Morocco: Stairway to Heaven and other innovative desert structures

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Tim Cullis, May 18, 2007.

  1. Tim Cullis

    Tim Cullis Partially heighted

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    The desert artwork of Hannesjörg Voth

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    I first saw a photo of one of Hansjörg Voth's desert homes in a French-language guide book by Jacques Gandini. Last January I made an attempt to reach one of the homes on a fully-laiden BMW 1200GSA. Fortunately I had enough sense to turn back before tackling the sandy river crossing. Later that trip I was snow-bound in Azrou, chatting to a German couple by the fire in the Panorama Hotel when the guy mentioned they had a home in the desert near Erfoud. He was amazed when I said I had tried to reach it the week before. Hansjörg said there were a variety of tracks but they kept changing with the drifting sand dunes and the course of the river bed. A few days later I tried again without luggage, but again turned back by the danger of being stuck by myself in the fesh fesh (fine sand like talcum powder).

    This trip I was on a Honda XR400R, so determined to make it. It makes a really interesting side trip from Erfoud, so I've included waypoints for the intrepid adventurers.

    Leaving Erfoud, head 25 km west on the road to Tinerhir. After going through a fairly large town, on the right you'll see lines of what appear to be wells but are actually khetteras--underground water canals. As you approach a couple of berber tents by some of the best preserved khetteras, scan the horizon to the north (right) for the structure below (taken with 6-times zoom).

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    Stadt des Orion (Orion Constellation)
    Visible in the winter months and known to us as Orion the Hunter from Greek mythology, the three stars making up Orion's belt are most recognisable.

    Leave the road by the track some 200m west of the last Berber tent at N31 31.809 W4 30.063 and follow your nose towards the waypoint for the 'Stadt des Orion' at N31 36.783 W4 31.538. You'll need to cross the Oued Rheris at some point.

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    This is an artistic conception and doesn't include any living accommodation

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    You can climb the towers

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    The three stars of Orion's belt. You can see the Golden Spiral in the distance, and I must have almost passed it on the way it.

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    This is what fesh fesh looks like. Beware.

    Goldene Spirale (The Golden Spiral)
    Not so impressive on the ground as the other structures, this lies at N31 35.505 W4 32.099

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    The metal covers are windows for when the spiral is being occupied

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    The entrance to the building is at the top

    Himmelstreppe (Sky Stairway)
    Built in 1984, this lies at N31 34.890 W4 28.720

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    Standing 16m tall, it dwarfs the XR400.

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    There's 52 steps up to the entrance at the top. And at 3000' altitude it can make you puffed.

    Back to the road
    Your objective is N31 31.640 W4 27.960. Try heading directly east for a bit to pick up a track. Mind you, the one I picked ended up disappearing under a sand dune!

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    You'll need to cross the Oued Rhesis again.

    Because of the lack of clearly defined tracks and the problems with river crossing and fine sand, I classed this as a BLACK piste, not to be undertaken fully laden or alone. In my classifications GREEN=extra smooth novice piste, BLUE=normal piste, RED=some technical skill required, BLACK=difficult

    More information
    Some background info: http://www.hannsjoerg-voth.de/marokko.html
    Put it through Babelfish (German to English web page translation) at http://babelfish.altavista.com/babelfish/tr

    Tim
    #1
  2. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Truffle

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    That is so very cool! :deal
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  3. Deuce

    Deuce Crazy Canuck

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    WOW :huh Thanks for doing the ride and the waypoints. I have to get to Morocco before I die :D
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  4. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Superb!! Thanks for the great pics, report and links :thumb
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  5. All4Fun

    All4Fun Let the good times roll!

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    PHENOMENAL!!! Beautiful art/architecture in a perfect, stark setting. Thanks for taking us along, you went way beyond adventure.:clap :clap :clap
    #5
  6. BDG

    BDG Long timer

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    Really nice stuff Tim, i never knew any of these things existed out there, must check where they are and see if they're on our route for next trip. Thanks for posting them.

    I bet you found the XR so much easier than the GS
    #6
  7. ERIC DN

    ERIC DN Been here awhile

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    Hi Tim, thanks for pics

    I heard about those structures, but never saw pics.

    how is the live with a 400XR vs 1200GS:rofl
    #7
  8. Tim Cullis

    Tim Cullis Partially heighted

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    The XR400 has given me a lot more confidence. Whenever there's a problem the answer seems to be to open the throttle. I've learnt sideways drifting and many of the skills and confidence are directly transferable back to the 1200GSA.

    Eric: I found an 'interesting' gorge running north of the Cirque du Jaffar. It's actually the gorge of the Oued Jaffar, and makes a good half day round trip from Midelt together with the Cirque.

    Tim
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  9. rider914

    rider914 Agnostic Adventurer

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    That is some of the coolest stuff i've seen in awhile :clap :thumb

    Tried looking up your coords on GoogleEarth, but the detail for that region seems not so good.

    -M
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  10. Tim Cullis

    Tim Cullis Partially heighted

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  11. ERIC DN

    ERIC DN Been here awhile

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    Just two things : stand up and squeeze the bike with your knees and open the throttle.

    I already heard about this track, it allows to avoid the tracks which is downing hill
    CIMG0036.jpg
    #11
  12. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

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    As usual, Master Cullis, outstanding !

    /thierry
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  13. PackMule

    PackMule love what you do Super Moderator

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    I was going to comment that your GS looked awfully small in comparison to those structures... :D



    :thumb
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  14. Tim Cullis

    Tim Cullis Partially heighted

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    No, you use the gorge link to come from the north east and arrive at the bottom of the circus. The gorge link is actually far more difficult than the track between the circus and Midelt. I'll post a separate thread on it.

    Tim
    #14
  15. Frgich

    Frgich Long timer

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    :huh that's my face while I was reading the report. Great info, and really didn't know about those things :clap
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  16. Tim Cullis

    Tim Cullis Partially heighted

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    Kipp from HorizonsUnlimited visited these structures in early 2009 and took some interior photos of the stairway and spiral houses. His ride report makes good reading.

    http://ineptandalone.wordpress.com/
    #16
  17. clearandlock

    clearandlock Been here awhile

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    When I arrived at the staircase a German couple had arranged with the guardian to be shown inside and I was able to join them.

    You enter through a hatch in at the top of the stair and climb down this ladder.

    The wings are incredible, like iron swords.

    My Icarus moment

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    Looking up to the entrance.

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    The house is amazing.
    #17
  18. Dr LC8

    Dr LC8 ...soon or later

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    I can't wait to go back to Morocco:eek1

    Maybe next year!

    Nic
    #18