Germany to Morocco, with a brief stop in Spain!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jbar28, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. panFiluta

    panFiluta Adventurer

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    My bike (also a V-Strom, 07' with 40k km, valves never needed adjusting) breaks EVERY time I take my earplugs out and ride without them;) You just start to hear things like there's a bucket of stones in the engine.

    Not saying there's not a problem, just my observation - after riding most of the day with earplugs, my hearing becomes very sensitive of mechanical noises.

    Hope you'll be fine and thanks for beautiful ride report!
    #61
  2. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    Yeah, some truth to that. But I was riding yesterday earlier in the day without them (forgot to put them in after a stop) and didn't hear anything odd. But I think it may not be so complicated. I popped it up on the center stand this morning and I'm down just below the minimum oil level. I started it up just for a minute this morning and no strange noises, but the engine is cold, not warmed up. Could it be I just need some oil? I've covered 2900 miles since the oil change I did last month just before leaving, so I'm going to find a liter of motorcycle oil in the market this morning and add that and see what I get on a little ride. Might even think about changing it sometime before I get home, :lol3 it's another 2500 to 3000 miles depending on how far south I go. Never even thought about oil changes on a long road trip, but around home I'd never go 6000 miles without doing it.

    My excuse for not checking this last night was that it was very dark when I arrived at my friend's apartment, and I'd been on the road for 13 hours. And I'm kind of dumb that way.
    #62
  3. Don T

    Don T Bike Addict

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    You ride a V-Strom - just add some oil and the bike will be fine.

    V-Strom's dont brake down they die of old age :deal
    #63
  4. drisschoufa

    drisschoufa Adventurer

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    I will tell you also that fuel in some part of the country at some not so honest gas stations is not what it says at the pump they add stuff to it to make more profits, could it be that you fueled in morocco at a not honest gas station it happened to me before and there is no way to know until you start hearing noises coming from your engine.
    I had once pumped shitty gas to a car and it run like shiit until I burned 3/4 of the tank (lucky for me I was on the motorway way so no slowing down) then I refilled my tank and the problem went away.
    Bad quality gas in a small motorcycle engine is a lot worse that in a car and I am willing to bet that if you fueled in morocco you probably had bad gas sold to you.
    #64
  5. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    The good news is that the bike is fine, it seems. I wasn't able to find real motorcycle oil, so I had to use regular motor oil, but about 250ml filled it up and the noise either went away or I can't hear it with my ear plugs in. :D

    I had planned a day off riding today to visit my friends Eric and Michelle in Ifrane. Here's Eric in the market in Ifrane.
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    These are popular everywhere I've been in Morocco.
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    At lunch time Michelle came home sick, so I thought it best all around to get out of their cozy 1br apartment. Having company when you're sick can't be fun. I took the long route to Fes (Fez) where I'd made a quick reservation in a Riad in the Medina. You have to go there when in Morocco, right?

    My ride took me up through some pine and cypress forests and to Timahdte.
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    I had to stop here for a moment where my bike odometer turned to 20,000 miles.

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    I hit 10,000 on my way home through France on my last trip to Spain. I'll probably hit 30,000 somewhere a bit less interesting, like Eaton, Ohio, so these things have to be celebrated when they can. This is the only bike I've ever owned that I put more than about 1500 miles on.

    Eventually I made it to Fes, which I really don't care for. Too crowded, too many people trying to hustle the tourists, very stinky. Lives up to pretty much all my negative stereotypes. It's about enough to put me in a bad mood in spite of staying in one of the nicest places I've ever stayed.

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    I'm planning to get out of here tomorrow and meet up with Don T., a fellow ADV'er and V-Strom rider who is doing a trip from Denmark to Morocco. We had similar schedules and plans, so we're going to ride together for a while. Looking forward to that, one of the great things about ADV.
    #65
  6. drisschoufa

    drisschoufa Adventurer

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    glad all is well with your bike but the bad mixed quality gas should not be forgotten, try to put gas in large big gas station that are very busy.
    those tagines being cooked yummmmy.
    #66
  7. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    Pictures from yesterday have been addd to the post from yesterday, so if you want to see them click back a page.
    #67
  8. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    I haven't tried a tagine yet, only had the grilled meats. Will have to branch out tomorrow. I've had tagine in Moroccan restaurants in Europe so know I like it.

