Travelling Africa on a KLR

Category: Morocco

Marrakech, High Atlas, Heading North

2016-10-07

Ride in to Marrakech from Essaouira is fairly uneventful. Traffic in Marrakech is pretty heavy. Relax at hotel the rest of the day.

2016-10-08

Head downtown to see the sights. The cab hits a motorcycle on the way in, this is treated like nothing here. The downtown  is another Moroccan tourist trap filled with fake guides though not quite as bad as Fes. These big cities really aren’t my thing.

Walled Medina

Walled Medina

Field Gun

Field Gun

Koutoubia Minaret

Koutoubia Minaret

2016-10-09

I head out to Jbel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. Today I am the motorcyclist that gets hit by a cab. Fortunately it is just a bump at a red light. Both myself and the bike are fine. The jerry can has a black scuff on it but isn’t damaged. At a construction zone near Tahnaout a water truck has flipped into the ditch. I stop and get out my first aid kit but the driver is alright and climbing out of the cab by the time I get back so it is not necessary. Snow is already at the peak and even in Imlil the temperature is cooler and my ear drums tell me the altitude is quite a bit higher than Marrakech.

Scenic Valley

Scenic Valley

Toubkal

Toubkal

2016-10-10

Today I ride the notorious N9 highway from Marrakech  to Ourzazette. They are currently re-working the road through the high pass and have created wide highways with proper passing lanes. This is likely due to the route having a reputation as being dangerous but it looks like the new road will be much safer. I arrive in Ourzazette around two o’clock and decide to ride to Demnat on R307. The Moroccan national highway system is pretty good, consistent with the Trans-Canada Highway for the most part. The regional and provincial highways however can  be decent two lane highways to single lane with intermittent gravel. R307 is the latter. About an hour into the ride I finally figure out what the squeaking noise coming from the bike this afternoon is. The right pannier rack top bolt has come loose and is rubbing against the spacer. I spend about 45 minutes trying to get the rack lined back up but end up strapping it in place as I can’t get the bolt holes lined up on the side of the road. When I finally do get it fixed later it requires disassembling both sides of the rack and a lot of swearing. The ride takes me through a number of small villages and over a few high >2200 m mountain passes. I arrive in to Demnat at night due to the rack and worse than expected road conditions. I can’t find a reasonably priced hotel room and end up playing the GPS hotel chase in the dark which I don’t like as the roads aren’t good and people and animals are on the road. I finally find a truck stop hotel at 10:00 and settle in to my sleeping bag liner for the night.

Sorry there are limited pictures from today I was running  the action cam in video mode which is too much hassle to upload.

High Atlas Near Demnat

High Atlas Near Demnat

2015-10-11

Long ride to Tangier by Casablanca and Rabat.

2015-10-12

It is raining today so I go buy my ferry ticket to Spain, and get the Moroccan mud hosed off the bike.

2015-10-13

Rainy ferry ride to Spain and stay in Estepona.

 

Anti-Atlas Mountains, Agadir, Essaouira

2016-10-03

I leave Tata an head out on P1805 which takes me through a number of small villages in a valley before beginning a massive mountain climb. The scenery is gorgeous and the villagers wave at me friendlily as I ride through.

Valley in the Anti-Atlas

Valley in the Anti-Atlas

After coming down from the mountains around Taroudant it is hot, extremely hot. The kind of heat that sweating doesn’t help. Fortunately I am headed to Agadir where the cool ocean breezes make the climate much more comfortable.

2016-10-04

I kick around Agadir for the day to take a break (this vacation is exhausting)

Port of Agadir

Port of Agadir

2016-10-05

I ride to Essaouira today. The first part of the trip is right along the ocean and very nice riding which turns to fairly boring highway riding the rest of the way.

Beach Near Agadir

Beach Near Agadir

Also Near Agadir

Also Near Agadir

I go to a restaurant that night an order a fish dish. When the waiter brings my food he says be careful it is hot while pointing at my dish. Thinking he is referring to the temperature of the plate I say okay and proceed to begin my meal. Halfway through my meal I decide I will eat the last cherry tomato on the plate. After popping the whole “tomato” in my mouth I suddenly realize this “tomato” is not like the others. It is a pepper, an insanely hot pepper. Realizing the advice of my waiter was not properly followed I search out anything to numb the pain pulsing through my tongue. The best I can do is bread as my Flag Special isn’t helping at all.

