Touring Morocco by Bike (9): Meski – Merzouga
Errachidia / Source Bleue de Meski – Merzouga (105km)
Leaving from the green Meski, I have backed to the yellow-grey area. This route is more scenic than the last one, sometimes climb over a valley or along the river which is covered with countless palm trees. It was harvest season for dates, dates with different colors, yellow, orange, brown, etc, were drying on the roof or ground, but there were not many people around. It was a relax 25km ride to Aoufous, this hidden village in a valley was surprisingly lively, seemed everyone was busy for trading dates.
It is less scenic after Aufous, mostly on a flat road. This area is rich for fossils, you may find fossil shop with all size of fossils just next to the road occasionally, which is the only highlight in this region. It is about 30km from Aufous to the campsite 5km north from Erfoud, I stopped there because anyway I was not able to reach Merzouga in a day, then I went to nearby Ksar Maadid in the afternoon. This is a ancient and broken fort but people are still living there, it was very dark inside the small lane and I almost got lost even in daytime, there were also some collapsed walls that seemed nobody care, kids looked at me queerly, someone throw a stone from the roof and quickly hide himself. There’s not particular interesting thing inside the Ksar, but here you can really see the authentic old town of Morocco.
I decided not to pass Rissani to Merzouga, after the busy Erfoud, I turned to a smaller road, but unexpectedly this smaller road was just reconstructed as a fine asphalt road. There is nothing on the road for this 45km except some fossil or souvenir shops. My mobile and GPS device were broken, so I had no idea for the time and distance, this made me a little bit depress being in a vast desert-like area.
This desert-like landscape slowly become desert when I got closer to Merzouga, I could saw the huge sand dunes, Erg Chebbi, as far as 10km from Merzouga. There are quite many Kasbah auberges around and all these lonely buildings looked so small in front of this magnificent sand dunes. Erg Chebbi stretchs near 30km from north to south, so there are different choices of accommodation in this region, I stayed at one of the popular place – Hassi Labied, a small village located few km from Merzouga center.
Erg Chebbi is a huge sand dunes of 160m high, but this is only the edge of Sahara, if you stand at a higher place, you can still see the end of the sand, which is quite different to my impression for desert. Still, this is probably the most fantasy place I have been. The sun is extremely strong, flatten the sand in the afternoon, when the sun goes down, the arc of dunes start to appeared and become like a wave, then sand dunes look like sand sea, and it keeps changing depends on the angle of sunlight. Near sunset, the shadows take a revenge until the last arc disappear, sand sea back to sand dunes, and finally become a cold and silence world.
I stayed there for a week, and everyday I just walked on the sand dunes and sensed its changing, I felt that purifying my soul. I was there at November and probably the best month to visit, there were not many tourists and I could enjoy the impressive landscape alone, it was about 20°C in daytime and perfect to walk barefoot on the soft sand without afraid of snakes and scorpions (more likely in hot summer), one day I went deep in the center of sand dunes for 3 hours, and I found that navigation is really difficult when you are inside the dunes. It is a popular activity to stay overnight in the dunes, so you will see some big tents occasionally, in fact it is also possible to bring your own tent, and camp at a lower and flat area, then one can enjoy the starry night inside the desert. I am regret that I didn’t do this. (Locals said the tent will not be completely covered by sand in one night~)
Information / Accommodation:
- This route pass valleys and several oasis, so there are more accommodation or places to stop on the road.
- 15km after Meski, restaurant Valle de Ziz (GPS: 31.790319, -4.239104) has panoramic view of a valley, and camping Tissirt (GPS: 31.786783, -4.234386) is not far from there.
- Aoufous, about 25km from Meski, has restaurants and kiosks, and there is a campsite, Camping Hakkou (GPS: 31.673242, -4.201105) at the end of the village.
- Erfoud is a small city that famous for fossils, plenty choices of accommodation and restaurants, and there is one campsite.
- Camp Chez Karla (70MAD, WI-FI, Hot shower)
- GPS: 31.476022, -4.216474
- Tel: 0662530652
- A little bit pricy, the campground surface is full of stones and there is no shade, must be damn hot in summer.
- 5km from the city, nearby Ksar Maadid is worth to visit.
- Camp Chez Karla (70MAD, WI-FI, Hot shower)
- There are lots of auberges and campsites within 10km from Merzouga, basic camping cost about 20-30MAD, I stayed at Hassi Labied, where you can find kiosks and vegetables store.
- Camp Sahara (30MAD, WI-FI, Hot shower)
- GPS: 31.136163, -4.019246
- Website: http://www.aubergesahara.com
- Tel: 0641994828
- Stayed there for 2 weeks, two brothers owner are very talkative and it is a good place to hear some local stories, staffs are nice and sometimes they will play music. I watched the wonderful sunset everyday in Merzouga, what a pleasure life!