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Thread: It's Not A Holiday... It's An Adventure!

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    It's Not A Holiday... It's An Adventure!

    Sat 27 Sep
    Bill arrived with the Landrover and trailer to pick up my GSA and V5. I’d been warned of bogus “Adventure-Travel” outfits going round the country picking up peoples bikes on the pretence of taking them out to Morocco etc. for a holiday. But I needn’t have worried.. before he left, he gave me a piece of paper saying I had agreed to him doing it… so that was OK then??

    ballistic

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    Sat 4 Oct: Home-Luton
    Paul (Wrong Way) motored down from up t’north to my place in Leicestershire. We left his car there and went down to Luton in my BSM (Beer Seeking Missile). We had a deal which involved a night at a hotel (very nice it was, too), parking the car for 2 weeks and a shuttle bus to the airport for the 6:00am flight… about £80 all-in… damped toilet seat… class!


    Whilst sampling the excellent Orkney “Dark Island” in Wetherspoons, I realised that I had forgotten to pack my waterproof jacket and trousers; I’d bought these especially about a month ago to go over my “Aertex-type” jacket in the unlikely event of rain. A quick request call to the Team Ballistic North-Eastern Control Centre (Chris Kelley) came back with the phone number of a Hein-Gericke store about 2 miles away. I started running… I had about 30 mins to get there before they closed… Paul had unselfishly offered to guard my seat in Wetherspoons and try all the other beers in case I might not like any of them… what a star!


    Rain suit bought (again), I caught the bus back and found Paul at the bar… he’s lost the bloody seats! However, he’d also won about £100 on the Bandit, so wine, beer and a mixed grill were on him, thanks Paul.

    ballistic

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    Sun 5 Oct: Luton-Marrakech
    6:00am flight with Ryanair, arrived in Marrakech about 10:00am, clock went back 1 hour. We spent over 1.5 hours queuing to get through passport control before emerging on the concourse to find Bill waiting. We sat drinking coffee and cola for about half an hour before Max & Kerry and Allan arrived.


    A tight squeeze in the Landrover, but we all made it back to the hotel c/w a little tour of Marrakech on the way.


    We grabbed our kit out of the Landrover, dumped it in our room and headed down town with Allan… we were keen to get started on the first stages of “The Marrakech Express”.


    We had lunch in one of the many cafes surrounding the main square… encouraged by the fact the they had rejected the beef to make burgers because it was “No good”. We had “brochettes” (kebab on a skewer) and sausages instead, wiping our hands with the anti-bacterial stuff you get in hospitals at every opportunity and drinking only water that came in a sealed bottle… no way were we going to get the shits!


    Dinner in a posh restaurant tonight… with wine! Funny really, you can buy Moroccan wine (pretty good, actually) in Morocco… a Muslim country… you can even get Moroccan beer in some places.

    ballistic

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    Mon 6 Oct: Marrakech
    Spent the morning getting insurance for the bike from a back-street broker… I couldn’t get cover in England… see threads elsewhere about this. This took a couple of hours of waiting around in a hot, stuffy office whilst the woman who was doing it (for the first time, I think) farted around with all the V5s, import documents, Customs forms, passports, driving licences etc. etc. At the end of it all, I came away about £70 and 5kg. lighter, with dubious 3rd-party cover for a month. Hooray! At last I could ride my bike!
    Me, Paul and Allan (now nicknamed “Stingy Man” by the irrepressible sticker-seller who prowled our hotel compound) hopped on the bikes and headed for the hills.. finding a nice easy track up to a pass, where the heat gave way to altitude. As this was Allan’s first time off-road, we took it steady, I think he enjoyed it.


    In the afternoon, we all got together for a briefing at our “office” by the hotel swimming pool. There were 15 of us altogether; Bill, Ian and Mick were, respectively, our tour leader, Landrover driver and sweeper. The couple in the centre are Amanda and Richard, the contestants from South Wales, riding 2-up on a 1200GSA.


    That night, we all went to the big square to eat at one of the many stalls in the middle… it’s MAD.. jugglers, singers, musicians, snake-charmers, beggers, pickpockets… you name it, they were there.


    We sat on one of the long tables at a stall… the food just kept coming and coming… soup, salad, olives, kebabs, calamari, chilli sauce (mmmm!), sweet pastry with nuts, chicken etc.etc.


    Eventually, we had to stop them… too much, too much! Belly-busted for about £8. Anything we couldn’t finish, kids and beggars would push between us to polish off.


