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Old 04-18-2013, 01:12 AM   #61
panFiluta
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbar28 View Post
I took my earplugs out so I could hear him, and since I was going only 15 km up the road I didn't put them back in. And noticed the valve noise.
My bike (also a V-Strom, 07' with 40k km, valves never needed adjusting) breaks EVERY time I take my earplugs out and ride without them;) You just start to hear things like there's a bucket of stones in the engine.

Not saying there's not a problem, just my observation - after riding most of the day with earplugs, my hearing becomes very sensitive of mechanical noises.

Hope you'll be fine and thanks for beautiful ride report!
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Old 04-18-2013, 02:30 AM   #62
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Check you oil, sir?

Quote:
Originally Posted by panFiluta View Post
My bike breaks EVERY time I take my earplugs out and ride without them.
Yeah, some truth to that. But I was riding yesterday earlier in the day without them (forgot to put them in after a stop) and didn't hear anything odd. But I think it may not be so complicated. I popped it up on the center stand this morning and I'm down just below the minimum oil level. I started it up just for a minute this morning and no strange noises, but the engine is cold, not warmed up. Could it be I just need some oil? I've covered 2900 miles since the oil change I did last month just before leaving, so I'm going to find a liter of motorcycle oil in the market this morning and add that and see what I get on a little ride. Might even think about changing it sometime before I get home, it's another 2500 to 3000 miles depending on how far south I go. Never even thought about oil changes on a long road trip, but around home I'd never go 6000 miles without doing it.

My excuse for not checking this last night was that it was very dark when I arrived at my friend's apartment, and I'd been on the road for 13 hours. And I'm kind of dumb that way.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:26 AM   #63
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You ride a V-Strom - just add some oil and the bike will be fine.

V-Strom's dont brake down they die of old age
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:55 AM   #64
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I will tell you also that fuel in some part of the country at some not so honest gas stations is not what it says at the pump they add stuff to it to make more profits, could it be that you fueled in morocco at a not honest gas station it happened to me before and there is no way to know until you start hearing noises coming from your engine.
I had once pumped shitty gas to a car and it run like shiit until I burned 3/4 of the tank (lucky for me I was on the motorway way so no slowing down) then I refilled my tank and the problem went away.
Bad quality gas in a small motorcycle engine is a lot worse that in a car and I am willing to bet that if you fueled in morocco you probably had bad gas sold to you.
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:50 PM   #65
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The good news is that the bike is fine, it seems. I wasn't able to find real motorcycle oil, so I had to use regular motor oil, but about 250ml filled it up and the noise either went away or I can't hear it with my ear plugs in.

I had planned a day off riding today to visit my friends Eric and Michelle in Ifrane. Here's Eric in the market in Ifrane.


These are popular everywhere I've been in Morocco.



At lunch time Michelle came home sick, so I thought it best all around to get out of their cozy 1br apartment. Having company when you're sick can't be fun. I took the long route to Fes (Fez) where I'd made a quick reservation in a Riad in the Medina. You have to go there when in Morocco, right?

My ride took me up through some pine and cypress forests and to Timahdte.


I had to stop here for a moment where my bike odometer turned to 20,000 miles.


I hit 10,000 on my way home through France on my last trip to Spain. I'll probably hit 30,000 somewhere a bit less interesting, like Eaton, Ohio, so these things have to be celebrated when they can. This is the only bike I've ever owned that I put more than about 1500 miles on.

Eventually I made it to Fes, which I really don't care for. Too crowded, too many people trying to hustle the tourists, very stinky. Lives up to pretty much all my negative stereotypes. It's about enough to put me in a bad mood in spite of staying in one of the nicest places I've ever stayed.





I'm planning to get out of here tomorrow and meet up with Don T., a fellow ADV'er and V-Strom rider who is doing a trip from Denmark to Morocco. We had similar schedules and plans, so we're going to ride together for a while. Looking forward to that, one of the great things about ADV.
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:56 PM   #66
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glad all is well with your bike but the bad mixed quality gas should not be forgotten, try to put gas in large big gas station that are very busy.
those tagines being cooked yummmmy.
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Old 04-18-2013, 02:34 PM   #67
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Pictures!

Pictures from yesterday have been addd to the post from yesterday, so if you want to see them click back a page.
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Old 04-18-2013, 02:37 PM   #68
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those tagines being cooked yummmmy.
I haven't tried a tagine yet, only had the grilled meats. Will have to branch out tomorrow. I've had tagine in Moroccan restaurants in Europe so know I like it.

