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Round Morocco 21st Sept to 5th November 2004

21st Sep 2004 – 3rd Nov 2004

Trip in Sept/Oct 2004

Tues Sept 21
Set off in the afternoon towards Plymouth with Clive. We reached services by M40 near Souldern. Everywhere full! Tuesday night! Found a pub in Ardley.150 miles

Wed Sept 22
Left at 8am and reached Plymouth about 1.30pm. It had taken about 6hrs riding time. It was 360 miles. Took Brittany ferries to Santander at 4pm. Quite windy but brand new ferry so Clive should be okay re seasickness…latest technology! 210 miles

Thurs Sept 23rd
Was windy but boat great. Force 6/7. We were delayed an hour and arrived 12 noon but the motorcyclists were almost last off having been parked on a low deck in a corner. Quite a few …all off to various destinations. Temp 21 c. Once we had cleared mountains south and on our way to Palencia temp rose to 25c. By the end of the day at Salamanca it was near 30c. Clive leading the way. Road fast and not too busy as we chose a main route to get to Portugal tomorrow night. Nice bends in mountains south of Santander. New clothing working and light to wear.Camped. 240 miles

Friday Sept 24th
Quite cold…14c..and did not get going till 10am. Dry, brown countryside. Kites on the wing. Saw one storks nest but no storks. Cattle. Lots of trucks but otherwise traffic fine. Made good progress and reached Gois at about 3pm. We were going there to attend a “horizons unlimited” meeting. A few others had arrived and that night we listened to various presentations (slideshows). It all got very late and did not crawl into the tent till after midnight. Clive had gone to see his plot earlier in order, partly, to avoid others perhaps. Jealousy….?. We camped. About 190 miles.

Sat Sept 25th
Coldish in the night, but sun began to hit the tent about 8.30am and then all fine.! More people had arrrived/were arriving. Went off with 8 others to be led by a portugese called Carlos round some dirt roads..Clive too. The men looked at me and by bike and I am sure thought I would hold them up. However I did not ; though I did drop the bike down the last bit of track! It was pretty rough. Bent my screen supports,but will straighten out. Attended more slideshows in the evening after the barbecue. Linda told us about her Ukraine trip and Carlos about Maurautania and deserts. Not forgetting Grant Johnson, the founder of HU.

Sun Sept 26th
The HU get together slowly disbanded. We are staying here in this campsite for another couple of nights.Go for a walk up the river side (steep banks/rocky) with Linda and “Shoo’ her Malaysian friend/workmate who had come along with her. I am a bit stiff in the front of my lower legs from motorbiking. Relaxed. Linda played guitar in the evening and Antonio’s father in law played fado on the accordion.

Mon Sept 27th
Go to Penala to meet with Sergio re,Clive’s building works. They have excavated ie created the drive and flattened where the house will go and garage etc. Left Clive talking to builder and went to Coimbra to internet and shop. Back too late to swim in river with Clive. (I had got hot too!). Dog tried to eat our food in the night and the mattress sprang a leak…flat in early morning.

Tues Sept 28th
Set off late ish to go to Lisbon about 180 miles. 30 or so c. Dry and sunny. Many tractors and trailors carting produce….tomatoes (getting squelshed), some kind of grain being harvested this late ( sorghum?) and grapes. grape harvest in swing. Camped in Monsanto area and went to Alfama in evening to try and find fado /flamenco . Found the area but not much action.

Wed Sept 29th
Our inflatable mattress failed after my repairs. Another split. So to camping shop and bought two singles of similar but different make to before (camping gaz). Off to Cape St Vincent in the very south of P by about 11am.
Changed minds and took scenic route more inland. Dry,brown, 33c. Reached Albufeira and camped. Had a look at A…over developed,too many tourists,expensive.

Thurs Sept 30th
Did internet and left about 10.30am.Motorway till after Seville. Mules and mules with Egrets on their backs. Cotton being grown south of Seville.Spent night in ‘adventure centre’ near Algerceras called Huerca Grande. This was a recommendation of Carlos the photographer.First night in hotel since leaving.