    They were a friendly lot… never seen a dentist though!

    ballistic

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    PUI since 2004


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    Tue Oct 7: Marrakech-Taroudant
    It was breakfast at 7:00am and on the road by 8:00… the first ride out for most of the group… nice clean bikes, pristine clothes… for some, expectations were high, for others, apprehension… would they be fast enough?, could they cope with gravel, rocks, sand and water? We’d soon see.


    A few miles out of Marrakech and we turned off the tarmac onto a seemingly vague gravel “piste”. This was, in fact, quite a wide “graded” piste which went for miles over totally barren countryside, it was even shown on my GPS as a road! We stopped to empty our bladders, have a fag, adjust our trusses etc. It’s funny… the distance we went to have a pee away from the main group… by the end of the 2 weeks, we’d just do it by the bikes, even the girls would go not much further than the nearest rock.


    As I said… nice clean clothes…


    After stopping for lunch, one of the many “Berber Omelettes” we were to come to love, we reached the first pass.. Tizi n’Test, presumably “Pass of the Test”.


    We’d stopped for lunch sooner, mileage-wise, than Bill had planned.. I think the group were finding their off-road feet, to some extent and this had put us a little behind. The planned lunch stop was on the far side of the Tizi n’Test, at the van hanging over the edge of the road… we stopped for a coffee instead, and a “photo opportunity”.


    Mick, our sweeper, was always willing to dish out sound Yorkshire wisdom to the swarms of kids who appeared every time you stopped. I think they appreciated that!


    We got a call from Ian, who had gone ahead in the Landrover with our baggage, that the planned hotel for the night was fully populated by German bath towels, but he had found us alternative accommodation at a Riad… a central courtyard with a fountain, surrounded by accommodation and a Berber-style tent in which to eat. All this was enclosed within battlement-style walls… it even had a swimming pool!


    Our first tagine of many was washed down with warm fizzy-piss, sorry… lager, from the back of the Landrover. Bill’s thinking “God, have I got to eat this muck for the next 12 days?”


    Allan’s delighted to get his “Five a Day”.


    Someone told me before I went “Don’t ever look in the kitchen if you’re eating the food”. I have to say, this kitchen was exemplary.


    The fragrant Amanda patrolled our ramparts at night…

    ballistic

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    Wed Oct 8: Taroudant-Tafroute
    We headed south on flat rocky piste in the morning…. It was supposed to be “fesh-fesh” but the road builders had been out and “improved” the road. Paul demonstrated that you could reach 80mph on this kind of surface… he forgot about the 800 yards required to come to a halt again!


    In this area they grow argan nuts. Apparently, they produce oil similar to olives, but at about 150th of the quantity… the goats seems to like them…


    I think lunch was taken at Ait-Baha, followed by a stunning tarmac road through the mountains and past a fortified village (Kasbah?)…


    Before Tafraoute, we turned off onto a long dusty piste which eventually led us down to the Palmery It’s a good job it was well signposted…


    I think the Palmery piste is a particular favourite of Bill’s… I reckon he got a bit romantic here once, a long time ago, he was cursing the advent of graded roads and imminent surfacing. I think Lisa had a small “off” on the piste on the first day, but one of the Portuguese trio, Miguel, provided us with the first “photo-opportunity”… Unfortunately, I missed it in my rush to help him get upright… he didn’t seem phased by it at all though…


    A few of the group were feeling the effects of not riding off-road before, or the more debilitating effects of “The Marrakech Express”, so it was getting late. It would appear that the further south you go, the quicker it gets dark, hence we sat and watched a lovely sunset and rode on to the hotel at Tafroute by half-moon light…


    As it was my birthday that day, I was treated to a “surprise” cake and several bottles of wine… thanks dudes…


    I'd just like to share a text message I recieved that night... one of many that night congratulating me on reaching a ripe old age... "Happy Birthday.... Hope you choke on your tagine." Thanks Mr Kelley... glad to see you're not at all pissed-off about not coming

    ballistic

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    Thu Oct 9: Tafroute-Taliouine
    The view from the bedroom window in the morning…


    It looked to me like the fragrant Amanda was offering Bill money to get her dirty… I could be wrong...