2016-10-06

Essaouira is a small town that was built by the French to be a naval port and the Medina is different than other Moroccan cities as it has been planned instead of organically built.

Essaouira Port

Essaouira Port

Medina

Medina

Mogadir Island

Mogadir Island

I also get my riding suit laundered as riding around in rain has done nothing for its cleanliness and riding in the desert has not improved it’s smell.

Sahara

2016-10-01 and 2016-10-2

Sorry for the long delay between posts, I only have one excuse: laziness.

I meet my guide in the afternoon and we head toward the Sahara from Zagora. We ride to Tagounite and pick up supplies, water, pringles and Mirinda (knock-off Fanta,) then head into the desert. For the first bit it is piste that is rocky but fairly easy to ride. After about 45 minutes we are starting to go through some pretty deep sand. I have never ridden in sand before so this is an exhausting exercise for me. Jawad my guide hops on the bike to show me some tricks for riding in the sand, he makes it look easy in sandals. Over the next two days I do not get to his level of expertise but at least I see some improvement.

Sahara

Sahara

Saharan Super Highway

Saharan Super Highway

Jawad and I in the Sahara

Jawad and I in the Sahara

Jawad on the Moto

Jawad on the Moto

We stay the night in a Berber camp set up on the edge of Erg Cheggaga, which are the high dunes. There are some permanent buildings for the washroom (who needs a shower in the desert) and kitchen. The rooms are tents with beds set up in them. Shortly after I drop my gear in my tent, two tourists from Italy show up and it is time for our camel rides into the high dunes for sunset then back to camp for dinner. Ab is originally from Morocco and Eva from Germany. They work at a university in Northern Italy.

Berber Camp

Berber Camp

Non-Mechanical Camels

Non-Mechanical Camels

 

Ab and Eva on Camels

Ab and Eva on Camels

Desert Hot Water Tank

Desert Hot Water Tank

Sunset on the Dunes

Sunset on the Dunes

Camels on the Dunes at Sunrise

French Riders on KTM 250's

French Riders on KTM’s

I ran into these KTM riders later in the day in Tata at the hotel. They look to be having a lot more fun on their 250’s than I am on my KLR. The high speed sections are the only place where I can keep up to them. On the sand I am just too inexperienced and afraid of breaking myself. The guy I spoke to said they thought there was too much sand that morning also so I don’t feel as bad about my skills or lack thereof.

Once we pass through the military checkpoint (due to the proximity to the Algerian border) at Foum Z’guid, my guides lead me to the nearest gas station and we part ways. At the gas station I meet Ruben Maxtral http://www.rubenmaxtral.com who is riding solo on a BMW G650GS. He is heading to the desert the next day but is heading the same direction as me this afternoon, so we ride together for an hour and exchange contact information, I will try to meet up with him when I am in Madrid later in the month.

Ruben

Ruben

Errachidia, Kelaat M’gouna, Zagora

2016-09-28

Leaving Fes I head towards Errachidia which involves going through the Middle Atlas Mountain Range which is beautiful.

Afterwards I go through Ziz gorge where if the I had the camera setup properly you would see wonderful shots of the gorge and palm trees, but instead you can see the out of focus photos taken from the bike when I get back.

Ziz Gorge

Ziz Gorge

Once in Errachidia I find a hotel and the owner brings me to a local restaurant for chicken.

2016-09-29

In the morning I have to use a squatty potty for the first time. I manage to successfully use it but I still prefer western toilets.

Today it is raining, leave it to the guy from Vancouver to bring rain to the desert. I am not 1 km down the road when I reach a washout in the highway. Truck traffic is still passing but scooters and motorcycles seem to be turning back. I ask the police if there is an alternative route around. They decide it is easier for one of them to escort me through town rather than explaining it so a police car escorts me through town. Once I am on the other side the police have now stopped all traffic.

Hoping the water is subsiding I carry on south towards Zagora. About 30 km out of town I come to a large section of highway that now has a river running over it. I watch a few cars go through and it isn’t that deep but it looks fast. As I am sitting there debating whether to cross or not a guy on a scooter shows up. We discuss what I have observed and he hops off his scooter, turns it off and proceeds to walk his scooter through in his keds and jeans.

After observing this I decide I look like an idiot and ride through as the water isn’t that fast.