LOTS of yummy looking and smelling things in the markets here.
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Old 04-19-2013, 10:16 AM   #69
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Many miles ago

My dad sent me this picture of what he says is likely my first motorcycle ride. Ohio State Fair, August 1970. That's me on the left in the red stripe shirt, and my brother Tom with me.


Seeing this put a big grin on my face.

Thanks Dad. Love you.
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Old 04-19-2013, 12:14 PM   #70
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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.

jbar28 screwed with this post 04-20-2013 at 12:24 AM Reason: add photos
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Old 04-19-2013, 01:43 PM   #71
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.
That is a wonderful pic. That, to me, is adventure travel.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:41 PM   #72
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I don't understand the rating system on adv.This is an amazing rr with very real photo's of the type of stuff I like.
Great seeing places you have been and others that you haven't through other eyes.
Very whimsical writing .
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Old 04-20-2013, 12:11 AM   #73
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I don't understand the rating system on adv.This is an amazing rr with very real photo's of the type of stuff I like.
Great seeing places you have been and others that you haven't through other eyes.
Very whimsical writing .
Thank you. Glad you're enjoying it.
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Old 04-20-2013, 12:31 AM   #74
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Very nicely done. I rode North Africa a couple of times in the 1970s ( I grew up near Orvieto, and was frequently stopped by the Carabinieri there, speeding, but I was young) and reading your report reminds me of the agitation of seeing AFRICA for the first time, and smelling it's exotic scents. Then after a bit you start to understand its all just people.

I think you will relive this great journey every time you roll the Suzuki out for a ride in Ohio. Don't short yourself on any experience, but don't beleive this is the trip of your lifetime. These journeys have a way of altering our inner compasses and what would seem impossible for your neighbors at home will seem easy to you, once you get home. You will be different.
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Old 04-20-2013, 03:25 PM   #75
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On the south side.

Before leaving Germany I bought a map of Morocco, and today we made it to the south side, below the fold. We left Meknes about 9am. While Tonny fueled up, I snapped this picture of the taxis. Here's what you need to know about getting a taxi in Morocco.



There are two kinds of taxis, and they are different colors. There are small cars that are called Petit Taxi. They are like taxis in the US, you get in and they take you where ever you tell them, and you pay the fare on the meter. In this picture they are baby blue. The color varies from town to town but all the Petit Taxis are the same color in each town.

Then there are Grand Taxis. These are usually 1970's and 80's Mercedes 240D. The same color rules apply, but these are more like small buses. They go from taxi stand to taxi stand, usually to the next town over or to a big town nearby. Each one has six seats, which are sold separately. Yeah, six seats in what most of us would consider a four seater.

Say you are in Ifrane and you want to go to Fes, about 45 minutes away. You go to the Grand Taxi stand and find the head guy, who has a notebook. You tell him where you want to go, and he'll point you to the next taxi going there. But it doesn't leave until all six seats are sold. Maybe he already has 4 passengers and you're number five, but you're in a hurry. You can buy two seats, so now the taxi is full and it goes. But say you want to go somewhere in Fes that's not walking distance to the Grand Taxi stand. Once you get to the next town, you would get a Petit Taxi from the Grand Taxi stand to your final destination. You can haggle with the driver of the Grand Taxi to take you where you want to go, but this is out of his normal route and it gets expensive. Imagine if you were taking a Greyhound bus from Cincinnati to Cleveland, but you wanted the bus to drop you at your house, not the bus station. Imagine how that conversation might go. The Grand Taxi guys is going to say the same things the bus driver would say.

But enough of that, we're taking a bike, not a taxi. We go on our own schedule. But we don't go unnoticed. Riding a bike bike (anything bigger than 125cc) in riding gear (not a t-shirt and sunglasses) will get you noticed here. Which is OK most of the time, but takes some getting used to. In Europe, nobody looks at you twice in adventure riding gear. Not the same here. You're about as subtle as a Martian driving a spaceship down Main Street in small town USA. The good news is that almost all the people who react to you do so in a positive way. I've had about 1000 people give me a friendly wave, smile, thumbs up, that sort of thing. And two people who have yelled something at me while making an ugly face and pointing away. No idea what they said, I had earplugs in, was moving, engine running, and don't understand their language. But I knew it was negative both times. I can live with a 1000:2 ratio.

And then there were these guys.


