|For more pics, see Boudenib-Merzouga|
We carry an old guidebook "Pistes du Maroc" (Gandini) to get some background information on the region and the potential difficulties we have to overcome. It's written for 4WD enthusiasts and I have noticed before that our bikes are no match for them in some parts of the pistes. Therefore, the next day I'm a little concerned when I read: "franchissement de nombreux oueds" ahead at km 57. Indeed, all of a sudden the rocky plateau is interrupted by canyons coming from the cliffs on the left, that mark the edge of the Hamada du Guir. At first they are not so difficult yet, but they become deeper and the slopes steeper when we get closer to the cliffs.
Anyway, we put the tent in a beautiful spot facing the horrible oueds and enjoy the absolute silence, which is only once brutally shattered by a (presumably army) truck passing by on top of the cliffs near the Algerian border, at least a few kilometers away... The next day, we go back to the "closed" track and find a nice piste leading in the good direction. However, the terrain remains tough and we start to get a bit scared. We are slowly running out of water (15L in total) and there hasn't been any water point so far to fill up. No choice but to continue, we'll see. Late in the afternoon, I am glad to detect a few dromedaries, which means nomads, which means water. We don't want to continue and push our luck, so we decide to take a track leading back to the tarmac near Erfoud, joining the piste that we took a couple of days before. This time, Isabel seems to fly over the boulders along the river bed, it is incredible to see how much she has learned in the past few days.
We find a welcoming and charming tourist hotel near Erfoud. The open-minded owner, married to a Belgian wife, tells us that the Boudenib-Merzouga piste was once part of the Paris-Dakar in its early days. And IT IS DIFFICULT. We are proud of ourselves, but if we keep on hammering the bikes like this, we are never going to get through Africa, so maybe we should stick to tarmac from now on... except for a little tour around the dunes of Erg Chebbi.
Which brings me to the bikes: except for the self-inflicted injuries (damaged wind screen, broken right hand guard and lots of scratches on Isabel's bike, scratches on mine), they are doing great. They consume no more than 4L on the road, not so much more on the dirt. Even with the heavy luggage, the suspension is more than satisfying, given our moderate speed. In Spain, I noticed that the rubber dampers in the rear wheel of mine were worn out, which is a known problem of the Tenere. I changed them for a used pair and hope for the best. Else... nothing. The Heidenaus have taken the beating on the pistes quite well but there are some signs of damage already. No punctures so far. The only thing I'm doing right now is greasing and cleaning.