Mud, mud, mud…
Due to the 2 hour time difference I got up pretty early at 6 AM and found out Marks tube had gone flat again. He got pretty experienced in getting tyres on and off now and luckily for him we had electrical pumps to inflate the tyres. We were back on the road by 8.00 AM, filled up just outside Chefchouaen and after a few dozen of kms along the twisties, we were on the first piste. Now you couldn’t really call that the most exciting track yet but hey, we got off the tarmac at least for a stretch. Woohoo!
After some more tarmac, we decided to get off the beaten track and take pistes through the Rif mountains to head to Fes. Some locals pointed us in the right direction without telling us anything about the road conditions. And what kind of road conditions: mud, mud, mud! I don’t think I have ever seen a road that much covered with mud for that long a distance. It appeared today was the first dry day since three weeks of continuous heavy rains.
I was the first to drop the bike quickly followed by Mark, and me and Mark and me and… We literally slid our way through the Rif and it was pretty dangerous too (which was marked on the Michelin Map as we found out after a closer look). Roads were narrow and slopes were pretty steep, so the risk of sliding down was not utopic. Furthermore, the roads through the countryside are like a labyrinth. We chose left, no right,… and once you think you’re going to take a break somewhere far from civilization – no one near in a perimeter of at least 10 kms – because you’re so fed up with not finding the right way, you see someone popping up from behind a hill, and another one from behind a tree, and yet a whole family coming in your direction and a bunch of youngsters from the other direction. Now where did these guys hide all the time? Were they following us with fucking satellites or what? This place is fucking crowded!
You might expect them to know the right direction to the main road to Fes, wich was not further than 20 kms away (which meant 4 hours riding at the speed we were progressing), but these people will tell you pretty much anything just to empty your pockets ASAP. Before I realized it, two kids were sitting on my bike fiddling on my GPS (wich was securely locked to the bike anyway) while the others were pulling Marks arm. We were surrounded by them and one told us to go left, another to go right, another to turn back etc…We probably picked the worst possible road and found ourselves stuck in a pool of mud till boot height. And guess what, they stood there waiting for us. The probably warned each other that two stupid bikers were on their way with pockets full of money (which they kept on asking for). Two friendly locals on a cross bike finally pointed us in the right direction and we had to force them to accept some money for services delivered. Top blokes if you ask me.
The piste gradually got dryer and we finally hit the main road and a petrol station with bike washing facilities which we thankfully used to get the muck off our mud covered bikes.
Off road and twisties in the dark
We decided to take the main road because it was already late in the afternoon and we’d had our share of off road for the day. But somehow, again, we found ourselves on a stretch of piste as it was getting dark. It was a good quality gravel surface but riding off road at night is pretty scary. And the tarmac wasn’t that much better: twisties in the dark with the occasional pothole every now and then was not exactly what we planned for that day. What the hell…We finally made it to Fes and ended up in an expensive yet impressive Moroccan guest house. I think after that day we deserved it and none of us questioned the price. After all it was probably going to be our last decent hotel for the coming weeks. Food was abundant and delicious and beer was dutch but cold.
The worlds worst shithole
After breakfast, we decided not to hurry and we headed for the souks to buy some food to take with us. By 11AM we were on the bike again riding East on the tarmac. The weather seemed fine at first but quickly changed to clouds, stiff winds and rain. The road to Guercif is not really worth the ride but it was our only option to get to the south quickly and not too wet. Some roasted lamb from the barbecue we had along the road kept us going through the miserable weather. The roads were pretty slippery though and the bike made some sudden moves from time to time. Once past Guercif it was like we rid through a dry corridor. Both left and right from us it was pissing down and the sky was dark grey, but we magically made it all the way to Missour without a drop of rain. The road from Guercif to Missour is pretty new and of good quality, so we kept a steady speed of about 100 kms/h, albeit in a 30° angle because of the heavy side winds. The ride down was relaxed and we made it to Missour before dusk.
We found a hotel of which we presume it is the only one in town. It was pretty low quality, cold and had dirty sanitary facilities, but we could park the bike in the restaurant overnight.
The whole town of Missour looked pretty creepy at night, with the Moeddzin announcing the evening prayer, almost no light, almost no cars, cow heads on the counter, men with long, dark robes walking in the dark and a very strange athmosphere. We called it the worlds worst shithole, a place where I dont envy the inhabitants to be honest. Dinner was crap, dirty and tepid and luckily we didnt suffer any intestinal problems…
Now this is piste!
