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Thread: Gael Warnings in West Africa.

  1. #49
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    The knives.


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  2. #50
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    Great report Jim and glad you are in better form. Just a brief update from me as I have patchy internet access here in Kayes, Nali in the midst of a tropical rainstorm and the first internet since we went our separate ways


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  3. #51
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    When I left Aleg to head East in Mauritania I felt regretful to leave Jim and hoped he would be OK (as I now know he is, albeit after a hard trip back to Nouakchott).

    I made food progress East and at 0930 wondered if the heat was less than earlier days.
    How wrong I was! The day grew hotter and hotter and with a distressing absence of petrol stations as gasoil (diesel) is the norm here.
    About the middle of the day it got so hot that I stopped outside a hut selling stuff and bought cool Fanta. Had a good chat with the lads minding it and then, as they left for the mosque, I Kay down and snoozed until I recovered the strength to ride again.
    I may have said that it's very like riding into a hairdryer and you have to drink constantly and seal your body from it.

    When I finally found petrol:

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  4. #52
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    And no, I don't have a little blue man sitting on my saddle!

    When I got to Ayoun I tracked down an auberge which was closed...But had an 'annexe' 50! yards away.

    I felt the price was excessive and negotiated it down by a third to 10,000 CFA (15€) but still felt badly done by.

    But once I had the whole walled courtyard and building to myself I felt better, and making mint tea with my Jetboil improved the evening
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    And then I discovered I also had a luxurious sitting room all to myself which made it even better
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    But I had a ride across to Mali the next day so had an early night. My negotiations had not yielded breakfast so I knew I needed to buy that before heading south on the goudron (tarmac) which I was assured was very good.

    There was no petrol in Ayoun and I had already done 154 miles on that tank but the easy 100 kms to Kobeni and the border should yield essence I had on good authority (at least two of them!).




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  5. #53
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    I left about 0730 despite my landlord suggesting it was better to wait until 8 because of all the doubtful types who lurked out there.

    I stopped at the junction of the road South and bought 2 excellent mini baguettes of bread from a vendor who carried them in a long board.

    Keen to make progress, and also being hassled by a local tout, I stuffed the baguettes half into my jacket and set off.

    Within 5kns the tarmac disappeared and I was riding pistes which occasionally alternated with strips of tarmac. My petrol calculations began to seem fanciful as I would use much more navigating a rough piste in 3rd gear than my tarmac average using 6th gear and 3000 rpm where I seem to get 50-70 mpg.

    At keayI had my 5 litre jerrycan and kits of water for myself. But range anxiety is something you dwell on as you ride along and more so when I got to Kobeni and the promised essence was not there.

    So when I got close to the border and found petrol available in jerrycans in the Marche I picked up 5 litres which I used to replenish my own jerrycans which I emptied in the tank - partly because I was not confident of the quality or the quantity measurements if what I was buying.

    Awaiting arrival of essence after a phone call
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  6. #54
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    Entering Mali was very easy albeit with lots of steps (despite having a visa already), some of which I had to go through 80kms later in Nioro.

    No one asked about insurance (which I had) or available CFA money (despite some warning us we would be asked).

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    This bike was 'en panne'
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    It's water melon season

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    When I location room at the centre d'acceuil the concierge gave me a lift in his motorbike up to the town (for which read 'crossroads') to have a bite.

    It was a lively place including this young vendor
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    I think my bike became the centre of the outdoor/World Cup watching/water melon eating crew yesterday evening
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  7. #55
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    Great to read the update Simon of your adventurous ride. Sorry not to be with you of course, but I know that ride to Ayoun would have finished me, with how I was feeling. Good that our planning has worked for one of us. Keep taking photos and updating the RR. Ride safe!

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  8. #56
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    Today started with an omeluand bread at the crossroads. I watched the food vendors start their fires and preparing the meatName:  IMG_8115.JPG
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    Fortunately my breakfast was. Ot spoilt by foreknowledge of what was about to happen...


    A few days earlier the bike had stopped inexplicably...And started off a minute later.

    Well, this morning as I set off it died completely with no resurrection. With help I pushed it off the road and into the shade. Then I took off the panniers and other luggage, lifted the saddle and tank and removed the battery. The level inside was very low and I realised my check in Nouakchott had not been thorough enough! The heat had also undoubtedly played a big part.

