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Old 11-26-2013, 09:42 AM   #1
Chris S OP
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10 Days in Morocco ~ Husky • Sertao • XR

Salaam. This is us: Rob UK, Patrick NYC, Andy (ex Desert Rider), Elisa NYC and me, having some sort of ministroke.

Rob and Patrick trekked with me in Algeria last year and another moto tour having fallen through, off-road newb
Patrick asked me to put together a run through Morocco. OK I said if you can find some people to cover my costs.
This he did and here we were.

We decided to rent bikes out of Marrakech (more details here).

Andy gets a well-used Sertao.

I pick a sexy Terra. My review here.

I strap a satnav over the dash and tuck my book under the tanknet.

Other than Andy, I wasn’t sure of the others’ ability so recommend XR250 Tornados.

This is a great little machine: air-cooled, four valve, big oil cooler, 5 speed, electric start, carb, drum rear.
Stacks up very well alongside the CRF250L I ran around the Southwest earlier this year.
As economical, as good suspension, as pokey and felt lighter.

Trouble is, it’s made (still?) in Brazil and AFAIK only sold in countries with (I presume) slack emissions regs.

None have ridden off road but Rob once ran a 996 so he’ll catch up and Patrick learned fast.
Only Elisa found the learning curve of Morocco + piste a bit steep so switched to a jeep which actually
served us all well as a baggage carrier.

Before we even leave the agency, Mustapha the driver dashes off with Elisa and his silver SUV soon
disappears in a sea of silver SUVs.
Rob gets the guy at the servo to bring him back.

The first day was scheduled as easy as we expected faffing around at the rental place.
Just 100 clicks down the road to a lodge up in the High Atlas.

Notice the sagging front tyre on the Husky; a slow puncture which led to overheating and a fast puncture
on the rough road into the Atlas.
Next morning it's flat as and no tools under the seat. The Sertao's wheel wrench fits but one Torx is
mashed and none of mine fit.

I nip down the road to chisel it off while the village vulcaniser irons on bits of rubber with blue goo,
literally with an old electric clothes iron and a screw press.
It looked impressive but also kind of crap. May work OK on a local moped but
on the 650 the repair lasted 20 mins on the first piste a couple of days later.

Anyway, on the crest of the High Atlas at Tizi n Test pass (6860’) we stop for lunch then enjoy a
great ride down into the sunny southlands.
Notice the ridge on the far horizon: that’s Jebel Bani about 130 miles away;
the last of the Atlas mountain ranges. Beyond that, unbroken
Sahara for a 1000 miles all the way to Timbuktu.

With half a day lost chiselling nuts and ironing rubber, we make an unplanned stop over in Taliouine,
famous for its saffron which we’re assured is the best in the world and cures all maladies.
I sprinkle some on my front tyre, also my front brake and efi which are playing up.

As expected, the Husky is the thirstiest bike by 20%, but also the most powerful and with the best
soundtrack which = a whole lot of fun in the twisty blacktop canyons of the Anti Atlas.
Let me tell you, all this ‘ad-venture motorcycling’ is a lost cause, carting your junk around like a mule
and camping out bush like some vagrant.
Hire a jeep, check into roadside lodges at half board and enjoy Bourgeois Motorcycling!

Patrick tries the Sertao and declares it’s the best motorcycle ever made.
It’s certainly more comfy than the others, has a mellower engine than the TR and some days even used
less fuel than the XRs. But when the dirt gets gnarly it's a dog.

That’s several hundred dollars worth of saffron right there.

Picked from these crocuses, or is it crocii?

Patrick and Elisa pose with some $10 jars.

Two hundred clicks out of Marrakech we take to the piste into the Anti Atlas,
the arid range south of the High Atlas which for me adds up to the best riding in Morocco.
Soon the Husky front tube pops its corks so I slot our only new 21” in and hope for the best.

Dirtnewb Patrick is getting into the swing but next time I'm going to levy a surcharge for all black outfits.

Desert Rider Andy runs an 1190 + his old trans-Africa 640 back home so for him it’s all in a day’s work.
That’s his 11-year old Darien Light that Aero made for us, still as good as new.

Into the valley.

Past hilltop Berber villages.

Up ahead a dramatic descent down a tufa waterfall.
Andy sets off on the Husky.

Then Rob and Patrick.

We ride through the palmerie and arrive at our lodge where we'll spend two nights.

Night falls across the tranquil oasis. 'Allaaaaahu Ak-bar' rings from the minarets.

While inside the three infidels sit transfixed as the guy pours a shot of whisky.

Our route so far.

More to come.


