Hotel Sahara • An AT in Africa

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Chris S, Apr 11, 2020.

  1. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    378
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    UK and around
    [​IMG]

    It all started with a storm and went south from there, metaphorically and literally.
    Storm Ciara, I think it was. It’s even got its own Wiki page. Maybe they all do these days.

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    The hazard of untethered trampolines became the new symbol of our spoilt, decadent lifestyles.
    Airliners were doing that ‘hip-flick’ landing trick and winds hit 220kph off Corsica so all ferries were off.
    I wasn’t going to reach Marrakech on time....

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    • • • • • • • •​

    A few weeks earlier, just before Xmas, I was idly looking for a biggish adv when a bunch of ex-Honda Dirt School ATs popped up on ebay at a reputable London dealer and at a great price.
    Only a few remained, all less than a year old, under 2000 miles but with scratches, cracked panels and so on.
    They’d be gone in a few days for sure.

    I broke contemporary protocols and actually went for a look first before settling on a juicy, Cherry Ripe manual with a bent clutch lever and a fairing panel stitched up with zip ties. I was unable to countenance the added weight of a DCT, but had got that out of my system running an NC750X a few months lack. Great to hear that that motor might be used in a forthcoming CRF800L

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    Say what you like, but a CRF1000L is a handsome machine.

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    It didn’t actually say ‘ex-Honda Dirt School’ in the advert, but I used to watch Columbo and suspected it from the mileage, damage, age and tyres.

    "Ah, just one more thing" I heard the scruffy gumshoe say.
    Check da Dirt School Facebook page. See if ya find ya motorcycle.”

    Gotcha! My 2019 AT – rego ‘ … PCZ’ parked in a sodden Welsh farmyard alongside a bunch of near-identical Cherry Ripe 2019 ATs.

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    Would you buy an AT used by this gang of Goretex-clad louts?
    (Notice: image date precedes current social distancing edicts. Only try this at home).

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    Something funny, punk?
    That front one is just 4 letters away from my PCZ.
    Pick it up!
    NOW!

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    But what do you expect?
    I still don’t get offering quarter-ton bikes shod with Metz Karoo 3s to teach off-road riding in soggy Wales.
    I remember thinking the same when I did the BMW off-road course years ago.
    I picked the smallest bike, a lithe 650 Dakar while others less experienced than me struggled with – and inevitably tumbled from – 1150s, or whatever they were at the time, snapping footrest brackets as they fell.

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    Allow me to paraphrase ‘Verbal’ Kint (himself referring to Baudelaire):

    "The greatest trick BMW etc ever pulled was convincing average riders a 250-kilo motorbike was any kind of off-highway machine."

    A T7 was what I fancied – and even they are a bit too tall and heavy for my current prefs. I'm getting weary of tall saddles and anyway, it was way too soon for used T7s.
    An AT was the next best thing and had actually persuaded at least one long-term GS12er I knew to jump battleship.

    Even though the idea of riding an AT in the places I’d spent 40 years riding Teneres, XRLs, Funduros and most recently, a Himalayan seemed preposterous, the Honda seemed better suited than most.

    I figured it was high time I tried one of these giant advs I habitually scoff at.
    #1
  2. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

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    :lurk
    #2
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  3. swimmer

    swimmer armchair asshole

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    Love the red AT's, looking forward to your RR.
    #3
    Chris S likes this.
  4. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    [​IMG]

    It was a good plan I’d had on the go for a couple of years (since my Algeria RR in fact):

    Big Twins in the Sahara

    First, I’d get to grips with the Honda on my familiar Moroccan tour routes over a couple of weeks.
    Then I’d meet up with two guys down the coast and we’d head south.
    With a lot of unavoidable road miles to cover, the Big Twins would eat up the blacktop all the way to the sharp end – a collection of manageable dirt excursions to some obscure Mauritanian POIs buried in the map below and which to me spanned the essence of the Sahara’s mystique.

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    It was a perfect giant adv project.