    LOTS of yummy looking and smelling things in the markets here.
    #68
  9. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    My dad sent me this picture of what he says is likely my first motorcycle ride. Ohio State Fair, August 1970. That's me on the left in the red stripe shirt, and my brother Tom with me.
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    Seeing this put a big grin on my face. :D

    Thanks Dad. Love you.
    #69
  10. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    I woke this morning at 3:30, unable to go back to sleep for no good reason. I got to thinking all kinds of stupid stuff, like my bike would get stolen, or maybe just the front wheel and I'd find it for sale in the souk, and stuff like that. I hated Fes and couldn't wait to get out of there. I got up to use the bathroom and hit my head on the wood carving over the doorway, which nearly knocked me over. Guess I need a sleeping helmet, too! I kept dwelling on all the crap of the night before. Not being able to find the hotel. Having to pay to park on the sidewalk. Having to pay a kid to help me get back to the hotel, and him insisting I give him 100 dirham (about $12) for walking me about one minute. (Didn't happen.) Feeling like I'm seen as a walking bank machine by everyone who sees me. Being too pissed of about dinner to even eat it. I looked at the menu at the riad (hotel) and the dinners were mostly about 300 dm ($40). :eek1 Huh? In Morocco? Dinner down the street was the same thing for 80 dm.
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    But it was too late to go out, so I just had a beer (still an unbelievable $5 for a 10 oz beer). I nearly came to my senses once and decided to order dinner anyway when a couple of Swiss guys came over to chat. They're riding to the Sahara, had seen me come in wearing riding pants, and wanted to chat about bikes, routes, etc. Nice guys, but by the time we got done tlking, I think it was too late to order dinner. Whatever. I wish my wife had been there, she would have pointed out that it was all done, we were in a great place, and to get over it and enjoy it. But I have a harder time with that. The kid who guided me told me the owner of my hotel was mafia and I was sleeping with mafia, like it was my fault. He also pointed out what he said was the hotel owners burgundy Mercedes right next to where I parked, as if to reassure me this was a good place. I didn't really buy any of it.

    But breakfast wasn't until 0830. I tried to sleep but couldn't. I might have gone down and checked on the bike but I was pretty sure the front door to the Riad would be locked either going out or coming back, so that made no sense. The only thing to do was wait.

    By breakfast I was really hungry, having skipped lunch and dinner yesterday. I don't really know why, but sometimes I get that way. I get going and I don't want to stop, unless it's to take a picture, which I'll u-turn and go back a mile for without hesitation.

    Anyway, I packed up my stuff, dumped it in a pile in the gorgeous tile courtyard, and had breakfast. While I was eating and drinking coffee spiced with cinamonn (yum) the owner came over and started chatting with me. He seemed like a nice guy, really enthusiastic about the riad, which he said he spent six years restoring. He said he saw where I left my bike, and that it was a good place, very safe, he parks his Mercedes there. Turns out his accountant lives about an hour from me, in Luxembourg, and he talked about living in the US, and other stuff. By the time I was done with breakfast and lot of good coffee, I was in a better mood. I even looked around and admired my surroundings. When I checked out he didn't even charge me for the beer.

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    I had no trouble finding the bike, and it was fine, as he said it would be. Only a spot of bird poop on the seat (glad I took my sheepskin cover off!). They guy I paid last night was still there, and gave me a friendly nod. OK, maybe this isn't all bad. I decided to give Fes another chance. Like my friend Pete said when I was thinking I was having bike trouble, "Think about where you are, and how hard it will be to get back there". Or something like that. So like with Lisbon earlier, I did my best to shrugg it off and went for a walk in the medina. It is the largest ancient medina in the world, and I decided I shouldn't run off quite so quick.

    On my way back I saw the Swiss guys, loaded up and getting a bit of help to get going. They had asked if I was on a BMW, coming from Germany, and they were surprised when I said no. I was equally surprised when I saw what they were riding.
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    I hope that when I'm in my sixties I'll still want to do things like ride a dirt bike 4000km's on vacation. (I'm not even sure I want to do that NOW!) What kind of bike is that, anyway. DR400? He had an aftermarket larger fuel tank on it and a Suzuki sticker slapped on it kind of off kilter.

    Turns out the medina is a very different place on a sunny morning. or maybe just on Friday, the Muslim holy day of the week. Shops are mostly still closed, the hustling kids must still be in bed, and I walked around for about an hour very peacefully.
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    It really is a very interesting place. Not somewhere I'd want to live, but very interesting to see. The smells were the most interesting. Mint tea and cat pee. Pigeon poop and cumin. Frying garlic and wet sweaty donkeys. Lots of good and lots of bad, but I like it a lot more in the morning.

