Morocco: Bandits on the Cirque de Jaffar

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Tim Cullis, Nov 13, 2010.

  1. Tim Cullis

    Tim Cullis Partially heighted

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2004
    Oddometer:
    299
    Location:
    London, Granada Altiplano and Morocco
    30 Oct 2010: Today I came into the south western end of the Cirque de Jaffar piste by tarmac from the N13 road near Timnay 4x4 Centre with the intention of riding north east along the cirque piste back to Midelt.

    As I came to the junction (N32 31.780 W4 59.480) some guy tried to wave me down but I wanted to carry on a bit further on tarmac to take some pics of Jbel Ayachi which is currently snow covered. He started to run alongside me, so I accelerated and in my mirror I saw him go headlong on the ground. With what I now know I am guessing he made a lunge for the roll bag behind me just as I opened the throttle.

    He was obviously still going to be around when I came back so I followed a truck to hide the sound of my engine, but the entrance to the piste has changed and I was slow to work it out, so he caught up with me. Before I knew it the zip to my tankbag side pocket was open and stuff fell on the ground. Slow on the uptake I thought it was a coincidence, stopped to pick the stuff up and he's on the other side of the bike opening the other side pocket, which was empty. I was incensed and told me to get away from the bike and as I started off he went for the roll bag behind me with such a violent movement that he pulled the motorbike over. I managed to get the Tenere upright, no mean feat with all the stuff I was carrying.

    The guy was aged late twenties or early thirties with what I can only describe as a long face in a perpetual scowl. Then another guy appeared, better dressed in a black leather-look jacket. It was obvious they meant no good and demanded cigarettes. I said no, then they demanded "a dirham". There was no way these guys were going to be happy with a ciggy and a dirham, and giving them anything would make things worse, so I stood my ground.

    One of the items that had been in my tank bag pocket that was now in my hand was my small canister of pepper spray. The second guy realised what it was and shouted a warning to the guy with the long face. The second guy then backed off for the remainder of the encounter which makes me wonder a bit--how did he know what it was?

    Several times I tried to make a departure but I really needed three hands both start the bike and to stay protected by the spray can. The guy was expert at making quick darting movements to try to open the zip pockets on my trousers and jacket, and was constantly moving around trying to get into my blind spot (I was on the bike).

    He picked up a big rock and was shouting at me in French that he was mad, then threw the rock. So I picked up a rock, deliberately hit my shoulders, elbows and knees with it to show that my gear was armoured (I also had my helmet on), shouted "Anna kebir Shaytan" (I am big devil) and threw it at him. When I started threatening with the spray can he picked up another big rock and made throwing gestures but didn't throw again.

    It was ending up as a mexican standoff. I got my camera out which really worried both of them as of course this would enable them to be tracked down by the Gendarmerie Royal, assuming of course, they didn't manage to nick the camera from me. But try as I might, I couldn't get a clear shot as they kept turning away.

    Then the guy got too close to the bike again and I transfered the spray into my hand nearest him and gave him a blast. The effect was instantaneous, even though the stream of liquid was off target and I missed his eyes, just getting his lower face. The second guy seems to be getting worried by now and kept suggested they leave.

    I'm now not at all worried. They can't touch me whilst I have the spray and this being Morocco someone will be along shortly. And sure enough, a few minutes later down the piste comes a logging truck. The two guys run off and I wave the truck to stop, shouting "voleurs", and pointing to where the villains went. The four guys in the truck gave chase and I decide this is the time to leave.

    Riding along the piste, I did think of turning back on foot with some tyre irons and replaying the encounter, but decided leaving the bike was a bad idea.

    What did I learn from this?
    1. Getting the pepper spray was a damn good idea.
    2. Don't let the villains know you have it, then you can get close
    3. Have a practice squirt first so you know if it pulls to one side

    In case anyone doesn't realise, pepper spray it highly illegal in most of Europe (not Germany or Spain) so be cautious about obtaining supplies.

    Since returning home I've been looking at my notes from an earlier trip this year when I passed the same spot and realised the guy tried to intercept me on that occasion as well, so I reckon he's local and does this on a regular basis.

