Airdrieonians do Morrocco
Motorcycle Trip Reports
Start Date of Trip
Duration of Trip
Total Miles Covered
In the beginning was the beer……isn’t it always. Stevie and Willie decided they were going to go somewhere on Moto Guzzi’s , but where? Morocco came up and was decided on. By the time I came on board the Guzzi’s has been sidelined, Stevie was going to get a Suzuki puddle jumper and Willie was going to build a KTM. I, of course, was going on the trusty KLV, why re-invent the wheel.
Day 1 The day eventually arrived, Stevie’s puddle jumper had to be sidelined in favour of his Bandit, some of the parts ordered hadn’t turned up. In fact the exhaust arrived the Saturday we were leaving. We all turned up at Willie’s at 2 p.m., a late start but Stevie had to see his boy play football, much too important to miss. Then Stevie’s Bandit wouldn’t start. Normally the most reliable of bikes, and despite being started to be ridden over to Willie’s it just refused. Willie played with the wires for a while but it was decided to ‘hot wire’ it and put a starter button in. This duly done we shot off to the petrol station where Willies bike dumped petrol all over the forecourt. Back to his house to put in the missing tank drain plug, then back to the petrol station to fill up and finally the ‘Follies’ get under way.
Drizzle and wicked side winds are the order of the day, so it’s a stop after Moffat to get the waterproofs on. All goes well until Morecambe when Willie goes AWOL while Stevie and I are filling up. Eventually we get him on the phone, his clutch has given up and he’s limping to his Auntie’s house in Blackpool. Luckily Stevie knows the way so we arrive a little later, get Willie’s bike stripped but it needs a special tool which we don’t have and as it’s about 11 p.m. we are unlikely to get one. We sleep on a convenient floor and make the awkward decision to carry on without Willie, who will get picked up by his wife and Stevie’s wife in his truck, take the bike back to Airdrie, try to fix it and catch us up.
Day 2 The bullet bit, Stevie and I ride on to Plymouth. The weather was a little kinder but it was still a bit chilly, and as always, once below Birmingham the ridings easier. When we get to the ferry there are literally hundreds of bikes of every type Some of the GS and KTM riders seemed a bit distant, but maybe we didn’t appear serious enough for them. I mean, not one bit of Touratech kit that they could see, (actually my gear change is Touratech but it doesn’t show much).
Once on the boat and tied down, (the deck hand (nautical term, I can use that shit now), tied the bikes down for us), we went to find our cabin. Quite comfortable, although we wouldn’t be doing any cat swinging in the toilet, then shower and try to catch up on a little missed sleep. Hence when we woke up the boat was at sea and it was time for dinner. A couple of sandwiches and some pints of dinner later it was time for bed.
Day 3 Up for breakfast and some slow bimbling about, (the ferry doesn’t get in until 12), plenty of time to get ready for the Santander drag race when everyone wants off the boat first. No problems with border crossing, (a feature of the whole trip), and we’re off. It’s hot but gets better when we leave the sea behind. We stopped at a petrol station just after getting off the boat and Stevie managed to cover the guy’s counter in sweat when he opened his jacket, the guy was not amused. Some great scenery on the way down, bikes seemed to thin out immediately, don’t know where they went. Tried to get a campsite in Burgos, but couldn’t find it, (another feature of the trip, disappearing campsites), eventually found one near Aranda. Good site, food was good in the site restaurant.
Day 4 Fair nights sleep, some thunder and lightning and some spots of rain at 4.30 a.m. which meant I had to get up to put the outer on the tent. Had breakfast on the road, got to Madrid quickly, crazy traffic including a truck behind me blowing his horn and waving, but I was behind a car, I think he wanted me to start filtering. The road goes up into the mountains just before Jaen, and at one point the two carriageways split, the southbound one goes high, and the northbound one stays lower, much singing in the helmet about high roads etc. The picture shows the northbound carriageway, the south one can be made out on the left, about two thirds of the way up the hill. The vantage point this was taken from had been used as a toilet, by a LOT of people.