    I took these pictures for my friend Mark, who owns a house I'm helping to restore in Piesport, Germany.

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    Very glad it's not as detailed as this, and very glad our supplies don't have to arrive by donkey!
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    OK, not everyone rides a donkey.
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    I even found a bric-a-brac salvage store up at the top of the hill.
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    The owner I talked with was Suleiman. When I asked him if he was named for Suleiman the Magnificent (longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire), he grinned and showed all nine of his teeth, and proclaimed that he was Suleiman the magnificent. I liked him immediately. Maybe that's why I ended up with a wool rug and a scrap piece of Fez tile.
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    Or maybe 'cause I kept walking away and the price kept coming down until they were $50 for the both.

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    Not sure what I'll do with them and it's dumb to haul them all the way south to Marrakech and back, but it was the thing to do at the time. Maybe make some coasters from the tile piece, I don't know.


    I hit the road and made it out of Fez, going through a really nasty suburb. This area is buildings made of bare concrete block, peppered with satellite dishes.
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    Not sure if it's clear in the picture but the huge pile of stuff off the side of the road is trash. Stinking, ugly, rotten trash, being eaten by goats and unloaded from trucks by hand, and every bag being picked over for anything of value.
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    The goat herders were sitting under tents on the mounds of trash, watching their flocks. I got to thinking about how some of these people live, and if I was in that place and someone like me came by on a shiny expensive motorcycle, someone who's helmet cost more money than I had seen in my whole life. I think I'd feel OK about looking at them as a walking bank machine, and about hustling them out of whatever I could.

    I took P4050 northwest from Fez, and if you're thinking about doing that, I'll save you the trouble. Lots of traffic and terrible pavement.
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    I've seen lots of these irrigation systems in both Spain and Morocco, and wondered if they are in use. I saw one today that had water flowing in it, on that had a plastic pipe in it, and this one, obviously not in use.
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    I got stopped by my first police checkpoint, two guys who shared very few common words with me. They talked in French, I talked in English, we all shrugged a lot and smiled. I finally showed them my GPS, as they seemed to want to know where I was going. They looked at my route and said it was "impratique". Well I knew that. I was riding 50km north to go somewhere that was 40km west. Yeah, but the scenery, the roads... they finally sent me off with a wish for bon journee.

    Turns out maybe it wasn't just the route that was impratique.
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    But I finally got to the end of it and turned south, retracing my favorite part of the N13 in the process. I stopped for gas and had a nice lunch (65 dirhams including water and Fanta). Maybe I've relearned the lessonn of don't skip food and water when easily available, as it leads to more poor decisions later. Bet I'll need to keep learning it.

    Another thing happened at lunch. After gassing up, I rode the 50 feet over to the restaurant parking without my gear on. After lunch, I was walking over to the bathroom when a young guy sitting at a table held out a black leather glove and asked me something. I looked at the glove, and thought, "Hey, that's just about like mine. Wait, maybe it IS mine. So I looked down at my hand, and sure enough, I didn't have it on (duh!). His little brother was wearing the other one, which he took off and handed me. He smiled and wished me "Bon Journee". Yeah, OK, not everyone here looks at me like a bank machine.

    I got to Volubilis and saw this bus, and for half a second couldn't believe a bus would come all the way from Africa. And then I realized that I was IN Africa. Duh! Somehow it's still a bit odd.
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    I spent about two hours walking around Volubilis. It's just really incredible to see what's there, all in it's original place, not glassed over and in a museum. There was a small sign asking that visitors not walk on the mosaics and not graffiti the walls, but that was about it.
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    If you're interested in Roman stuff, you GOTTA go here, and do it before they finish the new and expensive visitors center. Bet it will cost more than 10 dirhams ($1.50) to get in then.

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    Just over the hill from Volubilis is Moulay Idriss, the holiest town in Morocco for muslims. For those who cannot afford to make the required hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, required as one of the five pillars of Islam, five pilgrimages here is an acceptable substitute. During festival time in August, the area is packed, with people camping out in tents. Eric told me it is know for the two hills of town looking like a camel.
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    The town was closed to non-Muslims until 1912, but since then has welcomed visitors to all but the most holy sites. Here's a cool old travel poster from the early 20th century.
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    I ended up at the IBIS hotel in Meknes. Not really proud of the decision, but after last night I wasn't in the mood for more hotel adventures. Predictable corporate sounded good. And they have a POOL! It was pretty hot today walking around, about 85 degrees, so I couldn't wait to get in the pool. Which doesn't open until next week, and has no water. So much for predictable.

