The trip is over, long live the trip!
I have fallen in love with Morocco!
This is the best way to describe my feelings after 9 days spent in Morocco... I am still living with this feeling.
How was it?
I think, terrific! We saw what the majority of travellers in Morocco has never seen – floods in Morocco, flooded desert, rivers that are impossible to cross in the endless vastness of the Sahara and in the narrow mountain coombs. We met pleasant people and enjoyed marvellous sceneries. In a word - Adventure!
Some days ago I was asked - why Morocco? After a moment of thought I remembered – on a wintery autumn morning I woke up with an idea that we should go to Morocco.
Initial plan was to use the assistance of an escorting vehicle that would deliver motorcycles to Spain and would transport travellers’ belongings during the trip, but the reality (budget) introduced corrections to this plan.
Four motorists participated in the trip and to pay for transporting of four motorcycles in a private vehicle to Spain and escorting around Morocco seemed too expensive.
Why did we go at the end of February?
I had planned to spend the New Year’s Eve in the Alps to taste at least a bit of wintertainment. At the end of February in Morocco almond trees start blossoming in the valleys, winds from desert are not strong and spring incessant rain has not yet started...
Who were we, the travellers? There were four of us...
The first was ...
Ingus Vanags. Businessman and traveller. He does not speak much, but does what is necessary. And does it properly, carefully and neatly. Collegiate and reliable fellow-traveller with a positive way of thinking. Has participated in the Adventurer trips already before.
The second ...
Ivars Sutka Also a businessman. Admiringly energetic person. Since started to consider possibility to participate in the trip to Morocco, had to choose between snow in the Alps and sand in Morocco...now, as a joke, he used to say that he hates snow. So fascinating it is to try the real sand.
Rolands Gulbis. Director of a company. Motorist who “does not have time to stay at home”. Self-starter, in case of proper motivation is ready to do anything. Agreed to join the trip to Morocco immediately. Passionate and confident.
The forth -me....
Martins Gailis. The author of the Adventurer idea and the initiator of trips.
Four brave men were heading for the adventure .... and safe and sound returned home.
I am sure that the best impressions when travelling through an unknown country one can get by avoiding the main roads. The most beautiful scenery can be seen from the smallest roads and paths. Therefore I planned the route so that we were mostly driving along local roads.
I got hold of the Soviet Army maps, Garmin maps, rather detailed Morocco road map, met and communicated with people who had travelled around Morocco, purchased books written by travellers who had visited Morocco and made up the route so that we had an off-road detour in the Rif mountains, Middle and High Atlas mountains, as well as, of course, made a detour in that part of the Sahara, where it is not yet a sole sand field, which would be difficult to cross for the heavy loaded enduro motorcycles.
I had doubts about driving in the Sahara – it might turn out that we were trying to bite off more than we can chew. Yet, the idea that we will be so close and would not try the Sahara seemed incorrect and thus I included it in our route.
So far the facts about the preparation stage and ideas, now – the impressions, emotions and the experienced.
Sunday, February 14
Ryan air, airports and weather forecasts
We left Riga with Ryan Air to Dusseldorf Weeze. Upon landing it is clear that we can forget about visiting Dusseldorf since this is the next in turn military airport adjusted to civil needs and is located in the middle of nowhere and God knows where.
Luckily and thanks to the gods of roads, beer is tasty, sausages- excellent, and after short wasting of time in the airport, having renewed the stock of alcohol, we take the next flight to Malaga. We will have our motorbikes there on Monday morning.
The day before yesterday the weather forecast for Morocco was not promising good weather for all the days of our trip. Only in the south above the Western Sahara the weather promised to be excellent. But no rain can stop us!
Malaga was covered by a thick layer of clouds and upon leaving the aircraft, it did not seem that we have arrived at a southern resort. It was raining and while going by taxi to the hotel it was obvious that it has been raining for long – rivers have overflowed, no tourists in the city. As far we understood from the taxi driver, such weather is not typical at all. No tourists. Fields flooded and in general- nothing good.
