Morocco: Trip report 2017

Morocco: Trip report 2017

Well well well,    Where do I begin?

Imagine waking up and telling yourself “think I’ll head to North Africa on my motorbike”

That’s what happened this year for an amazing group of people who decided to join Felix, Storm and myself, on what can only be described as a life changing experience.

We all met up in Plymouth just outside the ferry check in point and made our introductions.   A wonderful mix of people all eager and excited, on shiny magnificent motorcycles, polished, serviced and ready to take us deep into the Sahara and back again.   We had some veteran Magellanites, some second time out Magellanites and some new ready to be inducted Magellanites.

So the time had come to check in and roll onto the ferry. A faff in itself but a well worth while faff indeed.   The bikes are taken deep down into the bowels of the massive ferry and strapped down for their voyage to Santander.   Once loading is complete we made our way

A pleasant sailing brought us comfortably to Santander, ready to begin our tour of Spain and Morocco, but not of course until the first briefing had been carried out.   I love how everyone listens carefully and nods in agreement on the early trip briefings! But by day 4 or 5 it’s like “oh here comes that plonker with the weather again”  eh guys! Feelings!
If only you knew the countless seconds of rehearsals in the mirror that go into those briefings!   I should point out that I’m joking at this point to any new readers and that it’s an ongoing joke.  Each informative but short briefing gives the days weather, mileage and of course destinations before setting you free to explore.
So we are off!!!! Making our way south down through Spain heading for Algeciras, passing through and stopping off in Burgos and Cuidad Real on our way. Spain has some magnificent roads and scenery but I’ll come back to that later.

After a good nights rest aided by some good food and Spain’s finest Amber nectar (becoming a theme this Amber nectar) it’s time to take the 5 minute ride round the corner and leave Spain and indeed Europe behind, because that’s right “we are off to North Africa baby yeah”  !!!!
First stop! The historical blue city of Chefchaouen, not before the Moroccan immigration first get their beedy eye on your paper work and ensure you’re all present and correct with the required documentation.  This is part of the process and it’s not a big issue really, just sometimes a slow one which is fair enough.

We leave the immigration control area and head out to the Moroccan insurance desk and money changing areas, to get the remaining essentials and then we can set off.

The change in culture is recognisable instantly!  As we head away from Tangier passing through little villages and towns, the Moroccan life style jumps straight out at you. Everyone’s on a mission of some sort to get somewhere or do something that’s part of their daily routine, while we float past on our trusty steeds on our holidays.

Checked in to our hotel and awaiting our evening meal, we sat out on the balcony high up in the atlas hotel, looking down on the beautiful blue buildings of the blue city below and here we go again ! Sampling Moroccan Amber nectar! Again I feel I should point out that it’s not a beer tour with occasional biking, it’s very much the other way around.


Earlier in the day we met up with our support truck driver Peter Buitelaar.  Peter will now follow us in his monster truck and give us peace of mind for the rest of the trip.  Peter has spent the best part of his life running KTM off road adventures in the desert, riding Dakar routes and providing support for his clients.  Having Peter on this trip as support for our group was a great asset and an honour.  His jokes at dinner were also not bad but a sign of a man who had clearly spent a lot of time in the desert…….on his own! (Sorry Peter)

Now the team was complete, we could continue south passing through the imperial city of Meknes on our way to Fez, home for the next 2 nights, to allow us ample time to wander into the bustling Medina and Kashbah.

