STAGE 6. ZAGORA - MARRAKECH (Friday 2 March 2018)
In last night's briefing on today's stage, the Organization strongly insisted on the need to exercise extreme caution in driving at today's stage.
The long scoring stages of tracks and sand have been left behind and today's itinerary has been mostly on asphalt, by the only way that connects Zagora with Marrakech, traversing in Tichka mountain pass, To over 2.200 m of altitude.
Once the port has been drawn, we have continued on the route of the thousand kashbas, in the province of Ouarzezate, with its typical adobe and cane constructions, and we have stopped to visit the Kashba of Ait Benhadou, declared a world heritage site by Unesco, and that has been the scene of several film productions, as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator or Game of Thrones.
The arrival in Marrakech has been a great contrast, because we change the loneliness of the desert, for the bustle of a big city. Once at the hotel (spectacular, by the way), we have enjoyed a long shower and we have prepared for the award ceremony.
It is now when we realize the challenge achieved: prepare a car, convince sponsors (and to our parents!), cross Morocco from north to south and east to west through the desert aboard old and simple cars ... and most importantly: bring a little hope and facilitate the living conditions of the inhabitants of the desert by delivering educational and solidarity material that we have collected and transferred with great effort.
But above all we have learned, and this is the true essence of UNIRAID, that if we really feel like it… we are unstoppable.
Let no one ever tell us "you can't", "You won't get it" ... not us.
STAGE 5. stage marathon - ZAGORA (Thursday 1 March 2018)
How right was the Organization when the first day they told us that each stage would be more and better!
The marathon stage has been an ADVENTURE in capitals ... two days in the desert under a relentless sandstorm is soon to be said. Camping in the middle of nowhere with this sense of alarm caused by the wind, it has been magical and unforgettable!
The first test of the morning was a descent on a sand slope of several kilometers ... crazy!. The final stage on the desert could not be less spectacular than the rest of the route.
The road book has started with very fast sections of navigation, no tracks no ruts, only to compass, and with almost no visibility ... which has forced us to do our best and trust our decisions a lot ... a challenge of determination.
Later, the route has gone through sections of some of the most famous raids in the world., with fast tracks, steps through oueds of sand and dunes; and the landscape has become greener until we reach our camp today in Zagora. Gone is the Sahara desert.
The night looks like we are going to have a party, we are finshers and we have to celebrate.
This is over and you have to take advantage of every minute!
STAGE 4. ERG CHEBBI - marathon stage. (Wednesday 28 st February 2018)
For the second consecutive day, we have started the stage with the first rays of sun on the ridges of the dunes.
Today and tomorrow are marked as the second important date on the calendar: this is the marathon stage that lasts two days, and includes free camping in the desert. More of 300 km in complete autonomy: a challenge within the great adventure.
The itinerary of this first day has passed through the famous forbidden track of the Paris – Dakar. A challenge in capital letters for our small cars.
Incredible landscapes, It is pure desert state, there was nothing and nobody. We have crossed large deserted areas without indications or ruts, with the only help of the compass… spectacular cannons, oasis, dunes ... an inhospitable and magical enclave.
But to tell the truth, when you go many km without seeing anyone you get a stress point… although you know that you are geolocated via satellite at all times by the Organization, we are not used to so much stillness and silence.
The stage has been an excellent opportunity to apply all the knowledge acquired in the previous stages: navigation, driving on sand… but above all teamwork, resource management, organization… this is UNIRAID.
Our secret weapon: motivation 100%... and today it's free camping under the stars, if the sandstorm allows us: adventure in its purest form, the essence of the marathon stage.
Thanks for following us!
STAGE 3. VERY CHEBBI - VERY CHEBBI (Tuesday 27 February 2018)
Loop stage through the desert interior: delivery of solidarity material, palm plantation and night stage. Intense day where there are.
We have started today's stage with the first light of dawn. Today was marked on the agenda as important, because it was time to deliver a part of the solidarity material that we have been collecting during all these months with great tenacity and that we have transported here on board our strollers.
As we said, the delivery of solidarity and educational material to the AL AKWAM School in the Taouz area has been intense and very emotional.