Monday, February 15
Weather forecasts, fairy tales of forwarding agents and again weather forecasts
In the morning we get to know that our motorcycles are not in Malaga, but in Barcelona. Forwarding agent said that they would arrive until the evening but the common sense says that it cannot be true. At the midday we heard a phrase- don’t you know Spaniards? – and it is clear that the beginning of the motor trip postpones for at least one day.
We try to make a small sightseeing of Malaga, but it is raining and from time to time- even cats and dogs- thus we do not see much of the city. But we have much and very different and tasty fish food. During the day the address of the storehouse where we are supposed to receive our motorcycles changes. We go to Fuengirola, where the storehouse is located, find the hotel, find the storehouse, discuss things with its owner, who gets to hear everything what he has and has not deserved regarding the fairy tales told by the forwarding agent. Night is drawing on and we go to bed. The rain is still raining. The weather forecast promises that in a week it will become drier in Morocco to the north from the Atlas Mountains.
Tuesday, February 16
Also the morning comes wet, but with one difference- the bikes have arrived and we can start to unpack them from boxes. Yesterday the storehouse boss announced that the bikes will be expecting us at seven, but assuming that we should know the Spanish way of thinking, we arrived to the storehouse at half past eight. It is raining cats and dogs. Boxes have really arrived. The storehouse boss seems rather unsatisfied because he has been waiting for us since seven o’clock in the morning.
The weather forecast which I have received through I-net makes us to pass a decision – to change the direction of driving in Morocco – we will try to escape rain by driving along the motorway to the south where it is promised to be drier or at least warmer, and then back along the mountain off-roads.
While we are preparing, the rain stops raining, the sun starts shining and around midday we can start the motor driving part of our trip.
We find a port in Algecira without problems, and immediately the local odd job men come up – willing to help to buy tickets. We coped without their assistance and already around half past three we were in Ceuta.
The sun shines. Cool. Small circle in the African Spain and we are approaching the border. In both directions- uncountable number of merchants, odd job men, pedestrians – all willing to cross the border. It looks terrible. Spaniards without checking passports let us through a gate with barbed wire and we are in a neutral territory. Next to us appears the next in turn assistant, this time- with a badge and certificate that he is working there. We do not reject his assistance and in approximately 30 minutes we are in Morocco.
We drive into Morocco and immediately it starts raining. We put on rain clothes and hurry up to look for the motorway which is marked on the map, but in reality obviously they have just started to build it. While riding through the foothills of the Rif Mountains it becomes clear that our decision not to drive in the mountains was correct – mud slides on the road, in some places the very road has fallen down. We face clayey puddles and similar traps at almost each bend of the road and sometimes also in the straight sections. We have to fill up the fuel but the money- only on the bank card and euro. They do not accept bank cards in the fuel stations. It is not a problem. In case you do not have local money, one litre of fuel costs 1 EUR or almost a euro by exchange rate.
We ask for tea in the café and for the first time during the trip we see how unhurriedly and carefully it is made. Tea is really good, relaxes, and takes away the stress.
We have an idea to get as far as the coast of the ocean and to look for a camping or something like this in any of the villages.
The day ends and we find ourselves at a nomad’s place, whose cattle of camels graze somewhere to the east near Figuig, in his son’s private house in the flat on the second floor in a fishermen’s village Mou-beousslhan. Dinner we have in the local tavern and the summary, although we are thoroughly wet, is - really cool.
We have covered 330 km.
Wednesday, February 17
Floods in Morocco.
We wake up timely, pack our belongings, have breakfast in the same tavern and go to Marrakech.
Until the midday we ride along local roads +/- parallel to the toll road. In some places the road is covered with water. Fields are under water as well. It is for sure- we see floods in Morocco.
Although the road is asphalted, from time to time it seems that it would be better to have a gravel road – potholes would not be so sharp-edged, sand - so unexpected ...the quality of the road makes us feel like driving off-road.
