Hotel Sahara • An AT in Africa

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

  1. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

    Jul 7, 2006
    Fantastic stuff. Write on, maestro
    Deleted405664 and Chris S like this.
  2. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    Thanks for your kind words and continued interest.
    As anyone who tried will know, these RRs take quite a lot of work ;-)


    Dakhla clings to the end of a long, thin peninsula dangling off the otherwise exposed desert coast.
    The shallow lagoon it traps was called ‘Rio de Ouro’ by early Portuguese mariners, demonstrating a 15th-century
    example of pre-empting your position when a little lost. I’ve done myself many times.
    The real ‘rivers of gold’ which supplied the crowned heads of medieval Europe (and on which Timbuktu made its name)
    were further south in Mali.
    There’s no river for hundreds of miles, but these days there is a constant stream of kiters riding the reliably relentless
    winds but without risking getting blown out to the Azores.
    never seen so many kites in one place.


    I first came here in the late 90s, getting a lift with a wheeler-dealing mate back when selling old Merc sedans was still good business.
    Everywhere in the world the three-pronged emblem denoted a prestige vehicle, except in Europe and especially Germany where an old
    300D was just smelly old taxi. Classic hadn't turned to retro yet and high-mileage TUV failures went cheap.
    So did export plates.


    Like the hobos we were back then, we camped on a beach.
    I recall I misjudged the tide a bit that night and had to dig an emergency moat at 3am.


    Andy flogged his Dusseldorf taxi in Atar (RIM) for four times what it cost him.
    Unfortunately, he lost most of it at the border.
    Easy come, easy go.

    Read the story here:

    On that occasion, I took a bush taxi down to Nouakchott, the capital in the days when the beach at low tide was the only direct ‘road’.
    Q: Along with ten 50-kilo sacks of grain, how many passengers can you get in a 70-series Tojo pickup?
    A: 22. Ladies up front with the driver and the music. Everyone else in the back.

    It's very hard to buy a HJ70 ute in Europe and North America, and in Algeria they're banned without a good reason or better connections.
    The aspirated straight-six is the most desired (and most stealable) light-hauling mule in the Sahara.
    Forget your Taliban Taxi Hilux – this is the ute of choice out there.


    Enough reminiscing and back to now. No dossing on the beach for me tonight.
    Not forgetting my stated mission, I headed downtown to a Hotel Sahara.


    The place was located beside a busy market and inside, the bloke gave me and 'are you sure, mate?' then apologetically offered
    his last crumby room, two floors up from the ablutions.
    It soon became clear why business was so good; it was the place where skinny-jeaned itinerants and immigrants with a dubious status hung out,
    either looking for a way north or work in the town.
    Though no one paid me any mind, I felt like I’d blundered into the wrong neighbourhood.
    This skanky Hotel Sahara was a far cry from the tiled resthouse up in Asilah. Oh well.
    I pack all I didn't want to lose into my Kriega and go out for a wander.
    On the seafront families are taking selfies in front of the giant teapot sculpture, thoughtfully fenced off to stop kids clambering on and falling in.


    I turn around and head into the backstreets in search of the cheap places where locals eat.
    It doesn’t take long: a couple of bowls of tasty chorba (soup) and some vache on toast for a quid or two.
    Back at the Sahara I need a wash but the sinks are urinals and the crappers merge with the showers merge into one
    amorphous Lynchian miasma.
    I revert to emergency ablutions protocol: the trouser shower.
    back in the sweltering room, there’s nothing I can do about the missing window, but I shove a table against the door
    for some early warning and sleep better than expected.

    Next morning I load up on the brekkie while the market pigeons pick over yesterday’s leftovers.…
    The night watchman dozes in his seat and will want a tip.

    I load up the bike and take the long way out of town, letting the GPS map led me to the Atlantic coast where new resorts
    are getting ready for the rush.

    back on the main highway, it’s about 4 hours to the border and less than a 1000 miles to Dakar.


    I pass the Tropic of Cancer and swing back for a photo.


    As the day warms up a stiff wind starts hammering out of the east and turns into a bit of a dust storm.
    About 80 clicks from the border the last town – Bir Gandouz – emerges from the haze.


    We stayed here in ’97.
    With the weather as it is, spending hours at the border won’t be fun so I decided the old Hotel Barbas can’t be any worse
    than last night’s place. I take an early cut.
    As always, better to hit the border first thing to give you all day to get well past the other side.