    Matey on a 790 couldn’t make the SRT, but the Major was up for it on his GSA12.
    His desert experience was mostly from behind a pair of night-vision goggles rather than an Arai XD4, but being old school, he didn’t talk about it.
    Seeing me struggle one time, he did teach me the ‘Listen up/gather round’ hand signal used in the field.

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    I tried it on later tours with even less effect than the usual waving my arms around.
    “What's up, lost your wig, Chris?”

    I guess I just lack what the Regiment calls ‘command presence’.

    A GS rider is not hard to find, but it took a while to track down a Tenere 700 to make up a threesome; an ideal number for trips like this.
    There’s masses of online T7 chat, but no one took the SRT bait.

    Then I noticed one of the many contributors to my AMH8 book had chopped in his CB500X (below: Lut Desert, Iran)...
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    ... for a sexy T7.

    ‘Pav. Fancy a road trip in the desert? We need a T7 to make us look in touch with contemporary trends.’

    ‘Sure! I can be in Morocco in early March.’

    #SaharaRoadTrip was on!
    #4
  5. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Mid-winter and I was flat out finishing my AMH8 book (see my sig) before riding down to Morocco.
    Luckily, the low-mileage AT didn’t need much doing to it.
    I’ve never tried them but I wasn’t so impressed by the Karoo 3s.
    I’d have chosen something gnarlier for Dirt Schooling. Might have saved a few cracked panels.
    As it was, even with only 2000 miles, the back Karoo wouldn’t have lasted our planned ride.

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    Meanwhile, the front didn’t look like it would bite well leaning over in loose sand.

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    So it was a good chance to try something I’d written about but never actually tried:
    • a ‘road tyre’ on the back for knobless longevity but where slides have fewer consequences
    • a 50/50 front so the thing steered where it was pointed on the dirt (as long as I kept my head on the road).
    Plus I have an (as yet untested) theory: modern ABS catches sub-tracational tyres if they’re pushed too hard.

    The Michelin Man in the UK is a fan of my work and sent a set of dual compound Anakee Adventures.
    For the back it was just the ticket (below) but on the front I’d sooner have something like an Anakee Wild which I used last year on the Him.
    When a flaky Tubliss failed on the Him, I rode 250 clicks out of the desert on a flat front, stuck a tube in and carried on.
    There's something to be said for premium tyres.

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    I try never to use the same tyre twice (it's good for the book) so chose a Motoz Tractionator Adv (below).
    Dave at Adventure Spec UK had used them on a T7 recce in Morocco over Christmas.
    (I got the feeling the Yam was not quite the unicorn he’d hope for, but of course it depends on expectations and intended usage).

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    I knew this road/knobbly combo might throw up some steering and cornering vagaries, at least until things wore down a bit, but I’m long used to that on my desert bikes. (I remember once getting a ‘bollocking’ from a trouser-soiled BMW mechanic who’d taken my MT21-shod Fundoro out for a post-service spin and shat himself. But I didn’t regret my choice once up to my axles in Libyan sand a couple of weeks later).

    On ebay I clocked a pair of Africa Twin ‘Spokegate’ wheels going cheap.
    Apparently, early ATs suffered from premature spoke corrosion leading to outraged warranty claims.
    It was a good chance to pursue my decade-long experimentation with tubeless spoke conversions.
    There’s pages and pages on this subject here.
    Even with two others around to help, one thing I was keen to avoid down south was wrangling with tyre levers on the Adrar plateau at 37°C in the shade.
    Even though it was tubed, I knew the rear rim would have the ‘MT’ type safety lip for tubeless fitting, so I set about sealing each spoke with a hand-picked array of glues and tape (below; long version).

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    Michelin also sent me their Mk2 version of their TPMS kit I’d tested on the Himalayan last year, but which had played up.

    Other mods to the AT included:
    • height and angle adjustable Palmer screen
    • swapping out the lame handguards for Barkbusters
    • Adv Spec 'variable stack' bar risers (best price for miles)
    • direct wiring an SAE plug for my ageing Cycle Pump which would be getting some use
    • a pair of Kriega’s mini fork socks (below). Like many, my AT came with a blown seal; fixed by the dealer on warranty. The great thing with these zip-tie & Ve**ro Kreigas is you don’t need to remove the forks.