From Fez we continued south bound, deep into the desert, heading for Er-Rachidia towards our little desert oasis hotel Kasbah Aferdou, riding through some breath taking gorges and unbelievable roads on our way.   We had the whole hotel to ourselves and it was just as well, for this evening Felix would celebrate his birthday in a rather fetching traditional Touareg blue dishdash!   Like a catwalk model in Paris, New York or Milan the creator of Magellan Motorcycle Tours strutted with style and confidence!  (Must have been that Amber nectar stuff again)
Moving on to our next 2 night stay in Merzouga was another fine days riding.   Incredible mountain ranges, vast emptiness and in the distance beautiful mesmerising rich red sands.
  Tonight would change everything for all of us. Tonight we would take a camel ride out into the Sahara near the Algerian border and we would spend an evening under a blanket of stars that looked like glitter splashed across the immaculate night Sky.  We arrived in the nick of time to see the sun slowly disappear and the darkness fell upon us, revealing more and more stars as the night went on.   Our things were placed inside our Berber tents and we gathered for an evening meal together in the dining tent.   A tasty soup and tagine menu was delivered to us and once devoured, the evenings entertainment was ready to commence.    Following the candle lit runway to the main fire pit area was very memorable for me.   Bare foot in the Saharan sands, walking and talking about stars and constellations was great fun and very interesting.
After some talented local musicians played for us the fire went out and we lay back on mats in the sand.
  Once our eyes adjusted to the darkness from the fires bright colourful flames, the sights above were nothing short of incredible.  The stars and the Milky Way appeared so close, you felt as if you could touch them. Wrapped up in the perfect shade of black they shone like diamonds in the sky(as Rihanna once said). After a great intro to the galaxy and stars from Louisa which I found super intriguing and amazing, silence fell upon us and everyone shared a perfect calm still evening, peacefully gazing into space before dropping off one at a time to bed for a great nights sleep.  Well almost everyone! Stuart decided he would wrap up in a warm blanket and spend the evening under the stars.

We all set our alarms for a 6.30am rise so we could take one more incredible sight in, a Saharan sunrise!  Again the contrast between dark and light this time would be a sight that will stay with us forever.   The sun would climb up out of the dunes, lighting up the moon and the North Star perfectly, making Africa feel like the very cradle of life it’s often referred to.  Dotted around the dunes were Magellanites, sat on their carefully selected spots taking in the sun’s energy as it rose above us all bringing with it that desert heat. We gathered our belongings and headed back to our smelly, snorting farting camels which carried us safely back to our hotel.   Some of the group headed off on a 4×4 Safari and the rest of us relaxed by the pool and took a well earned rest.   Later in the day some sand dune heroes took out some quad bikes and went out on another adventure, flying across the desert, having a ball.    The look on Derek’s face and language he carefully selected to describe his quad adventure said it all really!

Back on the bikes and off we go! Making our way west towards Ouarzazate we stopped off for a bite to eat just outside the Gorge de Todra.  The Gorge de Todra is a 300 metre deep fault line split in the bright orange limestone which forms a deep ravine only wide enough for an immaculate clear river and your bike to pass through.  After lunch we took a ride into the Todra for a peek about and some photos and then proceeded on our way again towards our hotel for the evening.
The following morning it was time to start heading north again towards Marrakesh but not before we had our taste of Hollywood in the desert at the worlds largest movie studios, the Atlas Film Studios.  Used for many films like, The Mummy, The jewel in the Nile, Gladiator,Asterix and in the distance a Game of Thrones castle.   We had so much fun wandering about the sets, touching and playing with the props etc. Some brilliant photos were taken and the group were up for fun, carrying out my bizarre requests for sand dances and riding Sphinxes.  All budding actors and actresses, we quoted movie lines and pulled faces and poses as we passed through.   Was it on parr with universal studios? Eh, no not quite! But where it lacked in big screen quality it made up for in abundance by allowing us unrestricted access to what was on offer.   In fact we were encouraged to climb aboard and touch anything we wished, even if it did have nails sticking out of it as big Mike discovered on a Gladiators carriage.

The following section of riding would see us go over the Tiz n Tichka pass.   One of the worlds most famous roads, the Tiz n Tichka pass is not for the faint hearted.   The views are incredible in all directions and the road itself as it twists and turns ahead of you, is a sight to behold in its own right.   With on going road works and upgrades being carried out, it makes for interesting viewing when you stop at temporary lights to watch a 30 ton digger perched way up in the hill side push off hundreds of tons of rocks at a time onto the road below for a bulldozer to push off the cliff, allowing you to ride on.   Arriving in Marrakesh we parked up and and checked into the Zalagh Kasbah hotel.   Here we would spend the next 2 nights relaxing by the huge pool and of course taking the guided tour of the town and exploring all Marrakesh has to offer.


