A solo trip through Thailand, Spain and Morocco

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Jdeks, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    Karlsruhe, Germany
    Great read! Thailand is high up on my 'to do' list, should have already been there years ago. In retrospect, would you recommend the rental company in Bangkok?

    Interesting to read this. It seems we'd been in the same area at night on the way to the Yasmina kasbah, only that we had good weather and a gps map with most of the tracks. Much easier, once you've found a track to follow.

    Get well soon!
    #41
  2. Jdeks

    Jdeks Departed

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    Hi everyone,

    Update soon, Ive been back on the bike (got bored of waiting for it to come back to life) and busy riding. Mt Buller this weekend past, off to the Simpson desert in about 2 weeks, will try and get at least another chapter done before then.


    Yes, I would certainly recommend Bangkok Bike Rentals, if you're visiting Bangkok. Good central location, and they run a very professional workshop. Bikes are all properly insured and in great condition (insisted on washing it and topping the oil up before I left), staff are riders themselves and really friendly, very accommodating, speak English and give you all the rego paperwork and their mobile number if you need some assistance. They are much more expensive than bike rental places elsewhere in more rural cities up north. But at the end of the day you're getting a 1st-world rental service at a fraction of what you'd pay normally, not just some farmer letting you borrow his scooter for a few baht. The website looks kind of tacky, and their email is a hotmail address, but they reply quickly and are definitely the real deal. Two thumbs up :thumb:thumb

    As for Morocco, my mistake was trying to go 'as the crow flies'. You're right, the pistes are dead easy, but hard to see at night when it's blowing sand, and Garmin's coverage of Morocco is fairly rubbish. Once you lose the track, things get a little trickier :evil
    #42
  3. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    #43
  4. Jdeks

    Jdeks Departed

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    Chapter 8 - Challenge: accepted.
    31 Aug

    I stood silently at the balcony. The terrace dropped away sharply below me, seemingly as steep as the hillside that stretched away into the darkness on either side. Littered with lights and laughter, the whitewashed houses of Mijas clung to the steep slope, almost as if they were a part of it, their glowing eyes gazing down on the Spanish coastline. Before me, miles of darkness yawned, speckled with the glittering motes of Fuengirola, its streets bright against the dark of the Mediterranean beyond. The steep cobbled streets that wound their way among the terraces were crowed with people, filling the bars and cafes and plazas. It was a Friday night, happy hour – not that I noticed. Unwashed, dressed in a singlet and riding clothes still caked with Saharan dust, I was still elsewhere. My eyes searched south across the water, looking towards where I expected Tangier would be. Twelve hours ago I'd been in another country, another continent,, and while my body had moved to where I stood now, my mind was still not quite ready to join it.


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    Thwack, thwack, thwack.

    The rubber soles of Dunlop volleys sent their applause echoing along the alleyway ahead of me. My late-night excursion into Fez's medina, while eventful, had left me moderately lost, and dangerously close to my hotel's curfew. I was back on a thoroughfare of some description (if you can call a four-foot wide alley a thoroughfare), going in the right direction, but still seeing nothing I recognized. An took an instinctive gamble on a feeling that I needed to head further right, and spying a familiar set of stairs I quickened my pace. Heading towards the walls of the old palace, I arrived outside the hotel to see the nightman sitting in a chair just outside the door, chatting with a young lady. With a knowing smile that said I wasn't the first guest to get lost in the maze of alleyways, he bade me goodnight and I went up to my room, thoroughly relieved I wasn't going to be spending a night with the alley-cats.


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    A rooftop view of Fez. The hostelier made a point of telling me not to take photos of the palace grounds. So naturally, you can see them in the middle left of the shot.



    I awoke to the sound of voices in the street, mingling with the cool breeze and mid-morning sunlight streaming in through the window, and realized immediately I'd overslept – unsurprisingly, a flat phone wakes no man. Rummaging through my bags, I found the ferry timetable and did some rough math in my head, and realized I had 330 km of lumpy, windy, jalopy-riddled highway to cover and a border crossing to get through, and only 4 hours to do it.