    Which reminds me, with all this tyre changing, I fitted an aftermarket centrestand; NoBrainer™ is the brand name ;-).

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    I got a call from my LBS who were wiring in some USB plugs and refitting a crash bar (Dirt School had removed them to sell elsewhere).
    Did I know the LHS radiator and fan were a bit crumpled?
    No, but I thought I’d detected the odd whiff of coolant.
    Mauritania in March was no place for a flaky cooling system but the ferry was leaving in 5 days...
    Not for the first time I was experiencing the pre-departure cock-up (PDCU) I warn about in my book.

    Ondar prices? Forget it, mate’ said the shop.
    'Wiv all dem bits it'll take weeks, Weeks I tell ya!'

    Good thing with popular bikes like ATs, MT07s and so on is there are loads of wrecks on ebay.
    I snagged an LHS rad/ran assembly for 300 quid. My AT was not turning out to be such a bargain after all. Oh well.

    [​IMG]

    Long story short, I picked up the bike with 18 hours to spare.
    Except an email that morning advised the ferry was cancelled.
    Ciara was bearing down on the Channel with all her force.
    Even a 24-hour delay gave me only 3 days to cross Spain and get to Marrakech for my first group.
    Getting there late and frazzled was too risky.

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    One good thing about coping a PDCU is the high likelihood of immunity from further PDCUs.
    You pass into the loved-up honeymoon period which lasts until the first ITFCU (In the Field Cock Up) pulls back and punches you in the crotch.

    With that promising thought in hand, Plan B was deployed: truck the bike to southern Spain.
    I’d fly to Marrakech, do my tours on a loaner, fly back, fly to Spain, pick up the AT and meet my Road Trip chums only a day or two late.
    It would be a shame not to have tested the bike on the trail, but what was there to know?
    It would be either manageable or it wouldn’t.

    I loaded it up with a selection of Kriega, GL, Lomo and kayaking drybags, left it at the truck depot and flew to Marrakech.

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    #5
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  6. Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie & Clyde Wishing I was riding RTW

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    :lurk
    #6
  7. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    In like an in thing! :clap
    #7
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  8. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Two weeks later and my tours passed by with no dramas.
    A gallery, fyi.

    I’m in Marrakech airport with a six-hour turnaround in London before flying straight back down to Malaga
    to collect the bike and meet the other two a couple of days later.

    The reason for the rush was partly to not keep them waiting, but also because we’d already left it all a bit late.
    The cool season – by far the best time to ride off-road in the actual Sahara (as opposed to Morocco) – was over.
    Temperatures down in Atar were already showing 36°C or 97°F.

    That’s an average figure. Exactly two years ago, (early March) I was on a camel trek in Mauritania.
    A TV crew from France 24 joined us for a bit, celebrating the joyful return of charter-flight tourism after a decade disrupted by jihadist kidnappings.

    That year it hit 40°C every day for a fortnight. Even the Sahara gets unseasonal heatwaves, it seems.
    Our Moorish guides had us on the trail before dawn. We marched until 11am, then lay down and inched along with some shade till 4, re-loaded and got another couple of hours in.

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    As many know, ambient temps up to body heat (97) aren't so bad riding a bike on a regular highway with regular stops.
    But throw in any kind of remote location and physical activity, like picking up and pushing a bike out of the sand, or repairing a flat with no shade, and water consumption shoots up.
    A few too many spells like that in the middle of nowhere and you’re finished, as on a bike you can never really carry enough water.
    On top of that, I’ve learned from previous ill-timed Sahara rides that heat exponentially raises risks of ailments in both man and machine (not least tyre troubles).
    Especially when alone, it can all get a bit desperate.

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    • • • • • • • •​

    Back to now and a couple of days earlier a huge sandstorm swept out of the Western Sahara and into the news.
    We’d noticed the hazy skies from the High Atlas trails.

