MEANDERINGS in MOROCCO

2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
It is time for a change of scenery, culture and cuisine, so I am departing in a few hours to spend a few weeks riding around Morocco.

Photos I have seen of Morocco remind me of my beloved Central Australia, so let's go and see for myself.

A very reasonable rental deal was obtained from this group.


Mr Aziz there has been helpful and friendly in enabling me to get a well setup SWM 600 bike and in providing route details.
I had never even heard of this bike before and I look forward to giving it a gentle ride around Morocco.

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Most likely the ride report will be submitted when I return to Thailand as I don't intend spending time on doing that in Morocco when
I can be enjoying the sites, sounds and flavours of what looks like a fascinating place.

So, more in a few weeks time.
 
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Iron Chef

Junior Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2015
Location
Tokyo
Bikes
FJR1300
Looking forward to this ride report. Morocco is on my list for next year but in competition with other places, also interested to hear how that bike is.
 

2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Marrakech, bike delivery, to Essaouira, Jemaa el-Fnaa market


2nd October

I will write this report with the ‘first visit to Morocco’ reader in mind.

My research showed that Austrian Air had the most convenient schedules Bangkok-Vienna-Marrakech, where my rental bike would be waiting near the airport. It’s a 10.5 hour flight to Vienna the 3.5 down to Marrakech arriving at 1pm on October 2nd (my 71st birthday).

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I collected some Moroccan dirham and a SIM card at the airport then confronted the taxi swarm for a hectic ride into Marrakech. (Taxi drivers usually charge per person to get to a destination).

First impression was the amount of terra-cotta colored buildings in Marrakech. It isn’t called ‘The Red City’ for no reason!

Checked into the Oudaya Hotel (169 rooms and well located). Good news; my room had a deep bathtub!

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I then contacted Mr Aziz from Motor Rental Morocco who sent a colleague, Mr Abdul, to meet me and take me to the storage shed where my SWM was waiting.

I didn’t know anything about SWM. This was a near new bike with only 4017kms on the clock.
Apparently SWM is a Milan based company founded in 1971. They actually have a wide range of models. Mine was a Superdual X, single cylinder, 630cc, 169kgs, Husquvarna heritage. I had negotiated a deal with Mr Aziz that included new side boxes, tools, new spare tubes, extra bags, and other goodies. The engine oil and filter had been changed. A faulty horn (necessary!) was replaced and paperwork done.
We fitted my Montana GPS. The large 18 liter tank was full and I was ready to go. I later discovered that the bike's range was over 400kms.

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So I rode back into frantic Marrakech and fell into their large pool before a bit of walking around the city.

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Note. This was the first time Mr Aziz had rented a bike to a solo rider. He usually does guided rides for small groups. The bike was not to go off sealed roads, the centre stand was to be used when parking overnight and no fuel purchased from plastic containers in remote areas was to be put into the tank. I was later to unintentionally break the agreement but that’s a story for later in this report!


3rd October

A bit of a ride around the city to familiarize myself with the bike, the local road culture and the GPS. No dramas, although ‘my’ bike did not enjoy 1st gear crawling through traffic unless revs were kept up.

I discovered that a government Red Bus Service offers a 70 minute loop around the city, having 18 stops where passengers can ‘hop off hop back on’ over 48 hours for the ticket price. This was a excellent way to get around. The upper windowless deck offers a cooling breeze and passengers take in the sites and sounds of this fascinating city. I did a couple of loops, refreshed, then took the plunge and decided to tackle the famous, historic and massive Jemaa el-Fnaa market (medina).

Wiki states that this medina's history dates back almost 1,000 years.



I’m not a crowd person, so this would be a test. Evening is the best time to be there. I arrived around 5pm and ‘massive’ is the word.
I walked about 5ms in that medina, taking in the sites, sounds and aromas. There is a significant armed police presence here.
The cool breeze helped.
All manner of hustlers and beggars can be confronting but, hey, that’s the way it is.

The best way to appreciate Jemaa el-Fnaa is from a height, looking down on it all. There are a few very good restaurants on the perimeter of the Medina and I found a ring-side seat on the first floor at one. Mint tea, a pizza, some ice-cream and life was good watching and listening to the action from a distance.

Some scenes from Jemaa el Fna and from the bus ride.

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Someone at the market is doing quite well.

