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Old 09-29-2012, 07:13 AM   #1
Wildman OP
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Wildman's Ride the World 2012 Edition - Morocco & Portugal

Currently in Marrakech having just completed my first real adventure outside of Europe; a 1009 mile, six-day loop from Ceuta to Marrakech through the Rif and Atlas Mountains down to Erg Chebbi then across on the Southern road to Alnif, up to Todra, Dades and Ouarzazate and finally the Tizi-n-Tichka pass into Marrakech.



Wife has flown in for a few days vacation giving me time to share the trip with all y'all before I set off back via Portugal. My riding buddy is stuck in Er Rachidia with a busted bike which we hope will get fixed in time for him to get here for the ride back.
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:27 AM   #2
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Getting here ...

I've had the opportunity to travel through work this year and rented a Versys in Kuala Lumpur to visit the Cameron and Genting Highlands back in April.



In July, after a business trip to Dublin, I rented a F650GS from Celtic Rider (highly recommended) and spent a couple of very wet days on the Ring of Kerry and Gap of Dunloe.





Finally, in August, thanks to the generosity of an inmate, I got a day to explore around Sao Paulo, Brazil on an XT660.



So this was the first real outing for me on the F800GS this year. Ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao, a quick scoot down the autoroute to Madrid for a work assignment and then down to Malaga to meet up with Vincenzo on his Moto Morini 350 Kanguro. Vincenzo and I had linked up on the Horizon's Unlimited, "Travellers Seeking Travellers" forum and had agreed to rendezvous in Malaga where he stores the Kanguro.

A last minute acquisition of some travel essentials, a poor nights sleep at the Travellers Hostel and the next morning we were off to Algeciras for the noon crossing to Ceuta.
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Old 09-29-2012, 11:16 AM   #3
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Old 09-29-2012, 01:56 PM   #4
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Day one ...

The ride from Malaga to Algeciras passed expensively (the autoroute tools in Spain are very expensive) but without problem and we were soon departing Europe bound for Ceuta.



Arriving in Ceuta, Vincenzo needed to fill up with fuel so we located a filling station. On leaving, we turned back the way we had come only for me to be immediately pulled over by the local police. I had crossed a white line. We should have turned right and gone to the roundabout to do a U-turn. Claiming to be French, guessing they didn't speak it and as they hadn't noticed my UK plates, I got away with a stern warning.

A quick stop for coffee and we were soon at the Moroccan border. No cameras allowed!

If you're heading this way, I recommend the use of one of the 'guides' who, whilst they claim to be official, are nothing of the sort but help you through the process of passport control, vehicle import, police check and insurance purchase. We ended up with two which, of course, cost us double but the 150 Dirhams or €15 (I've heard some negotiate down to €5) is a cheap price to pay for the efficiency of getting through customs. I'd look for the smallest guy; he seemed a decent sort.

Just under an hour to get through the border and we were away on the route down to Chefchaouen where we'd booked a hotel. We'd decided to book one night ahead each day. We avoided the autoroute and cruised slowly but assuredly down the national roads and arrived at our hotel, overlooking the town.



Mission accomplished, we were in Morocco and planning a great few days riding South.
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Wildman screwed with this post 09-30-2012 at 03:57 AM
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Old 09-29-2012, 02:37 PM   #5
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Day two ...

We'd planned to ride 165 miles from Chefchaouen to Fez via the Route de L'Unite, through what "The World's Greatest Motorcycle Journeys" calls, "...the wild, lawless heart of the mountainous Rif region, where kif (marijuana) covers the surrounding hills...".

The day started well and after filling up with fuel and avoiding the fist-fight taking place in the middle of Chefchaouen high street, we were both enjoying the ride as we covered the miles east to Ketama before turning south and heading down the R509 towards Taounate. We received several offers to buy some Moroccan "chocolate" as we passed but declined and arriving at a small, pleasant looking village 22kms north of Taounate, we decided to stop for a short break.

A combination of short legs, a tall seat and temperamental side-stand meant that I had to help Vincenzo both on and off his Kanguro and having done so, I jumped on and fired up the BMW. The Moto Morini wouldn't start. Uh, oh!

We found the local mechanic, pushed the Kanguro there and took up residence in the local cafe were we became temporary celebrities, everyone wanting to share a the a la menthe and one of my cigarettes. We never got to the bottom of the problem with the bike although Vincenzo was blaming the quality of the fuel. The mechanic from Taounate was brought in, spark plugs were changed and carburetors cleaned. Eventually, after four hours, we left, me giving the mechanic a lift back to Taounate. Vincenzo was unhappy with the way the bike was performing but we decided to press on to Fez, arriving after dark (something we promised ourselves not to do again) and after recruiting a local guide, found our riad, Dar Warda, in the Medina.





I cannot recommend this place enough. Reasonably safe parking at €3 per bike per night, a shared room with en suite and breakfast for €30 and the coolest and most helpful patron.

We decided to spend the next day in Fez, exploring the Medina and trying to get the right spark plugs for the Kanguro.
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Old 09-30-2012, 09:37 AM   #6
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Fez ...

