Tommy's Morocco Adventure, via France, Spain and Portugal, 6th May - 26th May 2010
November 07, 2011 GMT
The Route

Portsmouth - France, Caen, Pons, Bordeaux, ST Jean Pied de Port - Spain, Espinal, Pamplona, Soria, Alcolea del Pinar, Sacedon, Cuenca, Motilla Del Palancar, Ossa De Montiel, Villacarrillio, Motril, Amayate, Algeciras, Ceuta - Morocco, Chefchaouen, Ketama, Fes, Azrou, Boulojoul, Midelt, Ar Rachida, Erfoud, Tinehir, Boumaine Dades, Quarzazate, Telouet, Marrakech, Tahanoute, Ijoukok, Tafinegoult, Agadir, Imsouane, Tamanar, Essaouira, Safi, Casablanca, Mohammedia, Rabat, Kinatra, Souk el Arba du Rharb, Larache, Tetouan - Spain, Ceuta, Algeciras, Sevilla - Portugal, Lagos, Budens, Odemira, Santiago do Cacem, Alcacer du Sol, Montemor O Novo, Estremoz, Santo Antonio Das Areias - Spain, Castelo Branco, Cavilha, Seia, Viseu, Lamego, Bilbao, Lekeito, Zarautz - France, Hossegor, Parents en Bonn, Biscarrasse, Soulac, Royan, Rochefort, Lucan, Nantes, Dinan, Caen - England, Portsmouth and Hampton here I come! I will be riding solo for this adventure and expect to cover 6000 miles over 3 weeks avoiding all motorways!

Posted by Tommy at 12:12 AM GMT
Thursday 6th May 2010

On board the ferry, I woke tired after only 2 hrs sleep due to a squeaky, vibrating cabin, but glad the crossing into Caen, France was calm.
Now in the depth of France, I finally set up camp in Pons after travelling 575 miles since last night.
The sun is out but temperatures cool and I predict rain.
The bike is running 'sweet as a nut', better than ever! but the tom tom dosnt beep loud enough to warn me im riding on the wrong side of the road. I wanted to apologise to the two hand flapping drivers I was heading for.
I had visited this campsite on previous adventures and was looking forward to dinner, curried mussels followed by the duck.
If all goes well I will cross into Spain tomorrow afternoon.

Posted by Tommy at 12:15 AM GMT
Friday 7th May 2010

I awoke fresh as a daisy having had a good nights sleep in preparation for an early start before sunrise. I used my jet boil and thermorest for the 1st time and recommend them as camping essentials. Last night I predicted rain, I was wrong, it snowed! The 300 miles of snow covered mountains were difficult to ride through and im p..... off about dumping my bike. I find it hard to believe that I will be riding the dunes in a few days time. Once I crossed the Pyrenees into Spain, a hot bath and a hotel room in Pamplona is deserved, as long as the roaming bulls leave my 'red' bike alone .

Posted by Tommy at 12:18 AM GMT
Saturday 8th May 2010

Last night the restaurant finally opened. Apparently, the best in Pamplona called Europa. The meal/service was fantastic. Another early night only to be awaken by my American neighbours in the adjoining room. Once back to sleep, I struggled to wake at 0600 to find Pamplona's residents still partying. I made a few minor repairs after yesterdays little accident and began the 450 mile journey through the mountainous region of Castilla, an 11 hour ride. It was freezing, though I thoroughly enjoyed being the only vehicle on the open road. Later that day, I found a lovely remote campsite and welcomed a warmer climate in a lower altitude. My Spanish neighbours in the next tent very kindly made me Paella. After today's exhausting ride I am now looking forward to tomorrows relaxing ride to Malaga.

Posted by Tommy at 12:31 AM GMT
Sunday 9th May 2010

The 263 mile journey from remote Ossa De Montiel to Malaga was expected to be easy, little did I know there would be thunder storms the whole way, making the Spanish roads like ice skating rinks, often loosing the back end to diesel spills left by many tractors working the vine fields (my wifes wine supply). Peaking the final hill to sunny Malaga, I could see the sea and let out a loud 'Yessiii, Hola Malaga' and I grinned widely. With the tent pitched, I alarmingly noticed the signs dotted about which read 'Prohibido Banador' I decided to walk down to the naturist beach and was embarrassed to have to walk through the restaurant to access it. To my disappointment the beach was empty! 5 clothed jet ski riders approached, so i dived for cover in the Palm forest and got lost. 'Africa here I come!'

