We ended our off-piste driving at Tafraoute, a large and dusty village of mainly mud brick huts, plus one small hotel. The village was swarming with children who ran alongside the van, shouting and waving. Hassan said the villagers were very poor and made extra money by smuggling across the Algerian border. What did they smuggle? Mainly hashish.
We finally reached a narrow tarmac road and, after several more hours of driving, we arrived at the town of Zagora. We needed to have some repairs and modifications done to the truck. Nothing serious but there was a small diesel leak caused by a split pipe as well as a diesel tank top plate leak.
Hassan introduced us to Ali Nassir who had a garage in Zagora. Ali used to be a mechanic for the Paris Dakar Rally that passed through Zagora until the rally moved to Argentina in 2004. Many of Ali’s customers were drivers of trucks and 4 x 4s visiting the desert.
Our top plate repair required the fuel tank to emptied of 300 litres of diesel before being removed and repaired, a task that took most of the day. We were impressed how well the mechanics worked. They were extremely competent and offered practical solutions to problems. Whilst this work was going on, Ali organised a team of cleaners to pressure wash the truck and then give it a polish.
Ali Nassir was a diminutive man (a Berber) who ran a team of mechanics who worked on half a dozen vehicles simultaneously. He was excellent at multitasking and efficiently oversaw each individual job – whilst constantly talking on his phone. We saw youngsters on motor scooters coming and going, collecting and delivering spare parts from other parts of the town.
Ali’s garage remained open until all possible jobs were completed – they were working to 9.30 the previous evening -and so we were late back to the camp site and it was dark. It wasn’t until the next morning that Tony noticed they had put a sticker on our truck. As a rule we don’t like stickers plastered all over the truck but we were delighted with this one.