Category Archives: Morocco Overland

MH23 – New Jebel Saghro crossing

MH23
Nekob > Skoura • 104km

October 2021 – Honda CRF1000L

Description
The southern sections of MH14 and 15 have offered challenging crossings of the western Saghro mountains for years. This newish route provides an easier way to access the range, following a well-maintained haul route west into the hills and out the other side.
You get all the distinctive drama which make the volcanic ranges of Jebel Saghro so unique, but can manage it in any vehicle, including a pushbike. As with the other two routes, the drama subsides once on the north side of the ranges around KM70 and heading towards Bou Skoura, but in that time, above 1600m you’ll have passed several epic vistas that make it all worthwhile. Thanks to local geologist Saad B for pointing out this route. In 2017 I came up MH15 and to the new haul road at KM34 and wondered where it went to the east. I assumed some mine; now I know it’s all the way down to Nekob.

Away from either end, the only village of substance is Tagmout (KM43), a few smallholdings strung along the oued and overshadowed by the gold/copper excavation just to the north. This new mine must be why the eastbound part of the track got built; it’s not like there are a string of lonesome Berber hamlets up here needing a link to the outside world. The whole of the Saghro massif is especially rich in high-value minerals and cross-crossed with dead-end prospecting tracks.

Mapping
There’s nothing on paper of course, unless you print it yourself, but you can track it clearly on Google satellite and Apple Maps, as well as free digitals like the particularly good GarminOpenTopo and less clearly on the better-known OSM. There were only a few scraps of trail showing on my v3 Garmin Topo (v4 is current).

Off-Road
Because it is used by mining dump trucks (I saw three just as I left Nekob), at least east of Bou Skour or Tagmout, this track is in great shape and so remains doable with any car or bike. On an Africa Twin I did find the countless switchbacks – ground down to powder by trucks’ scrubbing tyres – needed to be inched around, but that was alone on a heavy bike. A 4×4 will barely break into a sweat.

Route finding
After studying Google satellite I traced a putative kml along what looked like the clearest route, and it all panned out fine with no wrong turns. Westbound, you can’t go wrong up to the blue sign in the Tagmout basin (KM42) and beyond here most forks are right turns passing north of Bou Skour village and mine site (which you don’t see) to the big village of Sidi Flah.
I saw no other traffic bar the three dump trucks rolling into Nekob.

Suggested duration
From three hours non-stop on a bike to half a day in a car.

Route Description
0km
 (104) Nekob west Afriquia fuel. On the other side of the main road, 200m to the west, a side road leads north to villages. Follow it; the tarmac ends in 2km.

6 (98) Track forks, stay left (the red, righthand piste soon joins up anyway). Soon you cross a oued and enter a small palm gorge after which the climb begins.

19 (85) Col at 1420m.

25 (79) Approach some impressive buttes to the southwest (below). More noteworthy vistas follow.

33 (71) Reach the junction where MH14 and 15 come up from the south and which you now follow north for 9km. Soon you pass the 2004-m high point and may have great views of the snowy High Atlas (below), if the season and conditions are right.
You then swing round above the Tagmout basin with a mine on its northern flank and where tracks diverge.

Looking over the Tagmout Basin (March 2017)

42 (62) Blue sign junction just east of Tagmout village, such as it is. Turn left for both Kelaa (as signed; MH14/15) and almost immediately, turn left again up to the Tachbouft Pass (KM45; 1805m) visible to the southwest for the run west to Bou Skour (no sign).
Over the next 20km the track rises and drops over the ranges and several impressive viewpoints (below).

65 (39) Fork right. (Left leads down to Bou Skour village south of the mine). The most dramatic part of the crossing is over as the terrain loses elevation and eases up.

69 (35) Fork right again north of Bou Skour mine. In a kilometre keep right again near some machinery, and soon (around KM70) the main track from the mine (P1514 on Google) joins up from the left (south). You now follow the P1514 north then west.