Posted by Tommy at 12:33 AM GMT
Monday 10th May 2010

After 193 miles, a ferry sailing, a stressful border crossing and a 5 Euro bribe, I arrived in North Africa. I camped in Chefchaouen in the RIF mountains of Morocco, 63 miles south of Ceuta. The smell from the marjuanna fields faintly drifted across the valleys. I will be riding down to Fez tomorrow and hope the weather improves. I have been rained on for the last 4 days since leaving France and doubt I will be attempting any off roading if it persists.

Posted by Tommy at 12:35 AM GMT
Tuesday 11th May 2010

I woke to prayers being called, echoing around the mountains. It was raining again. Why wasn't it light I asked myself, then realised I hadn't adjusted my clock, it was 0400 Moroccan. I continued to pack and put on my still wet riding kit. I then continued over and around the RIF mountains whilst avoiding the infamous white Mercedes packed with young men. Due to the dense cloud and lashing rain I was unable to see my speedometer. The roads rapidly deteriorated until there wasn't any. Knee high torrents had washed away the tarmac down the mountain sides. Wanting to or not, I was off roading. There were rivers flowing into villages. Luckily, I tagged on to a 4x4 globe trotter convoy but was soon left behind. After 100 miles I descended the RIF into dryer weather. On my descent I had to swerve to avoid an unofficial road block. I wasn't stopping for anyone, even officials. Eventually, I arrived in Fez and finally found a vacancy at Hotel Sofia. I asked the guard if he would like to clean my bike. When I later returned, the chef, maid, porter and guard all had sponges in hand and the bike was gleaming. After travelling only 163 miles today, I wonder if I have over estimated my ability to complete the planned 344 miles over the mid/high Atlas Mountains tomorrow. 'Please no more rain!!'

Posted by Tommy at 12:36 AM GMT
Wednesday 12th May 2010

Today, I escaped from Fez. I found yesterdays ride challenging. Exchanging cigarettes with the guard I nervously set off on the 256 mile journey through the mid/low Atlas mountains. I was now used to the rain and had adapted various clothes drying techniques ie when hitting a dry spell, riding with my arms and legs spread. It seem to work. With the cloud so dense I was unable to overtake the 5 mph laden trucks crawling up the mountain. Once over the mid, the weather cleared and to my pleasant surprise the Atlas roads were amazingly well constructed. They made the best riding yet with good twisties and long runs. En route to Erfoud, I left the Tarmac to go off road, crossing an Oued encountering some large boulders in deep fine sand, I then bottled it and rejoined the road. I easily located the campsite using given gps points from my camping guide book. The people in the South were much more friendlier than in the North. The dry desert 31'C heat was expected and I'm not expecting any more rain this far South, especially by the desert.. I'm looking forward to my first day off tomorrow after 2156 miles from Hampton to Erfoud using only A and D roads, avoiding all toll roads and motorways. On arrival I booked a 4x4 safari and camel ride into the Erg Chebbi dunes to drink tea with Nomads and sleep under the stars. During today's ride I constantly struck up conversation with myself and agree that 'Helmets can be dangerous places'

Posted by Tommy at 12:42 AM GMT
Thursday 13th May 2010

My day off by gave me a chance to relax a little before driving a 4x4 around Erg Chebbi desert and drink tea with the Nomads close to the Algerian border where we were constantly being watched suspiciously by the military from the surrounding hills. I then exchanged the wheels for legs and climbed aboard my designated camel 'Hamu' and headed deep into the dunes. It was dry and hot with no wind. En route we joined a caravan, riders being of Spanish, French and Dutch origin. Hamu struggled to keep up, reminding me of the globe trotter convoy incident earlier that day. After thousands of miles in the saddle, taking a camel ride isn't a good idea and had visible signs of seat rash. The caravan arrived at the bivouac in time for the sun setting behind the huge dunes which cast shadows over the camp. The wind then picked up creating mini tornadoes swirling up and over the dunes. The darker it became the brighter the many shooting stars could be seen. In the desert the temperature decreased dramatically, so we all found shelter in the communal tent where we ate a feast of chicken tagime, bread, melon then more tea. Except for the Dutch, they drank a smuggled bottle of snapps. I struggled with the different languages, although English was commonly spoken. I watched the resident cat amusingly as it chased the palm size, white. spiders around the camp. Camel spiders I have since been told.

