Tuareg Rally, Day 6: Return To Missor

It seemed we’d hardly stayed long enough to enjoy the dunes around Merzouga when it was already time to pack up and leave. On 6th day of the Rally, we began the long trek toward the Finish in Mojácar, the first leg retracing our route over 400 km from Merzouga back to Missor.

The Road Book took the competitors through a short stretch of dunes in the Erg Chebi, and then led them north on dirt tracks with several liaisons over stretches of paved highway. The service route ran closely parallel, so we packed up camp and set out before the official start in hopes of arriving at the photo points in time to get some pictures of the action.

We got as far north as Erfoud when Stéphane called. They needed assistance near the Start, so Edouard and Pascal went back in the Rubicon while we waited for them with the MAN KAT in the village. We changed a worn tire on the trailer while waiting, and took advantage of the good Internet connection at the Hotel Riad Salam to post some news on the blog.

By the time Edouard and Pascal got back, we’d lost two hours and ended up well behind all our race drivers. There wouldn’t be any exciting pictures for us today. Since the liaisons were over some of the same roads as the service route, we were overtaken from time to time by the cars and motorcycles that were farther behind than the leaders of the day.

We skipped the first CheckPoint, but stopped at the second one to check the progress of the race. All of our drivers had already passed through, so there wasn’t much to do but get back in the truck and keep driving.

The road took us through Errachidia, which in addition to a military base, is home to a large student population, with a spacious campus for the Faculty of Science and Technology, as well as the National Institute for Agronomic Research, visible from the road through town.

The route wound along the valley, the lush palms of the Tafilalt Oasis thickly blanketing the river bed, a striking contrast with the barren rocky slopes on either side. Fed by the Ziz river, the Oasis is one of the largest in northern Africa and was historically important as a trade route and crossroads, in particular for the gold trade from western Africa to the Islamic world during the Middle Ages. The turquoise lake created by the Hassim-Addakhil dam is an amazingly beautiful sight.

We were among the last of our group to reach the camp in Missor. It had rained on the way, and the thin layer of wet mud stuck much too easily to our shoes as we got out to put things in place.

Florian and Yvan didn’t need to make any repairs, but Raoul had broken the support for the shock absorber during the day, and it had to be welded again.

Edouard checked the hubs on the Protruck. Everything was clean. The seals they had made the day before had solved the problem. However there was some play in the ball joint of the upper A-arm, which affected the suspension and steering. Unfortunately, the repair would be more complex than the team was prepared to make so close to the end of the race, so Stéphane and Caro would continue to the Finish before fixing the problem back in Switzerland in the workshop.

No one had eaten a meal during the day, so everyone was hungry and couldn’t wait for the buffet at the hotel, which wouldn’t be ready until another three hours or more. Stéphane and Caro had time for a hot shower and shampoo to get all the dust out of their hair before the group went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant in Missor.

Later, at the briefing, we got the final instructions for catching the ferry to Spain. The service team would return on the same ferry from Melilla to Alméria, which left at 13:00 local time. Rainer reminded us that we’d have to leave no later than 3 am to reach Nador and pass customs in time, but he’d forgotten the time change to European Summer Time at 01:00 UTC. That meant we’d have to leave no later than 2 am! We’d made the trip from Nador to Missor in 6-7 hours on the way south, but since we’d be driving at night, and in Morocco you should always expect the unexpected, we decided to build at least an extra hour’s margin into the trip.

We hadn’t reserved a place in the tent at the hotel that night, but we were tired, so it wasn’t too hard to fall asleep on the sofas around 11:00 pm despite the lights and noise in the lobby. When we set out for Nador about two hours later, we were glad we’d make the decision to start early.

One Response to Tuareg Rally, Day 6: Return To Missor

  1. Pingback: 2012 Tuareg Rally, Photo Highlights « Erg Machine

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