From Marrakesh to Imperial Rabat further north, we make our way to the capital city and back to civilisation in many ways.   The more western feel capital city is a modern version of Moroccan society and we spend the evening enjoying a nice meal in a French restaurant in town, after some of that Amber nectar stuff again in the hotel prior to departure.   Everyone in the group is thriving at this point because there is so much to discuss from scenery to personal experience along the way.  The following morning before departing Rabat for Tangier, some of the group visited the Mausoleum some 300yards away from the hotel.

Heading now for the outskirts of Tangier,  this day was about getting as close as possible to the port for our return to Spain the following morning.   After arriving at the hotel we discovered Gezza had a leaky spoke or 2 on his mighty KTM 1290.  After several unsuccessful attempts to stop the leaks we came to the conclusion that the best outcome was to hook up the trusty airman compressor and keep it topped up until we reached Spain the following morning.   Little did we know the naughty little KTM wheel would start dumping air at a far greater pace as time passed.  This did however bring with it some hysterical moments.   A can of tyre weld went off in Felix’s face, fortunately not sealing off airways, once a second can was applied Gerry was advised to drive at 10mph up and down the road outside the hotel.   Gerry done this very well, in fact so well he perhaps didn’t notice the juggernaut and 10 cars behind him, which also had to do 10mph for quite a bit.  This was the second puncture that needed attention as Louisa’s bike had a little nail in the tyre, but being a British built Triumph, it was far too polite to be any trouble and with a top up here and there along with some superglue, it managed the rest of the trip like this.


It was now time for us all to leave Morocco behind and head back to Spain. We set off very early for our 8am crossing.   Through customs we went and down into the ferry terminal, ready to board the ship.   Once aboard we caught up on some shut eye and enjoyed a little nibble and coffee in the ships cafeteria.
When we disembarked we made our way north once again towards Cazalla de la Sierra.  Tonight’s hotel was a beautiful location, and in some ways a celebration of arriving back in Europe took place. That nasty Amber nectar was flowing like never before and at £1 a pint, it tasted better than ever before.   Everyone emerged from their rooms looking glamorous and happy ready for a nice meal and some humour by way of jokes in-between courses.   Now I must confess! The Amber nectar had been flowing fairly fast in my general direction and after reaching the punchline of my joke, everyone looked at me like I had landed from Mars! I was in disbelief as this rib tickler had never failed me before!   Only the following evening when the awkward subject was raised again did I realise that in my slightly incapacitated state, I had missed a vital part out!!! After a re run with all the necessary parts involved, the response I expected was achieved……..from most of the group.
Moving on towards the stunning town of Salamanca, we enjoyed a good days ride, passing through some beautiful countryside and towns.  However today was not about scenery entirely, today was about the stunning Spanish A and B roads. The curvaceous twists n turns and exceptional Tarmac in pristine order, everyone enjoyed having some fun in the sun on their bikes.  Salamanca is a historical and stunning town.  Some of the riders who arrived early enough, wandered off to admire the views and architecture. Those of us who arrived a little bit later were fortunate enough to enjoy a commanding view of the town from our beautiful hotel which sat just high enough in the landscape to give a fantastic panoramic view of Salamanca.

Santander here we come!   This was a day that I’m sure unexpectedly knocked the socks well and truly off the whole group.  Given that some of the group had ridden the Picos before and knew what lay ahead in terms of riding experiences, I don’t think any of us could have anticipated an October heat wave or the virtually empty roads all the way through the Picos.  The Picos is without doubt for me, one of the top 5 riding roads in the world.  The road layout looks like it was drawn by an angry child with a crayon and the views are off the charts in any direction.   We had a stellar riding day, soaking up the sun and cutting through the curves, taking photos, videos and stopping off to repeatedly tell each other how incredible the day was.  The drone was launched and caught some incredible footage and we made the most of every inch of the road along the way.

