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.

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.

Morocco, back to the beginning and arriving from Spain.

It’s a quick ferry ride from Tarifa to Tanger and a long trek through customs into Morocco.

Many stories proceed a trip to Morocco- tourist touts, poor roads, mad drivers mint tea and the physical beauty of the country.

Tanger being the sea gateway to Morocco one both arrives and departs from Tager. So maybe coming in and out of Tanger is a good time to compare my cautious and naive thoughts on entering Morocco and the utter thankfulness that I had had a month travelling in Morocco ( I could have spent 3).

So after some sickingly sweet mint tea, some haggling with money changers and a very greasy omelette it was into the seemingly crazy traffic and on the road to Tetuan.

Coming up the the Atlantic Coast back to Tanger and the Ferry back to Spain. Asilah is one of the first towns in Tanger province with a small Medinain the old Portuguese fort right on the ocean.

Rubbish on the Moroccan Beaches and in the country side is a sad scare on the landscape and if you read the guides Asilah is about the worst. But Tanger province has made a big effort to clean up its beaches and as you can see in the photos

Cape Spatel is the most north western point of the African continent. The lighthouse is called the Hercules Lighthouse. The Greek legend is that here and across the Strait in Gibralter is where Hercules tore the African and European continents apart and let the Atlantic ocean flood in to form the Mediterranean Sea.

A little south of Cape Spatel is the Grote de Hercules where legend has it the strong man slept while undertaking the slightly daunting task of ripping two continents apart.

While I had been warned about Moroccan drivers I found it the safest place to ride but you need to understand the codes.

Let me share an anecdote.

I use a GPS it’s my guide but it’s not infallible. Coming into Tanger the GPS went to send me down a road the was blocked by roadworks.

As I was readjusting a scooter zipped past slowed down and gave me the slow down and follow me sign. A little way along the rider pointed to the road on the left. Gave a wave and zipped off. The road led straight to the port.

I’m sorry I didn’t see more of Tanger. Maybe next trip!!!!

Riding the ships of the desert in the biggest sand sea in Morocco – Erg Chegaga

M’hamid el Ghizlane is at the end of the road the leads into the dessert.

It’s a strange way to start a story about going to Morocco at the end of the road into the desert at a town only 40km from the closed Algerian border.

But this is discontinuous narrative and at some stage I will get back to the start of the journey.

But getting to the desert and it’s nomadic herders was a dream for me.

At M’hamid the mighty breva was garaged while the crew at https://www.desertbivouac.com/ took control.

The Erg Chegaga is the biggest sand sea in Morocco and a perfect place get the feel of the desert.

At the one of the small oasis, or…

Or riding a ship of the desert in a sand sea.

Riding the waves of sand up to 300m high.

Waves that change colour with the setting sun.

To time this adventure with a desert full moon was extra special.

And to sit on a Berber carpet in the desert listening to the sounds of Bedouin singing and drumming beside the camp fire under its silver light

This has to be one of my most amazing travel experiences. So thanks to Desert Bivouac

Heading to Spain and Morocco

It’s a calm crossing from Portsmouth around Brittany and across the Bay of Biscay to Santander in Spain.

Phase 2 of the long haul of flying from Melbourne to London (phase 1) to collect my Moto Guzzi Breva 1100 and ride to Morocco.

Stopped for a pint at the Ship and Castle next to the ferry terminal before joining the queue to board. There were plenty of bikes doing the crossing but only one Moto Guzzi.

My sister lives in London and it was wonderful to spend some time with her before embarking on this adventure.

Visiting the lovely little Lyric Theatre in Hanger Lane to see a play.

And heading to the south of England to go walking along the Avon River

And in the New Forrest

Next stop Spain!