A great adventure in front of us: Morocco!
A country with many different faces and an ancient history. Very friendly people and great exotic food. And then there is the spectacular nature! The Atlas mountains with its high peaks, the endless desert and in between forests and meadows.
The first day of the tour sees us heading out of Malaga on a beautifully sunny but cool morning. The sea is on our left and the mountains on our right as we head along the autopista to Algeciras to catch the ferry to Ceuta. It's a smooth calm crossing but the chaos starts when we reach the border to Morocco, as it takes us 2.5 hours to get through the border crossing! Then we have a quick ride down the coast and stop for a coffee and bio break in M'Diq. The sun is already starting to set even as we leave M'Diq and whilst the light reflects off the moutains for a while we are soon riding in full darkness along a rather poorly maintained road. We eventually reach Chefchaouen and then it's a fast change before heading to the restaurant for dinner and to warm up. It was a long day to start off with, but we are now in Morocco and the adventure can really begin.
It's another gorgeous sunny day in Morocco - but pretty chilly this morning at about 5 degrees when we set out! First off we head up into the cedar trees national park to check out the local wildlife - there's a colony of monkeys living here who just love to take food out of the tourists hands!! Then we are heading back down again towards the plains and hopefully some warmer temperatures. It's rolling countryside here with the moutains on our left and the plains to our right as we wind our way in the general direction of Marrakech. We take a quick coffee break and watch the preparation of the lunchtime tagines - they look great and I am sure this played a part in our ordering once we arrived at our lunchtime restaurants in Khenifra. After lunch its more rolling countryside but the road conditions improve a little and we can motor on a little. Late afternoon and it's time to gas up and have a final coffee before the real highlight of the day - over the moutain pass to Bin El Ouidane. In springtime only half the pass had been freshly tarmaced, but now its completed and we have an awesome ride up to the top and down the other side and it's big smiles all round when we arrive at the hotel.
Todays ride takes us to Marrakech. Its another beautiful day as we head up out from Bin El Ouidane, and the tarmc here is good too! We can see the Atlas mountains to our left side as we head through the countryside, but it is beginning to become drier now. Our first stop takes us the the water falls at Ouzoud where we also stop for a coffee break. We walk around for a while admiring the waterfalls and feeding some of the monkeys that live around here also and then we head off ahain towards Marrakech. Lunch is a quick sandwich stop at a cafe in Tanant before we head into the rolling hills and small back roads that wind their way to the barrage at D'ait Ardel where we take a few photos - they desperately need some rain here! A quick coffee stop a little further along and then we are on the main drag into Marrakech. The traffic is the normal crazy Marrakech style but we manage to reach the hotel with only a small hiccup and we can then unwind and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Today is a day off and while some decide to take a guided city tour and discover more about this very interesting city, a small group of 5 heads out towards the ski resort of Oukaimeden. The traffic isn't so bad and soon we are heading up into the hills just outside of Marrakech. As we head up it's possible to see the effects of the recent earthquake, with some landslides still being cleared, and many small tents still pitched outside the houses which suffered structural damages. This is real rural Morocco and gives us a glimpse into the hardship that many of the local people have in their normal day to day lives. At the ski resort we stop to take photos of the fantastic view and have a quick coffee. We take the narrow route back and in many places its just a single track road, but fortunately there is not so much traffic today. A final stop for gas and then we are back at the hotel in time for a late lunch and some sightseeing in town for those who wish to partake.
Today we crossed the High Atlas mountains, which form the natural dividing line to the Sahara.
We left Marrakesh and climbed up the spectacular pass road to the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, recently completely renovated. Wonderful views all along our way, and the landscapes became more and more arid: the Sahara desert is getting closer! We rode through a dry, desert-like landscape and we saw just a few villages around. This was the way that caravans used to reach Marrakech from the Sahara, and in many villages are still visible the old Kasbah, or fortress. After countless turns and a perfect riding day, we finally reach Aït Benhaddou, a small and picturesque village that is a Unesco World Heritage site and became famous thanks especially to the film industry!