    A hurricane of chaos and clothing erupted, and within minutes, I was packed and out the door, a hasty thanks and the room key thrown in the general direction of the counter on the way past. I took a gamble and skipped filling up, and hit the road running. If I missed the afternoon ferry, not only would I have to spend the night in Tangier and waste a payed-for night of food and board, but I would also miss the first day of trail riding in Spain, wasting a day of rental on one bike while copping an extra day of charges on the other. Between slaloming my way around lopsided trucks and stray goats, I added up almost $600 worth of reasons not to miss my ferry. Morocco, however, seemed intent to have me as its guest for another night, with traffic slowing me down and oddities taunting me to stop.


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    Right of way, my ass!

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    I think I ran over one of their melons....


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    Unbeknownst to the men and elves of Middle-Earth, Gandalf in fact retired to live in the foothills near Tetouan.



    By midday, my relentless pace forced me to refuel, and as I waited for the pump attendant to fill the tank, I decided to do a bit of refueling myself. Musing over mileage as I munched my last muesli bar, I was bought out of my reverie by the sound of tambourines and singing. Puzzled, I looked up, just in time to see 3 pickups drive past, each tray crammed full of women dressed in their garish robes. Singing, laughing and waving to passers-by, they were partying like it was nobodies business. Puzzled by this sight, I turned to the pump attendant, who simply shook his head and rolled his eyes in an unsaid statement that needed no translation: “Women...”

    I didn't have time to dally and investigate this cultural oddity any further. No matter how I tweaked the numbers in my head, I wasn't going to make it in time. Not unless I rode faster - a lot faster.

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    Mitsubishi Party Wagon. The short one in the black and white scarf doesn't seem overly impressed .....


    Despite what society might think about riders, I'm not usually a lawbreaker on the roads. My license back home has no points on it, and save for the occasional sly filter at the traffic lights, I stay in my allocated lane doing what the red-circled signs tell me to do. But ever since my near-death experience(s) - and subsequent rebirth - on the streets of Bangkok, that western reserve had been slipping away. Mile by mile, donkey by donkey, exception had become the norm. And so it was that when I crested an abrupt rise on the edge of a seemingly all-but-deserted town, one wheel just clearing the pavement, throttle pinned at 160kph, I did not expect the police checkpoint.


    There was absolutely no question about it – I was done. Foreign and illiterate, I would be totally vulnerable – 'fined' down to my last dirham, and then probably arrested anyway. In the half-second it took to explore that hypothetical, I made my decision. The chief officer's mouth, or what I saw of it as I went past, appeared to be as wide open as my throttle, and the younger man behind him wasn't even bothering to bring the antique tripod mounted radar-gun to bear on me. I was past them and around the corner before I had time to look in my mirrors, and I didn't slow down. Did they have radios? Did they get my plates? Could, for the first time in history, a French vehicle chase down a German one? I had 80km to Tangier to find out.


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    I possibly risked getting in a LOT of trouble taking this photo, but I couldn't leave without a photo of a real-life Renault Armored Battlewagon.


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    I never thought I'd be so happy to see Tangier again.


    I made good time (but terrible fuel economy) getting into Tangier. Tentatively overtaking a police Renault on the outskirts confirmed I was not one of Morroco's Most Wanted, and I sped quickly to the docks. Rushing into the ticket office I was relieved to find the vendor spoke English, and the ferry hadn't left. I made off down the road to the immigrations compound, and immediately fell for a tout in a fluro jacket, masquerading as an official and directing rich-looking traffic to one side. Being down to my last 20 dirham note, it was here I inadvertently discovered that the easiest way to get rid of unwanted helpers is to just pay them terribly. Thoroughly unimpressed, FauxFluro left to harass someone else, and I ducked off quickly to hand off my exit forms and get my passport stamped, hoping my bike would be safe for the few minutes I was away. But when I returned, I found another man hover over my bike. As I approached, he came up and asked me if I was sure I had everything. Fearing another tout con, I said thanked him and said I had everything I needed, then promptly ate my words as, from behind his back, he produced my GPS unit. It was then I recognized him – he was the ferry ticket man, who had walked all the way along the dock from his office, to find the flustered tourist who'd left this valuable trinket on his desk in their haste. Lost for words, I shook his hand and thanked him, trying to fish around in my pocket for some Euros for his trouble. But he simply shook his head and smiled, then disappeared back into the crowd, leaving me standing alone and bewildered, not dissimilar to my first passage through the immigrations carpark. My brief Moroccan experience, it seemed, had come full-circle.



