Morocco on 5 GSs

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by stef25, May 13, 2010.

  1. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    About a month ago I got back from my first trip to Morocco. A friend and I (both from Belgium) took the ferry from Barcelona to Tangier and on the boat we met three guys from Slovenia who's bikes we'd already seen in the ferry garage. We ended up riding with them the whole time. There was one 1200GS, 3 1150's and then me on my 650 Dakar. Here are some pics from our two weeks on 5 GS's in Morocco

    Clearing through customs when we arrived in Tangier:

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    My buddy Geert outside our Hotel ("Dar Zman") in Chefchouen aka "The Blue City". This town is easy to reach from Tangier so it's an ideal first stop. It's on the edge of the Rif Mountains, known for the growing the stuff you put in funny cigarettes.

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    Planning a route out of Chefchaouen to Fez:
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    My four riding buddies somewhere on the road between Tangier and Fez:
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    Team Slovenia setting up their helmet cam (Go Pro). This was a great piece of kit and they recorded a lot of our riding in full HD. We're still waiting to see some of the footage ...
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    We got "lost" pretty quickly (I think that's a good thing :D ) so we asked some passing cars for directions
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    I was leading that day and decided to ignore all the directions and just head out on some other road :D. The resulting views were not bad!
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    #1
  2. quicktoys2

    quicktoys2 ADVrider junkie :)

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    thanks for sharing ..... looking forward to the rest of your ride report.


    If possible could you resize so that we don't have to scroll accross to read the thread and see the pictures.

    Thanks
    Soto
    #2
  3. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Soon enough we got to the outskirts of Fes. A local guy told us about a "Camping International" where we set up our tents. We checked out the Medina (market) in Fes which was amazing! I traveled a lot and the Fes Medina is definitely one of my top 5 must-see places in the world that doesn't involve motorbikes. It's one of the oldest medieval cities in the world and has more than 9000 little roads and alleys to get lost in. It's got a real Indiana Jones feeling.

    Some pics of the Medina
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    #3
  4. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Yeah sorry about that ... I'll see what I can do :wink:
    #4
  5. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Once we got out of Fez the "real" fun started as you start approaching the Atlas Mountains. Despite the fact there are no real steep climbing roads, you do start gaining altitude, the surroundings get more barren, there is less and less green around you and the temperature drops a few degrees.

    This is me somewhere between Fez and Midelt (I think, it could be along the N13 road). It was taken along a real long, dead straight bit that must have been about 30 - 40 Km long. It started getting dark so we picked up the tempo a bit. The odd pothole was always noticed too late and I was surprised at how my Dakar just ate them up.

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    We got to a little dusty town not far from Midelt. We were all a bit stressed cause of the high pace we'd been riding at and the fact it was now completely dark and we didn't really know where to find a place to sleep. As we drove out of the town we say a sign for "Camping Timnay" which rung a bell. It turned out to be a GREAT place. Nice, cheap rooms and a big restaurant to hang out in. There were several dudes there who ran 4X4 tours and we spent a few hours looking at maps deciding what to do next.

    We talked about the "Cirque de Jaffar" (a rocky piste in the High Atlas, popular with hikers and bikers) but decided not to do it cause of the difficulty level. The next day I led everyone straight in to it by accident :D. For me the real fun / off road challenges started here!
    #5
  6. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Some pics of the Cirque de Jaffar. It's basically a small track that runs along the mountain, down in to the valley and then back up and out again.

    This is at the beginning, the first snow we saw

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    The piste is getting quite difficult for a big fully loaded bike
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    Some pics stolen from my buddy Geert's collection. He stopped a few times on the more challenging parts while I just wanted to get the f*ck out of there! I have no idea how they all did this on such big bikes.
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    Here you can see the path we followed down in to the valley, and the pic was taken from a more forest-y area you end up in when you climb back out. All the way down at the bottom there we didn't really know where to head. This is one of the few times GPS actually helped us. You can see a tiny little spec there that is a jeep. It was just parked with nobody inside.
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    Local shepherd dude on my bike
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    Meeting the locals
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    Soon enough this jeep caught up with us. Two English guys were driving it and they had spent a few days in the surrounding mountains on foot, collecting data on a hiking book they planned to write. Only at this point did we realise that we were in this Cirque de Jaffar, when they told us! They obviously really knew the area well and even spoke some Arabic. It was comforting to know they were behind us for the last stretch of this tough road :D.

