I met up with Torsten, Chris and Ralf in October
on the Adventure Enduro Meeting in Germany to see if we couldn’t arrange
a trip to North Africa over the Christmas holidays.
Our first idea was to go to Tunisia, but soon we changed our minds and changed our destination to Morocco, simply because we couldn’t get a proper quote for the ferry crossing to Tunisia and also because the Dakar would be in Morocco and we might be lucky enough to sneak in the base camp to see some of our heros ;-)
December 16th 10:00am
I jumped in the VW T4 Van that I had packed the evening before and drove down to Folkstone. I had booked the Train thru the channel tunnel for 1:00pm but usualy on the way down to Folkstone disaster wouldl strike, so I planned in a bit of spare time for the trip ;-)
I reached Folkstone at noon. Nothing happened on the way. Was that a good omen?
I went on the train and half an hour later I was in France.
Nothing really spectacular happened on the way down to Karlsruhe in Germany.
I went down there to pick up Ralf and to meet with Chris and Torsten.
Our plan was to go down from Karlsruhe to Sete in the south of France, near Marseille and hop on the Ferry to Morocco.
I arrived in Karlsruhe at 8pm just as planned. I found Ralf’s address immediatly and found a Ralf, still busy with his preparations ;-)
Some other inmates I knew from the KTM Reiseenduro Forum turned up (Carlo, Micha H and Marcel) and off we went to a local pup around the corner to have a good German Schnitzel while Ralf was still busy preparing the Trip ;-)
After the pup, back at Ralf’s we called it a day after we had a couple of nice Whiskies in cask strength
I took the opportunity and did some shopping in good old cheap Germany and went to a bike accessory shop to buy a new Rain Jacket and a few bits and bops.
Later that day Torsten and Chris arrived. Unfortunately Ralf’s preparations were still not finished so Chris, Torsten and myself went off to have a nice cupa of Cappuccino.
At 4:00pm we were finally ready, the vans were packed and off we went on our trip, direction Sete /France.
On the border between Germany and France we ran into a couple bored French Customs officers. These idiots couldn’t understand why a German would drive a car registered in Britain and why we had motorbikes in the back of our vans.
It took half an hour to finally go on our way.
Just a quick stop at a French Cora supermarket for some wine and food and we hit the road again.
Near Lyon in Bourg-en-Bresse we stopped for the night in an Ibis Hotel.
We had a quick dinner and went to bed.
After something they called Breakfast we were back on the road direction Sete.
We still had 350Km to go, but it was early and we were in a good mood.
We arrived at the port in Sete at noon and were guided to the Ferry Terminal.
We took our paperwork and went to get the tickets and probably even more paperwork.
I was warned that this could take hours, but 10 minutes later we were done and back at the cars.
It really helped that we were three big blokes in Biker gear, nobody tried to sneak in front of us.
Chris was waiting by the Vans.
So the waiting and cueing to get on board begun.
Ralf took the chance and started to grease is gloves and boots
It was at 5:00pm when I got my first little glimpse of African coordination.
When the customs and the ships clerks finally started boarding all hell broke loose, barriers were run over, cars crashed into others and people shouted and tried to punch each other….????????????
What the fuck is going on? I thought they are all laid back and would say "Inshallah"
Me, living in Britain and by now quite used too stand patiently in cue couldn’t understand the world no more ;-)
But finally we could go on board and just minutes, exactly 120 minutes to late the ferry begun the long 36 hour sailing to Morocco.
Despite the fact that this boat was old and
dirty and all toilets were filled to the brim with faeces
the crossing was quite all right. In retrospect the three times daily we were standing cue for food were sort of amusing. Just imagine four 6ft Germans standing in a large crowd of pint sized Moroccans. We never had a problem to get in or get food. No matter how hard they tried.
The food actually was not too bad and a note on what we had to expect the next weeks. Or better not to expect.
Hygiene is not a common word in North Africa…
Most annoying was the oriental music in the lounge but with enough hidden red wine that we smuggled in there we easily survived ;-)
In the lounge we meet a young German couple on tour in an old VW T2.
During the second night the weather was getting a bit rough but still no problems for that old vessel, even so we expected to take on water every second.
In the morning of the 20th we finally landed
in Tanger. Some sort of the same chaos we had witnessed in Sete happened again,
and it took another 2 hours to finally go thru all the customs controls and
leave the harbor in order to leave Tanger.
We all had agreed to go to Azrou in the Atlas mountains as quickly and direct as possible, so we took the Motorway down to Rabat and than another Main Road over to Fes, than somewhere left, direction Azrou. Some 150 miles after Tanger we stopped for lunch, my first African meal.
