Morocco: On The Trail Of The Rally — Part 2 Nador To Merzouga

Our route took us from Nador south to Missour and Er-Rachidia by highway before we started the first stretch of dirt track following the roadbook of a rally special stage that led us to Merzouga. We reached the start of the special well after nightfall and a few kilometers of night driving on the track was enough to convince us to quickly find a good spot to bivouac for the night.


The next morning we started our first day of rally practice: 125km of dirt track finishing in the dunes of Erg Chebbi near Merzouga. The track was fast with some tricky navigation before the dunes. We were driving fast, although not quite rally speed, and one of the Hummers had a problem with the rack steering, one of the tie rod joints had given way and they needed to slow down.

We stopped several times and by late morning we discovered that one of our 8 litre bottles of water had been punctured and everything behind the driver’s seat was wet, including the compressor and the rally roadbooks for later stages. Fortunately, the warm sunshine and light breeze helped dry everything quickly.






Later in the day, we had lunch under the palm trees of a small but lush oasis.



By lunchtime we had completed just over half of the stage and were still 60 km from Erg Chebbi following the roadbook. As we got back underway, the group spread out as the Hummers were driving more slowly. We were following the lead car. When we reached a tricky part of the roadbook, where the navigation was according to a heading, we lost sight of the car behind us and weren’t sure if they had had a problem or if we had simply taken the wrong route. We stopped for a long while to wait, and finally decided we had taken the wrong route and made an attempt to get back on track. In fact, we hadn’t gotten off-track. We didn’t didn’t find out until later that sometime after lunch, the pneumatic suspension of the damaged Hummer had given out. They had to drive very slowly to Merzouga to make repairs and wouldn’t be able to continue the rest of the trip off road.

On our side, we were pleasantly surprised by how well the Jeep handled the terrain. The King shock absorbers with remote reservoir (specifically tuned for the weight of the car by Off Road Evolution) and Currie Dana 60 axles took a beating, but came through just fine. The car handled extremely well on the track and the Toyo Open Country M/T tires were well-suited to the sharp rocky soil. This would be true for the rest of the trip.

We drove into Erg Chebbi just before sunset.


One of the Toyotas got stuck in the sand and we had to turn around to pull them out. The other part of the group had decided to avoid the dunes and left the route indicated by the roadbook. They phoned us to set up a rendez-vous at the Hotel Touareg, where we had camped for several days during the Tuareg Rallye last March. We stayed at the hotel overnight and planned an easy morning the next day with some fun driving in the dunes.

Read the next installment or go back to Part 1 and the post index.

Morocco: On The Trail Of The Rally — Part 1

The ferry from Nador arrived in Sète over 12 hours later than scheduled because of a delay refueling in Tangier. After five hours of driving, we arrived home safely with just enough time to unpack and unwind before heading back to work.

We spent nine days in Morocco and drove over 2,000 km, about 600-700 of which were off road on dirt tracks, dunes or over land. We had initially planned to take the Scania TGB 30, but to keep the group more homogenous and to economize for the upcoming rally we ended up taking our Jeep JK Wrangler, which turned out to be quite well-prepared for the rugged pistes of Morocco. In total we were 7 vehicles: 2 Jeeps, 2 Toyotas, 2 Hummers and a Landrover.

Our main objective was to experience driving on the dirt tracks. Since most of our desert driving has been in the dunes of Tunisia we wanted to get a better idea of what to expect on the tracks. We also wanted to practice navigation using some old road books one of our friends provided.

Map Xmax Morocco 2012

From Nador, we went south to Missour and Er-Rachidia on the highway before turning onto a dirt track that led us to the dunes of Erg Chebbi and Merzouga. After having a little fun driving in the dunes, from there we set off over land to Tagounite, following the rally roadbook closely for two days of good practicing. At Tagounite, we caught up with the Africa Eco Race, stopped to say hello to some of our friends and acquaintances taking part in the race and watched the start of the 3rd Stage.

Once the rally was on its way, we spent two days in Zagora, doing some maintenance on the cars (a few needed repairs) and passing the new year in the dunes in a Berber camp. We also got an interesting look behind-the-scenes of the rally. From Zagora it was a two-day drive back to Nador, with two short sections of dirt tracks (one with the Roadbook). We spent the night in Nador before boarding the ferry to Sète on Friday evening.

We took lots of photos and a few videos, although we forgot to mount the Contour until after we arrived in Zagora, so we don’t have much interesting on-board video. Except for the photos of the Africa Eco Race, there isn’t much about trucks, but since most of our trip was related to rallies and many of our readers may also be interested in reading about it, we’ll post a complete account here. To make it easier to digest, and more mobile-friendly, we’ll divide the posts into seven installments, which we’ll list below as each post goes up. The first installment should be up in the next day or two as soon as we get the photos transferred and processed.

Part 2: Dec. 27-28: Nador To Merzouga
Part 3: Dec. 29-30: Merzouga To Tagounite
Part 4: Africa Eco Race Tagounite, Trucks
Part 5: Africa Eco Race Tagounite, Photo Highlights
Part 6: Dec. 31 – Jan. 1: Around Zagora
Part 7: Jan. 2-3: Zagora to Nador

Rally Christmas

Christmas Eve is always a magic time. Children want to stay up late to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, and they always wake up early with the anticipation of finding their presents.

When Christmas Day marks the start of a voyage to the African desert, even adults succumb to the holiday magic. We were up before the alarm went off this morning to finish loading and set off toward Malaga and the ferry to Morocco, where we’ll be spending the week and celebrating the New Year with friends in the dunes of northern Africa.

This will not be a relaxing holiday though. One of our objectives is to practice for next year’s rally. The Tatra is still in Kopřivnice where the upgrades are being finished, so although we can’t practice driving yet to get used to the new equipment, we’ll be working on navigation for this off road rally practice. One of our friends is bringing some old road books from the region, so we’ll use those for training using the compass and Terratrip rally computer that we installed in our Jeep JK Wrangler last week.

We’re also hoping to catch a glimpse of the Africa Eco Race as it blows past us on the way from Boudenib to Tagounite in the second stage on Sunday.

As the rally season approaches, the end of the year has been busier than usual for us, so the quiet driving time as we head toward Spain gives us the opportunity to wish all our readers a happy holiday. We hope you’ll be able to live your dreams in 2013.