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    On the Canaries, planes were grounded leaving holidaymakers stranded.
    If they weren’t orange yet, they sure were now!

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    Saharan sandstorms are a bit like cyclones and maybe tornados; they mark the transition of seasons.
    It’ll be hot down south now, and getting hotter.

    It will also be exceeding windy.
    Sandstorms are like any storm, a periodic build-up and release of energy.
    But as temperatures climb, February–March marks the Season of the Winds.

    In the late 1960s National Geographic covered the first (and last) Trans-Sahara Land Yacht Rally.

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    The French organiser ran it in Feb-March and hoped to prove that a three-wheeled sail with a drag-board brake off a kid's go-kart (below) could make viable desert transportation.
    Landrover needn't have worried.

    [​IMG]

    More on Sahara sand yachting.

    I was turning a blind eye to the wind, figuring it’s not as problematic as heat.
    After all, what is a motorbike but a wind machine?

    But I knew from last year’s Himalayan ride that in the Western Sahara it blows day and night which makes the limited resources of moto camping miserable and eventually exhausting. We know how that ends.
    Relentless wind means that, like a sand yacht, you tend to keep moving, because stopping means getting blown over or pelted by sand.

    • • • • • • • •​

    In Marrakech airport the clueless ground staff strung us along until 1am, at which point they came clean: our flight was cancelled.
    We were bundled off to a nearby hotel and flew out the following afternoon.

    My Malaga connection was long gone, and once back home, one by one the wheels began to come off our #SaharaRoadTrip, bouncing off into the desert, never to be seen again.
    #8
  9. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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    CA dez (it's a dry heat)/West Yellowstone,MT
    PDCU's dealt with and ITFCU's to look forward to. I'm in :ear:ear:ear
    #9
  10. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    A week later I’m unstrapping the AT at a storage unit on the edge of the Andalusian hill town of Alhuarin.

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    Plan B has evolved into Plan C.
    That’s C for solo.

    The Major had to bail last minute and Pav was off games after a T7 tumble while waiting for us in Morocco. He might catch up.
    After considering packing it in till next winter, I decided, sod it: the bike’s in Spain, let’s just see how far I get.

    I take a tyre-scrubbing route over the Sierra of the Snows and the AT feels terrible.

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    When I brake the front Motoz squirms like a mollusc and hums like a power station.
    I don’t feel at all confident but remember that once fully loaded, tanked up and on new tyres, just about every travel bike feels like this.
    It takes a while to adapt to the newly configured bike.

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    Sure enough, within a couple of hours I’m swinging along as merrily as can be expected

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    I pass the famous Pueblos Blancos around Ronda and with the pressure off, spent a day at a favourite hosteria on the outskirts of Alcala, repacking my packing, calculating distances and loading the Garmin with key waypoints.

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    I also cook up a new theme for my ride: try and stay in every ‘Hotel Sahara’ I could find.
    A string of ‘Sahara’ lodgings runs along my route at least 3500 kilometres all the way to Atar in Mauritania, and maybe beyond.

    Hotel Sahara is also was looks like a naff Brit movie from the early 50s.

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    Next afternoon I’m first off the ferry and riding out TanMed port past the SIM-card touts.
    I sit back and enjoy that magical moment at the peak of the entropy curve when the paperwork is sorted, the wallet, tank and tum (but not the bladder) are full and my first Hotel Sahara is just a couple of hours down the road.

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    And Asilah’s Sahara hotel is a gem: an immaculate old-style travellers’ pension set round a brightly tiled courtyard.

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    A former Portuguese trading post, Asilah seems to have become an arty enclave for weekending Tangerines.
    I go for a wander. In the old town a tout homes in and insists I buy a charcoal sketch drawn on the back of used cement bags.
    Trop avant-garde, mon ami.