    I park up, rub the sand from my eyes, unload and walk in.
    The Barbas is not the place I remember.
    It's an oasis in a storm – transformed into a giant aviary thanks to a huge shade net slung over the garden courtyard off a huge pole.
    Waiters flit about serving drinks and a bloke with a broom is busy trying to sweep the sand back into the desert.
    The room’s a dream (or just ‘normal) and the WiFi works. It may not be a Hotel Sahara but it will do me nicely for the night.

    I check up on the Covid situation.
    Things have moved fast and it’s not looking good.

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  3. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    We interrupt this thread for a commercial break


    AMH 2020 is out, or soon will be in the UK.

    But not for months in North America.

    Here’s the first review:

    I have a couple of advance copies I can send now.

    Or in about a month Book Depo in UK will have stock, discounted and post-free RTW.

    Cheapest deal by far.

    Links in Vendors:

    Your thread will resume shortly.
    Will Rogers likes this.
  4. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    The clientele at the Hotel Barbas is like that bar in Star Wars.
    Besides a couple of over-equipped overlander-tourists like me, there’s a grumpy German woman
    cycling to Cape Town and incredibly – a German guy walking to Dakar.
    Six months on the road, he was a bit anxious about the way ahead across Mauritania.

    Kids these days.
    Good to know they’re not all pouting into their smartphones!

    An Irish U-N guy struts around making sure everyone can hear his important phone conversation.
    The UN hang out in desert bases, monitoring the ceasefire with the Polisario.
    Not sure what that entails exactly. It’s been quiet for years and the border Berm is well defined.
    Morocco has what it wanted.

    Elsewhere, shady Moorish wheeler-dealers chatter furtively into cellphones while clutching bulging briefcases.
    Feral guys in skinny jeans and puffa jackets lounge around,
    They’ve slipped over the RIM border and are calculating how to get north to El Dorado.

    Only El Dorado – or ‘Europe’ to you and me – has become the nexus of COVID pestilence.

    In a week or two NYC would become the epicenter but Morocco – well versed with the ebola threat from the south a years ago –
    isn’t waiting to be next on the list.
    Flights, ferries and frontiers are closing in a day or two.
    The shutters are coming down.

    Had I pushed on and crossed into Mauritania (RIM) today, I may well have been stuck there for quite a while.
    And RIM is proper Africa, a much grubbier place to be trapped than Morocco.

    My trip has now taken on a new turn.
    I need to get out of Dodge, asap.

    In my room I cook up some unneeded desert food.
    Drat – I forgot my old travel spoon. I improvise with my Mo-Pro bead breaker.

    It's 2235 clicks back to Tan-Med ferry port. A good time to be on a one-litre Africa Twin.

  5. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

    Aug 16, 2004
    CA dez (it's a dry heat)/West Yellowstone,MT
    I wonder if that works as tire lube as well???
  6. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    It was around this time that the British PM made his
    ‘I’m going to have to level with you…’ speech.
    Suddenly the coronavirus was serious.

    These were the scary early days of the pandemic when none of us quite
    knew what was about to befall us.

    Even non-stop, there was no way I’d get back to Tangier port to catch any ferry back to Europe,
    let alone be able to ride across Spain which was locking down too.


    Luckily in Morocco, it’s become quite easy to leave your vehicle for up to six months and fly out.
    You leave it wherever it’s safe, and at the airport visit a special Customs office to get some papers stamped.
    It was Sunday. My plan was to ride back to Marrakech over a couple of days and leave the AT at the bike rental agency I work with.
    The g-friend back home had booked me a one-off flight on Friday and suggested I register with the British embassy who
    were co-ordinating these special ‘rescue flights’ because all airports were about to close.
    I was about to get repatriated, just like in those disaster movies. Or so I thought.

    I filled up and set off back the way I’d come.
    Only now the wind was hammering hard from the north, straight my face.
    Grit was soon getting through my goggles and up my nose.


    I tried to keep under 110kph, but there's no easy way of shifting an AT through a gale and the fuel gauge was falling fast.
    No worries, I’d passed three old fuel stations on the way down, south of Dakhla Junction where I filled up the other day.

    As the road curved round the Bay of Cintra, named after a Portuguese mariner who’d inched his way down this coast 500 years ago,
    I pulled over alongside a low cliff and climbed up for a view.
    The wind’s still blowing but there’s less dust in the air. Looks like the tide's out


    The first fuel station is just past the north end of the bay.
    I pull in but a guy waves me on before I stop.