Friday Oct 1st
Enjoyed the bed. Woke to a cloudy day…less hot. Just,just made it aboard the 11am ferry to Ceuta; could not have timed it better. About 35 euro one way. Off to the border where Clive got into action. Employed the help of a man since we suspected trouble….neither of us had original vehicule registration docs with us. Just photocopies. With the help of the ‘capitaine’ we were through.As before cloudy damp weather and 23c.So next time REMEMBER REG DOCS. Cup of tea,ATM machine and off to Chefchahoun, hotel Castellane. Donkeys with loads,mules roaming, rubbish esp plastic bags,egrets. its Friday and no where near so busy as last time.Had a nice meal with beer bought in a little bar. Alcohol not allowed!

Sat Oct 2nd
Cold in night….thin sheet only. The plan is to go to Taza. Men wandering by the road. Mules with loads,donkeys with loads, women with huge bundles of sticks. Slow lorries but not much traffic. We climb to 1650m. Forested with big pines. Reach Kemata. As we sit in cafe a man comes past with a wheelbarrow of fish(iced) and then another man with a wheelbarrow of prickly pears.We then take road to Taza…secondary and described on the map as dangerous in parts. It was dirt in places,washed away on some bends so periously thin for a car but okay on a bike. In some places there were mounds of wind blown soil to go over. No problem. Clives bike then lost a nut on its back brake..whoever put the last brake pads on or tyre did not tighten enough. It was Clive I found out later! Got that fixed and had a bit further to go. Getting dark…C does not like that and went quicker than usual and nearly had problems on a bend with a lorry. Close shave! Arrived Taza.Put slide film in, in afternoon.

Sun Oct 3rd
Mum’s birthday. Day off ie 2 nights in Taza. Went on a loop on bikes to see a cavern and a gorge. Clive did not fancy the 500 odd steps down to the ‘gouffre du Friouato’ It was great. Could have gone further down with torch. Biggest in Africa apparently!
Got washing done. Staying in new town,as opposed to medina.Hotel Dauphin. They/the town were early to bed last night..strangely.Went for a walk and found market in this part of town. No tourists. Ate down on main road at Boudelle rest.(lorry driver kind of place,). Had tagine.

Mon Oct 4th
Set off east across a rolling plain at 550m or so. No trees,fertile,men guarding their herds,lovely yellow colours. Land deeply cut by dry river beds and fissures from heavy rain. Then a few trees, first donkey carts,followed by horse carts. Odd fortified houses and oases.Shanty town at Taza and Guercif.We left the tarmac just after Guercif to cut across to the main road heading south to Figuig. Took a track ‘as on map’! It wax criss crossed with lots more! Having some hills to head for we could keep our bearings.Very friendly people in scattered nomadic settlements. Did 40 miles to next bit of tarmac. Nowhere to stay in Ain Benimather so went on across a flat plateau about 1500 metres high; scattered Berber tents and ramshackle houses. Berber with their flocks of sheep/goats. Still no hotel in next town, Tendrara so camped in the desert after buying some basic food. High ,starry, but windy so did not sleep well…berber nearby. Trucks came by at 5am. Mobile works!.We rang mum the in the evening. She was amazed.

Tues Oct 5th
Off without any bother. Wind still with us and now blowing sand in places. Good road through desert. No unleaded petrol to be had so finally topped up with leaded…me 50/50 ,Clive 1/3 leaded. No leaded till Er Richida but we go to Figuig. Algerian border shut (we knew). Couple of police checks, evidence of recent rain, vivid green where there is water, a few wild camel , virtually no traffic, berbers dotted around: wind and we conserve petrol at 60mph.Figuig Hotel…past its heyday!

Wed Oct 6th
Woke at 3.30am with diarrhea from the foul meal I had had. Felt awful,shivering, hot,achy and very weak. Lay in bed all day and only in mid afternoon started to feel a tiny bit better. Clive great, seeing to cups of tea etc.Tried to get up but failed and still felt awful all night .