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    There’s a bloke squeezing fresh OJ from a cart. I get myself one.
    Then I realise the whole boulevard is lined with ripe orange trees.
    Vendorman can just reach up and pick more as needed.
    Must be one of the shortest supply chains going.
    We could do with some of those right now.
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    #10
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  11. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

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    IN.
    #11
  12. Oh2RideMore

    Oh2RideMore Long timer

    Joined:
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    In so far. Looks good. Solo always works out, just need help if anything happens. Keep it coming.
    #12
  13. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Sorry, 'Hotel Sahara' got temporarily shut down due to government health regs, but is back and open for business.

    I set off from Asilah for a long day on the motorway.
    There's a Hotel Sahara is in the middle of Essaouira, a trendy coastal resort, but that's a long day's ride.
    This time I'm determined not to wear myself out as I often do when riding alone.
    I'll need that energy for later.
    I'd sooner dodge bigger towns anyway, so I treat myself and book a highly-rated €35 clifftop place off Booking, 20kms south of Safi.
    It may be the last decent lodgings for a while.

    An hour or two south, I cross the impressive Mohammed VI bridge near the capital, Rabat.

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    It may be boring but the autoroute is safer than the N1 highway with less traffic and much less chance of falling into a speed trap.
    But this is still Africa not Denmark so you'll get farmworkers dashing across three lanes dragging bales of hay, others blithely selling produce on the hard shoulder while grazing their sheep, and at one point there's a ghostly donkey standing in the fast lane, it's broken leash dangling in the breeze.
    Below: a visualization of that unnerving scene.

    hotsa1.jpg

    With the steady cruising conditions, I decided to test a theory as to whether the bike is more economical in the lowest power mode ('Gravel' P3).
    In the morning I do a tank's worth at a modest 65 in P3 with the throttle barely open, and the same in the afternoon in normal P1 Touring mode.
    The bike feels smoother and more responsive on full power and it's more economical too: 53.4US vs 46.6 in P3.
    These are corrected figures – the mpg display is about 4% pessimistic.
    So the AT can do up to a true 430kms on the 18.9-liter tank which is well in the adv ballpark.
    But as I'll find out later: one's mileage may vary.

    This graph below is actually from the 1100L which has an additional ‘Off-Road’ power mode.
    Percentages are throttle openings, not power.
    Nail the throttle (‘100%’) in any mode and you get all the beans.
    But with small openings (‘25%’) – as you’d use noodling about off-road – power is reduced, presumably to constrain wheelspin or unwanted quarter-ton lurches.
    You'd think that's what traction control is for but that can be turned off, as can ABS at the back.
    ABS I get and may have saved me some broken limbs over the years, but I've never had a bike with all these electronic riding aids.
    Having ridden without TC etc most of my riding years, I do wonder if you need power and traction and engine braking modes on a regular travel bike as opposed to a knee-down, pushing-the-limits sports bike.
    I think it's just all become cheap and easy enough to add on and make for impressive specs.

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    The view is great but the place that night south of Safi is a disappointment for the money, as I've commonly found on the Moroccan coast.
    Nice local couple who looked a bit nervous of a biker, but clearly owned by a foreigner who thinks it's better than it is and maybe massages the Booking ratings.
    An overpriced omelet for dinner, brekkie next morning is extra and skimpy, and soon after I come up in flea bites from the bed.
    Never had that in Morocco in all my years, as I tell them later. Won't stay there again.

    [​IMG]


    I'm back on slow backroads now, the coastal route which winds in and out of the hills where the Atlas ranges slide into the ocean.
    Tractors, old bangers and donkey carts share the road, pumping out produce and other food for the vast, budget-holiday resorts in Agadir which I've managed to avoid all these years.
    Almost exactly 60 years ago Agadir coped the Big One: an earthquake that killed a staggering third of the city's population and left the rest homeless.
    Now it looks like the Spanish costa in the 1980s.

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    Agadir leads to Tiznit where I spin off back to the coast near Sidi Ifni.
    Nearby there's an incongruous apartment resort perched on a foggy headland, probably popular with Moroccan families in summertime.

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    In three months I imagine it'll be heaving with braying kids and fraying parents but right now in March it's deserted and dead cheap.
    The guard lets me park the bike right outside the door.
    It's great to have a darn good spread out. This joint is bigger than our place back in London.

