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Morocco motorcycle tour for Africa beginners
Morocco motorcycle tour for Africa beginners
Allah’s wild rock garden
Mysterious cities, mountains with high passes and deep gorges, ancient oases and lots of desert ?? Morocco casts a spell over you. And is also suitable for beginners in Africa.
A moment ago it was a bright day, two corners further down there is diffuse twilight. Stone walls and hatch-reinforced house facades grow up on both sides of the road, which look like the massive walls of a canyon. The sky narrows to a narrow strip and disappears behind a tightly meshed roof structure made of wickerwork, which finally covers the street canyon like a cover. Irritated, I take off the accelerator, direct the BMW F 650 GS at the first fork east, take the third junction on the left, then the path comes to an end. Damn it, if only I hadn’t ventured into this labyrinth without a guide.
I’m on my way to Marrakech, the »Pearl of the Orient«, as it is called. Towered over by the snow-covered four-thousand-meter peaks of the High Atlas, characterized by lush palm gardens, ornate mosques and an old town where, as a newcomer to the Orient, you immediately lose your orientation despite GPS and compass. Guaranteed. Dark alleys, artfully interlinked, lead from somewhere to somewhere, flanked left and right by tower-high house walls, whose clay-colored facades resemble each other in an irritating way in the eyes of the stranger. As soon as the engine stops, the voices of the Orient ring my ears with the calls of the muezzin, the palaver of the dealers, the neighing of the horses, the screeching of the mopeds and the creak of the donkey carts and after a while somehow steer me out of the cul-de-sac The center of the action.
At the edge of the souks I meet my travel companions: three other motorcyclists and Ali, the pilot of the support vehicle. Together we stroll across the Djemaa El Fna – the meeting place of the dead. Once the heads of the beheaded were displayed here, today this place functions as probably the liveliest arena in the Orient. Traditional Gnaoua dancers let their heads circle rhythmically to the sound of various drums, snakes crawl out of woven baskets at the command of their masters, storytellers and fortune tellers swing unctuous speeches, alchemists demonstrate their latest mixtures. Morocco welcomes us with a wide range of exotic impressions.
“Monsieur Achmed” is no exception. In his booth, the old Berber creates a lucky charm for my trip. His recipe: toenails and fingernails, a clump of hair, bird feathers, urine and snake skin. The whole thing is vigorously stirred three times in a bowl and mixed with a little spit and placed in a brass cartridge, in which there is also space for a piece of paper with a magic formula. While I attach the cartridge to my key chain, Achmed mumbles another spell to himself, which is supposed to protect me from all harm during my trip. A lot of hocus-pocus for the equivalent of one euro.
We leave Marrakech the next morning towards the Atlas Mountains. The magic seems to be working. Suddenly everything is easy and playful, the little BMW snakes its way through the hectic traffic that apparently knows no rules. The first hairpin bends behind the town, which gradually lead upwards. With the snow-covered High Atlas in view, we follow the exuberant swings of the road over the 2260 meter high Tizí-n-Tichka pass to the south. The date palms have disappeared in the rearview mirror, and suddenly there is snow on the roadside. In the distance we suspect the 4,167 meter high Jebel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest mountain. With these mountains, nature has created a frosty protective wall to the Sahara, which begins to spread in a south-easterly direction behind it.
No sooner has the pass top been crossed than the green northern flank of the Atlas gives way to a desert-like landscape. Mighty clay castles fit perfectly into the rugged, bizarre mountain world. Ali swerves the off-road vehicle from the main route onto a runway. Heavily loaded, the Land Rover rocks like a camel in the desert. The path is narrow and very dusty, and leads in places over scree and rocky steps. After all, there are a few river crossings to be mastered, but the good BMWs have no problems with that.
We hit the Kasbah Telouèt and a little later the Kasbah Tamdakht. The richly ornamented buildings of these traditional mud castles have long been empty. Not so near Ait Benhaddou. The complex of several casbahs nested one above the other has made it onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A fairytale-like network of ornate mud castles, granaries, narrow streets and stairs. Strangers are immediately seized by loitering children. “Dirham, stylo,” it sounds from all sides. Money and pen. No chance to get rid of the annoyance. Ali rushes to help, sending the little ones to fetch water with a sweeping gesture. The traces immediately without arguing and come back a little later actually laden with water. “Did you pay them anything?” I ask Ali. “No, the youth here still have respect for old age.” I nod. And guess: as old as it can be
I don’t even become a tourist.
