Travel Through Western Sahara and Morocco on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Morocco on a Harley (28/3/01 - 12/4/01)
Distance 986 km (228160 km to 229146 km)

This is part of the Seventh section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Mauritania or read our previous visit to Morocco
 

28/3/01 Arrived at the Moroccan (Western Saharan) border at 5 pm after a long day. Asphalt road from here to Spain, friendly helpful officials. Everyone passing north or south has to remain here for a night. The border closes at 6 pm, passports are collected and sent to Dakhla for approval. The north bound convoy then heads out the next day after 2 pm after they get Dakhla's approval. There is no drinking or cooking water or food available, only salty water drawn from a well. While a concrete bunker as protection from sand and wind is provided we chose to flap in the tent in the wind, tired enough to sleep anywhere.

29/3/01 With the wind abating we endeavoured to empty sand from our things, check the motorcycle for damage and relax and wait till 2 pm or later. Finally leaving at 3 pm with the wind increasing all the way. Headwind when slightly inland and crosswind near the ocean. For over 300 km the road shimmered with the moving sand and most of the time it rose as high as our faces getting into our eyes and everything else. The windshield was now etched in Saharan sand and the stickers were losing their definition as paint layers peeled. It did however remove the last of the Congo mud or any signs of oil leaks. 360 km to Dakhla with all the hotels full at 10 pm and two checkpoints along the way. We had to retrace our steps to an expensive campground on the edge of town and wait till morning to collect our passports. This ridiculous system of collecting everyone's passports at the border, forcing people to go to the police station in Dakhla the next day (for an entry stamps) 80 km return out of their way off the highway, then to search around town for customs clearance instead of having both customs and immigration at the border like every other border crossing.

30/3/01 Three hours between customs, police, bank and shopping, finally leaving town at 12 noon to travel just 35 km before the temporary belt snapped leaving us stranded roadside. We were not as unfortunate however as the young Cote d'Ivoireian man who had hitched a ride in the van from Nouadhibou. Apparently he was travelling on a forged French passport, discovered on his arrival here. He was detained by the police his fate unknown to us or the people in the van. It seems Africa is throwing everything at us in a last ditched attempt to keep us on the continent. The faster we try to leave the longer it is taking and now we will have to hold up for at least a week to have a new belt flown in. Dakhla, while a modern town, is not a preferred layover in the middle of nowhere. Never ceasing to amaze me are the rapid changes from highs to lows back to highs in mood swings due to rapidly changing circumstances when we travel. I walked to the nearest petrol station, just in sight, hoping to arrange a lift while Kay waited by the motorcycle in the scorching sun. The first vehicle into the station was driven by a man heading to Agadir 1200 km north, to more civilized Morocco, better facilities and he was driving an empty pick up with three men in the front seat. For only $US 100.00 we and the motorcycle were loaded in the back in minutes and on our way to Agadir rather than back to Dakhla. Then the slow dawning of 19 hours cramped in the back of a pickup with the motorcycle, trying to keep out of the cold wind on a hard metal floor, wrapped in a flapping sleeping bag with no sleep.

31/3/01 Having been to Agadir three years previously we went straight to the same hotel, arriving at 9 am, unpacked, internet to try and order a new belt from Freddie our friend in New York and the rest of the day sleeping off yesterday and our low mood.

1/4/01 When we arrived in Morocco the first time three years ago from Spain we found it to be quite dirty, disorganized and almost what we then thought third world. But this time arriving from black West Africa it looks as modern as any western society. Things work, like internet, hot showers and electricity. The streets seem clean and the roads paved with curb and gutters and footpaths.

2/4/01 News that a belt has been DHL'd to us and should arrive at our hotel Friday, four more days, promises, promises. There have been growing problems at our web page, photos not loading and the guest book not working. The day spent at a cheap, quick internet fixing the problems.

