19-Feb-2004 -- Again two years after our last voyage to Morocco, we were back again for a three weeks' stay with my wife's family. My son Marwan had grown considerably since our last stay, and this time we were accompanied also by an old pal of mine, Eberhard Günther, better known among his friends as Egü, who had already accompanied me on some travels to Morocco during the last decade. He likes very much to leave the crowded places and well-beaten paths behind and to enjoy the countryside as close as possible, so when I mentioned my plans to rent a car and do some excursions into the backcountry, he was immediately ready to come along. The concept of degree confluences was new to him, but he took the search for some imaginary points as a welcome opportunity to get away to some remote places.
Since our last confluence tour I still had an "open account" with confluence 30N 9W, as no one else had responded to my quest (see visit #1) to search for a possibility to approach it by means of a vehicle, and to follow along the course of the dirt road, on which we had located this Confluence. So I decided to start our confluence expedition of this year with a re-visit of this point, and as I already knew how to get there and how the landscape there looked like, I knew that I would need an off-road vehicle this time. We asked at our preferred car rental "Tiznit Cars" in Agadir (which we had found to be worth confidence after some negative experiences with other rentals), but unfortunately, they seemed at first not to be able to find a 4-WD car for us, as they usually only rent out street cars. A big disappointment took hold of me and I already started to think of possible alternatives, but after the second or third return to the car rental, they finally could offer me a solution: They brought me in contact with another car rental who had off-road vehicles - on the one hand I was lucky to be able to go along with my plans now, but on the other hand I did not really like this situation, which could possibly lead again to negative experiences with a car rental so far unknown to me. But there seemed to be no alternative.
So I rented a small Suzuki Samurai 4-seater jeep there, being rather expensive, but I compensated this by limiting the rental time to three days only. Immediately after my arrival in Morocco, I had discovered with grief that I had forgotten my driver's license in Germany. I had phoned my mother to mail me the document as quick as possible, but it had not yet arrived. On Thursday morning, 19 February, Egü and I went to Agadir to pick up the car at the rental, fortunately Egü had his license with him and so he was permitted to take over the jeep. The rental demanded a security deposit by cash (I'm used to settle these formalities by credit card, but they didn't accept), of course, I wasn't carrying such an amount of money with me, so we had to take one of the employees to a bank first where I cashed a travel cheque, then we had to fill up gasoline (rental cars here usually have only half a cup of gas in the tank when you take them over), and then the employee also wanted to be driven home and finally wasn't ashamed at all to beg for an extra tip for his "services" - not the last "negative experiences".
When we returned to the family to load the car, the letter with my driver's license luckily had just been taken from the post office, where one of my brothers-in-law had asked for it every day. Late this morning, we finally set off to our expedition, Jamila, Egü, Marwan, and I, on the way south we passed through al-Qulay`a where my father-in-law lives, and took my wife's second youngest brother Nur al-Din with us, who showed very much interest in all issues about degree confluences, maps, and GPS receivers, and who liked a lot to be offered the opportunity to travel around with us.
We passed through the nice little town Biyugra and approached the northern promontory of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. As it was now noontime, we had a little picnic under an olive tree at the roadside, and soon continued towards our first waypoint, the branching-off of the dirt road mentioned in my narrative of visit #1. Now it was time to engage 4-wheel drive for the first time, and I was curious what we would find from now on.
The dirt road wound along the slope of some hills and was partly in a very bad condition, full of loose stones and deep groves. After a while we reached the part of the road that I still knew very well from our last visit - this time we passed it in the opposite direction than two years before, when we did our lengthy and wearisome walk along it. Egü really had to struggle to keep the jeep going on sometimes, especially when the road was full of loose stone slabs or rose steeply up. A couple of times, he caused the motor to stall abruptly, until we discovered that we could switch the gearbox into an additional low-speed drive mode, this helped a lot.
When I knew that we were no longer too far away from the confluence point, we were suddenly stopped by a large heap of sand that was piled in the middle of the dirt road. I remembered that we had passed a turn-off only a moment before, and while we were exercising the to and fro to turn the car on the narrow road, an old man came near, curious about the people driving along here. He too directed us back to the turn-off and showed us that there was a newly constructed asphalt road just a couple of meters from the old road that we had come along! This was indeed something that I hadn't expected at all! Only two years ago, there were only dirt roads here running into nowhere, and now there existed an asphalt road in perfect condition, and again we didn't know where it came from and where we could have got onto this road because it was not yet recorded in any of our maps. But this was not the last surprise - though I gave this confluence point the surname "surprise confluence" already two years ago, this obviously proved to be valid still today.
We could disengage 4-wheel driving now and continued on the new asphalt road. I assumed that it lead further on into the backcountry and after a short while I tried a (supposed) branch-off towards the Confluence. But this proved unnecessary, as this only lead into a village and so we returned to the asphalt road and drove along. And what an even bigger surprise! - the asphalt road ran directly unto the Confluence point and continued along further south! It was being constructed on the very same dirt road that we stood upon only two years ago in the middle of the barley terraces, and the confluence point this time could be located on the western banquet of the new road. It was now half past three o'clock (UT ± 0), the GPS receiver indicated an altitude of 1178 m and an EPE of 4 m.
Egü and Nur al-Din were happy to have discovered their first confluence point, and as before, I scratched a graffito on a slab beside the road (the previous one must have been destroyed during the road construction) and took the usual pictures in all directions. What a strange feeling to return to such a point, on one hand it is a well-known place with well-known vistas, on the other hand it has undergone such a change - but the change will now be documented on the DCP pages for everyone to see.
After having enjoyed the moment, we drove on the asphalt road in southern direction, the road continued a good while through a landscape nearly without any signs of habitation, finally it turned into westerly direction and met the main road leading to Tafrawt. This was also our destination for the day, we were now in the impressive granite landscape of the Anti-Atlas, we passed the 1500 m high pass Tizi n Tarakatin (in the morning, we had started at sea level!), then descended the serpentine road into the picturesque Valley of the Ammeln and finally arrived at Tafrawt. The wind blew quite fresh here in the mountains, and we were happy to get some warm coffee and buns in a tearoom - the first meal since our noontime picnic, then we booked rooms in a nearby hotel, except for Egü who preferred to sleep in the car beside the local camping ground. In the evening, we had dinner in a restaurant, took a walk in the town and retired to be well-relaxed for the next day's adventures.
Continued at 29N 9W.