Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Oukamedian to Ouarzazate April 17th 2008

After a nights sleep on a matress more reminiscent of a hammock, we're up early, too early for the hotel owner as we were locked IN! We have to resort to some Mission Impossible manovers out of a first floor window, down on to a broken -glass capped wall and onto the front terrace. Just as the last one of us got down the owner opened the front door,bastard!
We were soon back down at the ski-lift where Rock Sparrows, Alpine Chough and Seebohm's Wheatears were around in numbers. The Crimson-winged Finch were back and a little flighty but gave good views in better light than last night.

Rock Sparrow

Crimson-winged Finch

1st summer Seebohm's Wheatear

Our intial plan for today was to go back down the mountain and cut across the lowlands and over the High Atlas, but with the car obviously not fit for purpose we decide to return to Marrakesh Airport and change our vehicle, knowing we could potentially lose half a day. Our return trip notches up further Red-rumped Swallow and Black Wheatear along with some Little Swift over a village about half way down. Our attempt to simply change cars soon becomes a nightmare, as we are required to take the car into the city branch of the hire company and wait what seems an age for a replacement. When it finally arrives its smaller than what we've had but Rob assures us that 'it goes' so we load up and head off. We are now on the wrong side of the city that we need to be on and, after sweating that we may be on the wrong road we see signs to indicate otherwise and we are soon high tailing it out of Marrakesh- the city of lunatics- well done Rob!
As we skirt the city we see, alas only from the car a Moroccan Magpie, which even on that view looks certain to be a 'split' we also see or first Hoopoe's and Woodchat (the later became very common throughout the trip) With the city well behind us we stop beside a still flowing river bed, looking for the local race of Pied wagtail but only manage Iberian Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Cetti's Warbler.

We head off climbing up the north side of the High Atlas range, the area dominated by scattered coniferous woods along its slopes. A brief stop, prior to going through the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass and fore going lunch, we fail to locate Levaillant's Woodpecker but manage Crossbill and Firecrest. Through the Tizi-n-Tichka we see more Red-billed Chough but little else.
As we start our descent, a queue of cars on the road up ahead appear to be stopped for no reason, and with Robs sense of curiosity NOT getting the better of him, he overtakes the queue and is quickly slowed down by the local constabulary and ushered to the side of the road next to the cop shop! The theme tune to Midnight Express momentarily flashes through my mind! The queue was a routine stop check that we later found to be present on the outskirts of most of the towns in southern Morocco. Unfortunately we learnt the hard way, and with Robs drivers licence in the officers possession we had to pay a 'fine' to get it returned!
With our minor indiscretion behind us we drove to lower elevations and into true desert. We were quite keen to make Ouarzazate before dark so pressed on unless birds popped up right in front of us.
Nearing our destination, and with a fairly lush valley bed stretching far to our right we stopped at marker 29km to scan and bird. On the scree desert slopes I briefly see our first Desert Larks and over the valley we see European Bee-eaters (30) Montagu's Harrier (3) Willow Warbler (2) Cattle Egret(1) and our first sightings of Trumpeter Finch (10) and smart White-crowned Black Wheatear(2). We reach Ouarzazate pre-dusk and after seeing alot of the town that we didn't particularly want to, we finally found our hotel for the night, across the river, and organised a much needed evening meal (Tagine) we are famished!

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