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Old 03-15-2013, 04:46 PM   #31
squawk77
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Great video! Where is the curvy road with the blocks for a guard rail? Spain?

I hope you're not filming with the clutch hand though?!
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Old 03-15-2013, 05:09 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by squawk77 View Post
Great video! Where is the curvy road with the blocks for a guard rail? Spain?

I hope you're not filming with the clutch hand though?!
Yes on both accounts :) filming with the throttle hand didn't really work

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Old 03-20-2013, 03:49 PM   #33
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Great report - looks like an awesome trip.
I had a go on an F800GS a few weeks ago - Maffra down to Bellbird and back via McKillops Bridge with a friend who needed to get the hang of gravel riding. Lovely bike, probably much more suited to my needs than the 990, but it doesn't have the 'stupid grin factor!' http://d26ya5yqg8yyvs.cloudfront.net/icon10.gif
Hope the injuries are healing up - is the arm temporarily out of action or is it more serious?

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Old 03-20-2013, 04:48 PM   #34
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Great report - looks like an awesome trip.
I had a go on an F800GS a few weeks ago - Maffra down to Bellbird and back via McKillops Bridge with a friend who needed to get the hang of gravel riding. Lovely bike, probably much more suited to my needs than the 990, but it doesn't have the 'stupid grin factor!' http://d26ya5yqg8yyvs.cloudfront.net/icon10.gif
Hope the injuries are healing up - is the arm temporarily out of action or is it more serious?

Stuart

Hey stu!

Yeah the 800 is good. I think it just needs a little tweaking, especially the suspension. Talking to a few other owners, its apparently something of an issue, same as with the soft front on the 9*0's. Does the crazy fuel economy make up for lack of grins though? Probably not.

They screwed my hand back together OK, and the foot has healed up too. But the shoulder is looking fairly serious sadly. AC joint surgery successful, but having major nerve issues, being that they don't work. Got zero shoulder function in dominant arm. Lotsa muscle wasting. Comminuted scapula giving me issues too. May be back under the knife again soon, who knows.

Throw me a PM if you want the gruesome details

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Old 03-26-2013, 08:42 AM   #35
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Chap 6: Charity

Chap 6: Charity

30 Aug


The night air had at last taken a turn for the cooler, and so I slept on the roof (quite common in these parts). I didn't fall asleep until late, but some primal instinct woke me before dawn. As the light slowly bled into the sky, washing away the luminous mural of stars, the monochrome moonscape flushed with pastel pinks and purples, the ominous black silhouettes of the dunes slowly defining themselves against the paling sky. Then, as if by a switch, the first rays crested the rocky horizon to splash upon the sands, unveiling their enormity no more than a stones' throw from where I lay, the blue sky stark against their bright orange flanks - a herald of the heat that would soon overwhelm the lingering cool of night.



Nothing breaks the heat of the Sahara quite like....a morning swim??




Ships of the Desert.

Breakfast was another affair of breads and yogurts, and as I enjoyed my 3rd glass of mint tea a column of camels wound their way out from the base of the dunes, carrying the tourists who had chosen to camp there for the night. As the robed staff led the camels off to be watered, I chatted with two young American girls about their night under the stars, and decided that before I left, I had to go and see some of these dunes close up. I didn't even bother considering the bike – I knew with my lack of talent, its luggage and tires, I would be faster on foot. With a bottle of water and a pair of Volleys, I hopped down from the terrace and started off along the camel tracks, the somewhat alarmed faces of the Americans following me.

It wasn't until after I lost count of the dunes I had passed that I realized just how disorientating the Erg can be. The dry sand flows like water in the wind, and your tracks are soon gone once out of your sight. With no points of reference other than the golden waves looming over you, losing your way is very easy. An hour had past, but the sand, sapping the strength from each step, had let me cover no more than what I estimated to be a few kilometers. I was well out of sight of the hotel, so I decided to make for a high point and find my way back. The ascent up the dunes was arduous, sand slipping away almost as far as each step took you, but it was worth it for the view.



One Shoe to rule them all...




Where the heck am I?





Rivers of sand.





The hills in the distance mark the Algerian border.





The hotel, and behind it the plain from the previous night. The water pipeline is visible in the left foreground, and the Atlas mountains in the background.




