After the adventure in Iceland, it was time for Blk Mrkt (Bryan and Clément) to depart and discover new horizons. The desire of searching the quite opposite of Iceland – where cold, wind and rain were part of the quotidian – was present.
Where to go?
Alongside being a destination with a pleasant climate to start, Marocco has a sensational adventure riding reputation; the roads are generally in good condition and it is notably well-spoken for its characteristics for Rally Raid. Last not the least, it would be a true opportunity to be challenged in a different type of terrain and experience a new culture, unknown for them.
“Mid-April, departure from Paris towards Barcelona for a thousand kilometers of road, all to cover in 10 hours maximum! We are already under pressure, and the ferry which will take us to Tangier in Morocco won’t wait for us. We would be the last ones to cross the doors of the ferry before closing; it was a really close call and one problem less!” Bryan
After 28 hours of ferry from Barcelona and trying to sleep as much as possible (without much success) they arrive at Tangier Med in Morocco.
It passes one o’clock in the morning and they easily enter the country, after completing all the administrative formalities directly on the Ferry.
No GPS for this road trip: this time, they will mainly navigate by map.
“We have been trying to find our way for several hours, in vain. We stand in front of a gas station, we refuel, and decide to grab the nearest highway in order to be roughly repositioned to start tomorrow’s journey. We end up falling asleep on the ground of a highway parking lot. It’s far from being the most comfortable place, and I must admit that I’m not on my best shape. Between the sunstroke that I caught on the boat, and the difficulties in finding my bearings since our arrival on Moroccan soil, I need to take a breath and rest in order to attack this adventure in the best conditions.”
Three hours later, the sun rises and they wake up with the birds singing. Bryan lets Clement sleep a little more. He takes the 100 steps, just to warm himself up a bit.
Direction to Tétouan, a small cafe on site (then, you know) and after they head for Chefchaouen, their first main goal of this trip. It’s a city known in Morocco for its atypical blue houses. That would give them also the chance of finally eat in a nice restaurant and with a beautiful view of the whole city.
The sun is knocking; they’ve lost its habit. The rest of the day would run smoothly, between police checks and the first off-road tracks of this trip. One thing that struck them was the greenery all around. It does not correspond to the image most people have from the Moroccan landscapes. It’s a pleasant surprise to be evolved in such beautiful valleys.
They reach the city of Fez at around 7 p.m. Despite the thousands of people present in town that day, and the uncountable number of soldiers barricading the town due to the presence of King Mohamed VI, they manage to find a hotel for the evening.
They’ve been on the road for several days, and haven’t had yet the opportunity to take a real shower. A night in a real bed would be truly appreciated. All they needed to recharge the batteries, both: electrically, physically & mentally!
AGUELMAM AZIGZA NATIONAL PARK
After an excellent night’s rest, it’s time to start a new day.
“Well, it is noon and I must admit that the ultra-comfortable beds in the hotel have sucked us! We took time to wash the motorcycles, fill up the tanks and set off for the Aguelmam Azigza park which will be the first real discovery of this trip, for me. The valleys we crossed cross have a breathtaking beauty, between paved roads and some tracks under construction…Everything is perfect, too perfect: I have the impression that everything has been planted to the millimeter by man … Nature is truly incredible!”
They meet several shepherds and in each small village, children run after them, smiling. Some of them clap their hands when they pass. It’s a real exchange of good humor and sympathy that is transmitted other than through words; simple yet very significant moments when you are travelling.
The sun is starting to set, and the first TRUE off-road track of the road trip is finally under their wheels! Despite the fatigue they are starting to feel, this is the first opportunity for Bryan and Balou have fun: big gas on the sides of the valleys … a pure moment of happiness on a motorcycle!
“This track seems endless. I stop and propose Clement to camp the evening here: high up, not far from the river. The spot was so beautiful that he couldn’t refuse.”
They park the motorcycles nearby, and prepare the camp.
