Sunday, 20 May 2012

Morocco, April 2012, pt 2

The ride from Lac Isli towards the Todra Gorge took us over the highest tarmac road we'd encounter. I think the Tizi-Tirherhouzine is the highest in Morocco at 2700m or 8775ft. There are probably some pistes higher than that though. Nevertheless, it was pretty damn spectacular.

Here, we're dropping into the gorge, one of the prime tourist destinations in the country:

Leaving the tour buses behind, we left for Tinerhir and found a cheap hotel. It was clean but basic and cost us around £8 each for bed & breakfast.

We wandered through the souk, absorbing the atmosphere.

The view from our table at breakfast was great.

Then from here we set off across country to Erfoud and the desert. After a hot, dusty ride it was a relief to be checking in here for a couple of nights:

Having enjoyed beers by the pool and a delightful buffet dinner and wine, we were totally refreshed next morning and ready for a ride out into the Sahara and the Erg Chebbi dunes. As we rode out across the wilderness we were followed by a threatening storm:


We relaxed in the Auberge du Sud while thunder and lightning bellowed outside and hailstones coated the dunes. When we emerged into the open an hour later, there was water everywhere ... in the desert!

We actually had a pleasant, dry ride back across the sands then visited Rissani and Erfoud before returning to the luxury of our 4 star accommodation. Oh dear, not more beer, wine and glorious Moroccan vittles; the utter tedium of it all!

Next up, the Draa Valley and Zagora.

Morocco, April 2012, pt 1

I travelled to Morocco on my motorbike in 2009 with an organised tour. 'Enjoyed Morocco but the format of an organised trip really didn't suit me. First time in my life I've done it, and probably the last. The deadlines and pre-booked hotels lent an air of urgency to the trip which meant I didn't see and experience as much as I wanted. But, it was an excellent intro and led me to suggest a trip to my pal Bernie for 2012.

One key thing to get your head round when travelling with your own vehicle in Morocco is, there's no breakdown insurance available. This was covered on the organised tour; we were shadowed by a 4x4 with trailer and mechanic, but Bernie and I would be independent, so if something went wrong with the bikes it'd be up to us to sort it.

We spent many hours discussing routes, what to take and prepping the bikes but, finally, on a very cold morning, 1st April, we left for the ferry from Plymouth to Santander in Spain. Following a 20 hour crossing, we'd take 3 days to traverse Spain from north to south before catching a ferry across the Med to Morocco.

A highlight was Salamanca's Plaza Mayor:

We'd booked two hotels in Spain and one in Tanger to get the trip off to a smooth start but after that we had no firm plans. Taking three and a half weeks in total we'd have 18 days in Morocco, enough for a relaxed tour.

Leaving Tanger on a grey, overcast morning, we travelled south to Fes where we spent the evening exploring the medina and souk, despite warnings from the hotel reception not go into the medina at night! We had great fun.

After a rainy Fes, we left for Ifrane in the Middle Atlas mountains. Being relatively cool, it's the location for the King's summer residence. As snow fell (yes, really) we booked into a hotel for two nights and on a sunny morning set off on the pistes (unsurfaced roads) criss-crossing the cedar forests. We found lots of mud, got the bikes well and truly stuck, but, with excellent teamwork, extracated them successfully. An interesting day.

We left Ifrane and headed towards the small, High Atlas town of Imilchil. On the way, we camped by the River Ziz for the night.

I had a long-held wish to camp at Lac Isli, some 7 kilometres down a rough earth piste near Imilchil. Unlike our previous foray, the bikes were fully loaded, so it was an exciting ride across to the lake at around 7500 feet above sea level.

There was no-one else up here save for the Berber shepherds and we enjoyed meeting Zahid and Mohammed who shared tea with us:

Next morning a heavy mist had descended as we rode back out to tarmac and our next destination; the Todra Gorge.

More soon.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

An update

It's six months since I posted on here, which is shameful.

'Truth is, I've been busy enjoying myself, travelling and dealing with the consequences of Chrissie's broken leg (see her blog for the full, gory details).

I feel like I've got a little time on my hands for the first time in six months. Not long though; we're off on another motorhome trip in less than two weeks. Sometimes, life's too short to fit in all this fun.

We're just back from a 10 day, rehab trip in the van for Chrissie before she gets back to work ( pause, to listen for sounds of whip cracking) and that came only a few days after I returned from a mega-trip to Morocco on my beloved motorcycle (MBM). And it was that trip that inspired me to make a significant change on here.

Here's Chrissie, getting back into walking:

So, note the change of title for the blog. I've left the web address as it was, so as not to confuse returning visitors, but, so keen was I to document my Moroccan odyssey, that I felt the need to expand the scope of my blog. So, from here on, it'll cover all my travels, be they on foot, motorbike, motorhome or indeed, anything else wot takes my fancy.

The new title, "Far not Fast", was inspired by that great, inspirational, adventure motorcyclist, Ted Simon, who, in his book, Jupiter's Travels said he preferred to, "travel far, not fast". I need to check that quote later for accuracy, but the gist of it is correct. As I mature in years I find more and more that I need to travel at a steady pace, the better to absorb the sights, smells and spirit of the places I pass through. I could never be a fell runner, nor is there much danger of me exploring the limits of MBM's handling and speed capabilities. And in the motorhome, well fuel's so damned expensive isn't it?

Your feedback is always welcome, but be assured, all those motorhome enthusiasts out there, there should still be plenty to interest you and you can always ignore the biking bits. I hope though, that you might find them interesting anyway. Equally, any bikers visiting, feel free to gloss over the boring motorhome bits; or maybe you'll give 'em a glance. Perhaps I might even inspire some from each camp to explore the delights of motorbikes/motorhomes?

Soon to come on here; two or three motorhome trips not posted so far and ... Motorbiking in Morocco. Here's a pic of me and MBM in the Sahara Desert:

So, it's "Far not Fast".

Let the adventures continue. Smile!