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    This is Legriza, a tiny resort and site of a famous rock arch.
    Down on the beach the Atlantic surf is pounding.

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    And a bloke dressed up like a pantomime Tuareg is offering camel rides.

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    I walk the mile down to the arch. They say there were two but one collapsed.

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    With only two or three others staying here, the resort's resto is closed so I cook up some desert stash and with no wifi either, have an early night on the kindle.

    One good thing about coastal Morocco is that the old Spanish influence prevails which includes a breakfast with cafe con leche worthy of the name, not the lame-arsed milky froth you get inland.

    [​IMG]


    I work my way back inland to the N1 highway and by mid-morning pass through Guelmim, the last town in 'mainland' Morocco and self-styled 'Gateway to the Sahara'.
    Just past this arch I gun it onto the open desert road ... and get snagged by some wily radar coyotes.
    Rats! I've spotted and dodged a few today, but heady with deserty expectation, my guard was down.
    Straight away I clock he's not a mean cop so I dance the well-worn dance.
    My ploy of 'apologetic; take it on the chin' and reaching for the wallet seems to work.
    He lets me go with a warning.

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    We're out in the desert with a rolling 750 miles to the border.
    #13
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  14. swimmer

    swimmer armchair asshole

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    Glad to see this RR get updated again.
    #14
  15. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    378
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    UK and around
    From now on its just the blacktop, the sand and the wind.

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    I come up behind a convoy of Qatari luxury SUVs, probably hunting what game there is left in the area: gazelles and birds.
    'Ramadan-dodgers' I've heard them called by locals, although that's not for another month.

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    Notice the BGAN sat dish on the Landcruiser roof so the princes can keep in touch while living it up out in the desert.
    Later on, I pass them parked in a row outside a roadhouse – the BGAN security outriders arranged assertively in a ’T’ at each end – fender to their doors.
    Step away from the VIPs!

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    We drop down into Tan Tan where I pull over to buy some phone credit.
    I like this unpretentious desert town, a long way from the tourist trail. I stayed here with my WR250
    a couple of years back
    , a bike which weighs nearly half the AT.

    I had a bit of a lip-crewing, long-day-of-the-soul yesterday thinking about what lay ahead. I know it’s normal at the beginning of some trips but try as I might, I couldn’t visualize the AT being anything more than a tank in dirt any rougher than a gravel car park. Or more specifically, I feared getting exhausted wrangling it over rough ground, falling off and having to pick it up. Was it even possible more than once or twice?
    For me adventure riding is largely about getting off the bitumen. Anything else is just touring or getting there.
    That’s why I’ve never been into big bikes: they severely constrain any ‘let’s go up there!’ adventure impulses which you’d not think twice aboard a WR.
    But then I well remember struggling to hold 55 into headwinds hereabouts on the WR – and the months of crippling backache which followed.
    The WR and AT sit at opposite extremes.

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    At times the highway is just a stone’s throw from the sea cliffs. Fog banks push up and spill over the road.

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    The coast here faces north, straight into the cold upwelling Canary Current which gets funneled between those islands and the African coast.
    Nutrients brought up from the abyss makes for great fishing. Scores of moped-mounted artisanal or informal fishermen cast off the cliffs to sell their catch locally.

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    Coming up through the fog from this inlet 90km from Tan Tan, I reach a checkpoint...

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    and the first subsidized fuel station, a way of encouraging settlement of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.
    7.7 dirhams is abouyt about $3/USg.

    [​IMG]

    Not far down the road is Afkhenir where fish restos are as plentiful as casinos on a Nevada border. I've been looking forward to it: fresh food is one of Morocco's highlights.
    You’d think they’d be loads more places like this down the coast, but there aren’t.
    Perhaps the cold, fish-friendly current swings offshore south of Cape Boujdour.

    [​IMG]

    I finish up with a tea and go for a wander around town.

    [​IMG]

    There are loads of old Santana (Spanish built) Landrover 109s from the 1970s parked up.
    It’s the chosen mule of the Saharawi nomads in WS. Notice the ‘tropical roof’.