Night falls quickly in the mountains. They set up the tents and collect some wood to start a fire. The temperature has dropped enormously, it’s time for them to get to inside their sleeping bags and close their eyes.
A new day begins: they get up, rekindle the fire of the day before, and prepare to leave quietly.
They go by the river to cool off a bit, put on their bags, and hit yesterday’s track.
They decide to take the direction to the Cirque de Jafar: a section that you can only reach by 4X4 vehicles, motorcycles or buggy. The Africa Twins should pass it easily…
A local would help them to find the right entrance to the track and finally put them on the desired direction.
Radical change of atmosphere: the dirt tracks give place to a kind of rocky and dusty sand. This requires more vigilance, because the grip is different from the one they’ve been riding. A delicate maneuver would make them lose several hours:
Clément, wanting to make a U-turn, found himself at the bottom of a runway edge with the Africa Twin. Luckily, 2 Spanish bikers were passing by and help them to put the bike back on the track. But Clement slipped, and hit his lip on the Africa Twin’s windscreen. Result: a cut lip and a lot of blood flowing.
“Without even taking the time to look at his injury, I climbed onto his motorcycle to get it out of the place where it was dropped. Once the problem was solved, we cleansed Balou’s wound and resume the road with a lower rhythm. The goal was only to get out of there, safe and sound, and reach the city before dark. We also needed to find a pharmacy to better desinfect the wound but we would finish in a restaurant, eating a good grilled chicken with fries.”
The break made them good. Despite the threatening weather and the setting sun, they decide to make the most, direction to Merzouga even if the chances are they won’t get there the evening.
Night has now fallen and nothing can be seen. They are in Erfoud, not far from Merzouga. The original objective has not been achieved but it does not matter.
In this road trip, for them, the concept of time is clearly not part of the experience.
They are in no rush, although it is always good to keep a certain guideline throughout the trip. Most people don’t travel this way, but it’s the way they find of challenging themselves.
They stop on a roadside, to find a place to sleep in complete darkness. Two figures approach in the dark:
“Ah bah it’s them, I told you!” Incredible, two subscribers of their youtube channel manage to recognize them, even in the most complete darkness. They are in Morocco to participate in the “Maroc Desert Challenge”, a kind of amateur Rally. They need to find quickly a place out of the wind and the sandstorm that is coming upon them. They would end that evening in a restaurant, all together in the same hotel before going to bed, quite early. They would hit the road early in the next morning for a new travel stage.
THE SAND DUNES OF MERZOUGA
The sun seems to be back despite the strong gusts of winds still present. All the tourists from the previous day have left the hotel; the perfect opportunity to take a dive in the swimming pool, before loading the motorcycles and setting off again.
Before heading to Merzouga, they would need to find a garage to change the rear tire and brake pads of Clément’s motorcycle. Barely 200 dirhams (20 euros) and an hour’s work later, the bike is ready!
The desert is fast approaching, and they can see it, they can feel it. No more vegetation in sight, make way for large expanses of sand with the first dunes appearing. They only have 60 kilometers to go, but it’s not going to be easy. The sandstorm of the day before has intensified, so much so that they can observe tornadoes on the side of the road! It is extremely difficult to keep motorcycles upright. The sand enters their nostrils, and they literally eat it. As a bonus, the most unpleasant metallic aftertaste settles in their throats. These conditions oblige them to make a new stop, and wait until the storm calms down.
A few hours later they are installed in a Riad, at the foot of the dunes of Merzouga. They unload the stuff from the motorcycles, and decide to hit the dunes! Despite the weight of their bikes and their lack of experience on this type of terrain, they really want to see what they are capable of under these conditions.
“For a first try I am frankly surprised! I thought that the Africa Twins were going to struggle to advance in this heap of sand…The first dunes stand in front of me, I go on the gas just to be sure I have maximum power to climb the dune. I tell myself that it will never make it … and yet … it goes without problem! So much so that crossing the ridge projects me directly into the descent! I, who saw myself crashing at the first dune, I am already several kilometers away!”