Tonny and I stopped at a scenic overlook between Meknes and Azrou, and about as fast as I could take my helmet off, these five guys were right up by my side. One of them offered his hand and in French welcomed me to Morocco. I was thinking he would quickly try to sell me something, like a guided tour of the scenic overlook, but I was wrong. They wanted to have their picture taken with the bike. Well, OK, go ahead. If I saw a Martian in a space ship, I'd probably want a picture with him, too!




As I mentioned earlier, there are very few big bikes here in Morocco. Being something of a novelty, I guess I understand. These guys were really nice, and I told them where to find this ride report. They gave me a couple of their emails and I'll send them some pictures and a link.

Before we could get going, another guy came over to talk.


He lives in Belgium, about an hour and a half from me. We talked in a mix of English, German, Spanish, and French. Not that I'm capable in all of these, they just kind of came out. We were talking about the great weather today compared to Europe's spring, and I used the German word for snow (schnee) and the French word for rain (pluie), not really intentionally, they just came out. But that was fine, he understood both. My friend Eric in Ifrane says it's common there for people to mix Arabic, French, and Tamazight (the local Berber language) all in one sentence. This seemed strange to me only a few days ago, and now I was doing the same. Eric is taking classes in Arabic, French, and Tamazight all at the same time, which seems unbelievable given that they all use a separate alphabet. Here's a sign in Arabic, Tamazight, and French.


On the way out of Meknes we passed a scene I would have loved to photograph but could not. A motorcycle police man had two guys pulled over, and both were arguing and talking to him. As we sat at the red light, he reached out and handed a ticket to one of them. This guy turned and walked away in disgust, but the guy who did not get a ticket grabbed the policeman's helmet with both hands and started kissing the side of his helmet. This is not totally weird here as it would be in the US, as men often greet each other with a kiss or two, or even four if they are good friends. But it as funny to see in this way. Wonder if this happens to him a lot.

Between Meknes and Azrou we passed a huge vineyard. When I saw the grape vines I wondered if they were for table grapes or wine, but eventually we passed the brick gate for Chateau Roselane. OK, it's for wine. Interesting.

After Azrou we hit the N8 and followed it all day, going SW in the direction of Marrakesh. The first half of the day was fun riding, if a bit crowded with traffic. The N8 follows the Middle Atlas mountains, and they must hold rain and moisture the samw way mountains on the west coast in Caifornia do. Parts of this area remind me very much of California. And again, not what I thought Morocco would look like.





If there was a web site for adventure driver, I would nominate this guy.

Notice that the side door and all the windows are open. Brave men.

Somewhere around here Tonny and I got separated. He took a brief wrong turn at a roundabout, and in the time it took for him to go around again, I went by and passed a truck, so he couldn't see me. He thought I was behind, so eventually stopped to wait. I thought he was ahead, so kept going and tried to catch up. Carefully, of course. Along here I passed a guy I really wish I could have stopped to talk with. He had black skin, very unusual here, was riding a bicycle with a trailer (not unusual) but was wearing a riding helmet and lycra riding clothes. There was a sign or piece of paper on the back of the trailer, and when I went by he gave me a big grin and a wave. He was resting by the side of the road, in a hilly area. I really wonder what his story is. I'm not sure we could have talked, but I'd love to know who he is a what he's doing. Riding a bicycle around Africa? Around the world? Wish I knew.

After Beni Mallal, the Middle Atlas mountains end and the countryside turns dusty and brown. And flat, which means the road it boring to ride. The last 150KM's were just dodging traffic and getting where we were going. It give you time to think, and wonder about a town that much of the traffic is donkeys, but has two stores selling granite and marble countertops. That seems like an odd contrast to me. Kind of like the guy I saw a few days ago riding a donkey, hauling two car tires, and looking at his smart phone. Wish I had a picture of that.



I also saw my first camels, and first mud brick buildings around here.


And quite a number of small towns, which in Morocco are nearly charmless. The country side is usually beautiful, especially in wildflower season, but the small towns are just horrible, totally devoid of anything pretty.


We finally got our first look at the High Atlas, so stopped for a few quick photos.




We decided to avoid Marrakesh and are staying at a nice hotel outside of town at the base of the mountains. If you're coming this way, I recommend the Hotel Le Coq Hardi. The rooms are 'rustic' in Tonny's assessment, but the courtyard, pool, and food are excellent.





And we aren't the only bikers to find it!


Tomorrow we head over the High Atlas and Tiz-n-Tichka pass to Ourzazate and Kasbah Ait Benhaddou.
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