Thurs Oct 7th
Felt weak but better so we set off for Errachidia.Had to stop in each town for loo.Fairly boring desert without many berbers. Herds of wild camels, a few wandering donkeys, gravelly. One place had some big white butterflies. Got to Errachida and unleaded petrol where we saw an english vintage car rally going the other way. Pressed on to Goulmima and to Place d’hote La Palmerie run by a french lady.Just as I could have imagined a house in a Palmerie! Big house inside its compound with trees etc. Still stomach cramps and did not eat much.

Fri Oct 8th
1 week here.Still suffering stomach cramps etc. Walked around Goulmima and shopped. Went for small ride but defeated by desert wind/sand blowing! Original villages made of mud;black plastic bags flying in the desert;birds flying around in town. Peace and tranquillity back at hotel.

Sat Oct 9th
Now feeling fine.Wind blowing and rain in the air. We set off on short trip to Merzouga. Tarmac BUT missing 2 bridges over dry river bed. C takes interesting route and I drop the bike slowly in sand.C helps to pick it up. At next bridge we help to push car stuck in the sand.! Mostly gravel on the track, just small patches of sand. All the time dust blowing. Arrived Merzouga and definately feel in desert as we stay next to huge sand dune, part of Erg Chebbi, the biggest dune in Morocco. Stay in a kasbar.Very sandy in wind.When we arrived we could see the dune,later it was blowing so much we could not.Pictures in morning! Camel race and pestering men. We have been roughly following the Paris-Dakka route by chance . . . Goulmima, Erfoud, Merzouga, Zagora, except they go direct!.Watched camel race in dust and wind. Chaos!

Sun Oct 10th
Early up to take photos in dunes.Wind dropped but cloudy. Pestered even in dunes. Erfoud for fuel and then Agdz/Zagora. Unleaded maybe problem. Countryside soon grey gravel and hardly any life. Then dotted with trees. Mts on either side as usual. Locusts on the wing hitting us.Still cant get over the bright green of their crops in oasis..is it the donkey and mule shit they fertilise with? Sacks of it are carried around everywhere by people,donkeys,bicycles etc. The Draa valley was full of date palms with date harvest in full swing. Many mud built ksars and/or kasbars beside the dried up river (dam up stream). Stopped at La Palmerie hotel with good facilities.Wine! Nevertheless loo seat lid with moroccan habit of falling on your back.

Mon Oct 11th
Early start on dirt road (N12!) to Foum Zgid. 120 km. Did not perform well on the sandy bits and put bike down 3 times and once on thick gravel. C did once in sand. It took longer than hoped but no damage apart from sugar jar opening in my box and eventually covering entire contents in icing sugar as we bumped along! Some parts rocky.! Pressed on to Tata and stopped in Les Relais des Sables along with a large group of french. They were friendly and we all managed some alcohol. In some places it is difficult to buy some.
As usual, mts on eitherside , silhouetted,looking lovely, as we ride these wide,barren, valleys.Colours changing and always evidence of what happens when it rains heavily. But people friendly…one helped me with bike and then we helped man with donkey load.

Tues Oct 12th
Set off on wrong road up pretty valley with great geographical features…strata,folds,rain fissures etc. Geographers paradise. Road running along desert edge..oases now and then otherwise barren. Very few Berber tents as we near Bouizakarne.Go on to Guelmim (also spelt Goulmime) and finally spend night at thermal baths at Abeino. Discover that dates given us by local donkey man C helped , come from United Arab Emirates! We had a swim in the baths…very nice. Lovely body temp warmth and not smelly.

Wed Oct 13th
Clive’s autocom wires have failed in part so we messed around getting the passenger wire to reach. Works. Off to Tarfaya..south. Saw odd little creatures on way to Tan Tan, including chameleon. Barren and little traffic. TT for coffee. Then Tarfaya for ‘little prince ‘statue. Did that and on to Laayoune because Tarfaya was fairly basic ( dirt streets). Stay in hotel Mekka. Town full of UN. This is our southernmost stop. Road dull and we would have to retrace.

