Land Rover AFRICA Magazine - - FEATURE -

he To­dra to Dades piste (pass) in Morocco is a favourite amongst over­lan­ders. It’s a short 40km piste through the High At­las Moun­tains in cen­tral Morocco that joins th­ese two scenic gorges. But due to heavy rain­fall and flood­ing in the area, the road was closed for sev­eral months. De­spite ef­forts from sev­eral teams of in­trepid ex­plor­ers, it still re­mains im­pass­able. “To­dra to Dades piste? For­get it, it’s im­pass­able,” said Fred­erik, whom we just met. He is a Bel­gian who was trav­el­ling with his fa­ther through Morocco. But when he ut­tered those words, I knew that our jour­ney had un­of­fi­cially be­gun. Fred­erik and his fa­ther at­tempted the piste for three days but gave up mid­way due to the hard toil and ex­treme ter­rain. We’ve been trav­el­ling for more than a month on our ad­ven­tur­ous trip from John O’Groats, a vil­lage in Scot­land, to South Africa in our 200 Tdi De­fender 110 (1993 model). Although we’ve driven on sev­eral pistes in Morocco, we were keen to take on the chal­lenge of ‘real off-road’ driv­ing. But we couldn’t do it alone. Fred­erik was head­ing back to Bel­gium the fol­low­ing day, and we needed some­one to ac­com­pany us. Luck­ily, we ran into Julie and Keith, fel­low over­lan­ders we met in the Moroc­can city of Fez. We knew they were the ad­ven­tur­ous type, and it didn’t take much con­vinc­ing to get the cou­ple on board. The painful piste The next day we all set off through To­dra Gorge to­wards Tam­ta­touche, where we would turn off onto the piste to the Gorge du Dra. The dev­as­ta­tion in the area in­flicted by se­vere floods was a sight to be­hold. Nearly the en­tire tar­mac road had col­lapsed and was washed away. We had to di­vert into the river when there was no sign of any road. We met three Czech back­pack­ers walk­ing to To­dra Gorge. They planned to com­plete the hike in three days. With a wry (and slightly smug) smile, we wished them all the best and con­tin­ued on our jour­ney. We didn’t ex­pect to see them again soon. At Tam­ta­touche, we turned to­wards the moun­tains but were stopped by lo­cal chil­dren show­ing us ‘the cross’ sign with their fingers. Ini­tially, we thought this meant ‘be­ware of the dragons’ but we soon dis­cov­ered that they were telling us “the road is shut”. Af­ter some dis­cus­sion, we pushed on, as we knew the Bel­gians had made it to within a kilo­me­tre of the sum­mit of the pass be­fore turn­ing back. For the first few hours, the go­ing was slow. The piste was rough and rocky, but not too dif­fi­cult. There were sev­eral small washouts that had been filled with rocks and soil, and we silently thanked Fred­erik and his fa­ther for all their hard work. We stopped for lunch in a beau­ti­ful val­ley and found out that Keith’s Pinz­gauer high­mo­bil­ity all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle had picked up a flat. We changed the tube, break­ing the bead with our high-lift jack and off we went. We came across the large washout that had fi­nally de­feated the Bel­gians. The pris­tine snow on the other side con­firmed this. No ve­hi­cle had made it to the other side. The gully was too deep and wide to try and fill, and the sides were too crumbly to use the waf­fle boards. As the sun was start­ing to set,

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