Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Change of plan

Our original idea was to ride south on the N12 towards warmth, sunshine and beach. We threw that plan into trash since Hertta was not doing well at all. She had started to be more restless than usual and was also trembling badly. One of her eyes was red and even worse, the tumors in her mammals had grown a lot! To us they looked like she could explode from there any moment. Instead of going south, we decided to go via Taliouine to Agadir.
The ride to Taliouine via the N10 was mostly unspectacular except for a few curvy pieces like this one :)
Little Ulpu in the big desert.
Truck with moderate load.
Life in the desert.
We arrived quite early to Taliouine and our room was surprisingly warm as the window was towards south-west (what a relief) :) Our dinner in the tent restaurant of the hotel was the usual vegetarian couscous and tajine. It was good, inexpensive and filled our stomachs.

During our walk with girls, we experienced again that a local - this time a female teenager - wanted to have one of our girls. With a smile on our face we said no and pointed instead towards the lonely and help-seeking puppy, which followed us for the last hundred meters. All that little fellow wanted was some food, love and of course a decent home. The girl showed no interest in the stray-puppy and continued to buzz around us for a while waiting to get one of our girls. She became really annoying - a little misbehaving brat. It took a while before she let go and went on with her school friends. We were still some moments later upset or better said shocked about this attitude.
Heart-breaking stray-puppy - even Hertta liked him.

The ride towards Agadir put us through some nasty strong winds with plenty of sand. It got a little crunchy between the teeth. From a riding point of view, the streets were really boring. Luckily the temperature rose to 28 C - something positive :)

We decided to do first some food shopping and then check the hotel which was a bit north of Agadir. The shopping center (Marjane) seemed to be the last one before heading south or west and thus it was a meeting point for all the foreigners traveling through there. Plenty(!) of campers and also some bikers (next day we met a group of three guys from Belgium - hello to you).

We found several vets in Agadir - that was a promising start. We simply assumed that at least one of them could speak a few words of English or German. Besides that, we still did not have our International Driving Permits and Wolfi's rear shock was about ready to be shipped. So, once more plenty of things to organize.

Our track in Morocco up to now.

Our travelogue from this leg

Click here if you have trouble to watch the video.

~ Wolfi

Monday, January 20, 2014

Midelt - Ouarzazate & Travelogue #4

The riding experience from the previous leg did leave some scars and we decided to take it a little easier for a while. Now more experiments via the mountain roads and so we went via the N13 and N10 to Tinghir. The roads were easy going and since we had plenty of time, we stopped on a few occasions making this riding day a piece of cake. We enjoyed the taste of the desert as well as the mountains. Some views were quite spectacular.
Sahara starts about here
Once we arrived at the hotel, some helper already expected us at the street. The hotel itself was about 50 m (height meters) below the street level down the hill. We took only what we really needed for one night and then moved our bikes to a garage nearby. At least the bikes were safely locked away. Our room was dungeon-like, small with no window and no heating. We asked for a heater and soon after we got one, there was no electricity. Great! We kept on freezing and after some hours electricity came back. Definitely a summer place, nothing for winter!
Breakfast served on the roof terrace with excellent Berber-style coffee.
Next day we rode along the N10 towards Ouarzazate - the movie city of Morocco. The day got pretty warm especially when one was in the sun. Girls sought for water and we had a nice play once in a while. The landscape changed more and more towards desert-like. Also the people appeared to be more and more dark-colored skin compared to the typical Moroccan from the north.
Free public parking :D
The same spot in a different angle. Since I could not decide which to put here, I put them both ;)
We arrived at our hotel, got into the room and instantly changed our 3-night stay to a 2-night one. Once more, we needed to ask for a heater and this time the electricity went off for good for this day and we were freezing whole night. Besides that trouble, the food was excellent and we enjoyed once more some Moroccan cuisine for dinner as well as at the breakfast. At the second night the heater (and entire electricity) was only off once in a while and we could get some sleep. The place had also some Berber tents which looked inviting. Most likely ok if you have a winter sleeping bag or it is summer :) We were happy to leave the next day. On the way out Wolfi found this "palm tree".
Down sides of mobile communication were also visible in Ouarzazate. A known problem (where to put the antennas) solved the Moroccan way :)
Three sectors and a micro-wave connection - all a Base Station needs :D
Life with an amateur photographer is tough ;)

And here our travelogue #4

Click here if you have trouble to watch the video.

~ Ilta & Wolfi

Friday, January 17, 2014

Temara - Midelt and our first defeat ... & travelogue #3

We left Temara behind us and headed towards the Atlas mountains. Our first leg would lead us to Mrirt, first via bigger and later via smaller roads - potentially unpaved. In the end all roads were paved and in good condition. This meant we had some extra time to stop and play with girls. This had been proven a good method, because typically around the hotel there was no room to play safely (Temara was a real exception here!).

Infrastructure is already ready for the next years. Most likely all broken once it would be needed.
One of the many horse carriages.

Break in the middle of nowhere and playtime...