Thurs Oct 14th
Day off but up at 6.45am for C to go down and get the bikes out of the patisserie shop where they spent the night. Wandered round town, bought some jewellery and did internet then had lunch.Clive stocking up on food today! Plenty of UN, soldiers and police. Looked at pictures of Green March in the Parador hotel.Managed to have wine with meal(we brought it in!). One lone dutch lady came in to eat. She had just got in her car back home and driven south…pressure at work. Lone man came in…he was half moroccan,half greek, born in Syria and brought up in Germany etc.

Friday Oct 15th
Set off back north. Cold 22c and windy. It was that temp coming down. Saw 4 lorry loads of camels. You could just see their heads if they tried to look out over the sides of the lorry(they were lying down). Dunes,dull barren otherwise till you see sight of the sea.First day of ramadam and cafes are shut. Sit on beach for lunch of water and biscuits.Headed off into a strong wind and some dust. Came back to Abaynou(Abeino) near Guelmim. Thermal bath place. There is an english couple…first brits we have seen.!

Sat Oct 16th
Cloudy and 18c as we set off to Sidi Ifni through cultivated prickly pear country. Donkeys, surfing beaches but deserted. 3 campervans at Ifni! Women washing clothes at a well and people always fetching water.Agadir big . Coves and rocks north. Large herd of camels lying on one beach. Surfing by european young, mostly french or german.At Tamri there was a banana plantation. Find auberge near Tamanar called Auberge Tasra at Imsouane..More like a youth hostel with bunk rooms, kitchen facilities, pot smoking, chess playing. We get our own room but shared facilities. Good meal and wine.

Sun Oct 17th
Short ride up the coast to Sidi Kaouki. Not that warm…20c. Argan trees everywhere, some looking remarkably dead. Buy some oil and other argan products in Tamanar. See goats up trees, masses of donkeys ‘waiting to be used’, small herd of sheep being put in luggage hold of coach, cows on top of a lorry load, sheep ditto. Room wonderful view over sea and beach. Very basic village. Ride camel on the beach and body surf. Stayed in Auberge Marabout.

Mon Oct 18th
Day in Essaouira. Weather cool and cloudy. Wander old town and buy thuya tray. Lots of nice thuya products but no room on bike. Cheap…tray 60 dirhams…£4. Finally got to port which was a hive of fishing industry..masses of boats,all wooden and big ones being built of wood. Fresh fish being landed ..possible to sit and eat fresh fish in small open air restaurants. Men gutting and scaling right by the quay. Check out beach for windsurfing possibility for Robert and watch some kite boarding. It is windy..force 3/4. Back to Sidi Kaoute where there is a couple of good kite boarders in the waves.

Tues Oct 19th
Late start. Off to Marrakesh…inland. Man on donkey leading a camel. Donkey riding becomes donkey carts with canvas roofs. Then mules and then more tractors as it becomes more prosperous towards Marrakesh. Straw stacks covered in mud. Temp rises the moment we turn inland. Clive loses a bolt on his brake again. We get a kind of replacement in the next town. It is not doing his spokes any good. Excellent marquetry going on in this town.
Arrived in Marrakech in time to have a wander and internet. Stay in same place as with Nick…Hotel Fantasia (Riad hotel). Went to main square to soak up the marrakech ambiance!

Wed Oct 20th
Victoria’s birthday and Clive gives her a ring (she is in Australia.) Set off up the Tizzi n Test. Not touristy as I had thought. Subsistence living on the whole. High pass 2100m gave on to a fantastic view of the valley below. In the valley oasis of greenery and Argan trees, gave way to pockets of individual tiny green farms. Road goes high, up to 1600m or so and it gets cool. Funny sight as I come over brow of hill…3 bicycles beside 3 men with bottoms up praying to Mecca beside the road! Nice road and we get on fast to Ait Bin Haddou, where we stay in Defat Kasbar just above Ait B H. Nice place by dried up river bed. Meet another bike..2 up, french girl and italian man.We compare maps and routes! Tizzi n Test took 5 hours with stop.