I stumbled across this on the way back – as far as I could tell, it was the staffs' quarters.

Sightseeing done, I indulged in a glorious tumble off the side of the dune, cradling my poor DSLR as I barrel-rolled a good, gritty hundred meters, down into what appeared to be the water bore for my hotel. The pipeline made for an easy path back to civilization, where I surprised the American girls mid-breakfast by accidentally clambering back onto the terrace right next to their table. I paid a very resonable 500 dirham (~45 euro) bill for my stay, bade a grateful farewell to my hosts, and set off back into the rocky plain that had caused me so much strife the night before.

But in the daylight the trials became trivial, and I was quickly enjoying myslef, scooting along off-piste, blowing through lumps of sand with ease, no I could see where to go. I quickly found a piste, and then the tarmac, and before I knew it, I was cruising through the frontier towns I'd ignored the night before, stopping between the sweeping corners to take photos of the lush green rivers that wound along the otherwise desolate valleys.



Much easier by day.







Arfoud was much less busy buy day than it was by night. Possibly because of the 37 degree heat.




The contrast of the river valley oases to the otherwise totally barren desert plain was stark.





Entering the Atlas Plateau. The road was spectacular, but I was wondering what could explain those curious slanted strata in the rock (I'm thinking ancient seabed?).

The heat was up in the high 30's, but not overly bothersome in its own right. My pace was the problem - I was not drinking enough, and dehydration hit me hard by mid morning. Stopping at a roadside stall for a 50c bottle of 2L chilled water, I drew a laugh from a few locals by once again emptying it in single long draught. But half-an-hour down the road, I was still feeling light-headed and ill. I'd drained a further liter from my camelback too, and being no stranger to hot conditions, I was quick to recognize the problem. Water alone is not enough in heat like this – copious sweating was leeching my body of electrolytes. A 10 minute break in the shade of my bike, and 2 oral rehydrate electrolyte sachets, and the improvement was remarkable. But it was a sharp warning – I was pushing my limits, and it wasn't yet even lunch.

Truth was, I was still shattered. It was day five, and I was averaging around 10 hours riding to 5 hours sleep a day, skipping meals along the way to do so. I set myself a revised destination with an early arrival – Fez. Headache gone, I began to enjoy the sweeping bends that climbed their way back into the Atlas Mountains, and just as I scraped my footpeg for the first time that day, paradox struck. The cloud became deep and dark, and then opened, pouring thick, heavy rain onto the desert floor. Torrents of muddy water washed over the poorly-drained road, but the wave of cool, tangy air was a welcome relief. 'Florence and The Machine' blaring in my helmet, I happily splashed my way through the paradoxical desert storm.











The rain was not without its victims.

Not game to overtake on the wet, blind curves, I stopped briefly on the northern edge of the Atlas', allowing the slow moving traffic to creep down the last set of switchbacks. As I surveyed the vast plain below, two ragged, wet beggars, one with a grubby baby in a shawl on her back, climbed down the embankment and walked over, hands out imploringly. The small change in my pocket satisfied them, and they retreated to situpon some muddy rocks nearby, seemingly resigned to the rain. I looked around for their camp, first amidst the scrubby hills, and then out on the mile upon mile of plain in front of me. But I saw nothing, nothing but sand and rock. I'm not a father, and the last Moroccan beggar I'd encountered, I'd almost punched in the face. But this was not Tangier. This was, as close as I could tell, the middle of nowhere. I was suddenly and acutely aware of the vast gulf of wealth between me and this thin, sodden, young mother, as vast as the plain that stood before my feet. All I could think about was that I was wearing enough money to probably feed her child for a year.

Still garbed in my goggled stormtrooper outfit, I beckoned to her and after some reluctance, she rose and walked over. I fished out a 50 dirham note - as much as my last restaurant meal cost me, and easily 20 times the change I'd just given her. Surprise flashed over her face, then a thin, strong hand shot out from her shawl and snatched the note, only to return just as fast, palm up and waving, demanding more. No word of thanks, or even acknowledgement, this hand was quickly joined by her companion's, both eagerly and unashamedly seeking more of the charity I could clearly afford to give. I shook my head to let them know I would give no more, and returned do my bike, not sure what to think. They didn't follow, but simply returned to their spot in the mud. Climbing once again onto my shiny new BMW, packing my expensive DLSR into my warm, dry Gortex jacket, I found it very easy to forgive their greed, if you could really call it that. Could I? The ride back down onto the plain was lost, spent deep in introspection.