We all arrived in Santander feeling higher than a kite.  Once checked in at the ferry terminal, we cleared customs and proceeded to board the ferry for the final part of an exceptional journey.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that we had an accident during the trip early on in Morocco.  A rider who misjudged a corner in Morocco unfortunately lost control of his machine and ended up in the ditch beside the road.  Felix, myself, Storm and Peter our support truck driver attended to Michael at the side of the road. Michael rejoined the group in Rabat later in the trip.  We have a set procedure for rider support in the event of an accident and up until now we have never had to use it.  We were very proud to deliver that procedure to the letter and ensure Michaels ongoing treatment was a success and Michael himself felt the level of service he received was beyond the call of duty.  It is our absolute mission to deliver the best levels of customer care as well as a biking holiday that exceeds your expectations.  We all as a group wish Michael the very best for the future and look forward to welcoming him back next year to complete the tour.


This years Morocco trip from a guides perspective, was a fantastic experience.  That is only made possible by the group of people who come with us on these adventures.  To each and every one of you, Felix, Storm and myself are eternally grateful.  You all were fantastic and made for such a fun trip.  We hope to ride with you all again soon and wish you the very best in the future.   If we can be of any assistance, please feel free to get in touch, it would be great to hear from you.

THE RIDERS.

Stephen and Irene Keher.

Stephen was a fountain of knowledge throughout the trip. Most of that knowledge was Irene’s, but he passed it on well. As Stephen zig zagged his way through the desert, he would occasionally pass us on his stunning Triumph Trophy and end up at the hotel in evening under the guidance of his Tom Tom! But if we are honest! Mostly Irene’s guidance.

Derek Griffiths and Bev Fitzsimmons

War of the roses meets the Isle of Man TT. Again behind every strong BMW XR riding man, there is a stronger little dare devil woman. Providing endless evening entertainment with their vocal disapproval of one an other, it would have been a different trip without you both.  Just do what your told Derek and everything will be fine.  Oh and don’t mention the Japanese lady anymore for a longer life span.

Conrad Dowding

A man made of indestructible stuff and only too willing to put it to the test! When Conrad bought his BMW GSA, he bought into the indestructible reputation which comes with a GS! So much so that when Conrad had completed a days riding, he wouldn’t think twice about throwing it down to the ground. At 81 + vat years old Conrad truly can do as he wishes with his bike, we think he’s earned the right!

Stuart and Vanessa Scarfe

Stuart rides his triumph explorer very well! But Vanessa (A.K.A Velma from scooby do) rides her Honda CB 500 just a little bit better (that’s a fiver you owe me)Stuart being a man who invented the wheel obviously had the sat nav fitted to his bike and Vanessa would follow behind. This led to a very funny comment at a coffee stop when Vanessa was asked what kind of Nav she was using and her response was “him, him in there, yeah that’s right my sat nav needs to go for a wee”

Michael Druitt

Michael unfortunately took flight on his ducati! But Michael was on a biking holiday and nothing was going to ruin that, so Michael bought a lovely ducati red wheelchair and returned gracefully to 2 wheels in no time at all. Michael discovered a new hidden talent for impersonations on this trip. Any time the doctor touched his foot, he belted out the perfect chewbacca tones! Rrrrooooooooooooowwwwww!

Patsy Glover

Patsy rides ginge! ginge is her pet name for her mighty KTM 1190! I’m not sure if the bike came in bright orange or if it ended up that colour burning up after re entry to the earths atmosphere after she goes supersonic! An IAM qualified observer, Patsy can get where she needs to be faster than a time traveling Delorean!