79 (25) Fork. Keep left on main track.

86 (18) Converge with a minor track coming from your left and where a red sign says ‘Bouskour 18,4km’ (pointing the way you’ve come from).

88 (16) Track joins from your right.

91 (13) Just after a sandy passage alongside a farm fence, you cross a tributary of the nearby Oued Dades and swing north. Soon you pass through the small town of Sidi Flah. In 3km cross a bridge over the Oued Dades.

103 (1). At the pylons keep right to reach the N10 visible up ahead. Once there, turn right for the Inov roadhouse on the eastern outskirts of Skoura. Left is for Skoura town and the N10 to Ouarzazate. Straight across and a leads up to Amzeria (Amerzi; see update Update 3.0.14 – May 2019)

104 Inov roadhouse.

S is for more Sahara Silhouettes

Other silhouette galleries

Part of the occasional Sahara A to Z series

S is for Sahara Silhouettes

Other silhouette galleries

Part of the occasional Sahara A to Z series

A is for Atlantic Highway to Mauritania

Part of the Sahara A to Z series

See also:
Western Sahara
Hotel Sahara
The Dig Tree

In March 2020 I rode Morocco’s 2300-kilometre Atlantic Highway nearly all the way to the southern border and nearly all the way back. I last came this way in 2019 (as far as Gueltat Zemmour) but have not done the whole crossing into RIM since 2006 heading for our Empty Quarter transit.
I knew it then, I know it now: scenically, mile for mile, the Atlantic Highway is pretty dull by Saharan standards – a drab limestone plain where, encounters aside, sea-cliff viewpoints and a few barchan dunes are as good as it gets. If you’re on a mission to get to Mauritania – as I was on this occasion – here’s what I found.

Up north, use the autoroutes to dodge the N1 and speed traps

It’s a long way so coming from the northern ports, I recommend sitting on the deserted A1 and A7 motorways all the way to Agadir where the A7 ends, even though you pay tolls (about £30 for a moto/car). South of here traffic thins right out. The alternative coastal N1 trunk road is slower, less safe (in a driving sense) and is commonly staked out by cops with radar guns, especially around Essaouira and Agadir.
Otherwise, there are any number of great ways of exploring inland Morocco, across the Atlas mountains all the way south to the Desert Highway along the Algerian border.

The speed cops are creeping south

Even though I was hyper-aware of radar cops, I still got caught leaving Tan Tan doing 80 in a 60. That would have been 300d, but deploying the usual techniques – basically: humility in the face of the obvious – he let me off. All the way to Layounne and Dakhla, be wary of lurking speed cops, especially as you approach or leave settlements but even out in the desert too. Crossing solid white lines is another favourite trap; easily done when stuck behind a soot-spewing lorry crawling up an incline,

Western Sahara checkpoints and fiches

As ‘Western Sahara‘ is a Moroccan military zone, checkpoints increase south of Tan Tan, and unlike up north, they don’t just wave foreigners through but want your passport details. Handing over a pre-printed ‘fiche‘ (French for ‘form’; below) helps speed up the process. Hand one over and they can log you into the ledger once you’ve gone.
It seems fiches are less needed these days; I got through only about six on the way down – the last one at Dakhla Junction. Some checkpoints will insist on seeing your passport anyway; others just want a chat.

On the N1, subsidised fuel begins 92km south of Tan Tan

Along with a few other key commodities, fuel is subsidised by about 30% in Moroccan Western Sahara. The first discounted fuel station is just after you cross a causeway and climb out of a sea inlet, right by a checkpoint.

Fish & Chips at Afknenir

Make sure you pull in for a poisson-frites in Afkhenir, 20 kms from the checkpoint above. For some reason streetside fish restos here are like casinos on the California-Nevada border. You may think there’ll be loads more down the coastal highway, but there aren’t.
You can thank the upwelling of nutrients from the cold Canary Current which gets funnelled by the Canaries themselves onto this near-north-facing section of coast before Cape Juby. Or maybe local demand supports the informal shore-casting fishing economy. You’ll see loads of scooterists with rods as well as the crude clifftop shelters where they live.