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    Now we faced the issue of not being able to make it to our planned destination of Imilchil before dark. The English guys said "No way you'll make it before dark". We just kept going but had to start thinking about fuel.

    We'd stop in these poor little villages where you would get flooded by local kids trying to get some stuff of you and even going so far as digging around in your pockets or luggage if you weren't looking. I hate the fact they associate bikers with "free stuff". Some of them got a little aggressive at times and I feel this whole culture of "visit far way countries and give out free shit" has just gone to far. The result is that kids throw rocks or even swing sticks at you as you drive past - dangerous for everyone. I'm all for helping people out but don't think it should go hand in hand with motorbiking / tourism.

    Anyway, we pushed on and find this cool little oasis of peace - a small auberge run by a local farmer guy who wasn't quite sure what to charge for his rooms. "Just pay what you want" he said :D. We made a little fire outside, his wife cooked up a feast and we slept like babies.

    The sign for this mini hotel. If you pass it and need a full belly and a comfy bed - it's got our stamp of approval! The owner was hands down the nicest guy we met during our whole trip.

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    Team Slovenia cooking up some soups pre-dinner
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    More coming soon!
    #6
  7. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Awesome Morocco adventure!! :clap

    Thanks for the great pics and the detailed report.. :thumb

    :lurk
    #7
  8. Corbeau

    Corbeau Been here awhile

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    Great start!

    As a side note, "medina" means "old part of town", not necessarily "market" -- although there's usually one, a "souk", in that section...

    ***

    I have fond memories from a week-long trip to Morocco in 2002. Not on a bike, unfortunately, but since it was a all-expenses paid junket, I can't really complain...
    #8
  9. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Didn't know that, thanks!
    #9
  10. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    After our stop at this nice Auberge on the way to Imilchil we decided to head south to the dunes in Merzouga, via the Tordra Gorge in Tinerhir.

    After leaving the Auberge we found a fuel stop and then continued along mostly tarmac roads. According to the "Morocco Overland" book this was one of highest roads you can cross in the Atlas.

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    Tomas enjoying the view
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    Two French families stopped here too to enjoy the view. I asked the father who was driving the red Land Cruiser about his car. "It's still new, only 200,000Km!". He said you can easily get aver 600,000Km out of these tough Japanese engines.

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    GPS showing 2658 meters altitude on route R703

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    Berber village on the way to Todra Gorge. Finally starting to see some green again as we're coming out of the Atlas
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    These kids were bugging us for more free stuff but I decided to take it easy with them, got off the bike and has some funny conversations with them. They were cool kids. Here is one of then wearing my Shoei
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    The others rode ahead while Seba and I took it easy getting to the Gorge, snapping lots of pictures along the way. The scenery was getting more and more spectacular. This is the cool thing about Morocco, every day the scenery changes and you never, ever get bored of the views
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    Note how small the car looks in perspective!
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    More Berber villages as we exited the Todra Gorge
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    As usual, we didn't make it to our planned destination of Merzouga, so we stayed the night in Erfoud. We rode for several hours in the dark and could just about tell that the landscape was flattening out again. We started seeing our first warning signs for "Dunes de Sable" (sand dunes) and there was sand on either side of the tarmac road.

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    Driving the dark was ok when we all stuck together cause the combined lights from all the bikes light the road up quite well. But sooner or later we would start driving at different tempos and you'd find yourself having to rely on your own lights, which made things a bit more stressful. Cars, bikes, bicycles and pedestrians all over this road ... without any lights. You need to keep your eyes peeled and your speed down. During my last minute shopping session at home a friend forced me to buy a reflective jacket and stickers that lit up my bike like a UFO, for which I was now thanking her a lot. (She also forced me to take her Thermarest "No, No I won't need it! Take it anyway! I needed it about half the of all the nights - thanks again Sophe!)

    When we got to Erfoud it was pitch black and sand was blowing everywhere, just stopping and chatting for a few minutes and feel the sand grinding between your teeth and in your helmet. We decided to spend the night in Erfoud to keep things safe. I wouldn't recommend staying in this town, nothing to see and everyone was being pushy, trying to sell us camel tours in the desert, which was not far away now.

