I woke this morning at 3:30, unable to go back to sleep for no good reason. I got to thinking all kinds of stupid stuff, like my bike would get stolen, or maybe just the front wheel and I'd find it for sale in the souk, and stuff like that. I hated Fes and couldn't wait to get out of there. I got up to use the bathroom and hit my head on the wood carving over the doorway, which nearly knocked me over. Guess I need a sleeping helmet, too! I kept dwelling on all the crap of the night before. Not being able to find the hotel. Having to pay to park on the sidewalk. Having to pay a kid to help me get back to the hotel, and him insisting I give him 100 dirham (about $12) for walking me about one minute. (Didn't happen.) Feeling like I'm seen as a walking bank machine by everyone who sees me. Being too pissed of about dinner to even eat it. I looked at the menu at the riad (hotel) and the dinners were mostly about 300 dm ($40).
Huh? In Morocco? Dinner down the street was the same thing for 80 dm.
But it was too late to go out, so I just had a beer (still an unbelievable $5 for a 10 oz beer). I nearly came to my senses once and decided to order dinner anyway when a couple of Swiss guys came over to chat. They're riding to the Sahara, had seen me come in wearing riding pants, and wanted to chat about bikes, routes, etc. Nice guys, but by the time we got done tlking, I think it was too late to order dinner. Whatever. I wish my wife had been there, she would have pointed out that it was all done, we were in a great place, and to get over it and enjoy it. But I have a harder time with that. The kid who guided me told me the owner of my hotel was mafia and I was sleeping with mafia, like it was my fault. He also pointed out what he said was the hotel owners burgundy Mercedes right next to where I parked, as if to reassure me this was a good place. I didn't really buy any of it.
But breakfast wasn't until 0830. I tried to sleep but couldn't. I might have gone down and checked on the bike but I was pretty sure the front door to the Riad would be locked either going out or coming back, so that made no sense. The only thing to do was wait.
By breakfast I was really hungry, having skipped lunch and dinner yesterday. I don't really know why, but sometimes I get that way. I get going and I don't want to stop, unless it's to take a picture, which I'll u-turn and go back a mile for without hesitation.
Anyway, I packed up my stuff, dumped it in a pile in the gorgeous tile courtyard, and had breakfast. While I was eating and drinking coffee spiced with cinamonn (yum) the owner came over and started chatting with me. He seemed like a nice guy, really enthusiastic about the riad, which he said he spent six years restoring. He said he saw where I left my bike, and that it was a good place, very safe, he parks his Mercedes there. Turns out his accountant lives about an hour from me, in Luxembourg, and he talked about living in the US, and other stuff. By the time I was done with breakfast and lot of good coffee, I was in a better mood. I even looked around and admired my surroundings. When I checked out he didn't even charge me for the beer.
I had no trouble finding the bike, and it was fine, as he said it would be. Only a spot of bird poop on the seat (glad I took my sheepskin cover off!). They guy I paid last night was still there, and gave me a friendly nod. OK, maybe this isn't all bad. I decided to give Fes another chance. Like my friend Pete said when I was thinking I was having bike trouble, "Think about where you are, and how hard it will be to get back there"
. Or something like that. So like with Lisbon earlier, I did my best to shrugg it off and went for a walk in the medina. It is the largest ancient medina in the world, and I decided I shouldn't run off quite so quick.
On my way back I saw the Swiss guys, loaded up and getting a bit of help to get going. They had asked if I was on a BMW, coming from Germany, and they were surprised when I said no. I was equally surprised when I saw what they were riding.
I hope that when I'm in my sixties I'll still want to do things like ride a dirt bike 4000km's on vacation. (I'm not even sure I want to do that NOW!)
What kind of bike is that, anyway. DR400? He had an aftermarket larger fuel tank on it and a Suzuki sticker slapped on it kind of off kilter.
Turns out the medina is a very different place on a sunny morning. or maybe just on Friday, the Muslim holy day of the week. Shops are mostly still closed, the hustling kids must still be in bed, and I walked around for about an hour very peacefully.
It really is a very interesting place. Not somewhere I'd want to live, but very interesting to see. The smells were the most interesting. Mint tea and cat pee. Pigeon poop and cumin. Frying garlic and wet sweaty donkeys. Lots of good and lots of bad, but I like it a lot more in the morning.
I took these pictures for my friend Mark, who owns a house I'm helping to restore in Piesport, Germany.
Very glad it's not as detailed as this, and very glad our supplies don't have to arrive by donkey!
OK, not everyone rides a donkey.
I even found a bric-a-brac salvage store up at the top of the hill.
The owner I talked with was Suleiman. When I asked him if he was named for Suleiman the Magnificent (longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
), he grinned and showed all nine of his teeth, and proclaimed that he was
Suleiman the magnificent. I liked him immediately. Maybe that's why I ended up with a wool rug and a scrap piece of Fez tile.
Or maybe 'cause I kept walking away and the price kept coming down until they were $50 for the both.