    I pass the isolated ivory white dunes where I remember Andy and a Canadian hitchhiker leaping off, 23 years ago.


    At the next fuel station it’s the same thing.
    Ans the third fuel station is so run down they’re building a new one right next to it.

    I’m down to no blocks on the fuel gauge with 60 clicks to Dakhla Junction.
    I slow down to 100kph, hunker down on a minute throttle and watch the numbers.
    The AT is drinking more fuel than an IT250 with a leaky carb.
    I need to get to that blue flag at Dakhla junction or the sky falls in on my head.


    We’ve all been there. Tucked in, head down, trying not to breathe too much and increase the resistance,
    while watching the numbers fall, raging against brutal gusts and waiting for the first fatal cough from the engine.
    Every mile gained is another I don’t have to walk. Pushing? Forget it.
    I take heart that fuel gauges always cut you a bit of slack.

    Halleluia, the Junction roundabout’s ahead.
    I circle round, managing to dodge another tedious passport check, pull in and fill up with 18.2 litres.
    It was only later that I realised the AT has an 18.9-litre tank.
    That’s about a pint and half to spare – a bit more than 10 miles.

    The AT’s been knocking it back at less than 30US; my range had dropped by 40%.
    And it wasn’t like I was belting into the wind without a care in the world.
    I'm not impressed.
    The last road bike I had that was that bad was a GS750 I mistakenly took in p-x for my sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing KLX250 back in 1981.

    It makes me realise that big volume engines will get through the fuel, no matter how conservatively you ride.
    Which, along with their added weight, makes them all the less suited to my sort of riding.
    A T7 or similar is really all you need to get the job done.

    I head on my the highway.


    I pull into a deserted grindhouse-roadhouse for a top-up and a late lunch.
    It’s like something out of a Tarantino movie.
    I wait by the pump patiently.
    After a while a bloke wanders out of his office over to an old shack on the far side of the forecourt, turns on a generator to fire up the pumps, wanders back to his den and comes over.
    There’s no ‘what’ll she do, mister?'
    He’s a sullen Saharawi who was never born for ’front-of-house’ duties.

    Feral dogs pace around for scraps and inside the cantina a goat carcass swings from a hook.

    A bloke comes out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on his jeans.
    ’What you got?’

    He didn't actually specify goat meat, but the sauce has some flavour and I chuck the inedible offal and cartilage to the mangy forecourt dogs.


    And pour myself a tea


    It’s another hour or two to Boujdour for the night.

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  7. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    The Atlantic Highway rolls under my wheels at a steady 111kph.


    There are less than half-a-dozen towns on this desert highway and the next one is Boujdour.
    There’s no Hotel Sahara there, but any place off the foreign tourist map always makes an interesting destination.
    One reason is people tend to ignore you or treat you like any other person. Because that is what you are.

    At the southern entry to town is another kitschy municipal sculpture – this time a red mullet leaping in ecstasy.
    Notice too how the lampposts are delivered pre-bent against the wind so as to dodge any warranty claims.


    I ride down to the corniche to look for more but it’s pretty bare. Kids hanging out, couples huddled in the wind. No beach to speak of.
    The main town is set a mile back and so, oddly, is the lighthouse.

    On a map Cape Boujdour isn’t much to look at, a slight hump in the Atlantic coast.
    But rounding it was a major achievement for 15th-century Portuguese navigators and scores of ships have been lost right here over the centuries.
    Little wonder when even crude maps like below (which identifies 'Budezor' on the left) weren’t out for another century.

    Note the one-eyed Monoculi thought to inhabit Nigeria and the kingdom of the mysterious Prester John in present-day Ethiopia.


    Apparently, shallow reefs extend from the Cape out to sea and, combined with the Saharan northeasterlies which set in here,
    your medieval, coast-hugging caravel inching south into the unknown swiftly gets dashed onto the breakers.

    Such a fate befell the fogbound American brig, Commerce in 1815, and Dean King’s tale of the two-month ordeal suffered by
    Captain James Riley and his surviving crew at the hands of their desert tormentors is a great read.
    Russell Crowe was even going to star in the film, but I think they hit legal trouble with King.