Another break
Skippy's bike got a special parking place.
Then came the day when we pushed our limits and experienced the first defeat. We wanted to ride from Mrirt to Midelt and we did not want to take the paved roads all the way, instead a little adventure was on the menu. There were many options and we decided to go over the mountains by using mostly white streets. We left Mrirt towards east and instead of riding the longer loop via Sources de l'Oum-er-Rbia we decided to take a smaller road marked as "can be only driven in dry season" in our Michelin map. Sounded good to us.
Beautiful landscape
Action picture of Skippy
The street deteriorated more and more and in the end we rode steep uphill (20+%) with fist-sized stones. That was not nice. My rear tyre did not find grip and was spinning heavily, resulting that the back of the bike was going left and right. It did not take long when we had a sharp curve which had some deeper wash-outs and Skippy fell. I stopped and the hill was so steep that the gear-box alone could not keep the bike. I needed to put the "hand-brake" on and went to see what had happened. It was not so bad, Skippy was still walking without major injuries and the bike seemed ok too. Well, I took "care" of that. I turned the bike and went a bit downhill to park it out of the way at a shady place, also to give space in case some donkey carriage comes along. Some few meters later I dodged the bike on the other side with the result that the camera got a hit and the blinker was loose. Great. We pulled it up again and I managed the remaining few meters.

We walked up the hill and got my bike. No way I would have been able to leave uphill to make a U-turn somewhere without ruining my clutch. So we let the bike roll backwards downhill until to the point where Skippy fell. As the street was a little wider there, I could turn my bike. We were both totally sweaty and - of course - girls were whining. By then three locals came to us where we parked. The owner of the farm made the smart comment that he had no problems to climb up the hill by his horse. Hahaha - for some reason I could not laugh with him then. The same guy offered also his "help" to ride the bike down. We kindly declined.

Since Skippy was still shaky, I rode her bike down the hill back to the "normal" gravel road and she rode the sidecar. No more of those little roads for us - at least for now and especially when we have other options. I needed to remind myself that with our equipment we cannot go where light off-road bikes or other explorers with their offroad-trucks can go. A scene from the LongWayRound series came to my memory: where Claudio the camera man got a local bike, since his Beemer fell apart, and he could ride like in heaven, whereas Evan and Charlie sweated steering their big fat ladies.
20+% uphill with some curves paved with concrete, unfortunately not all.
We enjoyed a beautiful sight on this forced break. Down on the left you see the street we came up from.
And this is the street we wanted to go up.
This early "break" cost us over one hour and finally we continued the "nice" road with asphalt. The OpenSourceMaps were quite ok. Occasionally my Garmin wanted me to take strange looking streets and I asked once in a while locals if we were heading the way we wanted to go. Then the street got worse again. First the asphalt layer was broken more and more, as well as more and deeper potholes to watch for. One still needs to remember that there was anyway only asphalt in the middle of the street and left and right was gravel to handle two-way traffic.
More beautiful landscape passing by.
First snow for this day.
Then there came a welcome surprise. Thanks to some EU money (so the sign looked to us), there was now a really great surface and we got some easy mileage done. As the funding stopped at some point so did the great road and it was back to bad, then worse and then came even worse gravel with plenty of potholes, wash-outs and such nasty stuff. Our average speed dropped to 20km/h. We got compensated for absolute stunning, magnificent, clean(!!!) and solitude landscape. OMG - this was so beautiful that I stopped regularly to inhale the scenes. Then we got some snow and ice on the street :D Just enough to scare us a little ;)
Inviting place for wild camping.
Atlas mountains with the tops covered in snow.
Wild monkeys.
Suddenly I saw something moving fast about 50 meters away and I thought first it was another stray-dog with a tiny tale and beaten face. On a second look I realized those were monkeys! First time ever I saw monkeys in their natural environment. That was a cheer-up :) We continued our slow-motion ride through the mountains with regular breaks for us and girls.

We nurtured our souls with some more of the beautiful landscapes and the mountains with their tops in snow. Skippy had some spooky moments riding through some bigger mud-holes. Maybe the fear of falling into the mud and me taking a picture first before helping her got her concentrated enough and she made it. Good girl :)
Atlas mountains.
The bad street continued, we had been riding far over 5 hours already (this was pure riding time) in 100% concentration and still some 15 km of lousy street to come and only heaven knew what was after that before we would hit the N13. The sun set, we were both exhausted and driving became a real challenge. The road split and the other street looked much better then our planned way (yeah yeah - sometimes the grass is greener on the other side). I asked a local where this other street leads to and I figured out that both roads would lead us to the N13 in about the same distance. We made a U-turn and took the other way. That was good for us and the street turned out to be in really good condition and our speed went up significantly. It was dark when we entered the N13. Some 35 km and we would be at the hotel. We took a deep breath, mobilized our last energy when all the sudden my gas did not work properly anymore. I even got the suspicion that the bike is running only on one cylinder. About 8 km before we were at the hotel my bike stalled and I drove aside. I was really lucky that there were space on the side. Just a few hundred meters earlier was the (side-) barrier and traffic was moving fast here. So I pulled over and Skippy's look was: "What is now? Why the heck do you stop again?". I looked at the gas wires to realize that both were working fine. I tried to start the bike again and it went all fine.

