Zoe and Ben Metcalfe – Part 2

THE FOLLOWING day’s route was to take us partly on old Dakar trails, which we were looking forward to. We spent a considerable amount of time playing and this is where it all started to make sense.

I am sure we have all done it – gone a little gung-ho and hit an obstacle a bit harder than hoped and then bounced all over the shop – well, that just doesn’t happen in Desert Warrior. We were tearing along at 90kph or so and there it was, a small wash-out; this was going to be a very bouncy ride, or so I thought. Well, I knew I wasn’t going to stop so it was a case of hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life and holding my breath for impact – but then it was gone – I felt nothing. Why was I not being hit by everything that was loose in the cab? What happened? The vehicle did what it, its eight springs and eight air cooled shock absorbers are designed to do – take on rough terrain with ease.

However, while we were experiencing the delights of the Desert Warrior, the others had headed into the dunes and the 101 had beached beautifully, requiring assistance from Neil. Once the 101 was retrieved we decided to camp early and hit the dunes for some play; last time I was here was in a Range Rover Sport – powering up the dunes, break at the top just knocking the nose through and power off.

beer with a nomad

Well the same technique applies to all vehicles but I was now in one with over double the power per tonne and, hence, half the required power to get up the dune – a couple of light wheeled moments as we crested the dune, followed by a couple of rocking moments on the top of the dune, left me finding the middle ground and getting that rhythm which suddenly makes you feel unstoppable. So, dune after dune – bigger and bigger, it all just disappears under the car. It was a perfect end to the day: to climb the highest sand dune, watch the sun go down and, of course, though not at all surprising, a Nomad appeared from nowhere and joined us for a beer and a chat about the area.

The following day’s way-points took us past the Nomadic school that Louise and Neil from Impala support. We dropped off stationery supplies that we had very kindly been donated, to a very grateful caretaker. Again, much to everyone else’s amusement we headed off in completely the wrong direction but covered it nicely (I think) by performing two perfectly executed high-speed drive-bys, one in each direction!

Once the road to Azalay made itself apparent, we were off at high speeds; across the flats and then crawling up and down rock hills until again we spotted the haze that signalled more sand. Blasting toward it, the desert warrior did not fail as twice we achieved air flying through bowls and coming out the other side to whiz around the dunes like a ricocheting bullet.

We came out of the sand at the Azalay Hotel, Mhamid, never has a shower and a cold coke been more welcome. The cars were treated to the full works of a clean, air pressure clean inside, grease and the replacement of Johnny’s rear wheel bearing, which was in a bad way and held in for just the right amount of time. We had had a group chat and the decision was made that the following day we would go to Said’s garage for repairs. This consisted of a new power steering pipe for the 101 and, as it turned out, a new gear box for Neil’s Range Rover. And then crack on to Marrakech.

With it being Sunday every village we passed through was alive with the women and children doing the washing in the rivers. Going over the mountains we decided to convoy into Marrakech, seeing as we would be hitting it at night and, boy, were we pleased. We lost the light while coming over the mountains which does not stop the locals from going about their business on the roadside, wearing dark clothing, so it was a hairy trip navigating the tight bends, avoiding crazy local drivers and keeping a watchful eye for pedestrians, donkeys, dogs, goats and anything else that happened to be taking an evening stroll alongside a main road.

Even though it was night time, Marrakech is a city with no apparent road rules, no real use of lanes and more haphazard moped drivers than you can shake a stick at. Brilliantly, Johnny got us to our destination where we were met by our Riad representative who organised our parking – unfortunately, as we had opted to stay in a Riad and not a hotel, we had to park the vehicles in a public car park. This caused some concern, especially as the Desert Warrior has no real lockable storage space, but we need not have worried as the security guards, six men in total, were 24 hour and absolutely nothing had been touched on our return the following day.

spices and snake charmers

Marrakech passed in a blur of noise which, to start with, was overwhelming after the silence of the desert; spices, souks, snake charmers, the call to prayer, hundreds of alleyways leading off each other dipping under archways leading further into the belly of the city. Suddenly and regrettably we were back on the road to Tangier, we had a slight panic when we started blowing white smoke, but put it down to bad fuel taken on outside Marrakech and, sure enough, it stopped once we opened her up on the dual carriageway outside the city.

Do not be fooled into thinking that leaving will be less hectic than arriving as the port seems to function on chaos and confusion. As you arrive you are again relieved of your passports, official paperwork and about 40dhm but the experience is more enjoyable as you find after two week’s of bartering you have relaxed and got used to it; you only have to remember not to question the price of your accommodation and dinner on your return to Spain.

It was sad to be leaving one vehicle down, but on the plus side they had a good reason to head back to the warmth and excitement of Morocco sooner than the rest of us, but I don’t think we’ll be far behind. In fact, while penning this I have received a call regarding the possibility of Desert Warrior showing us what she’s really made of by taking part in the 2008 Tuareg Rally… LRM


I MUST thank the following for making mine and Zoe’s honeymoon what it was…

Richard and Ann for providing the best tea stops and international rescue in Morocco.

Johnny and Nicole for taking some of the fantastic photos and being a very relaxed and helpful support vehicle, plus to the amazement and amusement of everyone else, driving through the mountains of whisked up effluent with open windows.

Mark and Rowena for proving that late nights and hard work can make dreams come true by getting their home-rebuilt 101 through all this with only a burst power steering pipe.

And, of course, Neil and Louise for organising and making possible a lifelong memory.

Thanks to Barden Batteries for donating a well needed battery given our alternator issues.

Thanks also to SATCOMMS.TV (Safety over all terrain and communications) for lending us safety and communications equipment.

To see the car in action log on to www.youtube.com and search under Desert Warrior.

The above article originally appeared in Land Rover Monthly July 2008, the original article is here for download.