Riding through the Algave Region of Portugal

The Rio Guadiana forms the southern border between Spain and Portugal. These days there is a major bridge at the southern end of the river linking the two countries but for centuries travel by boat crossing the river between villages such as Alcoutim in Portugal and SanlĂșcar de Guadiana in Spain.

My friend Stephane has a house near the Rio Guadiana and has been a wonderful guide of the area. An area favoured by motocyclists and walkers alike.

For many years both Portugal and Spain were Authoritarian Countries with Dictators. Salazar in Portugal and Franco in Spain. In such an environment border smuggling flourished.

The movement of contraband across the border is celebrated along the Guadiana.

The beaches near Cacela Velha are wide, and sandy with clean cool water.

In land the rolling hills provide spectacular views. The cork trees covering them harvester every 8 years. Cork is truly a renewable resource. No tree is felled or damaged in its production. The oldest known cork tree is over 230 years old and still produces.

The small towns and villages along the coast and in the hills offer great sightseeing and wonderful little restaurants serving a variety of local Portuguese cuisine. Be adventurous cause there is more to Portuguese food than cataplana.

The Atlantic Coast of Morocco

Mirleft is a lovely village on the Atlantic Coast between the cities of Agadir and Sidi Infi. While it is a small village now there is a lot of building development happening and in a short time hotels and resorts will dominate the beaches.

To get to Mirleft I chose a route through the Anti Atlas to Tiznit from Imlil in the High Atlas. This route was over small back roads and villages and avoided the business and hub bub of Marrakech. The type of thing I like. It’s an easy day ride this way from the High Atlas to the coast.

Between Mirleft and Legzira and its famous arches if you keep your eye out you might just find a rough dirt track leading down to the a deserted beach where you can find a deserted piece of the African Atlantic Coast.

The coast like between Mirleft and Sidi Infi is dramatic and beautiful, especially the rock arches around Legzira. Some of which you can only see from.the clifftop edge.

As I said Mirleft is changing quickly. The centre of the old town it’s own charm with the main street a line of blue painted arches.

One of those blue arched building houses a licenced premise. A different type of oasis in Morocco!

Well friends and followers there are more tales of Morocco to come over the last couple of weeks I’ve been in Spain and now Portugal. So time to change focus and enjoy the moment.

Riding a motorcycle in the Atlas Mountains

While the High Atlas Mountains with some passes over 3000 metres on some of the back roads that catch the headlines there is a lot more to the Atlas Mountains. The Middle Atlas to the north and the Anti Atlas to the south also offer some amazing riding.

Along the Atlantic Coast just north of Agadir the roads ride there wind up into the middle Atlas through Paradise Valley to the Cascades at Imouzzer des Ita Outanane.

Unfortunately because of the drought the Cascade was dry but the ride is worth the trip in itself. As is the beautiful Cascades Hotel

While most of the roads are bitumanised and pretty well maintained some of the dirt roads were more challenging on a big road bike.

But the views are worth it.

Into the High Atlass

The climb into the High Atlas Mountains offers a astonishing contrast to its neighbour the desert.

Its hard to believe that 3 days ride from Chegaga, the biggest sand sea in Morocco, you are in the mountains headed by Jeb Toubkal, at approximately 4,200 metres the highest mountain in North Africa.

From the desert there a few roads up to to the High Atlas, most of which take the traveller to Marrakech. But going via the Tiz n Test. The madness of the big city can be avoided.

Ok. So went to Morocco but not Marrakech!

Imlil is the main village in the High Atlass but others like Ouraganie on the TiznTest and Azmizmiz in the Anti Atlas a quite local Berber Villages with good accomodation.

The High Atlas and its Berber Culture is and amazing riding, travelling and cultural experience.

You may catch some high altitude soccer training.

Or buy a Berber rug

The motorcycle riding in the Atlas, high, mid and anti is something special. A topic for the next blog.

The run south to the Moroccan desert

Heading south east from Chefchouan through the middle Atlas there was warning of the hot dry run ahead.

Morocco has been in a drought for the last three years and the signs were there to tell getting drier every kilometre travelled south.

The mighty rivers were streams, streams were dry and in the dust of dry oasis the date palms struggled for survival.

Heading through the towns of Zaida, a bustling highway town, and Midelt, with its big apple, the trucks full of hay and the produce in the roadside stalls added colour to the scene but the air was dry and dusty.

But I guess it was coming down the Ziz Gorge and seeing the Ziz river just flowing bought home to me the extent of the drought.

Droughts are something we are used to in Australia.

Along the Ziz the date palm plantations still looked green

By Rissani 600 km further south and Zegora, futher on, the green had faded.

But this far south it’s the edge of the desert and that has its own charms.

And the hotels which are largely good and well priced offer there own little oasis.

M’hamad is the end of the road leading to the desert. The wonderful sand sea of Chegaga (see a couple of blogs back.)

The M’hamad oasis was bone dry scorched by the sun even as it set.

With Adventurers setting out into the desert in search of their dream in this nomadic life.