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4th October

Time to do a short tour on the bike.
I rode along a mostly straight and good road to coastal Essaouira. 162 kms and a police presence enforcing the speed limits.
Some police checks even have road spikes at the ready.
Exactly 11kms before my destination there was a noticeable drop in temperature (from 34 Celsius) and the pleasing smell of the ocean.

The actual beach and water was disappointing but I’m an Aussie used to white beaches and blue water. The shallows here were dirty from brown soil, probably tonnes of Sahara sand.
I found this to be a seaside tourist town and, apart from the sunset, it had nothing to offer me.
It is known as ‘The Windy City’ and it sure was. One overnighter here.

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Not something one sees every day.

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There are many of these old Renaults around Morocco.

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And cats everywhere, but very few dogs.

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5th October

A casual ride back towards Marrakech, stopping at Mzoudia where a huge horse festival of some kind was taking place. I dismounted and walked amongst the horses, being invited to take photos of riders in their regalia on their magnificent steeds.

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A couple of guys approached me to show how they loaded their muskets. I’m not sure what this huge gathering was all about, so some research is needed.

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Back into Marrakech, refreshed and onto the Red Bus again for a relaxing tour of the city and another visit to the amazing Jemaa el Fna.

Tomorrow to another destination.
 
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oldbloke

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2011
Bikes
Aprilia SL750 Shiver in Aus., rentals in LOS
"The bike was not to go off sealed roads " . :oops: Some of the best scenes in most countries are off the beaten track. Seems a bit stringent, though I'm sure it means fewer dust/maintenance problems.
 

2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Marrakech to Imlil

6th October

Imlil was my destination today, following the winding and scenic roads R2009 then R2024.

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What an attractive area this is.

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A shaded track into Imlil with the scent of apples along the way.

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I arrived at Imlil mid afternoon and was lucky to find and check into the 6 year old Kasbat Imoula Hotel.

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Imlil has real charm and character.

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At the Hotel there was a very friendly greeting from English speaking Maria and a Berber lad Hassan.
Mint tea and nuts were provided as a welcome, then a friendly chat about Imlil.
During this time I saw Arabic being written for the first time (filmed) and heard Berber spoken for the first time, which is a language unto itself (although apparently not written).

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The charming Maria and Berber Hassan.

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Very secure bike parking was provided.

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Then a brief walk around hilly Imlil and discovered Mr Mohommed preparing tarjine for his restaurant.

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The Hotel has access to its rooftop and I spent a lot of time up there looking at the magnificent views and listening to the bustling village.

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Imlil is an excellent trekking area and there were many trekkers heading for the hills.

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I decided to stay 2 nights at this charming place and here are a few views of Imlil.

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Some dramatic restaurant locations.
The Atlas Mountains, with the highest peak in north Africa at 4,167 metres (Mt Toubkal) right here

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Some precarious local roads.

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7th October

A good nights rest in this quiet village.
Things don't get under way until around 8-30 am. The mornings are cold.
A large breakfast was provided over-which I chatted with the friendly staff and consumed lots of wonderful mint tea.

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Just outside my room was a walnut tree with walnuts falling to ground.
Maria and the staff invited me to share lunch with them, so I enjoyed my first couscous tarjine.

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So that was wonderful and dramatic Imlil.
Yes, I could live there and hope to return.

Time to 'hit the road' again.
There is no fuel or money exchange here, so I back-tracked the 91 kms to busy Isna where all facilities are available.
 

2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Imlil to Tizi n Tichka to Ouarzazate

8th October

Time to 'hit the road' after another large breakfast, saying 'goodbye' to my new friends at the Kasbat Imoula Hotel.
I filled the tank and changed Euro to dirham at Isna then headed in the wrong direction!
I realiized my error about 20kms along Mistake Road, did a U-turn and headed back towards the outskirts of Marrakech and my ultimate destination, Ouarzazate.

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Major roadworks have been occurring along this road (Rn9) for about 8 years and there's still a lot to do. The bike enjoys this kind of patchy surface. It has a compliant suspension, good brakes, a comfy seat and responsive steering.

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These roadside stops are excellent.

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The highlight was the Tichka Pass.
Again, apart from Tichka, much of this ride reminded me of Central Australia with vast expanses of red soil, rugged mountain ranges, dry creek beds and even Eucalypts.

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A lonely soccer field in the desert.

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Someone dared to be a bit different.

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Oh, it's wise to carry drinking water when riding out here.