We proceed to the next wash which isn’t very far down the road. After crossing that one I see he is shivering vigorously. He is wearing soaking wet jeans, canvas shoes, a thin jacket and a helmet. I am dry in my suit and so I ask him where he is going, the next town, and offer him my insulated jacket and spare gloves. He asks if I have any rain pants or boots but I unfortunately don’t have spares of those. Together we head off and battle our way through the rain and rivers toward Goulmina. Shortly before we arrive he turns off the road, I assume he lives on this turnoff but there doesn’t appear to be anything out here. A couple hundred metres down the road I can see why he has brought me here. We are at the top of the plateau that drops off to the city.

My Rain Friend

My Rain Friend

Goat Herd

Goat Herd

We chat about my motorcycle and where I am going. Then we head in to the city and grab a coffee. When it stops raining I decide to head out again. Within twenty minutes it is pouring rain again. When I reach Tinghir the police tell me the road to Zagora is closed. I change paths and head towards Ourzazate. By the time I reach Kelaat M’gouna I am cold and tired and find a hotel for the night.

2016-09-30

I wake up and my gear is still wet. The rain has stopped though so I head out and the gear will air dry on me. I ride to the top of a table mountain and decide to stop and take a photo as there is a shoulder on the road here. I pull off the road and the shoulder gives way causing a low speed fall over. A scooter is thirty seconds behind and he helps me right the bike. The mirror and the handguard have been knocked loose in the accident and will need to be tightened. The right pannier has also received some bruising in this fall over.Ten kilometres down the road I stop at a gas station and tighten the mirror and replace the handguard bolt. Shortly after Ourzazate a man with a broken down car flags me down for a ride to the next town. The road is being widened and is in bad shape, I don’t think we would get away with the unsafe conditions seen here in Canada. We cross a mountain range and arrive in Agdz where I have a tea with the man.

Mountain Pass on the way to Agdz

Mountain Pass on the way to Agdz

I arrive in Zagora later and setup my travel to the Sahara the next day.

2016-10-01

Before I head to the Sahara I take in some sights around town such as the Date Palm plantations and Jewish Kasbah.

Date Palm Plantation

Date Palm Plantation

Zagora Synagogue

Zagora Synagogue

Fes

2016-09-26

I leave Chefchaouen on my way to Fes. Shortly after I leave town road construction begins the road has already be paved but they are chip sealing the surface so I get to ride on loose gravel which is always “fun.” Fortunately the road work only lasts about 15 km.

Along the way I am flagged down by a cyclist. He is from Khenifra, Morocco and is bicycling all of Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal. He asks where I am going and where I have been. We wish each other good travels and I am back on the road.

Lake on the Way to Fes

Lake on the Way to Fes

Once I get in to Fes I realize my hotel is in the Medina so I cannot bring my motorcycle to the hotel despite my best efforts people stop me and make me find parking.

Once checked in I book an official tour guide for the Medina for the next day.

2016-09-27

Abdul, my guide, meets me in the morning. He shows me the Blue Gate near my hotel which is the main entrance to the Medina. Afterwards we visit the place where Maimonides lived and where the water clock he designed is located.

Blue Gate

Blue Gate

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Maimonides Water Clock Building

Our next stop is the Madrasa, a school built in the twelfth century. It contains architectural elements from the time and is largely original. While at the Madras, Abdul and I have a discussion on the current state of education in Morocco which is very interesting and informative.

Minaret at the Madrasa

Minaret at the Madrasa

We then proceed to the carpet makers, tannery, and weavers. These all include ultra aggressive high pressure salesmen and are thoroughly unenjoyable for a guy who orders everything from Amazon so he does not have to deal with sales people.

Restored Door

Restored Door

Carpet Maker

Carpet Maker

Tanneries in Fes

Tanneries in Fes

 

Tangier, Chefchouen

2016-09-22 to 2016-09-24

Continuing on from the last post. I cross from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. I ride up to the ferry line, buy my ticket, pass through security and board the ferry. The ferry is of the “fast cat” type which will probably only make sense to my friends who are from BC. It is an aluminum catamaran ferry capable of carrying passengers and vehicles that travels much quicker than traditional ferries. On board I fill out my entry declaration for Moroccan passport control on the boat. Waiting in the line in front of me are four Canadians travelling to Morocco, they are from Toronto and have travelled from Madrid by car roughly taking the route I will when I return. The crossing takes about 35 minutes but all in about an hour as the crew won’t allow people on the car deck until the boat has landed.