Not sure what I'll do with them and it's dumb to haul them all the way south to Marrakech and back, but it was the thing to do at the time. Maybe make some coasters from the tile piece, I don't know.
I hit the road and made it out of Fez, going through a really nasty suburb. This area is buildings made of bare concrete block, peppered with satellite dishes.
Not sure if it's clear in the picture but the huge pile of stuff off the side of the road is trash. Stinking, ugly, rotten trash, being eaten by goats and unloaded from trucks by hand, and every bag being picked over for anything of value.
The goat herders were sitting under tents on the mounds of trash, watching their flocks. I got to thinking about how some of these people live, and if I was in that place and someone like me came by on a shiny expensive motorcycle, someone who's helmet cost more money than I had seen in my whole life. I think I'd feel OK about looking at them as a walking bank machine, and about hustling them out of whatever I could.
I took P4050 northwest from Fez, and if you're thinking about doing that, I'll save you the trouble. Lots of traffic and terrible pavement.
I've seen lots of these irrigation systems in both Spain and Morocco, and wondered if they are in use. I saw one today that had water flowing in it, on that had a plastic pipe in it, and this one, obviously not in use.
I got stopped by my first police checkpoint, two guys who shared very few common words with me. They talked in French, I talked in English, we all shrugged a lot and smiled. I finally showed them my GPS, as they seemed to want to know where I was going. They looked at my route and said it was "impratique"
. Well I knew that
. I was riding 50km north to go somewhere that was 40km west. Yeah, but the scenery, the roads... they finally sent me off with a wish for bon journee
Turns out maybe it wasn't just the route that was impratique
But I finally got to the end of it and turned south, retracing my favorite part of the N13 in the process. I stopped for gas and had a nice lunch (65 dirhams including water and Fanta). Maybe I've relearned the lessonn of don't skip food and water when easily available, as it leads to more poor decisions later. Bet I'll need to keep learning it.
Another thing happened at lunch. After gassing up, I rode the 50 feet over to the restaurant parking without my gear on. After lunch, I was walking over to the bathroom when a young guy sitting at a table held out a black leather glove and asked me something. I looked at the glove, and thought, "Hey, that's just about like mine. Wait, maybe it IS mine
. So I looked down at my hand, and sure enough, I didn't have it on (duh!). His little brother was wearing the other one, which he took off and handed me. He smiled and wished me "Bon Journee"
. Yeah, OK, not everyone
here looks at me like a bank machine.
I got to Volubilis and saw this bus, and for half a second couldn't believe a bus would come all the way from Africa. And then I realized that I was IN Africa. Duh! Somehow it's still a bit odd.
I spent about two hours walking around Volubilis. It's just really incredible to see what's there, all in it's original place, not glassed over and in a museum. There was a small sign asking that visitors not walk on the mosaics and not graffiti the walls, but that was about it.
If you're interested in Roman stuff, you GOTTA go here, and do it before they finish the new and expensive visitors center. Bet it will cost more than 10 dirhams ($1.50) to get in then.
Just over the hill from Volubilis is Moulay Idriss, the holiest town in Morocco for muslims. For those who cannot afford to make the required hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, required as one of the five pillars of Islam, five pilgrimages here is an acceptable substitute. During festival time in August, the area is packed, with people camping out in tents. Eric told me it is know for the two hills of town looking like a camel.
The town was closed to non-Muslims until 1912, but since then has welcomed visitors to all but the most holy sites. Here's a cool old travel poster from the early 20th century.
I ended up at the IBIS hotel in Meknes. Not really proud of the decision, but after last night I wasn't in the mood for more hotel adventures. Predictable corporate sounded good. And they have a POOL! It was pretty hot today walking around, about 85 degrees, so I couldn't wait to get in the pool. Which doesn't open until next week, and has no water. So much for predictable.
Tonny (aka Don T.) arrived after a long ride from the coast, on some of the same roads I took two days ago. It was fun talking about some of the same things we had noticed. We're planning to ride together for the next few days, which I think will be fun. He's riding the NEWER model 650 V-strom, so I may have to work a bit to keep up with him.
We walked over to the old medina to find some dinner and ate at a great little sandwich shop.
You order your meat, and are asked "how much?", which is usually what I'm asking, meaning the price. But they want to know how much meat you want to eat. You order by the hundred gram (about 1/4 pound) and they weight it out and give it to the guy at the grill, who cooks it for you over charcoal while you wait a few minutes. I had chicken, Tonny had beef heart ground into sausage, both were excellent. Wish this was common in the US.
On the way back to the hotel we passed McDonalds, which was PACKED! This is just part of the outdoor seating area, which can probably seat 250 people.
And the drive through had maybe fifteen cars backed up waiting. Funny that many here seem to wish our way of eating was more common there, too. The grass (grease?) is always greener on the other side, right? Tonny called it candy food, ok for a couple times a year but you can't eat it regularly, and I agree.