OUM JRANE > MERZOUGA
Stage 4 - april 20th 2017
Stage 4: 271,5 KM
Stage 4 will be another varied day. A relatively short stage, with fast passages, feshfesh, the Ouzina dunes, the tracks where the factory teams do their testing and a tough first encounter with the Erg Chebbi.
To start with we move a bit north via a nice chain of fast tracks, with a few less fast parts with tricky navigation. At km 49 we cross the road: be careful here and watch out for traffic.
On the other side of the road we head towards the valley of M'Harech. You cross a wonderful canyon with oasis, palm trees, auberges and tourists. Lower your speed when necessary and find your own preferred route: normally on the right side of the oued, but if you like you can also drive through the oued itself.
After leaving the canyon there is a few miles of damaged terrain, with deep holes and ditches.
Once you had that the scenery changes dramatically at the ascent of the Flowers Mountain: one of the most beautiful parts of this event. Wonderful sandy passages to the top of the mountain followed by a panoramic views and the descent of a vast sandy plain. Back down at km 100, after crossing a dried out salt lake, you will find the CH-RAV, the mandatory stop of 20 minutes to have lunch and fuel.
You resume the race heading south, on a nice piste through a beautiful landscape. Soon the direction changes and you turn to the east. You cross another military zone where they are working hard to build a wall of sand. Parallel to that wall you follow a new track for 6 to 7 kms before entering the village of Remlia at km 125.
The next 50 kms contain a few very nice and a few not so nice parts, mostly fast passages but also some dust biting as there is some 20 kms of feshfesh in the Remlia oued. Overtaking or even getting close behind someone else is impossible because of the dust.
After Remlia it gets bumpy again and the navigator's talents are put to the test. After crossing another dried salt lake you approach Erg Ouzina. At km 175 you will find the foot of the dunes.
Ouzina's dunes aren't very big. It's a nice, small erg and a good preparation for what you will find 100 kms further in the Erg Chebbi.
From the village of Merzouga - more or less - we will enter those dunes. The first 10 kms are quite tough. Navigation skills are required to find your way through the dunes: get around them instead of straight up and pay attention very well as it is difficult to see contrasts with the sun high up in the sky in the afternoon.
The next 10 kms will be easier: for 7 to 8 kms you will follow a track through the dunes. In the final 3 kms - real big dunes again - you can already see the finish at the bivouac. It's a very nice finale of a well varied stage.