March 29, 2013 GMT
We are finally on the road

I could not belive it when I looked out my window yesterday morning and snow flakes the size of an table cloth falling from the sky, the roads were covered in snow and it was -3 C , we didn't have snow all winter but now it was like Siberia
I was not a happy camper but was sure it will get better later ,
so I loaded my stuff on to the bike and when Harry arrived at my place waved goodbye to the cats
it had finally stopped snowing but the wind was freezing cold and we were wrapped up like Eskimos
and I never was happier to have heated grips on that bike

But the boat left on time, we had a fabulous meal and thawed out after a few glasses of wine

Posted by Barbara Halter at 12:12 AM GMT
April 02, 2013 GMT
Through snow and rain

28.03.2013

The crossing from Ireland to France was quiet and we arrived in Cherbourg in the evening and spent the night in a hotel outside the town.

The dinner in the Creperie just down the road from the hotel was deliciously fine and put us into travel mood 29.03.2013 Good Friday started off sunny but very cold. It was about 5C when we left Cherbourg towards LeMans.
So all so we looked a bit like the Michelin Man in all the thermals ,winter gloves, Sealskin socks and rain gear.

It was too cold to stop anywhere for pictures in the towns along the way but we found a nice Brasserie for the lunch break and had enough enegy to get to

Le Mans for the nigh and it started raining just as we got there.Lucky as we are we got the last room in the Premier Class Hotel

We had bought some food on the way and a nice bottle of wine for a picknick in thr room and fell asleep while writing a few notes about the day


29.03.2013
Good Friday started off sunny but very cold. It was about 5C when we left Cherbourg towards LeMans. So all so we looked a bit like the Michelin Man in all the thermals ,winter gloves, Sealskin socks and rain gear.

It was too cold to stop anywhere for pictures in the towns along the way but we found a nice Brasserie for the lunch break and had enough enegy to get to Le Mans for the nigh and it started raining just as we got there.

Lucky as we are we got the last room in the Premier Class Hotel We had bought some food on the way and a nice bottle of wine for a picknick in thr room and fell asleep while writing a few notes about the day


30.03.2012

And once again when we thought we had escaped the snow it started again as we left Le Mans . We stopped at the 24 Hour Race circuit and made our way towards Bordeaux.
We kept going as long as we could and it took us an hour to thaw out when we stopped for food. The snow had turned into sleet and rain after a while and the lowest temerature was about 1.5C ,once we were south of the Loire we decided to get on to the Motorway and once it stoped raining the it got less cold.

We arrived late in Bordeaux but lucky again got the last room in an Ibis budget Hotel. This used to be Etap Hotel but they changed that recently to Ibis budget.So the Sat Nav still shows them as Etap in case you want to find one.
They are good value for money,clean and mostly have secure parking and are close to shops and restaurants and not away from any town as the Fomule1,where you feel like packed up like a sardine in a plastic box...... The night was not so great as it turned out that the burger I had for dinner was not fresh and Montezuma's revenge hit me in the middle of the night

31.032013

It finally cleared up in the morning and we had the bikes parked right outside the room. So all luggage went out the window and was loaded on the bike in record time.

What a difference the sun makes, We made our way thought the pine forests and along vegetable farms that all seemed to be a result of the clear cuts made over the last couple of years.
The new motorway from Bordeaux to San Sebastian will be finished soon and it will be all "peage We headed for St.Jean de Luz for the night, a small but lively town in the Pyrenees on the Atlantic coast

The place is full of little restaurants where they serve seafood and local specialities. A charming place with old buildings typical for Basque Region in white with red shutters and red painted wooden planks that reminded me of the buildings in Chester or some areas in Switzerland

After a strolbl along the pier it was time for some sleep

Posted by Barbara Halter at 10:14 PM GMT
April 07, 2013 GMT
In Morocco

07.04.2013

Beating the most atrocious weather conditions on the way trought France and Spain we finally arrived in Morocco.


We took the ferry from Algeceiras to Tangier - Med . To get on the ferry was some adventure as nobody seemed to know the number of the berth were the boat would leave, " just check if you can see it somewhere" was the best info we got....

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-CflqqHBx7kA/UWE5o1FwHBI/AAAAAAAADOA/-3ZcOHRkt5Y/w554-h416-p-o/IMG_1870.JPG

There are so many ferry's ,trucks and only a few cars and vans, and no plan ,but it all seems to work We finaly saw the boat coming in and an army of camper vans , trucks and vans rolled off the boat and trailerd pulled off by small feeder trucks and we thought we would end up squashed by o e off them And theen it was our turn driving into the big mouth of the vessel that would bring us to another continent was some exciting moment.