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Old 11-26-2013, 01:49 PM   #2
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:44 AM   #3
Chris S OP
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Part Deux ~ Welcome to the Hotel Sahara

Continuing our short ride through southern Morocco

Sunrise at the oasis

I go for a walk, passing unusual dwellings designed to slide downhill in the event of an earthquake

Not a place to stagger back to late one night, fumbling for your keys

We go for a ride back up the cliff [video still]

Rob tries out his new Touratech Arai-iPhone adapter mount, called a Digital Utility Camera Transom.
You'd think they could come up with a snappier name

Down below, a carefully tended mosaic of gardens lap up the autumn sun

We take a walk over to the kasbah (fortified dwelling) at Assaragh

Then ride back down...

… to the auberge for lunch. It was built by a local who did well abroad, and chose to return
something to his community. A common practise in Morocco

After a siesta we head out to a curious ruined ksar
(similar to a kasbah but more castle-like) which I passed last year

We wind out way up into a maze of crumbling walls and collapsed palm-trunk beams

But at the doorway it looks a bit dodgy to go further without a hardhat and full body armour

Next day we’re back on the piste

Heading up over Jebel Timouka, Route MA6 in my book

Into the ranges

Some oueds (creeks) are hard work on the heavy 650s. So we stop to cool off
and let Elisa and Mustapha catch up

The climb begins




I don’t know about the others, but the occasional landslide repairs with football-sized rocks
are barely rideable on the Terra. The suspension shoves the weight back at you in all directions
nd you can tell that point is coming where it’s easier to fall than fight it. When I came this way
in 2008 I broke a spring on my pickup. I’m up ahead and eventually pull over weak-kneed, strip
off and empty my 3-pint bottle. The others catch up and Elisa hands out power bars.
Andy’s Sertao is even more of a dog than the Husky and Patrick got pinned negotiating a gnarly
hairpin, but is nevertheless amazed at the beating the XR can take. Rob finds his XR a breeze up

We carry on to an amazing view back south towards Jebel Bani, now only 80 miles away

Thankfully the track eases up and we reach the equally amazing Timouka Pass overlooking the Issil plain.
In the many tiny Berber villages below (the green clumps) women dye wool and work ancient looms to
produce the fine carpets you'll find in the souks of Marrakech and Tangier

We drop off the pass, race across the plain to the highway and ride into Tazenacht
for a late lunch, babbling about our awesome morning’s ride. Freshly-chopped
Moroccan salad (a bit like Mexican salsa), omelette, chips and bread + tea.
That'll be $3
Down the road, plenty of room at the Hotel Sahara

Night falls over Tazenacht

While inside the infidels, some in fancy dress, gathered for the feast
and then retire to their chilly suites.


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Old 11-30-2013, 09:21 AM   #4
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Nice pictures...keep 'em coming....

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Old 11-30-2013, 01:59 PM   #5
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Hi Chris,

One of your reader here!

This is a great pist. Doind one of my "self-made" sahara trip, last May I came accross this pist coming up from Foum Zguid. Maybe approching it down to up is even more spectacular. It was a great great surprise. We also had dinner in the same place. You should definitively add it into your books. In some maps 1:800.000 is not reported either. A French guy we meet the night before suggested to us.

Ciao Ciao

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Old 12-01-2013, 03:51 AM   #6
Chris S OP
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Hi Nic,
yes I also came across it last year on a tip from a French guy and before the road was finished through the canyon - quite a discovery!
It's in the new edition of MO. Cover shot is just east of Assaragh on another rocky piste (MA13) that comes over from Agadir Melloul. Another one for your moto arancione!


PS: Great pics from your Libya 2010, btw. Won't get getting back there for a few years...

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Old 12-01-2013, 06:21 AM   #7
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Morocco is a beautiful country with such a mixture of landscapes that is unbeatible. The Marrocan Sahara is not its strongest point though. The only place it comes close to Morocco it is Oman. I have done it in 4x4 but not by bike so far! Tunisia is more accessible from UK than people would think. It gives a good introduction to sandy desert and sand riding.

However, in my opinion, when it comes to have a feel of the Sahara, nothing is comparable to Fezzan for its dunes and to South Algeria for its rocks, sand and lonlyness!

I can't belive I never ride in Niger and Mali and who knows if I will ever do...
Very sad if you think how nice these people are when you are there....

For whoever wants to understand how it is riding there and what Central Sahara is I can't do other than reccomand your Desert got me buying a XR650L

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Old 12-07-2013, 06:32 AM   #8
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Great ride report!
We're off from Marrakech tomorrow ... Loc2roues had your
ride report up on the computer today as we were renting our bikes!

see you around the campfire,
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Old 12-08-2013, 09:35 AM   #9
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Nic - yes I agree the Moroccan Sahara is nothing special if you've seen the real thing, but that's hard to do
these days. Never been to Oman and IMO Tunisia is a bit dull compared to Morocco.
Like you say Fezzan and south Algeria (Tassiii, Hoggar and Ahnet) have the very best of it, even on an XR-L ;-)

I hope Loc are enjoying the report and you have a good ride, John.