It is incredible to see the happy faces of these students, who often travel long distances to attend class, and they combine their studies with long hours of work at home to help their families, upon receipt of the material and gifts given to them by UNIRAID participants.
Besides, this year we have created two computer rooms equipped with 30 laptops each, collected by participants and members of the UNIRAID Organization and we have continued with the #OasisUniraid initiative, started last year, with the planting of 250 palm trees in a desert area, in order to create a self sustainable oasis.
Today driving has gone into the background, and that we have had to cross several rivers of sand not easy.
Luckily we have done it in groups of 10 cars, which has allowed us to help each other and laugh a lot. Working as a team… we have no limit.
And if it was not enough, at night we have had "night stage". It was an open secret, Well many of us knew and we came prepared, but what nobody knew or suspected is that the entire night stage was compass-based navigation (for those of the GPS generation this sounds like Chinese and yes, if by day it is already complicated, at night it is an impossible mission).
What we were saying ... today has been a very intense and rewarding day, full of emotions and adventures, and in a setting as beautiful and incredible as the dunes of the Erg Chebbi, but the body asks us to rest, let's go.
Tomorrow we continue… this is UNIRAID!
STAGE 2. MIDDLE - VERY CHEBBI (Monday 26 February 2018)
Last night, during the stage briefing, the Organization has already warned us of what would await us today: navigation and driving butt, spectacular landscapes and many difficulties throughout the 300 km away from this stage, that takes us from the feet of the Atlas to the desert dunes.
What he did not warn us about, because it was not planned, is that a sandstorm would surprise us in the middle of the stage, and it would force us to shorten the stage and look for an alternative itinerary on asphalt due to the difficulty of navigating without visibility.
This storm has been an adventure in terms of novelty and has made the stage much more exciting and fun. All teams have had to pull ingenuity and teamwork to overcome difficulties.
The Organization's phrase "today the adventure really begins" has been more than fulfilled: navigation, valleys, gorges, inhospitable extensions, infinite climbs on rocky ... (buf!) and the gift sandstorm!
Challenges and more challenges to overcome, that have involved teamwork, effort and coordination. Everything you need to reach the goal, everything you need to be unstoppable.
To determination there is no one to beat us. We spend the night in an exclusive UNIRAID camp located in the middle of the desert, in a hollow sheltered by great dunes.
We continue with more strength and enthusiasm than ever!
STAGE 1. MEKNES – MIDELT (Sunday 25 February 2018)
The first scoring stage has been a challenge for all teams. Apart from having to guide us through the indications of the roadbook, calculating partial distances and following the directions marked in each box; we have overcome the first major obstacle on the route: cross the atlas (2.000 m) From north to south, passing through snowy stretches and muddy tracks, in the middle of an intense cold but under a spectacular sun.
Some teams have been delivering solidarity material as they pass through some villages located on the slopes of the Atlas.
Morocco is a country of contrasts in terms of landscapes and temperatures, and today we have checked.
As we have approached Midelt, the landscape has become more rugged and the green has given way to all the shades of ocher.
The stage has been intense, but the faces of happiness at dusk reveal the great satisfaction of the challenge achieved. Price, briefing and to bed. Tomorrow more and better. This is Uniraid!
STAGE 0. TANGIER - MEKNES (Saturday 24 February 2018)
We landed promptly early in the morning in the commercial port of Tanger Med, and from there both the teams that had taken the ferry in Barcelona on Thursday and that arrived last night in Tangier, like those who have done it today in Algeciras, we have made the first section of road link to the town of Meknes.
A comfortable hotel awaits us there, meeting point for all participants and start of UNIRAID 2018.
It is very fun to meet and greet the rest of the participants as they arrive and see the "machines" that have been prepared.
In the evening we pass the technical and administrative checks and then a succulent dinner and the first briefing with the explanations of the morning stage awaits us., which will be the first contact with the roadbook.
The faces of the participants who come for the first time are excited and want to start, and those of the repeaters, looking forward to adventure and fun.
The bar is very high and this edition promises to be tougher and more exciting than the previous ones..
The impossible challenge is about to begin!!.