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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Jdeks, Feb 26, 2013.
Great adventure! More Morocco please!
I think the 800GS is a good bike to ride tracks and off road, but alone is not a safe way to do it.
Yes, agreed. The F800 is good, but the hire company would only put on Heidenau K60 tires, not knobbies, which made it a bit hard. I also think the suspension needs work...
Report of the year!!
Waiting for next installment
Never jump into cab or order meals with drinks without knowing the exact costs. The smallest cheapest guide books will always have these requests listed as well as other basic needs (hotel costs, how to call for police, doctor). I admire your sense of travel, how ever you were really lucky in not getting really fleeced on your adventure. That 70 dollar dinner in Thailand was about 10% of their monthly salary, and you covered that on just one meal. Be careful and continue to travel.
Yeah! Lesson definitely learned, dont worry bout that! I was much more savvy when I came back 2 weeks later....but thats another chapter.
Sorry its coming so slow. I was hit off my 950 by a truck about 8 weeks ago, and kind of broke 5 bones and lost the use of my right arm. Only just got out of hospital, and still learning to type one-handed. Don't worry, more coming soon.
And a speedy recovery to you...
Please, bore us with your detailed and pleasant writing of what's going in this adventure.
It's like the ride to Merzouga. Flying over the road, all day, feeling happy for being alive and enjoying the landscapes and the thoughts they sugest.
Get back to your bike, in good shape, as soon as possible.
While I type, heres a bit of eye candy. Hand-shot with a beat-up old Canon 500D if you're wondering.
<iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/l4gzjguQnFY" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>
Great movie, plenty of time for editing atm I'm guessing , hope your mending is going well. What was the music in the clip?, Gavin
Great video! Where is the curvy road with the blocks for a guard rail? Spain?
I hope you're not filming with the clutch hand though?! :eek1
Yes on both accounts :) filming with the throttle hand didn't really work
Soundtrack is "clean colored wire" by Engineers
Great report - looks like an awesome trip.
I had a go on an F800GS a few weeks ago - Maffra down to Bellbird and back via McKillops Bridge with a friend who needed to get the hang of gravel riding. Lovely bike, probably much more suited to my needs than the 990, but it doesn't have the 'stupid grin factor!' http://d26ya5yqg8yyvs.cloudfront.net/icon10.gif
Hope the injuries are healing up - is the arm temporarily out of action or is it more serious?
Yeah the 800 is good. I think it just needs a little tweaking, especially the suspension. Talking to a few other owners, its apparently something of an issue, same as with the soft front on the 9*0's. Does the crazy fuel economy make up for lack of grins though? Probably not.
They screwed my hand back together OK, and the foot has healed up too. But the shoulder is looking fairly serious sadly. AC joint surgery successful, but having major nerve issues, being that they don't work. Got zero shoulder function in dominant arm. Lotsa muscle wasting. Comminuted scapula giving me issues too. May be back under the knife again soon, who knows.
Throw me a PM if you want the gruesome details
Chap 6: Charity
The night air had at last taken a turn for the cooler, and so I slept on the roof (quite common in these parts). I didn't fall asleep until late, but some primal instinct woke me before dawn. As the light slowly bled into the sky, washing away the luminous mural of stars, the monochrome moonscape flushed with pastel pinks and purples, the ominous black silhouettes of the dunes slowly defining themselves against the paling sky. Then, as if by a switch, the first rays crested the rocky horizon to splash upon the sands, unveiling their enormity no more than a stones' throw from where I lay, the blue sky stark against their bright orange flanks - a herald of the heat that would soon overwhelm the lingering cool of night.
Nothing breaks the heat of the Sahara quite like....a morning swim??
Ships of the Desert.
Breakfast was another affair of breads and yogurts, and as I enjoyed my 3rd glass of mint tea a column of camels wound their way out from the base of the dunes, carrying the tourists who had chosen to camp there for the night. As the robed staff led the camels off to be watered, I chatted with two young American girls about their night under the stars, and decided that before I left, I had to go and see some of these dunes close up. I didn't even bother considering the bike – I knew with my lack of talent, its luggage and tires, I would be faster on foot. With a bottle of water and a pair of Volleys, I hopped down from the terrace and started off along the camel tracks, the somewhat alarmed faces of the Americans following me.
It wasn't until after I lost count of the dunes I had passed that I realized just how disorientating the Erg can be. The dry sand flows like water in the wind, and your tracks are soon gone once out of your sight. With no points of reference other than the golden waves looming over you, losing your way is very easy. An hour had past, but the sand, sapping the strength from each step, had let me cover no more than what I estimated to be a few kilometers. I was well out of sight of the hotel, so I decided to make for a high point and find my way back. The ascent up the dunes was arduous, sand slipping away almost as far as each step took you, but it was worth it for the view.