Got to Granada where we got separated, my fault, I was in front and suddenly spotted a sign for Algeciras, dived for it leaving Stevie to go straight on. I turned round (another mistake) as soon as I could, but of course so did Stevie. We crossed without seeing each other, both pushing on to catch up. When I realised what had happened, it was too late to turn round, so I carried on to Motril, I knew we could meet up later and this was bound to happen at some point. Couldn’t find a campsite at Motril so carried on to Malaga. A distinct dearth of campsites in Malaga, so when filling up in a service station I asked about hotels. Yes, I asked if there were any hotels in Malaga…I was tired. Followed signs for the Hotel California, felt I had to stay there, (even if I could never leave), but lost them, so just pulled up at the first hotel and booked in. Underground garage and all. At about this time Stevie’s phone, which had stubbornly refused to work, started working. He was at a campsite in Fuengirola, just next to Malaga. We decided to meet up in the morning. I’d had an accident with a water bottle and all my clothes, so the hotel room looked like a Chinese laundry drying room, the clothes I had to wear to go and get something to eat were wet.
Day 5 At about 4 a.m. I was woken by thunder and lightning, but this time with pouring rain, like a deluge. It was O.K. in the hotel room but Stevie was in his tent. I felt terribly guilty as I drifted off to sleep. Met up in the morning, well once the rain had stopped, and headed off to Algeciras via somewhere for breakfast. Stevie led us straight past the biggest McDonalds I have ever seen, I was nearly crying but he claims he didn’t see it. Had a quick drive into Gibraltar, but they were having some sort of celebration for the anniversary of their independence or something, so nowhere to park. Some nice roads going over the hills to Algeciras but spoilt by wind turbines, (they really are blots on any landscape aren’t they). Arrived at Algeciras, but like many small ports it was a bit of a toilet and luckily we couldn’t find a campsite. We went on to Tarifa and found a fantastic campsite the other side of it, highly recommended. A lot of kite flying there and a sign saying ‘Africa 15kms’ on the walkway to the beach.
Day 6 At this point we found out that Willie was coming down in his truck. He’d been picked up, had driven home, serviced the truck and was driving down to meet us, what a star. So we arranged to meet him at this campsite the next day, so it was dhobi day for the boys, then a walk into Tarifa getting badly sunburnt on the way and having to wade a river.
A couple on a Guzzi Californian pulled in. They have been travelling since June and were going to winter in Spain. Had a meal and a wee libation at the site restaurant with them, good company. Also met a German policeman on an orange V-Strom, I knew that colour would catch on.
Willie arrived late afternoon having driven for about 72 hours with about 6 hours sleep. So after he had a sleep in his tent, we went to the local surfers bar where they do barbecue and litre glasses.
Day 7 Time to go to Morocco. Headed into Tarifa and got the ferry.
Again no problems, waved on early and a deck hand, (see, this stuff’s in the blood you know), tied the bikes down for us. You have to get your passport stamped on the boat, but this is announced and the queue gives away where it is. The poor driving started as we were getting off the boat with some doeball in a car seeming to want to use the space I was occupying at the time. The ‘touts’ caught us at the entry place, I honestly thought it was an official of some sort trying to be helpful. There isn’t really a big problem except that you have to get your passport checked by the police, (again, the one on the boat is the same department), but the place to get it checked is up some stairs, out through some metal detectors the wrong way, and some crappy little office where some tottie in uniform with a power complex does the decent thing. We actually would have been quicker if we had bribed another policeman, but sod him. Eventually they get fed up keeping you waiting and send you on your way.
Weather was hot and humid, so sweating was the order of the day. Driving poor, Stevie nearly got creamed twice before we left Tangiers, once by a truck reversing into the road. Stopped for petrol and decided to have some coffee and cokes. We sat outside in the shade and it was obvious they were watching football on the television inside. Stevie went to the toilet and came out to tell us they were watching Celtic playing Motherwell. Motherwell’s ground is about 15 minutes from my house. Found a campsite, more by accident than intention. We were actually looking for coffee, which the bloke took to mean camping until I said café, but we stayed anyway. We were having a bit of a time problem, they were an hour after Spain, who were an hour after Britain, so we didn’t really know the time. Pretty basic toilets, three squat stalls and two outdoor sinks next to a sort of permanent tent. Went for a meal at the restaurant, I should mention we were there during Ramadan, then they started a party upstairs. “Thank goodness we are nowhere near here, the noise is going to be loud”, we thought, unfortunately they were having another party in the tent thing, and we were camped next to it. I decided to drown it out with my I pod. But at one point, while listening to Runrig, the music from the tent sort of blended in, weird.