    I ride over to my hotel, rated **A and just off the main street.
    I’m the only one there. As often in such places, the kid manning the counter is a bit thrown by a foreigner and has to call someone.
    They let me in.
    My room is stiffling so I open the window, but over the road a zealous devotee of Islam has pitched up and is reciting Koranic verses over and over and over. This goes on for at least an hour non-stop.
    Just as back home, it's bad form to tell such people to put a sock in it.


    After dark I go for a wander in search of street food, catching the odd whiff of hash from the kids in a square.

    In a nearby cafe some fresh chicken kebabs catch my eye.
    BYO bread and cheese? No problem.
    The bloke grills me up a few skewers.
    I love this casual informality in Morocco and probably much of the developing world.
    None of that 'you can't eat that unless you bought it here' that you'd get back home.


    The main streets is busy: as in many hot countries, the promenading hour starts after dark. Girls arm in arm, groups of boys looking on.


    An outdoor market is selling Chinese tat and down the road the funfair’s in town.
    A ’step-right-up’ guy is in full-schtick, demonstrating an all-new, NASA-developed wonder vegetable slicer to some transfixed hijab'd women.


    “… it fillets, it chops, it dices, it slices,
    Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn
    And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school

    Where have I heard that before?

    I end up near the lighthouse off the main road, now safety set inside a military base.
    It certainly sounds like Cape Bouhdour needed one but why a mile inland on a flat shore unless they want to capture more Rileys?


    I head back to my hotel.
    The holy fool has run out of puff and gone home.

    G-friend is worried I'll be stuck in Morocco till the next Ice Age and says the UK embassy's Twitter is a good follow and source of info about flghts.
    A pinned tweet advises registering by email which I do and get a reply telling me to register, which I do and get a reply telling me...
    In the end, I never heard from them.
    Neither does anyone else and so stranded Brit holidaymakers all over Morocco are venting spleens or freaking out on Twitter.
    According to some the airport at Marrakech sounds like the Fall of Saigon.


    People are queueing for hours with no food or water, only to be let down by a cancelled flight.
    Others are pleading:
    '@AmbassadorReilly HELP! My ailing mother can't get to Marrakech before her meds run out and a taxi driver wants 500 quid! Please HELP!'

    Used to rough travel, I'm a little smug. Get pro-active, do what it takes to get out.
    But I suppose if you've come here for a cheap holiday in a gated resort with your-in-laws and kids you're not expecting to have to fight your way onto a plane with hundreds of others.

    According to disaster movies I've watched, repatriation is an urgent but orderly evacuation of a pre-arranged group of travellers on plane chartered by your government
    You turn up, show ID, they tick you off the list and you get on board with a sigh of relief.
    It seems not. Govt arranges a plane with an airline, but you have to buy a ticket online along with 1000s of others. Except you can't as they're uncontactable.
    In the end, I'm not sure if registering or following the Twitter made any difference.

    At least I have my own wheels.
    Tomorrow: a short ride to Tan Tan.
    Next day Marrakech. Park the bike and work it out from there.
    Friday should be on but my back up flight next Monday is already cancelled.
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  8. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    It’s just 300 miles from Boujdour to Tan Tan where there’s a hotel with the best Spanish coffee for miles.

    Just before Layounne, I turn off for the coastal back route which dodges the city.
    The wind is back, belting down from the northeast and low dunes blow over the road.
    [some pix from my earlier WR trip]


    And if it’s not the dunes then it’s Layounne-dodging trucks and feral camels.


    Talking of shipwrecks, a few years ago this ferry was beached within minutes of its maiden voyage to the Canaries
    from Tarfaya.
    All the passengers got offloaded without too much drama.
    Had there been an inquiry, the captain might have pleaded:
    “The rudder jammed hard left, your honour. Honest, I couldn’t do a thing with it!”.
    The overpowering reek of an insurance job may have filled the courtroom.
    In the current climate of African migrants desperate to get to Europe, establishing a potential new gateway from Tarfaya
    to the Spanish Canaries seemed highly improbable.


    The windswept seafront in Tarfaya has a monument to French writer and pioneer aviator Antoine de St Exupery -
    author of the much translated Little Prince.
    Based on the author's own plane crash in the Sahara, it was said to be the most-read children’s book by adults before
    Harry Potter hit the scene.


    I read it recently – not my cup of tea.
    But if you dig deserts and flying, I recommend St E’s autobiographical Wind Sand & Stars.
    It's often cited as a classic top ten adventure read.