    First stop this morning was the obligatory ride out to The Blue Rocks to have a play…


    After an hour, or so, of playing, we headed north-east towards Taliouine, stopping for the worst lunch of the trip. The owner of the café seemed overwhelmed with an order for 14 “Berber Omelettes” (it was all he could offer). The first few didn’t look too bad, but the last ones (mine included) were only half-cooked and looked just like a plate of sick…


    I think the likelihood of catching something nasty was exacerbated by the fact that the owner had the dirtiest looking bandage you have ever seen, wrapped around his festering finger wounds…


    I heard that Mick had gone and deliberately made himself sick after eating half of his omelette… I can’t say that I blamed him. Berber omelettes were never a favourite after this.
    We reached the riad just the other side of Taliouine without anyone dying; and were all looking forward to having 2 nights in one place. The meal that night was… er… tagine, and a Berber omelette, which looks like it was left untouched…

    ballistic

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    Fri Oct 10: Taliouine
    The plan today was to do a circular loop, but by now the group had divided into 2 distinct factions… those who wanted to do the off-road and those who didn’t. Mike, the sweeper, ended up leading the “road” riders and Bill stuck to “the plan” and led the routes with the off-road sections…. a nice easy track past a dam… don’t know what the writing means though…


    We all met up at Askaoun for coffee and biscuits, and were treated to a display of how to disperse curious children by the owner of the café… he had a specially adapted plastic water hose, about 1200mm long, and would rush out and flail away at the scattering kids. One was unfortunate enough to fall over and got “a damn good thrashing” I think we were both shocked and amuse by this… however, it only kept the kids away for a few minutes at a time…


    before going our separate ways…. the Road-Riders back to Taliouine for lunch and the Off-Road riders following Bill over the Tizi-n-Tieta and Tizi-n-Melloul passes to Anezal and a road back to Taliouine.
    Bill had a “moment” on the large rock steps going up to the first pass… unfortunately I got there too late to get the real action, but I think Paul has a shot…


    Having had a “fag-break”, Bill had another “moment” whilst starting off… this time he really hurt himself by attacking a poor defenceless rock with his ribs.
    We stopped a while later in the middle of nowhere, Canario had backtracked to find Bill’s mp3 player, which he’d dropped after his last “incident”. Within minutes, a goat/sheep herder appeared.. from where… how do they do that? We gave him cigarettes and sweets, he was happy enough…


    We were high up now…


    Above the snow line…


    Our trusty support crew were waiting for us when we got back. Ian can’t have a drink until we’re all home safely in case he has to go out in the Landrover for a rescue… it didn’t stop him waiting with the top off the bottle though…


    ballistic

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    Sat Oct 11: Taliouine-Zagora
    We actually had a bit of rain this morning… a change in the weather, maybe?


    Half an hour later and it was back to the full sun treatment. A couple of hours road riding brought us to Foum-Zguid on the edge of the Sahara, where we were met by a Police roadblock wanting all our details. Bill explained that we were just stopping for lunch in the square and we’d gather all the information required and present it on the way out… he agreed, what an enlightened attitude.
    Whilst looking at my lunch photographs, the idea of a Top-Gear style “Cool Wall” was mooted. An example….
    Cool….


    Not cool…


    Unfortunately, my entry for the Cool Wall was captured by someone else… I’m sure it will be posted in due course, in retaliation.
    We retraced our steps, through the Police road block and headed onto the desert piste. For the first 30 miles or so, this was just a graded track with the odd concrete bridge across a dried-up river bed…


    It was fun to do 80, maybe 90mph for 5 and 10 minutes at a time and not see the mountains in front get any closer. The Landrover was in front but had had to stop to change a punctured tyre…


    30 miles from nowhere, a lad was stranded with his moped… he claimed he had ran out of petrol… so we gave him some sweets and headed off…


    The piste changed from a wide, graded track to a winding, rockier trail with lots of ups and downs, washouts and other hazards to catch you out. When we stopped, we had to be wary of where we sat down, there were nasties hiding everywhere…


    Eventually, the rocky track turned to sand, requiring a totally different style of riding… pull back on the bars and gun it. The other way to cross the desert was the more traditional one…


    We outran a sandstorm and reached Zagora, and the 52-days sign to Tombouctou…


    A very nice hotel on the outskirts of the town was home for the next 2 days… as were most of the buildings in Morocco, it was made of mud and straw…

    2-days in a hotel meant that we could wash a load of shirts, pants, socks etc. On the roof were lots of washing lines… ideal, so it was all pegged out. Next day I went to collect, and someone had nicked my pants! I know I might have the body of a God (yeah… Buddha… thanks Ian), but most of us had the “Marrakech Express” as well… don’t they have Marks & Spencer’s in Morocco?

    ballistic

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    Sun Oct 12: Zagora
    A circular route today… out into the desert avoiding the local wildlife…


    Lisa hit a deep patch of sand and lost the front end… the BMW crash bars sacrificed themselves doing their job, so a visit to the famed mechanic, Mohamed “Gordito” was on the cards…


    Whilst Lisa and Phil took the road route back, we returned via the track through the Palmery, past the farms and villages…


    Tonight, we were having a speciality of the hotel… a whole sheep cooked in a clay oven…