Posted by Tommy at 12:44 AM GMT
Friday 14th May 2010

The next morning, I woke at 0515 in time for a spectacular sunrise emerging rapidly from the sand dunes. After saying our good byes to the cat, we set off on the return camel trek to Masouga in light wind and rain. In the desert? I ask. Reunited with my moto, I hit the road again to Quarzazate via the beautiful Todra Gorge. I again tested my off road skills on a 8km piste connecting Todra and Boumaine du Dades but was unsuccessful. The thought of being alone with no breakdown assistance able to attend the remote pistes, I was hesitant to continue and returned to the pot holed road. It was late and I had broke the fundamental rule not to ride at night. Vehicles continuously flash their headlights towards me, I then realised the extra luggage (his Wifes presents) on the back was tilting the bikes front headlight upwards, dazzling the on coming drivers. I decided to pull over, adjust the headlight and then luckily found a respectable road side hotel. It was the first day I had not reached my planned destination and will not be driving in the dark again. I blame yesterdays guide for my late departure 'Mohammed', he liked to sleep a lot and was adamant I visited his cousins carpet shop before I left. Tomorrow, I will make up the lost miles and destined for Marakesh via the Tizi-n-Tichka pass.

Posted by Tommy at 12:46 AM GMT
Saturday 15th May 2010

The roadside hotel in Boumaine du Dads treated me like a king, I loved it. The locals warned of a 7 hr ride to complete the 192 miles to Marakesh via the tiza n techza pass over the High Atlas mountains. It is a route I had planned well. Setting off I could see the snow peaked mountains ahead getting closer. Following the signs for Telouet, the road changed from tarmac to gravel. The now rocky road got steeper. I remembered before I left my Dad advising 'take no risks', it was too late. The pass was too narrow and steep to turn the heavily loaded bike around. There was no going back. The pass split into two, one reasonable path with a no entry, men at work sign and a steeper, rocky path. Unfortunately, I was directed up towards the latter. I remembered reading in a guide book 'if in doubt, keep the revs on and bounce your way up'. Thud! I was down. The front and back wheel of the bike stuck in two, almost perfectly made ruts filled with sand. Hmm, suspicious! The bike went crashing into the rocks, 'ouch'. The gradient of the pass and weight of the bike made it difficult to pick up. Adrenalin pumping and all alone (or so I thought) I began to remove my luggage from the bike. Three Locals conveniently appeared to help. The sand too deep to ride through, I had to walk the bike up in 1st gear to flatter ground and instructed the helpers to bring the luggage. Although suspicious, I tipped the helpers and was on my way with hurt pride and a broken looking bike, hopefully only cosmetic. The 30 km pass improved along with my off roading skills. I breathed a sigh of relief and and felt a sense of achievement, but was also thinking nearest BMW dealers, Casablanca. Soon after, I located a beautiful Riad in Marakesh and wished the wife was with me to share this experience. I found Marakech Madina to be a cultural and crazy place. I also think the splattered flies are good for the skin but not the eyes.

Posted by Tommy at 12:48 AM GMT
Sunday 16th May 2010

Last night, I got lost in Marakesh. I woke late, aching from yesterdays little tumble. The Riad Guardian did my laundry as it was red with dust from the Atlas paths. I gifted him a miniature cognac in return, given to me by my neighbour before I left Hampton 'sorry Carol'. For most of the day I relaxed by the Riad pond size pool whilst brushing off the creatures who also joined me. Being the only guest the guardian acted as a my own personal butler and followed me every where acting on every instruction. I took advantage of the kindly loaned Riad garage and serviced the bike using the few spares I had brought along. I most certainly feel more intimate with my bike. Tomorrow I will depart for Imousanne via the last planned pass, the Tizi n Techa.