    The ferry ride back was rough. I didn't bother taking my luggage off the bike, instead sprawling into a chair in the main cabin, until the violent rocking made several people sick. Retreating to the roof, I took out my phone and swapped the battery. My troublesome TravelSIM had been completely unusable up until this point in time, but strangely enough no sooner than I'd turned it on, text messages started streaming in. As I read through each of them, I couldn't help but laugh – a sad laugh of exhaustion and irony. Three days ago, while I'd been riding solo across the desert at night, Lyndon, an experienced and competitive enduro racer with a bid to enter the Dakar Rally, had broken his foot riding home from work.
    #44
  5. Jdeks

    Jdeks Departed

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    [​IMG]
    Nap O'clock.


    Thankfully, the weekend ride was still on. Lyndon had elected to still come down and enjoy the warmer weather, but would now just be forced to watch from the sidelines and endure bad peg-leg jokes. With nothing more that could be done, I rolled off the ramp in Tarifa and started the ride north along the freeway back to Malaga. The sun was setting, the sea breeze gently buffeting the bike ... only I was in a tunnel. Suddenly it was no longer gentle, but insistent. A strong push kicked my rear wheel wide to the right, catapulting me into the beginnings of a 120 kph tank-slapper. To my utter disbelief, I looked left to see a Range Rover, attempting to undertake me in the two-thirds of a lane between my bike and the tunnel wall. Kicking out with my left foot to stabilize the bike, I slowed as a large piece of plastic broke away from his bumper. Veering into the next lane, I watched him speed past – squinty eyes peering out of a fat face, resolutely pretending I hadn't been there, his wife staring at me, blanch-faced and open mouthed in horror. It took me a good 10 seconds or so to realize that this had indeed just happened, at which point I noticed his two children in the back seat grinning and giving me the finger – no doubt a skill they had learned off their soon-to-be late father.



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    This is what happens to a Wolfman pannier upon impact with a Range Rover.



    The Range Rover had be moving fast, but I moved faster. His wife managed to somehow become even whiter when I pulled up alongside her window, but the fat face of the driver stayed resolutely fixed upon the road ahead, ignoring her imploring tugs on his sleeve. Even when I shot forward and pulled around in front of him, those eyes still somehow seemed to find somewhere, anywhere to look but at me, obstinate in his refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation he'd caused, despite my gestures leaving very little doubt about my intentions. Betting that if he hadn't the courage to look at me, he wouldn't have the stomach to deliberately run me down, I tapped the brakes and slowly forced him to slow, but I misjudged. With a sudden dive of his fender that sent his wife lurching forward, he swerved off, down an exit ramp, and was gone before I could follow.


    As I toyed briefly with the idea of taking the next exit and seeing if I could intercept him, I heard shouting from a Renault next to me. An agitated man in painters overalls was waving at me frantically out of his window. Fearing the scrape had inflicted some unnoticed damage, I pulled over, and no sooner than had I removed my helmet, the man was out, babbling in Spanish and waving at the road behind us. Unable to say more than “Lo siento, no hablo Espanol”, he soon calmed down and it became clear he wasn't upset at me, but rather as furious with the FatRover as I had been, having almost copped the piece of plastic I kicked off it. Miming his heart pounding in his chest and shaking his head, he made it clear he thought I was a dead man, as it started to dawn on me how very nearly I had been. Relieved I was OK, he gave me a brief continental hug and took off. Adrenaline exhausted, I took a moment to calm myself down, and despite the anger having etched that fat, squinty face into my memory, I let it go. I stayed in the slow lane the rest of the way to Malaga, eyes fixated on my rear view mirrors.