From time to time we have to cross huge puddles and rivers, which flow over the bridges, culverts resemble real lakes.
Morocco has experienced and is still experiencing immovable property development boom. There is a section of the road where we cannot drive along the sea because of construction work- people are building a golf-course with adjacent village of cottages.
To compensate what we have missed, we decide to ride along a road which is not marked on the map towards the ocean and go for a ride there.
We have our lunch in the dunes on the ocean shore. Here we enjoy the first off-road in Morocco, the first mud and water. In order to move forward, we have to cross myriad of usually small, but now, under the heavy rain, overflowed rivers.
At one point it is clear- if it continues like this, we will never reach Marrakech – water is everywhere, regardless of the place – be it road, meadow or sand-dune. The road is slippery - clay. Thus we take the azimuth and away from the ocean towards the big road.
With a bit of pushing and big fun we get away from the ocean and set out to the very Marrakech.
It was not easy to find a camping, yet we were successful in our attempts. We spend the night in a camping for French in imitations of Berber tents. The camping place has a swimming pool, restaurant with beer, shower and toilet in the tent. There is also a massage saloon but that does not work in the evening.
We do not go to the c entre of Marrakech since it is very nice also in the camping. And we become even surer that – although we feel pity for that – it is good that we did not try the off-road stage of the Rif Mountains. Where would we be now?!
We have covered 488km.
Thursday, February 18
Corrections in the route along the Atlas Mountains
Again we wake up early, have continental breakfast and go to Marrakech. We need eventually to get the local money.
Garmin helps to understand where the city centre is. We go in circles to find a parking place, to park the bikes and to have a walk in the medina.
All of a sudden I notice a street without a prohibition sign. I turn into it. Then around the corner and again around the corner and then we are in the very middle of medina with our bikes! We go like kings on our bikes along the rows of merchants, aroma waves, shelves with spices that interchange with jewellery, meat, clothing, vegetables and ... small teahouses.
Our spirits run high.
We make a circle in the central square, not much of movement there, yet still there are the characteristic sounds, snake-charmers, musicians, and then we leave this nice, mysterious town.
In front of us - crossing the Atlas Mountain. We should reach Zagora or get as close as possible to it.
We ride higher in the mountains, it gets colder. It is cold in the café in a mountain-pass without a heater. Thermometer shows + 2 degrees Celsius. Snow.
Already across the mountain-pass parallel to the big road there is a small road which I have in my mind – there we could understand the riding circumstances in the mountains along the unpaved roads. No objections from fellow-travellers and we set off in the mountains away from the big asphalt.
Part of the small road is with asphalt. It is running like clockwork. Serpentines - narrower, panoramas - perfect. Beautiful!!! Asphalt ends, yet the road is still usable. Our spirits are running high. We manage to cross the river. When we have already covered approximately 30 km, one third of the road, we meet the first difficulties – the road is crossed by a mud slide. It looks as if a concrete transporting truck would be spilt and now we have to cross this mess. It contains stones. Also large size, but we manage to get through.
After a while in front of us we notice a track of a motorcycle. We continue riding. Road becomes clayey. Upslope, then decline. We manage also this. From time to time it is quite scary – the inside edge of the road covered with huge and very deep puddles while along the outer side – quite high – approximately 50 metres high steep slope.
Good that it is not raining and the clay is dry. After 10 km, when we have covered half of the pathless road, we come to a wash-out. Yet it is not for the first time in our lives- we walk a bit and find a rather usable path and cross also this obstacle.
Here for the first time I say to myself – good that we are not escorted by a vehicle – it would be pain in the neck. We continue. It starts drizzling. The road becomes slippery, but still it is possible to move. It is just a few kilometres left until the place where this road without covering should end. And then the road is obstructed by the road-slide - the road has fallen 50 metres bellow. The river has washed away formation that in a dry season used to be the road to the bottom of the valley. Gullies are of such size that one can neither go around nor step over. We have to turn around.
