Day 24: On top of the world above the snow line

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Sun 28 Nov 2010 20:05
Day 24: 28 November 2010.  Bush camp by Dades Gorge N31 36.373 W005 51.665 Distance driven 310 km
We left camp today at 0815 in brilliant sunshine with crystal clear skies, and drove north 80 km to Rich where we filled up with diesel and bought fresh bread before heading off for the hills. We drove west on asphalt for about 100 km through beautiful mountain plateau country as far as Agoudal and then made a deviation from our intended route to the Todra Gorge and Tinehir.  instead we decided to come south down the Dades Gorge to Boulmalne and come into Todra from the south tomorrow.  We soon discovered that this route was not asphalt, in fact it was a very rough 4x4 track into the mountains.  We climbed and climbed, mainly in 1st and 2nd gear, for about 15 km before we met a tractor and another 4x4 coming the other way. They assured us we were on the right route and that the track was passable. On and on we climbed, finally up to 2919 metres (9630 ft) and just above the snow line. Once out of the cab it was perishing cold in the wind but the views were stunning. Progress was pretty slow and we resigned ourselves to camping wild at some altitude without any fuel for a fire in this barren landscape!
We must have covered 60 km on this track before we found the asphalt again and it took us nearly three hours.  Once back on the road we raced down the valley trying to get lower (and warmer) before dark fell.  We finally got into the Dades Gorge by dusk and after threading through a number of small villages finally managed to find a pull off where we could get out of sight of the road by driving down a dry stream bed. Not an ideal camp site but we are on level ground and the few passing cars haven't noticed us yet.  The night sky is still crystal clear and the view of the stars and the milky way is just incredible.