Day 6: Zagora to Merzouga
Chris came knocking on the door about 10am. As I explained my situation he expressed a mixture of concern and disappointment that we couldn’t continue the ride. We mooted the possibility of staying where we were, but I figured that since it’s a road day we might as well head back to Merzouga. In my mind it was further north and so back on the way to Europe if I had any serious problems.
I negotiated a fee for the freshly made auxiliary tank bracket. At €65 it was much more than I anticipated. €30 would have been more like it, though a lot of time was spent on it.
As I arrived back at the hotel I found Chris arguing with the owner, who was complaining saying that we came back at 2a.m. drunk and making a noise. The fact is we came back before 1 a.m. after having no more than two beers (even less for me), and went straight to bed. What’s more the owner says that tourists get ripped off at the garage we just used and then come back to him angry and start arguing.
We mentioned this to the owner of the garage who Chris is good friends with, and it turns out there’s some bad-blood between the garage and hotel owner. This resulted in the mechanic and few other guys going to pay the hotel a visit. Feeling ill I just sat a back of garage and waited. I wasn’t going to get involved. Fortunately nothing much happened other than brief exchange of words.
Back on the road
It was good four hour plus ride via road back to Merzouga (so you can imagine how long it takes via piste – well two days for us). Nomad Palace is a decent hotel but the internet is sketchy at best, they don’t have beer, and it’s in the middle of nowhere. As such we looked into staying at the Hotel Xaluca Maadid in Erfoud, but as I got off the bike in the car park I looked “white as a sheet” according to Chris. I guess four hours riding in desert heat when you don’t feel well will do that.
We figured that if I wasn’t well tomorrow we’d need to have a rest day which at the Xaluca would be prohibitively. expensive. We ended up back at Nomad Palace.
Day 7: Rest day – Merzouga
The next morning, I still wasn’t feeling much better. I mentioned just heading north by road and waiting in Nador. Chris was not impressed.
“You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to get better and we’re going to finish the tour together.”
It was probably just what I needed to hear.
All morning whilst lying in bed I could hear engine noises, but I was too ill to investigate. After a little nap I felt a bit better and walked to the road to investigate. I saw a bunch of quads and just presumed it was few tourists on an excursion.
Chris knocked on my door around 2pm giddy as a schoolgirl. It turns out the Libya Rally was coming our way and the check point was just behind the hotel. I mustered up some energy, grabbed the camera and off we went to explore.
While Chris and a few others climbed a dune to get a better view I decided that I ought to get out of the sun and have some lunch. After all I hadn’t really eaten anything over the past day and half.
In films and tv shows you see stereotypes of Moroccan, or Egyptian hotel owners or staff. The characters often have thick accent and say things like “You’re welcome my friend.” Well here in Merzouga, and earlier in Zagora I found that be true.
My food was going to take an hour so I wasn’t best pleased, then the waiter randomly brought me a Moroccan salad. “What’s this? This isn’t what I ordered!” to which he gave the typical Moroccan response;
No problem you’re welcome my friend
Eventually he took it away and my real food arrived. Meat skewers and fries. Yum.
Day 8: Merzouga to Beni Tadjite (looking for Lomax)
I was better now, though still not 100%. My travel buddy gets bored easily, and probably would have hanged himself if we’d been stuck in Merzouga for another day, so we agreed to push on.
We were headed north towards Boudnib and then Bouanane, in order to ride Lomax Piste to Beni Tadjite. The piste is just 30km or so long but is suppose to be on the most beautiful in Morocco. Unfortunately it’s not well known, and despite it being on GPS maps we couldn’t find it.
It started just before Bouanane. There’s a road that goes to a little village and we should have been able to access the piste from there, but for two problems. Firstly, the route we tried to take was blocked by steps, which we weren’t in a position to ride up. Secondly the other way to get on track is to ride the village’s open sewer to a rocky river bed.
That wasn’t going to work either. The river bed was so rocky we both got stuck and progress was slower than 1mph. We weren’t getting anywhere.
With that we were forced to turn back and take the road to Beni Tadjite. On our way though we saw a trail that looked as if it led back to the piste. We couldn’t resist. We followed for trail for maybe 5-10km, it was so picturesque we were sure we were on the right path. Then we encountered a semi derelict village. We got off the bikes to investigate but it was no use. The trail stopped at the village and there was no clear way through the rocks and rubble. Back to the road it was.
Day 9: Plateu de Rekkam
This was a big day. It was what we came to Morocco to do, and so we were both very eager. The 100km or so across the trail would be our last piste on this tour and we were going to enjoy it.
We packed up the bike for what would be the last time in Morocco and headed north. It wasn’t long before we turned off onto a gravel road. It had begun.
I love riding off road, but I’m not a technical rider. The route we took from M’Hmid to Zagora was mad-crazy technical, and rocky. The Plateu on the other hand was fairly simple trail with limited technical sections. I was in my element. We both were. In fact were having so much fun riding we forgot to stop and take photos, not many anyway.
Back on tarmac we made it Tourirt before we needed to fill up again. 210 miles on less than 15l of fuel. Not bad going. We planned to get some lunch here, but were hassled for money at every cafe stopped at. It was dirty horrible town and rather than suffer it, we jumped back on the bikes and headed for Nador.
Nador to Melilla
We’d talked about staying a night in Nador but the way the ferries worked out would have made it difficult for us the next morning, so we decided to try and catch the overnight ferry from Melilla to Malaga.
We were making good progress until about 10km out then Chris’ GPS randomly told him to turn off the main road to Nador and into the hills. I wasn’t so sure, but followed him as we headed higher and higher, and further and further away from the city. Eventually we ended up in the clouds, and although clouds might look all pretty and fluffy from the ground, I knew well enough from mountain climbing that they are cold and miserable when inside them.
Eventually we stopped and decided to turn around. We couldn’t be sure where this was going and we were not on a tight deadline. With that we raced into down town Nador and followed the signs to Melilla. We’d experienced some bad driving throughout Morocco but Nador was true chaos, and I was almost taken out by a 40 year old truck.
Unlike Tanger-Med the border between Morocco and Melilla is chaotic. There are fixers everywhere expecting money, and officials have you going back and forth between booths. Still at least at this border they worse uniforms. The odd thing was that to get into Spain all we had to do was flash our EU passports. They didn’t even check for a Moroccan stamp, so we could ave just ignored all the Moroccan officials and rode up to the Spanish border and got in before the Moroccans even mustered any security.
Once in Melilla we fill up the bikes on cheap fuel and enjoyed a couple of beers in the port. On the ferry we called our respective girlfriends, bought a few beers and settled down in some chairs for the night to dream of our next adventure.