    The promise was better than the reality… I think the sheep had died of starvation…


    Ian didn’t seem worried… he was having sex on the phone whilst Ibrahim just kept carving with a blunt knife…

    ballistic

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    Mon Oct 13: Zagora-Tinerhir
    Today was destined to be “interesting”. Half of us were going to tonight’s hotel near Tinerhir by road, Bill and Allan were initially going by road and meeting me, Paul the 3 Portuguese and Max & MiniMax at a café in N’Kob… we’d decided to retrace yesterday’s route over the desert, which the Portuguese hadn’t done… but much quicker.
    It all started well, but we missed the desert route and ended up on the piste by the river, which was different, as it was in reverse to the day before…


    Max & MiniMax baled out about half way, leaving me and Paul to enjoy taking the Portuguese through mud, sand etc at high speed. They were so impressed, they even posed for a photo…


    After rejoining Bill, Allan Max & MiniMax… the “Adventure” began!
    The plan was to take the long piste over the Tizi n’ Tazazert, delivering a teddy bear on the way and down the other side to out hotel at the foot of the Todra Gorge, neat Tinerhir. All went well for about 15 miles.. we climbed steadily, crossing dried-up rivers and the odd rocky step until we got to a very rocky descent…


    Which took us down into a spectacular valley…


    All was going well until Allan suddenly coasted to a halt… his bike had died. The fault was quickly diagnosed as a dead battery… the terminals had been a little loose and had probably contributed to it’s demise…


    We swapped batteries and his bike fired-up immediately. Unfortunately, with his battery in place, we couldn’t even get it started…even with jump leads from the trusty 1150, there was just a weak “click” from the starter motor…


    The usual audience of children appeared from nowhere and a couple of hours was spent trying to start the bike, whilst amusing the kids with sweets, blow-up rubber gloves, camera picture shows etc. etc…


    A couple of Spanish “enduro” riders had come by and said that there was a “support truck” behind them, so we waited for that. All that came by was a 4x4, which didn’t even stop to offer help… thanks guys…


    It was getting late now, so we found a nearby farm and negotiated with the local Imam to leave Allan’s bike there for the night and come back the next day, no problem… except for the 110-mile road route we had to ride to the hotel…. and a storm was brewing. It was like riding in a video game, it was dark, the roads were flooded, traffic was getting stuck, and by the time we got through Tinerhir, the Todra had blocked the road. The hotel was on the other side of the river, so there was no choice… we had to “walk” the bikes through… one riding and two or three others dragging/supporting…


    Hopefully, one of the others will have decent photographs of the “crossing”.
    It was gone 10:00 when we got to the hotel… thankfully they had saved us some food, Ian had a couple of slabs of warm “fizzy-piss” and then the electric failed…


    Canario hadn’t even got the energy to crawl upstairs to bed… or was it that they hadn’t de-loused the room yet?...

    ballistic

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    Tue Oct 14: Tinerhir-N’Kob
    We were woken by a shepherd and his flock staring into the bedroom window…


    This was definitely the worst hotel of the trip so far… obviously, the previous clientele didn’t think so…


    It was really great putting on wet trousers and boots, luckily it was hot today and we dried out pretty quickly. Bill, Paul+Allan and myself were to re-trace our road route of the night before and go and rescue Allan’s bike. I had a quick blast up the Todra Gorge…


    … before making a detour into Tinerhir to buy a load of writing pads and pens to give to the Imam, in thanks for looking after Allan’s bike, we hoped.
    By the time I’d done the 110 miles to N’Kob, I hadn’t caught them up, so it was back onto the piste of the day before to rendezvous at Allan’s bike. Going down the steep, rock climb, I realised I had a problem… a flat front tyre. I carried on for several more miles, hoping to see the guys in front… it turns out that they had taken a wrong turn and were behind me. I chocked my bike up to fix the tyre and Paul+Allan carried on to retrieve his bike…


    By the time Paul and Allan reappeared, several hours had passed… they’d been “forced” to have lunch etc. with the locals, had been offered the hands of several daughters and drank gallons of sweet mint tea… lucky beggars! Bill and I had taken off my tyre, but could find no sign of a puncture. We couldn’t inflate the tyre as we couldn’t get it to seat on the rim and, unfortunately, no one had a tube we could use as a temporary fix.
    Another Spanish “enduro” rider came past on a KTM… he didn’t even stop to ask if he could help. Because of the rains the night before, there were “puddles” on the track… which our hero tried to circumnavigate by riding up a wall and falling off. Paul, being the Gentleman that he is, rushed across to help, and was pushed away. As it had been made abundantly clear that his assistance was not required, Paul let go of the KTM, and it promptly fell off the wall again, with el Macho beneath it. His mates came along just in time to see him picking it up again… pure entertainment!!