They’re rebuilding the N1

South of Guelmim a new, wider road is being built in stages, sometimes alongside the old one – certainly as far as Layounne. Around the dunes of the windy Khnifiss lagoon past Tan Tan, when I was there roadwork embankments see sand get blown across the two-lane road – not a good place to meet an oncoming truck while checking your likes.

It’s very windy – day and night

Fog

They say March is especially bad, but south of Guelmim where the desert sets in, it’s windy day and night. Normally in the Saharan interior the wind stops at dusk. In late February 2020 a huge Saharan sandstorm (below) made the news when holidaymakers on the Canaries were stranded. Close to the coast the cold current produces fog (right), certainly between Guelmim and Tarfaya. Within a kilometre of the coast a northerly sea breeze can also blow up to 10°C cooler than an easterly from the dry interior – which might be just a mile or two inland. But generally, the wind is behind you; on a pushbike (I saw a few), that’s important.

The flat landscape of Western Sahara can’t help, but when you realise the whole 3000-mile width of the Sahara has been steadily heated by the rising sun before it reaches the Atlantic coast, the wind has had plenty of time to get a good run up.
On the move it’s not so bad, but outside of a car, camping can be pretty miserable. Even the trees are bent southwards.


All this wind is good for the economy: Dakhla has long been a kiters’ resort (below) and there’s a huge installation of wind turbines south of Tarfaya, helping keep the lights on in Laayoune. Soon they say that array of turbines (or one like it) will feed electricity to the UK via an undersea cable

The monument at Tah

On the N1 for Laayoune you’ll pass through nondescript Tah with no fuel and barely a cafe and shop to rub together. In the middle of town is a granite monument covered in Arabic inscriptions. It marks the spot where in November 1975, some 350,000 Moroccan civilians symbolically marched over the then border into Spanish Sahara.

This was the Green March (map left): three co-ordinated and tactical mass demos mobilised by the wily King Hassan in response to rumours of Spain considering handing over its marginal colony to the indigenous Saharawi and Polisario Front. The marches were followed by the 16-year Western Sahara War which Morocco effectively won by annexing most of the territory (see map,above). It’s why the UN still hang out in Western Sahara and why unmapped landmines are still a menace. Otherwise, not much appears to have happened in Tah since that glorious November day.

Laayoune

Laayoune is the provincial capital and biggest settlement in WS by far, with a prosperous frontier-town vibe to it. At least from what I perceived; life in the Saharawi shantytowns may not be so rosy and civil disturbances are not uncommon. Riot police lurk on standby in the town centre (below). The UN’s MINURSO mission is based here, monitoring the Polisario ceasefire.
Passing through the city, the transit is not an obvious single main road. Without a satnav, follow signs for the airport, or back right up and take the Laayoune bypass (see below).

The Laayoune bypass

At Tarfaya (former Cap Juby) you can turn into the town, head for the shore ath-laybypast the St Exupery museum, his monument, and the 19th-C curiosity of Mackenzie’s Factory). Following the coastal road 90km to Foum El Oued (‘river mouth’) brings you back to the N1 just south of Laayoune city.
It would be nice to report this is a quiet byway passing idyllic beaches, but the wind is ever-present and trucks use this narrow road to avoid Laayoune. Dunes also get bulldozed off the road, especially south where the road gets narrower. I suppose it might be cooler than the inland route and the beached Armas ferry is a site to behold. There’s more here.