One Shoe to rule them all...
Where the heck am I?
Rivers of sand.
The hills in the distance mark the Algerian border.
The hotel, and behind it the plain from the previous night. The water pipeline is visible in the left foreground, and the Atlas mountains in the background.
I stumbled across this on the way back – as far as I could tell, it was the staffs' quarters.
Sightseeing done, I indulged in a glorious tumble off the side of the dune, cradling my poor DSLR as I barrel-rolled a good, gritty hundred meters, down into what appeared to be the water bore for my hotel. The pipeline made for an easy path back to civilization, where I surprised the American girls mid-breakfast by accidentally clambering back onto the terrace right next to their table. I paid a very resonable 500 dirham (~45 euro) bill for my stay, bade a grateful farewell to my hosts, and set off back into the rocky plain that had caused me so much strife the night before.
But in the daylight the trials became trivial, and I was quickly enjoying myslef, scooting along off-piste, blowing through lumps of sand with ease, no I could see where to go. I quickly found a piste, and then the tarmac, and before I knew it, I was cruising through the frontier towns I'd ignored the night before, stopping between the sweeping corners to take photos of the lush green rivers that wound along the otherwise desolate valleys.
Much easier by day.
Arfoud was much less busy buy day than it was by night. Possibly because of the 37 degree heat.
The contrast of the river valley oases to the otherwise totally barren desert plain was stark.
Entering the Atlas Plateau. The road was spectacular, but I was wondering what could explain those curious slanted strata in the rock (I'm thinking ancient seabed?).
The heat was up in the high 30's, but not overly bothersome in its own right. My pace was the problem - I was not drinking enough, and dehydration hit me hard by mid morning. Stopping at a roadside stall for a 50c bottle of 2L chilled water, I drew a laugh from a few locals by once again emptying it in single long draught. But half-an-hour down the road, I was still feeling light-headed and ill. I'd drained a further liter from my camelback too, and being no stranger to hot conditions, I was quick to recognize the problem. Water alone is not enough in heat like this – copious sweating was leeching my body of electrolytes. A 10 minute break in the shade of my bike, and 2 oral rehydrate electrolyte sachets, and the improvement was remarkable. But it was a sharp warning – I was pushing my limits, and it wasn't yet even lunch.
Truth was, I was still shattered. It was day five, and I was averaging around 10 hours riding to 5 hours sleep a day, skipping meals along the way to do so. I set myself a revised destination with an early arrival – Fez. Headache gone, I began to enjoy the sweeping bends that climbed their way back into the Atlas Mountains, and just as I scraped my footpeg for the first time that day, paradox struck. The cloud became deep and dark, and then opened, pouring thick, heavy rain onto the desert floor. Torrents of muddy water washed over the poorly-drained road, but the wave of cool, tangy air was a welcome relief. 'Florence and The Machine' blaring in my helmet, I happily splashed my way through the paradoxical desert storm.
The rain was not without its victims.
Not game to overtake on the wet, blind curves, I stopped briefly on the northern edge of the Atlas', allowing the slow moving traffic to creep down the last set of switchbacks. As I surveyed the vast plain below, two ragged, wet beggars, one with a grubby baby in a shawl on her back, climbed down the embankment and walked over, hands out imploringly. The small change in my pocket satisfied them, and they retreated to situpon some muddy rocks nearby, seemingly resigned to the rain. I looked around for their camp, first amidst the scrubby hills, and then out on the mile upon mile of plain in front of me. But I saw nothing, nothing but sand and rock. I'm not a father, and the last Moroccan beggar I'd encountered, I'd almost punched in the face. But this was not Tangier. This was, as close as I could tell, the middle of nowhere. I was suddenly and acutely aware of the vast gulf of wealth between me and this thin, sodden, young mother, as vast as the plain that stood before my feet. All I could think about was that I was wearing enough money to probably feed her child for a year.
Still garbed in my goggled stormtrooper outfit, I beckoned to her and after some reluctance, she rose and walked over. I fished out a 50 dirham note - as much as my last restaurant meal cost me, and easily 20 times the change I'd just given her. Surprise flashed over her face, then a thin, strong hand shot out from her shawl and snatched the note, only to return just as fast, palm up and waving, demanding more. No word of thanks, or even acknowledgement, this hand was quickly joined by her companion's, both eagerly and unashamedly seeking more of the charity I could clearly afford to give. I shook my head to let them know I would give no more, and returned do my bike, not sure what to think. They didn't follow, but simply returned to their spot in the mud. Climbing once again onto my shiny new BMW, packing my expensive DLSR into my warm, dry Gortex jacket, I found it very easy to forgive their greed, if you could really call it that. Could I? The ride back down onto the plain was lost, spent deep in introspection.
Chapter 7: I'm more of a Thai man, myself....