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Old 03-26-2013, 01:56 PM   #36
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Old 03-28-2013, 06:47 AM   #37
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Chapter 7: I'm more of a Thai man, myself....

Chapter 7: I'm more of a Thai man, myself....


As is often the case when traveling somewhere new, retracing my steps back along the N13 seemed to present an entirely new slideshow. Leaving the desert plain and heading back into the central highlands, the road to Azrou was now scattered with the nomad encampments of goatherds. The hills seemed somehow greener, the road curvier than I remembered. I wasn't until I entered a pine forest that I realized my memory wasn't failing me, just my sense of direction. I had in fact left the N13 and was heading to Ifrane, yet another of Morocco's little paradoxes. Nestled amongst pine forest in the foothills of the Middle Atlas mountains, the green parks, neat streets and steep-roofed stone houses made this town seem more appropriate for Swiss Alps than northern Africa. The mid-afternoon sun beckoned an early halt, to spend the evening in this invitingly peaceful scene. But being a slave to my schedules, I barely slowed for a few photos, before pushing on to Fez.



These lads were either bike enthusiasts, very bored or possibly very stoned. For the merits of the F800's rotax, it let me down a little here - despite my best fork-bouncing, it would not give this man the wheelie he so desired to see.



Beehives!



Berbers!



Cool and green, Ifrane makes for an inviting destination.




Fez is ancient. The original home of the Moroccan royal family, the Medina is over 1000 years old. It's big too, the Old and New cities being home to over a million Moroccans. The traffic reflected this. After 3 days of relative calm on the open road, the bustle, whilst slightly more organized than Tangier, was nonetheless a jolt to my tired system. Pulling up at one set of traffic lights in the New city, I was surprised to hear a voice chirp out beside me in English.
“Hey, hey! You, sir! You are looking for hotel, nice hotel?!”
A wiry boy sat atop a banged-up scooter in the lane next to me. Assuming for the time being he was simply tying to be helpful, I pointed at my GPS and shook my head.
“Shukran, Non, Merci. I have a hotel.”
“No no no, you get lost! I take you to better hotel” he insisted.
By now, I was pretty sure I knew where this was going and what it would cost me, but at that moment, the light turned green. 'Saved by the bell!' I thought, as I took off up the road, but my escape blocked by traffic, he pursued, joined now by two of his mates on equally dilapidated bikes, all casually splitting impossible gaps between cars, following me up the broad avenue. Each light was the same tedious conversation, and at last, with patience worn thin, I gave up on diplomacy and resorted to horsepower. With one last 'Non Merci!” I filtered the three cars in front and before the scooters could follow, the light turned green and I twisted the throttle to the stop. Hoiking a squealing, flying wheeling for all the intersection to see, I sped off down the avenue with a properly African disregard for speed limits, lanesplitting and even the curb of the next two roundabouts.

When my mirrors were free of scootersmoke for a good several minutes, I stopped, reset my GPS, and was soon cruising around the hotel district near the Medina. I was just about to try and find the second one on my list, when the narrow streets began to echo the now-familiar strain of the two-stroke chorus. With precision that would make synchronized swimmers swoon, my persistent pursuers pulled up in a phalanx around me.



The walls of Old Fez intersect the modern roads, marking the approach to the medina and old city.

Defeated, exhausted, and admittedly a little unsure about exactly how to get there, I agreed to let them take me to the next hotel on my list. Easier to find than I thought, Pension Campini turned out to be a cheap but rough little hostel with one very appealing feature: it was not 100 meters from the local police station, in view of a guardhouse. My guides didn't ask for any money, but rather insisted that they come back later, to take me to their father's tannery, cousin's restaurant, brother's coffee store and 3rd-uncle-twice-removed's wool factory. Desperately tired and again feeling the onset of dehydration, as they patiently waited across the street, I asked the friendly young English-speaking publican behind the desk if I could trust them. His face said all I needed, but he elaborated, saying “We always recommend to take official city guides in Medina. The stories from the people who take others... they are never happy.” I had just showered and commenced an impromptu nap on my surprisingly spacious floor when he knocked on my door again – the boys had returned. Trudging down the stairs, I informed them I'd have to decline their offer. My excuse was in no small part true – I was just too tired.