    Tonny (aka Don T.) arrived after a long ride from the coast, on some of the same roads I took two days ago. It was fun talking about some of the same things we had noticed. We're planning to ride together for the next few days, which I think will be fun. He's riding the NEWER model 650 V-strom, so I may have to work a bit to keep up with him.

    We walked over to the old medina to find some dinner and ate at a great little sandwich shop.
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    You order your meat, and are asked "how much?", which is usually what I'm asking, meaning the price. But they want to know how much meat you want to eat. You order by the hundred gram (about 1/4 pound) and they weight it out and give it to the guy at the grill, who cooks it for you over charcoal while you wait a few minutes. I had chicken, Tonny had beef heart ground into sausage, both were excellent. Wish this was common in the US.

    On the way back to the hotel we passed McDonalds, which was PACKED! This is just part of the outdoor seating area, which can probably seat 250 people.
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    And the drive through had maybe fifteen cars backed up waiting. Funny that many here seem to wish our way of eating was more common there, too. The grass (grease?) is always greener on the other side, right? Tonny called it candy food, ok for a couple times a year but you can't eat it regularly, and I agree.
    #70
  11. TK-LA

    TK-LA SoCal Rider

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    That is a wonderful pic. That, to me, is adventure travel. :clap
    #71
  12. milknosugar

    milknosugar Adventurer

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    I don't understand the rating system on adv.This is an amazing rr with very real photo's of the type of stuff I like.
    Great seeing places you have been and others that you haven't through other eyes.
    Very whimsical writing .
    #72
  13. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    Thank you. Glad you're enjoying it.
    #73
  14. conchscooter

    conchscooter Long timer

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    Very nicely done. I rode North Africa a couple of times in the 1970s ( I grew up near Orvieto, and was frequently stopped by the Carabinieri there, speeding, but I was young) and reading your report reminds me of the agitation of seeing AFRICA for the first time, and smelling it's exotic scents. Then after a bit you start to understand its all just people.

    I think you will relive this great journey every time you roll the Suzuki out for a ride in Ohio. Don't short yourself on any experience, but don't beleive this is the trip of your lifetime. These journeys have a way of altering our inner compasses and what would seem impossible for your neighbors at home will seem easy to you, once you get home. You will be different.
    #74
  15. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    Before leaving Germany I bought a map of Morocco, and today we made it to the south side, below the fold. We left Meknes about 9am. While Tonny fueled up, I snapped this picture of the taxis. Here's what you need to know about getting a taxi in Morocco.

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    There are two kinds of taxis, and they are different colors. There are small cars that are called Petit Taxi. They are like taxis in the US, you get in and they take you where ever you tell them, and you pay the fare on the meter. In this picture they are baby blue. The color varies from town to town but all the Petit Taxis are the same color in each town.

    Then there are Grand Taxis. These are usually 1970's and 80's Mercedes 240D. The same color rules apply, but these are more like small buses. They go from taxi stand to taxi stand, usually to the next town over or to a big town nearby. Each one has six seats, the driver and five passengers, and the passenger seats are each sold separately. Yeah, six seats in what most of us would consider a four seater.

    Say you are in Ifrane and you want to go to Fes, about 45 minutes away. You go to the Grand Taxi stand and find the head guy, who has a notebook. You tell him where you want to go, and he'll point you to the next taxi going there. But it doesn't leave until all five seats are sold. Maybe he already has 4 passengers and you're number five, but if not and you are in a hurry, you can buy the rest of the seats, so now the taxi is full and it goes. But say you want to go somewhere in Fes that's not walking distance to the Grand Taxi stand. Once you get to the next town, you would get a Petit Taxi from the Grand Taxi stand to your final destination. You can haggle with the driver of the Grand Taxi to take you where you want to go, but this is out of his normal route and it gets expensive (I'm told). Imagine if you were taking a Greyhound bus from Cincinnati to Cleveland, but you wanted the bus to drop you at your house, not the bus station. Imagine how that conversation might go. The Grand Taxi guys is going to say the same things the bus driver would say.

    But enough of that, we're taking a bike, not a taxi. We go on our own schedule. But we don't go unnoticed. Riding a big bike (anything bigger than 125cc) in riding gear (not a t-shirt and sunglasses) will get you noticed here. Which is OK most of the time, but takes some getting used to. In Europe, nobody looks at you twice in adventure riding gear. Not the same here. You're about as subtle as a Martian driving a spaceship down Main Street in small town USA. The good news is that almost all the people who react to you do so in a positive way. I've had about 1000 people give me a friendly wave, smile, thumbs up, that sort of thing. And two people who have yelled something at me while making an ugly face and pointing away. No idea what they said, I had earplugs in, was moving, engine running, and don't understand their language. But I knew it was negative both times. I can live with a 1000:2 ratio.