Once off the ferry I head to customs to fill out my D16 Ter form which will allow me to temporarily import my motorcycle into Morocco. It is slightly confusing and I am sent upstairs with the instructions “a la droite, room with computers, hand them your passport and they know what to do.” I must look lost to an employee so he brings me to the room with the computers. No one is in there so he tells me to wait a couple minutes and leaves me. Twenty minutes later the police officer on security for the ferry passengers takes pity on me and brings me to a police officer elsewhere to register my passport as it is my first visit to Morocco so it can be associated with my motorcycle. I head back down to the bike and speak to the customs officer who can now stamp my forms and let me go.

I am staying at a nice resort on the beach in Tangier as a treat to myself. Even though there is underground parking the staff has me park at the front door so they can keep an eye on it from the front desk. That afternoon I stock up on critical supplies like drinking water, Pringles, and Orange Fanta (which I have become addicted to this trip.)

The next day I walk to the Medina and wander around trying to avoid the numerous con-artists.

Tangier Port

Tangier Port

Camels on the Beach in Tangier

Camels on the Beach in Tangier

Tangier Medina

Tangier Medina

Tangier Beach

Tangier Beach

The day after I ride the bike out to the Caves of Hercules. The roads in and around Tangier are very good and not too confusing or crowded. The caves are located west of town so I ride the bike there and park out front. The cave existed naturally but the Phoenicians carved  an entrance from the sea in the shape of Africa. The caves were later expanded to make grain mills which I believe (there were no tour guides or information available) is the reason for the circular patterns carved into the wall in the cave.

Once I am done exploring the cave I head back. The man cleaning the street at the cave is very interested in the bike and keeps fawning over it and my jacket in Arabic. Hoping he can understand some French (as this conversation is well beyond my means in Arabic) I tell him I am traveling around Morocco on the bike. He shakes my hand and says “God Bless” and carries on with his day.

Africa Entrance to the Cave Carved by Phoenicians

Africa Entrance to the Cave Carved by Phoenicians

View from Above the Cave

View from Above the Cave

Hercules Cave

Hercules Cave

2016-09-25

I head out of Tangiers towards Mzoura Stone Circle which is a megalith dating from 3000 BC. From the research I have done it could be a tomb or used as a part of spiritual rituals.

I miss the initial turn off and carry on to the next intersection. There I end up in a town where some guy offers to guide me there as it is “very difficile.” I have the coordinates programmed in the GPS and think I can make it there on my own so I refuse his “help.”

I leave town and drive ~10 km and come to a sand road where the GPS tells me to go. I turn off the road and begin driving down a sand road. All of a sudden three guys are shouting at me to stop. Fortunately one of them speaks French and he tells me that the route has changed and shows me a picture on his phone of the pointer stone to confirm that is where I want to go. He lets me know I can drive on the main road for 4 more km and don’t have to take the sand road the whole way in. I thank them for their help and leave them to tend to there work. For every scammer you run into thankfully there are nice guys like this who are genuinely helpful and kind.

At Mzoura the guardian opens the gate and lets me walk around. In no time I have a young boy following me around the site who poses for a picture of the “Pointer.”

Mzoura Stone Circle and follower

Mzoura Stone Circle and follower

After Mzoura I head west towards Chefchaouen. The area around Mzoura is gently rolling farmlands where they are growing hay, watermelons, and lumpy orange melons. As you head farther west the terrain becomes more mountainous and the land is being used as pasture. As I am driving down the road an elderly goat herder flags me down on the road. I stop and figure out his water bottle has run out. It is quite warm in the valley (over 30 C) so it isn’t surprising. He doesn’t speak French so we have a conversation of gestures. I fill up his water bottle from my water bladder. Given the small number of vehicles traveling on the road and the fact that it doesn’t appear anyone else has stopped he is very appreciative and numerous blessings are said. Once he is topped up, he thanks’ me and heads off to his goats.

I continue my ride through the mountains to Chefchaouen and find a hotel room for the night. Chefchaouen is painted blue and looks quite beautiful. The hotel has a couple Turkeys in the compound that make noisy neighbours along with the numerous barking dogs that keep me up most of the night.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Noisy Neighbour in Chefchaouen

Noisy Neighbour in Chefchaouen

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