Off piste

Trip report: Morocco 2007. Our first little dunes near Er Rachidia - Motomorgana, nomads riding around the world on a motorbike adventure.
Our first little dunes near Er Rachidia
We left the stinky place pretty early in the morning and after a quick look at the map, we decided to do some ‘hors piste’. We had seen some pretty flat surface along the road from Boudnib the day before that could lead us to the south. That was the direction we wanted to head to anyway, so we gave it a go. We could really make great speed and it was fun to ride. Our first stretches of small dunes appeared and I was amazed by the stability of my bike. As long as you stand up, keep the throttle open it looks like the bike will stay upright, no matter if you jump it or dig into a hole. It behaves like a drunken pig that’s for sure, and it’s pretty difficult to keep a straight line, but you just don’t fall. Amazing… at least for me. Mark struggled really hard. The furthest he could get was a couple of meters before being thrown off. I tried to explain him how to ride but he was so stubborn he wanted to do it on his own, got mad and told me to leave, which I did. I went for a play a bit further and really enjoyed myself before going back to Mark, picking up his bike and riding it to a riverbed where the soft surface was pretty flat. I am sure he didn’t agree but I was not going to stay there forever looking at him being stubborn.
So he learned riding the soft stuff in that riverbed, I presume he finally followed my advice and once he got the feeling, he was happy. ‘The highs and lows of adventure motorcycling’, it was going to be his buzzword for the remainder of the trip…
The exhaustion got his sugar levels low and Mark decided to stop for a hot meal. Boy did I feel sorry for him as he kicked his pot filled with super noodles and ¾ of the content was thrown in the sand… At the same time I really had to suppress my laughter: imagine this guy being exhausted, preparing all of his cooking equipment, draining petrol in his stove for which he had to unscrew some part underneath the bike, looking at those ‘tasty’ noodles cooking and just when he wants to start eating he finds his meal lying on the ground…I had a pack of cookies and off we went again.
We decided to follow the riverbed since Mark was not really confident with soft surface going up and down. Wrong decision again. The riverbed ended in a stretch of fesfes, a mixture of dust and really fine sand, which is very hard to ride. You just sink away in that shit and I was thrown off and hurt my hip. Some locals pointed us in the right direction and we ended up in a small village being offered tea with sugar, sorry, sugar with tea. But hey sugar was all we needed right now. These guys showed us around in their oasis they created themselves by use of a mechanic water pump. It seemed a miracle what they could grow in what seemed the driest place I had ever been to.
A little further my ignition got stuck because of the sand and dust in it. I just couldn’t turn the key anymore and in all my stupidity I managed to lock the handlebars without being able to unlock them. Bugger. The only solution was to get that cylinder lock out. In stead of undoing a tiny screw that lets you lift out the cylinder just like that as I was told by an RAC scout afterwards), I started tapping the cylinder with a screwdriver and a small hammer. We met Omar from the nearby village who didn’t speak a word English and only a couple of words in French and who offered us tools to kick the lock out. Well, very basic tools I must say that were basically worth shit. I wonder how they repaired their waterpump if it was broken and I wonder even more how that GS stealing scum in Europe manages to get that cylinder lock out in no time. We tapped until dusk and still some bits of the lock were in. Omar invited us for dinner and offered us a place to sleep in his house, but we wanted to sleep in our tents at least once. The atmosphere was great and we laughed a lot with Omar trying to explain that his wife was preparing eggs for us. ‘Euuuuh, poulet, poulet’ ‘Chicken breast? Chicken legs? Chicken wings? Chicken skin’ ‘Non, non, non, poulet mais pas poulet…rond’ ‘Round? Not chicken head you mean…?’ ‘Non, non, non. Petit poulet rond’ ‘Right, eggs!’
I think the omelet was the best tasting one I have ever had, not because of the cooking skills of his wife but because the setting felt so right, the meal was prepared with love and of course because we were starving. In fact I didn’t care much about the problem with my bike. We met some of the friendliest people here and that was worth a lot more!
Trip report: Morocco 2007. Camping along the piste south of Er Rachidia - Motomorgana, nomads riding around the world on a motorbike adventure.
Camping along the piste south of Er Rachidia
The next morning we were woken up with fresh coffee and bread and an ever smiling Omar together with his brothers. We managed to fix the bike by hot wiring it with a wire connector and before setting off we kind of needed to force Omar to accept some money for the food and the services. He kept on refusing saying he did it for Allah and that it was his duty to help people in need. He considered two European bikers with lots of dosh as people in need. It made me feel a bit strange…
We followed his directions but somehow we ended up in a riverbed again. We decided to follow it anyway because we didn’t see any alternative and apart from the sandy stretches we needed to pas heaps of rocks. We knew something wasn’t right as we struggled so hard to get the bikes through in that blistering heat, dropping them numerous times. The weight of the GS now got my sugarlevels low and I was exhausted. This couldn’t possibly be the track and at the moment we both got desperate, Omars brothers appeared from behind the hilltop explaining us we got it wrong and had to turn back. They helped us a lot picking up the bikes and they pointed us in the right direction: a straight stretch of nice piste for as far as we could see. How could we possibly not have seen this one?
A few moments after that we were doing speeds between 80 and 120 kms/h and adrenaline rushed through my body on the fast gravel tracks. The KTM was definitely the fastest bike and more off road oriented so Mark continuously rode ahead of me.
Finally, after a day of hard labour and exhaustion, we made it to the main road to Erfoud. We stopped at a petrol station had some crisps which tasted divine and stopped at the very first hotel we met which happened to be some sort of Spanish tourist resort with swimming pool, pretty luxurious rooms, booze and good food. Oh boy did we deserve that. Two girly cocktails (as Mark calls them) and a beer was all I could have seen the state I was in…
The next morning we decided to make it an easy day. Just heading for Merzouga, looking for a place to sleep and relax. As we approached Merzouga via the main road, we could see the impressive dunes appearing at the horizon. We stopped for lunch and met some guys of the Kudu London to Cape town expedition. You know the kind that pays 20.000 EUR to get their stuff all organized with support vehicles and all that shit and only need to follow the line on the map knowing that whatever happens they will be fine. These guys really didn’t blend into the picture at all, being rude with numerous ‘fucks’ and other offensive language which was clearly not appreciated by the locals nor by myself. The members of their group didn’t get along very well either and a good understanding amongst them was definitely not included in the prepaid package…
We slept in a hotel that looked out on the dunes of Erg Chebbi. Impressive!