As is often the case when traveling somewhere new, retracing my steps back along the N13 seemed to present an entirely new slideshow. Leaving the desert plain and heading back into the central highlands, the road to Azrou was now scattered with the nomad encampments of goatherds. The hills seemed somehow greener, the road curvier than I remembered. I wasn't until I entered a pine forest that I realized my memory wasn't failing me, just my sense of direction. I had in fact left the N13 and was heading to Ifrane, yet another of Morocco's little paradoxes. Nestled amongst pine forest in the foothills of the Middle Atlas mountains, the green parks, neat streets and steep-roofed stone houses made this town seem more appropriate for Swiss Alps than northern Africa. The mid-afternoon sun beckoned an early halt, to spend the evening in this invitingly peaceful scene. But being a slave to my schedules, I barely slowed for a few photos, before pushing on to Fez.
These lads were either bike enthusiasts, very bored or possibly very stoned. For the merits of the F800's rotax, it let me down a little here - despite my best fork-bouncing, it would not give this man the wheelie he so desired to see.
Cool and green, Ifrane makes for an inviting destination.
Fez is ancient. The original home of the Moroccan royal family, the Medina is over 1000 years old. It's big too, the Old and New cities being home to over a million Moroccans. The traffic reflected this. After 3 days of relative calm on the open road, the bustle, whilst slightly more organized than Tangier, was nonetheless a jolt to my tired system. Pulling up at one set of traffic lights in the New city, I was surprised to hear a voice chirp out beside me in English.
Hey, hey! You, sir! You are looking for hotel, nice hotel?!
A wiry boy sat atop a banged-up scooter in the lane next to me. Assuming for the time being he was simply tying to be helpful, I pointed at my GPS and shook my head.
Shukran, Non, Merci. I have a hotel.
No no no, you get lost! I take you to better hotel he insisted.
By now, I was pretty sure I knew where this was going and what it would cost me, but at that moment, the light turned green. 'Saved by the bell!' I thought, as I took off up the road, but my escape blocked by traffic, he pursued, joined now by two of his mates on equally dilapidated bikes, all casually splitting impossible gaps between cars, following me up the broad avenue. Each light was the same tedious conversation, and at last, with patience worn thin, I gave up on diplomacy and resorted to horsepower. With one last 'Non Merci! I filtered the three cars in front and before the scooters could follow, the light turned green and I twisted the throttle to the stop. Hoiking a squealing, flying wheeling for all the intersection to see, I sped off down the avenue with a properly African disregard for speed limits, lanesplitting and even the curb of the next two roundabouts.
When my mirrors were free of scootersmoke for a good several minutes, I stopped, reset my GPS, and was soon cruising around the hotel district near the Medina. I was just about to try and find the second one on my list, when the narrow streets began to echo the now-familiar strain of the two-stroke chorus. With precision that would make synchronized swimmers swoon, my persistent pursuers pulled up in a phalanx around me.
The walls of Old Fez intersect the modern roads, marking the approach to the medina and old city.
Defeated, exhausted, and admittedly a little unsure about exactly how to get there, I agreed to let them take me to the next hotel on my list. Easier to find than I thought, Pension Campini turned out to be a cheap but rough little hostel with one very appealing feature: it was not 100 meters from the local police station, in view of a guardhouse. My guides didn't ask for any money, but rather insisted that they come back later, to take me to their father's tannery, cousin's restaurant, brother's coffee store and 3rd-uncle-twice-removed's wool factory. Desperately tired and again feeling the onset of dehydration, as they patiently waited across the street, I asked the friendly young English-speaking publican behind the desk if I could trust them. His face said all I needed, but he elaborated, saying We always recommend to take official city guides in Medina. The stories from the people who take others... they are never happy. I had just showered and commenced an impromptu nap on my surprisingly spacious floor when he knocked on my door again the boys had returned. Trudging down the stairs, I informed them I'd have to decline their offer. My excuse was in no small part true I was just too tired.
I awoke some hours later to a cool night breeze, carrying voices through the billowing curtains. Leaving the light off and staying back from the sill, I peered through the bars. Below was my bike, where it I had left it, but around it stood the scooter crew, peering over it and talking amongst themselves. Suspicion immediately raced through my mind, but I felt I couldn't immediately assume it was nothing more than friendly curiosity - how many times had I stopped on the street to drool over a shiny bike? But then, how many times had I returned two hours later to re-examine it with my mates? I decided to go down and ask them, but in the time it took to descend the flight of stairs, they had vanished. Using my wire pack-lock, I secured the bike to a pole and went back upstairs to dress properly, only to be interrupted by yet more voices: this time a pack of small children who had turned my bike into their personal jungle-gym. They scattered when I approached, but reformed a timid ring once I kicked the motor to life. Chattering nervously in French, most shook their head when I beckoned for them to have a seat, but one who I'd seen earlier sitting upon the saddle making Bruummm! noises, jumped up in a flash. With a snow-white grin wide across his face, he pushed the horn a few times, then with the utter inhibition of any young boy, grabbed the throttle and promptly redlined it. Gently prising his fingers off, I made it clear his turn was up, and off he ran, the other children eagerly following him. I looked around, but their parents where nowhere to be seen, and I couldn't help but envy them: at twice their age I would have been confined to bed for hours by now, and here they were at 11pm, making the streets their own private soccer field. As late as it was, I could still here sounds of activity coming from the Medina, and so with a few directions and the curfew time from my friend at the desk, I set off into the night.