It rains even more and the clay is so clayey that protectors do not get clean anymore, and the clay which is lifted by the wheel remains in the space between the wheel and the mudguard.
We are sick and tired of cleaning the mud from the space between the wheel and the mudguard and it seems useless – some metres and the space is again full with mud. The screws to unscrew the mudguards are unreachable.
We decide to make tuning – I saw off the rear part of my mudguard, the mudguard of Rolands’ bike breaks off itself. Ingus is successful in cleaning the mud and driving in a way that the space is clean from mud. Perhaps the space is a little bit bigger.
The tuning of my bike leads to the situation that the front wheel as if is turning but only in situation if it is ‘looking’ straight ahead and I am driving straight. Driving resembles weightlifting exercise. The rear wheel spools, the front wheel slides, the movement forward is possible only when the motorcycle is put absolutely vertically and the wheels- absolutely straight.
To ensure these both preconditions is next to impossible. Riding pose – keeping the steering wheel like anything, trying to stand on the ground and simultaneously keeping the bike in between your legs, and then by maintaining the contact of the legs with the ground to try to ski together with the bike. Driving is possible just as spooling; otherwise the engine does not have enough power. Driving in the straight direction otherwise the wheel blocks completely. Motorbike must be kept vertically for the front wheel to keep turning. As soon as any of these preconditions is not true - you are on the ground, bike is on the ground, your mouth is full with mud, and you have to lift it up and start everything anew.
At one point we are so tired that we cannot raise our bikes without assistance, everybody waits for everybody.
My bike is heavy and we move slowly. It is hard also for Rolands, since he stops frequently to help me to raise my bike. Motorbike of Ingus feels the best. Ivars on his KTM whistles – so easy it goes. He helps both of us- me and Rolands. Time is passing. Sunset approaches and it is clear that we have to look for a place to spend the night.
People in a roadside village say that the hotel is only in the valley and they are not allowed to host travellers at their places. Obviously we will have to doss in tents in the mountains. At the previous washout there was a quite nice place to make a tent. We have to go there.
We reach the washout place. The gods of roads have not left us completely alone and here we meet a saver angel in a person of a local shop keeper and probably also – the elder of the village who invites us to stay at his place. The village is some 500 m from us, but these 500 metres were ...one hour long.
While I am struggling with my bike, Ivars passes me and it seems that also his motorcycle has problems – I hear the engine roaring, the chain cracking and feel the smell of the clutch. My first thought- please, don’t die, and we continue our struggle.
As it turns out the next day when we are cleaning our bikes – KTM’s sprocket and the chain rollers are covered with a layer of clay ceramics. The tension of the chain is so strong that it is hardly possible to turn the wheel with one’s hand.
Finally we have reached the village, but I am unable to drive up the hill up to the place where the bike will stay for the whole night – hands are heavy like stones, I can neither turn the gas, nor press the clutch, legs are tired – I can neither make a step, nor get off the bike.
It is self-evident that the decision to make the trip from the other direction has been correct. At that moment it seems that I do not want – never and not at all – even to hear about an off-road ...
But what a welcome! The local teacher is invited to join and to be our interpreter. Place for us is made in the guest room, carpets are put and beds are made, dinner prepared and next morning- also breakfast. At night we were sleeping like soldiers – side by side. Enjoyed the way the locals live. And rested perfectly!
The locals live in houses built of the same clay. Clay is also on the roof. How they heat the house- no idea. Houses look like shabby hovels, but I do not want to call Moroccans poor.
We have covered 180 km
Friday, February 19
Moroccan tea business types and unhurriedness
Nice, sunny morning. The sun is emerging from his den behind the mountain crests.
We take photos.
We have Moroccan bread, Moroccan butter, Moroccan jams as well as Moroccan coffee – with milk and spicery for breakfast.
We finish the meal and go to turn motorcycles into functioning vehicles again.