Finally we made it to the hotel all frozen, exhausted and hungry. This hotel was the only one which we found in internet that allowed dogs. It was a bit on the upside for Morocco, but it was worth every cent of it. The room was so spacious that you could play hide and seek. Skippy got an own queen-size bed whereas I got the king-size ;) and the room was warm (with central heating)! Skippy jumped into the hot shower to melt and gain mental strength. I did the same and we took care of our little girls. Obviously it was also a hard day for them being in the sidecar and gotten all shaken up really badly for so many hours. They fell asleep quickly on their own couch. We hit the restaurant and tested the soup as well as the veggie couscous and tajine.

Dirty boots in a fine hotel
Luxury room
Again special parking lot for Skippy's bike.

Extraordinary amount of broken glass besides the usual plastic trash besides the hotel!
Atlas mountains in the morning.
Our hotel with many 4WDs in front.
And here is our travelogue for this part... buckle up:

Click here if you have trouble to watch the video.

~ Ilta & Wolfi

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chefchaouen to Temara + Travelogue #2

We left Chefchaouen on a sunny though chilly day. We rode the N13 south. The road was curvy and scenic and it had a good asphalt surface. After about an hour I thought it was time for a break and I found a little bit of green in a tiny village. I pulled over in the hope that we could play a bit with girls. Well, good idea. Unfortunately we became the attraction of a bunch of kids and no way we can let our girls free. We learned that lesson - no stops in places of civilization if you want to have a moment of peace. We did more stops along the road and typically in the middle of nowhere - much better!

Bunch of kids surrounding us
After Ouazzane, the N13 became more bumpy and offered several potholes. Even though the landscape became more dull, we needed to pay a lot more attention to the street besides the usual looking out for jumping kids and other crazy drivers: passing others when there is an uphill (so you can not really see whether somebody comes from the other direction) as well as passing in curves with low or no visibility are the usual. Skippy had again a hard time staying alive (what Skippy calls the alien...) and additionally some headache. Not a good combination for riding.

We made it to Meknes where we stayed for a few nights. The city did not offer anything special. We walked once towards the medina. We saw many stray dogs and cats living in enormous piles of trash. Kids jumping in front of us and dancing around us begging for money and wanting our girls. The majority of the time we explored the neighborhood around the hotel. It was rather quiet there and typically all windows of the buildings were fenced, the entire yards were fenced, often with security systems and guards watching. We put our bikes to private parking which costed 50% of the room charge. That was an outrage but better pay some money than missing half of your stuff from the bike.

Meknes - Bab Mansour Gate
One of the many stray dogs trying to survive in a landscape of trash.
Neighborhood of the hotel - suburban of Meknes
View from our "prison room" towards the street.
Heavily fenced and guarded houses.

Delicious looking orange trees - according to locals they are not for consumption as they are too bitter.
We left Meknes and got again lucky with the weather. It was best riding weather - not too hot neither too cold. Next stop was Temara near Rabat. We needed to do some official business in Rabat and also wanted to spend the New Year by the Atlantic Ocean, so we stayed there for four nights. We got a room with direct access to the beach and the room had central heating! What a delight. The huge door towards the beach could only be locked from the inside, so we could not really leave our room for a hike that way - bummer.
Unbelievable amount of trash at the shore became a turn-off.
Skippy taking movie clips of the waves.
Hertta loves bananas, apples, pears ... - a real fruit lover :D
The big hole in the door frame suggested that others had either similar problems (to re-enter the room) or burglars had prepared their entrance to the room. Who knows? The second night (and New Years eve) we watched Bruce Campbell's horror movie Evil Dead II and in the middle of the movie, somebody (potentially a security guard) closed the outer door with a huge squeaking noise. Now that was spooky! We did not really care as we were under the warm blanket :D and trusted that our guardian dogs will take care of any intruder...
Emergency opening in case you lock yourself out ;)
Beautiful flower in the garden of the hotel.
 A huge cricket (10+cm long) in the garden of the hotel.
In the first days, we did not feel like cooking ourselves and we found just besides the hotel the Soho Shushi restaurant. They offered a few meals which could be veganized and it took only two tries to get a vegan dish. It was really delicious and so we went there again the next day :) tasting some other things as well. It was - typical - freezing cold in the restaurant, so you need to sit there with your outside clothes on.
Soho Sushi in Temara
Our New Years goodies: vegan sushi :)
Vanilla tea in sweet little pots.
The days were mostly sunny and warm. Some days were more windy, sometimes less and we even had a real stormy day. We could not get enough from watching the waves breaking on the cliffs and the shore. What a spectacle! When the sun set, the outdoor-heater was off and it became cold instantly - a huge difference ... so back to our room and under the blanket :)

Besides all the environmental issues and animal rights issues, which we saw here, human rights need improvement as well. See here:

And here is our travelogue #2.

Try this link if you have trouble to see the video.

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Our Track (it also shows from Tangier to Chefchaouen)
~ Wolfi