I decided to stop at the excellent 'all in one' Winxo Motel Safari Budget just before Ouarzazate city and was glad I did.
Ouarzazate has a population of some 70,000 souls and I wanted some peace and quiet.

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It does pay to speak French in Morocco.

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This is the only place where I saw a 'no smoking' sign.
One of the negatives about Morocco is that all of the eating venues allow smoking and, for a non smoker, this can really spoil the enjoyment of a meal.

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The view over another soccer field from the outside dining area. Rugged.

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Winxo had it all; excellent rooms, friendly staff, fine restaurant, bike cleaning, gasoline, 24/7 service and a very friendly owner.
So I decided to relax after my 7 hour ride (yes, I take time to smell the roses) and head off to the next highlight the following day.

The owner has a collection of old Citroens and Renaults.

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And this Goldwing which he uses to tour Europe.

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Here he is, the very friendly Mr Nour-Eddine Hakkou.

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The object next to the bike is a shoe cleaner.

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The view from my room, just to emphasize the rugged desolation of this area.

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An excellent stop-over.
Tomorrow, Dades Gorge.
 
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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Ouarzazate to Dades Gorge.

9th October.

This was a special ride.
No need for many words, maybe the pics will tell the story.

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Here's a land-scaping challenge.

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Now, let the fun begin!
Dades Gorge road.

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A restaurant lookout.

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This is where I met the first big bikes seen so far on my ride.

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A coffee break and a look around and then back onto the road.

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To the cooling breeze through the gorge.

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And then ... a major stuff up.
 

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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Dades Gorge to Agoudal by mistake then to Todra Gorge.

It was after enjoying the Dades Gorge area that things went drastically wrong for me.
Somehow I took the wrong road and finished up riding a dangerous track along the top of the Atlas Mountains.
I had unintentionally broken one of the agreements; I had taken the bike off sealed roads, and seriously so.

Back near Msemrir I was told by two local guys (in broken English and French) that the main road to Todra was blocked by an avalanche.
They pointed in the direction I should go as an alternative.
Another guy told me, in perfect English, that a river had cut the road and if he could sit on the back of my bike he would show me a 'shortcut' via his 'restaurant'. Even my Garmin was not sure on where Todra was.

So I rode along a broken sealed road for about 20kms then 'hit the dirt'.
I was on R704, which turns out to be quite notorious.
Lots of 1st and 2nd gear work. The bike handled the going very well.
This was spectacular scenery but, I now regret, I did not stop for photos because I knew I should not be there and it was approaching late afternoon. So I will borrow some pics from Tim Cullis and include a video of a couple of motorhomes tackling this track.
I'd certainly opt for a bike over a motorhome!

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Where I should have ridden (which turned out to be open!)

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Where I actually rode (but it took me over 3 very careful hours.

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There was absolutely no traffic along this very isolated track, however some locals were walking along it with their stock.

Looking back, now that I know about this track, I'd love to do it again at leisure in the right weather.
It is simply spectacular.

Back near Msemrir I spotted this door in the side of a cliff and later discovered that people do have a residence there, similar to Coober Pedy in Central Oz.

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I eventually arrived in Agoudal, the highest village in Morocco, and (as everywhere) was immediately surrounded by kids who are all fascinated by big bikes.

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So it was an overnight stay here, more mint tea and time to work out where I went wrong.
One issue was that the Garmin kept on losing signal.
Another was that Todra Gorge is actually spelt in a variety of ways!
Anyway, it was a peaceful, if unintended, nights rest in Agoudal.

Here's a video, thanks to Chris Hillier, who did R704 in a motorhome a few years ago.





next Todra Gorge.
 
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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Agoudal to Todra Gorge to Tinghir.

10th October.

The days are warm to hot and the evenings cool to cold at this time of year in Morocco.
Perfect riding weather in delicious, fresh air.
Again, I stress the importance of carrying water and remaining hydrated.

I departed Agoudal around 10am after checking that everything was still attached to the bike and that the oil level was OK.
No problems there. Tough bike.
One bike criticism here. The window for checking the oil is really inaccessible and very difficult to read.
Likewise, the ignition switch, especially when wearing gloves, is quite difficult to get to. Easy solution though.

