[ Tafraoute, Morocco ]
Today was Day 5 of Moped Moses Tour, 2014–as I like to call my little impromptu trip around southern Morocco. I departed Mirleft on Christmas Day, on a rented MBK moped, heading south along the Atlantic coast, through Sidi Ifni, slowly angling into the interior, drifting slowly through the desert towards the Atlas Mountains. I had decided to travel light, bringing only a small rucksack of bare necessities; my route would be improvised daily.
Should I bring a map? GPS? Compass? Any sort of location- or direction-affirming device? Nah. Who needs that crap?!
Well. Perhaps this anti-Baden-Powellist approach played some part in today’s adventure, which involved getting lost off-road for nearly two hours near the Rochers Peints. These “painted rocks” are just that–a bunch of car- to hotel-sized boulders decorated, Once Upon a Time, by some semi-legendary stoned-beyond-redemption(-or-so-I-imagine) Belgian. They are several miles from Tafroute, well off any paved road, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. I postulate some sort of sexual frustration on the part of this Belgian, as the majority are painted bright blue, and phallic totems are scattered regularly throughout the numerous stone clusters.
The path to these underwhelming oddities follows an increasingly small gravel road, well-marked. Somewhere on the yonder side of these blue marvels, the trail allegedly starts up again so that visitors can make a big loop (~17km) back to Tafraoute. Such was my plan: loop the loop, take lots of breaks and pictures.
Are you surprised to hear that’s not quite how things worked out? No? You say it’s about as shocking as a stoned male deciding to paint giant cocks for posterity?
What actually happened was this: the trail I found on the far side was the wrong one. It became less and less distinct, climbed down into a gulley, crossed several dry, silt-filled, hard-to-ride-through riverbeds, and faded slowly into nothingness amidst an endless plain of head-high shrubs, scruffy trees, and cactus. This vanishing act took about six kilometers. Thirty minutes of slow, difficult riding brought me to a hard stop in front of a shallow, broken, featureless ravine. There was no way forward, and the vegetation was just tall enough–and the ground hard enough–to obscure the way I had come. Unsurprisingly, there was nary a scattered blue geo-hardon in sight.
It was, in any case, an outstanding morning: incredibly beautiful, not too hot, with none of the previous day’s frigid, bone-jarring winds. I put the dead-end at my back, and headed more or less in the direction I had come from until I spied a nice shady spot to take a break. I parked my massive two-stroke machine (the MOPED, you perverts), dug some food and water from my backpack, and had a little picnic. I thought “what’s the worst that can happen?” For drama’s sake I wish the answer was exciting–scorpions, snakes, wild Berbers on camelback, hunting two-wheeled infidels with Tuareg broadswords–but, in reality, it wasn’t. The most horrific outcome seemed to me a long walk and a late dinner, or something similar.
And besides, how can you call yourself Moped Moses if you don’t actually get lost and wander around the desert aimlessly a bit?
Just to change up the script, I lounged aimlessly–enjoying the scenery and taking some pictures–then picked a direction to ride. Miraculously (<–more Moses parallels, you see), there was a giant, orange, glowing ball in the sky to give me some indication of which way I had come and which way I needed to return. Within 15 minutes I stumbled upon one of the aforementioned dry riverbeds, followed it until I found my earlier tracks, and that was that. The rest was easy.
At least…it was. Until I took a wrong turn in Tizi Ouaoussift and came face to face with a hundred sweating, cursing Berbers, mounted on camels, brandishing broadswords, commanding an army of demonic scorpions and a plague of serpents, looking at me with malevolent ire, wishing me ill. But that’s another story, for another time…