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Old 06-17-2015, 10:04 AM   #1
EastRoad OP
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Joined: May 2014
Location: Switzerland
Oddometer: 169
Talking Switzerland to Morocco and back, or 7800km in 19 days

Some may know (through my many questions - thanks again) that I've been on a somewhat epic, if a bit short trip from switzerland to Morocco and back.
The trip consisted of doing 7800km in 19 days. if you make the math it would be an average of 410km if I'd be riding EVERY day.
That would have left me with very little time for seeing more of a place or some basic R&R in between.
In the end I solved the issue by racing through france an spain on the first stretch of the route and that came down to an average of 750-850km a day over the first three days.... I'm glad the R1150 GSA is a comfortable bike to sit on... but none the less, my next bike oriented purchase will be a more comfortable seat ;) (ah well, I've been saying that for a long time now ;) ).

The decision to basically do the fastest route through france an spain was quite easy - mostly for the reason that I've visited both countries before and thus wanted to focus on my main mission objective: morocco.
Or more specifically: I wanted to do some bit of offroading over the Atlas.

Preparation & Equipment
Equipment wise I knew I'd be presented with a few choices mostly because of the broad range of climates I would be travelling in.
Starting at home, weather was dropping and I knew the first one or two days will be heavy rain but not overly cold (not that warm either). I also was aware that south spain can be quite a toaster oven. And morocco would be HOT. And COLD (at 2500m it gets chilly.)

Continental TKC 70 (not the full knobbly TKC 80).
I had never before mounted a pair of TKC 70 on my bike and also the tyres being quite new on the local market there wasn't too much experience around.
But the idea of having a nice 70% road / 30 % off-road tyre was so tempting that I've decided to give it a try (and didn't regret - more on that much later).

Motorcycle Pants: Klim Latitiude Misano pants.
Jacket: BMW Rallye 3 without the (in my case no longer) waterproof liner (it sucks and bmw won't replace the liner).
For the Jacket I was struggling going with my Klim Latitude Jacket or the my old Rallye 3 jacket... the reason why I went with the Rallye was simple: VENTING... the chest & full sleeve vents are excellent and the Klim vents well but not along the arms.
Also the Klim is completely Black (which makes it a tad worse in full sun light).
In hindsight: perfect decision... down south in morocco and on my way back through spain I'd probably had died of a heat stroke in the Klim Latitude... the Rallye proved to be an excellent choice.
Rain Jacket: BMW KlimaKomfort 2 Jacket (it's a gore-tex like (BMWs own version) Overjacket that provides amazing rain protection.
Helmet: BMW System 6 EVO... worked well enough and venting was mostly quite adequate.
Boots: BMW Santiago Goretex books... I love them and already loathe the day when they'll be worn out ;) (best motorcycling boots I've had) - they were comfortable when it was HOT, as well when it was raining all day and cold and wouldn't mind the occasional walk either - perfect all-round boot.

GPS: Garmin Montana 600
With both City Navigator Europe and Morocco Open-Street map on it.
I had used Garmin's Software on the mac to predefine some of the most important way points and coordinates, so that I easily could plan my rout with some flexibility on the go.
The Garmin had inital issues (I've had it for about a year but hadn't used it on too many rides so far):
It would suddenly switch off - mid route.
Some duck tape over the microSD Card and on the bottom of the battery provided a reliable fix.
According the the Interent's wisdom the problem is known to be caused by strong vibrations and a loose battery fit.

Personal Safety: my trusty inReach SE Satellite Communicator (which I also use to track my routes).
I love that thing and can only highly recommend it to anyone who ventures outside of mobile networks and wants some safety.
For those who don't know it, it is a device similar to the SPOT Gen3 - but with actual TWO WAY communication plus the ability to send fully customised texts with it's onscreen keyboard or over bluetooth & iOS / Android App.

I had my trusty tool kit along (see the tool-kit thread) and an assortment of cold / hot weather clothes plus regular travel gear.

I took my iPad and a MiFi (mobile WiFi Router) along - as for only 120DHM (maroccan dirham, about 12US$) you can get a Meditel 3G SIM with 500MB per day (for 30 days) and thus was able to use the internet easily almost everywhere to look stuff up, find hotels, etc. quite practical.