Newbie as I was I decided to listen to the experienced Ralf and ordered a vegetable Tangine. What is Vegetables cooked/steamed in a clay pot over charcoal seasoned with olives and spices. Not bad!
We arrived in Azrou round about 7:00pm and
found the Hotel quickly.
This Hotel was a tip from a friend who told us that we could leave our Vans there.
For 1. - Pound per van for 10 days we could leave them in the back yard secured by 9ft walls and under the eyes of the landlord.
This evening we spend most of the time with
sorting the luggage and preparing the clothes. And having cold showers,
something we would get used to in the next weeks.
On the 21st we unload the Vans and spend a couple hours to pack and prepare the bikes and ourselves.
Everything what was left over we put back
in the Vans and at around noon we set of direction South to ErRachidia.
Remember we are in Africa, but we had to go thru the Atlas mountains.
The highest pass we had to cross was at 2900m and we had some very unpleasant hours in Snow and Rain.
It was bloody cold and the wind was blowing hard. We stopped for a cupa in Midelt but had to leave quickly because of these really annoying Moroccan “Businessman”.
Something we had to get used to too.
At about 5:00pm we arrived at a Kasbah in Rich. Normally we wouldn’t had stopped because we actually planned to go at least 100Km further south to ErRachidia,
but there was a KTM Lc8 registered in Switzerland parked in front of the Hotel.
We thought “Let’s join him” Also Torsten wasn’t looking very well. So after 10 minute haggling over the prices we booked two double rooms with shower, dinner and Breakfast.
The showers only had cold water but the dinner was good.
That made us forget that these houses were build for the hot season and had no heating or proper doors.
Torsten had caught a nasty belly bug and all this cold and wet did not really help. He was forced to stop half way between Midelt and Rich to search for 40 minutes for his gear lever in snow and ice, what didn't help and drained his powers. Ralf and me hadn’t realized that Chris and Torsten were gone,
we all had decided to take off our rear view mirrors. Rookie mistake. When we finally realized it, we turned around and met them after a while.
But all that was now behind Torsten and us and Torsten was able to get some rest and a hand warm shower.
The rest of us had a pleasant evening in front of a gas oven with a bottle of Moroccan beer ;-)
22nd December 2005
After a nice breakfast we set off direction Merzouga and Erg Chebbi reinforced by the Swiss Lc8 rider.
We rode thru ErRachidia direction Erfoud,
We had brief stops on the Moroccan Grand Canyon
and the hot spring close to the road
In Erfoud we filled our bikes to the brim, including the auxiliary tanks and went on the piste R702.
It was quite easy to follow the piste at first as it was an asphalt road, but when the asphalt ended we had the choice of 10 different routes all going in the same direction, but all in slightly different angles. You've guesed it we took the wrong one and after a few miles we stopped to ask a local where to find Merzouga. He pointed over to the big red dune in the distance ;-) The Erg Chebbi.
At this point I had to learn that it was a bad idea that the Swiss guy was with us. I’m not really good in riding in sand, but he was worse.
H e hit the brakes whenever a little soft sand appeared, even so it was just a 2m long spot of sand. So I had a few near misses.
The piste was more the less going south east all the time but somewhere North West of the Erg Chebbi the piste made a sudden change of direction to south.
I was busy getting comfortable on the piste and followed the Swiss guy, I was last in the group. Torsten and Ralf were a good mile ahead as we had established bigger gaps between us because of the dusty conditions.
So as I was following the Lc8 I saw two bikes to the right of me going over a little hill and disappear. I hit the brakes and tried to get the attention of the Lc8 by sounding my horn. No reaction. There I was standing in the desert torn between following the Lc8 to stop him or follow the others. I than realized that another bike to the right of me had stopped, Chris.
I rode over to him and together we rode to the crest of the hill to see where the other were gone, but they were swallowed by the hilly vastness.
We took the chance and made a pause to take some pictures.
We knew they will come back if they realize they were alone, as that was what we had discussed..
Torsten and Ralf did, the Lc8 didn’t.
We stood there for nearly an hour waiting for the Swiss. Finally we decided to drive to Merzouga, what was round about 10Km further direction Erg Chebbi. The Erg Chebbi was a big Dune, nearly 800m high and impossible to miss ;-)
In Merzouga we were immediately surrounded by locals, trying to sell us, Mint Tea, stones (fossil fossil) or a Hotel.
But we knew where we wanted to stay, we just had to find it ;-)
So we drove around a bit and after a good 20 minutes we arrived at the Hauberge Chez Julie. It was recommended in the Know-How Travelers Book
and even so not the cheapest I quite liked it.
