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Old 06-13-2012, 01:51 PM   #16
FechFech OP
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Confoederatio Helvetica
Oddometer: 68
Stage 6 / M'hamid to Erfoud (May 3, 2012 / 300 km)

Today another long desert stage lies ahead of us. We follow the piste from M'hamid to Rissani. The last 30 km from Rissani to Erfoud are paved. This is today's tracklog:

Some 65 km out of M'hamid we ride up a small pass. The piste is steep and very rocky, I'm glad that I'm on my lightweight 350 and not on a big bike. The view from the top of the pass is fantastic. Note that the bottom left corner of the picture is actually the piste:

After the pass, the rocks continue:

Like on most pistes in the Sahara, stone piles are used as waypoint markers every couple of kilometers:

After about 150 km we come across the first building since we left M'hamid, the "Auberge Dinosaur". The dinosaurs are long gone, but they sell a highly welcome product from the age of the dinosaurs - gasoline:

Gas is pumped from barrels into plastic canisters:

The price is 13 dirhams per liter. This is a fair price, given that the barrels were trucked to this remote place and the regular price at gas stations is 10 dirhams. The guy in charge of filling the bikes can't calculate. When asked "how much" he replies "13 dirhams per liter times how many liters you had":

After the Desert Gas Station the piste gets sandy:

And very fast, too:

Soon we reach the crossing of Qued Rheris, which is infamous for deep and soft sand with a consistency like powder. The Berbers call this kind of sand "fech-fech". Their language has, btw, about 25 words for different types of sand. The picture below is from a previous trip, I didn't stop to take pictures this time. The fech-fech is particularly nasty this year, because it hasn't rained for weeks and everything is bone dry. The biggest problem is the dust from vehicles ahead which lingers in the air for minutes. The technique to ride through this is of course not to slow down, stand on the pegs, unload the front wheel as much as possible, and let the bike find it's way through the mess:

The fech-fech goes on for three or four kilometers, then we are in Ramlia, a small settlement made of clay buildings. One of them is a restaurant. It is the only one within dozens of kilometers, therefore business is good:

After a few cold drinks, Jos and Chris look much better than they did before:

After Ramlia it's more of the same - sand and rocks:

There is no more fech-fech and we make good progress. We arrive early at the hotel in Erfoud, the "El Ati". The support vehicles with our baggage and rally-boxes haven't arrived yet. We check in, shower, and then wait:

The 10 or so support vehicles eventually arrive and the daily maintenance ritual ensues. As usual, dinner is at the hotel. We crave for Tagine and Couscous, and we are not disappointed ;-) The atmosphere tonight is taut, because tomorrow we will hit the dunes at Merzouga.

FechFech screwed with this post 06-14-2012 at 12:37 PM Reason: Fixed typo
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Old 06-16-2012, 02:52 PM   #17
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Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Confoederatio Helvetica
Oddometer: 68
Stage 7 / Merzouga Dunes (May 4, 2012 / 139 km)

Todays stage leads to Merzouga and then into the dunes of Erg Chebbi. Start and finish are in Erfoud. Erg Chebbi is a small area of sand dunes, about 20 by 8 kilometers. Because it is easily accessible on a paved road it is a popular place for tourists. This is the tracklog:

We get up early to be in the dunes before the heat sets in. The first 50 km from Erfoud to Merzouga are on a boring paved road. The dunes start right at Merzouga, and things get better:

The loop through the dunes ends in Merzouga where it started. I want to avoid the same boring 50 km of paved road back to Erfoud and try to ride offroad as the crow flies to Erfoud. A few kilometers from Rissani I come across this abandoned building:

There is no hint at all what this building was used for. It looks like a fort or trading post. When I was back home I tried to find something about it on the Internet, without success. If you know something about it, please drop me an email.

A few kilometers after this building I hit a piste leading to Erfoud. Shortly before Erfoud, I find more ruins. This one looks like a small village with walls around it:

I arrive in Erfoud around noon. Todays ride was short and there is not much to do on the bike. I enjoy an afternoon off in the cool of the hotel and look forward to Couscous and Tagine tonight.
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Old 06-16-2012, 04:05 PM   #18
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Great report and explanation of the event!

Thanks for sharing!!!