Unfortunately, a detailed tour of the city falls victim to a sudden sandstorm. At the last second we take refuge in a sales room, the owner of which is apparently happy about our presence. We’re supposed to help him write a postcard to Germany. “Dear Peter,” I write, “Father bought 250 carpets in the desert, 40 I still have in stock. Best regards, Abdul. «While the sandstorm is raging outside, our host serves one mint tea after the other. Bob Marley yells from the tape recorder, “My generation will make
the change «against the storm.
Fortunately, the whole haunt only lasts about an hour. When it clears up, we set off towards the southeast, crossing the hectic Quarzazate. The storm swept like a sandblaster over the many mud castles that line up behind the city along “the street of the kasbahs”: the buildings look polished. Some of these magically beautiful buildings serve today as a backdrop for historical monumental films such as “Gladiator”.
We follow the course of the Dadès to Boumalne Dadès. Behind the oasis, the river, lined with palm trees, figs and white poplars, has dug itself spectacularly into the red sandstone cliffs like a green lifeline: In the Gorges du Dadès, quasi the Grand Canyon of Morocco, nature shows off steeply towering rock faces and unusual rock formations, as if it would they surpass human structures many times over in terms of size and beauty. In the middle of the gorge we meet nomads who have settled in a draughty cave with just a few belongings. While the women bake bread over an open fire, the men immediately offer each of us a cup of goat milk. Hospitality, generosity and helpfulness
more important than business acumen in the desert, explains Ali. Shortly afterwards we roll through a fascinating scree desert. The piste leads up to an altitude of 2800 meters and then twists down into the Gorges du Todra, which appears even more spectacular than the Dadès Gorge. Sometimes the rocks that enclose the river reach a height of up to 300 meters – and at the narrowest point this huge incision is just ten meters wide. Sunlight down here on the bottom? Nothing. At best for a moment around noon. A fantastic place – apart from the hustle and bustle that is there. After the loneliness in the mountains, the presence of the many other tour groups, most of whom have been carted here by buses from the direction of Tinerhir, seems almost strange.
The next day Ali leads us across the Sarhro Mountains to the palm-fringed Drâa Valley. In the evening, the group finally reaches the oasis town of Zagora, the last base before the vastness of the Sahara, so to speak, which extends from here over a thousand square kilometers in a south, east and west direction. An old sign points in
Direction Timbuktu. The ride there in the saddle of a camel would take 52 days. But the time of the great Trans-Saharan caravans is long gone, and the former caravan station has now adapted to modern times: It has mutated into a lively tourist center. Today camels only carry visitors from all over the world through the nearby sand dunes.
In the middle of the bustling streets of the center, a trader in a blue robe holds a business card under my nose, quite brazenly: Idbassine Mohammed, occupation: nomad, no address, no fax, no telephone. His sales room, into which I follow him a little disgruntled, is hung with carpets and brass vessels. Idbassine, however, turns out to be
as the perfect host: he immediately prepares tea and starts talking. From days of camel rides with his nomad brothers through the desert, from a thousand and one stars in the night sky. He knows what tourists want to hear. If the atmosphere is right, the truth hardly matters – most of the “hommes bleu”, as the ubiquitous blue-clad dealers are called, like to pretend to be Touaregs to promote sales, even if they do
are not related to the known nomad people.
We’re heading west. On the way from Agdz to Tazenakht we chase the aged BMW F 650 over dusty slopes and frayed asphalt strips, on which only the right of the fittest counts. Countless trucks don’t give a damn about oncoming traffic, and police officers waiting in camouflaged cars somewhere on the roadside carry out raid-like ID checks – Morocco is a transit country for black African refugees on their way to the EU. Hundreds of them are out and about, depending on the season.
Via Taliouine and Igherm we get to the Tafraoute oasis. The long journey is in everyone’s bones. Ali recommends visiting a “hammam.” There is a bathhouse for men and one for women. Because women talk more and spend more time in it, Ali says, the latter costs twice as much. Well. Shortly afterwards, the lifeguard Khadija scrubs the desert dust off my body with a brush and soap. But that’s not all. While I am lying on the bare tiles, the weighty Kadija sits on me, bends my arms and legs – to relax the muscles – and finally pours me over with a bucket of water.
Our group is aiming for the Atlantic. Ali wants to show us his dream beach, which is between Ifni and Gourizim. And really, what presents itself at the end of a slope takes our breath away: an endless, lonely beach with wonderfully jagged rock gates – the perfect backdrop for a magnificent sunset. The scenery works
mysterious, almost utopian.