I awoke some hours later to a cool night breeze, carrying voices through the billowing curtains. Leaving the light off and staying back from the sill, I peered through the bars. Below was my bike, where it I had left it, but around it stood the scooter crew, peering over it and talking amongst themselves. Suspicion immediately raced through my mind, but I felt I couldn't immediately assume it was nothing more than friendly curiosity - how many times had I stopped on the street to drool over a shiny bike? But then, how many times had I returned two hours later to re-examine it with my mates? I decided to go down and ask them, but in the time it took to descend the flight of stairs, they had vanished. Using my wire pack-lock, I secured the bike to a pole and went back upstairs to dress properly, only to be interrupted by yet more voices: this time a pack of small children who had turned my bike into their personal jungle-gym. They scattered when I approached, but reformed a timid ring once I kicked the motor to life. Chattering nervously in French, most shook their head when I beckoned for them to have a seat, but one who I'd seen earlier sitting upon the saddle making “Bruummm!” noises, jumped up in a flash. With a snow-white grin wide across his face, he pushed the horn a few times, then with the utter inhibition of any young boy, grabbed the throttle and promptly redlined it. Gently prising his fingers off, I made it clear his turn was up, and off he ran, the other children eagerly following him. I looked around, but their parents where nowhere to be seen, and I couldn't help but envy them: at twice their age I would have been confined to bed for hours by now, and here they were at 11pm, making the streets their own private soccer field. As late as it was, I could still here sounds of activity coming from the Medina, and so with a few directions and the curfew time from my friend at the desk, I set off into the night.


I was almost immediately lost. City planner apparently wasn't a popular profession in 700AD, and the alleyways were as crooked as the were narrow (which is to say, very). Hopping over bags of garbage and stray cats, I eventually took my chances at an empty restaurant with a kind-faced old man at the front door, who welcomed me into a slightly dingy interior with beaming smiles between his soft, clear French. $4 got me a three course meal and a coke, and I figured I had at least a few hours to find my way back to the toilet I may soon desperately need. But as midnight rolled past, I found myself embedded deeper still in the medina, becoming increasingly wary of the strangers in the shadows, squeezing down alleys almost too narrow even for me (at 70kg to 180cm, that's narrow). I was lost, and in a place that looked like I probably shouldn't be lost . And yet strangely, I didn't care, and rather than try and retrace my steps, I pushed forwards, pausing occasionally for a photo, almost entranced by the ancient flagstones I was treading. I was just contemplating turning back, when I heard a voice behind me.
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Old 03-28-2013, 06:48 AM   #38
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'I can haz cheezburger?'







That cat would not let me go down that alley.

“Are you lost?”
A wiry young man sat on some low stairs outside a barred roller-door, flanked by two others, his shadowed face unreadable.
“No, no, I'm fine” I half-lied.
He swapped a few words with his friends in Arabic, then asked, “Where are you from?”
“Australia...” I replied.
A few more words were exchanged, a short laugh, then he turned back to me and stated without a hint of contrition,“Your soccer team … it is not so good.”

I couldn't help but burst out laughing. Tension eased, he spoke again, “Come and sit with us my friend, do you want a drink? Here, here, come and sit, talk with us”, shuffling aside to make a spot between him and his friend on the stair. Handshakes were exchanged between warm smiles, and before I knew it, he'd sent one of his friends away on a drink run and was offering me a drag on what was definitely some fairly potent marijuana. I felt awkward declining, wondering how to explain, but he seemed very understanding. His English was equal to mine, and as his friend returned, handing me a bottle of water, I reached for some change to fulfill my Western obligations of repayment. But he laughed and said “No no no! No money, do not worry. It's a gift. We are not these types who harass you, just try to sell you things. Moroccans, we are not all like this.”