The longest fuel range is 162km but may be 250km

This is between Tchika (Imlili) near some big white barchans on the north edge of the Gulf of Cintra, and Bir Gandouz, the last town, 80km from the border. There is nothing at all along this section except the howling wind. However, the Tchika station and the two similarly old and grubby Atlas Sahara stations to the north near El Agroub (see map right) may be empty.
Stations may get upgraded, but for the moment this means from Dakhla Junction roundabout (two fuel stations) to Bir Gandouz is 252km (via the Tropic of Cancer). I covered that distance northbound into the wind and go in with a pint in the tank.

Is Dakhla worth the 90-km round trip?

No so sure, but then I took the cheap hotel thing a bit far in the old town. Next time it might be more fun to check out the kiters’ resorts at the head of the lagoon. On the other hand, up north, Boujdour was a fun stop for an evening wander.

Plan a break at the Hotel Barbas in Bir Gandouz

Maybe it was just me on the day, but the Hotel Barbas was an oasis in a duststorm. And once inside shimmered into a veritable mirage. We stayed here in 1997 but the place has been transformed to the point of incongruity. They built a two–storey U-shaped bank of rooms around a planted courtyard but then, ingeniously, draped the entire thing in a huge shade-net. Result: a large, cool space where courteous waistcoated waiters flit about at your service. Rooms are good, prices are normal, food is good too and so is the wi-fi. Tourist, traveller, refugee or trader, some of the characters that roll through add to the place’s edgy ambience. The south end of Morocco, not the Mediterranean coast, marks the true border with Africa.
Bir Gandouz is an easy day from Boujdour which itself is an easy day from Tan Tan. With an early start and an hour to the border, you’ll easily get to Nouadhibou or on the road to Nouakchott.

What is ‘La Gouira’ you see on the road signs?

The ‘Lagouira’ you’ll see listed on some old Atlantic Highway road signs indicates the short-lived Spanish base at La Agüera on the Ras Nouadhibou peninsula opposite today’s Nouadhibou. See map inset below. Effectively it indicates the distance to Nouadhibou which is not always listed.
Abandoned at the turn of the century, today it’s a collection of ruins which are actually in the Polisario Free Zone, commonly mistaken for No-Man’s-Land which separates Morocco from Mauritania. Some have managed, but the Mauritanians won’t allow casual visits from the Nouadhibou side.

For Mauritania, see here.

 

February 2020 Morocco – Gallery

A few photos from the one-week February 2020 tours, showing the new first-day route over the High Atlas, off-road.
Next tours in November.

N is for: Not Riding to Taghia

Part of an Sahara A to Z series
alex-free-solo

‘Free Solo’ is a documentary covering Alex Honnold’s mind-boggling, rope-free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite, California in 2017 (left). If you’ve seen it you may recall that, among other places, Honnold practised on a hidden cirque of cliffs surrounding the scattered hamlet of Taghia, buried about as deep in Morocco’s High Atlas as you can get. A couple of rudimentary gites cater for visitors but, even among Moroccan know-alls, unless you’re a rock climber you’ll have never heard of Taghia. The only way in is a four-mile mule trek through a canyon from the valley head at the equally obscure outpost of Zuweiat Ahansal, an hour or two’s ride south of Rocher de Mastfrane, better known as the ’Cathedral’ (below).

cathedral.jpg

I rocked up at Zuweiat one lunchtime just as a group of young American climbers were spilling out of a taxi, and continued over the bridge to the edge of the old town. I pulled over for a snack and, unsure of the way and not wanting to blunder on, asked a passing local whether it was possible to ride a bike to Taghia and if yes, which way?

‘Oh no’ said the old man. ‘You can only get there on foot.’

I finished my snack and thought it over. Back by the bridge, I sought a second opinion from some more worldly looking dudes hanging out outside the post office. They were eyeing up the new, North Face-clad arrivals and one spoke good English.

‘Yes, I saw you pass and was going to say, you can’t ride your moto to Taghia.’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It turned out he’d worked on the Honnold doc as well as other National Geographic features and, reading his manner with my finely tuned bullshit detector (which they now hand out free at the border), it didn’t sound like the usual bragging. After that, he switched seamlessly into sales mode, offering lodgings and guides.