    In the morning we headed straight out to Merzouga and had a tasty breakfast in Rissani. We're now in a very different place: people's skin was darker, there was sand everywhere, more palm trees and temperature over 30 Celsius. Finally some heat!
    #10
  11. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

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    Great RR.............
    #11
  12. steve_k

    steve_k Long timer

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    WOW! Keep posting some pics!
    #12
  13. prometheus rising

    prometheus rising Ghost In The Machine

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    :thumb :thumb Stunning !! Keep it coming:clap :clap
    #13
  14. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Erfoud - Merzouga was a relatively short ride. The road to Merzouga is flanked on both sides by sand, sand and more sand. You can't quite make out any dunes yet but you do feel like you're in the desert.

    From what I gather, most of the good accommodation is along the road to Merzouga, not actually in the town, which is not that nice and according to my buddy Geert who went there on a beer run "It's a shithole".

    Along the road we saw a sign for "Auberge Dunes D'or" which was recommended by one of the English guides at the Camping Timnay. I remembered this when we passed the sign so we screeched to halt and followed the sign. A small piste ...

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    ... takes you in to the desert ... further in to the desert ...

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    , where we found this wonderful place

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    Rooms were a bit steep (25 Euro) but they let us put up our tents behind the hotel for 2 bucks a night and we had access to the pool, restaurant and chill out area. Great deal!

    Guy told us to park our bikes round the back where we would be staying. I went to check out what was round the back, to find ... DUNES.

    Welcome to the Sahara!

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    Excited at finally being able to hit some sand, I sped off to dig my rear wheel in, about 10 sec after getting back on the bike :rofl. Lesson learned: take off your luggage and deflate your tires!

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    Now we had our own little desert camp, with all those dunes to play in! Nice to finally be able to take off all our gear and RELAX :clap I spent a few hours here in a slumber listening to my iPod :trp, reflecting on life and realizing how lucky I am to be able to do things like this. To travel around on your motorbike, do things you could never imagine possible, make great friends along the way ... I had a real profound sense of happiness here :wingsand all the stress of the office back home just seems light years away. Priceless. This is why I travel.

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    I slept here under the stars on my thermarest for a couple nights. During the day it got to 40 Celsius but at night it cooled down to a comfortable 15 - 20, so you didn't even need a tent. Sleeping under the stars becomes very addictive.

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    Camel poking around in the kitchen

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    After hydrating and relaxing a bit, time to play! Deflating your tires makes a WORLD of difference. After slipping and sliding all over the place, I could now actually RIDE through this sand. What a great feeling :ricky.

    Jan was the king of the dunes, and on an 1150 I think that's quite a feat.

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    Riding in the dunes was not that difficult but the strange thing is ... you cross one dune ... you cross another one ... then another one ... you look back and see nothing but dunes and sand and you think "where the f*ck is the hotel?!".

    So you realise quite quickly it's very easy to get lost or disoriented. Then a Bedouin pops out of nowhere and goes "You! Want to buy necklace?" :rofl

    It was impossible to get our lazy asses away from the Dunes D'or, so I stayed here for about 2 days doing ... absolutely ... nothing, apart from the odd dash in to the dunes, laze around at the pool, drink mint tea and chat, chat, chat with my new Slovenian friends :beer

    I'm not sure if the rooms are worth the money or if they let anyone just camp out back, but it's certainly worth a shot. Dunes D'or website & GPS coordinates and a small map showing the location:

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    #14
  15. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

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    Excellent Guys ! :clap
    You made my day !
    :thumb
    #15
  16. undersea4x2

    undersea4x2 Big Bore wanna' be

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    A long way from where I live but when I see a RR with "Morocco " in the title I have to have a look...............................:lurk

    Fantastic shots so get on with it and lets see some more.

    Cheers
    Under:thumb
    #16
  17. Seba1

    Seba1 Been here awhile

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    BRAVO STEF ! :thumb

    HI, I just saw your Morocco posts,from our trip.

    Tomorrow I will pick up my new PC,install the Windows 7 and all the programs and by the end of the week I will send you all the videos and photos,sorry again for the delay.

    We dedefinetly need to ride more.Let's go trough Africa

    Best Regards to you and Geert.

    Seba
    #17
  18. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Hi Seba, nice to get some news :D

    I'm telling you we should do Budapest - Bamako!

    Catch up soon
    #18
  19. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    Ok ... after a few days of chilling in Merzouga we decided to go to Zagora. There is a piste that takes you there which is quite infamous. Everybody we spoke to who did this route seemed swear a lot while describing it. Everyone thought they could cover it in a day but nobody did.