I have to clean the mud what has accumulated in the space between the wheel and the mudguard yesterday, thus to reduce the weight of the bike a bit. Ivars has to clean the chain and the sprocket-wheel – clay is there in such a volume that the engine cannot turn the wheel. Rolands and Ingus have managed not to accumulate so much mud on the parts that are important for motion.
With the help of water, hammer and tyre lever after an hour we are ready to continue our trip. While cleaning I notice that the baggage box of the motorcycle is deformed and full with clay. Everything what is in the box is covered with clay – bread, food, spare parts. This does not change the speed, hammer is the best treatment, but disorder in the box is terrible.
With renewed strength we cover the remaining clayey road almost without problems. Only the falling snow makes us cautious – hopefully it will not make the clay into impassable mire and we will not have to stay in this valley for one more night. But we get back to the asphalt.
Here we decide to have a cup of tea. It is really worth it. We sit down to talk to the owner, we tell from where we are and what we want, agree on the sum and enjoy the drink. We really are not in a hurry. Even despite the fact that we are well aware that we lag behind the plan already by two days – motorbikes arrived later, road was impassable and the clay deprived us of at least half a day, thus we enjoy this Moroccan drink really slowly.
It is “ordinary peppermint tea”. Not dried. A bunch per glass, with a bit of sugar and black tea. Possibly, something else, which is not mentioned… And no hurry.
Today we have to reach Zagora, or as close as possible to Zagora. To get tomorrow into the Sahara. But it is tomorrow ... we have two days to get from Zagora till Merzuga ... no problem if we do not reach Zagora.
We will have time to go for a drive in the Sahara ...what we have missed that is missed, we will still see a lot of the planned. Therefore we decide to examine how far we were from the place with asphalted road from the place where we had to stop. As it turns out- just ten kilometres. We pass Ait - Benhaddou fortress. Ii is impressive but we refrain from a walk due to shortage of time. We have to move forward.
After Quarzazat we are stopped by a driver of a broken vehicle- asks us to announce about it to his relatives in Agdz. He writes a note, draws a plan how to find his relatives. Bandage around his hand, warning cones around the vehicle and behind the truck- a car. After some kilometres again a person stopping us- he needs assistance...at that moment I remember what I was reading about one of the business types of Moroccans. You help a Moroccan in his misfortune. He is grateful and asks you to visit him, then he takes you for dinner to his friend’s restaurant, treats you with food, drinks and then leaves ‘on small business’ ...and you have to pay your bill, including the Moroccan’s expenses and most probably, also the Moroccan’s commission... Nothing terrible, absolutely normal direct sales, but we are not eager to get to know how much such service would cost therefore we decide not to visit the poor driver’s relatives. If he is in real trouble, why didn’t he stop the Moroccan driving the car in front of us?
Thus calmly and relaxed we drive along the River Dra valley. It looks even more overflowed than previously seen Moroccan land along the ocean. Water is everywhere.
Road is good. Scenery- beautiful. Everything indicates about the floods – washed away bridges, palms in water up to the place where their leaves start growing. But we do not bother.
We stay overnight in a roadside hotel=Auberge (frm French), they have a palm garden in their yard. Motorbikes are placed in the best place – in the yard at the bar counter. We eat dinner accompanied by bird songs under the palms and an upside down turned moon. For dinner we have Moroccan salad, tajine, and tea. No hurry, we just decide that tomorrow we start earlier – at seven.
We have covered 288km.
Saturday, February 20.
Contact with Moroccans, flood in the Sahara and Moroccan music
A nice sunny morning. Dry clothes. Spirits high. We go down to the bridge but decide that we will not look for adventures here – strong current is washing across the bridge. As if not very deep – half a wheel for the cars, but we will go to Zagora, we have to meet acquaintances there, have to hand over greetings from Riga. And why should we risk unnecessarily. We move towards Zagora, to meet the Sahara there.
