MOROCCO April 2018 Trip Report.
This years first outing to Morocco was a real mixed bag! We had Rain, Sleet, Snow and occasional winds to contend with. More importantly though, we had a great bunch of bikers who had the guts and determination to push past those first 4 days and reach the 34 degrees of the Sahara!
Outskirts of Madrid!
After we all met up at the ferry terminal in Plymouth, we boarded the ferry that would gently carry us from good old Britain to the northern port town of Santander in Spain. Once aboard the hulking ship, our bikes were securely strapped down in the lower decks and we made our way up to the maze of cabins. This is the first part of our Moroccan adventure challenge, finding your cabin! You often see lost souls haunting passageways searching frantically for the room numbers on the doors hoping that the next one will match their tickets.
Once we all got settled in and changed, we met up in the bar and made our introductions. This part of every trip always fascinates me as there are so many different characters all coming together for the first time from all walks of life and backgrounds. The instant bond which comes from our love of biking and travelling always makes for effortless conversation and fun stories.
Big Thumbs up and we are off!
Riding south through Spain heading for Algeciras is always a very pleasant ride and a great way to settle in to European riding and rules. This time however we would face some of the most difficult riding conditions most, if not all of us had riden in. We had torrential rain which turned to sleet and eventually thick snow! At one point we sat in a line behind a snow plough on the motorway in its fresh made tyre tracks, hoping we would get back to rain quickly so we could carry on. Eventually we pushed through and the rain was a welcome sight and relief for us all.
The weather was against us most of the way south and in the end we had to cover some serious motorway to push past the weather bomb that was peppering Madrid and southern Spain consistently for days. Arriving in Algeciras in the sunshine was a long overdue and welcome break from the battering we had all endured and we settled in quickly enjoying a lovely meal in the hotel. In the morning we would take a short few minutes ride down onto the harbour side ready to make our way over to North Africa.
Dinner is served….then demolished!!!
In the morning we set off all excited and ready for an adventure. Once upon the FRS ferry to Tangier Med we completed our immigration cards and had the Moroccan police officer aboard the ferry stamp and return our passports. This is the first part of a lengthy process which eventually sets you and your bike free to explore Morocco. Once all paperwork was completed at the customs desk when we disembarked the ferry……..guess what? That’s right the rain came battering down again . All the way to the first hotel we travelled in line with our support truck behind us holding back traffic till we arrived. The local people could not believe what was happening and some described it as the worst weather of their life time! However to us! It was all in a days work. By now your probably thinking “well that’s off my list of places to visit” but hang on just a few sentences more. In the morning we began heading south towards the baking sunshine, all ready for a decent toasting from that big yellow dot that was missing from the sky in the last few days.
Dark and moody skies awaited us.
As we all loaded up and and got ready to leave tangier heading for Fes, there was one thing on everyone’s minds! Would those massive big angry looking black clouds above us pop and soak us all the way there! Well if you guessed yes….. you’d be wrong! They didn’t pop……. they EXPLODED!!!!
Unbelievably almost the entire way to Fes we got more rain. This would be the last of it though and after all we had been through, we thoroughly deserved a break. 2 nights in the Zalagh Palace would give us the right amount of time to dry our kit properly and thaw those creaky bones! The last part of our ride into Fes was without rain, however it wasn’t without the floods the rain had left behind. Puddles followed along roads like rivers and our group of riders coped extraordinary well with all that came before them to finally arrive in the sunshine to the hotel.