Day 8 Carried on down the road heading for Volubilis. Really boring riding, a bit like parts of southern England where it’s flat, but hot, burnt and everything seemed shut. Soon after Sidi-Kacem this changed, the roads became much more like the Morocco I had imagined. Found a campsite just south of Moulay Idris. It’s in a bit of a state but you can see its former glory.
They didn’t bother switching on the showers until the morning, so we were a bit on the minging side when we went to Moulay Idris to get some food. We arrived after dark and a bloke immediately started to guide us into a parking spot. When we got out he seemed to want to take us to an hotel, we pointed out we only wanted some food, so he showed us into a café, asked if kebab would be o.k. then legged it up the hill. We drank our coffee and Sprite, watched some Italian football when the bloke with two mates comes down the hill with plates of food. The food was o.k., at one point we asked if we could get some water, he shot into the shop next door and came back with a bottle. It was all a bit surreal, but one of those times when you know you’re getting ripped off, but the price is still alright, so you’re happy, he’s happy, and it’s only the other people in the café who seem offended. Incidentally, Moulay Idris was the last place in Morocco to allow non-muslims in. Basically because it was founded by the bloke who brought Islam to Morocco, and it has nothing to do with Ginger Beer. (wonder how many people will get that)
Day 9 Following our cold showers, went to Volubilis, very impressive, but if you’ve been to Ephesus in Turkey give it a miss as it’s nowhere near as good.
That’s Moulay Idris between the columns. Arty farty eh!
When we got back to the campsite there were a load of ‘overlanders’ in, mostly Land Rovers. Strangely there was also hot water from the showers and they were on in the evening. Went to the Hotel Volubilis that night for dinner. A really nice hotel, the sort you’d take your wife to.
Day 10 Shortish ride to Fes. Stopped at a service station for petrol and a coke and met our first motorcycle tout. Apparently they hang about at the service stations outside of major towns and offer to guide you to your hotel, but unfortunately it’s shut so they take you to their ‘uncles’ hotel. Well this blokes English was crap so he was easy to get rid of, but he rode off and sent his mate who could speak better English. We eventually managed to get rid of him by using Scots slang and ignorance. Went through a red light and incurred the wrath of a wandering plod. Luckily he was fooled by the vacant expressions and cringing attitude. Found a hotel, the Hotel Tghat, inauspicious sounding name I know, but a really nice place. They let us put the bikes where they get deliveries. Unfortunately this was down a 45 degree slope and onto shiny tiles, but we negotiated it o.k. And all for 50 Dirham each, that’s less than £10, best value of the holiday. Had dinner at a quaint little restaurant chain called McDonalds. Then went to the Medina thingy. I think I missed the point here, it was just a tatty market that smelled of poo, with annoying little neds who reckon you’re going to get lost for some reason, so you should give them money to lead you round. What’s that all about?
Day 11 Up, what I thought was early and nearly missed breakfast. Got the bikes out from the underground storage area with no dramas. Glad to be away from Fes, Judgement was coloured by having everyone you meet seeming to think you have a pound sign tattooed on your forehead. The road quickly starts to become dramatic as we head for the high Atlas mountains. Some absolutely stunning scenery.
Stopped at a viewpoint for a photo opportunity, some old bloke walked up, don’t know where from, and I thought “if you ask me for money I’ll hit you”. But all he did was say ‘good morning’, and then wander off. Then a bloke walked up the path you may be able to make out in the picture (below). He was leading about 4 donkeys, all heavily laden. He waved and shouted “welcome”. Faith restored we rode on.
Scenery became like the Grand Canyon, real cowboy country so we kept an eye out for Mexican bandits and Indians. But we were ambushed by some kids who appeared, from nowhere again, and asked for money, so I gave them a pen each, that’ll teach them, don’t mess with old blokes on bikes, they’ll force educational presents on you.
Went through the Legionnaires Tunnel, which was more like an arch, but hey, it sounded good.
Rode on to Er-Rashidia and found a campsite. Quite good except for being dogged by cats, ants and little boys. Suspiciously friendly bloke turned out to own the local carpet shop. Of course he was a genuine Berber. The shop was full of strange things he said he swapped with people, even reckoned he had a pair of new motorcycle boots somewhere. He managed to sell Willie and Stevie a blanket each, but appeared pissed I got away without buying.
He gave us bread for breakfast the next day, so faith soared again.