We threw our luggage in the 4 berth room and went out to the Chebbi to play a bit in the sand before the sunset.
It was fun. Chris had so much fun trying to go to the top of the Dune that he nearly missed the sunset, but thankfully the sunset takes ages here close to the equator.
After a hot shower and a very nice dinner with Couscous and Vegetables we had tiny sip of whisky and went to bed.
23rd December 2005
After a nice breakfast we set off to circle the Erg Chebbi, partly on the usual Dakar tracks.
We tried to circle the Erg counter clockwise and it was not very easy to find the entry to the track. But after a few hours we were on track and had some beautiful hours in the big sandpit.
Before we actually found the track we came across the Swiss Lc8 again. We were standing on a hill and he was driving somewhere on the bottom of a valley.
That was the last thing we saw of him. We also passed a few Camels that were far more polite than him ;-)
Torsten had a “little” issue with his Magura Hymec hydraulic clutch. Actually it stopped working and because he couldn’t stop and set off again,
he circled thru the dunes just to keep his bike in motion.;-) while Newbie (me) was digging his bike in or just had a slow process. He is good!
Anyways after a good days out we went back to the Hauberge.
Preparing the bikes for the big tour the next day.
Chris had a bit to much oil in his engine and drained it.
Torsten changed the clutch with a spare Hymec he had in his luggage. He had some more minor damages but nothing to worry about.
Ralf had a little Oil spill but also nothing to be worried about.
I had actually damaged the rear left tank during one of my numerous stunts. So I had to disconnect that one and fill the rest fuel in the right one. I also had fill in a bit oil and used the oil Chris had drained from his bike ;-) Teamwork you know.
We all checked our Air filters and honestly, the little filters on the Adventures together with Carlo’s Gaze frames work perfect.
I had the most of us all in the air box, mostly because I’m the worst rider!
Anyways another hot shower (yes hot!) and a nice dinner in a freezing cold room, as it gets fucking cold in the night in the desert in December, and we hit the couch for a good night sleep.
24th December 2005
Our goal for today was to go to Taouz and find the piste that was going close to the Algerian border west south west to Zagora and than further past the Lac Iriki to Foum-Zguid.
So off we went into Merzouga to get bread, water and fuel.
We refilled our bikes on one of the typical Jerry Can fuel stations and off we went first to one of the confluence points close to Merzouga in the Qued Ziz
Than to Taouz and further on a good piste, crossing large flats small hills and after crossing a little village onto a very sandy bit of piste.
It was here that Torsten had dug in his bike. We all stopped and Chris actually announced that his bike exhibits some very strange noises.
It was sounding like a broken rocker arm.
We thought it might be the bad fuel quality but we all decided that this would
and we were sure that something in the engine was broken.
It was round about 1pm, so we decided to go back to Merzouga. to have a closer look.
We had two emergency plans.
1. If the magnetic drain plug would show metal parts two people would stay in Merzouga with the bike and the two others would go and get one of the Vans.
2. No debris and Chris and someone else would go back to the Vans.
We found no unusual debris in the oil!
We made camp inside a Kasbah and had our Christmas Eve Whisky by the pool after a meal of bread, salami and tomato soup at nearly 0 degrees.
On that evening we decided that I will go back together with Chris to the Vans in Azrou and do a bit of sightseeing using my Van
while the other two would go on the piste and we all would meet up in Quarzazate on New Years Eve.
25th December 2005
This morning we prepared our bikes and after a sad good bye we all went our ways. Torsten and Ralf to the south, Chris and me back North.
The way back was not really eventful. Chris discovered when he drove slower than 80Km/h the engine sound was ok. So we drove back with a max. of 80Km/h. The first day we
followed the asphalt road thru Rissani, thru Erfoud, ErRachidia back to the Kasbah in Rich. We booked a room here again just to have a god night sleep before we would go up the Atlas mountains the next day and probably face the same Ice, Rain and snow as a few days earlier.
We were invited to a Muslim Christmas party with beer and music. Strange! But hey, it was sort of warm ;-)
Other than the water in the shower that was cold.
26th December 2005
In the morning we set off to cross the mountains. We drove slowly thru the landscape what has also something.
The weather got worse with every inch we went north and up the mountain roads.
Close to Azrou and before the last mountain pass I ran out of fuel. I hadn’t expected that but we had just passed a small village with an Afrique petrol station, one of the better petrol stations we were told before and so we went back and filled a few liters in, just enough to reach Azrou.
Even so the fuel is cheap as chips over there, this camel pee is not worth taking back home.
15km further I realized that my bike wasn’t responding properly anymore.