    I'm headed out there again in a few months with some friends... :evil
    #1
  2. degonzomon

    degonzomon Old school

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    WA
    Nice job fending off those rat bastards :jomomma I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when traveling abroad but when this happens and it is only a matter of time you need to be prepared. the down side is it puts you in a crappy mood for the rest of the day :huh
    #2
  3. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

    Joined:
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    Damned !
    Tim, you did well.
    Why not even go to the authorities ?
    Those low level scumbags are showing a bad picture of the area...
    And it's a shame !
    Most of the people here are very friendly.
    ok, ok, Midelt is a tad special. Nevertheless, bandits like that are quite seldom. Hopefully.
    And if you need some proofs for the police, you're right, go with some mates. And send one as a bait while the others remain hidden. You'll have the opportunity to took some shots of the guy doing his "business", as we say in french, "en flagrant délit".

    And compliments for your courage. :thumb
    #3
  4. Richzrx12

    Richzrx12 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Montpellier, France
    Very worthwhile post this, although unfortunate and I'm pleased you got out of it OK Tim.

    I live in France - anyone on their way south wanting to procure a can of pepper spray can find them easily enough in a gun/hunting shop. France has plenty of hunting shops that sell knives and rifles and camouflage vests etc - all the hunting stuff. I bought my wife a can of (handbag-sized) pepper spray a few years back. Inevitably she has never needed it and only remembered she had it when she tried to board a plane, but that's another story...

    Nonetheless, this stuff is worthwhile having in your tank-bag in many parts of the world, and easier to get here than in the UK so a quick stop off somewhere on route and you can get stocked up. Anyone heading this way (Montpellier) who wants an address or even coordinates of a stockist, let me know and I'll find out.
    #4
  5. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

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    in front of Mare Nostrum
    (french) salut voisin ! ;) (/french)
    #5
  6. potski

    potski Wiley Wanderer

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    565
    Location:
    In the mountains
    Well done Tim.

    As in life in general, a bad few make life hard for the rest of us.
    I bet the good people of Morocco would like a word or two with these guys.:ddog :krusty

    Cheers
    Potski
    #6
  7. Tim Cullis

    Tim Cullis Partially heighted

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2004
    Oddometer:
    299
    Location:
    London, Granada Altiplano and Morocco
    When I was over 21 stone (300lb, 135kg) and built like a brick shitehouse I didn't worry about being physically hassled but after now losing over 9st (130lb, 60kg) I feel a bit weedy--even the wife delights in giving me a shove!

    Twelve months ago I was talking on the ferry to a HUBBer coming back from wild camping in Morocco who told me he'd been robbed by a couple of guys in Western Sahara. I wouldn't like to be in a situation like that, hence I bought the pepper spray.

    Phase 2 in the operation is to have cable ties instantly accessible to act as handcuffs. I have two sets of cable ties permanently attached to the frame of the bike (with cable ties). One set is normal fairly long ones (5mm x 38mm) which would be ideal. The other set is extremely heavy duty ones about three times the width and thickness (13mm x 56mm).

    I would have reported it to the Gendarmerie Royal, except the King was due to drive through Midelt in the next 12 hours and the police I initially spoke to clearly had other things on their mind.
    #7
  8. longwaybackhome

    longwaybackhome --------------

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    Finland
    #8
  9. Ferrys

    Ferrys Adventurer

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    Dec 22, 2008
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    Hi There
    Cirque de Jaffar is known as a tricky area. Remember the barbed wire spotted in the middle of the track.
    I know they are very unfriendly with bikers. In the past some assholes have ruined some gardens-crops so locals are not pleasent in general. There seems to be a gang of youngters making trouble on regular basis.
    Therefore, never ride alone. If in group gather all together before.
    #9
  10. Dr LC8

    Dr LC8 ...soon or later

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2005
    Oddometer:
    970
    Location:
    Manchester...but from Rome!
    :-(((((

    I am going there in the spring, I will keep an eye open :wink:

    Nic
    #10