04-20-2013, 01:58 AM
Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
After a good breakfast I got on the bike and headed up the Todra gorge. It was still early and all the tourist booths were still closed. The sky was blue and I was in a good mood, but as soon as I had left the gorge behind I saw the first snow flakes falling down. What?!
The valley widened and I could see that the sky was now blue behind me and white everywhere else. Right now the snow melted the second it touched the ground, but higher in the mountains I would for sure have to deal with snow on the ground and I was not yet ready for that. I came to Morocco to flee the winter at home.
So I turned around and took the main road to Errachidia, chased by the coulds. It was very windy and at times like riding through a sand storm.
By now I had figured out that I could keep the bike from overheating if I kept the speed below 80kph. There was a larger front sprocket zip-tied to my bash guard somewhere, and I thought I could improve the situation as it would lower the engine revs a bit. All I had to do was borrow a matching Allen key somewhere. I found a small scooter repair shop and with a bit of pointing, gesturing and the few words of French I knew I got the messsage over. There were happy to help me and soon I had 3 generations of mechanics nearby to give a helping hand. I offered some money for their service, but they refused to take any. Instead I was now confronted with an invitation to stay with their family and have lunch.
Here's what I love about that: When you travel in a group, you spend most of the time talking to your friends, and there may be someone who knows the language and does all the talking with the locals for you. But if you're on your own, you can't hide. Also, you're less intimidating and people come over to say hello and ask questions.
Then there is the difference between the larger cities or touristic areas and the more remote small towns. The first people you encounter in Morocco are beggars and other people specialized in extracting money from tourists. But here, you could see the true hospitality and friendliness which can be found in Morocco. I've seen the same in many other - mostly Islamic - countries. Even if it may sometimes just be because hospitality to travelers is advocated by their religion, I like it. With these guys here, it was true friendliness. They were bikers after all.
Before I left they asked me for my plans and I took out the map, pointing at the route to Midelt and then Fez. They shook their heads and gestured that this road was blocked, indicating something falling from the sky and pointing to a place somewhere between here and Midelt. A closer look showed that there were a couple of rivers to cross, so I figured one of the bridges may have recently been washed away. Great, if I can't have any more offroading or pistes, I may at least have a nice river crossing!
I started questioning my interpretation when I came to Midelt without incidents, but kept on going. The road climbed up the eastern Atlas and it got colder and colder. I stopped and managed to get into my rain coverall which helped to keep me from freezing.
Riding becomes dreary and tiring if you have to ride over cold plains at 80kph. The further I got, the more snow was on the ground. Eventually the snow also took over the road and the two-lane road morphed effectively into a one-lane road as there were now only two tire tracks clear off snow. I realized that this was leading nowhere: this was the main connection to Fez and should be busy with traffic, but there were no more trucks. I decided to continue to the next village, just for fun. The last meters I drew my own tire marks in the snow and then I came to a closed barrier across the road, complete with a burning oil barrel and a handful of men warming their hands.
I was told to go back to the gorges and head for Marrakesh or take the route via Missour in the east. Both alternatives were a few hundred kilometers detour. So the mechanics had been talking about snow, not rain.
I jumped on the bike and went back as fast as I could. It was getting dark and staying somewhere here for the night seemed like a bad idea: What if it started snowing over the night? The fact that my cooling system was now very low on anti-frost and running on almost pure water didn't help either.
I found a hotel in Midelt and checked that the room had a heater. The night guard would watch my bike. Perfect. I turned it up to the max and headed for the city to get dinner. It was already quite late, but the streets were still busy with people selling dates and - from the smell of it - some variations of weed. I opted for a kebab from one of the small booths. No warm water for a shower, so I just crawed under the sheets and fell asleep.