Day 12 Headed off to Erfoud, beautiful scenery along the way, then the side winds started, nothing much at first, a bit of a sharp blow then settle down. But it just got harder as we approached the Sahara area. Then it started to lift the sand. At one point I was watching Stevie in front, his bike leaned over at about 40 degrees, all ‘hazy’ because of the sand in the air, sand being blown in streams across the road, and I thought “Willie is behind me with his video camera, I’ll look great”. Of course the batteries were dead. Bugger!
Merzouga hove into sight and the inevitable tout started his crap. Went over to a café where a bloke who could have done adverts as an arab, I mean I know he was an arab, but he really looked like one, anyway he made us a coffee and shouted at the tout. He then told us that they didn’t come from the village, and were only there to get the tourists. Sorry, Merzouga is right at Erg Chebbi, the biggest sand sea in Morocco. He told us to go to the Kasbah hotel, so we did, cracking place, complete with swimming pool which we immediately polluted.
Then two German blokes turned up on BM 850’s, all kitted out for serious stuff.
We arranged to go on a Land Rover ride into the Sahara, quite good. At one point there was a line of ‘cairns’ over on our right side, I asked what they were and the guy said it was the Algerian border, next thing we know they are on our left side meaning we were in Algeria, and they are not friendly with Morrocco. But the inevitable stop at a carpet shop spoiled it. The bloke at the carpet shop wasn’t pleased when we point blank refused to even consider buying anything, in fact he virtually chucked us out.
Dinner that night was a communal affair with the German blokes, nice fellas, they were going on one of the pistes, eventually deciding to take a local guide and a land rover as support, (thank god). That was our first Tagine, some kind of meat, (don’t ask), and some peas, with an egg each on top. Eat with bread to soak up the juice, very tasty.
Day 13 In the morning it was raining. Who’d of thought we could bring Airdrie weather to the Sahara, it was chucking it down. It stopped for a while when we were leaving and stayed off while we were getting photos at Erg Chebbi, (I know it looks nothing in the photo, but honest, it’s big), and arguing with the touts, they really didn’t want to sod off and appeared unsure of the meaning.
So it was back to Er Rashidia, cracking ride, 80’s and side winds, we hit it about mid morning. Now the last time we went through it had been later and it was quiet, it was like Aldershot, there were squaddies everywhere. We went towards Ouarzazate, long straights, almost forgot how to turn corners by the end of them, but rain stopped play, whoever said it was warm rain was fibbing, it was bloody cold. Got a little lost somewhere around Boumalne-du-Dades and wound up riding through an open market. Had to stop at Skoura, but found the Kasbah At Ben Moro, a belter of a place, but bugger all around it really. We arrived out of daylight and soaking, nice meal though and the first beer in Morocco. Casablanca Beer, brewed in Casablanca, obviously, strange for a muslim country that doesn’t drink to brew beer and make wine.
Day 14 We had decided that we didn’t have time to do the Tizi-n-Test as we had only taken out 10 days insurance, so we were going to go up the Tizzi-n-Tichka instead. The guide book said it was uninteresting/insignificant, which shows that the guide book writer had never been there.
So quickly passing through Ouarzazate, which we wished we had more time to look round.
We went up the pass and found this.
Even allowing for the fact that it had been raining and that made it a bit more spectacular, it would still have been a stunning ride. We had small landslides, swollen wadi’s which ran over the road, a washed out bridge requiring a ride through 6 inch deep mud, roadwork’s that needed to be bypassed through the river, all good stuff. And those stunning views too. A stream seeming to burst out of the mountain the other side of a valley, then fall about 400 feet. We eventually came to what we thought was the end of it and had a coffee at a little roadside place. When we carried on we had big gaps between us as we were all taking photos. At one point I was going up a hill alone thinking “this is nice”, when I looked to my right, there was no crash barrier and about a 5000 foot drop, o.k. it was only about 500 foot but it still made my bum grip the saddle. At one point I came up behind a snow plough. “Fair enough” I thought, “they must get snow up here”. I overtook him and as I got level with him he dropped the plough to push some stones off the road, luckily I’d been to the toilet earlier.
We met up again just before Marakesh where we didn’t plan to stop as we’d been put off by Fes.
Getting to Casablanca was done on the toll road, not at all exiting but the speed was a novelty. The driving in Casablanca was crazy, Stevie saw an accident and went over to help the bloke, but nobody spoke English so his help was limited. Found a hotel down at the docks, not as bad as it sounds, it was quite a posh hotel. They let us put the bikes in their delivery area watched over by a thing that was half dog and half crazy thing. One hotel we went to were asking for £200 a night, what the hell do you get for that?