    [​IMG]

    Live chickens, olives and parsley, if you tire of fish.

    [​IMG]

    A place to get your 109 fixed up.

    [​IMG]

    Talking of fish and currents, I came across this odd image on Google from Nouadhibou harbor where I hope to be in a few days.
    Took a while to realise it's thousands of small, wooden fishing boats clustered around the quays, like salt crystals on a string.
    There’s no way there are enough fish let alone fishermen in NDB to sustain that volume of boats.
    Turns out warming ocean currents in Senegal has seen fish move north. Poor fishermen followed them and, combined with the voracious Chinese demand for sardinella to make fishmeal (food for fish farms), a ‘fishrush’ hit NDB, until Mauritanian authorities impounded all the boats, or something like that.
    Long version

    wrbhg.jpg
    #15
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  16. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2004
    Oddometer:
    378
    Location:
    UK and around
    Back on the road.
    With a sea breeze the temperature close to the shore is a good 10°C cooler than just a couple of miles inland where an arid southeasterly blows in from the desert.

    [​IMG]

    Not a good place for two stubborn truckers to meet.

    [​IMG]

    Camels

    [​IMG]

    Saharawi nomads on the move, in search of greener – or any – grass.

    [​IMG]

    It’s famously windy down here. Last year on the Himalayan it didn't stop blowing day or night for the week we were down here.
    https://advrider.com/f/threads/himalayan-tubliss-troubles-in-western-sahara.1382499/
    The Moroccans have erected a huge windfarm, over 100 windmills near Cape Tarfaya,

    [​IMG]

    I stop in Tah, a one-camel town with barely a shop.
    But it has a big monument which I presume commemorates ten years of the Green March of 1975 when 100,000 Moroccans
    walked over the then border here and ‘peacefully invaded’ Spanish Sahara which the Spanish had lately vacated.
    (There was a bit of aerial bombing inland).

    [​IMG]

    Morocco crept forward into Western Sahara, pushing up successive militarised berms which lead to the Polisario War.

    [​IMG]

    Now there is a UN-observed ceasefire and the former colony is divided in two.
    It's one reason why most maps insist on calling it Western Sahara.
    There is no country with that name – the territory is divided as below – but to do otherwise would be to admit that Morocco won the
    war which, annoying though it may be – they did and have been developing their Southern Provinces ever since.
    A side benefit is that saying 'I'm going riding in Western Sahara' sounds a whole lot more adventurous than 'Morocco's Southern Provinces'.

    [​IMG]

    As I near Laayoune, it’s really getting quite hot for early March. Even the guys at the fuel station and checkpoints make comments.

    [​IMG]
    #16
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  17. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
    Oddometer:
    506
    Great log, keep em coming!
    #17
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  18. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2004
    Oddometer:
    378
    Location:
    UK and around
    I roll down to the causeway/bridge leading into Laayoune
    A couple of years ago the Seguiet el Hamra (Red River) actually flowed for a few days, breaking through the causeway, resulting in l o n g detours.
    I blunder around until I find my way to the hotel we stayed at last year on the Him.
    Once in a while I like to revert to 'memory' function and give the GPS a break.
    There is no Hotel Sahara in Laayoune.

    At the hotel the same parking guardian spots the tourist and his sunken eyes spin like a slot machine.
    He nags on and on about how he'll watch my bike all night – or fall asleep trying.

    [​IMG]


    Laayoune or El Ayoun ('the well') is the capital of Morocco's Southern Provinces and with a whole lot of investment from the north appears to be thriving with a youthful, vibrant ambience you don't often see down here.
    At least in the centre where most of the northern migrants hang out. Out in the suburbs and the Saharawi slums beyond, things may not always be so rosy. Occasionally riots break out, usually disgruntled Saharawi vs cops.
    I catch up with my internet and once the sun sets and things cool down, go out in search of nosebag.

    Down by the main roundabout carefree kids are whizzing around on bikes, just like they are all over the world.