I pause to check where Clément is and I take the opportunity to take some pictures of this absolutely incredible spot, before turning around and going back to the riad. What an experience! I really want to come back here with a lighter bike, and more time to devote to these dunes.”
The wind picks up again, and they can see in the distance a wall of sand coming towards them. It’s time to go and find a shelter.
THE DESERT OF SAHARA
A new day dawns on Merzouga and unfortunately, the storm is still present. They hope it won’t cause them too much trouble to cross the part of the desert that they plan to ride. Today’s goal: to reach the outskirts of Zagora, through an ancient trace of the mythical “Paris-Dakar”.
The icing on the cake: the manager of the Riad gave them some advices and tips to avoid some “traps” during their journey. He even offered himself to pick them up with his 4X4 in the event of a problem. If that’s not reassuring…
Despite the indications of their friend, they take the time to verify if they are following the right tracks. Once you are in the desert, it is quite easy to get lost.
They attack a stony track, a real treat! They ride from village to village, chat with the population, and pay real attention to the trail.
Anyway, as they say in Morocco : “it’s all right my friend!”
“So, let’s continue!” they think. And that’s where they had to miss information.
They find themselves around a mountain … then 2, then 3 … And on top of it. Dunes, more dunes! So many, that you can’t see the way to go. They slide, shifting 2-3 at full throttle, standing on the footrests, and weight on the back wheel…the slightest crossing starts to become a real problem! And you know what? It is over 50 ° C! Added to this is the fact that their Africa twins should weight over 250kg loaded … This is really s**ty. They are blocked, in full sun, and running out of resources.
“When you see Iceland you think that is hard, but the same situation, under a blazing sun?? It’s something else! It’s the first time that doubt really settled in my head. We really are in a great big hassle.”
Three 4x4s arrive. “Are you guys okay? You know, this is the worst part of the area?” “We’re also thinking that!” They stand in a dry river, which they should have, bypassed. But unfortunately, they’re right in the middle of it … Impossible to turn around now.
They will have to cross an ocean of sand, dunes, fech fech under a blazing sun. They were supposed to avoid those sand dunes, but that was not frankly the case … The guys from the 4×4 get out their wheel straps, pull out their motorcycles and get them out of that bad situation.
They take the moment to get as much additional information as possible for the rest of the crossing, because the 4×4 where just coming from the place they are heading. It seems that they will have to face that type of terrain a bit more, but a track is close. It would take them one hour more before they would see a Riad on their right, right in the middle of the desert.
They decide to stop there, take a break and have a drink.
As they walk through the door, they become completely amazed.
This little haven of peace would turn the little break into a call it a day. They would eat and spend the night there, and take the occasion to do a quick maintenance to their motorcycles: cleaning the air filters, general control of the cycle part, the bearings…
The cook of the Riad had to go to the city with the beekeeper, so he offers him to go with them. Apparently they’re would be able to refuel the motorcycles there. It’s perfect, because they’re really starting to run out of fuel.
He opens the track in the 4×4 and they follow him. They refuel the motorcycles at Tafraoute, before taking the direction to Zagora, still by the tracks.
“Boy, I can tell you that the crossing was … Fast! Sitting well on the back of the Africa Twin, the bike tightly clamped between the legs, in the desert and a huge smile on your face! The right dose of adrenaline!”
Suddenly, Clément would literally orbit himself when they arrive on a sandbank, a huge high side, more scary than bad!
After crossing a watermelon field and being guided by a child, they attack what probably is one of the best tracks of this road trip! It’s difficult to put it on words. The best thing is to watch episode 06 of their adventures in Morocco (playlist available at the bottom of the article or visit their youtube channel: BLKMRKT).
They eat something in Zagora, chat over some tea with a few locals in a garage, and after they head to the High Atlas, which they’re going to attack in the next few days.
They take the last track of the day, under a dark sky and a little rain.
They feel that we are leaving the desert: a change of atmosphere again and a considerable drop in temperature, which turns to be quite pleasant!