Most of the stuff went into my two Ortlieb Softbags (panniers) on a custom rack...
and my backpack containing my personal gear, camera, etc was in the top-box for quick and easy access .

The Route

And more details for morocco:

The first step took me from central switzerland to France - Grenoble. Weather was pretty shitty and I had an unforseen late start for the trip which prevented me from getting much further.
Second day took me from Greonble to Spain's Salou (near Tarragona) - aprox. 740km.
And the third day from Salou to Granada, another 790km
Aside from plenty of nice tapas and some good cold beers in the evening there is, unfortunately not much to comment on for both locations - I was mostly preoccupied with riding the autobahn.
France has the rather annoying pay-stations along the highways which seem to pop up every 5km (I'm heavily exaggerating) but on a motorcycle they're a nasty pain in the arse.
Also for some odd reason some of the toll booth payment machines don't like my particular bank issued mastercard. (some of the toll-boothes are a tad picky as it seems)... which leads to fumbling with coins and paper money and tickets and stuff like that.
I keep a separate cord-attached wallet for that reason in the jacket's chest pocket... makes it a tad quicker but still, taking off the gloves, etc... nasty.

Spain is a bit desolate outside the big places... economy is at a sad low and there's a lot of tell-tale signs.
A load of places are up for sale and even more are left in a bad state, crumpling into pieces.

(and yes, it is an actual living, real horse.... no humans close by though...)

I've seen tons of places in sorry states just like on the pictures.
It struck me a tad, as I hadn't been in spain for quite many years and that wasn't that apparent last time.

Quite lovely though is driving some of the stretches around the sierra nevada - or more specific the stretch from Guadix to Grenada.

After Greanda I was finally able to do the last stretch on ventured on my fourth day onto the african continent.

From Grenada I rode down to Algeciras (through Malaga) - which is a short stretch and boarded a ferry to Cueta (Morocco).
Now if I had made one bad decision in hindsight - then it definitely was CUETA.
The ferry was cheap and quick (about 60€) - and getting on it was easy enough, aside from it being a "tad" late... and the seamen didn't fix my bike to the deck so I did the deed myself.
Cueta as a town isn't bad or anything... it's a spanish enclave on the northern shore of Morocco. And is blend between southern spanish and northern moroccan stuff... but the border is straight from Dante's purgatory.
I've heard stories - but it's worse ;)
Overcrowded with plenty of waiting in the mid-day heat. And that was the nice part.
Running back and forth between half a dozen booths with some "official" sitting in there not very keen on getting work done. The rest of the ordeal is quite self explanatory....
Not the nicest way to spend your lunch time.
Anyhow once the freak-border-show was dealt with I noticed the next problem (and luckily almost the last for the entire trip) - my trusty two wheel transportation would emit nasty screeching noises when powering up that would ebb out when revved higher up or being warm... not too comforting, but it was riding fine otherwise. So I decided to try to get to my destination for the day: Chefchaouan.

enjoying my sherbet (non sweetened upon insisting ;) ) on the rooftop-terrace at my guest house... the view shows the modern part of the city .

Once arrived in Chefchaouan I sent out help request ot the ADVRIDER Forum and got some rather speedy replies in regard to my noisy motorcycle: Alternator Belt...
I was rather relieved after disassembling the front cover that indeed, the alternator belt was the culprit.
however neither of the three automotive shops in chefchaouan had a spare in stock - and I was feeling slightly stupid for having forgotten to do that maintenance task back home (where on my work bench rests a brand new belt of course).
Well with the help of the guest house owner (Casa Anassr - highly recommended) I organized a local driver for virtually very little money who drove me into the next bigger town (Tetouane) and helped me with sourcing a new belt. The entire thing was rather easy and after getting back, twenty minutes later the BMW was running smoothly again (and hadn't troubled me since - albeit I've got an appointment with the local BMW Shop to make sure the tension on the belt is good).

(yours truly, proud owner of a new belt)

Chefchaouan is amazing btw.
Was one of my favorite stop overs on the entire trip as it has a rather relaxed atmosphere, nice climate, good food, and a lovely sceninc medina (old-town)....
The friendly guest house with the amazing breakfast helped to make the stay even more memorable.

Also lodged at the same guest house was an american couple and a guy from the UK...
Enjoying some late night talking and travel story sharing, short a wonderful time.
Cheers to you, Sam, Dusty & Paul...!