‘Maybe next time’, I said. I genuinely did hope to visit the mysterious valley, but the weather forecast was a bit shaky for the next couple of days. I wanted to get out of the mountains, not stuck in them.

zuhana

A year or two earlier a bike-riding climber who’d visited Taghia suggested to me that a small bike (like my Himalayan) could probably reach the cirque following the riverside mule path.

While that may be true, I figured just because I could, did I have to – or even, should I? The local guide may merely have been protecting his mule-trekking services, but I like the idea of leaving some of the world’s wild corners unspoiled by the putter of mechanized transport. As I was about to be reminded, there’s plenty to see in Morocco on a bike or in a 4×4, but there are many places in the world which are best reached by less intrusive human-powered transportation. That’s what makes them special.

A Good Day in Morocco

Set off with a mission to join some dots for my spring tour in a couple of weeks.
Mission accomplished. Dots joined.
More about the bike here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHigh Atlas village

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother new road from nowhere to nowhere much. I suppose it helps stir up the local gene pool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of these days I’m going to watch a youtube doc on how they build mountain roads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbove the clouds at 2500m or about 8300′ in old money.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn isolated juniper tree that’s managed to dodge the village wood burners.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChecking the link route to Map Junction above Ijoukak.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1970s Transit. One of the only vehicle’s I saw today once off the main roads. The other was a Trannie too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother photogenic village somewhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Resting outside a village north of Sidi Ouazik, a relocated Reguibat (Saharawi) ends up giving me some meteorites from the Hammada du Tindouf (St Expert mentioned these in WS).
Never knew Saharawi were relocated way up here – 45 families, he said.
I tell him I’m on my way to Reguibat country. About 5 days ride from here to #thedigtree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunset at the casbah.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlways room for a whaffer thin slice of cake.

How to be safe in Morocco

Like most people, I am shocked by the brutal murders of the two Scandinavian women camping in the High Atlas this week. Sadly it is another attack being attributed to young men seeking to show solidarity with violent Islamist causes.
One assumes the two women were stalked by the perpetrators from Marrakech, and so the attack might as well have happened anywhere once an opportunity presented itself.
Morocco has been largely free of the types of the attacks which have become commonplace in western Europe in recent years, and yet tourists who’ve long been targets elsewhere in North Africa and the Sahara, are thick on the ground in all the usual places because they feel safe. The last reported terrorist attacks were a bomb targeting tourists in Marrakech in April 2011 and a bigger wave of bombings in Casablanca way back in 2003, mostly aimed at Jewish interests. Unlike the rest of the Sahara, to date no tourist has ever been kidnapped in Morocco.

firstime

How to be safe in Morocco
As a tourist, maintaining your safety in Moroccan cities is no different to any other unfamiliar place. Hustlers are common in certain areas; traffic appears chaotic and driving erratic; pickpockets exist, cheap hotels may feel insecure and mountain roads are not velvet-smooth Alpine super highways. All these have long been far greater threats to visitors in Morocco than Islamist violence.
Being a Muslim country does give Morocco an edge to those unfamiliar with Islamic culture, particularly women, but the Islam practised here is a lot milder than that found in Saudi or Iran. Read the blue box, left, extracted from by Morocco guidebook published in 2017. Also read the sensible guidelines given on the British FCO website, to give one example. They spell out all how to avoid or be aware of the most common risks.

