MdS Prelude: The Deluge

iRunFar fans, friends, and family, on Wednesday I arrived safe and sound (and, more importantly, with all my gear) in Morocco. In the past three days, I’ve had enough adventures to satisfy me for quite awhile and we’re not even started yet. There was Wednesday’s impromptu tour de cafes in Casablanca with Meghan, four fellow MdSers we’d just met, and an artist from Salida, CO. Thursday was a day of wandering about Ouarzazate (OZZ) and pack assembly/ disassembly. Today, we left OZZ in a drizzle and ended up stranded three hours away when a flooded road crossing blocked our path. I’m drafting this on my phone, so I apologize for the post’s brevity. (It is, however, good preparation as I my posts from the bivouac will be held to a strict character limit.) Keep reading for a bit more.

I can’t wait to share my adventures in Casablanca at a later time. It was unlike any other city I’ve ever visited. It was, at the same time, both the most frenzied and relaxed city in my experience. Lazy cafe goers spending hours smoking, drinking, and watching unyielding streams of cars and people. I enjoyed some cafe time myself with new friends Dan, Darren, Becky, and Ryan – the first 3 being fellow MdSers. We saw beautiful market wares and the second largest religious building in the world. What had been a dreaded 15 hour layover was a day to cherish with 5 punch drunk, travel weary wanderers.

Thursday was much calmer. After sleeping in a bit, there was a pack briefing from our group’s MdS-guru, Jay Batchen if the Dreamchasers. Following the briefing, a small group of MdSers wandered down to the market. We picked up some items, including mandatory lighters, before a pleasant lunch featuring tagine vegeterienne. Tagine is a Moroccan clay cooking vessel that gives rise to its own cuisine. I’m a fan.

Thursday afternoon was MdS oriented. I repacked most if my food to save weight and bulk. I also spent time culling items from my pack. Once I knew everything would fit inside the pack, I started trimming the pack itself. I managed to cut off pockets, loops, and cords that totalled 142 grams! In total, all my non-food gear totalled 2.6 kg and my pack with food is right at 18 pounds. That may change…

I sit here in a hotel rather than the bivouac. This morning’s sprinkled turned into downpours with some occasional lightening. The desert is flooded. Halfway through our bus ride from OZZ to the bivouac we came to a wash the was impassible. Only after waiting 3 hours did we make the far-too-risky attempt to cross the still raging steam. (The bus ahead of us fishtailed while crossing!) Another couple hours later (11 hours total bus time), we arrived at Erfoud, the town closest to the bivouac, where our caravan paused. Not long thereafter we saw the early buses to the bivouac headed in our direction. The race director had decided that the bivouac was uninhabitable, so we are all in hotels tonight. We ate well (tagine for all) and will sneak in a unexpected shower before the race.

Perhaps the most unexpected news is the weather forecast. Through the race forecast highs now rand from 60-70 F (16-21 C) with one night forecast to hit 44 F. There’s a decent chance for more rain tomorrow (it’s raining now) and a slight chance through Tuesday. There’s also a decent chance of cloud cover, which I’m excited about. This change in weather may have me adding more clothing and a heavier sleeping bag to my pack.

Of course, we don’t know if the race may have to be modified. Parts of the course are routed down normally dry river beds and crosses many washes. If these do not run off quickly, the course may need to be rerouted or the start delayed. I haven’t read the “road book” (course description and maps), but I hear that Stage 2 will feature the big dunes, Stage 4 will be a full 50 miles (80k), Stage 6 will be very short, and the entire course will run just about 250 km.

Tomorrow is “Admin Day”… I say bring on the race!

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