Across the Staight of Gibraltar it takes an hour to get to Morocco and we arrived around six in the evening.With a bit of help of some friendly Moroccan who speaks perfect German , skipping the qeue by walking thouh the security barriers with a no entry signe to get my passport registered with the police, we passed through customs quickly.

We decided to head for the outskirts of Tanger to get a pls e for the night as it got dark. And even only one hour by accoss the sea and it is a different world So I'm excited and nervous when we set off to Marrakech in the morning.

Both bikes are running fine, the new Conti TCK 80 and smaller front sprocket fittet to Barbaras GS made the bike ready for the road and Harry's has fixed the whole in the exhaust

Posted by Barbara Halter at 09:40 AM GMT
April 12, 2013 GMT
Meknes,Volubilis and the mad Moroccan traffic

09.04.2013
In spring the north of Morocco is very green and we drove along fields of vegetables, crops and huge green houses full of banana trees as we drove from Tanger to Meknes.

The country is a mixture of 21st century and traditional life as it was for the last few hundered years. Work in the fields is still done by hand and donkeys are widely used to pull the overloaded karts Herds of sheep, goats and cows are grazing along the road and they are always minded byba boy or a man with a long stick. Live busy along the roads, there is people waiting for a lift, selling fruit and vegetables and they walk across doal carriage ways as if its the most normal thing to do.
Totally suicidal, but everybody does it.

And as it was Sunday thousand are driving out into the forests around town and sit under the olive trees,talk ,skeep and the children play football or games.

We were running late driving into Meknes for the night and Mr.Garmin brouht us right thoug the city centre around eight and it was crazy. Narrow streets ,cars,trucks ,buses and hundreds of people out on the streets and the muezzin call to prayer We finally found the hotel and the friendly parking guard (,lots of hotels and other places have secure parking) had safe spot to park the bike and leave most of the luggage on.


We left Meknes to visit the ancient Roman site of Volubilis and the road was going throug hills with olive trees and a carpet of flowes.Absolutely beautyful Later as we were driving over the hills to Azrou we were had to stop as the passed the most amazing and magic lands cape. The view over the paysage d'Ito in the evening light was breathtaking.

Posted by Barbara Halter at 12:24 AM GMT
April 14, 2013 GMT
Marrakech

10.04.2013

By now we got a handle on Moroccan traffic but driving into Marrakesh was another adventure!

We dived into the down at night, as Mr.Garmin once more brought us right into the Medina,
the old walled part of the city with it's narrow streets and markets
The place is buzzing with life and everybody seems to be out in the evening

The heart of it is the Djemaa-el-Fna. It's a big square surounded by cafes and restauants and the entrance to the souks Foodstalls are errectet every evening offering freshly prepared food. People qeue to get a seat at there favorite stalls and you can get everything from kebabs to grilled sheeps brain ( the latter considered a delicatesse)


It is like a melting pot of cultures that come together to celebrate life. Berbers Arabs, Europeans, jugglers, singers ,dancers, musicans, acrobats, snake charmers,woman offering henna tattoes ,beggers and peddlers Smoke rising from charcoal grill mixing with the sound of the musicians playing traditional songs of the area.


We paid a visit to Jardins Majorelle, a small gem of a botanical garden with succulents, bamboo forests and exotic flowers,and oasis of beauty and peace. Magic! Fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurante bought the house and garden in 1964 and gave it to the people of Marrakech after his death in 2008

The Badi palace and the Saadian tombs are great examples of Moroccos acient architecture, arts and history


And we did ,of course, what everybody does; get lost in the maze of narrow streets of the souks and haggle for bargains. Shop after shop selling carpets, jewellery, pottery, clothes, bags, shoes, brass and copper lanterns, turtles, spices, essences and huile d'Argant

They all want to sell you there goods for a very special price and some are catching you in the streets telling you they have an uncle, cousin, brothet ....all selling under one roof in an Artisane Market, A big scam ,of course,to get potential customers!!

What a city, I have never seen such a place of contradiction were the 21st century meets the ancient traditions of the Maghreb. Fantastic!!

Posted by Barbara Halter at 11:56 PM GMT
April 16, 2013 GMT
It'SVERY HOT

14.04.2013

It' s too hot for a lot of writing , so a full report will follow soon We are in Zagora andit is 36 C in the shade ....