    I started to fill the cells and was delighted to find out my one knowledgeable helper was in fact the battery man whose 'premises' were 10 ft from where I had pushed the bike.

    Strategically placed plank to support the tank
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    Refilled battery sitting charging
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    Like watched pots, so batteries. So I accepted the comfortable reclining seat and the beautifully brewed cup of Malian tea, and had 40 winks while some part of my agnostic brain was hoping the battery would ride on the third day (or preferably a bit sooner!)


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  9. #57
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    After 90 minutes we put the battery back and after a bit of tinkering the ignition cane in. Wary of disappointment I set off to ride around the block and was delighted to find all was good.

    Monsieur Les batteries wasn't saying what I owed him and said it was up to me...But said he was very happy with CFA 2000 (€3) and the London postcard I gave him.

    So I rode off gently, well equipped with water in case the problem recurred.

    The Malian countryside was delightful along with the sensation of being on a bike with a sorted battery. It was also pleasing to have sorted a problem and to be reminded that most villages in Africa have people who are good at repairing things be cause it is a necessary part of life.

    I also had a very full tank of essence so life was good again!

    I stopped late morning to have a cold Fanta and eat my baguette whilst some local travellers admired the yellow peril
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    These chaps had the good sense to stay inside and chat with me rather than stare at motorcycles and dream

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    In the early afternoon I felt I needed to stop and during the mint tea I had made that morning (the British flask tradition lives in even if in the hands of an Irishman).

    So I pulled up near a shady roadside tree where the elders sat. I asked if there was space in the shade for me and I was made very welcome and we had a good long chat about Mali, Africa and the rest. The obvious senior chap had travelled widely as a negociant but now settled down as he was old - which turned out to 56! We compared our two white beards and had many laughs. An enjoyable interlude before I climbed back on to brave the heat and head for Kayes. We took a joint picture
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    Along with his buddies
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    Arrived in Kayes I eventually found a hotel with internet and both a very high price and the lead contender for Arsehole Hotel receptionist of the year!

    Admittedly I was a little on the warm side but he was an officious shit. After I decided to pay the price and stay, I had in a couple of occasions to tell him to 'leave me in peace' (polite translation). Unfortunately smartish hotels like bikes well out of the way but I was having none of it as the group was uneven and strewn with rubble.

    He had another try later when I was checking the battery connection and I explained that if he wasn't going to help me he could 'ficher moi la paix parce que il me faisait chier et j'en avais marre !'

    That seemed to do the trick and I am delighted to report his absence from reception this evening.

    Oh and remind me to tell you later about Malian peage rules which are arcane!

    But this made the whole day perfect
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    First beer since Spain 27 September!


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  10. #58
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    Brief update from me now in Senegal .

    The ride from my battery fuelled incident in Diema to the order of Senegal at Djiboli was a very pleasant one, albeit tinged with anxiety that the battery might quit on me again.

    The countryside was fabulous- I feel like the timing was good to arrive here, if too early for the Sahara crossing with its extreme heat in Mauritania.

    Leaving Mali evoked only the comment that 'you have only just arrived!' so I promised to come back soon. Like any frontier here it involved multiple visits and stamping and cross checking of forms.

    So goodbye Mali and before I o ew it I was over the Senegal river and I to the next wave of bureaucracy...again, friendly and unpushy with no requests for gifts - just lots of different people to visit and of course through the mud
    But the bike stayed upright and I was escorted to the Commisariat de Police for another round of form filling.
    I was slightly disconcerted to see s young mans arm reach out from the bars of a cell beside the desk where my 'passavant ' was being prepared - but he was soon released to join the other weeping folk who were having a bad day with their papers.

    Throughout all of this and the entry to Mali no one asked about the Carte Brune insurance I had purchased at great expense!

    Two loads of old iron by the road from the Mali border
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    But the real challenge of the day was the next 180kms which was bike swallowing, truck overturning potholed goudron.

    I was warned by a few people and spent at least half the time on the pegs like a Dakar rally rider, trying to thread a way through the vestiges of Tarmac.