Sometime in the past some people started to paint the old medina in an intense blue colour and it has been going on ever since, creating light moods that are unlike most I've seen and supposedly have impressed artists such as Paul Klee back in the day.

there's plenty of sad little kittens....

The weather was a bit moody - with some rain / storms at night - providing a nice cool down:

After spending some quality time in Chefchaouen I decided to ride on towards Fes.
The old imperial city supposedly had both: Striking "ville nouvelle" and an amazing medina.
I decided on a hotel in the modern part as my planned date of arrival was correlating with the last day of a huge music festival and I preferred to stay out of the crowed and be able to get some quiet rest at night.
Also the small hotel I had found online for a rather reasonable price offered private parking on site, free of charge.

(en route to Fes)

Arriving at fes, my garmin montana or more likely the less than perfect Morocco OSM decided that instead of going the easiest way to the hotel’s address I should take the detour through the medina.
Which I’ve tried until I’ve reached a one way road / block and some guy in what looked like a police man’s uniform and the matching gun (holstered) waving frantically that I can’t pass there.
He was rather convincing - I guess the point is that with the music festival and all, parts of the roads were so clogged / blocked that indeed it would have been a problem… Turning around and searching for another - more approachable - route led me to the outskirts of fes and through the poorer old arabic quarters.

This proved to be - whilst a very odd detour as I had to find out later - an excellent choice in terms of sight seeing & country experience. The completely non-touristic parts there are simply mind blowing.
Bustling isn’t even cutting it ;) - and the people gave this rider some rather odd looks, probably because the sight of a 320kg Motorbike and an guy in full protective gear isn’t a daily sight...

On a side note - in the Medina there’s a highly recommended (if slightly expensive) restaurant operated by an Australian couple that serves damn excellent food. If you want some haut-cusine moroccan style food in fes - this is the place to go.
“The Ruined Garden” (…
Whilst for 99% of the trip I ate at small BBQ Stalls, local restaurants etc - a friend of mine had been at this place some while ago and had recommended it highly… I now know why ;)

Fes’ Medina is a true maze - easy to get lost - difficult to navigate. Sometimes so tightly packed with humans (and the odd donkey or mule or whatever) that it can be difficult finding anything. But just go with the flow and it is a somewhat immersive experience….

(don’t ask - I couldn’t figure out why the mannequin’s head was covered in black… probably it was about to do a bank-job….)

more later….

EastRoad screwed with this post 06-17-2015 at 10:50 AM
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Old 06-17-2015, 11:24 AM   #2
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Fantastic ride and pics! thanks for taking us along..

Pace yourself with the photos.. a bit at a time, to give inmates who are not on here daily a chance to view them
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Old 06-17-2015, 12:13 PM   #3
EastRoad OP
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Originally Posted by GB View Post
Fantastic ride and pics! thanks for taking us along..

Pace yourself with the photos.. a bit at a time, to give inmates who are not on here daily a chance to view them

Will try to pace it a tad... but I'm excited to share
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Old 06-17-2015, 11:15 PM   #4
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I had problem to take photos of characters. Even by asking politely, most part of them refused to be photographed.
Nice photo. I waits for more...
dreams are made to happen

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Four days off on the roads of Switzerland
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Old 06-18-2015, 12:26 AM   #5
EastRoad OP
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Originally Posted by Redkrouge View Post
I had problem to take photos of characters. Even by asking politely, most part of them refused to be photographed.
Nice photo. I waits for more...

Photographing people...

With muslims it often comes down how conservative / strongly religious they are.
I figured that most who wear a taqiyah (skull cap) or any other type of religious head gear photography will most often - but not always - be frowned upon.
Never really figured why - but I respect it if someone doesn't want to be photographed.

I travel with my DSLR and a (in 35mm equiv. terms) 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on the camera. So it's not a Tele-Zoom lens, which means that I have to be fairly close for most of the portraits I take. Personally I am not much for taking people-shots with a tele lens from a distance "Sniper-style". I much prefer to interact with the person and maybe not get the shot if I figure out that it isn't welcome.

My approach is anywhere from seeking an active dialog if language permits to gestures.
I usually take my camera, visibly up, but clearly so that it isn't pointing / taking pictures and then seek eye-contact and maybe hand-gesture.
But also I try to observe a scene for some time before taking photos... Trying not to Shoot & Run ;). Sure sometimes it happens fast ...
Also if someone complains I show them that I delete the picture...
Albeit this has over many years only happened like twice.