Night begins to fall, and the rain intensifies. They’re stopping by N’koub for tonight, hoping that the rain will subside by tomorrow.
THE DADES GORGES
After taking the time to hang out in the garden of the Riad in which they’ve slept, they hit the road at around 1:30 p.m. Yes, it’s late, they know that, but they were so good in the garden talking that they just took the time.
Objective of the day: reach the Gorges du Dadès, and more if possible, depending on the time and weather.
They would have trouble finding the trace that they’ve spotted at home. A car stops and the man shows them where to go in the mountain, perfect! Let’s go! The track’s conditions? A real enduro special: stone steps and huge stones, it literally rocks! Really! Besides, it’s impressive to see how the Africa Twin easily roll in there…
Once this part is crossed, things calm down and the bitumen resurfaces. They enter the mountain passes where it exceed 2000m altitude with a mix of earth and bitumen. The view is incredible, once again!
The cold is present in the High Atlas. It goes from almost 50 ° C to less than 10 ° in no time! They try to get used to it and get the most out of the night. The road is nice, easy to keep pace, they cross lots of small villages with a much heavier and hostile atmosphere than what they have felt so far. They feel that the living conditions there are much harsher.
7:30 p.m. the snow begins to fall. They decide to play safe and sleep there. An elderly and kind man, a Berber, welcomes them into his home and prepares a tagine, tea and a stock of extra blankets for the night. They’re going to bed early tonight, they need it.
They wake up near the pass, in a freezing cold. So much that the snow of the day before held on the mountain passes.
Eggs, olives, coffee, toast for breakfast, and off they go! First step: reach Agoudal, with no less than 40 kilometers of slopes. They climb over 3200m above sea level! The track is super slippery; they did well to stop at the bottom the day before. It would have been very foolish them to continue the day before.
“The view is … incredible. Yeah I know I tend to run out of adjectives to describe what I have in front of me. You clearly have the feeling of being on top of the world.”
They are running out of gas and they are on the wrong road. They would realize that 30 kilometers after. 300 km with a full tank, which almost half spent on off road … Not bad, right ?!
The delay is accumulating, they have to move forward. But the objective that they set for them is not reasonable: 378 km still in front of them when it is already 4 pm will be quite impossible to achieve. Nevertheless, they decide to push the maximum of them, despite the never-ending cold.
Then suddenly, at the bend of a turn, the sun and the greenery literally burst their faces! ????????, Amazing! It’s like a new day has started. Motivation resurfaces! They even surprise themselves by enjoying a small mountain road that is downright cool to ride!
They mark a stop to check the map, and women come out of nowhere with tea and cakes for them! They did not understand! They would find out months later that it’s a local old custom after the death of a loved one. Despite the sadness of the event, it would be nonetheless a small surprise from Morocco, as pleasant as touching.
They end the day crossing a lake and struggling to find a place to sleep. 50 km more, they would end in an inn at the foot of Mastfrane Cathedral. It was thanks to a new meeting on the side of the road that they were able to know about this superb spot to spend the night. Once again, a man offered them to eat and sleep at his home, but unfortunately he didn’t have enough room for the two of them.
Wake up at the level of the “Cathedral”, in the middle of the forest, along a stream. They depart by a track with quite a slope, easy and treacherous at the same time. Let’s say, it is better not to get out of it. After a big climb, they finally reach the snow-capped peaks, for the most of the majestic views. The only negative point? The temperature, below 0 ° C!
A real thermal shock… they now have the impression of traveling in the middle of winter!
They descend the valley, and cross lots of villages. 1000 ancient traces of civilization, as if time had stood still. People watch them pass in their motorcycles, some seem suspicious.
During the crossing of one of these villages, Bryan falls into a hole on the roadside, and crushes the handles as well as the rib cage on the motorcycle. He stays on his legs, luckily, because at the bottom there were 2 iron bars. Clement did not see him. Many villagers approach and touch him and his belongings. He catches his breath without really understanding what’s going on. He dislikes the situation, so he gets quickly on his bike and tries to leave immediately.