    And then there were these guys.
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    Tonny and I stopped at a scenic overlook between Meknes and Azrou, and about as fast as I could take my helmet off, these five guys were right up by my side. One of them offered his hand and in French welcomed me to Morocco. I was thinking he would quickly try to sell me something, like a guided tour of the scenic overlook, but I was wrong. They wanted to have their picture taken with the bike. Well, OK, go ahead. If I saw a Martian in a space ship, I'd probably want a picture with him, too!
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    As I mentioned earlier, there are very few big bikes here in Morocco. Being something of a novelty, I guess I understand. These guys were really nice, and I told them where to find this ride report. They gave me a couple of their emails and I'll send them some pictures and a link.

    Before we could get going, another guy came over to talk.
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    He lives in Belgium, about an hour and a half from me. We talked in a mix of English, German, Spanish, and French. Not that I'm capable in all of these, they just kind of came out. We were talking about the great weather today compared to Europe's spring, and I used the German word for snow (schnee) and the French word for rain (pluie), not really intentionally, they just came out. But that was fine, he understood both. My friend Eric in Ifrane says it's common there for people to mix Arabic, French, and Tamazight (the local Berber language) all in one sentence. This seemed strange to me only a few days ago, and now I was doing the same. Eric is taking classes in Arabic, French, and Tamazight all at the same time, which seems unbelievable given that they all use a separate alphabet. Here's a sign in Arabic, Tamazight, and French.
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    On the way out of Meknes we passed a scene I would have loved to photograph but could not. A motorcycle police man had two guys pulled over, and both were arguing and talking to him. As we sat at the red light, he reached out and handed a ticket to one of them. This guy turned and walked away in disgust, but the guy who did not get a ticket grabbed the policeman's helmet with both hands and started kissing the side of his helmet. This is not totally weird here as it would be in the US, as men often greet each other with a kiss or two, or even four if they are good friends. But it was funny to see in this way. Wonder if this happens to him a lot.

    Between Meknes and Azrou we passed a huge vineyard. When I saw the grape vines I wondered if they were for table grapes or wine, but eventually we passed the brick gate for Chateau Roselane. OK, it's for wine. Interesting.

    After Azrou we hit the N8 and followed it all day, going SW in the direction of Marrakesh. The first half of the day was fun riding, if a bit crowded with traffic. The N8 follows the Middle Atlas mountains, and they must hold rain and moisture close to the coast the same way mountains on the west coast in California do. Parts of this area remind me very much of California. And again, not what I thought Morocco would look like.

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    If there was a web site for adventure driver, I would nominate this guy.
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    Notice that the side door and all the windows are open. Brave men.

    Somewhere around here Tonny and I got separated. He took a brief wrong turn at a roundabout, and in the time it took for him to go around again, I went by and passed a truck, so he couldn't see me. He thought I was behind, so eventually stopped to wait. I thought he was ahead, so kept going and tried to catch up. Carefully, of course. Along here I passed a guy I really wish I could have stopped to talk with. He had black skin, very unusual here, was riding a bicycle with a trailer (not unusual) but was wearing a riding helmet and lycra riding clothes. There was a sign or piece of paper on the back of the trailer, and when I went by he gave me a big grin and a wave. He was resting by the side of the road, in a hilly area. I really wonder what his story is. I'm not sure we could have talked, but I'd love to know who he is a what he's doing. Riding a bicycle around Africa? Around the world? Wish I knew.

    After Beni Mallal, the Middle Atlas mountains end and the countryside turns dusty and brown. And flat, which means the road it boring to ride. The last 150KM's were just dodging traffic and getting where we were going. It give you time to think, and wonder about a town that much of the traffic is donkeys, but has two stores selling granite and marble countertops. That seems like an odd contrast to me. Kind of like the guy I saw a few days ago riding a donkey, hauling two car tires, and looking at his smart phone. Wish I had a picture of that.

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    I also saw my first camels, and first mud brick buildings around here.
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    And quite a number of small towns, which in Morocco are nearly charmless. The country side is usually beautiful, especially in wildflower season, but the small towns are just horrible, totally devoid of anything pretty.
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    We finally got our first look at the High Atlas, so stopped for a few quick photos.
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    We decided to avoid Marrakesh and are staying at a nice hotel outside of town at the base of the mountains. If you're coming this way, I recommend the Hotel Le Coq Hardi. The rooms are 'rustic' in Tonny's assessment, but the courtyard, pool, and food are excellent.