One of many little puddles we rode through
On the way to Plymouth one of our riders had a little spill on the road. Some swelling and bruising took hold after a few days riding and we decided a trip to the doctors for some medical advice and treatments was the right way forward. The doctor and his staff were fantastic and Simon was able to carry on with the trip, even though from the knees down he looked like black pudding. After Simons appointment he needed some recovery time and he headed off back to the hotel for some sun and foot elevated relief. I joined back up with the group in the ancient and traditional Fes Medina. Morocco’s oldest market place, the Medina feels like it’s alive and breathing and has a heartbeat. The narrow alleyways like veins with people rushing through them like blood circulating a body, the Medina provides a living and a purpose for the people who live and work there. Anything from food to clothing, furniture, carpets and rugs, hand beaten copper pots and pans and pretty much anything else you can think of! Surround the main vital organ of the Medina, the Tannery. The Tannery is one of the oldest forms of employment and trade for the Moroccan people. It has kept families fed, watered and clothed for centuries. Our guided tour took us up into a building which looks directly into the Tanning pits and we had a complimentary mint leaf to help with the smell. A very interesting sight to see and story to be told, the living provided by the Tannery comes at a cost which is a tale of the ultimate sacrifice. You see one of the most important parts of the tanning process is the dipping of the leathers into a toxic combination of bird and bat poo. This conditions the leather ready for the application of the dye which is carried out in which ever coloured pot you require. The leathers are left in the dye for around 6 days and then removed and dried before moving onto the workshops which eventually turns them into jackets, bags and all things leather. The jobs the Tannery provides are generational for the families who are employed there, the father becomes the son and the son becomes the father. The compromise is that in return for their families to live a normal life, they must opt for a shorter one due to working conditions and materials. However, where it would be quick for us to judge, we must remember that this is a way of life which has provided for many people for a very very long time and it is a job some people could only dream of having. An amazing sight to see.
Once we’ve left Fes, we move down south making our way towards Er-Rachidia and towards that all important sunshine. We are now well on our way to some of the most incredible scenery you will ever see. Mountains that go back for as far as the eye can see and huge vast empty spaces, completely unspoilt by man. Traffic dilutes down to the odd car now and again and we start to see a wild and free countryside. The amazing thing about Morocco is the ever changing landscape. You begin in a green leafy back drop and slowly the colours change and the greens melt to browns and yellows then the reds of the Sahara. The contrast is quite something and to top it off in the distance there snow capped mountains, quite amazing really, considering the temperature is creeping up and up as we go. By now we can feel the heat and the suns energy creeping up on us and loosening off those stiff joints and muscles. Today’s ride was off to a flying start and the great twisty roads and scenery were delivering that grin factor. Unfortunately we had a rider come off along the way. Dwight took flight and landed by the side of the road after a left hand bend. His trusty 650 V-Storm took it very well considering and we had to put both bike and rider in the support truck until we reached the hotel. Fortunately Dwight got off very lightly and other than some light bruising and a dent in his pride, he got away with it. Now your probably thinking what a shame, Dwight’s holiday is over just as it really began. Well you would be wrong because Dwight was on a Magellan Motorcycles Tour and if there’s one thing we are good at, it’s keeping riders and bikes on the road and this case was no exception. Dwight, a clever robotic engineer and farm background guy was on tour with me B.A Baracus! Together with some gaffa tape, cable ties and a group of kind and helpful bikers, we reinvented the V-Strom into something Frankenstein could only dream of!! Having only passed his test in November, Dwight should be thoroughly proud of himself as he managed to ride the rest of the trip and all the way home on his bent but reliable Suzuki. Well done that man.
Dwight on Frankenbike
Onwards to Merzouga, where we would spend a night in the Sahara desert under the stars in our Berber tents. Of course the only mode of transport in the desert is one that may be described as, tall, hairy, unique, smelly and disgusting!!! No it’s not the guide! It’s the Camels which would taxi us at a leisurely stroll into the dunes. Once we mounted up and set off, it became apparent that motorcycles seats did in actual fact provide the comfort of a rich red leather chesterfield chair by comparison. With our buttocks properly bashed in and looking like the richer redder shades of say a Baboons backside we arrived in the nick of time at our fantastic campsite. Once off the noble steeds, we made our way in and got our accommodation arrangements sorted and then sat down at the communal desert living area. The nights entertainment started with some Moroccan mint tea and some story telling from the group. After a fantastic meal in the dining tent we all made our way outside and watched on as the sun slipped peacefully away behind the dunes and darkness fell slowly upon us. As soon as the sun was gone our local guides set up the fire pit and we all gathered round for some traditional music. Something magical then took place, the local guides encouraged us to take part and join in with the musical entertainment, with one unsuspecting lad asking our very own John Lewis for a dance off!! Rising like a Phoenix from the embers and ashes of the fire rose Magellan motorcycles tours very own Craig Revel Horwood!!! There was the funky chicken! The hot potato, the twist, breakdancing and occasional moonwalk in there! John was indeed hotter than the fire and the poor local lad conceded defeat but in all fairness he was only human and we had a dancing machine in our arsenal.