    As was usual, it was now beginning to get dark. Paul unselfishly lent me his 1200 Adventure… I strapped on my wheel and headed back to N’Kob. After harassing several locals, the apprentice at the tyre shed was found and put to work.. he was in his “going out clothes” but, nevertheless “popped” the tyre onto the rim after about 20 mins of struggle, with the aid of a pre-World War 1 compressor. With the tyre blown up to 45psi, I again hit the trail and the same bit of piste for the 5th time.
    I passed Allan coming the other way… he said that Bill and Paul had stopped to guard my bike… I got the impression that they were looking forward to snuggling down in a nice little cave next to where I’d stopped… sorry to spoil the fun chaps… I know that you’d got half a tin of Vaseline left!!


    Front wheel back in, we rode the trail, again, in the moonlight, back to N’Kob. A phone call to Ian, back at the hotel, brought news that it had been raining all day there and roads etc. were flooded again. Nevertheless, we decided that we’d go for it.. a couple of hours and we’d be back with the others. I was voted to go in front, my 50W HIDs lit the road for miles.. more importantly, any deep water or washouts would be hit by me first.. OK, Bill did it yesterday, it was my turn tonight.
    Out of N’Kob and wound the throttle open… first bend was a right-hander taken at about 80mph… BANG! I slewed onto the dirt before dragging it back onto the road and coming to a standstill.. how I missed the barriers, I’ll never know. The front tyre had come off the rim, obviously there was something wrong with the bead… I was going no further tonight.
    We found a reasonable riad just outside of town and booked in. It was basic, and they could only do us a Berber omelette, as it was late… but they had (very hard) beds…


    At least we had escaped from “The Valley Of Death”

    ballistic

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    Wed Oct 15: N’Kob-Ouarzazate
    5:00am in the morning saw Max & Kerry despatched with a new front tyre from the Todra base camp. They arrived several hours later, having taken another wrong turn, with a TKC80 strapped to the back of the KTM… the ignominy, a KTM coming to the rescue of a BMW!
    Down to the tyre shack again… this time the top man fitted the tyre using the most modern equipment available…


    The heroes return to find everyone else gone and “The Brothers” knocking 6 bells of shit out of each other, apparently…


    We head off and soon pick up the piste to The Valley Of The Roses… past the laundry facilities…


    And along some easy, but dusty, tracks…


    We had a play in the sand…


    Went past a hotel with rooms for Trogs…


    And finally into the wilderness…


    As we had been late starting from Todra, we decided to cut the valley short and head for our hotel at Ouarzazate… the piste had lots of washouts from the previous 2 days rain, which made it uncertain whether we would make it to the end before dark… we’d had enough of riding in the dark, thank you!
    We retraced our steps down the valley….


    … and headed up the “Zig-Zags”, except that this was now a new surfaced road… still, we got to the hotel nice and early, which meant we could have a good laze around in the Berber tent for a change…


    The Portuguese had set off to do the original route to Agoudal, which I think proved very hard… they arrived late and battered… Jose had hit a dog, fell off and smashed his screen, mirror, auxiliary lights and panniers… he was in remarkably good shape though…

    ballistic

  16. #16
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    Thu Oct 16: Ouarzazate-Taferiate
    For the first time in what seems ages, the whole group are together. We set off for the film studios in the desert… glass-fibre castles…


    Abandoned trebuchets…


    Battering rams…


    It was all too much for some. Jose was now using his panniers as a parking aid and viewpoint…


    My hero, Max, had a lovely ding in the front rim of the KTM… invest in Excel shares…


    The obligatory visit to Ait-Benhaddou…


    ..was followed by the final piste of the day, up to the Tizi-n-Tichka, which was dogged by Tourist 4x4s…


    ..and Quads…


    There was a very tricky uphill section, with large rocks and a big drop-off to the left. Max did brilliantly to get up this with Kerry on the back… at the top though, Kerry had to have a “quiet moment of contemplation”. I’m terrified of being a pillion, so I raise my hat to Kerry… she’s got bigger balls than most… well done!


    We carried on up the valley, past the cave dwellings…


    ..and out onto the road just below the summit of the Tizi-n-Tichka. Paul was dog-tired…


    Brochettes, chips, melon and fizzy drinks still couldn’t put a smile on Kerry’s face…


    We had a cracking road-ride to our hotel in Taferiate, Le Coq-Hardi (The Hardy Chicken)… and that was what on the menu

    ballistic

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