A first marathon day full of surprises

Leg 4

It’s “operation teardown” at the bivouac this morning as the Gazelles prepare to start a so-called marathon leg, over two days and with a night on their own in the middle of the desert. The start line for this long leg is not at the bivouac as on the previous days, but has been moved to the village of Rissani, at the foot of a large circular mountain in a decor that looks like something out of a western movie. In fact, several Hollywood producers are of the same opinion; the teams pass in front of a typical house from a western movie set on their way to the start line.

For this marathon leg, the Gazelles appear to be thinking about the rankings. “We really hope to do as few kilometres as possible today”, observes Anne of Team 251 (Marie-Laure VASSEUR / Anne MORIN). But today’s leg has a special added challenge some areas of the map are completely blank. “The problem is that if we lose track of where we are, it will be impossible to triangulate because there ares no features on the map”, says Nathalie of Team 138 (Nathalie DURAND / Melissa MULLER). They will have to stick to a straight heading. In preparation, Sylvie and Azucena of Team 227 (Azucena CROLLA / Sylvie DEBOST) get out a blanket to make themselves comfortable on the ground as they plot their points. The Gazelles compare their routes: “Do you agree that CP5 looks really far?” asks a slightly worried voice.

The Gazelles soon encounter their first challenges. Some get lost.We’re looking for Route A”, explains Célia of Team 231 (Celia TAVERRITI CERVERO / Anne-Frédérique RENARD) on reaching a checkpoint for Route F. “We’ve found every checkpoint but our own”, she adds. Fortunately, solidarity is the order of the day and Daniela and Émilie of Team 116 (Emilie DEMAY / PIERMATTEI / Daniela VARESE) show them where they are and the point they are looking for on the map. “We help each other; that’s what the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc is all about”, the Gazelles remark.

Each checkpoint is a small victory

A straight heading means going over obstacles. While the 4x4s have little trouble getting over the small mountain before them, the crossover teams are somewhat discouraged at the prospect. Several navigators climb up to assess the terrain and a number of teams prefer to turn around. “You can do it!” reassures Malika of Team 306 (Hajar EL BIED / Malika AJAHA), whose driver Hajar is hesitating. After hemming and hawing, the two Gazelles decide to go for it: “Yallah! they cry with a high-5. Hajar backs up a little to get some momentum, and climbs the slope without too much difficulty. “I’m so happy”, she cries as she gets out of the car.

As the kilometres roll by, the Gazelles pass from one landscape to another, each more spectacular than the last: from the black craggy mountain to a valley lined with acacias, by way of the lunar landscapes of a reg. A few teams get stuck while crossing the oued. Pauline and Rhita of Team 201 (Rhita LOCHERON-JERRADE / Pauline GREISCH-CLOSTER)pay dearly, finding themselves cross-axled. The Gazelles attempt to solve the problem by placing large rocks to level the vehicle, but in vain. Fortunately, two teams soon arrive on the scene: 116 (Emilie DEMAY / PIERMATTEI / Daniela VARESE) and 138 (Nathalie DURAND / Melissa MULLER). The straps come out and the 4×4 is quickly extricated.

Every checkpoint is a small victory on this long day. “It’s the first time we’ve gone straight to the CP without making a mistake”, enthuse Elsa and Marjorie of Team 113 (Elsa BECHTEL / Marjorie HUET). Despite morning plans to be at CP6 before nightfall, many teams end up sleeping between checkpoints 4 and 5.

It is a calm evening at CP5. “I’m so happy to be doing this marathon with you”, exclaims Sonia of Team 39 (Betty KRAFT / Sonia BAUDOIN-GUERARD), delighted to find Team 20 (Céline AUGUGLIARO / Marie CRETIEN DESPAGNE). On the menu for their picnic under the stars: foie gras, brought by Betty (who has another pot for the second marathon). Those who couldn’t reach a checkpoint for the night still have a lovely evening, like Barbara and Claire of Team 186 (Claire SOLOGNY / Barbara BONNION), who manage to make raclette in the desert with the cheese brought by Swiss Team 44 (Véronique DE SYBOURG-SIFFERT / Laurence BRASEY). “It really cheered us up after a hard day”, says Barbara.