He doesn’t feel super well and just wants to find a place to rest and stop for the day but nothing on the horizon. His head is starting to spin. This mixed with the gasoline vapors given off by Clément’s motorcycle. He’s starting to feel less and less well.
Bryan decides to go ahead, focus on the landscape and breathe. The kilometers accumulate but he doesn’t have the impression of going further… let’s say that he suffered that day. It’s been a long time since this happened to him.
The road becomes more and more clean, the pretty curves combine. He accelerates the pace, it will allow him to think a little less, and stay focused on the present moment, without thinking about the pain, or the problems that sometimes weigh on him.
Even if you have to stay alert, this road is a pure pleasure to ride!
In distance, sheep are blocking the road. He slows down so that the shepherd takes the time to clear the road. The motorcycle stalls and falls to the ground.
It’s really time to stop for today. The sky is very cloudy, and they only did half the way. But due to the rain and Bryan’s shape, they decide to sleep at Demnate that night.
HIGH ATLAS: RETURN TO SOUTHERN MOROCCO
Demnate, the next morning; Bryan is better! He just needed a good night sleep.
Departure at 1:30 p.m., yes we know, it’s late. But they really needed this break.
Head to Ouarzazate: they attack a 140 km road / track through the mountain.
A slight accident between both the Africa Twin, would make Clément and Bryan (literally) cry with laughter! It’s filmed! (Episode 10 of their adventures in Morocco)
Hundreds of curves and a bit of mechanics later they arrive on the Ouarzazate side!
Then they meet the road towards Marrakech, where the greenery resurfaces.
They are trying to enter the medina, but it was a bad idea. The bikes are hot! So hot, that Clement’s Africa Twin begins to mess around; obliging him to start her with the stroller. Regulator? Battery? They will have to figure it out quickly because in less than 2 days, they have a ferry to take at Tangier Med, then still 1,800 kilometers of road in stride, from Algesiras to Paris by motorcycle. Speaking of Tangier, they decide to go directly. They had 600 km more in their plan, but Clément’s motorcycle problems must be taken in account. It works, but for how long… in doubt, they decide to short their plans and gain some time on the schedule, in case they will have to deal with a breakdown. They would ride for a good part of the night, until falling asleep on the ground on a rest area.
They would arrive in Tangier Med at midday, on a nice ending spot to conclude this trip to Morocco, with something that they haven’t seen there yet: the Sea!
Morocco is an absolutely incredible destination, from any point of view of a motorcycle addict: landscapes, roads and tracks! The areas are grandly diversified; you can go from a green area to a dead area in no time, with temperature variations, which are quite extreme sometimes.
This is the first time that they set their wheels in Africa, and even if it is only a small sample, it allowed them to realize the gap between what they are told in Europe, and the reality of things there.
They rarely have had the opportunity to meet people so … kind, sincere, with a real intention to help others without expecting anything in return, and not to mention the gratuity and the authenticity of the smiles of the population; all this, despite an observable misery, in certain villages. They met a lot of people, with stories as touching as each other.
Morocco is a destination to do for anyone wishing to experience an authentic, and above all, human adventure. Here, there is no pressure for hours, of time; you are always in exchange, a real one, where money is just money – not power.
“I think that there is clearly a lack of balance in our daily life, so much so that the first days in Morocco, everything seemed suspicious, bizarre… But we ended up realizing that here, in Morocco, it’s all the opposite: the unknown intrigue, but in the good sense of the term, which generates a conversation, an exchange, and ended up creating a bond, a friendship, a memory and smiles … So thank you, quite simply, to this country, to this population, for welcoming us in this way, and showing how much we have to learn from you, by your simplicity and your kindness.
Watch the “Aventures au Maroc” full series composed by 11 episodes (!) and get lost in this amazing adventure.
Text, Pictures & Video credits: Black Market, Motorcycle Adventures Film Maker
YouTube: Black Market