Soon we are in Zagora. We fill up fuel, renew the stock of water and are ready to go into the Sahara. I remember that I do not have cigarettes. I complain about it to a passer-by and he offers to help me to find a tobacco shop nearby. We both go to buy cigarettes. I get the desired and on the way back the man starts telling that his relatives are nomads in the Sahara and are making bijouterie, and that we have to go into his shop and have a look at these. I cannot refuse. I enter the place, they ask me to sit down at the table, I have to wait for tea, and then he starts to unpack in front of me different stones and bijouterie. Also knives. I understand that I am in trouble and will have to buy something. I tell him that I have a motorcycle and do not have space for all this stuff. Besides the items seem not to be of silver and also stones look suspicious. Knives seem to be made of aluminium. One seemed rather interesting and also rather heavy, but I had a thought in my mind- if I will show interest –I will have to buy and I will not have arguments to refuse. He understands that I am not ready to buy and says- ok, you do not need anything but tell me please what you like bestJ. I say that everything is excellent but I do not have space on my bike for your items. But I have friends who maybe would be interested in your offer.- Really??? Very well, then ask them to come here, we will have business – they will buy and you will also get something from thatJ!!!
I can go but must promise to come back with friends. That I cannot promise, but I can recommend them to come here.
The merchant is satisfied with such an answer, I offer him a cigarette and go back to the motorcycles. I feel a bit pity that I did not buy the knife, but this talk opened me eyes, mouth or breath, and confidence that it is possible and even recommendable to bargain with them.
Bargaining is a talk. Talking is bargaining. Talking about the life, your family, and plans. About everything what is important. They need contact with friends and other people like we do. We agree to meet, we go to cafes to talk or to enjoy time, but they use this human contact during bargaining. They speak with the client, listen to the other person and finally both parties are satisfied – regardless of the result of selling, they have had a talk.
After this conversation I had no problem to contact the locals.
Being happy and satisfied with myself I return to my fellow-travellers who seem to have already started to worry about my disappearance and unrelenting interest about the locals. Then we go into direction of the Sahara, but it turns out that the Sahara is ...locked and the key is broken, one two three and you are free...The bridge is closed. It is covered by white water current. But if we do not cross the river we can neither get into the Sahara, nor to Merzuga. We look at the maps, think a bit, consult among ourselves and go to the next bridge. Along a local “stone road” in a stony gravel steppe. Policemen at the bridge do not let us to cross this bridge either. Suggest us to go to the next village Mhamid. This is a village at the end of the road. Then it is just Sahara. We go there. The scenery makes us to understand that even if we are not yet in the Sahara, we are approaching it for sure. Hearts are fluttering, it is excitement and joy.
At the road side - posters with requests to respect the local traditions, not to leave waste in the dessert, be careful, sensible and sensitive. We leave the motorway, drive up the hill to have a lunch. Out of nowhere appear two small children, who want to get something from us. They do not eat pork, but bread and figs they put into their pockets. Socks they do not get. They ask for money. I offer them a deal – here, you have 5 monies, I make a picture of you and you disappear. Deal is only partially successful – I get a picture, they get money, but to disappear- that they forget. Nothing to do, we have to eat under observers; we finish the meal, pack our items and continue the road.
We reach the end of the road - Mhamid. The river is roaring here. It is one kilometre wide and rushes with incredible speed towards the Algeria. Most probably it ends up there in the Iriqi Lake.
We go for a small ride in the desert in the direction of this very lake. We see that the current never ends and we do not have much time – we should get back to Zagora with daylight. Hopefully the current tomorrow will be smaller and we will be able to cross the river along that bridge...we turn the bikes round...
On the way back between the sand and Mhamid village we lose each other. Good that mobile connection is working here. We agree about the meeting point, meet each other and agree that from now on we will keep an eye on each other, and then we turn to the road to head for Zagora.
On the way, not to drive the same route, we cut off a small corner and drive by azimuth across an absolutely empty open space.