We leave Ait Benhaddou riding into the sun and its another cloudless day. First thing we ride to the Atlas film studios, famous for films such as Jewel in the Nile, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. We had a great tour with Karim and even made our own short film! Afterwards we ride through Ouarzazate and all the time the Solar Power station and it's mirror covered tower are visible in the distance. We ride along the route of the kasbahs and make good progress as there is not so much traffic today. We stop for a quick coffee in Skoura and then it gets a bit slow as we are continuously riding through small villages. Jan has prepared a great picnic lunch for us near the beginning of the Dades Gorge, and after taking some refreshments we continue to ride some km along the gorge - the scenery here is fantastic! Eventually it's time to turn around and head to the hotel, wehere we arrive in time for a quick dip in the pool before dinner is served.
We leave Bomaine Dades behind us and head east to make our first stop in the Todhra Gorge. It's not as large as the Dades Gorge but equally impressive as you are hemmed right in between the gorge walls as they tower above you. After a quick coffee at the end of the gorge, we continue towards ASlnif. The countryside has changed and it's rocky and dry and we head further east towards the Sahara. Just before Alnif Domenico is waiting for us with another picnic, and we sit there under the shade of a tree and take a relaxing lunch break. But we can't dawdle for too long - we still have a long ride ahead of us and need to reach Merzouga in good time today. There is little traffic and we keep a good pace up, with just a quick coffee stop and then just before the hotel we gas up again. We arrive at the hotel and those heading out into the desert take showers and change quickly, while those remaining at the hotel relax by the pool and watch the glorious sunset ovet the dunes.
Finally a real rest day! The ones who went to spend the night in the camp came back with another "comfortable" camel ride and the afternoon was mostly dedicated to relaxing and resting... because tomorrow it's going to be a long day!
The longest riding day of the tour! Today we left the desert and rode mostly northwards back into the Atlas mountains. Soon after leaving the hotel we crossed the beautiful Ziz valley with its countless palm trees and used the famous "Legionary's tunnel" to leave the valley. After that, slowly but constantly, the landscape started changing and we could see more and more green until we finally reached Fez, the cultural capital of Morocco, where we are going to spend two nights!
Fez is the cultural capital of the country and deserves a full day, so no motorcycles today! Meeting at 9am and, with an official moroccan guide, we started exploring the Medina, the old town, one of the best preserved arab towns in the world and of course protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. What an interesting and unique place, tiny roads full of shops and of people selling just anything, the beautiful Medersa (school of Choran) the ancient tannery and so on... enjoy the pictures!
So here we are on the penultimate day of the tour and making our way north and back to Chefchaouen. We leave Fes and head straight out into the countryside - small curvy roads that are not in the best of condition. But the views are great, as is the weather and we make a quick stop just above Fes to have a last look and say goodbye. Then we are moving again, through the rolling hills here as we head into the Rif mountains again. It's much more agricultural here and so diverse - one side of the road ploughing with donkeys, the other side has a tractor! What a wolrd of difference. We stop for a quick coffee break in Karia Be Mohammed and then continue north. The further we go the cooler it gets, but then it starts to warm up again and by the time we reach our lunch stop its time to take off a layer. After lunch the group splits up again - half ride directly to Chefchaouen to take some time in the city and spend the last dirhams, while the rest opt to ride the curvy route back.
Last ride of this wonderful tour... from Chefchaouen we rode northwards, past the city of Tetouan and on until the border with the spanish town of Ceuta. Once we crossed the border, we quickly reached the port and waited for the ferry to cross the Strait of Gibraltar again and go back to Europe. The tour is over, what a magnificent experience, Marocco overwhelmed our senses with colours, smells and wonderful sights. And we were also blessed with perfect weather! What else could we ask for?
Thank you for a great trip together and see you soon hopefully on another Edelweiss tour!