So here a few pictures insteadf


Posted by Barbara Halter at 10:24 PM GMT
April 20, 2013 GMT
Miracles happen !!

17.04.2013

Part one

While I'm typing this I sit in the house of the beber family of Mohamed surrounded by his family and enjoy hospitality as I never did before and it started with a bike break down in the middle of nowhere......

After a relxing restday in La Fibule du Draa Zagora we had an early start and headen first for a quick visit to the sand dunes near Tinfou


A small strech of Sand dunes on the road to Mhamid, just about 100km from the Algerian border. We took some pictures with Camels included and then we took a new piste north to Tazerin

Fantastic scenerie, no traffic a bit like a moon landscapeand now and then some bushes and all went smooth until disaster struck;


After a water stop the bike started normally and out of a sudden all lights started flashing and then the bike went dead. Battery was okay but as soon as we hit the start button all went dead again We checked all the electrics , the side stand switch .....still nothing.

The sun was burning as out of nowhere a few kids appeared with a bowl of couscous Hospitality Morocccan style, I dug out some soap books and sweets and they were happy But me and the bike were not, Harry tried everything and still nothing changed.

Towing was next, and we even got an escort from some locals until we hit the tarmac. Another 50 miles to go and it started to get dark we stopped as a guy on a motorcycle stopped and said he would know a mechanic that can fix the bike
He invited us into his house and Mohamed' s Mother took care of me and made me sit outside the house and drink sweet and hot tea.,everybody sat along the outside wall relaxing in the warm evening air.

Harry took off with Mohamed to get his friend the mechanic.

The whole neighbourhood came to say hello to the crazy woman from Ireland who came all the way on a big bike.

Mohamed and Harry finally returned after an hour with the mechanic, after crashing three times... off piste... in soft sand ... in the pitch dark ... breaking the bikes screen, luckily that was all that was broken.

After checking all the electrics the culprit was found, the side stand switch was faulty, and the battery that I was told is okay by bmw motorrad in dublin, was also faulty, bummer!


I was not allowed to work on the bike , thats a man's thing I was told. I got a scrub in a mini hammam and though we did not speak the same language we understood each other.

There were woman , children, men all enjoying the evening and when the muezzin called for the evening prayer the older men rolled out there carpets facing east,

The rooms in the house have little furniture ,carpets are rolled out and pillow spread out Little tables are used for the food and man and woman eat in seperate places after the Mohamed's father as the head of the house had his dinner Couscous with vegetable and chicken and as dessert fresh oranges and bananas

When we had all finishes the meal Aisha, the youngest sister of Mohamed went around with a washing bowl and soap so everybody could wash there hands


Then it was bed time ,carpets and blankets were rolled out.... The family slept out sider in the courtyard and we were offered to sleep in the front room. The girls would not let me go to sleep before they covered the palms of my hands withe henna and then they were stuffes into plastic bags for the night.........

Part two

Sleeping on the floor on carpets was more comfortable than we thought and it was so quiet and you could here only the sound of insects and crickets

The next morning we got up early and berber breakfast was served. Mint tea,flat bread with a filling of cooked onions that they dip in oil when they eat it and a large dish of noodles.

With renewed energy Harry and Mohamed groved once more to the next town to get a new battery. They returned quiet quickly with a brand new gel battery. 300 dirhams ,about 30 Euros was the price for it and it is as good as any ones they sell in Europe for more than 100 Euros

As they went on to fit the battery the mechanic arrived again ,much to our surprise and one..
two....three they bike was running smoothly again
He was delighted when we sent him off for a test ride


While the lads worked on the bike I sat with the woman and children and more neighbours arrived to say hello .
The tv in the back played some moroccan soap, a mixture of Indian drama and Coronaition street. The woman do not understand why I dont have children, for the berbers the family is the most valued asset and to have 4-5 children is normal and they said I could have one or two o f theres.

While Mohamed's oldest son Yussuf went off to school ,Ibrahim and baby Sidi played with the few toys they have .Self made things like a some ribbon with a stick tied to one end and an empty PET bottle to the other and a cuddly toy that looked like a dog, I haven't seen any happier children, they get so much love and attention.,amazing..