3/4/01 Another day fixing the web page but in the afternoon a pleasant surprise, the new belt had arrived. This was the first time in all our travels that we have had to wait, the bike immobile, for parts and in just three days and they are here from America (thanks to Freddie), quite amazing. The arm and a leg we had to pay DHL plus the import duties into Morocco quite frightening even having written down the value of the belt on the declaration forms.The hotel owner allowed us to change the belt, flown in from America, in his hotel lobby

4/4/01 The courtyard of our hotel turned into a workshop and for the next six hours (trying to remove the swing arm bolt which decided to be rusted to the bushes) fitted the new belt, the fourth one that we have replaced and the fifth one that has broken on the bike. A definite weak point in taking a H-D into rough country. It has been our only real regular repair job. The problem is in deep sand or mud the low wide belt acts as a scoop taking up and filling the rear sprocket with debris, overstretching and causing the belt to slip. This in itself isn't a real problem but if sharp stones are also collected or wedged, and, under the extra strain the belt will be cut and broken. The bike is a cruising bike and neither it nor the belt are designed for a lot of the roads (off roads) we travel on, so it's either convert to chain drive, messy with regular maintenance or change belts regularly or keep to the asphalt. I guess we'll change more belts before the trip is over.

5/4/01 In the last six months the bike has been ridden, shipped twice, in the back of a pickup, trained and now about to be flown. We checked out prices for us and the motorcycle to New York from Casablanca and weighed that up against flights from Seville, Spain. With prices about the same, Easter holidays looming and having already ridden the Casablanca to Spain route we opted to leave from Casablanca. $US 450.00 each for us and $US 900.00 for the motorcycle, plus , plus.

6/4/01 500 km to Casablanca airport and a more accurate quote for the motorcycle, the plus, plus and crating taking it to about $US 1100.00. It's booked for Tuesday, but probably won't leave till Thursday, the day we fly out, hopefully on the same aeroplane. Our tickets were booked over the internet and paid for and collected at the airport. Out of Africa, Morocco seems too modern to be part of the Africa we are leaving behind.

7/4/01 Spring cleaning the dirt and sand from our clothes and luggage. Sorting out the African worn out things and buying replacements more suited to the States. Changing our mental attitude to that of the west. Enjoying the last of cheaper coffee shops and restaurants. Mentally worrying about the higher costs of travelling in the States. Looking forward to the west and missing the loss of the east.

8/4/01 Where does resting stop and laziness begin? not yet. Same like yesterday. Travelling is not all enjoyment, excitement and hardship. Those are just snippets in the diary. Travelling is organizing, washing clothes, finding hotels, finding food, getting lost, being the new boy in town constantly, but interspersed with memories.

9/4/01 We like transitional countries. Those that have some western facilities but lack western restrictions and rules. We had arranged a man and price to crate the motorcycle at the cargo section of the airport. At the loading platform and storage area they proceeded to break down old pallets for timber, straightening the nails for reuse while we removed the windscreen, front wheel, front guard, deflated the rear tyre, removed the top box rack and Kay's armchair, disconnected the battery and emptied the fuel tank. A crate was then very roughly constructed around the compacted motorcycle cubing out to 2.5 metres, with a total weight of 418 kg. Airlines work on a formula of 167 kg per cubic metre charging the greater of either weight or volume. It is amazing how one or two centimetres extra all round cubes out to large extra dollars. We had them build the frame inside the most protruding sections to avoid this. We had long ago learnt that a price agreed here requires renegotiation on completion of the job to have both sides happy. It seems the original negotiation was just a starting point and any difficulties encountered can be added to the price. A 10% increase usually works and we now, through experience, usually factor it into the original negotiations, probably like they do expecting 10% more on completion. Therefore if it isn't forthcoming they could be quite disappointed. No agent was required with Air Maroc doing all the paperwork, and the bike was gone, leaving us still in Africa.

10-11/4/01 Just packing and waiting, enjoying the fresh sea foods and knowing that the bike has landed in New York, via an email from Freddie.
 

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