    It was a great day to be on a bike as I could cut through and find a few inches of Tarmac where cars and trucks had to halt and grind through the massive potholes.

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    This truck had just overturned. The guys offloading its load got quite excitable about me taking a photo and tried to stop
    Me as I passed by. As you can imagine I didn't stop to discuss their tea-leafing!


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  11. #59
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    While Simon covers the exciting and colourful stuff down south I'll content myself to describe my divergent path.


    As left the hotel in Nouakchott for the 2nd time I had to weave a path through the array of Spanish bikes which had just arrived.

    I'd not seen the riders in the evening so was pleased to meet one of them that morning. I had one key question for him, which was, had they got petrol at the Mauritania service station and they had. That sounded promising for my call there today. From this you will have deduced that I'll be heading back north. This was a hard decision to make. I considered the options, one was to follow the road Simon and I had taken, looping around into Mali to allow an easy border crossing into Senegal. Simon was now 5 days ahead so no chance to catch him before he flies back home on Oct 21. Also from Simon's feedback there were some hard riding days which I would find tough, as I was still recovering my strength. The other 2 options were direct border crossings from Mauritania into Senegal, neither were attractive crossings. The Diama crossing has had some bad reports recently of scams to get entry permission for vehicles and the route there can be tricky after rains, and there has been a fair bit of rain recently. The 2nd more direct crossing is Rosso and the access road is good, but that is the only good thing about it. Rosso is the worst border crossing in Africa and I went through it twice 3 years ago. It is corrupt, expensive and the people are very aggressive. I promised myself I would not go through it again in my own, which is why we had planned the Mali route. So my only option is to turn around and retrace my steps. This first day north was also going to be a long tiring day but it just involved riding the bike on a straight quiet road, getting through a border and find a hotel. OK, it's a long straight road across the Sahara, with one fuel station in 500km but I felt confident the pump would have petrol, and that I would be up to the journey.


    Although disappointed at having to curtail the trip and not stick to the original shedule, this route will mean I'll have crossed the Sahara twice, this trip, once alone, making 4 crossings in total. The Saharan crossing was one of the high points for me when planning the trip. On the way down it was great to share it with Simon and realise he was as enthusiastic about the beauty and the vastness of what we were riding through. However I was also looking forward to this ride across the desert on my own, which was how I experienced it first. I did wonder if the desert would still have the magic I experienced in 2014 and was not disappointed on the way down, we'd see how it would be on the solo ride north.


    The ride out of Nouackchott was fine and the first thing I noticed when I got on the open road was how different the bike felt. The whole front of the bike seemed smoother, much less vibration. This must be down to the fitting of the new tube and I now wished I'd done it earlier. As expected, after taking to the spaish biker, the fuel station between Nouachchott and Nouadhibou had petrol, so my averages at this service station are now 75% with petrol, 25% without petrol.

    I have to admit a small part of me was disappointed they had petrol, as I'd have enjoyed the challenge of getting to the border with my fuel reserves, and be able to dine out on the story of making it, or not. The first half of the journey was cool as I left at 7 but had warmed up by the middle and cooled to about 36C when I got to the border. On the way there were many camels and a little sand and I was keen not to rush past these features of the desert, as I was not sure when I'll be back.
    Firstly stopping in the desert on your own is different to being with someone. There is just that moment when you return to the bike hoping it will start.

    I've been passing sand dunes and never stopping, trying to capture them from the road with the camera, so decided to stop and have a closer look, in fact to go play in the sand. Who knows when I'll have the chance again.



    There were quite a few camels this time, much more than I saw in 2014 so here a couple from the crossing north of Mauritania.


    And then this fellow rider.

    The Mauri side of the border with Western Sahara(Morocco) was easy and quick, took less than half an hour. Ome of the officials, some senior guy who we had chatted to on the way south, recognised me and asked where mu friend was. This recognition eased my path a little. Rememnering I was Irish he mentioned Gerry Adams, and referred to him as the Irish Nelsom Mandela. I'll make no political comment here but was happy to nod in agreement if it got me an easier passahe through the border. Then of course there is the no-mans-land.
    It wasn't too much of an issue to navigate the rocks and sand, except when I headed for some gravel which turned out to be soft sand and I was in danger of sinking into it, but kept going and reached the tarmac successfully. The admin on Morocco side was a pain and took ages. Everyone was polite but you have to see lots of people, 12 I believe and of course in the correct order and it is a building site and you have to fit in having the bike x-rayed. What they are going to see inside my metal panniers I can not imagine. Anyway, after about 2 hours I had completed all, apart from seeing the police and customs at the exit gate, which I did and then headed for the petrol station just outside the border. Loud shouts behind, so I stopped and another policeman was following me, he must have stationed himself just outside the gate. He had to see passports and take a fische, give me strength!