The town Ait Izzou was also part of a very old ksar or castle and some of the buildings including the remains of a hamam, a public bath, are still in good condition. Aisha and her witty little friend Miriam gave me a private tour through narrow alleys and into courtyards. Some parts that are still used as stables for goats and sheep or storing goods

The family has a small garden in the courtyard where they grow some vegetables and herbs.
it is amazing what can be done on smallest patch of land



Time passed so fast and Yussuf was back from school just as it was time for lunch A delicious tagine, bread and fruit,magic We haven' t experienced so much hospitality in a while It soon was time to pack the bikes and get back on the road towards Tazerine.

The whole family came to say goodbye and wish us luck for the journey I was sad to leave and hope I have the chance to return.....

Posted by Barbara Halter at 08:36 PM GMT
April 27, 2013 GMT
The road to Zagora

I'm sure many have seen a picture of the sign that says "Timbouctou 52 jours"



You find it in the town of Zagora .
For centurys the caravans started there journey across the sahara desert from here and the town was an impotant centre of trade It is mainly occupied by berbers and you can feel there is a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere than north of the Atlas mountains.

The town is very modern and a park with an arena, kids playground and a big pond with geese and ducks has just been opened and invites for a stroll in the evening Zagora is built along the Draa river and on the way from Ouarzazate along the valley you can see one Kasba after another

A stretch of palm trees about 1mile wide grows all the way along the riverbed likea big carpet.

We decided to leave the main road and try a dirt track that leads along the river. It was merely wide enough for the bikes but to small for cars
We got on very well at the start,the track ran smoothly though small towns and along palm trees, we stopped for some water and people came walking along to see the u usual visitors.
And man invited us even to have tee in his garden

But we were on a mission to get south so we kept going and the track started to get twisty

Soon the smoth hard surface turned into big loose bits of gravel and we had a few brown trouser moments before we reached the to of the hill.

We were later told that this track is usually done on smaller lighter bikes, not heavy ones like ours. The local berbers, of course drive two up on there small 50cc mobilettes and even overtook us

Or they use donkeys as they do forthe last 2000 years.

Well ,we did fine and after a rest by the river it got easier again and we decided to get back to the main road


After this we needed a rest and spent an extra day at the pool in the lovely Fibule du Deaa hotel

Posted by Barbara Halter at 07:36 AM GMT
April 30, 2013 GMT
The Todra gorge

When it got time to head north again towards the Atlas mountain we had the option to visit the Dades- or the Todra gorge
But due to the delay cause by my bike breakdown we choose the Todra gorge

Thursday evenings are always busy in Moroccan towns, Friday is there day of rest( like Sunday in Europe) and most men head to the mosque for there evening prayer.

The roads in Tinghir were crowded and we just got to an ATM and then out of town towards the gorge. It gets dark very quickly in North Africa, time is 2hours behind Ireland.

So we decided to head for the nearest hotel we found on the sat nav we saw the very inviting Kasba Amazir, right beside the Todra river An oasis of peace, with a lush garden, pool and as usual tbey served the traditional very delicious evening meal

I never thought that my henna tattoe would be the key to so many friendly conversations with local people. Oh, you're hands look nice , were did youget this done.? Everybody in the hotel noticed it and in shops and restaurants I had a chat here and there , it seems that not many visitors get have the honour of getting a real berber tattooe

The next morning we had you breakfast in the garden where the birds gave us an concert

It was time to checke the bikes and the hotel manager came out for a chat, people are very relaxed in this part of Morocco,
they also share all the tasks in the Kasba hotels, many of tbem have only a few rooms and not a lot of staff
Cooking, serving food and cleaning is all done mostly by men, woman work mainly in tbe background and not directly with the guests.

The Bikes and finally ready we drove in to the Todra gorge and the narrow road was busy with cars, buses and 4x4s. The shallow river attracts not only visitors but also the local woman who come there to wash there clothes and carpets in the water.

Posted by Barbara Halter at 07:51 AM GMT
May 16, 2013 GMT
Meknes a real gem

Meknes

When we drove into Meknes for the first time we did not notice what a gem this place actually is as all we wanted was getting to Marrakech as quick as possible

Its one of the places I would definitely visit again

On the way back we unexpectedly had to extend our stay because Harry was not feeling well .
He was feeling fine when walked up to the medina on the evening we arrived and but we think there was something in the salad that did not agree with him.

Meknes was once the capital of Morocco under the reign the mighty Moulay Ismail in the 17th/ 18th century.