Whilst I started to take pictures when I was quite young and at first gotten into it as a hobby - including developing my photos back in the film-days... later I had my own small lab (colour & bw) and did some part-time commercial photography... even today, photography is something that is also important in my day-to-day business... and for me becoming more intimate with the craft also meant being far more comfortable taking photos of people.
having done hundreds of portraits, some weddings, business, some photo journalism... it's like with most things - getting a feeling for the subject & situation.

The other thing aside from the above: travelling alone vs. group / band of friends.
This is interesting - most of the time I travel alone (I'm not much a group person) and am pretty egoistic with my travel choices (ie. I don't like to compromise when I have the rare prolonged travel time at my hands). Also teaching classes is part of may daily work - so I enjoy spending some quality time alone, as a contrast.
I have found over the years of travelling, that when I'm alone it is far far easier to take photos of the people around me, get into communication etc...
Versus when I'm with a few friends it seems to be refused more often than not.
Maybe because a group is a "closed circle" and it thus is more difficult for an outsider to get a connection to me - the photographer?

I love landscapes and geometric / some architectural / graphical style photography, I like documenting my travel... but the one aspect that has become a bit of a passion of mine is street photography / street portraiture....
I'm not too keen on monuments and stuff - also in most of my voyages over the years I have rarely ventured to a specific place to see a monument or something like this - I travel because for me experiencing foreign culture, the people, the food, the way people live, etc is to me far more important on a personal level.

Hope that helps shedding some light on portraits...

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Old 06-18-2015, 07:49 AM   #6
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Sie haent Talent, das isch klar. Vil Glueck uf Ihri Reise und vile Dank fuer d'photi,

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Old 06-18-2015, 01:12 PM   #7
EastRoad OP
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Originally Posted by Marc LaDue View Post
Sie haent Talent, das isch klar. Vil Glueck uf Ihri Reise und vile Dank fuer d'photi,

viele Dank ;)

Marc, have you spent some time around switzerland??
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Old 06-18-2015, 01:30 PM   #8
EastRoad OP
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And on it goes....

Shortly after leaving Fes I happened to find The Batman (again)...
I have to admit, good old Batman had seen better days, and the Batmobile used to be slightly more impressive… but life goes on I guess:

(as a reference I had found the batman two years ago in Thailand (whilst I was on a rented 400cc Honda) touring the country…)

Leaving batman far behind my itinerary would take me to Midelt.
Midelt is a good access point to the Atlas mountains and supposedly an good place to see anyhow.

With progressing distance from Fes the landscape becomes more scenic - impressive.
The country more rural and living more basic.
Weather was building up for some heavy rain (and I was glad I had brought good rain gear along as was later that day riding through an hour of heavy rain and hail!).
The ride itself is an easy 220km stretch and the roads are generally excellent.
This is something that proved to be far better than expected throughout most of the journey - morocco’s roads are most often quite good.
But you should none the less be rather careful, as sudden holes or missing tarmac sections are most often marked by mid-sized boulders and rocks placed on the road… night riding less recommended.
But aside from some cracked tarmac, some large “pot-holes” and some other mostly rain / mud-slide style damage the roads are often about as good as in many more rural places.
This equates to the ability to cover larger distances without too much trouble.

One of the aspects I love about travelling long distances on the ground - instead of flying to a location - is that you can witness the sometimes subtle - sometimes striking - changes in landscapes, culture, architecture.
And it is just so on that route when, depending on hight and are you drive through flat lands - from eerie to the almost mundane, and yet soon after cross over some small mountain and see more dramatic sceneries and yet again venture through the long worn out remnants of what once was probably only desert.
And all that within some simple 220km - flowing from scenery to scenery - from hot to almost chilly in no time.

