front of us pulled over to help.
- I finally saw two men holding hands as they walked down the street. I’d been keeping my eyes peeled after reading this was the norm for friends here, and is an indication of friendship only (as it would be since homosexuality is illegal here).
Once we’d reached Boumalne, we headed north up into the Dades Gorge. We’d seen the photos of the crazy road and I was under the impression we’d be spinning up and down 180 deg switchbacks for ages. Nah. After about 20km of pretty much straightish road, the twisties start. Impressive as they are, requiring Dave’s first gear, they only last about 10 or 20 turns and you’re at the top. Great views from the restaurant at the up there, where we had the only dish on the menu (a tagine of chicken, mixed veg and eggs) and a cheeky mint tea (280dh for the four of us).
Good old Dave, gets us up to the top and safely back down again:
As we left the owner offered to let us stay up there, but we’d already spotted a campsite further down the valley, and my Rough Guide showed some of the hotels in the valley had ‘camping’ (i.e. a car park). We nipped into this place to have a look round and after some debate and umming and arring we’re parked up. There’s not a fat lot here to be honest. A river runs past the site but it’s too deep to cross unless you shoe and sock it, but I’ve read there is a bilharia parasite in the river which can enter through skin, nah, don’t fancy that.
So, we’re holed up as the shadow rides up the side of the gorge. Someone’s wireless is unsecured fortunately as the dongle can’t see any network (not hard to believe here). We’ll play about with t’Interweb for a bit and perhaps plan tomorrow’s route before heading for the log fire and hopefully a quiet night’s kip.