2006 R1200GS; 2009 Husaberg Rally 570; 2011 Husaberg FE570
"Speak to me of summer, long winters longer than time can remember;
Setting up of other roads, travel on in old accustomed ways."
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Old 06-24-2012, 03:49 PM   #19
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Great report, thanks for posting
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Old 06-24-2012, 04:33 PM   #20
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following your RR from Chile
I enjoyed the pictures
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Old 06-24-2012, 06:09 PM   #21
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When in doubt, PIN IT! It may not help, but it'll sure end the suspense...
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Old 06-29-2012, 03:10 PM   #22
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Location: Confoederatio Helvetica
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Stage 8 / Erfoud to Midelt (May 5, 2012 / 400 km)

Today is the longest stage of the entire rally-raid. It starts in the desert in Erfoud, crosses the High Atlas mountains, and ends in Midelt. This is the tracklog:

The first 120 kilometers are typical Moroccan desert pistes, with the usual mix of rocks and sand. Then follows a short stretch on a paved road. I make a stupid navigation mistake on the paved road, and I still don't know why. The roadbook indicates a sharp left on the paved road. Straight ahead is an (unpaved) piste, not to be followed. I do just that - follow the piste, rather than staying on the paved road, even though I've highlighted the left turn in the roadbook. Some psychologist will have an explanation for this, probably along the lines that the subconcious part of my mind wanted to avoid pavement and somehow overruled the conscious part which clearly said "stay on the paved road"....

The mistake is visible on the tracklog as a dead end going off to the right of the main track. I realized my mistake only after about 20 kilometers, when no other riders followed and the GPS pointed me to another direction. I had to turn around and ride all the way back where I made the wrong turn. At least the piste was fun to ride...

At Gourrama we leave the paved road, and the next 25 kilometers lead through Qued Guir:

Qued Guir is a dry riverbed, there is no road or piste, just a few tracks from 4x4 vehicles. Since there is only very little water in the Qued, riding on the lightweight 350 is fairly easy and a lot of fun. The next highlight after Qued Guir are the High Atlas mountains. We cross the main range of the High Atlas on a windy and steep dirtroad, which isn't shown on any map (it is on Openstreetmap now, because I added it). The dirtroad leads over a pass at about 2'200 meters. I couldn't find the name of this pass, so I called it the "Trial Pass", because parts of the dirtroad up to the pass reminded me of trials riding...

On top of Trial Pass we make a short break, the tricky sections are behind us:

View to the north from Trial Pass:

The road down the north side of Trial Pass. Compared to the road up the south side, this is like the Autobahn:

View from Trial Pass, further down:

The road down the north side of Trial Pass:

I made this video while riding down Trial Pass. At the end of the video, I meet some local kids and give them a few super-magnets to play with. I carried a bunch of these with me to give away to kids:

About 30 kilometers after Trial Pass we ride through another canyon. This one is about 8 kilometers long, starts near Ait Alou and ends near Bou Redine. The walls of the canyon are vertical rocks most of the time:

This - rather long - video shows the entire ride through the canyon:

After the canyon it's another 20 kilometers on dirt roads, followed by about 25 kilometers on paved roads, then we arrive in Midelt. We stay at the Hotel "Taddart", which is very nice:

In the evening, the local Berber dancing group gives it's best:

So does the kitchen, by preparing a fantastic meal of - you guess it - couscous and tagine.

By now I am really tired, 8 days in the saddle in a row take their toll on my 50+ years old body. Next to riding, the best thing of rallies is that I sleep really well, simply because of being exhaustet...
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Old 06-29-2012, 05:01 PM   #23
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: Galicia, Spain. Exiled in Madrid.
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Thanks for the great report, brings back good memories and I am even thinking of getting an Enduro bike myself. How did the 350 perform, any issues?
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Old 07-02-2012, 01:30 PM   #24
FechFech OP
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Confoederatio Helvetica
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The bike worked flawlessly, no issues at all. All I did is clean the air filter and check oil and water every day (it didn't need any). The bike has more than enough power (at least for my riding abilities), about 46 HP. Combined with the low weight - about 125 kg with a full tank - I never felt that I needed more power. In deep sand it needs to be revved a lot, which is however not a problem for the bike, as it is designed to rev up to 12'000 RPM.

I did a similar rally-raid last year on a KTM 690 Enduro. I liked the 350 a lot more, because it is lighter and has better suspension. The 690 (or a similar bike) is more comfortable on pavement and smooth gravel roads, but everything else is a lot easier on the 350. The perfect bike for this kind of rally is probably the KTM 450 EXC, because it has more torque than the 350, which helps in deep sand. The reason I bought the 350 and not the 450 is that I want to use the bike also for more technical enduro riding. If you are looking for a bike for rally-raids only, I'd go for a 450 or 500.