Eventually found Rick’s Bar, had a beer, ate the nuts, bought the ‘T’ shirt. Quite a classy place really.
Day 15 Heading up to Tangiers, but too far for one day, decided to break the journey at some point. Went through Rabat, some very posh houses in Rabat, saw one of the palaces with some very meaty squaddies guarding it, but they were stood under parasols, very sensible, but poor effect.
Got a bit lost at Souk-el-Arba-du-Rharb and wound up in an open market again. This was different ‘though. There were people there who didn’t want us there and didn’t like us. You could feel it, a definite undercurrent. Wasn’t a nice experience.
Got to Asilah which we’d passed by before on the way down. Just after it we spotted a sign saying, Camping, Bungalows, Hotel, Restaurant, Pool, and Nightclub so we went in. They didn’t do camping anymore but the bungalows were cheap. No wonder they were cheap. The bed I had was harder than the concrete floor.
Shower at the camping toilets…..nice eh
Everything was shut, so we went to Asilah to get dinner. Found a little café where we were treated like kings, the bloke even made us chips, free, because all British people like chips. Went for a little walk and found the medina, but this was nice. Carried on walking and it just got busier and busier, like the Barras or Petticoat Lane, and everyone friendly. Asilah looks nothing from the road but it’s a real gem of a place.
Day 16 On to Tangiers, determined to not use the touts to get out. If we have to sit there and block the port we aint paying another one of those bampots.
As it turned out it’s dead easy to get out. You get your passport stamped by some tart with terminal sense of humour failure. Wait in the queue for the head honcho to sign your vehicle entry form and give you back the white copy. Wait in the queue for the police to check for contraband, in our case this consisted of a bloke with a screwdriver tapping Stevie’s front tyre and offside pannier the telling us to sod off. Willie, ‘cos he had the truck had a more detailed examination and it cost him a can of tyre weld to get through. Then onto the boat and away.
When we got to Tarifa we headed for the campsite we were at before we went to Morocco. Spent the rest of the day doing dhobi and general admin. Went to the surfers bar for hamburgesie and beer that night.
Day 17 Away fairly sharp, this is the start of the big days. Got separated from Willie around Malaga and spent the rest of the day missing each other. Eventually met up at a truck stop between Valdepenas and Manzanares. So we stopped the night there. About 300 miles.
Day 18 Through Madrid, Guadalajara, Zaragoza, right up to spitting distance of the French border at Jaca. All the campsites were shut so we stayed at the hotel Mur, built in 1865, a lovely place. When we booked out I still had the remote control for the air conditioning, so I had to send that back. About 482 miles.
Day 19 Headed up into the Pyrenees to the Tunel de Somport which is about 6 K long, I really like riding in tunnels. When you leave the tunnel you’re in France. After about 10 miles we were stopped by a policeman who spoke to Stevie, but not me, apparently that was customs. Really nice riding in this area
Found this statue in a motorway services, nice innit!
Just kept riding until the light started to fail, wound up at a campsite in Eguzon. Tried to get some food, but everything was shut, except a bar. So we forced down some glasses of dinner and went to bed. It was bloody freezing, I just couldn’t get warm and I rarely feel the cold. About 382 miles
Day 20 Up sharp, too cold to lay in bed, and on into Paris. I have never seen filtering like it. O.K. the scooters were impressive. But the full dress Hardly and the bloke with the suit riding a Gold Wing and whipping through gaps was really superb to watch. On to Calais, managed to get on a ferry about a quarter of an hour later. Some bloke on an R1 reckoned he saved £15 by telephoning home, but they quoted him £10 more than us, and the phone call wouldn’t be free. Same bloke wandered up to me when we were waiting to get off and asked if we’d been anywhere interesting. When I said Morocco he seemed to lose interest, maybe he couldn’t beat that story. He was too fat to be wearing a leather romper suit anyway.
Stopped at a Travel Lodge type thing in Canterbury. About 340 miles
Day 21 Up for breakfast and a trundle up the road. M25 wasn’t too bad, but we hit it at the right time, about mid morning. Used the Birmingham toll road to avoid that bottleneck and arrived home about 8 p.m. 4722 miles later.
Would I do it again?
IN A HEARTBEAT.
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