    Anyway soon I was heading for hotel Barbas which I discovered on my last visit. It is a wonderful cheap place, where you ride your bike into the foyer, rooms cost about £16, they do food, next by a petrol station and are very friendly. What else would need after a long day in the desert, well a beer would be good, but you can't have everything. The next question was, would they have a room, cos I'd not booked, in case I didn't make it. They had, so all was well. I had a coke, ate a pizza and rested well.

    This one's for Edventure, Ed this is the Moroccan side of no-mans-land now. A but different to when you rode it.

    The next dilemma when staying at the Barbas is where to go next. Crossing the Sahara you have to go from place to sleep to place to sleep, unless you want to camp. The nearest option is the camping place Simon and I used on the way down at Dakhla, but it's only 3 hours up the road and is expensive and basic. The next major town Boujdour which does not have any hotels listed, so I aimed to go to Laayone, where there are a number of hotels. The only problem with the Laayone is that it's 750km across the desert, which is about 10 hours of riding. Simon and I worked out, we were doing well, if we could average 80kpm overall, with fuel stops and check points. As I started off one thing in my favour was it was overcast and cool, in fact quite misty. To start with the road was good and I was keeping good speeds. It was very boring though as there wasn't anyone about, not even camels, or I couldn't see them in the haze. I had one visit to a petrol station that didn't have fuel, another where they guy had to be woken up and switch on the generator to power the pumps and lastly a guy who refused to serve me because the pump attendants were having lunch, just what you need when you are in a hurry. This was all eating into my time.

    When the sun appeared I noticed I had a riding companion. He's been with me before in Africa and in Iran, early in the morning or just before sunset. Strange I had not seen him when riding with Simon. Good to have him back.

    Then I hit the roadworks just after Dakhla, major roadworks with detours offroad and slow riding, coming down we weren't rushing, so this time the roadworks they seemed worse. I was now getting worried about making Laayone before I got too tired, and a headwind was not helping. I decided to put Boujdour in the GPS and have a look for a hotel. I rode through but didn't see any, and there was only a campsite listed in the GPS. I stopped at a cafe, which had rooms and ordered a coffee. I asked the waitress about the rooms and she shook her head and suggested it was not a good idea. I got on to booking.com to check on the Laayone hotels and now, none were showing rooms. This was not good, I might have to ride on and hope to get a room in Laayone which i did not think was wise, as I was quite tired, so decided to look at the campsite in Boujdour first. It was down by the sea and I asked if they had rooms and they did, simple ones for about £8 and bigger ones for £12. I decided to splash out. So got in a room with 2 beds, no en-suite though, a veranda and the bike parked outside, perfect. I went up to town and bought some water, got money and bread and cooked a meal.


    A nice relaxing evening and I can hear the Atlantic as I write this.

    It was a nice relaxing start today with breakfast on the terrace watching the sunrise.

    I had decided on Tan Tan as my likely destination a mere 500km up the road, so was not going to rush away. What a delight it is to have the bike parked outside the door of the room, making loading so much easier. I did have a problem with the bike when I arrived in Boujdour last night when filing up. When I unscrewed the cap of the spare Acerbis tank, the rubber tube connecting it to the main tank split, severing the tube. This was not critical but would limit my range, as the fuel in the auxiliary tank would not feed automatically into the main tank. I had some self amalgamation tape and did a repair that evening and was hoping this should fix it. The tape should form a leakproof seal, even with petrol and be strong enough to hold the tube together. I'd find out today if it works.