I must have talked with them for nearly an hour. He was both curious about my journey, and eager to share their own lives. Only a year my senior, he ran the family coffee shop, whos steps we now sat upon. In addition to his excellent English, he also spoke his native Arabic, as well as French, Spanish and German, as well as some Russian. As we spoke, he translated for his friends, who mostly listened. The topics of discussion ambled like the alleys I'd become lost in, ranging from Fez's history and layout (FYI: the medina has 9,500 alleys), to my journey and opinion of Morocco, even to more contentious topics like religion, which despite my honesty about my atheism, turned out to be not really very contentious at all. But it wasn't long before we came to that topic young men from all cultures can find common ground on: women.
“So, you have a wife?” I replied in the negative.
“Girlfriend, then?” the pressed.
“No, no girlfriend. What about you, are you married?”
“No, no – I want a Japanese wife.”
Unsure if I heard right, I echoed his words in query.“Oh yes, Japanese! My uncle, he was divorced, but then he was married again to a Japanese woman. They are very beautiful. I would like to go to Japan and study, and find a beautiful Japanese wife” he continued emphatically, making a gesture as if he had tasted a glass of the finest wine.


It was approaching my hotels curfew, so reluctantly I told my friend I had to go. Another round of handshakes were exchanged and I was given directions back, then left with a final message “Come back again soon. We all are brothers, Islam, Christian, Jews, everyone. You are always welcome,” Coming from anywhere else, and indeed to many jaded westerners, it would have seemed a trite, throwaway line, but his actions had given it a profound sincerity. I didn't notice the shadows on the walk back to the hotel, which passed quickly as I replayed the last hour in my head, a profound demonstration of the true Moroccan hospitality I had heard so much about. He didn't realize it, but that young man, who name I sadly cannot remember, had not only validated my chosen route through his country, but also left me wondering whether my own suspicion of the three boys on scooters had ironically been the only real cheat of the day.

Jdeks screwed with this post 03-28-2013 at 06:54 AM
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Old 04-20-2013, 10:49 AM   #39
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Any updates? :)

I've thoroughly enjoyed your journey so far. Looking forward to the next post!
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Old 04-20-2013, 06:17 PM   #40
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That's damned good writing. We'd love another installation.
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:11 AM   #41
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Great read! Thailand is high up on my 'to do' list, should have already been there years ago. In retrospect, would you recommend the rental company in Bangkok?

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As my thumbs tapped across the screens between gulps of water, the wind died down, the sands settled, and for the first time I could see the plain around me. A blue-grey martian landscape cast long, low shadows in the moonlight, the vague silhouettes of the Atlas mountains far to the north, and to the south....a single, faint point of light. Exhaustion evaporated. Thumbs danced across glowing screens as heavy eyes squinted. Sands swelled and sunk as tired arms heaved. A cough became a roar, and with a fountain of orange grit, I pointed south to the string of numbers I now knew as Kasbah Yasmina.
Interesting to read this. It seems we'd been in the same area at night on the way to the Yasmina kasbah, only that we had good weather and a gps map with most of the tracks. Much easier, once you've found a track to follow.

Get well soon!
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:14 PM   #42
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Hi everyone,

Update soon, Ive been back on the bike (got bored of waiting for it to come back to life) and busy riding. Mt Buller this weekend past, off to the Simpson desert in about 2 weeks, will try and get at least another chapter done before then.

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Great read! Thailand is high up on my 'to do' list, should have already been there years ago. In retrospect, would you recommend the rental company in Bangkok?

Interesting to read this. It seems we'd been in the same area at night on the way to the Yasmina kasbah, only that we had good weather and a gps map with most of the tracks. Much easier, once you've found a track to follow.

Get well soon!

Yes, I would certainly recommend Bangkok Bike Rentals, if you're visiting Bangkok. Good central location, and they run a very professional workshop. Bikes are all properly insured and in great condition (insisted on washing it and topping the oil up before I left), staff are riders themselves and really friendly, very accommodating, speak English and give you all the rego paperwork and their mobile number if you need some assistance. They are much more expensive than bike rental places elsewhere in more rural cities up north. But at the end of the day you're getting a 1st-world rental service at a fraction of what you'd pay normally, not just some farmer letting you borrow his scooter for a few baht. The website looks kind of tacky, and their email is a hotmail address, but they reply quickly and are definitely the real deal. Two thumbs up

As for Morocco, my mistake was trying to go 'as the crow flies'. You're right, the pistes are dead easy, but hard to see at night when it's blowing sand, and Garmin's coverage of Morocco is fairly rubbish. Once you lose the track, things get a little trickier

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Old 04-21-2013, 10:01 PM   #43
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Thanks for the rental info!