He built the impressive gate Bab Mansour, that leads into the medina with the palace and his mausoleum





Sadly, the palace and mausoleum of the Moulay were closed that day, so I decided to head for the Place
el Hedim and visit the palace Dar Jamai



The place much smaller than the Djama el Fna in Marrakech but full of life and cafes were you can relax and watch the world go by

There are all the gates that lead into the souks and unlike the markets in Marrakech there were almost no Europeans wandering around

The atmosphere is more relaxed and when we sat there the night before the local kids were brought there by the parent for a ride on the donkeys , ponies or a spin in little electric cars .

I dived right into the souks and a wold of colour,, the smell of spices, sweets, secret beauty potions and
food from all corners of the country open up in front of me .




Fresh dates, dried apricots, figs lemon and , almonds ,large varieties of nuts, spice, herbs and huile dArgan were sold in the lane with olives, pickled lemon and fresh herbs.




Butchers selling fresh cuts of lamb and goat, fish mongers and the chicken were still alive when they were sold.



But what really caught my attention was the large selection of sweets and pastry, I have never seen such a large amount of little artfully decorated pastry, petit fours.



I treated myself with a small selection of sweets and when I finally eat them they tasted delicious.



It was time for a break and nothing tasts bettter than 2 glases of delicious fresh orange juis, the best in the world, and a salad before I decided to visit the Palace Dar Jamai







It was built in 1882 as the residence of the illustrious Jamai family, which included two of Moulay el-Hassan's ministers. Later it was as a military hospital after 1912 and was converted to The Museum of Moroccan Art in 1920.




The museum retains the rich traditional decor of painted wood and sculpted plaster and features an exquisite Andalusian garden similar to the Badi Palace in Marrakech .. The museum is devoted to the arts and crafts of the region, including wrought ironwork, wood carving, weaving, leather-work, brass and copper-
smithing, and other metalwork.




And like many other museums and sites in Morocco you can walk around freely .The infrastructure is simple and works well. No shop selling merchandising, no coffee shop. You can always hire a guide if you want some detailed information and there is loads of cafes and shops outside in the nearby souks.

I could not see any expensive surveillance camreas and I noticed no graffiti or other traces left behind by visitors.
In many places we visited it seems that vandalism is not common in Morocco
Things like public parks or place might need some maintenance, might look a bit shabby , but you would not see deliberately damaged park benches, bins set on fire or littering.



Posted by Barbara Halter at 05:02 PM GMT
January 28, 2014 GMT
Setting off from Ireland

Leaving Ireland, at ferry terminal at Rosslare, Wexford.
All set for the big trip.

Woo-hoo!
In France and we are on the way

Had to stop off at Le Mans, famous for the racing, and the maad 24 Heurs Moto Endurance race week.

Headed on down the west coast of France.
While I think it may be not as scenic as other regions of the country, well... we were on a mission!
Morocco was our aim.

Heading south, yippee!

Overnight in the Basque town of Saint Jean de Luz

Easter weekend and lots of Chocolate surprises!

Yes!
thats Easter eggs for you, lol

Fuel stop, and as you may guess, we are now in Spain

The city of Salamanca

This was our first taste of Summer and warm blue skies!

Then on we headed, on south, over more stunning Spanish countryside

and lots more Magic Twisty roads

=============================================================

Anyways... ...

...what's that they say about: "the rain in Spain, falls mainly on the plain..." ?

Well, it seems our trip coincided with the wettest, coldest spring for both France and Spain.

In France on our arrival from the ferry, we were told the main route from Cherbourg towards Paris was snowbound for two days, only a week before we had set off!

In many Spanish cities and towns, floods caused havoc for many unfortunate families.

Not many 'Rays' for these Solar Arrays to catch:

Ahh, sure it must be the luck of the Irish, eh?
Years of planning, and we hit a '100 years' storm, lol.

=============================================================

Now we cross yet more Spanish mountains.
The country seems to be mainly mountains, woohoo!
Fantastic country for biking, definitely on my list for a (longer) return visit.

In the city of Malaga we stop to meet friends, and head off to a local tyre shop to get some TKC 80's fitted.

Vargas Tyres in Malaga, we praise them big time.
Great service, and held tourance tyres for return trip too.

Now we are all set for the Sahara!

=============================================================

Posted by Barbara Halter at 11:28 PM GMT
January 30, 2014 GMT

Last supper in Spain, next dinner will be in Africa, woohoo!

Roman ruins of Volubalis,
near Meknes


Sometimes ya just have to pamper yourselves, haha.
Below is the view from the balcony of our Kasbah near Asila.


Posted by Barbara Halter at 08:30 PM GMT
 


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