From Fes to Marrakech

2 days later, at 9:30 am, I am leaving Fes, departing with the same constant drizzle as the day I arrived.

I am on the way to the N8, the main road to Marrakech. Temperature is a good 9 degrees. Unfortunately, the road is going up into the mountains. After 20 km it becomes colder, and further south you can see the snow on the hilltops.

Just be careful, turn on the heated grips, and continue. But it’s getting colder and colder. After 70km I am in Taounza, stand at a road barrier, in a line with cars and busses and wait for something. I do not know what, the barrier is just closed. It starts to snow, and not just a little bit…

Suddenly, a snowplow comes up from behind me,  the barrier goes up and I follow the plow for a few hundred meters. But the snowfall is getting worse, the road continues upwards. The busses that were waiting with me get turned around by the police, as the pass is deemed not passable for them.

I stop at 1650m altitude and look for an alternative. My boots are slipping badly on the wet snow and I am amazed how well the TKC70 are able to deal with the road condition. I turn the bike around, get a few calls and a single applause at the barrier (hey, the German did finally understand us…), and drive slowly, very slowly, through the snowstorm over the R707 to Meknes on the A2.

As soon as I am under 1400m, after a good 20km, the snowfall is replaced by drizzle, it is 4 degrees – I would never have thought that I would be so happy that it is raining.

At the first freeway I fill up, drink a coffee, meet a coach bus and another car, all of which I have seen before, as they were turned around at the barrier.

 

This was unfortunate, as the landscape, when I was able to see it through the snow storm, looked very nice. The rest of the trip was easier, and uneventful. Partially scenic, very attractive, seemingly endless green hills on the way to the east, behind Casablanca. It got constantly warmer until I arrived at the parking lot at around 6pm in Marrakech.

Landfall

Unloading and finally back on the ground

At 6:30 the rooms had to be cleared. As regular loudspeaker announcements in French indicated this since 5:00, there is no chance that you are missing this.

One announcement also came in English, which you should pay attention to, since it announces the gathering  point for the respective parking garages.

At around 7:40, we were sitting on our motorcycles, nicely surrounded by the rally participants. After, what felt like an eternity, we rolled out to meet the custom officials.

I did not even have to unmount. There was just one friendly official, who more or less took my form and waved me through. The whole process took maybe 30seconds.

I’m looking for the motorcycle insurance in the port area – but all that I find are still closed. it is not 8:30 yet, apparently no one is working here at this time.

Now I can wait for them to open. …. Or drive ….?

So I continue in the direction of Fes, and find 2 more closed Axa insurance representations.

I have no intentions to have an accident, so I continue on and plan on buy insurance in Fes.

You do not need to be afraid of the traffic in Morocco – it is not  worse than anywhere else. Only in Germany do you drives so rigid and restraint – everywhere else in the world, it flows, it is more like a living organism. If you can drive in France or Spain or Italy, you can drive in Morocco.

 

The road to Fes

A little detour to Fez
From Nador I went over the N15 to Guercif. A good 120km which were easy to drive without any traffic. Klaus, Gérard and Kerstin, whom I met on the ferry before, joined me shortly after Nador, so we were in a 4 motorcycle convoy.

Every now and then there was a jeep of the rally de gazelles, old overloaded trucks and sheep. But unfortunately also aggressive, motorcycle chasing dogs. On the right hand of the road is aflock of sheep, Gérard brakes, Klaus too, they both look right at the sheep – and from the left from the desert a barking dog races toward them. Gérard was too far forward, I too far back, so Klaus is the target of it’s attack.

At only 35 km/h the dog throws himself under the front wheel, Klaus can hold the machine upright with a lot of luck and a using the right foot to stabilize the machine. The dog is gone after he ran away to die in the desert, we assume …. Klaus has a swollen right foot for the next week, this could have ended much worse.

In Guercif we take a deserved coffee and tea break – the mint tea with biscuits is really delicious. Then we separate our ways until Saturday, where we are going to meet again at the Saharacamp. The 3 of them drive east and then the Algerian border to the south south, I take the N6 west towards Taza.

In Taza I need to buy gas, one euro per liter. Going further south, I hear the mountains calling me. My navigation system thinks that this detour will take me another hour, so I go for it.

My navigation system from Garmin was wrong, so wrong. The detour over the R504 and the R507 was  263 km long, although it saved me a good 70km of the straight route using the N6.  But it took almost 6 hours of riding time with no stops. Because I went from 250 meters altitude up to to 2200 meters …

According to my navigation system, it was  8261m up and 8471m down. The temperatures went from 16 degrees and sunshine to 2 degrees and rain. Snowmasses at the edge of the road. Calling it a street is very, very optimistic. The worst part was the good 3km on the summit. Red clay, wet red clay. Probably the worst surface I ever had to ride.

The tyres I got for this trip, TKC70, have saved my ass up ther. We discussed beforehand that most gravel roads in Morocco can be driven with the Tourance Next or a normal road tyre. That is true. But I would never have been able to get over those 3km with a normal tyre. And believe me, one drop of the bike on that surface and I would not have been able to lift the bike up again.