Posted by Tommy at 08:41 AM GMT
Monday 17th May 2010

I successfully completed the now sealed Tizi n Techa pass. I would of liked to continue South through Western Sahara, Mauritania ect.. finally reaching South Africa, but I have my wedding to attend. Instead im homeward bound finally heading North. The 256 miles of mostly mountain roads from Marakesh to Imousanne were energy zapping. After hundreds of spectacular mountain and desert scenery, im happy to arrive by the sea and locate a quiet campsite in a little fishing village on the West coast of Morocco. The Atlantics huge, powerful waves makes it a suffers paradise, although I dont surf. The sea is busy. Tomorrow, I will take the coast road up to North of Casablanca.

Posted by Tommy at 08:43 AM GMT
Tuesday 18th May 2010

At 0430, I awake to the sound of crashing waves, then prayers being called. I had to think where I was. Today's route will take me up 315 miles of scenic coast roads from Imousanne to Mohammedia. Along the way I stopped off to wash the salt and dust from my still broken looking bike. I successfully dodged the donkeys, roaming cattle, oncoming trucks two a breadth, potholes and people trying to sell me hashees whilst travelling at 60 mph. I eventually arrive safely at Camp Said. It was the worst campsite yet. On arrival, I had to peal my helmet microphone away from my wind burnt, blistered lips. That evening I fall asleep in the seaside restaurant, dribbling.

Posted by Tommy at 08:45 AM GMT
Wednesday 19th May 2010

I had a restless sleep due to a room full of cockroaches the size of a thumb and the resident cats trying to break in. I left Mohammedia heading for Ceuta (a Spanish Port in Morocco) with the sea to my left and the sun rising behind the silhouette of palm trees to my right. What more could I ask for. The weather was hot with a strong wind, I compare it to a 50000 Watt hair dryer. Whilst riding through the pot holed, farming roads of North Morocco the soldiers in the leading military truck
requested a wheelie. Being the only trick able to perform, I knelt one knee on the saddle and rode one handed. Unsurprisingly, they laughed at my pathetic trick to which I sat back down and overtook them trying to hide my embarrassment. The Border control went smoothly with no bribes required. I couldn't wait to be back on European land, so decided to press on across the Gibraltar Straights and onto Cadis, Spain (269 miles). Once I arrive in Spain I find it strange to hear English being spoken in a spanish accent, even the different styles/colours of hair being very different to the same black curly hair I had become used to.

Posted by Tommy at 08:48 AM GMT
Thursday 20th May 2010

Different country, different language and yet another time adjustment. I can't keep up and think one world, one time, although agree with the romantic languages. The 319 miles from Santa Maria, Spain to Lagos, South coast of Portugal via Seville were long boring roads. I hired a 'Bengolia' for the night and headed into Lagos for dinner on my shiny clean bike. Tomorrow I will head further North into Portugal.

Posted by Tommy at 08:54 AM GMT
Friday 21st May 2010

I used the intense thermals to fly the 259 miles through the morning mist from Lagos to Santo Antonio Des Areias, Portugal. I then de toured to an old place of work, Alcochete near Lisbon. I used my nose to locate the distinct lacquer smelling factory pumping out fumes through out the countryside. Nothing much had changed. A new shopping centre and the odd newly constructed industrial unit. Arriving in Santo des Areias, I received a warm welcome from an English campsite owner, who then invited him for dinner with the local ex-pat community. Late afternoon, I climbed Marvao, a hill top castle and village at an altitude of 900 m. As usual,I got lost on my descent. An unusual late night.

Posted by Tommy at 08:56 AM GMT
Saturday 22nd May 2010

After a 281 mile journey of mountain roads, I'm unsure as to which sure country I'm in, but thinks Barga is in North West Portugal near the Spanish border. The winding roads made it unable to exceed 30 mph making it a long 10 hour ride on 'Nomad'. A halfway sleep by the roadside was required. The campsite is located high in the mountains in dense forest and im hoping to hear the wolves tonight. The locals speak a unique language, one I dont recognised. I think maybe it's the accent and compare it to the Portuguese equivalent of scouse. Tomorrow, Nomad and I have a 439 mile ride to Bilbao!