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    And we aren't the only bikers to find it!
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    Tomorrow we head over the High Atlas and Tiz-n-Tichka pass to Ourzazate and Kasbah Ait Benhaddou.
    #75
  16. tt100

    tt100 Been here awhile

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    All I could manage today was a Bonnie that won't start and went to Clinton County to look at a VStrom exactly like Tonny's for a little less than $8,000. Ride on. I want a picture of you struggling to pick it up in the middle of Sahara sand... with a camel in the background...... and your new rug being chucked under the back tire for traction...... and a, and a....
    #76
  17. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    One of the Swiss guys In talked to in Fes said he read in a moto magazine there that the new 650 V-Strom was called 'the last bike you will ever need to buy'. Tonny has been riding for more than 20 years and he agrees. So watch out, if you bought one, what would you shop for? :D
    #77
  18. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

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    :rofl

    I'm sorry, you have the wrong ride report.
    #78
  19. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    Tonny and I started what looked like an easy day heading up the Tizi-n-Tichka pass over the High Atlas, from our starting point at about 700 meters above sea level up to 2200 meters. The road is a heavily traveled 2-lane commercial road, and I had read that truck traffic often slows travel considerably. I had also read that blind curves and people overtaking dangerously were a real problem. As it turns out, we had almost none of these come up for us this Sunday morning. Of course in an Islamic country like Morocco Sunday isn't a religious day, that would be Friday, but for what ever reason traffic seemed light.

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    The road varies from a bit rough to pretty smooth, and is a real joy to ride when you aren't behind seven vans loaded with tourists on a guided tour. Of course we stopped for lots of pictures.

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    The road passes through several small towns, and in one it was market day. People walking here and there all over the road, walking out in front of traffic, it was a bit crazy.

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    But we finally got to the top. We pulled over on the way up for a good view at one of the few places there were no rock and fossil sellers, but one seemed to materialize out of nowhere.


    This happens all the time in Morocco. There are people everywhere. And I don't mean huge crowds, but at least one or two people in the oddest places. Many times I've pulled over to the side of a road to take a picture, and suddenly notice that fifteen feet away is someone sitting in the shade of a tree. Or a goat herder walks around a rock and greets me hello. You also see people walking in what seems like a strange place. Today I saw a guy walking and carrying a plastic jug, either for water or gas, I suppose. He was at least a mile from any visible human structure in any direction, yet here he was, walking down the road, carrying his jug.

    Anyway, at our stop we got to talking to Rico from Koln, Germany, and he snapped a team photo for us.

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    At the top of the pass we turned and took a small gravel road that leads to Ait Ben Haddou, a famous old Kasbah that has been used for many movies.

    The road starts of pretty rough, but gets better and better as you go down.

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    Along the way you see dozens and dozens of old kasbahs. Most are ruins. I guess a mud brick building only lasts so long. I mentioned this to Tonny and he replied that at least you don't have to go very far to find materials to repair or replace it.

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    Only a handful of people in Ait Ben Haddou now, most of the people live in the new own across the river, and make a living catering to the buses of tourists that come. The funny thing to me is, that the new town is built of the same mud and straw bricks as the old town. It's a bit surreal to me to see a mud building with a solar panel and a satellite dish.
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    What stands out to me more than anything is the water. Where it doesn't exist, everything is red dust. Where the is water, everything is green. The contrast is very sharp.

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    We got to Ait Ben Haddou and parked in the shade of a tree, and spent about half an hour walking around the old town. Tonny bought me an ice cream, too. :D

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    These Coca-Cola guys are everywhere.

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    The first vehicle I saw after entering Morocco was a Coke delivery truck, and that truck or one like it has been everywhere I've been.

    I finally got a picture of one of these, a moped kitted out with chrome crash guards and luggage rack. I've seen lots of them, mostly out on the open road. Do you suppose this is a Grand Moped, as opposed to the Petit Moped that is used in town?
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    East of Ouarzazate the road flatten out into a dry wasteland.

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    The wind here was fierce, coming down from the north at about perpendicular to our easterly route.
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    We arrived at our hotel in Boumaine Dades, at the base of the Dades gorge, much more tired than we anticipated. Our 250km route looked like nothing this morning, not even requiring a gas stop. But in the end it took us about six and a half hours and pretty much wore us out. We had planned on looking at both the Dades and Todra gorges today, but we decided to put it off until morning. Just too tired, feeling a bit sand blasted, and the wind blowing sand everywhere was making nice views obscured.