Thurs Oct 21st
Decide to stay another night and do a circular route via Telouet and back down part of Tizi n Tichka…about 100 miles in all but beginning with 36kms of dirt road.Took panniers off. Very beginning is across a river via a ford! Wobble there but made it. Slow but thorough progress on quite ok dirt ; another river ford, another panic but made it…hope no more. Weather cloudy and rain around; it would be impossible if it rains. About half way and I struggle on a steep bit but did not drop bike. Watching 4 wheel drives lurch along makes one worried! Clive, in front, stops suddenly because 4wd has stopped. I cannot then get going on steep bit and drop bike. Clive comes to help. After that bit all was okay and we made it. No more river fords. Finish our circle and back to hotel. Luckily it only rained on us after we reached the tarmac. Several brits arrive at hotel…most we have seen so far!

Fri Oct 22nd
Set off for Ouarzazate. This place has a supermarket called Dimitri which sells alcohol! Wine 45dms per bottle. We bought 4.! Did internet too. Fairly international place as it is famous as a film centre. Leave about midday for Tinerhir. Hotel Tombuctou where we stayed with Nick was too expensive and so we stayed at hotel Oasis. Too near centre of town and night was noisy. Tiler doing terrace appeared to work all night.!

Sat Oct 23rd.
Set off up Todra gorge. Spectacular…narrow and high. Tarmac for a while and then good dirt for 36 miles(58kms)then tarmac again We stop at Agoudal for a Berber omelette. Pass,on the dirt, was 2700m high. We leave the desert and palmeries behind. High on the plateau, lots of basic villages subsisting on the crops growing in the flat river valley surrounded by bare ,barren, but very scenic mts. Then we begin the descent and all changes to scrub and eventually small farmers producing cash crops of potatoes and apples. Always children, particularly in the Todra valley,where not all children seem to go to school in the small villages. Little boys can be slightly aggressive. We smile and wave as ever. 2 aggressive dogs, and another eating a dog, and the usual animals wandering everywhere. Missed where we intended to go and got to Auberge des Artistes in El Ksiba run by a French couple.

Sun Oct 24th
Breakfast and then packing up notice Clive’s bike has puncture in back wheel. Can’t find hole so wheel off and hotel owner takes Clive plus wheel off to garage. Eventually off via Khenifra to Ain Leuh to Azrou. Forested with open ‘meadows’. Farming with donkeys etc. River was pretty with rapids but money required to take walk up falls. Cedar woods near Azrou with Barbery apes….saw two but it was getting dusky. Small tarmac road all the way. Stay in scruffy hotel de Cedres.

Mon Oct 25th
Short way to Fes but we take secondary road via Ifrane, El Hajeb and then yellow rd to Fes. Arrive middayish. We had ridden through a farming area. Still mules doing the ploughing in some cases. Dark red soil with potato growing and red onions. Rows of what I at first thought were wall protected straw stacks with yellow plastic sheeting neatly tied to cover the top. Clive said he thought they looked like yellow caterpillars. They were long,thin rectangles. Then realised they were onion clamps. Thin rectangle of wall, onions neatly piled up inside with a neat roof of straw topped by the plastic sheet. They had just completed it all. Maybe some were potato clamps?
Stopped at Hotel Amor in the new town. Got lost in the medina!! Eventually found the restaurant we wanted ..rest Dar Jamai. Menu 130dhms. Owner also has guesthouse,Dar Masmoudi. Lovely riad,beautiful courtyard with good rooms for 800dms. Expensive…it would be a treat. Tasted PASTILLA. Must make it myself. Spice bought too…ras el-hanout.

Tues Oct 26th
Left Fes very successfully. Took an ‘in between’ road to Chefchahoun; via Karia Ba Mohamed and Ourtzarh to Bab Taza on main road. It was infact tarmac all the way though full of hazards..pot holes etc. Fun to ride. Lake was low. Houses dotted everywhere,mules,mule riding,no carts,some tractors, fertile countryside though dreadfully dry now. Animals dotted everywhere ,grazing freely off the dead grasses and weeds. Donkeys, cows, sheep,mules and some goats.Saw a man on his hands and knees gutting a turkey by the roadside. Went through one town having its mkt day and we could hardly get through the throng of mules, people,trucks,vans and the odd taxi. Reminded me of India. So to Chefchahoun and the same hotel.