Anyway, here's the final part.

As two of the group are actors and Americans, from Tazenacht we take an excursion north to Gas Haven,
a surviving film set from a 2006 remake of Wes Craven's 1970s mutant hillbilly slasher The Hills Have Eyes.
If nothing else I have a great ride through the Tizi n Bachkoum pass, chasing Andy on the Sertao while
practising my chords on the Husky pipes. This would be a great SM machine.

A Southwest American roadhouse one hour out of Ouarzazate. Even that boulder below the sign is fibreglass and wire.

Being an actor, Patrick knows his way behind a bar.

Outside, severed limbs swing gently in the desert sun.

There's even a Wall of Death, but not the fairground attraction like with Elvis in Roustabout.
This is an actual Wall Of Death.

Chubby-cheeked toddlers charred by a nuclear experiment that went tragically wrong.
Or something like that.

Another delicious $2 salad-chips-omelette lunch in Agdz - pronounced like 'Agadez' in Niger.
Afterwards, Rob takes a swing on the Husky.
Apart from the PVC mac, he could be Tom Cruise in Top Gun.

Mustapha leads us to a viewpoint over Agdz palmerie with the Draa river in there somewhere.
We're riding up that hill tomorrow.

We arrive at the lovely Ksar Jenna on Nekob westside. We're spending two nights here.
Just $37 half board - the most we paid but well worth it.

Night falls over Nekob.

Inside, following another fine feast, the Kindles glow.

Next day Rob, Andy and I take a ride up MH14 'Sarhro West' which I found last year on the BMW 650 twin.

Patrick is doing his own thing today on the Sertao and Andy snatched Patrick's XR before I could.

We stop for a tea and snack at the last dwelling up the valley.
Hassan with young Ahmed in his woolly hoodie.

The steep ascent kicks in and at the 2000-foot summit junction, KM46, I invoke the
'droite d'accompagnateur' and depose Andy from the XR250.

Undaunted, Andy hurtles off into the afternoon sun on the TR650, following an untried Olaf track which turns back south to the
N9/N12 near the Draa river crossing. Rob and I bimble along on the XRs, taking pictures

Once it drops off the plateau this piste proves to be as spectacular and exposed as I imagined.
Forget those Algerian border routes; this is Morocco at its best.

Back on the N12 road a short distance out of Nekob, another palm-ringed kasbah shimmers in the
crepuscular glow.

And another lavish breakfast at Ksar Jenna.

Today we're heading up the well-known 112-km piste over Jebel Sarhro to Tinerhir; MH4.

Just a week on a dirt bike and Patrick already has his back-end lit up like a Saturn V.

A rare shot of me aboard a motorcycle. I'm trying out the Sertao, but on the piste its characteristics
are a combination of both bovine and canine compared to the Terra. Nice engine, but feels 20kg heavier.

This was all the 'camping' we could manage on this trip.

A coke stop near the pass.

Up past Iknioun the track becomes a wide and fast dirt motorway and I blast along on the Husky in top gear.
But this classic piste (MH4) is now overshadowed by the amazing Sarhro West piste we did yesterday.

We haul 100km over to Chez Moha at Ait Youb hamlet up in the High Atlas. A lovely spot all made
of mud and straw, but a bit chilly compared to what we're used to.

Maybe better in the spring when I was here last.
Even then, we enjoy a fabulous cous-cous feast huddled by an electric heater.

Next day it's no warmer but I enjoy a fantastic burn up down the Todra Gorge on the Husky,
fix a quick nail puncture in the rear radial before we scoff a lavish grill in Tinerhir.
A hundred miles down the road we check into the old Hotel du Vallee in Ouarzazate southside.
A little past it prime, but they have wifi and heating and beer and yet more great food, plucked,
picked and prepared from the surrounding gardens and pens.
As is common, we're the only guests.

Our room boasts some rather creepy art. The longer you look at it, the more disturbing it gets.
Or perhaps it's just depicting the desecration of Mother Earth.
Either way, I do believe 'Salah 07' might be in dire need of some female company.

Next day, yet more brake-cooking, bend-swinging action over the Tizi n Tichka pass back to Marrakech and a plane home.

So there we have it. A great group and a fab time had buzzing around Morocco over 10 days,
enjoying a little bit of everything: cosy lodgings, amazing views, delicious fresh food, and all linked by great blacktop and piste.

Chris S
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Old 12-08-2013, 10:07 AM   #10
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Great RR and pics thanks for posting
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