I had to go full throttle to keep up with Chris. I knew it the fucking shit they sold us as fuel was actually real camel pee. Assholes!
We went up the mountains and over the big plateau.
The wind was playing with us, the rain was coming parallel to the ground from the left side and we were leaning in a 45degrees angle against it.
It was fucking cold and visibility was poor. Chris actually wanted to stop in the famous Acacia forest to have a look on the monkeys living there,
but he obviously came to the conclusion that whenever he want to see a monkey he just had to look into a mirror ;-)
Or it was simply to cold to enjoy it, we will never know.
We stopped at the biggest tree I ever saw to take a picture
but than hurried to get back to the Hotel in Azrou.
200m before the Hotel my engine died. It was going down hill so no problem, but finally Morocco got my bike too.
Two down, two bikes and two vans to go.
It was no problem to get a room in the hotel and a dinner. Before all that we quickly stuffed the bikes into Torsten's van and went to bed.
Chris was not feeling well and what ever Torsten had first, he got now.
27th December 2005
After a scarce Breakfast at a petrol station we jumped in my Van and went of to Marrakech, Capitol of Morocco.
It was quite some way to go and we planned to go there within two days.
W e drove north of the Atlas Mountains thru the plains and lower Atlas mountains relaxed mile by mile. Whenever we liked, we stopped for food, coffees or a pee.
We went thru Khenifra, Beni Mellal. In one little village I was stopped by the police for speeding. They said I did 66Km/h. I’m sure it was 80 ;-)
but you shouldn’t argue with the police in Africa. So I politely asked them if there is an official fee (not fine ;-))
as I had learned by watching Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor’s "Long Way Round"
and the two policemen took the chance to triple their monthly salary. Only 30 minutes later we could drive on.
Chris was not feeling well so we decided to spend the night in a hotel in Beni Mellal.
Again hugh hotel, big city no warm water. Ok not entirely true, at midnight we got warm water for 10 minutes, Yiphiee.
28th December 2005
Off to Marrakech.
As we were not totally braindead, we decided to camp on a campground on the outskirts of Marrakech and take a taxi to go to the Souks.
There was a good camp ground in the Know-How travel guide and thanks to the GPS we found it quite easily.
We parked the Van and prepared the rear for the night, than jumped in a Taxi and went over to the Bazaar.
Our plan was to just scan the bazaar, buy some food and go back to the van for the night and come back the next day to buy souvenirs. And so we did.
It was quite overwhelming to see all these people, colors and products up for sale.
We bought some food for breakfast and went into a café to wait for our taxi driver. Back on the campground we went to bed immediately.
29th December 2005
Breakfast Taxi Bazaar. We spend nearly the whole day in the souks.
Got lost a couple of times in the little narrow ways, found some nice thingies for the loved ones back home
and the rest of the time fought off the annoying haulers and beggars.
We also went into a museum with an exhibition of modern European Art, as we found out when we were in there.
What a pile of crap. The museum itself was beautiful, but this modern Art shit really spoiled it.
These people really took me off. I started to get very tense and rude. But luckily it was late afternoon and we met our taxi and went back to the campground.
I had a kofte kebab this afternoon and in the night I had to pay the price for eating meat in Africa.
Round about midnight I woke up with this unpleasant feeling that if I don’t sit on a toilet within 20 seconds something embarrassing will happen.
It took me 22 seconds to reach the toilet and yes, I had shit my pants.
I had to make the run a couple more times that night. But luckily these times I won the race.
30th December 2005
Our goal for today was , going thru the Atlas Mountains to Quarzazate.
It was not very eventful except from the stone sellers behind every corner and we had some gorgeous views on our way.
My belly was actually silent as long as I didn’t try to put something in there, at least water and dry bread in little pieces stayed in.
Chris was much better at that time and he actually could eat, that bastard.
In Quarzazate we set camp on the local camp ground and sort of prepared everything for the next day and New Years Eve.
We also took the chance to wash our clothes.
31st December 2005
We had a breakfast what actually did not upset my belly.
We went down to the Berber Bazaar and had a quick look around. Same stuff and cheap shit we saw in Marrakech.
All just there for the tourists. I bought a nice cover for my couch at home and two scarves.
We had a cafe au lait and than set of walking to a reservoir what we couldn’t find and turned back to the camp.
We just settled down when we received a SMS from Torsten. They were stuck in Taroudant, Torsten’s Engine was seized.
150Km from Quarzazate. We threw everything in the van and set of to the rescue. It was not really fun to drive directly to the west.
The setting sun was blinding me and because we were so far south it took ages till it was gone.