Todays ride was one of the best so far, about 88 kms of sealed, winding roads through valleys and gorges to Todra.
Again, there was a significant police presence along here and quite a few big bikes. 60kph means 60kph!
There were many deep and sharp-edged potholes along this road though.
A few times when riding along R703 and 'in my zone' I had to remind myself that I was actually in Morocco and not Central Australia.
So much of Morocco is similar to the Macdonnell Ranges of The Centre and the Flinders Ranges of South Oz.

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I was hoping that none of these riders had come to grief.

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Yes, there is some greenery along the valleys.

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Entering Todra from this direction is much less hectic than from the opposite direction where loads of tourist buses dominate the scene.
Who would have anticipated a traffic jam in Todra Gorge? But there was one!

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I rode on into Tinghir and was lucky to find the very adequate Hotel Tamassinte, which had a large swimming pool and something very
special and secretive!

It also offered excellent bike security.

Later in the night, when walking around this large Hotel, I discovered a man with a key to a door.
Behind the door was a refrigerator.
Inside the 'fridge were some beers.
Two Flag Specials were discreetly wrapped inside a black bag and I discreetly walked back to my room where I discreetly emptied the small bottles.

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All up, a splendid day in the saddle and a very good sleep!

Next; heading north.
 
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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Tinghir to Midelt

11th October

After a splendid but lonely breakfast it was a windy and windy ride from Tinghir.
The general plan was to gradually head towards the northern coastal regions of Morocco.

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Yep, that would be the correct road.

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I did not see much wildlife during my Moroccan adventure.
However, this lonely crane's nest caught my eye; quite amazing of all the places they chose to build a nest in this area was on the local mosque. Apparently they fly all the way down from northern Europe to nest here.

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I was told this is a tribute to their God and King.

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Looks like someone was caught speeding and didn't like it!

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I have to state here that I had no negative encounters with the local police.
Indeed, I found them to be friendly and helpful and most of them spoke a fair amount of English.
In fact, I came to rely on them for giving me accurate directions when needed. Respect where due.

Nice to have some shade for a while.

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Then into the pine forest area.

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This is a pomegranate area.

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And into Midelt for the night.

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... where, late at night, a mystery man brought me a mystery parcel the contents of which were discreetly consumed with delight.

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Proud of their nation and rightly so.

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Next, onwards toward the coast.
 
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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Midelt to Fez

12th October

Another windy and windy ride from Midelt along lots of major new roadworks through a cooling forest and into Fes.

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I was lucky to find the wonderful Riad Mimosa where I stayed two nights, mainly because the staff were friendly and an excellent venue was across the road. To hell with the tannery and throngs of tourists and touts.

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If an Africa Twin was there that was good enough for me.

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Inside the Mimosa.

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The Zen Garden opposite Mimosa was superb.
I discovered it was empty when I arrived on both nights because patrons tended to show up around 9pm by which time I was sated and out of there.

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A nice beer.

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Tomorrow, the coast.
 

2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Fes via Ouazzane to coastal Larache

13th October

I had stayed 2 nights in Fes, now the coast called so I headed out via R13 and Ouazzane.
This sealed road was the most dangerous I had so far encountered in Morocco because it had kms of cracked and deep 'fault lines' running parallel to the centre white line which tried to divert the bike off to the right and into whatever. Caution was needed.

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But there were some nice views along R13.

A bit of Ouazzane.

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At Larache I found the old fortress and then, luckily, the Hotel Espana which had a 'Fawlty Towers' appeal to it.
Basil was there and so was Manual. But their service was efficient.
Secure bike parking was available in a nearby carpark for a small donation.

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Larache was founded in the 7th century and has been continuously populated since then although it has had a turbulent history.
The fortress was built in the 15th century to protect the then village from invading Portugese but Larache fell to the Spaniards in 1610.
However, it regained its independence in 1689 and repopulated.
It was then colonized by Spain in 1911 and remained part of the French colony until 1955.

What I should have visited are the nearby Roman ruins of Lixus.
Next time.

Many busy streets here, full of tea-shops, restaurants and markets.
And nice coastal views.

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After settling in and walking around a bit I was invited to join the guys watching a France v Turkey soccer game.
The crowd supported Turkey as they sipped their mint tea and coffee. No alcohol here.

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I was delighted to discover an excellent bakery opposite the Hotel Espana.

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Larache has an obvious Spanish background and is a very pleasant city, so much so that I stayed there two nights.

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It is known for its fish restaurants. Yummy sole.

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More tea drinking with the guys that night and early to bed.