It’s a 10 from Len.
After the evenings activities, we let the fire burn out and gazed at the stars for a while. The sky lit up above us with countless stars sparkling away like diamonds on black velvet cloth. In the morning we woke up early to watch the sun reappear over the dunes and bring with it the warmth we had now become accustomed too. Only one last thing to do! Smash our backsides up again on the way back to our little Oasis hotel. Upon our return to the hotel, breakfast was served and the sun was shining in all its glory. Some of the group headed out on a 4×4 tour of the area and the rest of us lounged around the pool and caught a few rays.
Chris drinking an invisible beer! Must have been hotter than we thought!
Keith showing Tom Daily how it’s really really done.
Heading over to Ouarzazate now, we make our way west by north west. After lunch we take a short ride into the Gorge De Todra. At a whopping 300 meters tall, the massive fault line split makes you feel small and in awe of its sheer size. A sight to behold, it’s almost impossible to explain its size or photograph it in a way that people could understand. It really is something you’d need to see with your own eyes.
Gorge De Todra
Next stop Marrakesh. First we have a bash at being movie stars in the Atlas movie studios. A short ride away in the morning takes us to the movie studios where we can have a laugh looking at and trying out the sets and props. The movies Gladiator, jewel in the nile, Hercules and many more have been filmed there as well as Game of thrones which has a full castle set sat in the desert. Actors like Marlon Brando, John Wayne and James Cagney have never set foot in there but never the less it’s a fun experience and a good laugh.
The early Egyptian taxi Toutan Kom Mute
When we arrived in Marrakesh for our 2 night stay, one of our naughty bikes decided to let some petrol out through a mounting bracket weld underneath the tank! It would go on to try it’s best to need recovering home, but as I said earlier we don’t like finishing trips without all our group together. We were tested by the machine but in the end with gasket sealant, araldite, rewriring starter buttons and bleeding air from fuel lines, that Triumph was driving its rider home whether it liked it or not!
On our way to Marrakesh we drove over the mighty Tiz n Tichka pass. Not for the faint hearted, this is one of the most famous roads in the world. At 7,415 feet high, you can imagine some of the views are incredible. Driving over the pass brings with it some challenges of it’s own. The roads are being completely renovated and repaired and so there is an entire range of mechanical dinosaurs cutting, chipping, blasting and drilling their way up the pass. This is also a sight to behold as clearly the E.U have no health and safety input in Africa and you see both man and machine in some precarious positions. Thousands of tons of rubble are shifted off the mountain side by bulldozers and dumper trucks and all the while the roads remains open for drivers to carry on with their journeys. In the good old UK this would surely result in people sleeping in cars on the motorway and total bedlam across the land with people on the six o’clock news protesting how terrible it all is!! In Morocco, it’s no problem, a man with a table tennis bat will stop you for 5 minutes while a 30 ton mechanical monster of a digger will shove a few hundred tons of rock off the top of the hill side on to the road below, then as soon as the last rock lands, giant bulldozers will simply push it all over the side of the mountain and let it begin it’s 7 thousand feet or so decent to the ground below! A poor choice of location for sun bathers, I’m trying to rack my brains to remember if I ever saw any of the workers look to see if it was clear before shoving the debris over the side.
