Morocco tour a world of pain
The road from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate should be right up there with the best of them. It has everything. You start in the desert and then you climb through pine forests in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains up to the snow line, where it’s hairpin after hairpin and drop after vertical drop.
After you crest the highest point, about 1800m above sea level, the road surface becomes foreign-aid smooth, and as you drop down into the Sahara proper, the corners turn into third and fourth-gear sweepers. This is the section Tom Cruise chose to use for the bike chase in his most recent Mission: Impossible outing, and I can see why.
It’s fast and it’s dangerous and I loved every inch of it. Especially because it was 30C and I was at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 4C and the roof was off.
However, the road does come with one or two issues, chief among them drivers going the other way who are never really sure which side of the road they should be on. Or maybe it’s because they are mostly at the wheel of ancient Renault 12s that have never been serviced, so are nearly impossible steer.
On one long stretch a chap going the other way pulled out to overtake a lorry and I assumed foolishly that he would see me approaching and immediately pull back on to his side of the road. So I didn’t brake. And I should have done because he kept coming for such a long time that I was able to register the fact his face was rather gormless.
Anyway, I reversed back out of the desert and, when the dust had settled and I’d stopped swearing, I got back on the road, and 3km later the same thing happened again. I think there must be a rule in Morocco that states overtaking vehicles have the right of way.
It’s not just the locals who cause a bit of buttock-clenching because as Morocco is now the only country in all northern Africa that we can visit, it’s become a favourite among Europe’s classic car clubs. So when you are not swerving round Mr Gormless in his spitand-Kleenex Renault, you are presented with an out-of-control E-type Jaguar with an enormous Belgian at the wheel.
I haven’t even got to the biggest hazard of all yet: the roadside vendors who walk out in front of your car, even when you’re doing 150km/h, to see if you’d like to buy their rock. That’s all they sell: rocks. I think everyone in this remote place has a rock that has been passed down for generations.
“My grandfather didn’t sell this rock before he was mown down by a German in a big Healey. My father didn’t sell it before he was squashed by someone in a Renault 14. And now it’s my turn.”
Someone ought to explain to these people that tourists are unlikely to buy rocks, as there are many that can be had free at the side of the road. And indeed in their own gardens back at home.
And they should be told the stopping distance of an Alfa Romeo 4C when it’s travelling at, ahem, 80km/h is not 25mm.
The fact is, though, that I didn’t crash into an oncoming Renault or a speeding Chevrolet Corvette. And I didn’t run over any roadside vendors, and despite a couple of near misses I arrived in Ouarzazate with a burnt face, hair as solid as a breeze block and a smile the size of Cheshire on my face. It had been four hours of unalloyed joy.
But then two days later I had to drive back to Marrakesh on the same road, and Not a top year: Jeremy Clarkson on his annus horribilis The Weekend Australian Magazine Jeremy Clarkson’s comments are expressed in the context of the British vehicle market.