Next, up the coast to Asilah.
 
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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
15th October

On the ride up to Asilah I called into the very busy port at Larache.
Passport checks are required to enter.

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Quite a nice coastal town.

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And another huge fortress.

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Back to Larache for a sunset and fish dinner.

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Breakfast at Espana and planning the next stage.

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Yes, Larache is another place where I would happily live; perhaps sharing the coastal lifestyle with the rugged mountainous life of Imlil.

Little Larache has quite a turbulent history!



Next? Maybe to Casablance.
 
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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
Larache, rejection and Mohommedia.

16th October

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There was a fair distance to cover today so I got onto the Tollway that leads into Casablanca.

Had a chat about riding in Morocco with another friendly policeman, then on my way again.

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I decided to give the huge city of Casablanca a miss and head to a quieter coastal town.
Somewhere before Mohommedia I called into a place but was rejected even though, I discovered, they had rooms.
"Another darn Aussie biker, no way".
However, I nice lady in a very nice black Benz told me about the Sabah Hotel in Mohommedia and invited me to follow her.
By the time I had mounted the bike and slipped it into 1st gear she was a few hundred metres down the road and I never saw her again!

It was a terrible ride into Mohommedia but I eventually found the Sabah.
I was offered secure parking under the hotel.

Cleaned up and was fortunate to discover the splendid Aladdins which had delicious pizzas.

This is a nicely planned and relatively new beach resort, probably for the good folk from Casablanca to retreat to.

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Tomorrow, back to Marrakech.
 

2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
17th and 18th October

I decided to take the rural R9 heading for Marrakech.
This is not a very picturesque ride but it certainly avoids the traffic!

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I have been looking for one of these old Citroen vans for decades and there was one in Ben Guerir.

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A takeaway from the Sabah was my lunch beside the road. (not a bad idea to claim some breakfast food 'for the road' because the breakfasts are very generous).

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No photo stops along R9 and I arrived in Marrakech in time to have the bike washed.
It deserved some TLC as it had been a trouble-free steed over a wide variety of conditions.

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Then back at the Oudaya Hotel I deserved a mint tea, an ice-cream and a swim. (no pics of the latter!)

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Next day I wanted to revisit some places, one in particular (keeping in mind I am writing this for the 'first timer' to Morocco).

There are plenty of scooter rental places here.

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This is an ideal city for a Thai styled tuk-tuk. Very few of these around.
So, any true entrepreneurs out there?

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Him again and I still have to learn who he is.

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Two little Renault R4s, one abandoned and looking very forlorn.

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It may seem strange to talk about a shopping mall but this one deserves a mention.
At stop 14 on the Red Bus circuit and on the way to/from the airport is the large Menara Mall.
What is good about this place is the huge variety of cuisine available; from traditional Moroccan tarjine to Mexican.
It is also a good place to meet other travellers and discuss Morocco, where to go, what to avoid etc.

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Their 'GROG' was irresistible.

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Lemon chicken tarjine.

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Cats run around like they owned the place.

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Back at the Hotel I, for the first time, met Mr Aziz of Motor Rental Morocco. (right)
He had just returned from guiding a group of Dutch riders for a few days.
An enjoyable chat and a welcome beer ensued.

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That night we all walked back to the Jemaa el Fna market for more chatting and a meal.

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So the SWM showed 6,413 kms at the end of my adventure.
It had taken me around a fair bit of this fascinating country for 2,396 kms.

It is goodbye to Morocco and maybe see you again.

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2wheels

Community Manager
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Location
Chiang Mai
Bikes
Honda Rebel 500
For the 'first timer' intending to ride Morocco I would strongly recommend contacting Mr Aziz at Motor Rental Morocco because he
is expert at taking small groups on tours around Morocco. He has the necessary local knowledge to enhance the ride experience
(I missed a lot by riding solo) and he knows where to stay, eat etc. His English is very good too.

Within a couple of days I hope to have my actual tracks from my Garmin included in this report.
 

Captain_Slash

Community Manager
Joined
Jun 28, 2011
Bikes
BMW 310GS Honda Wave 125 Honda MSX 125
Great photos Ron and it sounds like you had a fun time
 

Iron Chef

Junior Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2015
Location
Tokyo
Bikes
FJR1300
Fantastic report. I've been pondering about riding there for awhile and this probably will tip the scales in favour.
Thanks for posting.
 
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