Tiz n Tichka pass
Marrakesh has a modern day version of the medina and although it retains its historical look and authentic feel, it very cleverly has a hidden western feel to it which doesn’t detract from the experience. A bigger and more spacious Medina than Fes, it offers just as much if not more and is always packed with Street traders and offerings of local hand made crafts. The industrial feel of the Fes Medina doesn’t exist here and although it shares many of its market traits and offerings, it feels as if a better quality of living is in place for its many occupants.
The Spice Rack.
Leaving Marrakesh we now push on heading North. A short motorway day to get us to Rabat the capital city and home to the king. Rabat is pushing on in its development and taking large steps towards becoming a modern day city. The building of opera houses and concert halls are under way and it’s hoped in time that a bid for the 2026 World Cup will be accepted and bring financial investment to Rabat and Morocco in general. Our hotel for the night is only a short walk from the Mohammed V Mausoleum. A truly striking collection of buildings and monuments, kept under close watch by the kings traditional imperial guards it’s a great place to visit and shows the real craftsmanship of Moroccan stone masons who created a modern master piece of Alaouite dynasty architecture. The king is guarded on all 4 corners 24 hrs a day by his armed personal guard as he lays to rest with his two sons in his striking solid Marble coffin.
Mohammed V mausoleum
From Rabat to the outskirts of Tangier, we make our way further North now heading towards our last hotel and evening in Morocco.
We make our way through some industrial areas on our way to some nice sweeping bends. Our hotel for the evening is very nice and quite modern. It’s a welcome resting place to help recover those aches n pains from the exploring on the days previous. We get settled in mid afternoon and relax catching up with messages and emails on the hotels WiFi. Dinner this evening would be in the form of a buffet in the hotel restaurant. It’s a fantastic spread and a very tasty meal indeed. Having been on a strict Tagine diet for some time now, the mixture of Moroccan soups and western prepared meats and veg always goes down a treat. Tonight was no different and the food was delicious and the deserts a match for the courses before them. In the early morning we will be up, fed and ready for our 6am start towards the ferry terminal and our return to Spain. Gathered like a bunch of zombies searching for fresh meat, we met in the breakfast area and wondered about half dead looking for food. Once fed and happy we leave and hit the motorway for the final run into Tangier Med where the immigration staff wait in anticipation for our return polava! Once we get through the madness of the exit process our bikes are x-rayed by a man fast asleep in a truck to ensure we have no smuggled contraband stashed within our possessions and we are now free to leave Morocco. There’s two ways to look at this, 1. It’s jobs for the boys and part of the process which has been established to create a sign of importance to all who visit, that Morocco may be North Africa, but it’s a secure and safe place with these measures. Or 2. It’s over kill and needless with no one really taking it serious at all as in the background there are people scaling the fences trying to sneak out the country! I prefer option 1 as the proof is in the fact that we ourselves harboured a Saffron smuggler who shall remain anonymous for his own protection. However he did ride a white BMW GS and Wore a snazzy open chin helmet and appears in the photo below in between the yellow lines!
Ferry from Tangier to Spain
Now heading through Spain to Cazalla de la Sierra there’s a sense of achievement kicking in, after all we’ve just returned from riding our own bikes all the way from England to the Sahara desert and back into Europe. Together we ride a couple of motorway hours up past Seville and off into some of Spain’s fantastic fast sweeping A roads. Spain is a spectacular riding country and its roads are impressive by design and surface quality. You can ride easy here and enjoy all that’s around you on the predictable grippy surface. Arriving at our stunning hotel for the evening, we make our way in and enjoy a lovely chilled well deserved Cerveza and enjoy the relaxing surroundings. The stunning bright and airy central courtyard is covered by a beautiful stain glasses roof which lets you enjoy that outside feeling all year round.
A meal fit for a king was served that evening and boy was it tasty. Fine dining in this beautiful hotel really is just that! The food was perfect and the company was on full alert as the banter fired back and fourth with no one immune to a decent pounding.