Wed Oct 27th
Bad nights sleep. Thin sheets so bit cold. Ramadan so people up all night,shouting,banging drums, playing a trumpet very badly on two notes,( I think there were two of them),then the clerics calling to prayer,then chickens crowing, and turkeys gobbling and cats calling….
We set off in cloudy, cool weather for the ferry from Ceuta to Algerciras. Had decided we would go to Gibralter. It was raining ! Did the siege tunnels in the rock. Constructed between 1783- 85 . Adapted at times since. Decided we would stay the night even though expensive. Stayed in Queens Hotel. Walked along Queensway Quay where Emma had been 2 years before.

Thurs Oct 28th
Did some shopping and bought SD cards as cheaper than UK. Left in pm to go and stay with Linda Bick in Castilla de Castellar. Rather basic spot as suspected. Two others there called Patrick and Belinda…from Australia and touring on a bike together.Linda seemed tired..we shopped for food,cooked and drank the wine we had brought.It poured with rain in the night…did not sleep well.

Friday Oct 29th
Woke quite late. Left after tea and photos! Set off for Portugal and Elvas. Went the most interesting way we could to Seville and northwards. Ended up in Elvas and just into Portugal. We had cold weather..down to 10c..and sunshine and showers. On the whole we were lucky re the rain. I was cold in summer clothing still! My fault.! Clive jealous about my text messages.!

Sat Oct 30th
Walked round town after breakfast to get Dad his crystallized plums…famous to here. Old town inside well preserved thick walls. Not spoilt. Set off towards Penela. Lunched in Ponte dei Sor and had surprising lunch of prawns and good dish of sguid.( Sea not so near!). Showers began to be more frequent ,still cold so we stopped south of Penela in Figerio de Vinhos in a guest house (35euros). Weather rainy but walked down road to restaurant.

Sun Oct 31st
Weather fairly horrible,cold misty and heavy rain showers. It has snowed in north Portugal. Set off in all the gear to see Clive’s plot. Rained heavily on and off. Mooched around and had moments …saw river near here..then back to same hotel and relaxed.Sun came out more and weather currently looking better. Washed some clothing and dried some gear out! Then watched Titanic in english on the telly!

Mon Nov 1st
The sun is shining and a clear blue sky! Off to Penela to meet Sergio and Moriash the builder. I leave them and go to Figerio da Foz. Big beach, big port and spread about town. Not much to do…thought I would meet with Clive but waiting for 3 men who had been drinking was a waste of time so eventually went back to hotel. Clive came soon after,bit pissed,and bearing a small present of chocs and drink! That was nice…

Tues Nov 2nd.
Off via bank in Penela, plot and Coimbra for internet. Then road for Guarda before turning north. Weather dull and cloudy but no rain until half an hour before we stop. A few mules pulling carts and one or two donkeys. Birds of prey. People harvesting their olives by chopping off branches! Rural! Clive gets pissed off because his waterproof trousers leak. We stay in Torre da Montecorvo. On way to Zamora in Spain and Miranda da Doura on the border. Most expensive night 50 euros.

Wed Nov 3rd
Not raining but threatening. Late ish start and good road. Stop in Miranda. Clive has large bit of patisserie! Nice countyside and excellent road from Torre. More birds of prey. Some maize being harvested…seems very late.Take small roads cross country north of Valadolid; original mud built houses now in disrepair; very good and keep going towards Santander. No Picos…could snow! Stay in Carrion de los Camions.

Thurs Nov 4th
Has rained and not quite now as we set off on the last leg. Soon does though but on and off as we do the 150 miles or so. Pretty nevertheless. Shop a bit and ferry at 5pm. Grey and raining at times and 10c.

Friday Nov 5th
Ferry arrives 2 hours late but we push for home. Bit warmer than Portugal and not raining. Ferry was full of bikers, relatively speaking, and one mad person in particular who had crashed his bike in the middle of the desert in Algeria.

 

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