At about 7:30 pm I arrived in Fez. At the location, where according to Booking.com the riad  I booked should be, is nothing …..

It rains cats and dogs, and I search in the dark for a hotel …. I call the hotel, and the location given by booking.com is just wrong , the hotel is 2.5km in a different direction. After arriving there, a young local helps me find the garage, and leads me to Riad Myra. Since this is in the middle of the medina, if only 100 meters away from the garage, I would not have found this in the dark and the rain without his helpr. The riad itself I highly recommend, very nice place.

I spend over  10 hours on the bike this day, I drove from  extreme heat in the desert to snow on the mountain peaks, for on stretch of 270km I did not see a gas station, sat over 6 hours at a time on the bike and will always remember this as one of the greatest days on the bike I ever had.

I have learned, that my Zumo  is very unreliable with the choosen map here in Morocco in the mountains. The projected end time was 15:40 (good), then she jumped to 19:50, then to 18:15, or 19:10, depending on the curve, until I was again on the main road, the N6.

Simply a fantastic first day – less rain and it would have been perfect. The detour was great, the tour to the Tis’n Tiskine I can highly recommend, but better not ride it end of March.

The time in Fez itself was rainy, but still very nice. The medina is a place where you want to explore and get lost in. Which you will. Visiting this city is definitely worth it.

The life of a passenger: riding the ferry

Getting on the ferry

When I arrived, another R1200GS was in the parking are, which I was directed to as a motorcycle rider. Later, s a full Touratech ADV advertising machine arrived. It turned out that we all would meet again at the Saharacamp, we had only planned different routes to get there. In fact the rider of the Touratech monster was none other than the organiser of the SaharaCamp himself.

 

In total, there were only 4 bikes, as a bit later a KTM joined us. As a compensation, the entire convoy of the rally of Gazelles was on board. A colorful, impressive array of different desert-proof jeeps, the support trucks and the medientross. An estimated 150+ vehicles that passed us 4 moped drivers by, before we could get on board.


Yes, you do not go first on the ferry as a motorcycle rider – you go there last. The loading started at 20:00 and at 11:30 I was in my cabin. We were standing in the drizzling rain for three hours, while the column of jeeps drove slowly, so slowly, on board.

 

 

Sleep is not coming by the easy way – the sea is quite rough, and I’m not used to rolling back and forth in bed by myself. Plus there are regular loudspeaker announcements until 2:00 which always wake me up.

The food is the worst I ever had to pay for. It is not disgusting, but just bland and cold. Coffee on the other side is good and relatively cheap. For breakfast around 8:30 there should actually be rolls, cheese and various croissants, but the very early have everything eaten up – for me there were only nougatcroissants left …

On board there is very little support or information. French knowledge is of considerable advantage since nobody speaks English. Just Italian or French.

You have to listen to the on board announcements, as it is otherwise unclear where and when the immigration formalities are going to be dealt with.

During this trip, it started  9:00 am for Nador, I recommend either coming very early or very late.

No numbers are drawn, there is no import form for cars anymore. One turns right, fills out the entry form while waiting, shows the passport and form, gets 2 stamps, and the form is gone

Then turn to the left, I had a printout of the customs form. You show the vehicle license and passport, green insurance card, and if everything is OK, the official would print out the form. I also had to submit everything, I think printing the form in advance might have safed me 30seconds, so it is not really worth doing.

The whole procedure took almost 2 hours, I was there around 9:45. An acquaintance did this directly at 9:10 and only had to wait for 45min. The queue was, for me, at least twice as long. I think from 10:30 on you wait at least 3 hours. I was there accidentally again just before the closing time, and then it was almost empty. This would of course be risky, so I would recommend attempting this in the early  morning.

It is now around 6 o’clock in the evening and so far I have no idea at what time we disembark in Nador. Possible rumors are circulating: 6:00 – 8:00 – 9:30. Let’s see.

On the way to Marocco

Marketplace in Nancy

On my way to Sète

I started on a Friday afternoon in the middle of March. The weather in the “Bergische Land”, an area north of Cologne in Germany,  was cold and cloudy, but behind Cologne it cleared up, it became sunny and the temperatures rose to 18 degrees – beautiful weather for the country roads between the Eifel and Luxembourg.

The journey was quiet and eventless, listening to music, thinking about the weeks that lie ahead of me and to slowly calm down and start to feel the stress slip away.

Overnight stay was after 450km in Nancy. A pretty city, from the limited impression you can get in that short time. There are many small restaurants, and at least in one of them there is a distinguished Jambon for dinner.

The next morning the beautiful weather of the previous day changed. It was 4 degrees and foggy when I left Nancy around 9:00. An hour later it began to rain – and that went on for 5 hours. The only positive thing about the ride is that I now know my equipment is completely waterproof.

About 5:30 pm I arrived at the ferry port of Sète. A good 850km through France and just 3 construction sites without delay. That would not have happened to me in NRW. There it is more likely to have  850km of construction sites with a total of 3 workers …