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Old 07-08-2012, 02:34 PM   #25
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Stage 9 / Midelt to Midelt (May 6, 2012 / 241 km)

Todays stage starts and ends at the Hotel "Taddart" in Midelt. The first part of the stage leads through the Cirque de Jaffar, the second part to Aouli, an old mining town in the mountains west of Midelt. Here is the tracklog:

The first challenge today is the ride down to the bottom of the Gorge de Jaffar. On my 350 this is no problem, but the cars have to take another route because this one is too narrow and to dangerous for them:

Here is a video from my helmet camera of the ride down to the bottom of the gorge:

Once at the bottom, we ride through the gorge proper. Of all the riverbeds and canyons we rode this one was the best:

I made this video of the ride through the narrow section of the Gorge de Jaffar:

At the end of the gorge is the first checkpoint of the day:

Later in the day the route takes us close to the artificial lake created by Hassan II dam, with the High Atlas mountains in the background:

These abandoned mining buildings near Aouli, built by the French, are now the home of a Berber family. Look for the satellite dish between the two buildings at the right:

Aouli was once a busy mining town, operated by the French. They mined lead (I think) until the early 1980s and then abandoned the place. The houses of the workers are decaying since then:

Aouli is built along Qued Moulouya, one of the longest rivers in Morocco:

The buildings of the mining operation are still there:

And so is the mining railroad:

The old part of Aouli is still inhabited by locals. I fool around with some local kids and give them the last candy I have:

After Aouli it's a short ride of 30 kilometers back to Midelt. This exciting bridge is shortly after Aouli:

Back at the Hotel, the daily ritual starts: fetching rally-box, air filter maintenance, checking oil, water and tires, checking all important bolts, checking spokes, checking wheel and steering head bearings, and so on. This is how the rally-boxes are transported from stage to stage:

Todays stage is the last one that counts for ranking. The award ceremony is held tonight at the hotel. Yves Chaumard, principal organizer of the Raid Passion Desert Maroc, announces the winners. I am (positively) surprised that I made it # 18 overall, because I never payed much attention to the number of kilometers I rode on a day.

What could be a better end of the day than this rainbow right in front of the hotel:

Right, there is something better: couscous and tagine for dinner...
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Old 07-13-2012, 02:23 PM   #26
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Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Confoederatio Helvetica
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Stage 10 / Midelt to Fez (May 7, 2012 / 302 km)

Today is the last stage of the Raid Passion Desert Maroc 2012, from Midelt to Fez. As always, first the tracklog:

Once more, conditions are perfect today - sunny, with temperatures around 24 degrees celsius. The first part of the stage leads through the Middle Atlas mountains with some great views:

Near Ifrane I had to stop and snap a picture of the cabin of the local ski club. I was there 20 years ago on my old R80G/S, with my then girlfriend, now wife, on the back:

A little bit later, near Azrou, we stop at a place notorious for naughty berber monkies. The monkies are used to humans and are not shy at all. On the contrary, the somehow seem to think they are tollkeepers and demand payment in form of candy or bananas:

Having payed my obolus to the local monkey boss, I ride on towards Fez:

My trusty 350 in Fez. It ran for 2500 kilometers without giving any problems. From Fez the bikes are trucked back to France:

So this is the end of another great ride in Morocco. There will be a Ride Passion Desert Maroc 2013, and I hope I will be able to make it.
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Old 07-13-2012, 02:29 PM   #27
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Fantastic report, thank you so much for taking the time to post it!
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Old 07-13-2012, 02:34 PM   #28
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Location: Chile.
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Bravo!!!! amazing ride desert ....
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Old 07-13-2012, 02:50 PM   #29
FechFech OP
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Confoederatio Helvetica
Oddometer: 68
Some final thoughts...

So, for whom is this rally-raid ?

If your top three priorities are

1) ride,
2) ride, and
3) ride,

then the Raid Passion Desert Maroc is for you. If your priority is to spend as much time with locals as possible, or to explore the local culture, or just enjoy the scenery and stop and stay wherever you like, then you are better off riding on your own.

Of course there are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with locals, but there is a start and a finish every day, with a roadbook to follow. Riding times per day were on average 6 hours, plus time for breaks and unplanned stops along the way (the 6 hours are "moving time" measured by the GPS). Add to that the time to maintain the bike every day, the time to prepare the roadbook for the next day, the time for dinner and breakfast at the hotels, then there is not much time left for anything else.

Also, 10 stages in a row without a rest day are tiring. I found the last three stages the hardest, simply because after 6 or 7 stages exhaustion sets in. Riding a little 350 helped a lot, though.

What is the ideal bike for this kind of rally-raid ? Probably a KTM 450 or 500 EXC, or a Yamaha WR450. A 450 has a bit more torque, which is a plus in deep sand. The reason I bought a 350 is that I want to use the bike also for more technical riding back home, which is easier on a 350 than on a 450.

Would I do the same rally-raid again on the same bike ? You bet !
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Old 07-15-2012, 12:44 AM   #30
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Location: East London, South Africa
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Great ride report. Thank you for sharing.
Ktm 690, Wr 450f, Kdx200
Honda XR125L - wife & son
Pw 80 - other son
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