toubka

In a crime sense, the popular hiking area below Mt Toubkal (right) where the women were murdered is not dangerous compared to a big Moroccan city. It is probably its popularity and proximity to Marrakech which made it an easy, adventurous destination.
Occasional unnerving but actually harmless encounters over the years have long led me to advise the following: when wild camping, do so unseen and completely out of sight if possible, and if not then camp close to or in a settlement. This way either everyone knows you’re there or no one does. I give similar advice in both my global overlanding books and act like this anywhere in the world, just for peace of mind.
In Morocco many have found undisturbed wild camping can be quite hard to achieve. Even in the desert, travellers commonly report someone popping up out of nowhere, usually a curious nomad or villager, or sometimes police checking up on you. It should be understood that in North Africa and the Sahara, camping alone in the middle of nowhere away from other people is regarded by locals as suspicious or odd.
For us Euro-tourists camping has long been regarded as a money-saving adventure, but because hotels and auberges can be so numerous and inexpensive in southern Morocco (from <€10), I’ve long preferred the comfort and security they offer to all the clobber and faffing required with camping, especially if not travelling in a spacious car, or when travelling in the cool season when mountain nights get chilly and drag on for 12 hours. In a cozy auberge you get to meet local people or fellow travellers, eat well, rest properly and recharge your gadgets.

m17-P1210574

Another practise desert travellers like me have adopted since the deep Sahara became FUBAR’d, is not to share detailed travel plans with strangers or online, especially on publicly readable social media. I don’t do Facebook or Whatsapp, but by all means keep friends and family in a closed group appraised of your movements. In Morocco the reach of the mobile network is far greater than you’d expect, not least in remote rural areas where locals depends on it. A local SIM card costs from €2 which includes €2 of credit. You may need the vendor’s help in setting it up.

No one could have anticipated the appalling murders in the High Atlas any more than crossing a bridge in London, backpacking in New Zealand, visiting a market in Strasburg, attending a Baltic island retreat or a school or place of worship in the US. Morocco remains one of the few countries in North Africa where tourism continues to thrive despite anxieties about ‘Muslim countries’. It helps sustain the local economy, particularly in rural areas where the true level of poverty is much greater than it looks. Don’t let this tragic event unsettle your plans to visit a wonderful country, any more than any of the other places listed above.

P1310022

Tichka–Marrakech: alternative roads

toubviewThe N9 is the main highway crossing the High Atlas between Marrakech and Ouarzazate, topping out about halfway at the 2260-m Tizi n Tichka pass where a superb range of clay souvenirs and vibrantly coloured ‘gems’ are permanently on display. Being the main road, traffic can be relatively heavy and slow, and the hundreds of bends make cycling a bit stressful and overtaking tricky in a vehicle, especially when climbing or away from the recently widened ‘race track’ which uncoils a few kilometres north of Tichka (below). But even on this recently improved section, landslides and subsidence are already taking their toll.
Short of the usual floods and storm damage, both the diversions outlined below are doable in a regular 2WD rental car, on big motorcycles as well as sturdy bicycles.

tichkawide
Telouet-route

On the warmer, south side of Tichka, the alternative route (right) via Telouet was well known, even before it became largely sealed a few years ago. It starts just 4km south of the Tichka col, where the final roadworks on the P1506 are nearing completion on the 20km to Telouet with its famous Glaoui kasbah.
From here the P1506 soon drops off a plateau to follow a long, oasis-lined ravine (below) all the way down to the Aït Benhaddou tourist trap, rejoining the N9 10km later at Tazentout, 23km west of Ouarzazate.

aitbenvalley

N9-Toubkal

On the north side of Tichka, road widening disruption has currently spread down the valley over 17km north of Tadart, the first village below the col. But once you get to Zerkten village, signed and 33km below Tichka by a red and white telecom mast, there’s an easily missed side road to the west. See map above.
As pictured below, it leads steeply 6km up to a 1750-m col to an impressive view 60km  southwest to the 4167-m mass of Jebel Toubkal. It’s one of the few points on a sealed road that gives a full view of North Africa’s highest mountain (picture, top of page).

tichcolclimb
N9-Tichka-view
oliver

From here the road drops down through apple orchards recalling the Aït Boumengueze valley further east, below the Mgoun massif (MH18. MH19).

