Taxis & Tourists
Where are we?
Towers and rivers in nowhere
More of Erfoud
The daily challenge is to make it out to Borj Yerdi. Stopping off downstairs for a fresh orange juice, we thought we could go out by Grand Taxi. Greeting the manager, we found out there was no orange juice. A good omen for the day. Get the easy things out of the way. We just had coffee. Anna asked if she could get an omelette, and the price was too high. It was a nice morning, sitting out there with the coffee, looking at the bikes go past. Erfoud has the most pushbikes we have seen in Morocco. The waiter came out and gave Anna a new price for the omelette, so she ordered it. Little did we know it would be coming via a different shop and be delivered. He must not have known where he could get a juice from.
The grand taxis are just around the corner from the hotel. This is a small intersection with about 5 or six cabs around, parked at all different angles. No one came running up to us today, as there was another couple of tourists that were providing the entertainment. Not sure what was going on, but they had to unload all their bags from one cab and take it over to another. They were not happy. It is reassuring to know we are not the only people being hassled occasionally. That solved, we got the guys to help us out. It was a bit hard getting them to work out where we were going, but we got there. They would not give us a straight answer on the price though. We knew that Borj Yerdi is only about 15km from town towards Er Rachidia so it shouldn’t be too much. Turned out to be 10 each. Happy with this we went to the cab to wait. There was another group of tourists sitting there, some came over to see where we were off to. They were having trouble finding a cab to Er Rachidia, but there were too many to go in our cab. They were a bit annoyed that they couldn’t get local prices, as they were living in Khenifra.
The taxi departed after a fairly short wait, about 20 minutes or so. Driving out was not that interesting, just out of town, and through the next. This has its old (or recreated) archways. Then out into the Arid landscape. One minute there are trees and water, the next rock, dust and sand. About 10 k’s out of town we were dropped in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing around. Just a small bridge that we had used to cross the river Ziz (more of a stream than a river) Walking off the road a little bit, we saw nothing. Rocks, dust, sand and a blue sky. There was supposed to be a geyser here shooting water at least 5m high. At least there should be a tower or something. Not just MMBD (Miles and miles of bloody desert – a technical name used by the US military). Not even very attractive MMBD. We walked over to where the river was trickling away, and came across the ruins of an old stone bridge. Still no sign of any geyser. There were two dried up wells a way a way, and a few other signs of human habitation (broken beer bottles, and plastic bags) but nothing for years.
We started walking towards a mountain range in the distance. At one point we came to some tiny dunes that were undergoing government re-education. There was a latticework of palm fronds put up all over it, in the attempt to stop it from walking. The government is spending about 20m Dh in an attempt to stop the dunes from expanding towards Er Rachidia. With not much else going around we started making bad jokes. “Dunes have the right to free movement” and the like. A bit further on we came to the free dune movement. There were no chained dunes here, and they had the ability to march on as they pleased. They were not too big yet, and a bit patchy, but soon they will stand proud, like the free dunes of their brothers down south. It was a bit of fun climbing over these, seeing the ripples caused by the wind, and how it differed on different sides. We were close enough to a big hotel that the occasional quad bike had left its tracks. There were also a few tracks from a bird or two and a few lizards.
From the top of the dune, we could see a tower off in the distance. We decided to make our way towards that in the hope of finding this elusive geyser. We will probably find out that it has dried up, or been stopped or something. Crossing the road, with the tower only just starting to get larger. We continued on. The sun was out, and although winter, the temperature was pretty good. Just on the warm side. A fair hike, and we made it to the tower. It was crumbling, and nothing left to it except the four walls, and a mound of earth inside, as it was slowly imploding on itself. This was a good place for a break in the shade.
There was a good view from it though, and in front of a thin line of green that would be the palmeries of the next town, was something Anna saw. She was not sure if it was just one of the many power lines that dot the landscape and are just as bad as olive trees for getting into photos, or if it could just possibly be water shooting up in the air. It was! we had found the elusive Fountain of Iron. We had given up hope in its existence, and regulated ourselves to just enjoying the barren landscape, with its small bonuses. So far it had been pretty good. The rocks over the ground are a mixture and include volcanic and quarts, making it fairly interesting to stop and look at the different patterns in the rocks occasionally.
We started to make our way to the geyser. Going via a small clump of trees. The trees were adjacent to the Ziz river, and we made our way down to where there was a line of plants on either side of the water. It was a bit larger here than where we had seen it before, but there was still no sign of it on the horizon. As it is in a deep gully, it just pops up as you get closer. A small pool oasis in the desert. A bit further up there was salt on the ground. A fairly large area was suffering from high salinity, and we came to a small trickle of water. That is probably too good a name, as they were more like pools in the rock, where the salt had built up so much, that there was a thin solid film floating on top of the water.
The geyser was slowly getting closer. There was more salt build up, and the ground started turning yellow and orange in patches. The few trees and plants in the area were struggling to stay alive, as the water spewing out of the ground ran down a small slope and joined the river. The colours were amazing. With the extremely high mineral content of the water, it was no surprise that the deposits building up had such vivid tones. The geyser itself is no longer that impressive. A box building has been erected around it, and a concrete circle around that to channel the water. Not that effective when the water blew through the roof. Apparently, according to a person hanging out here in the hopes of selling fossils to tourists, the government had tried to cap it three years ago. The attempt worked, but had the unforeseen side effect of creating smaller bubbling pools around the area. If you block the pressure, it has to go somewhere. Seeing this, they just re-opened the cap and let it blow. The smaller pools are still here though, and creating their own lifeforms. Mainly green goo. Slime, sludge and garbage.
It is defiantly worth visiting, but take your time and look around the area. There are all sorts of formations being created, and makes a photographers paradise. The geyser is only one of the springs at Borj Yerdi. There were a few others around, just not as impressive. Even one of the wells we looked at earlier had running water rattling thought it somewhere. You could hear the noise it made as it passed.
While we were sitting at the end of the car park we saw a couple of cars full of tourists drive past. One even slowed down to point at it out the window. When we gestured for them to take a closer look they honked at us and drove off. We didn’t even stick out our thumb. A Moroccan van pulled up a couple of minutes later while we were walking down the road hoping to hitch a lift. He let us ride with him all the way back to Erfoud. Fantastic!
Now all we needed to do was find that orange juice. Deciding to skip down town, we walked on the other side of the main road. Around a school, and past a mosque. A patisserie would be good by now as well. No luck on either. Back on the street of our hotel we asked in another shop. One of the girls here spoke fairly good English, and said there wasn’t one in the city (orange juice, not patisserie!), giving it one last try at the cafe opposite the hotel, we managed to get one. After a long days walk, it went down well, and we had to force ourselves not to drink it too quickly, and savour the taste. Recharged, we went through the main part of town again, dodging the drunks wanting to give us business cards and kids demanding steelos (at least they were not holding rocks this time). Going through the market took longer than we had expected. It is quite large and has multiple sections that are all dead ends. Still, it was a good walk around town. By now it was dark, and time to get dinner. Hitting the soup shop, we found out they could do omelettes (OK, so we had a thing for omelettes and orange juice today) for dinner. It must have been the massive turkeys in the market that gave us the idea.