Missour looked a little less scary under a clear blue sky. We got up pretty early, bought some food, deflated our tyres and were off to the piste. Oh boy, did we enjoy those long stretches of fast gravel to start the day with. Views were great and the wind in my face made me really feel alive standing up on the pegs. Speeds were high at times, sometimes too high as I bottomed out my rear shock a couple of times. But what the hell, this was bloody great fun. From a distance you could see the remainders of the Atlas mountains and ahead must have been the Sahara… Somewhere…still very far…
The track was generally of very good quality so far. I was the first to dig my wheel in the loose gravel when going uphill. ‘What did you do that for?’ was Marks comment as he saw me digging out the rear wheel. It was hot, fucking hot. I wore a full MX harness and my rallye2 jacket and I was sweating like hell. As long as you make some speed, all is fine but from the moment you stop the heat is turning your gear into a steambag, despite the ventilation openings.
Mark was the first to hit our first soft riverbed and he made it halfway through laying his ‘mean machine’ on its side. ‘Now why did you do that for?’ He didn’t have any experience at all with riding in loose sand. I made it in one go and it felt great to know I could still do this kind of stuff. It was already quite some time ago since I last did some offroad. Letting the rear wheel spin, lean back, balance the bike, don’t panic and keep the fucking throttle open at all times!
We joined the main road near Talsint and decided to have luch in what at first sight looked like restaurant. Moroccan restaurants can be recognized by the tajine pottery they put in front of their door. ‘What’s on the menu?’ ‘Tajine monsieur, de la bonne Tajine et du coca’. Ordering lunch there turned out to be a bad idea. This was literally the worst meal I have ever had in my entire life and believe me, I have seen some shitty places all over the world. A pool of oil with some olives, some undefinable vegetables and unbaked deep frozen fries (don’t ask me where they got them) all together in a dirty Tajine plate. I could identify some meat and I presume it must have been chicken but to be honest at my knowledge there is no such bread that produces greenish smelly meat. Neither me nor Mark finished our plate although we were starving and I am sure you couldn’t find a dog that would eat that shit. We paid half the price they tried to charge us (200 dhs) and only because we had a couple of soft drinks. ‘La bouffe est pourrie monsieur. Les cocas etaient bons’. He rested his case as he probably did a good deal anyway even if he only got half the dosh he wanted…
After Talsint the tracks tend to get a bit sandy and I got trapped by a deep rut dragging my bike against some kind of sandwall besides the road. It was hard to get the bike upright and a Spanish guy on a quad stopped next to me after I finally got it up, so I thanked him for offering help but no I was fine. As he rode off, the rear of his quad hit my bike so it fell over again. ‘Bloody fucking Spanish tourist arsehole!!! No wonder you need four wheels!!!’ He didn’t stop any more…
The landscapes turned very flat now with a lonely camel from time to time, but there was quite some traffic on this route, mainly quads and 4×4’s and a couple of lighter cross bikes too. The track got a bit rougher at the end but nothing to put your feet down.
We rejoined the main road (sealed) for the last couple of kilometers and headed off to Boudnib. Apparently there’s plenty of 4×4’s heading in the same direction. Boudnib itself remembered me a bit of Missour but bigger and less scary. Nothing really interesting. We needed petrol for the next day but apart from a single small petrol station that tried to charge us 15 dhs in stead of the regular 10 dhs, there was only diesel available in town. We decided to head for Errachidia, hoping to find a more interesting environment and cheaper petrol.
There was a reasonably priced but decent hotel in town but there were no rooms available. We had the choice between a really cheap place (60 dhs) and real luxury. Mark went to inspect the cheapo place and returned thumbs up. Now a smelly room filled with fungi, dirty sheets, a rotten shower and a disgusting toilet was not exactly what deserved thumbs up. Ok it was cheap, but in contradiction to Mark, I hungered for a shower where I came out cleaner and fresher than I went in… Our first conflict was a fact, but we sorted it out… I think… I took a shower anywayWe had a few beers in the chique place to compensate for the misery, hoping to meet some riders we saw earlier, but the only one I could talk to that evening was Mark, and he wasn’t really in a social mood…