    On the way out of town I picked up a bread, for less than 10 cents(€) for lunch. Once on the road I had the headwind from the right again making riding hard work. This lasted for a couple of hours but the road was generally good and I was making reasonable progress. The hardest feature of the wind was in overtaking trucks. Approaching a truck I would be leaning into the wind, then as I neared the rear of the truck, the side wind died and the bike had to be upright and as I finished the overtake the wind hit me, harder for a few seconds, so I had to suddenly lean into it, to maintain stability, all good fun!

    I had taken trouble to make sure my fisches were correct before leaving and this seemed to be helping me with the many checkpoints. One thing which was not helping was that my entry stamp into Morocco had been done on top of the Mauritanian visa and made it difficult for the checkpoint police to see. Once I knew what they were searching for I would point it out, to speed things up. After a couple of hours the headwind changed to a following side wind which was much better. I was now cruising at a good speed and the road was generally good, but not perfect, as there were occasional bad potholes and I hit two of them, clipping one of them as I tried to avoid it, but no damage done.

    At one checkpoint the Gendarme came over to me and said I was Irish before I had a chance to say anything. I confirmed I was and he then asked where my friend was. In had to explain that Simon was in Senegal, that I had got ill etc. So it seems the Gaels made an impression on him too on the way down. With the side wind I mentioned, sand was encroaching on to the road and a couple of times it was quite dangerous.


    Anyway, I got to Tan Tan in one piece and the one hotel in the GPS had a room. I asked how much and the lady quite rightly asked would you like to see the room before she told me the price. I had a look and it was large and ensuite and when i came down she told me it was £16, an excellent result. After resting I had a walk around the town. Just 100 meters from the hotel was a service station with a shop attached, named "Things to buy for cars", so I went in and asked about petrol tubing and am now the proud owner of a meter of plastic tubing. The main activity on a Saturday night in Tan Tan is watching football. I saw Watford beat Arsenal and later Barca draw with Athletico. I asked what was on the menu at the hotel restaurant and ended up talking to the chef. I explained I wanted a simple tagine and explained my food difficulty in Mauritania, so the chef proposed he would send out for some meat and make me a tagine. He did and it was delicious, almost as good as my cooking last night.




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  12. #60
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    Jim: great account and glad you are finding new and good places to stay as you head North. Stay safe!


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    The ride from Tan Tan north was pretty uneventful. It took a while to get used to the urban driving with frequent speed limits which the locals were observing, so I did the same.
    I did pass this gentleman who caught my eye, pedalling along.

    Arriving at Taroudant what is most striking sight are the walls which surround the town, apparently 7km long.

    I had booked ahead and my riad Der Fatima was in the medina and I was not sure how easy it would be to find it or if I'd be able to get the bike near. I needn't have worried as the GPS led me to a sign and then a guy pointed down a little alley.

    I asked if I could take the bike and he agreed and led the way. In fact I was able to park outside, which always makes packing and unpacking easy.The riad was a fine old building, a nice room and roof terrace. After a shower and rest i went exploring the town. The riad manager had recommended a resturant and a route. I got lost but managed to explore at least one souk. The souk is not aimed at tourists but at the local people, a refreshing experience, something I also noticed in Iran. No souvenirs or presents to be bought though.

    When I finally got to the square with the restaurant I wandered over and was greeted like a lost soul by the owner. He dragged a table away from a local and put a chair down for me. At this point a couple, who I'd seen in the riad, called me over and asked me to join them. They were a charming Italian couple touring Morocco by hire car. We had a great evening chatting and comparing notes, on good places to visit. We were both struck with how relaxed this town was, with everyone getting on with their jobs in a cheerful way. We felt very much at ease and very safe walking around in this very relaxing atmosphere.

    The next morning I had planned an interesting route to Marrakech and this was partly why I had stayed at Taroudant. The route was almost directly north, over one the famous pass, Tizi n Test, which rises to 2,100 meters. I had driven this pass a few years ago and since then wanted to ride it. This was a good use of the extra time I had for my return. The ride started along a plane with the mountains off to the left, which is where I was heading.