Morocco has three ancient Imperial cities with old Medinas; Fez, Meknes and Marrakech. I can't comment on Meknes but if you've got a choice and want to spend some time in one of them, make it Fez, not Marrakech.

Fez is a medina where you're invited to smile, you're invited to view people's wares, where you're invited to enjoy life. Marrakech is a medina where you're targeted as a money provider; it truly sucks. I've just spent the day with my wife in the medina in Marrakech. I was harassed numerous times for money, five times hawkers tried to lead us off the main thoroughfare and, presumably, to their shop. Two were particularly rude when I politely declined. Why anyone wants to come to Marrakech when Fez is so delightful is beyond me.

Vincenzo and I spent a great day in the medina at Fez, ate super tajines, changed money, found an internet cafe but ultimately failed to source the correct spark plugs for the Kanguro.
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Old 09-30-2012, 11:17 AM   #7
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Great write up so far.

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Old 09-30-2012, 11:28 AM   #8
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Cheers Josh

Days five (Todra and Dades) and six (through the Tizi-n-Tichka pass into Marrakech) coming tomorrow.
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:50 PM   #9
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Great report so far.

Thanks,

JM.
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Old 09-30-2012, 02:24 PM   #10
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Cheers JM

Great news! Just heard from Vincenzo that the mechanic says his bike is now "perfect"! He's 2,400 dirhams (220) lighter but has spent a nice couple of days in Mergouza by coach from Er Rachidia. He will test the bike tomorrow and we're aiming to meet up in Rabat on Wednesday evening for the ride back to Ceuta.

Fingers crossed.
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:42 AM   #11
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Day five ...

Next morning, my knee was no better. Clearly the efficacy of, "the butter that's lived for 30 years" is in question. After hobbling down to breakfast I packed the bike and headed out quite early to ride up to Todra Gorge and Dades. Once on the bike my knee proved no problem at all.

Todra was, to be honest, a little disappointing. I'm sure that it's geologically interesting but I found it to be drab and unexciting, full of tourist coaches. I rode six or seven miles past the narrowest part of the gorge in search of the track across to Dades but the deteriorating road quality and resultant slow speed encouraged me to u-turn and travel via the main road.





Dades was much better but the weather was closing in with more thunder storms encouraging me to press on to Ouarzazate. The road was good, the bike was set up perfectly, the scenery spectacular across the plateau with views north to the High Atlas and south and I was really enjoying the ride.











Ouarzazate, the, "door of the desert" and the largest of the southern oases eventually came into view.

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Old 10-01-2012, 05:17 AM   #12
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Day six ...

The last day of serious riding in Morocco; just 125 miles from Ouarzazate into Marrakech but what a day! The Tizi-n-Tichka pass stretches for the vast majority of that 125 miles.

My pictures don't do justice to the altitude, technical complexity and stunning scenery of the ride.







Temperatures varied during the ride from 28C (82F) to 7.5C (45F) as I climbed through the pass. I rode through gorgeous sunlight and torrential downpour. The road quality is generally good but with some degradation apt to catch you out mid-corner. It was sobering to witness a car being winched up having gone over the edge and down into one of one of the ravines. I took my time and riding into Marrakech I passed five police check points as the King of Morocco was in town but eventually, the haven of the Sofitel in Marrakech where I'd planned a little luxury break with my wife came into view. I arrived literally five minutes before her. Perfect!
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Old 10-01-2012, 05:43 AM   #13
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Marrakech ...

I've already expressed my disappointment at Marrakech earlier in the report so won't labour the point. The medina is buzzing but it's not as comfortable a place to be for a tourist/traveller compared to Fez which is truly an excellent location.

We're making the most of it and the Sofitel is generally very good and the souk an experience.









There's a saying in Morocco that. "visitors all have nice watches but we still own the time", and it's true.

We're here until Wednesday when my wife flies back to the UK and I head out, hopefully to rendezvous again with Vincenzo in Rabat. Going to ride the autoroute. We cross back over to Spain on Thursday, he will return to Malaga and I will head out to Portugal. I have four days to ride Algeciras to Bilbao for the ferry back to the UK which must include a night in Madrid to collect the work equipment that I left there en route to Morooco. I'm told that one of the nicest rides in Portugal is the Douro valley so I'm planning to do that and get some nice pictures. There seems to be two broad choices of route and I haven't yet decided whether to ride to Madrid and turn west into Porto, up to Santiago de Compostela and across northern Spain to Bilbao or ride through southern Portugal to Porto and turn east to Madrid. Either way, I'll update you on the trip.

My knee continues to trouble me and I'm beginning to think that something isn't quite right; there's clearly some ligament damage that I'd better get checked out when I can.

Thanks for reading. If any of you are heading to Morocco I'd be happy to share our experience, contacts and locations.
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Wildman screwed with this post 10-13-2012 at 09:26 AM
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Old 11-03-2012, 06:14 AM   #14
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Thanks for the detailed report and all those great pics!!! Lucky bastige to have Europe and north africa within easy reach !!
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