Pete Myers

Pete has only been riding since December, but boy does he do it well. Petes on a mega tour and there’s one thing that will keep Peter safe on his travels! It’s not his kit or helmet, it’s not his Triumph explorer! It’s his manly beard!  A beard so fine it earned him the nickname chuck Norris. After being bitten by a snake in the desert, after many days of writhing agony and despair, the snake finally died!

Paul and Nene Tarr

Sat upon their mighty GS, floating along like a cruise missile that’s been filled with shell optimax , these 2 superstars make it all look easy. If it runs on petrol and goes really fast paul will most likely have driven it! If it’s elegance in abundance then Nene has no rival. Each evening Nene looks like a movie star in a string of elegant evening wear, which actually now explains why paul had the same shirt on for 20 days! Claim a pannier man!

Louisa Swaden

Lou rode her Triumph explorer for most of the trip with a nail in her rear tyre. I think when I relayed this information to her, the positive adventurer in her picked out the key words and changed the meaning to nailed it! From that day on that’s exactly what happened! Ride like the wind to the next stop………..nailed it! Think I’ll nail my tyre!

Gerry Langford

Sophisticated, stylish and a man with a fantastic vocabulary and the means to use it! A.K.A Gezza by the group! Gezza likes to ride his monster KTM 1290 in a fashion that tests the local constabularies patience. Referred to as a hooligan on a previous trip, I believe this to be a misrepresentation of the man! I’d refer to him as    The Man……The Machine……
STREETHAWK

Mike Mahoney

That majestic white swan on a BMW RT reputation Mike earned on the Harz tour earlier this year has vanished! On this trip we had “I fought the law and the law won” Mike! Discarding police advice, Mike decided to ride his bike just how Mike wished! Which I guess he did like a majestic white swan…….with blue lights behind it!

David Allott

Davids Ducati Multistrada arrived in Spain with tyres that were somewhat legally questionable. By that I mean bald as a bald thing on a bald day but balder! Did David care? Of course not because David was on a Magellan Motorcycle Tour and finding a pair of tyres for a Ducati multistrada in Spain was easy! Because Felix did it! David took the opportunity to run the new rubber in like a red arrow on Spain’s fabulous A roads(good lad)

Peter Buitelaar

Our Dutch support truck driver and I shared a great drive to Fez to collect Michael and return him to Rabat. On this trip we assassinated many European politicians, and well pretty much solved the worlds issues. We may need some guns to complete this task and some diplomatic immunity but rest assured the world will be a better place for it……..we think!

David Billington

Behind every great Magellan Motorcycle Tours owner, stands a great B movie Alfred! The ongoing joke with Felix and his old man is that they are a B movie batman and Alfred. There’s nothing B movie about you David! A class act all the way and endless fountain of knowledge, the only thing I wouldn’t do for you is clean out your bat cave after the worst case of tagine tummy in history!

Storm Byfield

The little rock in the back ground, that keeps a caring eye on all of us. A nurse by trade and a superstar by nature Storm floats in and out when needed and gives another layer of support to all of us. Called into duty when Michaels accident occurred, she clearly used all her nursing powers to see him through. This obviously took a lot of energy from her as she snored like a deep sleeping camel for the rest of the trip!………..and continues to do so to this day!

Felix Billington

The man who makes it all possible! When the B movie batman story came out, it took me back to a trip we did which finished with a final nights stay in France. Unknown to Felix at the time he would undo himself that evening by explaining to me that the batman movie which was out at the time had a funny French translation. Batman in France was not immune to an attempt to make it more French by giving it the translated name………….FLYING BALD MOUSE MAN!    I’ll take Alfred any day!

Billy Byfield (myself)

Well given that I’m writing this myself, I can say things like, handsome, muscular, great hair, terrific jokes, fantastic! Amazing! But I guess there’s no point ruining it now! So to keep the story short, I was the tubby guy with the funny accent and the grey hair who insisted on telling you the weather every day!

Thank you all for a trip we will never forget.
Ride safe
Billy and Storm.
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2017-11-10T17:09:22+00:00

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