    He wrote it while stationed here a century ago when this was known as Cape Juby, a vital refuelling stop on the early
    Aeropostale service between Toulouse and Dakar.
    Like the Portuguese caravels from centuries earlier, the early biplanes had to hug the coast as a navigation aid.


    The semi-abandoned Aeropostale base today.


    Just offshore is another curious ruin to human enterprise: Mackenzie’s Factory (old name for trading post) set up by
    yet another canny Scot in the late 1800s. Built on a tidal reef, if was perhaps exempt from taxes, or at least protected
    from Reguibat raids.

    When I was here on the WR the tide was out and I wandered up for a closer shot (below).
    The locals boys took me to be some sort of perv and started throwing rocks and shouting:
    ‘Faak-off, German peado scum!!’

    Why do they always have to be German?
    Secure in my innocence, I ignored the onslaught.
    I’d been wanting to see this place for years, a few jibes weren’t going to stop me.
    I got my shot and pissed off before they called the police.


    The island trading post was Mackenzie's second attempt at making it big.
    Originally he'd come here with a bat-shit scheme to flood the Sahara.
    Bang in a few canals here and there and ships could sail from Cape Juby clean through to Timbuktu and cut out the
    caravan trade, just like Dutch and Iberian merchant vessels killed off the Silk Road across Central Asia.
    You can read more about that here.
    It was the time of epic projects like Suez and Panama, and it’s probable he overestimated the extent of the shallow
    inland depressions by a factor of a few thousand.


    Passing back through Afkenir, I make sure I pull in for another fish-of-the-day, then set off for the last 100km to
    Tan Tan Plage.


    I like this hotel from my WR trip, but it’s gone downhill a bit and changed its name to something less continental.


    Now young blokes come in to spin out a coffee and cig for hours and stock up on wifi porn while watching giant-screen football.
    Just as i’m covering up the AT outside a police car pulls up and yells at the man:
    ‘Get those chairs inside and close up. Right now!’
    The new edict will take effect in 9 minutes at 18.00 hours.
    All bars and cafes will close. For the moment hotels remain exempt.

    Back inside, the formerly genial mood turns dark and reception guy makes a point of spraying the counter where I
    just signed in.
    I'm puzzled by the sudden change in mood.
    Your average Moroccan is scared of the police and petty bullying is normal.
    But maybe the cop said something about me and the penny has dropped.


    Africa is known for its periodic outbreaks of nasty diseases, but this time the epicenter of the scourge is Europe,
    bringing the unwanted pestilence to Africa.

    I’m not just another tourist, I am Death, Baphomet, I am the Plague Doctor, unwitting Bringer of Contagion from
    faraway lands.


    The shutters roll down with a smack and I’m ordered to my room.
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  9. Huffduff

    Huffduff Been here awhile

    Feb 12, 2015
    What a dramatic story! Love it!
    Chris S likes this.
  10. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    Thanks for your interest. My story is nearing its end.
    Or as close to an ending as I’ll get for now.

    That night I caught up with holidaymaker hell.
    On the embassy Twitter people were desperate, confused or angry about the level of practical help from the Brit embassy,
    but this was something I’d encountered during previous travels dramas.
    Much depends on individual staff of course, but while they may live in isolated compounds, these people aren’t the bushy eyebrowed cats from International Rescue.


    Better to rely on your own resources and make your own plans.
    All I had to do was catch a plane, even if it meant camping in the airport for a couple of days.
    Then it turned out my Friday flight was cancelled.
    No matter, I had one on Monday but soon the hotels would start closing up.
    Things were moving very fast in Morocco.
    Tomorrow, Tuesday, I’d reach Marrakech, park the bike and sit it out for as long as it took.

    I’m reading In Xanadu. It looks like the author's far more fed up than I am right now.


    Next day I fill up on my last tank for subsidised fuel and leave Western Sahara.
    In Guelmim – the ‘border’ town of mainland Morocco, a favourite little cafe at the servo is of course closed, so I
    make myself a sandwich in the shade.


    Being back on busy roads, my guard needs to go up.
    In towns pedestrians wander blithely across my path, drivers pulled dumb manoeuvres and generally got on my wick.
    Life is so much easier out in the desert.

    Approaching Tiznit, I slowed down warily behind the car in front, itself up another car’s arse. I was watching it closely,
    covering the brakes.
    A little too closely, it seems.
    There is a violent impact.


