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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Morocco Part 2

Visas in hand we bid farewell to Rabat and headed southeast towards Marrakesh. We managed to find the hostel which had been recommended to us by some British blokes we had met in Rabat without too much hassle. Driving in Morocco has been surprisingly good so far. They drive fairly quick and a little crazy in the cities though. Mike reckons Moroccan drivers are somewhere between white van and mini cab.

That evening Mike and I and a couple of other hostel folk decided to take advantage of the more liberal stance Marrakesh has on alcohol consumption and buy some wine at the local off licence. Even though it is tolerated, the sale of booze is still a cloak and dagger affair. We found ourselves in an alley, knocking on a large metal door which opened a crack before we were looked up and down by a little Morrocan chap and quickly ushered in before the door slammed behind us. We found an eatery down the road and enjoyed some wine with some good Moroccan food. Turns out the bloke who owned the place had a motorcycle and when we told him, with the help of our Canadian interpreter, Chloe, that we were on our way to South Africa he got pretty excited. For the rest of the evening he kept on cooking and feeding us
tasty little morsels from his kitchen. Such a good guy. He wouldn't accept any payment from us, insisting that we were his guests!

The following morning we awoke a bit bleary eyed and decided to spend another day in Marrakesh. Mike agreed to take our new Canadian friend for ride on his bike the night before. I lent her my jacket and helmet and they took off for the day exploring some nearby villages and markets.

I chose legwork over spadework and wandered around the souks for the day.

The next day we packed up early and headed further east towards the Sahara. Riding over the Atlas mountains we found ourselves amid some spectacular scenery and at the highest altitudes there was a fair bit of snow, the first we had seen since France.

That afternoon we arrived in Ouzarzate and stayed at a place called Bikers Home. Bikers Home is an offroad centre owned and run by an ex pat Dutchman called Peter. It is a fantastic place. The rooms and house are very nice and he has a fully kitted out workshop aswell. At Bikers Home we met fellow motorcyclist, Hans. Hans had come to Morocco on his BMW GS800 and after initially intending to return to the UK after Morocco, had decided to carry on to Cape Town. We soon got to talking and made tentitive plans to meet up in a week or so before crossing into Mauritania. The following day Mike had a day in Peter's workshop planned. Included in his to-do list was an oil change, fit fork gaitors, a fork oil change and, yep, you guessed it, his sidestand.

With little to do myself I decided to go for a ride. Peter suggested I try a 120km piste from Ouarzazate to Taznacht and back to Ouarzazate. He kindly uploaded some waypoints to my GPS, gave me a bit of advice for a few of the tricky bits and I set off.

The first half of the route took me down a wide, fast graded road which reduced to a narrow piste. Made my way through some great scenery, barren rockscapes, oases full of palm trees and mountaians left scarred by some ancient retreating ocean. Truly spectacular.

The ride to Taznacht was pretty good. I was enjoying riding the Africa Twin unloaded for a change and it was handling the rocky piste pretty well. After Taznacht was a stretch back on the tarmac before the GPS indicated I should turn off, taking a small track across the stony plain.

Peter had warned me that this 20km stretch of piste could be a bit rough so I took it easy, standing up on my footpegs in order to pick a line. The piste soon shrank to a single track leading towards an oued and followed the dry riverbed for the next 5km. Man it was tough! Climbing over rocky sections with rocks the size of mangos making the going slow. There was also some sand to contend with which nearly saw me come off a couple of times. At about this time I realised how isolated I was, not a soul for miles and me and my bike tackling some pretty rough terrain. Excilerating. I was working hard and the going was slow. Every now and again I'd lose the piste and have to get off the bike and walk ahead to pick a suitable route.

It was hot work and the stretch through the oued seemed to go on forever. Time was ticking by and I began to worry that I'd not get through before the sun went down. I estimated that it has taken me an hour and a half to do the last 4kms. With this in mind I pushed on. And then, the inevitable. After hitting a sandy section of the oued the AT was over. Damn! Worst of all it had landed on my leg and I was stuck! After a quick check of the sky for circling vultures I began to dig in the soft sand under my leg and eventually managed to prise it out from under the bike. After picking the AT up (all 200kgs) I was back on my way and soon through the worst of it. I arrived back at Bikers Home looking a bit tired apparently. "You look f**ked", Hans said to me when I arrived. And I was. But stoked I'd made it through.

The following day we said goodbye to Bikers Home and headed over the hills towards Zagora and the Sahara. Once over the mountains we followed the Draa valley, a massive oasis which follows a meandering moving river through a spectacular valley. Upon arrival in Zagora we set up camp in an oasis and planned our ride the following day. We wanted to do a piste from Zagora to Form Zguid through the desert.

Up early, we breakfasted on boiled eggs, cheese and berber bread before setting off. Somewhat disappointingly much of the piste had been graded but the middle section was yet to be reached by the road builders. The piste was very rocky and Mike and I again spent much of the time standing on our pegs. Again the scenery was awesome. A barren parched landscape. Amazingly people lived out there though!

Along the way we played RAC, helping out a couple of locals who were in a spot of bother. The first bloke had a puncture and Mike kindly sorted him out with a few patches. He was very grateful and there were plenty of salaam aleikums, bon voyages and inshallahs exchanged.

The second was two young blokes on a rough part of the piste who had run out of gas. Mike and I suspect they may have lived nearby and prayed on good hearted samaratans such as ourselves. But I checked their tank and they were pretty much bone dry, so we syphoned a litre or so for them and took off.

The piste took us all day and we were pretty tired by the time we arrived at the Form Zguid camp ground. There we met a really nice Dutch couple in a campervan who had a massive great dane. Being bikers themselves back in Holland they took pity on our bedraggled state and cooked us a fantastic spag bol for dinner. All good! Our next destination is near Tan Tan where we will meet with Hans and head down through the Western Sahara and on to Mauritania.


  1. Simon!!! the trapped leg part was totally breathtaking man. I'm glad you are a strong monito for lifting 200 kilos by yourself.
    Go Simon go! Be safe. xxx.

  2. O.M.G. I am glued to your progress AND.. incidents along the way! All VERY interesting and heaps better than the next episode of Neighbours :-) x

  3. Mmm, the food at the market looks yummy, I bet you stocked up well that day! Like the photo, you look all hot and bothered, I’d say a cross between Ewan McGregor and Keith Flint in the Firestarter video!! ;o) Hope everything’s going well with your new comrades Peter and Hans. Until later...Godspeed... xx