Three Col (passes) to Italy

From Gorge du Verdon the choice is to head to the French Mediterranean or into the Alps.

I chose the Alps a big U turn into the Alps before crossing to Italy and on to Tuscany.

Before there big passes including the biggest in Europe I couldn’t resist this little one. Every Michael should visit it!

This little Colle sits above the Vale du Verdon

I had followed the Verdon River north toward its source and found a beautiful valley and and the La Colle St Michel.

It’s a remote farming area in France and negotiating the mobs of sheep took me back home to Australia

Then I was up.in the Alps at the Col d Allos

The source of two major rivers in Provence.

And the view!

The next Col though was La Bonette the highest pass is Europe.

Enjoy the view

The weather was looking threatening so it’s was a quick ride with a short stop to take inthe view from the Col de Lombardy, which sits on the France/Italian Border.

I found a little camping in the tiny village of Forani. They had a caravan for hire.

It rained all night, I was snug in a caravan and woke in Italy to amazing views.

Fez – Morocco’s oldest city.

The long ferry ride from Santander in Spain and Portsmouth in England is a good place to catch up on the Moroccan blog.

Fez was my major city experience in Morocco. I couldn’t neglect Morocco’s oldest city, home to the world’s oldest University in the labyrinthine Medina.

Fez is a big bustling city and here I encountered the motorised tout. The motorised rides along besides you on a nippy scooter talking away about where you from, how long have you been in Morocco etc etc. Meanwhile I’m trying to navigate the Moroccan traffic and follow the directions instructions from the GPS. Just as your totally bamboozled the the key question comes. ‘Which hotel are you staying at?’ I divulge the name and next thing the full loaded Mighty Breva following a little scooter nipping through the streets of Fez.

At the hotel, next morning at the cafe across our registered guide will be waiting to lead a private tour of the old city.

He was a great guide and navigating the old Medina without a guide would really be a challenge in navigation and interpretation.

The leather dying vats are an iconic part of the old city.

As is the camel butcher.

The copper smiths

The fabric sellers

And the winding alleyways and heavy doors that the porte to Mosques, Synagogues, residences of the rich and poor

Of course one of those doors leads to the oldest university in the world.

From the high points of the city you can gain a view of the Medina by day

And by night

Inside the Medina the roof of the carpet seller gives a good view across the roof tops.

Did I say carpet seller??? Whoops I bought another rug!!

Fez was the Moroccan city I really wanted to visit and if didn’t disappoint. Maybe a different city next time.

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.

Tetuan to Chefchouan along the Mediterranean coast and in the Riff Mountains

Tetuan is just inland from the Mediterranean coast and invites the rider to take the long ride route Chefchouan along the coast any over the Riff Mountains.

In the centre of Tetuan is the Royal Palace on the edge of the old Medina. The Palace was a centre of authority the then Morocco Spanish protectorate.

There is a door into the old Medina on each side of the Palace and one of those doors led to a riad and a room for the night.

GPS is great but some times it’s not totally accurate and does not have any social sensitivity function.

This is where a saviour tout comes into there own. This is a local tout who you have ignored as one rides blithely on toward the pedestrian area. Who chases you up the pedestrian mall. And when you finally stop wondering why the military guys up ahead are looking quite quizzically at you.

The saviour tout appears in front of the bike and says ‘you can’t be here. That is the Kings Palace. You will be fined if you go further. Please follow me’

It’s only with the bike safely parked in secure parking and sipping tea in the comfortable Riad that one realises that all touts aren’t bad and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

I have to admit my love for the services of touts was soon tempered in the Medina where every little twist and turn revealed a new tout trying to guide, sell, or befriend the unwary tourist.

By Chefchouan it had dawned on me that while whipping through the narrow streets of old towns on a scooter was a very different thing to navigating them on a fully loaded Moto Guzzi Breva 1100.

Ah the simplicity of a parking bay in a modern hotel!

Chefchouan is a relatively small city in the high lands of the Riff Mountains. It’s known as the blue city as this is the predominant colour in the Medina.

Chefchouan was far more relaxed the either Tanger or Tetuan. I guess a change of pace that is a difference between city and rural life in all parts of the world.

Also the desire to get to the desert in the south east meant it was just overnight stops along the way so maybe not doing these cities justice.

Travel is always full of compromise.