Back in Tafraoute we work out the way back over the High Atlas to Marrakech with Ali: Âït-Baha, Taroudannt, finally the 2093 meter high Tizí-n-Test pass. At the
it starts next morning. Through the oasis valleys and rocky regions of the Anti-Atlas, through the fertile Sous plain near Taroudannt, with a view of the snow-covered heights of the Jebel Toubkal over the High Atlas to the north – hardly any other African country has such contrasts. Back in Marrakech I visit Monsieur Achmed on the Djemaa El Fna to say thank you for the travel amulet. He smiles, pulls out a new brass cartridge, mixes together toenails and fingernails, a clump of hair, bird feathers, urine and snake skin, adds spit and a magic formula written on paper, screws the whole thing up with pliers, attaches a key ring and presses the new one for me Amulet in hand. The old one, he explains to my puzzled face, only protects when traveling in Morocco. The new one is essential for my trip home to Europe. The price – Monsieur Achmed shows with a sweeping hand movement the immense length of such a journey – has doubled: 22 dirhams, the equivalent of two euros.
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Allah’s wild rock garden
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Morocco is one of the most varied landscapes in Africa? and is suitable as a good one
Entry into the Black Continent, especially since the security situation is currently considered to be relatively relaxed.
Morocco fans unfortunately have to accept an extremely long journey. If you have enough meat you can ride a motorcycle
to Algeciras, Spain. The distance from Munich is around 2500 kilometers
(the tolls for the French and
the Spanish motorways add up to around 65 euros). The ferry passage
from the Spanish port city to Tangier only takes two hours and costs around 60 euros per person and motorcycle. Info: www.transmediterranea.es. The crossing from the south of France is more comfortable, but more expensive-
French port of Sète to Tangier: The
The 36-hour passage costs in the cheapest category from around 250 euros per person and motorcycle. Info: www.comanav.ma. Further information on ferry connections can be found on the Internet at www.faehre-online.de, www.faehrensucher.de and www.woick.de.
D travel time
Morocco can in principle all year round
over to be visited. But who does too
those south of the High Atlas
If you want to travel to desert areas, you should choose spring (March, April and May) or autumn (September, October).
In the summer months, due to the great heat, only tours in the Atlas Mountains are possible, while in winter some of the slopes there may be impassable due to snow.
D documents / money
To enter Morocco, all you need is a passport and a green insurance card for the vehicle, which can be proven
must apply to Morocco. The local currency
is the Moroccan Dirham (a Dh =
100 centimes). Get for one euro
the equivalent of around eleven dirhams.
D stay overnight
In all larger towns and in the well-known tourist centers you can find pensions and hotels from around 30 euros per person per night. Simple accommodations where you can spend the night for ten euros,
are everywhere in the country. Wild camping
is possible away from inhabited areas.
In Marrakech you can spend the night very well in the
stylish »Dar Moulay Ali«. The double-
room costs from 42 euros.
The »Dar Daif« is also very appealing,
which is about five kilometers outside of Quarzazate. There are around 33 euros to shell out for a double room. The “Hotel Legzira” is located around ten kilometers outside of Sidi Ifni on a wonderful stretch of beach. Here you can sleep very well in a double room for around 45 euros. Information and booking (also for tours, canyoning, camel excursions): atlas activ tours, phone 0751/769340, www.atlas-activ-tours.de.
Further information: Moroccan State Tourist Office, Dusseldorf, phone 0211/370551, www.tourismus-in-marokko.de.
D Organized tours
The company GS-Sportreisen from Munich offers in the coming spring as well as in autumn
a 14-day guided tour from Malaga through Morocco. Who on your own
Motorcycle is on the way, pays 2600 euros
(including all overnight stays, tour guide, luggage transport and half board). In the saddle of a rental motorcycle (BMW F 650 GS, R 1150 GS or R 1200 GS) the fun costs from 800 euros more. Information: GS-Sportreisen, phone 089/27818484, www.gs-sportreisen.de.
Lots of travel tips, route suggestions and background information about the country and its people
both provide travel know-how
Volumes published by the publisher »Morocco«
(25 euros) and “Agadir / South Morocco” (19.90 euros). The Michelin map 742 »Morocco«
on a scale of 1: 1,000,000 already offers a good representation of the slopes. Price: 7.50 euros.
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