    Arriving late at the Motoadventours workshop, Hana was as horrified as the painter had been, and barely concerned about the scuffs on the pannier. Before long, the bike was away safe and I was packing my backpack, a crowded van pulled up outside. The clatter of crutches and several raucous pommy accents left no doubt as to who was inside: out piled Lyndon, followed by Shaun, Rick and Baz, our local expert/bus driver/ride leader/mad bloke. Introductions out of the way, Shaun was the first to ask me how the trip went. Simultaneously wired and tired from the last hour, the best I could answer was “I don't remember...”.
    “So! You went to Ketama after all!” he said, bringing laughter all round.
    Despite Ketama's fame for sale of cannabis by the cubic foot, my memory loss was more exhaustion and reverse culture shock than purple daze. Intent on beer and seafood, they piled me into the van and we took off, winding up steeper and steeper roads into tower-like hills. Baz threw the laden van around like a rally driver, obviously intimately acquainted with each curve, and before long we all piled out into a BBQ-seafood restaurant with a view to die for (or at least I hope the shrimp felt that way).


    Thankfully there was no real dress-code, and as the lads ordered beer I took a moment to myself. Staring down the coast the way I'd come that day, I realized this jaded state of confusion I'd been struggling with for much of the trip wasn't going to disappear with some epiphany - but that was the whole point. I'd gone away on this trip with my head full of tales from uni students or their gap year, bragging of the cultural revelations they'd experienced between pub-hopping their way along whatever tourist route they'd chosen. But this was different – there was no filter for me, no guide, no real plan. I saw whatever I ran into, good or bad, and the confusion was simply the result of unfiltered exposure to a world I didn't understand. In a way, the confusion was actually the most valuable aspect of the trip, and the best thing I could do now was stop trying to rationalize or understand it, and go eat some chilli prawns.
    #45
  6. jnorton1

    jnorton1 Been here awhile

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    Loveland Colorado
    Great report, and beautifully written!
    #46
  7. Jdeks

    Jdeks Departed

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    This thread need more photos:



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    Not sure why she was so grumpy?



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    He was a bit difficult when it came to getting the model release signed.




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    30 baht is about 1 AUD. And that cow just did not give a fuck.


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    Thai heavy-vehicle drivers just love turning their trucks and buses into rolling murals.

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    Tarifa's Medina at about 10pm.




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    I couldn't believe it when I saw it either, but yes, apparently, having Fosters' on tap is something to have a sign about in Spain.



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    Oh yes, I'm going to fit *right* in here.


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    Lost...somewhere near the docks in the Tangier medina. Smelled of dead cats.


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    Tangier does have its wealthier suburbs - the amount of money you have I assume is proportional to the height of the wall around your house.




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    There's a lot of development going on around Tangiers. A new port has been opened recently, and now residential blocks are going up. The dozer driver was quite fredinly and let me climb up to take a photo, then pointed out a better spot up the road.


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    Rural backroads southeast of Tangier. Don't know what's with the oriental architecture.


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    There's so much cheap pot in Morocco, maaaaaaaaaannnn.


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    On the road inbto Chefchaouen. I wish graffiti in our country was this nice.


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    New Chefchouen is actually very contemporary.




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    Prize goes to the best 'rug' pun.

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    The medina is not wheelchair accessable. Nor was the resaurant.

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    The veiw from the terrace was pretty good though. New Chefchaouen, as seen from Old Chefchaouen.

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    One of the more modern apartments in Chefchaouen. Lots of Brit and French expats move their and either retire or open B&B's. It's a really pretty town.


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    Just your average roadside MelonShack (tm).



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    Central Morocco, foothills of the Middle Atlas Mountains. A guy selling carved stone camels showed me this spot. I bought a camel in return, which is sitting on my desk watching me now.


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    Typical house in Ifrane. Apparently it snows around there in winter.

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    Thai Expat?


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    It took me all of breakfast to figure this out.


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    Real life oases are not as picturesque as you may have thought.


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    Erg Chebbi actually has quite a few resorts scattered around it. Surprised I didn't clean myself up on one of these signs the night before.

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    Waait a minute, that's not Morocco! [​IMG]
    #47
  8. chasbo

    chasbo Long timer

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    Awesome report! I love your writing style. As a young man, I visited Jordan and Egypt and was left with similar feelings of culture shock as you experienced. I found it difficult to wrap my head around a lot of what I saw and I had the benefit of speaking Arabic. I have wanted to go back ever since. Morocco is one of the places I dream of visiting.
    #48