We used the so-called 'Olaf map' which is free, available for Garmin and relatively complete:
http://www.island-olaf.de/travel/marokko/gps.html
(Just in case you want to go back some day ...)
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:03 AM   #44
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Chapter 8 - Challenge: accepted.
31 Aug

I stood silently at the balcony. The terrace dropped away sharply below me, seemingly as steep as the hillside that stretched away into the darkness on either side. Littered with lights and laughter, the whitewashed houses of Mijas clung to the steep slope, almost as if they were a part of it, their glowing eyes gazing down on the Spanish coastline. Before me, miles of darkness yawned, speckled with the glittering motes of Fuengirola, its streets bright against the dark of the Mediterranean beyond. The steep cobbled streets that wound their way among the terraces were crowed with people, filling the bars and cafes and plazas. It was a Friday night, happy hour – not that I noticed. Unwashed, dressed in a singlet and riding clothes still caked with Saharan dust, I was still elsewhere. My eyes searched south across the water, looking towards where I expected Tangier would be. Twelve hours ago I'd been in another country, another continent,, and while my body had moved to where I stood now, my mind was still not quite ready to join it.


-------------------------------------


Thwack, thwack, thwack.

The rubber soles of Dunlop volleys sent their applause echoing along the alleyway ahead of me. My late-night excursion into Fez's medina, while eventful, had left me moderately lost, and dangerously close to my hotel's curfew. I was back on a thoroughfare of some description (if you can call a four-foot wide alley a thoroughfare), going in the right direction, but still seeing nothing I recognized. An took an instinctive gamble on a feeling that I needed to head further right, and spying a familiar set of stairs I quickened my pace. Heading towards the walls of the old palace, I arrived outside the hotel to see the nightman sitting in a chair just outside the door, chatting with a young lady. With a knowing smile that said I wasn't the first guest to get lost in the maze of alleyways, he bade me goodnight and I went up to my room, thoroughly relieved I wasn't going to be spending a night with the alley-cats.




A rooftop view of Fez. The hostelier made a point of telling me not to take photos of the palace grounds. So naturally, you can see them in the middle left of the shot.



I awoke to the sound of voices in the street, mingling with the cool breeze and mid-morning sunlight streaming in through the window, and realized immediately I'd overslept – unsurprisingly, a flat phone wakes no man. Rummaging through my bags, I found the ferry timetable and did some rough math in my head, and realized I had 330 km of lumpy, windy, jalopy-riddled highway to cover and a border crossing to get through, and only 4 hours to do it.


A hurricane of chaos and clothing erupted, and within minutes, I was packed and out the door, a hasty thanks and the room key thrown in the general direction of the counter on the way past. I took a gamble and skipped filling up, and hit the road running. If I missed the afternoon ferry, not only would I have to spend the night in Tangier and waste a payed-for night of food and board, but I would also miss the first day of trail riding in Spain, wasting a day of rental on one bike while copping an extra day of charges on the other. Between slaloming my way around lopsided trucks and stray goats, I added up almost $600 worth of reasons not to miss my ferry. Morocco, however, seemed intent to have me as its guest for another night, with traffic slowing me down and oddities taunting me to stop.








Right of way, my ass!




I think I ran over one of their melons....





Unbeknownst to the men and elves of Middle-Earth, Gandalf in fact retired to live in the foothills near Tetouan.



By midday, my relentless pace forced me to refuel, and as I waited for the pump attendant to fill the tank, I decided to do a bit of refueling myself. Musing over mileage as I munched my last muesli bar, I was bought out of my reverie by the sound of tambourines and singing. Puzzled, I looked up, just in time to see 3 pickups drive past, each tray crammed full of women dressed in their garish robes. Singing, laughing and waving to passers-by, they were partying like it was nobodies business. Puzzled by this sight, I turned to the pump attendant, who simply shook his head and rolled his eyes in an unsaid statement that needed no translation: “Women...”

I didn't have time to dally and investigate this cultural oddity any further. No matter how I tweaked the numbers in my head, I wasn't going to make it in time. Not unless I rode faster - a lot faster.


