This was the day everyone had been waiting for. At least I know I had. We would be venturing into the desert proper and spending the night there in a bivouac. I had done the same trip on a 4×4 earlier and remember it being pretty magical. Now, with the enduros, the ride should be a million times better.
The mechs had spent the best part of the previous night putting new rubber on the bikes, and they were good to go. Before leaving though, I took a group photo of the whole gang outside the hotel.
We started off in high spirits and rode to the oasis town of M’Hamid. It is literally the end of the road. An interesting dusty town, locked in a never ending battle with the desert for space. At some point in time, camel caravans left from here to cross the Sahara to Timbuktu for almost two months. Riding out of town and into the desert, I hoped our visit would be shorter.
We made our way southwest through the sands. It was great fun, cruising on the soft sand. Very different of course from anything I was used to riding. I had a bit of a scare as the rider in front of me had taken a fall just behind a small dune. I only noted where she had ridden and took a line half a meter left of her track. I didn’t slow down as she hadn’t braked on the top. So I hit the gas, hoping to do a little jump off the small dune. I was already in flight when, to my horror, I saw her pinned under her bike behind the dune. There was nothing else I could do, except for ditch the bike in mid air. It’s not like I had time to think about it or asses the situation. I didn’t, I just reacted and the bike ended up clearing her, before ending up on a sand bank on the left. I ended up hitting soft sand on the right of her bike. I immediately got up to make sure I hadn’t hit her and get the bike off her. She was totally cool about the incident and after a bit of a breather we continued on the trail. It could have ended up in tears, but this time we were lucky.
The terrain changed several times during the ride to the bivouac. From soft sand to packed, dry mud to rocky flat desert. It had everything. Our bivouac was right at the edge of where the big dunes begin. We stopped briefly at the bivouac before continuing to the dunes. Everyone was excited to tackle the climbs. It’s amazing how unforgiving they are. You need to keep up good speed to make it all the way up and get off the gas at exactly the right moment. If you’re early, you won’t make it to the top. You need only to stop short one or two meter from the ridge of the dune and there’s now way up there. You need to roll back down and retry it. Then again, if you brake too late, you’re over the lip. Needless to say, that if you brake much too late, you could end up having a lot of hang time and a rough landing. Some of the dunes can be up to a hundred meters high.
After messing about on the dunes, we rolled back into our camp. We had some lunch and chilled for a moment. The setting was perfect. This bivouac was much nicer than the one I had visited a couple of years back. It wasn’t luxurious as such, but it was very nicely put together in terms of layout and aesthetics. A perfect place to chill out and nurse some blisters.
I don’t think anyone was in a hurry to get back onto the bike and some of us concentrated more on relaxing and Moroccan beer. As for me, I wanted to catch the sunset.
There was probably around half a dozen of us who ventured out just before sunset. I took a line to a dune I had had my eye on earlier. I made it to the top and just enjoyed the view. Everyone out there formed small group on the dunes and before not too long I got company too. It was a truly magical moment, gazing upon the vastness of the desert and watching the shadows get longer. Before too long the sun dipped under the horizon and the shadows were gone, replaced by a glow in the west. It was time to head back to camp and have some dinner.
After dinner we gathered round the camp fire, shared a bottle and just enjoyed the night in the desert. Later during the night, the conversation turned into some pretty dirty jokes. The name of this trip, The Moroccan Black Hole Turkey Tour, pays homage to one particular joke from that night. It was told by Kari and will not be repeated here.