    Once I'd passed the turnoff to Ouarzazate the road began to climb. When I drove this 3 years ago there was a lot of roadworks and I was hoping most would be finished but aware I was likely to encounter some. The climb did not start well. At the first roadworks there was a "Divation". I had many in the desert and it usually meant you get diverted off the main road unto a prepared but rough temperary road, a bit of a pain but not a problem. In this case the surface was just loose soil and apparently likely to generate dust with the traffic. The engineers had helpfully arranged for a large water tanker to damp down the soil, avoiding the dust. The soil hare was less sandy than of late and making it wet produced...mud.

    I love mud even less than sand and it is a surface these knobbely tyres do not handle well, whatever about the rider. I started with some trepidation and in 5 meters the rear tyre is coated in mud and I am slithering around with the rear tyre doing all it can to disappear from under me. What fun! I paddled on up the slope and was feeling a bit of a wimp when I saw 2 locals coming along, also slithering like me and shaking their heads. About this point I noticed a dry strip, which the tanker had missed, on the other side of the road. I wasn't keen on slithering across the road but it looked inviting and worth the effort. I got just over half way across when I heard a beep behind me and it was the tanker making its final run and then proceeded to douse the dry strip. Oh joy! I was wondering at that point if it was not going to be my day. I was smiling to myself, despite the frustration. Anyway, I got through it and didn't drop the bike and stopped to take stock, the bike and my boots were a mess, looked good though. I was hoping there wouldn't be many "Diviations" like this.


    In fact I was quickly out of the roadworks and on a good surface. This suited me fine as we were starting to climb and there were some lovely corners. I did wonder how much of the mud was still in the tyres and tested a few corners but the bike seemed to be gripping well. Suddenly this became the ride I had hoped for, with good corners, not hairpin but corners you could ride around and an excellent grippy surface. I had a big grin on my face and on one of the corners which went on much longer than I expected, found myself laughing out loud. Now riding fast on mountain passes needs full concentration and any worldly concerns I had faded into the background for a time and I totally absorbed myself into the climb. It was a pretty good thing to be doing, riding my bike over this wonderful pass and heading to one of my favourite cities, Marrakesh. The road surface wasnt always good, some was broken up and there was a big rockfall blocking my side of the road.


    There were also goats wandering over the road but got out of the way when I came along. The views to the side were spectacular, great expanses of mountainside with hill villages on the slope.


    This photo shows the road I've been climbing.

    Eventually I reached the summit and stopped to catch my breath.

    The ride down wasn't so demanding and seemed more gradual. The city traffic only got busy near the centre but I had the hotel location in the GPS and it tracked me to the front door. I unloaded and parked the bike in a garage 100 meters away. After a shower I was off up to the Jemma al Fana square to soak up the atmosphere. It was bustling as usual and I started with a chickpea soup before hitting the souk.

    The soup is a Jemma tradition and costs 25 pence, very sustaining. I mooched around the souk, did a few deals and went back to the square some some spicy sausages and tomato salad. On the way back to the hotel I listened to the musicians and soaked up the last of the atmosphere in the square. I was heading towards Fes tomorrow but booked an auberge, near a big lake just 200km from Marrakesh.






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  14. #62
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    Jun 2011
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    New Romney, Kent
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    Looks great. Off to Morocco tomorrow and hopefully be doing Tizi n Test in about a week. Good to see/hear firsthand report!

    ride safe

    ATB
    Tony

  15. #63
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    Axford, Hampshire, England
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    Quote Originally Posted by royle100 View Post
    Looks great. Off to Morocco tomorrow and hopefully be doing Tizi n Test in about a week. Good to see/hear firsthand report!

    ride safe

    ATB
    Tony
    Thanks Tony. Not sure of your route but I'd recommend doing it south to north. A steeper climb that way and better corners. Overall surface is pretty good, you should enjoy it. Raining in Fes at moment so hope weather is better for you. Cheers Jim

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  16. #64
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    Aug 2005
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    N E Hampshire
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    722

    Click here to find out how to remove these ads

    Jim
    Looks like you are making the most of it. I have just arrived in Banjul after a fabulous time in Southern Senegal.

    Lots of adventures and more than one breakdown but I am now a fan of the thorn tree mechanic whose ingenuity can be recruited for the equivalent of a few euros - even in the middle of nowhere!

    A few snaps

    A beautiful spot for a total electrical failure
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    Made it to the coast of the Casamance and saw the fishermen return
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