Mitsubishi Party Wagon. The short one in the black and white scarf doesn't seem overly impressed .....


Despite what society might think about riders, I'm not usually a lawbreaker on the roads. My license back home has no points on it, and save for the occasional sly filter at the traffic lights, I stay in my allocated lane doing what the red-circled signs tell me to do. But ever since my near-death experience(s) - and subsequent rebirth - on the streets of Bangkok, that western reserve had been slipping away. Mile by mile, donkey by donkey, exception had become the norm. And so it was that when I crested an abrupt rise on the edge of a seemingly all-but-deserted town, one wheel just clearing the pavement, throttle pinned at 160kph, I did not expect the police checkpoint.


There was absolutely no question about it – I was done. Foreign and illiterate, I would be totally vulnerable – 'fined' down to my last dirham, and then probably arrested anyway. In the half-second it took to explore that hypothetical, I made my decision. The chief officer's mouth, or what I saw of it as I went past, appeared to be as wide open as my throttle, and the younger man behind him wasn't even bothering to bring the antique tripod mounted radar-gun to bear on me. I was past them and around the corner before I had time to look in my mirrors, and I didn't slow down. Did they have radios? Did they get my plates? Could, for the first time in history, a French vehicle chase down a German one? I had 80km to Tangier to find out.




I possibly risked getting in a LOT of trouble taking this photo, but I couldn't leave without a photo of a real-life Renault Armored Battlewagon.




I never thought I'd be so happy to see Tangier again.


I made good time (but terrible fuel economy) getting into Tangier. Tentatively overtaking a police Renault on the outskirts confirmed I was not one of Morroco's Most Wanted, and I sped quickly to the docks. Rushing into the ticket office I was relieved to find the vendor spoke English, and the ferry hadn't left. I made off down the road to the immigrations compound, and immediately fell for a tout in a fluro jacket, masquerading as an official and directing rich-looking traffic to one side. Being down to my last 20 dirham note, it was here I inadvertently discovered that the easiest way to get rid of unwanted helpers is to just pay them terribly. Thoroughly unimpressed, FauxFluro left to harass someone else, and I ducked off quickly to hand off my exit forms and get my passport stamped, hoping my bike would be safe for the few minutes I was away. But when I returned, I found another man hover over my bike. As I approached, he came up and asked me if I was sure I had everything. Fearing another tout con, I said thanked him and said I had everything I needed, then promptly ate my words as, from behind his back, he produced my GPS unit. It was then I recognized him – he was the ferry ticket man, who had walked all the way along the dock from his office, to find the flustered tourist who'd left this valuable trinket on his desk in their haste. Lost for words, I shook his hand and thanked him, trying to fish around in my pocket for some Euros for his trouble. But he simply shook his head and smiled, then disappeared back into the crowd, leaving me standing alone and bewildered, not dissimilar to my first passage through the immigrations carpark. My brief Moroccan experience, it seemed, had come full-circle.



The ferry ride back was rough. I didn't bother taking my luggage off the bike, instead sprawling into a chair in the main cabin, until the violent rocking made several people sick. Retreating to the roof, I took out my phone and swapped the battery. My troublesome TravelSIM had been completely unusable up until this point in time, but strangely enough no sooner than I'd turned it on, text messages started streaming in. As I read through each of them, I couldn't help but laugh – a sad laugh of exhaustion and irony. Three days ago, while I'd been riding solo across the desert at night, Lyndon, an experienced and competitive enduro racer with a bid to enter the Dakar Rally, had broken his foot riding home from work.

Jdeks screwed with this post 06-24-2013 at 03:04 AM
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:06 AM   #45
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Nap O'clock.


