GT or Grand Turismo is the proper expression to describe my feelings after driving the route of day one. Driving as it used to be in the old days. Nobody on the empty roads
And an ever changing scenery passes by. Not just for day one, this goes on however for the full rally. Every 5 minutes the views do change. Snow covered mountain peaks in the Pyrenees. British Racing green meadows in the valleys and turquoise man made lakes at one side and rushing white water on the other side of the barrier.
In between we also do a bit of rallying. On day one we have to handle more hairpins than in the rest of the two week event and on day two we drive away from the majestic mountain ranges.
Our first overnight halt is Andorra, not the most welcoming place on earth but it is the cheapest place in Europe to buy fuel. A great contrast to this is the monastery type hotel on the second day, the Monasterio de Barcelo Hotel. And coincidence or not the lady that checks us in is called mrs Angeles.
Day three starts slowly heading away from the high mountains towards another absolute highlight of the rally. That is the crossing of a part of the Navarra Desert. We took some 25 pictures, because it is difficult to stop capturing this breath taking scenery.
Our lunch break will be held in the Monesterio del Piedra. Somewhere in the middle of a lot of nothing we enter the building and are speechless. And so will be the participants of the rally. You want to see this as well, all you have to do is sign on for our event.
Also the roads we drove so far were full of nothing. No cars no bikes no trucks, just us and Timo tell me that this will hardly change.
Have you ever thought that you are the only person living on this planet. Well we have.
The last couple of days we have been challenging the most beautiful part of the world without meeting anybody.
Our overnight halt is in Zaragozza. It was the world expo city of 2008, which is still apparent looking at the extravagant structures of the building around our hotel. According to the architects they were the next step in the evolution of modern design. Come and look for yourselves.
Toledo and Cuenca are the first towns where we really see some more tourists. No wonder. These ancient towns both with their own character are a must see. So here we find the first luxurious Paradores and time to visit these little pearls.
For instance the famous wind mills that Don Quichotte was fighting against.
Another thing worth mentioning are the rural towns we are driving through. A bit of ghost towns I would say. The people we do see are in the older age category.
This morning it was very buzzy on the road to Valparais. At least 4 horses with gauchos were in the middle of the road. For the gravel lovers we find less and less asphalt and more and more gravel in some of the regularity sections. We know that at least one of our competitors is going to be very pleased. At your service mr Philipson.
Coming south we see more and more bullfight arena’s and this time the biggest of all is next to our hotel in the middle of Ronda, worth a visit. Ronda is famous for its spectacular placed Parador on the rim of a huge ravine, next to the bridge that is supposed to have the highest span in Spain. Impressive!
As we come closer to Ronda we start to believe that there is going to be a world shortage of olives. Yes we have driven so many kilometres in reasonable new olive gardens that you think there is no olive oil left in the rest of the world. Well Spain is ready
Ronda – Tetouan
The day to Morocco from Ronda is a transit day, so no competition for today. It is a pleasant mountain drive to the harbor of Algeciras where the fun begins. Lots of Moroccans waiting in an organized chaos to all be the first on board the ferry. Once on the ferry they al want to be first at the customs office to get their passport stamped. Once back in the car the race to get of the ferry starts. It is like a formula 1 start… including the chaos in the first corner but all for a good reason for the customs may have stamped your passport but your car needs to be officially imported into the country and the later you get there the longer that will take…
From boarding the ferry in Spain to clearing customs in Morocco it took us close to 4 hours with a 75 minute ferry ride…
Once in Morocco you will be eased into Moroccan atmosphere. It is a slow but pleasant coastal drive to the beautifull spa hotel with a stunning pool and own private beach! A nice way to spend your first afternoon in Morocco beacause although the trip takes four hours, we gain 2 hours because of the time difference.
Tetouan – Fez
On the second day in Morocco we head south on a beautiful coastal road before we head inland to find our first regularity and TC with a view. Have a snack here for lunch is still a long way. Heading for the lunch halt we will be driving the longest regularity in the rally so far which is close to 30km long along beautiful and twisty roads to find even more olive trees than we have seen in Spain I think. A late lunch by the poolside will give you a chance to slow down a bit and soak in all you have seen so far. Heading south again in the direction of Fes we which another long drive we will have another 2 or 3 regularities just so you will not get bored. Coming into Fes along a somewhat peculiar but beautiful road. Today you will also find that not all roads are as smooth as they could be in this part of the world. Be aware! Once in Fes, you will have another rest day which feels a bit of balance maybe but we felt that this city was too nice to just pass through so we decided you needed another rest.