    After a few beers we thought let's do it. But we'd gotten so tired from doing nothing for a few days that as soon as we hit the first sand we decided to double back and just take the tarmac. I felt very unhappy about this decision despite the fact that I was the making this decision. From now on we'd only be riding North and I felt the holiday was "over" and all that remained was tarmac back home ... But I was wrong!

    We arrived just before dark at our destination, the Biker's Home in Ouerzazate, its a place run by a Dutch guy called Peter who lives here and it's a great place. We washed some clothes, ate something that was not a "tagine" or an omelet and chilled out on the roof. He has a garage for parking and full of tools so you can do some maintenance on your bike if needed.

    Some pics from the route to Ouerzazate (I think ...)

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    Jan and I somewhere in Morocco - good man!

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    Geert, Peter, Tomak and Seba1

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    Tomak near Aït Benhaddou

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    While planning this trip Geert and I decided to meet up with some guys from UKGSER forum but when we got to Morocco it seemed they were a day ahead of us and we couldn't catch up. At the Biker's Home, late one evening a guy showed up with a busted bike and it turned out to be Thomas, an Irish guy who was one of the ones we were meant to meet up with - total coincidence! Turned out his bike was not as busted as he thought so he set off the next day feeling much better than the evening before. A Czech guy, Martin, who we were meant to meet also turned up the next day and together with him we did our last serious day of riding

    Here is Czech Martin and Peter waving off Irish Thomas on his fixed up KLR

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    #19
  20. stef25

    stef25 Been here awhile

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    While having some snacks outside Ait Benhaddou Martin showed us a route to Marrakesh on his map he planned on taking; "all tarmac" he said. That was total bullshit, it quickly turned in to a red dusty track with some beautiful views (thanks Martin!). I was grinning ear to ear, happy that we could still get some dirt under our tires before going home. This was an excellent ride with a few hairy turns and a lot of beautiful views.

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    My bike is as happy as I am here :D

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    Local kid on my bike. These guys were way more chilled out than their friends in the Atlas. I had to strongly encourage him to crawl on my bike. They were very polite, very nice kids

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    Yours truly ...

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    The piste "ended" here back on the main road between Ouerzazate and Marrkesh. From the distances on the signs one should be able to find it on a map. I think this was the start of Tichka Pass (Tiz'n Tichka)

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    Tichka Pass involves a good tarmac road with hundreds of sharp turns. There is quite a bit of traffic on this road, both local and tourists in rented 4X4's. Bikes are the fastest on this road and I think we pissed off a lot of drivers tailgating them and then doing some hairy overtaking ... still good fun. The TKC's (by now with maybe 3000Km on them) let me lean in to the turns as far as my nerves could handle; these tires definitely did not fail on tarmac at all.

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    Seba1 and Geert

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    We found a campsite (probably "the" campsite) in Marrakesh on the main road to Casablanca - Le relais de Marrakesh (map). It's a little outside of town, clearly sign posted and close to a McDonalds. It's got a pool and a basic restaurant. The food was so-so and breakfast took absolutely ages to arrive. Other than that it was ok, decent wifi is available and so are good hot showers. They had no more rooms but we could set up our tents no problem. I didn't actually have a tent so just slept outside on my thermarest (strange how addicting that gets). Geert had no tent either so "borrowed" some thick leather cushions from the pool to make a bed. No probs here.

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    The main "Jmaa el Fnaa" square in Marrakesh. Was a bit of a disappointment. Waaay to much hassle from the locals (dudes following you for 30 min trying to sell dope), drugged up cobra snakes ... too much tourism here. Fez is much better.

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    Cat taking a nap on a "Moroccan GS"

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    That's it from me! All in all I was surprised and amazed by Morocco. I've traveled and biked a lot in SE-Asia and Central Americ and always thought I had to go far from home to see cool stuff. Morocco was pretty much the most beautiful country I've visited.

    It would be nice to be able to do this trip without, or with a lot less luggage. I had little off road experience before but have since done some more and realize now the luggage really limits what you can do with these bikes. Next time I'll try to pack even less.

    Seba1 filmed A LOT of video from his helmet cam in full HD and must have 100's more pictures. I'll leave it up to him to continue this thread :evil
    #20