We reached Taroudant and found the Hotel quite easily. Parked the van and had a nice dinner.
Ralf’s and Torsten’s bikes were parked in the Hotel
At midnight we sat in Torsten’s room and had a couple Whiskies before we all went to bed.
01.01.2006 A new year.
We stuffed Torsten’s bike in my van and went back to Quarzazate. We took the same route we took in the evening and Ralf was following us on his bike.
In Quarzazate we camped on the same campground. We meet the young couple from Germany again we had meet on the ferry from France to Morocco.
In the evening we went out for a meal in a little Restaurant around the corner.
Off to ErRachidia.
The Dakar was in ErRachidia tonight and we tried to get into the bivouac to see some of our heroes.
Unfortunately security was tight and we hadn’t had a chance to sneak in with our van.
Ralf had a bit more luck and went in with his bike. Torsten, Chris and myself took position on the entrance and we took tons of photos of the incoming contestants.
Later that evening we went over to a campground close to the road in a small little palm tree valley. Even so there were palm trees it was freezing that night.
Also my belly bug decided to kick up a fuss again and I had to run to the French style loo a few times during the night.
We went up very early to go up to the road to see the Dakar riders pass by. It was 6:00am when we arrived at the street.
A lot of the riders were confused when they saw us standing there on the road junction.
They all slowed down, some of them even tried to take the road to the camp ground.
Looks like their road book was showing a junction in that area and now with us standing there in Motorbike Jackets,
they thought the distances in the road book were wrong ;-) We managed to wave them all back on the right track. It was funny ;-)
After the sun was up and the temperatures were rising we went back to the camp. We had breakfast, prepared ourselves to go back to Azrou.
We made good progress and arrived Azrou late afternoon.
I was sick, I went in my room and tried to sleep and recover.
The other guys tried to load the vans. What meant unload all bikes and load Chris’s and Torsten’s bike back in Torsten’s van. Ralf’s and my bike into my van.
Torsten tried to start his van to move it into position but it refused to start.
Torsten got new diesel from the local petrol station and was about to call the ADAC, the German breakdown service,
when he realized that he tried to start the van with the wrong key. The immobilizer had kicked in ;-)
Right key and the van started immediately.
The guys had a dinner, I had a few hours sleep interrupted by the occasional shitter session.
Our return tickets were still not confirmed and the ferry was scheduled for the 6th.
So we decided to go straight to Tanger and to the Ferry Company to sort them out.
The whole day is a bit in a blur as I was still not 100% alright.
I needed to check the toilets every 50Km and at one point I thought I had to break wind,
but guess what happened. Yes, right I shit myself again.
Luckily there was a café just across the road. A quick change of pants and a minute of thinking if I should go to the next supermarket and by a pack nappies
and I was alright to drive on.
In Tanger we found the Ferry Company and got our tickets confirmed. We rented a whole flat and a garage and spend the last two days in Tanger.
I was mainly lying on the couch watching telly.
The rest explored Tanger
Sleeping, Loo, Sleeping, Loo, Sleeping, Loo
and in the evening Pizza, cheese blocks the asshole you know ;-)
We wandered a bit thru the streets of Tanger. It was like every other city in Europe.
Except that this was in Africa. Boring!!!
After a breakfast we went down to the harbor to board the ferry.
We knew from the first leg of the trip what to expect and we were not disappointed.
Chaos, stupidity, selfishness. All possible ugly and negative human behaviors surfaced here. It is like hell.
It is hard to describe but Moroccans are rude, smelly and unfriendly people.
As aid after all the chaos and queuing we finally made it on board and settled down in our cabin.
The toilets weren’t cleaned since the last trip we did on this ship, actually nothing was cleaned at all. I finally found one half clean toilet and after I used it I blocked the door to keep it clean, as I knew I will need it a few more times. It was strange I could eat what I want but I had to go to the loo once every hour.
Anyways on the trip back we saw a few tornados
beside that nothing happened and we arrived in Sete in the morning of the 8th.
We set off, back to Germany immediately. Torsten’s Van was the turbo version and a bit faster. On the other hand their way was longer. So we said goodbye and drove alone from each other. Back in Karlsruhe we got a nice pizza and a very nice Whisky.
Next day we unload Ralf’s bike and I went off back home to the UK.
After all the driving the few hundred Km’s were no problem at all.
I went straight to the workshop, unload the bike went home and in the pub and was lying on the floor pissed like fuck, just 20 minutes later :-D
I told every one who wanted to hear (and everyone who didn't) that I would never go back.
Now a year later I think I will go back but this time Tunisia. Same sort of people but more of the dreaded sand………………………………….