Fes – Ifrane
After a nice rest in Fes it is a bit of a peculiar day as the distance to the next hotel is only 63 km on the direct route. It is however the only place between here and Merzouga where we felt you feel at home. Ifrane is called Little Switserland in Morocco and you will see why!
The rally route there took us about 3,5 days to build and even then we could not find a proper lunch halt. As we speak we are trying to arrange for a proper Berber lunch in tents along side the road but if all else fails, we will make sure you get packed lunches for the marathon stage to Ifrane. If the latter is the case you will however not finish later than 3 o’ clock in the beautifull Michlifen Spa and Golf resort in Ifrane.
It is a day full of contrast and ever changing views . from cropfields, a vast blue lake, deserts and stone quaries to empty highlands above 1800 meters. Anyway, I am sure you will enjoy this day.
In may possibly be the longest day in the rally. But also a day at altitude. We Will spend most of the day above 1500 and even Some time above 2000 meters as we cross the high atlas to South Morocco and the Dunes of Merzouga. Dispite it being the longest day in km’s we have only found you 1 regularity. It will wake you up though…. also it Will prove not to be the longest day in time as most of the route is on a mainroad where you will make a nice average speed. Be aware though that these mainroads have rules which are strictly kept by local law enforcement. The will apear from nowhere fining you for no apparent reason and all fines seem to cost about MAD400 which is about €37 at the time of writing. We got a fine for overtaking two cars at once which was classed as a “infraction premier classe”. The dealing with the 2 friendly officers only took about 30 minutes. Nobody seems to be in any kind of hurry in this country.
Enjoy the changes in scenery and colours of the mountains as we head into the deep dessert. We have tried to make you a nice regularity between the dunes and on gravel tracks to give you the true Dakar feeling but the tracks were simply too bad to use with classic cars instead of rally jeeps. Feel free however to follow some tracks into the dessert to make pictures and brag about it to your friends.
Merzouga – Ouarzazate
Getting out of the dessert will prove to be as long a drive as getting into it. It is however a nice drive through all sorts of countryside like plain dessert, palmtrees, villages and more. The first tc of the day we met a nice guy called Bachir. He will explain eveything to you about the, what we descibed as, anthills along the route for about 40 km’s.
The first regularity of the day is shortly before lunch and will show you more of how Moroccans really live in these parts. The town we have lunch in is the start of the vallee des dades to the west and the gorges des dades to the north. We follow the vallee des dades through a nverending string of houses for about 50 km’s before it opens up again. During the final recce we found snow, hale and rainstorms in this section passing the south of the high atlas from east to west. You will see ford’s across the street every few km’s and believe me when I say they do a proper job!
The second regularity starts just after the final TC of today in a riverbed… lets hope for a dry week or even day?!
The hotel for tonight is in the center of what is called “Hollywood of Africa”. Different movies were shot in the studios surrounding Ouarzazate. A lot of movie props have been bought by or donated to the hotel so you will be able to sit in Cleopatra’s throne for a selfie! To the left of this trhone is a small stairs leading to the hall of fame. All famous guest who came before you have their picture in here.
Ouarzazate – Marrakesh
The final day of the event will a short one to ensure us an early finish in Marrakesh. It is not said however that it will be a relaxed one… our first TC is after only 35 km’s in Chefchauen. A touristic place but definitely worth the visit. We will have a 45 minute break here so you have time to visit an ancient Kasbah just behind the TC (a 7 minute walk).
From here we will start our first regularity through the magnificent Atlas mountains. At the end of the rregularity we have encountered some roadworks which did not hold us up any but does have different states of ready for about 20 km’s. The pace of progress does not seem tyo be very high but they are getting the job done so no idea how this will look in October.
From the start of regularity we start cloimbing the high Atlas to about 2200 meters as tha highest pass. Before we are fully descended into the valley in which Marrakesh lies,w e will take you on the final fling of the event. Let us surprise you! As the trip into a major city is rarely a pleasant one, we will end all competition at the foot of the Atlas wich a lunch Le Coq Hardy before we move to Marrakesh and the finish at the Mövenpick Mansour hotel in city center around 15:00 o’clock.