We were woken in the night by an astonishing thunderstorm, during which, for at least an hour, the thunder and lightning were continuous. There was literally no gap in the roar, nor a second of darkness as the rain machine-gunned the roof. At breakfast, whilst tired, we were animatedly talking about the storms and wondering whether we’d be able to do the anticipated ride over a 2000-metre-high pass. The first news was that the guides had been out and decided that the pass was impassable. Through binoculars they could see snow well below its zenith and said that the track was too slippery anyway. The next news came after we set off in the Land Rovers for an alternative ride at a lower level. Five hundred metres from the hotel we discovered that the road had been completely washed away and was now at the bottom of a fast flowing, turbulent river, which the guides felt was too dangerous to ford. We all got out to inspect the obstacle and it was obvious that any attempt to cross it would have been madness. The alternative was to head in the opposite direction parallel to the road on the other side of a long sierra, at the end of which was a valley which would take us back to our intended route. The crosscountry tracks we followed turned out to be equally challenging with many more torrential river crossings. The weather was gorgeous with an azure sky; it was hard to believe that it had rained so much the night before. The day had taken on a real pioneering feel as we struggled across the Martian-like landscape looking out on rugged red desert flanked by rocky hillsides, the sunlight glistening on myriad silver pools. We stopped for elevenses near some primitive rock carvings where generations of Berbers had scratched the images of antelopes, elephants and lions, suggesting that the area hadn’t always been so barren. Having crossed many smaller wadis, we turned into the valley, which was to be our exit out of the wasteland plain we’d been forced to negotiate. It wasn’t long before the swollen palm-fringed river filled the full width of the valley’s flat bottom between steep cliffs and we had to stop to consider our options. At one point the leading Land Rover had nearly gone headlong into a deep sump in the river and we learned later that the driver and frontseat passenger had water up to their waists before the former had calmly but swiftly rammed the vehicle into reverse and backed out. Ex-army, super-hero Richie was in his element – wading through the thigh-deep torrents to find a shallow route for the vehicles and directing them as they gingerly bobbed and rocked through churning red water. Although it was dangerous and we had no idea whether we would make it to civilisation that night, it was incredibly exciting and no one complained or expressed concern. It was a proper expedition! After five hours of this impressive demonstration of the capabilities of specialist machines and skilled drivers we cheered as we eventually found tarmac and rewarded ourselves with a belated lunch stop. We thanked our chauffeurs and Richie profusely for the salvation and greedily tucked into our picnic. Richard Trendall is one of four runners up in our travel writing competition. Let’s hope he got to ride a bike on the rest of the trip!