    Before I could react to the piece of debris up ahead, I’d ridden over it with a rim-denting smack.
    I was convinced the tyres were wrecked but a glance at the TPMS (I’m a convert, fyi) showed the Michelin Anakees
    had taken it in their stride. Heads up for premium tyres.

    Still unsure of my luck, I rode on slowly.
    Then, bizarrely, all drive was lost. The clutch? Chain?
    I instinctively grabbed the clutch lever and hit the kill switch.
    I gave it a few seconds, then restarted.
    Back to normal.
    WTF was that about?

    Still baffled, I noticed a change in the engine’s tone. Something felt wrong.
    Rolling into the outskirts of Tiznit I pulled over, hopped off and looked underneath just in time to catch the last few
    drops of engine oil dribbling from an ugly gash in the bashplate.

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  11. swimmer

    swimmer armchair asshole

    Oct 9, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    Uh oh.
  12. Red liner

    Red liner Long timer

    May 16, 2013
    What the fuck? What bash plate was that??
  13. nii

    nii Johnnie Walker

    Jan 11, 2010
    Sofia, Bulgaria
    It looks like the OEM POS decoration plate... This photo reminds me to get myself a better one (I too, still run the OEM one).
    Chris S likes this.
  14. Red liner

    Red liner Long timer

    May 16, 2013
    Mine is plastic. Oh the horror!
    Chris S likes this.
  15. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    What are the chances of a block of wood or piece of metal getting flicked up by the front tyre and punching a hole the sump?
    Happens just about every time we get a rear-wheel puncture, I suppose.
    Happens in the movies too.


    Right from the very first such setback in 1982 on the XT500 close to the Niger border and many since, I tend to just
    deal with it, rather than fret.
    I think we all do, whether a war-zone refugee or self-styled adventurer.
    After all, it's not like a ship is sinking in the middle of the ocean.
    You need to get resourceful and, if there is no time pressure, that includes holding your nerve and solving it economically.

    Nevertheless, tending to momentarily catastrophise when catastrophe strikes, I'd got it in my head that the crankcase was pierced
    with the risk of shrapnel inside the engine.
    I'd been through that, fixing up a crash damaged XScrambleR 700.


    After a while I realised it was probably just the sump with much less risk of internal damage and a much easier repair.
    Lucky this happened in a town.
    I probably had the tools to remove the (stock) bashplate and sump, should it need bashing out, before puttying the crack.
    Assuming it all came off easily and the gasket could be reused, it might take a couple of hours.
    I could even see a gas station down the road to buy some oil.
    But I also know things usually don’t work out nice and simply. Especially when you need them to.

    Not a happy face...


    Here’s how it looked in the shop back in December.
    Looks like the front edge of the sump took the hit.
    With 700 lbs of bike and rider pressing down, I never felt a thing – or was distracted by the two wheel impacts.


    From past experience with potentially complicated repairs, if you have the choice, get recovered to a secure place
    before taking things apart.
    I called the bike agency in Marrakech but they couldn’t contact their pickup driver and within hours non-essential
    inter-province travel would be banned right across Morocco.
    But the agency knew a quad outfit in a beach resort nearby.
    A couple of hours later we heaved the wounded Honda onto a trailer.

    Au revoir AT. See you when I see you.

    Hotel Sahara?
    Do me a favour.
    Nearby a Hotel Mauritania was already all shuttered up, seemingly mocking this doomed venture of mine.


    By early next morning I was on the bus to Marrakech, 200 miles away.
    It stopped off at Agadir’s busy bus station where enterprising hawkers piled aboard, flogging masks and gloves
    and, as the Moroccan media would soon report, any old shit repackaged as Berber herbal cures.

    As the only obvious foreigner (read: gullible sucker) they zoned in on me, shoving masks in my face.
    “Mister, Buy mask. Corona! Corona!”


    Back on the road to Marrakech the g-friend texted, then rang.
    The embassy Twitter announced the very last UK planes will leave on Thursday, the day after tomorrow.
    I had to get out by then or be stranded with maybe nowhere to stay. Any later bookings will be cancelled.

    ‘Shall I book this now? Easyjet tomorrow, 1pm’.
    ‘Shit, too late, it’s gone.’

    In Marrakech, walking to my regular hotel, the streets are deserted and the few people are wearing masks.
    This is Mohamed 5, the main boulevard and normally gridlocked.


    At the Three Palms the last couple of guests were all leaving tomorrow.
    After that, they’d probably have to shut down.
    Morocco’s overseas tourism industry was about to collapse.