    [​IMG]


    One of the pleasures of travelling is throwing yourself at a cheap food joint and seeing what turns up on the plate.
    This evening's plate of the day seems to be an unusual combo: hard-boiled egg set in a ring of dates, a small bowl of aromatic soup and a pancake the size of a flannel, thickly doused in Nutella.
    That'll do me for a quid or 2.

    [​IMG]


    Emboldened, I go for a wander downtown. Young Saharawi girls in their flowing, wrap-around melfas are promenading arm in arm, eyeing up the scooter boys.
    You get the feeling that like a lot of frontier towns, things are less conservative than in the rural north.

    In a mini supermarket I strike the motherlode of Vache Qui Rit triangulated cheese-matter: every flavour under the desert sun.
    This stuff lasts longer than a heavy-duty plastic bag and with some tinned fish and a packet of flavoured cous cous or slab of local bread, you have some tasty fast-food right there.
    There won't be another shop like this for some time.

    [​IMG]


    In my head I've arrived at the existential equilibrium I claim to have possessed all along: let's just see how far I get inching south a day at a time, and if things don't feel good I can flip around and ride some fun tracks up in the High Atlas.

    Next morning i negotiate a series of checkpoints and ride out of town.
    A digger is engaged in the Sisyphean task of clearing the night's wind-blown sand off the highway.

    [​IMG]


    On a two-wheeler this stuff can be a lot nastier than it looks, especially if deeply rutted.
    Ride in on a trailing throttle or, worse still, front braking and you'll flip like a trout, as a rider on my tour a couple of weeks ago found. He was tackling quite literally the only 20 feet of loose sand in the entire 1100 kilometres and managed to whack some sharp-edged blocks in a river bed.

    [​IMG]


    That's why I chose a Motoz Adventurnator for the front – it will give a few seconds of 'hold my beer!' confidence before I come crashing down in a pile anyway.

    Down the desert highway, a naive young checkpoint cop allows me to take his picture.

    [​IMG]

    He salutes proudly like John Wintergreen might have done in Electra Glide in Blue.

    'Do you know that me and Alan Ladd were the same height?
    Right down to the quarter inch!
    '

    [​IMG]


    I pass through Boujdour, bookended by kitschy municipal sculptures.
    It's an under-appreciated art form in Morocco and much of the Sahara.
    Teapots are a popular one, especially on a roundabout.

    The sculptures remind me of The Lion and the Unicorn nursery rhyme, referring to England's union with Scotland in the 1600s. (I've known this longer than 10 seconds, obviously!).
    'The Lion [England] beat the Unicorn [Scotland] all around the town...'

    Maybe the rapacious Swordfish and flightless Ostrich respectively represent Morocco and Western Sahara.
    Maybe my understimulated brain is turning in on itself.

    [​IMG]


    The tarmac is so fresh they haven't even done the white lines yet.
    A northbound biker! Looks like a big KTM.
    We exchange waves and in a flash, are gone.

    [​IMG]

    Conditions are clearly optimal for overland rollerblade sail-carting!
    Giant mono-wheeled sail barrows were a thing in China in the olden days.
    There sure is a lot of wind going spare out here. Might as well use some up.

    [​IMG]


    The next town is Dakhla, about 340 clicks.

    [​IMG]


    Quick rest on the continental shelf.
    Directly west of here is Key West.

    [​IMG]

    A little further on I reach Dakhla Junction and turn west onto the peninsula for my next Hotel Sahara.
    #18
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  19. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,288
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Just stumbled across your RR and quite glad I did, thoroughly enjoyed thus far and look forward to what comes next @Chris S.

    Haven't read any of your other reports, but really like your writing style and approach; and the pictures are incredible. Doubt I'll ever take a journey like this, so I appreciate them.
    #19
    Chris S likes this.
  20. sunjan

    sunjan n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2020
    Oddometer:
    1
    Location:
    Stockholm
    Did the same stretch in a Peugeot 504 back in 1999, and been wanting to go back ever since. Your thread brings back sweet memories!
    #20
    Chris S likes this.