    Our hotel is outside of the town, which we like. For whatever reason, I was thinking that this part of Morocco was pretty sparsely populated, which you can see is not the case.

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    I should have known better, that anywhere there was water, there would be everything else.

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    It's 20 years old but built of the same mud and straw mixture as the old buildings we've seen all day.

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    Will it last 400 years? Remains to be seen, I guess.

    About an hour after we arrived, the BMW and KTM crowd showed up.

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    Tonny commented that with this many BMW's, there was sure to be a support van close behind. :rofl These guys had been off pavement a lot today and the contrast between their dusty riding gear and the stylish reception area of the hotel was humorous.

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    Dinner was served in high style but the food was just okay, not great. We both ordered beef, one tajine and one with couscous, and I'd guess between us we had enough beef to make a hamburger. But just a small one. Oh well, lots of veggies help make up for some of my eating the last few days at those road side restaurants.

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    #79
  20. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
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    What a day. Gorgeous scenery, street demonstrations, crashes, camels, sandstorms, power outages… but I'm getting ahead of myself.

    We decided on an early departure to try to get to the gorges before most of the other people. The staff told us breakfast started at 7am, but when Tonny arrived he was alone. No food.
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    It arrived shortly after and we were on the road by 8:00. It took about 45 minutes to go up the Dades gorge road to the famous hairpin turns. As with Passo Stelvio, I think the pictures are way better than the reality. The pictures you most often see make it look like this is the middle of nowhere. In reality it's just a mile up the road from the end of urban development, and there's a hotel restaurant at the top. We took a few pictures, and right at 9am as if on a schedule three vans of group tours showed up.

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    On to Toudra. The road between is more desolate desert, but gave a few picture opportunities.
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    Toudra is well known for a very narrow canyon section, which is only a few hundred meters long.
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    I didn't think much of this, but fortunately that's where almost all the traffic stops. If you go there, keep going up the road another 5 miles or so. It's beautiful and nearly empty.

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    Then off east again towards Erg Chebbi. On the way out of town I saw the three Swiss guys I had talked to in Fez a few days before. They were doing the same route but in reverse from us, it seems.

    We planned to turn right at Tinejdad onto a smaller road, but there was a police checkpoint there and the officers told us it was closed. Not wanting to go around on the larger N-roads they told us to use, we pulled off the road and got out the map. The trouble was a road closure at Jofa, they said. While I was trying to think of how to ask if there was a small road we could take around Jofa, two German guys from Wurzberg on motorcycles came down that road from the direction we wanted to go. Notice the bikes they are riding. No big buck all-road wonders, just inexpensive bikes. It doesn't take much to go where we've been.
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    We talked with them, and they said something about some reconstruction but said they'd been routed around it OK, and that we should be able to make it, too. The policeman shrugged and said we could go if we wanted. I went to a gas station to fill up and get some water while Tonny had a smoke break. When I came back, he said "I'm not worried about a little demonstration. Let's go."

    "What? I thought the said restoration, like road work or something?"

    "No, they said demonstration. But I think it will be fine." And off he went.

    Um… well, I guess we can always turn around, right?

    The 40 km to Jorf were kind of slow, with lots of time to hope Tonny was right. Along the way I saw a herd of RV's pulled over, and a stopped to take a photo of a particularly unattractive way to see the world, in my opinion. A guy there kept crossing his forearms, like he was trying to tell me something. What? Don't take our picture? Like I've mentioned, I can be a bit slow on the uptake.
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    When we got to town, indeed there was a demonstration, totally blocking the main road. But the GPS showed a few side roads, and the police officer told us to follow a guy on a moto, he'd lead us through back streets and get us around it. Nobody was yelling or doing anything violent, they were just blocking the road, so we figured it would be OK. The guy on the moto turned right down a narrow alley, and we dove in behind. A quick left, and he went through a row of stones blocking most of the road. Stones about the size of concrete blocks, in all but one narrow space I thought we could squeeze through. Before Tonny or I could get through, a group of boys, about ages 10-15, jumped into the gap and held up their hands to stop. We did. Tonny had aimed for the sidewalk, trying to get around, but five or six boys were there and he stopped instead of running them over. I aimed for the gap, and a boy of a bout 12 jumped in front of me. I stopped, then revved my engine and started to roll forward. He held out his hand a put it on my windscreen, and straddled the front tire with his legs. He smiled, sure I wouldn't run him over. I wasn't so sure, but nobody had done anything violent or dumb yet, and I didn't want to be the first. One of the kids held up his hand and rubbed his fingers together, signaling he wanted money. We sat. They stood. For a few seconds nobody moved. Now what?