winxo

It levels out along the Oued Zat at the town of Tighoudine in the Oued Zat valley where, in late November, you’ll detect the strong aroma of olive oil being produced in roadside presses (right).
The side route rejoins the N9 after 35km, just before a green Winxo fuel station on the north side of the road, 46km from Marrakech.

highatlashighway

Tis the Spiral Tunnel of Tagountsa

Part of the Sahara A to Z series

spirtuna
spirmoha

High up on the side of a remote High Atlas valley is an engineering marvel – hewn through the cliff face a spiral tunnel manages to curl down through the rock and emerge underneath itself.
I was told about this curiosity in 2012 by the chap at the cozy Chez Moha auberge (right) in Aït Youb while researching the second edition of Morocco Overland. Riding a BMW F650GS, I followed his directions with the usual route-finding issues and then, beyond the last village, hacked up a stony disused track to the 2250-m (7340′) Tagountsa Pass. From the cliff edge I recall the timeless view stretching east up the Plain d’Amane valley towards Rich, pictured below and on p128 in the current book. A short distance later I spun through the tunnel and rolled down a series of switchbacks back to the valley floor and a tasty tajine back at the auberge.

tang

Spiral tunnels have been a long-established solution to constricted route building challenges across mountains. You could even say that your typical complex freeway intersection where the road winds back under itself to change direction tightly is the same thing in flyover form. But you must admit that hacking out any type of tunnel – let alone one where there’s no room to dig out a regular switchback – is an impressive task.

spirplak
yvrom

Not for the first time on this website, I’m able to benefit from research of Yves Rohmer (right) on his always fascinating collection of old Saharan curiosities at Saharayro, including the Tagountsa tunnel. Viewed on Google Earth, the big picture is more vividly rendered setting View > Historical Imagery back a few years.

spir
spirplan
spirtuna

Even then it’s hard to visualise what’s happening until you look at the old plan, right. You can see the anticlockwise descent of the bore and just work out that it starts with a short separate concrete bridge over the lower mouth of the tunnel. The daylight streaming down the gap can be seen in the image repeated on the left (and as a slim shadow in the round inset, above)

spirimit
legion

Built in 1933 over a period of just three months by some 3000 labourers from local and French regiments, few realise that at this time the French were still fighting to subdue renegade Berber tribes in the mountains of Morocco.
As you can see on Yves pages, the engineers, sapeurs and legionnaires passed their spare time commemorating their achievement by engraving regimental emblems in and around the structure. I was told the motivation for all this effort was to enable a secure, high transit of the valley, so avoiding protracted Berber ambushes at the narrow Imiter Gorge (left; ~KM70) with it’s Mesa Verde-like dwellings.
The same crew probably built the better known 62-metre Tunnel de Legionnaires five years earlier at Foum Zabel now on the main N13 highway north of Errachidia. A plaque there boldly states:
The mountain barred the way.
Nonetheless the order was given to pass…
The Legion executed it.”

spirtun

The Tagountsa tunnel the Legion helped build is at KM102 on Route MH13 in the book, though if you reverse the route it’s only a 10-km off-road drive off the Rich road just east of Amellago, turning north onto the dirt at KM113. Depending on storm damage, an ordinary car or a big bike should manage it, but note that you’ll be negotiating all those hairpins on the Google image above. From the west side (as Route MH13 describes the loop) it was a rougher and slightly more complicated ride on the BMW up to the pass.

spirdram

Perhaps because trains can’t negotiate hairpins or climb very steep grades, it seems that spiral or helicoidal tunnels have been a much more common feature on mountain railways than roads, particularly in the Rockies.

Norway’s Drammen Spiral (left), some 50km southwest of Oslo is a notable example, dug we’re told, as an alternative to disfiguring effects of open quarrying on the landscape back in the 1950s while at the same time producing a revenue-producing tourist attraction in the process.