I was almost immediately lost. City planner apparently wasn't a popular profession in 700AD, and the alleyways were as crooked as the were narrow (which is to say, very). Hopping over bags of garbage and stray cats, I eventually took my chances at an empty restaurant with a kind-faced old man at the front door, who welcomed me into a slightly dingy interior with beaming smiles between his soft, clear French. $4 got me a three course meal and a coke, and I figured I had at least a few hours to find my way back to the toilet I may soon desperately need. But as midnight rolled past, I found myself embedded deeper still in the medina, becoming increasingly wary of the strangers in the shadows, squeezing down alleys almost too narrow even for me (at 70kg to 180cm, that's narrow). I was lost, and in a place that looked like I probably shouldn't be lost . And yet strangely, I didn't care, and rather than try and retrace my steps, I pushed forwards, pausing occasionally for a photo, almost entranced by the ancient flagstones I was treading. I was just contemplating turning back, when I heard a voice behind me.
'I can haz cheezburger?'
That cat would not let me go down that alley.
Are you lost?
A wiry young man sat on some low stairs outside a barred roller-door, flanked by two others, his shadowed face unreadable.
No, no, I'm fine I half-lied.
He swapped a few words with his friends in Arabic, then asked, Where are you from?
Australia... I replied.
A few more words were exchanged, a short laugh, then he turned back to me and stated without a hint of contrition,Your soccer team
it is not so good.
I couldn't help but burst out laughing. Tension eased, he spoke again, Come and sit with us my friend, do you want a drink? Here, here, come and sit, talk with us, shuffling aside to make a spot between him and his friend on the stair. Handshakes were exchanged between warm smiles, and before I knew it, he'd sent one of his friends away on a drink run and was offering me a drag on what was definitely some fairly potent marijuana. I felt awkward declining, wondering how to explain, but he seemed very understanding. His English was equal to mine, and as his friend returned, handing me a bottle of water, I reached for some change to fulfill my Western obligations of repayment. But he laughed and said No no no! No money, do not worry. It's a gift. We are not these types who harass you, just try to sell you things. Moroccans, we are not all like this.
I must have talked with them for nearly an hour. He was both curious about my journey, and eager to share their own lives. Only a year my senior, he ran the family coffee shop, whos steps we now sat upon. In addition to his excellent English, he also spoke his native Arabic, as well as French, Spanish and German, as well as some Russian. As we spoke, he translated for his friends, who mostly listened. The topics of discussion ambled like the alleys I'd become lost in, ranging from Fez's history and layout (FYI: the medina has 9,500 alleys), to my journey and opinion of Morocco, even to more contentious topics like religion, which despite my honesty about my atheism, turned out to be not really very contentious at all. But it wasn't long before we came to that topic young men from all cultures can find common ground on: women.
So, you have a wife? I replied in the negative.
Girlfriend, then? the pressed.
No, no girlfriend. What about you, are you married?
No, no I want a Japanese wife.
Unsure if I heard right, I echoed his words in query.Oh yes, Japanese! My uncle, he was divorced, but then he was married again to a Japanese woman. They are very beautiful. I would like to go to Japan and study, and find a beautiful Japanese wife he continued emphatically, making a gesture as if he had tasted a glass of the finest wine.
It was approaching my hotels curfew, so reluctantly I told my friend I had to go. Another round of handshakes were exchanged and I was given directions back, then left with a final message Come back again soon. We all are brothers, Islam, Christian, Jews, everyone. You are always welcome, Coming from anywhere else, and indeed to many jaded westerners, it would have seemed a trite, throwaway line, but his actions had given it a profound sincerity. I didn't notice the shadows on the walk back to the hotel, which passed quickly as I replayed the last hour in my head, a profound demonstration of the true Moroccan hospitality I had heard so much about. He didn't realize it, but that young man, who name I sadly cannot remember, had not only validated my chosen route through his country, but also left me wondering whether my own suspicion of the three boys on scooters had ironically been the only real cheat of the day.
Any updates? :)
I've thoroughly enjoyed your journey so far. Looking forward to the next post!
That's damned good writing. We'd love another installation.