Tiz-n-Test was a mountain pass in the High Atlas that rose to over 6000 feet and stood between us our next destination, Marrakech. The route was the main supply road to the south and had been completed in 1932. A contemporary description of the road was as follows: “The path had giddy descents where the track clung to the edge of the precipices with thousands of feet of sheer fall below”. Tony was not keen on heights so the writer didn’t share this knowledge with him before our journey.
We set off for the mountains at 8am and as we climbed higher we were soon engulfed in low cloud making visibility very poor. This had the advantage that we were unable to see the huge drop at the side of the road; it was as if we were driving in a marshmallow of cloud. However it was very hard following the track and negotiating the tight bends, always aware that a lorry could be hurtling towards us as we rounded the bend. Roadworks restricted some stretches of the road and we had to share the narrow track with lorries and heavy plant. At one point there was a rock overhang with a sign warning that the clearance was 3 metres. I nervously asked Tony how high the van was. He replied, “Three metres”. Gulp!
As we reached the summit we found ourselves above the cloud; the view was stunning – blue sky, mountains and, beneath us, white fluffy clouds, rapidly dissipating in the heat of the morning sun. Photographs did not do it justice but we had a dashcam on our windscreen that recorded our whole journey. We watched the video later that evening and were amazed how terrifying the drive actually was!
After three hours of intensive concentration the road began to widen and become less steep as we travelled on down through the shrub slopes of juniper and myrtle and on across the red earthed plain where the argan trees grew. We stopped for a breather at an 800 year old mosque that had been “decommissioned” which meant we (non-Muslims / women) were allowed to look inside – it was very beautiful and tranquil. The mosque had fallen out of use because it was too large, accommodating one thousand worshippers. During a regime change between warring tribal leaders, the conquering ruler had destroyed the town and its inhabitants and the community was violently reduced. As the population slowly recovered they found that their mosque was too big, so they built a smaller house of worship closer to their existing community.
We drove on towards Marrakech, stopping at a fuel station where we filled up diesel at 70p a litre and then we had a “lavage”. Our camper was washed outside and the interior was also cleaned, the whole process took almost two hours and cost 40D (£3.20).
We bought some argon oil products at a women’s co-operative where we saw how they produced the oil from the dried fruit of the argon tree. They had a range of beauty products for sale and had excellent English and took our payment by credit card. Good on them! We arrived at our Marrakech campsite in the late afternoon, hours after the remainder of our party.