    Then an older boy, maybe 16 or 17 came in, walked up the the boy blocking my way, and shoved him in the chest. A brief conversation ensued, with the older boy obviously not happy with the younger ones. The new boy kicked the stones out of my way, smiled at me, and waved his hand for me to move forward. We didn't hesitate. Once I saw the main road ahead, I shot past the guide on his moto and headed out of town. On the way, we passed maybe 100 young people, mostly wearing white shirts, walking out of town. Most were entering a school, and I'm guessing they had been at the demonstration earlier. Glad we hadn't arrived sooner. Somehow, in all the fun I forgot to take any pictures. But Tony did, and you can find his report here. Tonny said over dinner that he found the whole thing 'amusing', that obviously some kids had noticed a few bike riders getting around the demonstration and decided to set up an impromptu roadblock. He's right, looking back at it, but I didn't think it was funny at the time, not even a little bit.

    With Jorf in our mirrors, we made it to Erfoud and Tonny got some gas. Our GPS guides had us going off the main N-road to get to our hotel, on the edge of the dunes at Erg Chebbi, north of Merzouga. We started down the road and it got rougher and rougher, but neither of us wanted to turn around. What fun!
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    We also went by an oasis or two.
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    Tonny and I had been talking about off-road techniques yesterday, as he rides off-road regularly and I don't. I followed his lead, tried to do what he did, and it was working.

    Back on the main N13 briefly and then off onto hard-packed sand.

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    Washboard, soft spot, 14 km's to the hotel. 10km. 4km. Then we could see it, and the orange dunes of Erg Chebbi. It looks like someone spilled a billion jars of Tang, the color was just very surprising. Even in the wind and some blowing sand it was a sight to see.
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    If I hadn't stopped to take a picture I would have seen the retired couple in the little Romanian-made compact car that was following us go around the rise ahead and not over it. Does it take too much of the studly adventureness out of this to admit a compact car was cruising along the same off-road track? Oops, sorry.
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    Ahead I saw Tonny go over a slight rise and struggle in some sand, but he made it through. I knew it was coming and got ready, but I wasn't ready enough, I guess.
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    My front tire quit rolling and my bike kept going, and over I went. I got my right leg out of the way before the bike hit, and only rolled onto the very soft sand. No injuries.

    The bike was almost spared, too. All but the Givi touring windscreen and the luggage mount on the right side.
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    This is the third time I've laid this bike down, the first time going more than a slow roll, and all three times on the right side.


    Fortunately Tonny saw me laying on my side and came back to help right the bike. We looked it over, shrugged, and it started right up. I made it out of the sand and into the hotel.


    We took a minute to check in and then I started looking at the bike. My homemade steel luggage rack adapter had bent, sparing the case from breaking. With the help of a pipe wrench one of the guys at the hotel produced, I managed to bend it back into place. The windscreen went in the trash, all three pieces. I guess it will be a windy ride home. Speaking of wind, it had really whipped up, and visibility was getting pretty low. Looking out of the gate, we could only see a few hundred meters.
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    We decided to enjoy the pool in spite of the increasing wind, but could only stay in a few minutes as it was really cold. Going back to the room for a hot shower, I flipped the light switch and nothing happened. I tried another one, and got nothing. Then Tonny noticed all the lights were out in the courtyard now.

    Great. Hot water? How much, and for how long? We each took a quick shower, and while I waited for Tonny to go for our welcome tea, a man from the hotel came over to chat. He is Berber, and speaks French and a bit of German and English. We somehow communicated that the generator had been turned off during the sandstorm, but after it dies down there would be power again. And indeed there was.

    While I've been editing photos and writing this, Tonny went outside for another smoke break and came back in to tell me that I want to see the sunset to come outside "now". So I did, and it was really neat.
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    Tomorrow Tonny and I both head north but separately, he back towards Denmark at a brisk pace, and me back to Ifrane for a couple days with my friends there before getting on the ferry to Spain. I'll miss riding with him. I think we've both enjoyed our three days together and I hope we get a chance to do something like this together again. You just never know, right?
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    I may never see another sunset over the Sahara. If it took a street demonstration and a crash and a busted windscreen and a sandstorm to get me here for it, then I'm OK with that.

    Now, where's the idiot that asked for a picture of my bike crashed in front of some camels?
    #80