Posted by Tommy at 08:57 AM GMT
Sunday 23rd May 2010

I departed the undiscovered paradise in North West Portugal. One day I will return. I cheated for the first time today and after 50 miles of scenic mountain roads, pine forests and gushing waterfalls, then crossed the unmanned border into Spain. I then took the auto route for 300 miles. The road was good with no other vehicles so cruised with ease at 120, then took a short cut on the twisty roads and over the hills into Bilbao, Spain, 439 miles in total. I compare Bilbao with a deserted cowboy town with an over the top traffic system involving traffic lights every 50 meters. I'm now sat on the beach 10 mile North of Bilbao awaiting the sunset. Tomorrow I head off over the Pyrenees into France.

Posted by Tommy at 09:00 AM GMT
Monday 24th May 2010

Its taken me a while but I have realised the bugs don't wake till the sun is well up, so I hit the road early before they hit me. I compare an average size bug hitting you between the eyes at speed to being shot by a pellet gun and it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. I have suffered several purple eyelids on my travels. I have worked out the yellow splats - bees and wasps, red splats - mosquitos, black splats - hungry mosquitoes and the purple eye lids - the bird size black flying beetle that dont splat but rebound. Unfortunately the birds that have played chicken with my helmet for the last 4800 miles finally got it. RIP blackbird. The 196 mile ride of mostly coastal roads from Bilbao, Spain to Biscarrsonne, France were again scenic although not so mountainous as one would imagine for the Pyrenees. Im glad I don't have to navigate any more mountains on this expedition. I don't feel so alone now now I'm in Spain and happy to see and listen to English people again but find it amusing to hear 'alreet luv' being spoke to a non English speaking Spanish waitress by a customer. Tomorrow, I head for Dinan France in preparation to catch my Caen - Portsmouth ferry.

Posted by Tommy at 09:03 AM GMT
Tuesday 25th May 2010

Before departing 'la Rive', Biscarrsone, I left my bucket and spade with my French camping neighbours who helped me lose at bingo last night. I won't be needing them where im going tomorrow. After 150 miles of long straight roads, I had to catch a short ferry to Royan, near La Rochelle. 195 mile later arriving in Dinon, France, I decided to press on to Caen in preparation for tomorrows sailing. 456 miles completed and 12 hours on a bike seat, his record to date. I had a disappointing, expensive meal in Caen. For the first time on this trip I cautiously chain up my bike on the pavement. Im sad knowing this adventure is coming to an end, although looking forward to be reunited with my wife to be in a few days time.

Posted by Tommy at 09:06 AM GMT
Wednesday 26th May 2010

After approximately 5500 miles, 3 weeks, 8 border crossings, 5 Ferry's, 2 Bike dumps, 2 broken indicators, 3 severely dented panniers, 2 scratched/dented cylinder head cases, 2 bent wing mirrors, millions of splattered bugs, 1 dead bird, 100's of mountain, coastal and desert roads, unaccountable beautiful scenic views , wind blistered lips, helmet rubbed scabby ears, only 4 mosquito bites, 2 bug bruised purple eye lids, 1 aching back, 2 aching knees and a huge phone bill!, Im home sweet home.

Posted by Tommy at 09:10 AM GMT
Highlights

As suggested in my web page heading, there will never be a conclusion to these adventures and although, sometimes challenging here are some highlights which added to my Morocco trip:

The French roads.
Twisty mountain roads.
Crossing the Pyrenees.
The 9 days of rain.
Camping and camel trek in the Erg Chebbi desert.
The cleverness of the Moroccans well established with tourism.
Riding through the Todra Gorge.
Achieving and navigating off road piste's.
Never felt threatened anywhere, in fact I feel more at risk in London.
Marakesh Madina's culture.
Getting lost Marakesh.
And everything else that goes with biking.
The cost of fuel.
The hospitality of the locals, especially Portugal.
The disappointing and expensive Caen food.
The different culture, food and languages.
The undiscovered paradise in NW Portugal's national forest park.

But most of all, how achievable this is for anyone and any bike.

I hasten to add that two weeks after I returned from this amazing adventure, I wrote my bike off on the M25!


Posted by Tommy at 09:20 AM GMT
 



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