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Old 06-21-2015, 12:11 AM   #9
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welcome to Midelt:

The town isn’t large by any means… it’s not diminutive either.
But it has a rather relaxed feel.
Wikipedia describes Midelt like this:
"Midelt (Arabic: ميدلت‎) is a town in central Morocco, in the high plains between the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountain ranges. With an estimated population of 44,780, Midelt serves as the commercial center of a large agricultural hinterland. It is also one of Morocco's principal cities for the mining of several minerals."
Lacking major tourism - gives it a more relaxed (not any significant number of hustlers) and in my eyes rather more authentic feel than say, Fes.
Whilst I found Fes to be a very interesting and nice place - it is evident that a lot of the stuff in the Medina caters to main stream tourism… this is far less prominent in Midelt.

It was also in Midelt where a remarkable thing happened to me when I decided to go for some dinner:
There was this one place filled with locals eating chicken soup that was being served with fresh bread.
A basic but lovely dish - the thick chick-pea based creamy soup with some chicken and bread being both savory and filling and also rather cheap.
Ate my soup and spent some time then went downstairs to pay for my dinner when an elderly women was begging the shop owner for some money. I didn’t tribute the scene with too much attention, paid for my food and decided to give the old woman some 10DH (about 1$)… at that point the Shop owner looked at me, smiled and gave me back all the money that I had paid for my food !?.
After the initial “shock” I tried to refuse - but he was having none of it.
Unfortunately my arabic is limited to mostly food related words - and he didn’t speak anything else aside from the local dialect…. so I don’t entirely know why - but it was a lovely experience.

The local Midelt Market has anything from agricultural products to live stock animals:

(creative way to create a terrace ;) )

Next installment will cover the crossing of the Atlas mountains...
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Old 06-22-2015, 12:26 PM   #10
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It is this part where I would probably say that the word “Adventure” really was added to the trip.

The Atlas mountain range was also amongst the major reasons for the initial decision to do this trip at all.
It was also what I had considered to be my main goal - crossing over the Atlas over the older roads… instead of “just” doing the Dades Gorge - the easy way ;)

I can’t say I knew what was coming my way - for that the planning hadn’t been thorough enough and frankly I had no ambition in the preamble to the trip to plan it too thoroughly, as I felt it would take away too much of the “freedom”.

It was also on that stretch of the ride where the Continental TKC 70 Tyres would be able to show what they’re capable of outside of the comfort of the macadam.

Not having bothered too much in the prelude with other people’s descriptions, guide books or any of that, aside from google maps /OSM proved to be some of the best decision ;) why? FUN.

Leaving Midelt early morning with the intention of reaching Imilchil or Agoudal by nightfall travelling on the P7310 / P7319 Road… well if you look at the tracked map: my first approach lasted until mid-day and had to be aborted...

Whilst the first hour of the track (mostly gravel) was really easy (almost too easy ;) ) and allowed good speeds of 40-60km/h for most of it… well it was a foolish thought that the road would be like that up to the top.

the occasional small village - honestly some give you the feel of having travelled back through time, some straight 300 years.
quite amazing.

However soon the first river-flooded road had to be crossed.
Being solo I didn’t want to make something silly and probed the depth with a stick … not too deep - good.
On it went...

Soon after the gravel turned into loose rocks and dirt and some sections of the road were no more due to mud slides and water damage… the riding became more challenging by the mile.

(the browinsh looking passage in the center was only loose mud / dirt and large rocks… )

However my endeavours were put to a premature end when I encountered this:

The road was gone - completely.
Whilst I was able to see more “road” (badly damaged) on the far side over the water - probing the water revealed no section that wouldn’t venture more than knee deep and the water was so brown that I had no way to tell how the bed below looked and I was not about to end my trip in the middle of a river.
I guess if you’d been two or three riders it would maybe have been possible to cross - maybe if it hadn’t rained so much over the past few weeks it would have been less water as well, but I really didn’t feel like taking the risk of cancelling my trip ;)
so mildly disappointed I had to turn around and repeat all the road blocks again ...
honestly it was a good experience and certainly welcome for what was to come in terms of letting me somewhat safely practice on dirt, gravel, rocks and mud…

I have to add that I’m not an overly seasoned off-road rider. I’ve done my bit of dirt tracks, but I’m far from proficient.
I’m good on gravel / hard dirt - but mud and big loose rocks are to me challenging.

The TKC 70 btw handled that kind of terrain surprisingly well.

The fact that the TKC 70 performs amazing on tarmac - wet, cold, hot, etc coupled with it’s nice handling of gravel and some dry dirt so far made them an excellent choice and a set of tyres I will surely keep as my main tyres...
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