The route: Sebta -> Tetouan -> Near Meknes -> Rabat -> Beni Mellal -> Bin El Ouidane -> Ouarzezate -> Talouin -> Agadir – > Biougra -> El Outia -> Boujdour -> Dakhla -> Mauritanian Border
Morocco is a country of diversity. The landscape ranges from lush mediteranean to bare sand dunes. And the people who call themselves Moroccans have an interesting mix of ethnic faces. Although it’s an Islamic country, but it does not have the strictness towards woman that many other Islamic countries have. It is wonderful to see in a few minutes woman dressed in jeans and shirts as well as woman dressed in the traditional garments. And although not many woman are driving and even fewer are riding motorcycles (or the more common mopeds), this is also changing.
There is still a strong emphasis on family in Morocco, but with all the changes in the country and children moving further away to find work, they are in danger of losing this, which would be a real shame. We spent some time with a traditional Moroccan family where 4 out of the 7 sons are still living at home. Three of these are married and 2 of them have children of their own. It’s a wonderful mix of generations.
Coming into Morocco was a bit of a shock. We got lumbered with a guide to take us to Tetouan and show us around. Our only excuse is that it’s our first trip to Morocco, but it won’t be the last. At least we managed to get out of buying a carpet (genuine and very cheap of course :)). He did a good job though and we saw parts of the Medina which we would not otherwise have seen, including the bit where they prepare sheep skins into leather. Yuck, it stinks!
If you ever need to stay over in Rabat, make sure that it’s not when an international music festival is on. When we got there (to get our Mauritanian visas), the hotels were full (if you could find them). Those that weren’t full were either in the Medina (where you can’t take the bikes) or were being renovated before the main tourist season. And to make things worse, the campsite we were aiming for does not exist anymore. It is now part of the redevelopment of the marina. Pity, it was such a nice location, and the only campsite in Rabat. But as luck would have it, we ended up staying with the couple wo used to run the campsite. They now own a riad in Sale (across the river from Rabat), which is like a posh B&B (www.therepose.com). A lot more expensive than the campsite though 🙁 But they were very friendly and helpful.
After that we knew we had to scale things down a bit. We found the most wonderful campsite looking down on a river. They even had a tented restaurant on site that was frequented by locals. We were the only people camping there, though. There was this partially fallen down structure that we decided to make into our camp for a couple of days. We had our privacy with wonderful views over the valley. We did a day trip to the Ouzoud falls (a bit of a tourist trap but still worth visiting). Between the camp and the falls was a massive man-made lake Ben el Ouid(??). Absolutely beautiful.
In Ouarzezate we stayed with a couple who does motorcycle tours in Morocco (www.bikershome.com). They suggested we take the gravel road to Tazenacht. It’s about 65km long and is new, apart from the last 10-15km, which is still the old road. Up to the old road, it’s was brilliant riding. We passed quite a few oases and even got wet riding through a ford :). But where the road works started between the new and old parts, things got a bit bad. Isabel fell off in sand (which Adrian managed to negotiate safely). No harm done. A couple of workmen picked the bike up for her and on we went. Things got very difficult, partly due to sand (at an oasis) and partly due to a diversion which sort of just petered out into nothing. But we managed it, and looking back on it it was mainly fun 🙂
We stayed at a campsite outside Agadir to sort out our stuff and send some back as we just had way too much stuff with us. This turned into another epic. The local vilage post office (about 2km from the camp site) could not send anything abroad so we had to go into Agadir to the big post office. Here they did not have a box big enough, so we were sent to yet another post office. Luckily here they had a very friendly guard who could speak a bit of English and helped us get a ticket to get in line. But when Adrian took the tripod out of the bag everyone took a step back and the guard had to examine it very carefully. They thought it was some kind of weapon, until Adrian explained that it was for putting a camera on to take pictures. But after this the guard examined everything we wanted to send back. We think he was just enjoying the change 🙂 When everything was packed he started taping the box up. He must have used 2 rolls of tape! But we did manage to send back about 10kg of stuff. Let’s just hope it all gets safely back home.
Then it was time to meet up with a Moroccan guy called Omar that we made contact with on CouchSurfing. It was only about 60km from the campsite near Agadir. He was waiting for us and of course we stick out like a sore thumb on our big bikes, so he couldn’t miss us as we rode into town. We spent 2 brilliant days with him and his family. Adrian was taught how to make mint tea the proper way and Isabel learnt how to make the bread they make every day. No exact measurements to be seen anywhere. We took lots of photos of everyone and even got the little printer out, which was a great hit. It was very difficult to say good bye to them, especially Omar, his wife and his cousin. We will definitely go back to visit them.
From here on it was south all the way to the border with Mauritania. A very long and hot road. The only respite being from the sea breeze which can be so strong that you struggle to keep the bike upright. Isabel did manage to lose it about 10 miles outside Tan-Tan (on the way to El Outia), but not because of the wind. What looked like shiny new tarmac was actually a whole lane full of diesel! Luckily we were going slow round the bends, experience having taught us that a truck could be coming down in our lane. Her bike is a little bent, but still OK to ride. Will get it checked out when possible.
In El Outia we met Koen, a Dutch guy on a 3 month motorcycle trip in West Africa. He was looking for petrol. We had a chat and he went off to the petrol station. When we reached Boujdour later that day the wind was so strong it nearly blew Adrian’s bike over so we decided to take a room at the campsite rather than pitch the tent. Waking up the next day Isabel had a nasty headache so we booked in for another day. And what a good thing that was. The day was very foggy and actually quite pleasant. Early in the afternoon another bike turned up with Tom and Nina. They had been travelling by motorcycle from the Middle East, via South Africa, for the last 14 months. They’re on their way back to Europe. How nice it was to talk to them. And later on Koen turned up there as well. So we hooked up with Koen for the ride to and through the border. His French is so much better than ours that it made quite a diffirence when finding places to stay and finding out the rates etc. And to top it all he’s a really nice guy and easy to get along with.
We’ve heard horror stories about the border crossing between Morocco and Mauritania: it’s a horrible road and you need a guide. Tom said it’s not that bad, just wait for a car you can trust (foreigner) and follow them. At the border Koen started talking to one of the guards who eventually said that it’s not as bad as people say, you don’t need a guide, just follow the track. It’s pretty clear and if in doubt, take the left route. He was spot on. The first bit had some sand and Adrian came off. Isabel struggled, but Koen helped to keep the bike upright so she managed to get through. Then it’s mainly very rocky but standing up helps a lot. About 500m from the Mauritanian border there is some sand again and Adrian came off, this time hurting his ankle quite a bit. Luckily it seems to be just a sprain or bad bruise.
Then we had to deal with Mauritanian officials, roads and traffic. But that’s for another edition.
Adrian & Isabel
& Mr Teddy
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