Next stop Salamanca. Making our way north through the Monfrague and Navalonguilla national parks the roads just keep getting better and better. Even though we are in the latter stages of our adventures, you can’t help but be delighted and thrilled by the roads which are effectively now taking you home. Salamanca is a stunning historical city and our beautiful Parador hotel looks straight across the city from an elevated position. The historical buildings pop out of the landscape and form the perfect backdrop for a lovely setting up on the hill. Truly a postcard view in all directions, this hotel has a first class quality feel about it and perhaps the most helpful asset is the frosted large beer glasses that reduce trips to the bar.
Steve looking like someone nicked the jam out his doughnut.
The final riding day is upon us and we should feel sad and cheated by time as our holiday comes to an end……..wait a minute!!!! This is also the day we ride over the Picos De Europa
For me, it’s without a doubt one of the top 5 biking roads in the world. The scenery mixed with the epic roads and tunnels are just mind boggling and an assault on your biking brain. You cannot get your head around the amazing twisty bends that just never seem to end! As the lunch stop arrives upon us, there’s smiles from ear to ear (even John Lewis) and there’s a real buzz about the group as we all discuss the previous stretches of roads and scenery.
The colours are stunning and rich.
At 8,690 feet there is a fair and reasonable chance that you’ve punched through the clouds and into biking heaven. Designed by biking Angels, the beautiful surroundings and roads are unforgettable and there’s a strong urge to return there time and again.
Randal and Mortimer discussing their next adventure.
The beautiful immaculate square in Trujillo
After lunch we passed over the top of the Mountain and as we made our way back down on those glorious bends the weather began to change. We drove through thick cloud cover for most of the way to our coffee stop in the afternoon. Even the mighty bronze Stag which takes pride of place over a stunning view point could barely be seen.
Normal service resumed from earlier in the trip and the rain came back for a few hours as we progressed towards Santander. Eventually upon our return to the outskirts of Santander, the rain stopped letting us enjoy our remaining time on the harbour side chatting away about the trip. All that was left to do was board the ferry as one full group which I was very proud to have achieved and sail home to the UK……wait a minute!!!! Where is Rob? Rob and his mighty ZZR 1400 had unfinished business in Santander! Rob wouldn’t return until he had lapped the town a few times and checked out the quality of some underground car parks in the vicinity. Once satisfied that all was well and the people of Santander were parking in only the finest establishments, Rob decided to join us as we boarded the ferry……with 3 minutes to go!
John and Mandy Lewis:
Two fantastic people who were faced with tragic circumstances while we were away. The loss of a beautiful and courageous niece, forced Mandy to fly home from Fes and return to meet us in Marrakesh. An incredible act and one that deserves the utmost respect from us all. However! Mandy did leave behind John,and warned me that he wasn’t good on his own! John possesses a skill I’ve never seen before, he can in fact moan underwater! Having said that, the humour in which he delivers his complaints has your sides splitting and tears from your eyes. Two amazing people who I wish the very best for the future.
The pop master wizard electrician who delivers one liners with a definitive killer blow! Steve rides his DCT Honda crosstourer with ease. Floating along with one hand on the bars making it all look effortless! There is one thing Steve won’t ever beat me at though! His insurance renewal. Move out of London mate! I can insure my bike for 8 years to your one! Oof low blow.
David Lees with an S:
David described his Yorkshire nature as being a Scots man with his generosity removed! This was not true as his room mate assured us he often gave away his meals instantly……due to Tagine tummy. David was great company and a calming influence. Having had many different roles and experiences in his life it was great to hear so many stories over meals. David rode the trip in luxury on his super comfortable Honda Deauville, mastering the art of sat nav along the way.
Being from Aberdeen, David assumed the first few days of the trip in the rain and snow were summertime. Often leaving the hotel in a Mankini and crash helmet ready to hit the road, we had to remind him to act like it was an extended winter when the other riders were crying around him. His mighty GSA wafted about effortlessly and his fantastic photos will follow shortly.