    Once in my room, I had an overdue stroke of luck.
    An email from Easyjet: Friday’s flight cancelled but there’s a plane of Thursday.
    Click here to book.
    I did, and within 2 minutes had a boarding pass!
    Whether it would actually work remained to be seen.

    I went out to buy some food for tonight and maybe a long haul at the airport.
    Like any big city, they’re not normally that friendly, but in the corner store I got a bad vibe:
    ‘Foreigner. Comes here for a cheap holiday, brings the plaque, kills our economy then pisses off back home.
    Thanks for nothing.’

    I go to a pharmacy to buy a thermometer.
    Along with toilet paper and pasta, Mrs says they’re sold-out back home but are handy for early diagnosis.

    They’re on it already: serving one at a time from behind ceiling-to-floor plastic sheeting.
    I wouldn’t see anything like that in the UK for at least two months.

    scudo, KLRalph, liv2day and 7 others like this.
  16. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    On the way to the airport, the taximan and I joke about the English and their craving for toilet paper –
    currently sold out in the UK.
    But for him and countless others, all this is no joke.
    He is about to lose his livelihood.
    I give him a good tip and wish him well.

    Despite what some on Twitter claimed, Marrakech airport is busy but orderly.
    Being a Brit, I obediently join a big queue of hundreds of others leading to an Easyjet counter.
    Two hours, a sore back and 35 feet later, I suspect it’s for those who, unlike me, don’t have tickets.


    So I take a chance and switch to a check-in counter queue.
    People are milling around but actually it moves fast.
    Bag; passport; boarding pass; have a nice flight ;-)
    Can it really be that easy?
    I'll believe it when the plane leaves the ground.

    I track down the Customs office to get a stamp allowing me to leave my bike.
    It’s done in 10 minutes.

    Masks seem the go so I find a use for my KTM buff, but after this morning's crowds, if I haven’t got it by now, I’m in the clear.

    The plane is delayed for hours but for once no one’s complaining. We've got as far as the departure gate, nothing
    can stop us now!
    Eventually, we pass through and climb up the steps in the rain.


    It ain’t over until the fat wheels are retracted but as the nose lifts some raise cheer.

    There’s a feeling of privileged foreigners fleeing some natural disaster in a Third World hell-hole.
    But in fact, we were leaving a country where, as of today, less than 400 have died, and were heading back to what
    was or would very soon be a far more contagious environment.

    I was one of the lucky ones able to ditch the bike and get out quick.
    As we know, there are longer-term bike travellers stranded all over the globe, some barely able to leave their rented apartments.
    Some sat it out for a few months, saw how things were going and eventually headed home.
    To paraphrase the pilot’s aphorism: “Better to be stuck at home than stranded abroad.”

    Lessons I learned from this experience:
    • The need for good comms. I prefer a laptop but a phone with mobile data is better
    • Short-and-sweet Twitter was useful
    • If stranding/lockdown look likely, think fast. Head for a big airport or border to get home.
    Otherwise, pick an affordable spot with good comms and access to provisions for the duration.
    • Repatriation isn’t like the movies so don’t be passive; use your own wits/resources
    • A ‘ditch bag’ backpack/holdall helps when the bike must be left behind
    • Having loads of cash is reassuring

    A new sump and gasket arrived from Partzilla, delayed two months due to US lockdown.
    Note the parallel UK prices…


    But there’s no rush.
    Morocco continues to extend its emergency measures and is in no hurry to reopen borders to visitors from
    far more blighted Europe where the rate of infection has also lately taken a turn for the worst.
    The scourge rolls on.
    I don’t know when I’ll be able to get the AT back but I doubt it will be by mid-September when my 6 months runs
    out, though I’m pretty sure they’ll let it slip.

    Report ends.
  17. North Thai Biker

    North Thai Biker Been here awhile

    Oct 18, 2004
    Hawaii, Las Vegas
    Great trip report. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.
    Chris S likes this.
  18. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

    Oct 23, 2007
    Thanks for the report Chris, please write an epilogue once you get back with the parts. Or would that be the start of a new adventure?
    Chris S likes this.
  19. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2004
    UK and around
    Thanks and will do if the goats haven't eaten it away.
  20. steved57

    steved57 Long timer Supporter

    Dec 31, 2007
    East Texas
    Hey Chris
    Great writing and pics and look forward to more so thanks for taking time and effort to share with everyone