Thankfully, the weekend ride was still on. Lyndon had elected to still come down and enjoy the warmer weather, but would now just be forced to watch from the sidelines and endure bad peg-leg jokes. With nothing more that could be done, I rolled off the ramp in Tarifa and started the ride north along the freeway back to Malaga. The sun was setting, the sea breeze gently buffeting the bike ... only I was in a tunnel. Suddenly it was no longer gentle, but insistent. A strong push kicked my rear wheel wide to the right, catapulting me into the beginnings of a 120 kph tank-slapper. To my utter disbelief, I looked left to see a Range Rover, attempting to undertake me in the two-thirds of a lane between my bike and the tunnel wall. Kicking out with my left foot to stabilize the bike, I slowed as a large piece of plastic broke away from his bumper. Veering into the next lane, I watched him speed past – squinty eyes peering out of a fat face, resolutely pretending I hadn't been there, his wife staring at me, blanch-faced and open mouthed in horror. It took me a good 10 seconds or so to realize that this had indeed just happened, at which point I noticed his two children in the back seat grinning and giving me the finger – no doubt a skill they had learned off their soon-to-be late father.





This is what happens to a Wolfman pannier upon impact with a Range Rover.



The Range Rover had be moving fast, but I moved faster. His wife managed to somehow become even whiter when I pulled up alongside her window, but the fat face of the driver stayed resolutely fixed upon the road ahead, ignoring her imploring tugs on his sleeve. Even when I shot forward and pulled around in front of him, those eyes still somehow seemed to find somewhere, anywhere to look but at me, obstinate in his refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation he'd caused, despite my gestures leaving very little doubt about my intentions. Betting that if he hadn't the courage to look at me, he wouldn't have the stomach to deliberately run me down, I tapped the brakes and slowly forced him to slow, but I misjudged. With a sudden dive of his fender that sent his wife lurching forward, he swerved off, down an exit ramp, and was gone before I could follow.


As I toyed briefly with the idea of taking the next exit and seeing if I could intercept him, I heard shouting from a Renault next to me. An agitated man in painters overalls was waving at me frantically out of his window. Fearing the scrape had inflicted some unnoticed damage, I pulled over, and no sooner than had I removed my helmet, the man was out, babbling in Spanish and waving at the road behind us. Unable to say more than “Lo siento, no hablo Espanol”, he soon calmed down and it became clear he wasn't upset at me, but rather as furious with the FatRover as I had been, having almost copped the piece of plastic I kicked off it. Miming his heart pounding in his chest and shaking his head, he made it clear he thought I was a dead man, as it started to dawn on me how very nearly I had been. Relieved I was OK, he gave me a brief continental hug and took off. Adrenaline exhausted, I took a moment to calm myself down, and despite the anger having etched that fat, squinty face into my memory, I let it go. I stayed in the slow lane the rest of the way to Malaga, eyes fixated on my rear view mirrors.


Arriving late at the Motoadventours workshop, Hana was as horrified as the painter had been, and barely concerned about the scuffs on the pannier. Before long, the bike was away safe and I was packing my backpack, a crowded van pulled up outside. The clatter of crutches and several raucous pommy accents left no doubt as to who was inside: out piled Lyndon, followed by Shaun, Rick and Baz, our local expert/bus driver/ride leader/mad bloke. Introductions out of the way, Shaun was the first to ask me how the trip went. Simultaneously wired and tired from the last hour, the best I could answer was “I don't remember...”.
“So! You went to Ketama after all!” he said, bringing laughter all round.
Despite Ketama's fame for sale of cannabis by the cubic foot, my memory loss was more exhaustion and reverse culture shock than purple daze. Intent on beer and seafood, they piled me into the van and we took off, winding up steeper and steeper roads into tower-like hills. Baz threw the laden van around like a rally driver, obviously intimately acquainted with each curve, and before long we all piled out into a BBQ-seafood restaurant with a view to die for (or at least I hope the shrimp felt that way).


Thankfully there was no real dress-code, and as the lads ordered beer I took a moment to myself. Staring down the coast the way I'd come that day, I realized this jaded state of confusion I'd been struggling with for much of the trip wasn't going to disappear with some epiphany - but that was the whole point. I'd gone away on this trip with my head full of tales from uni students or their gap year, bragging of the cultural revelations they'd experienced between pub-hopping their way along whatever tourist route they'd chosen. But this was different – there was no filter for me, no guide, no real plan. I saw whatever I ran into, good or bad, and the confusion was simply the result of unfiltered exposure to a world I didn't understand. In a way, the confusion was actually the most valuable aspect of the trip, and the best thing I could do now was stop trying to rationalize or understand it, and go eat some chilli prawns.

Jdeks screwed with this post 05-22-2013 at 04:21 PM
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