What can I say! 78 years old and harder than Chuck Norris in a bad mood! Keith didn’t think the trip would be challenging enough! So he bought a 310cc bike to up the intensity. Zipping about like an angry wasp, Keith done incredibly well. Short sharp one liners and a fantastic attitude towards the challenges ahead, meant that Keith would have no trouble getting through the days. Well done sir and inspiration to us all.
Our very own stunt man, Dwight also decided to up the intensity of the trip by trying to be the first man to make a V-Strom fly! He succeeded! Although most of the flight was in a downward motion and rudely interrupted by a sudden return to earth! And gravel ! And grass! A man of steel! Dwight was back riding in no time on his new creation! Hats off to you Dwight! An epic achievement and fantastic story to be told.
Bill Byfield (AKA Dad):
Bill rocked up on his mighty looking brand new BMW GSA. A bike that had so many accessories fitted to it, nippy Norman has since retired to Monaco on a 80ft yacht. Floating down the road taking it all in with not a care in the world, being followed by his guide(son) who would occasionally stop off and pick up the bits that fell off.
Johns sense of humour and life experiences made for some hilarious conversations during the trip. Johns immaculate BMW GS driven elegantly all the way, was set up for comfort with its Sargent seat, something that should be standard on camels! Sporting a fantastic open faced helmet with full visor, I did become a fan of the comfortable look…..even though there was a hint of Lego bike cop about it.
Dave lives for these trips! A man who loves his sports tourers and fast sweeping bends. With a 100% reliability record on all Daves previous trips! His trustworthy Triumph decided it was time to push Daves patience to the limits! But Dave held in there! And with the help of some medicinal Beer, he won the day and drove it all the way home….10 minutes late.
Chris drove along on his BMW GSA effortlessly. Chatting away in Simons ear through their paired intercoms, he admitted to me at the end that it took some time to sabotage Simons kit enough so that Simon could only hear Chris but not respond! (Kidding Simon) he told me at the start! I do regret not informing Chris that Simon would be over the moon if he would sing 2 million green bottles sitting on a wall…..
Simon Hills (AKA Simone):
Simon is a man of endless fun and humour. A well travelled chap, he enjoys culture and new experiences. With plenty of hilarious one liners and great stories, simon became Simone after the doctor advised the use of some provocative knee high compression stockings! There was a hint of Grace Jones about this fashion statement and from the knee down he could easily have been a catwalk diva, or a Susan Boyle stunt double!
Rob is a fantastic story teller and has a few in his collection well worth hearing, delivering punchlines with shocking statements and hysterical qualities, Rob is great company. A dentist by trade, he is one I would be only too happy to visit! Leaving a trail of devastation and belongings as he passes through, he never seems stressed or flustered. Carrying enough luggage to pass as a UN Aide convoy of one, I was certain he would eventually appear at dinner in a tuxedo. A fantastic rider of his ZZR 1400, Rob gets down the road at a speed that only MR Sulu could record from the bridge of the starship enterprise. But if his wife’s reading this it’s never above the speed limit.
Our support truck driver and mobile money exchange desk is a man of simple but effective rules! If you don’t like something or someone, shoot them or it! Having been in and around Morocco for 40 years, this Dutch madman is the go to guy during our Moroccan adventure! If you need a phone charger! No problem! If you need more Dhirams! No problem! If you need a politician taken care of! No problem!
The Guide(AKA Billy)
It’s our absolute mission as a company to deliver the highest levels of service to all our customers on all our trips. I cannot rest until I know we are all on our way together as a team as I’m sure you seen on this trip. I hope I served you well on this adventure and I hope that one day we will all ride again on another. You all have my number and I’d be only too happy to help you in the future any way I can. I wish you all many safe and happy riding miles to come and hope to keep up contact in the years to come. You were a great team of Magellanites to ride with and I’ll catch up with you all soon.
Ride safe and thank you for your company.
If this seems right up your street then we have a second Morocco departure in October, and we’d love for you to join us!