Coverage – very coarse gravel with small stones. Perfect for riding “following one’s nose”. Exciting adventure.
We arrive in Zagora, go to the camping. We are accompanied by the omnipresent local assistants on mopeds, but we go without their assistance and the chosen place is ideal. Heartily and polite welcome. Rooms – tidy and nice. Walls are decorated with ornaments similar to the Baltic signs (most probably it is vice versa).
After a while a local jeep appears in the camping and its owner is ready to take care of our motorcycles – to wash, service, change filters, chains and lubricants. He tells that has once changed a cardan of a BMW. It turns out that this is the acquaintance of our friends from Riga. We give him presents from Rigans, souvenirs and are invited to visit his new garage the next morning, to have morning tea.
While having dinner we listen to Moroccan musicians. Melodies are nice and unusual for us. One of the musicians is the camping owner and a parachutist of the Moroccan Army, at the same time - also a guide in the desert. He tells us about driving in a dessert, that KAMAZ trucks are so good because they have so good engine and they can climb directly up the dunes, that previous time the water in the Sahara was 10 years ago. Now we understand why thousands of people have gathered to see the overflowed river.
We agree to continue our chosen route from Zagora to Merzuga, while driving to Western Sahara we postpone for another year.
Thus by talking and listening to the sounds of music, the time has come to go to sleep. We agree that the next morning we leave at seven - to visit the service, to have tea and to finish the tea drinking before noon.
I walk around Zagora, and when I return, the Moroccans have run high with playing music. Music is rhythmical and simple, passionate and absorbing into it. Upside turned moon in the sky, stars and music. Listening to the music I sat there for quite a while in the darkness under a palm-tree ‘switched off’ from everything, overwhelmed by music, smells and adventure.
We have covered 300 km, at least half of them off-road and by using azimuth.
Sunday, February 21.
Road, off-road, nomads and Said
We wake up early, quickly pack and already shortly after seven we are on our bikes. The town is empty. We find the old garage of Zagora acquaintances. It is closed. We put our sticker on the door, take some photos and go away, but from somewhere appears our friend. The new service is nearby. We go there to have tea. The service is tidy. Two boxes, lifting mechanisms, a tyre mounting device, and real tools. The table is laid for us; while tea is made we try their mopeds. They are good, these mopeds! One can push, turn, and start. One should not switch the gears; one can take it under one’s arm. I did not feel very comfortable on it, but it was interesting.
We have tea, take photos and go towards the bridge which is opened. It is covered with a layer of mud but people are working, cleaning it and let us to cross the river.
Some kilometres along asphalted road and then it ends – as if cut off with a knife. Further a track- we guess that it is there, sometimes it disappears at all. Now we are on a real off-road. After an hour of riding upwards along paths, small roads and river beds, we reach a plateau. Here nomads have a tent and also omnipresent tea. We drink tea, talk to them, buy nothing and continue our way. This part of the Sahara is named Sahara only for tourists (also for us). The real Sahara starts in Algeria, here, in Morocco, water is available after every several kilometres in wells, thus the dryness is not so terrible. We were told about it by Saiid - an owner of a camping – having met him in the middle of nowhere. Riding in this mighty emptiness is exciting and interesting. Ground is of different structure. Mostly stones. Bigger, smaller and very small. Sometimes sand, sometimes gravel, sometimes fields covered with small stones - endless. From time to time a salt lake. We ride through some villages. The wind becomes stronger. In a far distance we see a real fog. Sand starts getting into eyes and we have to close the glass of the helmets to be able to see something. Sandstorm. In my GPS I find a point where I hope to find a shelter. I have never experienced a sandstorm. Judging by the horizon, sand in between the teeth and the read books, I am of opinion that unprepared travellers should not try to drive in such. Terrain and the ground structure allow us to drive by azimuth, not along the roads or the planned route. We “cut off” two sections of the planned route. After half an hour we are in a halt built at the side of a sand sea (Erg Kem Kem). I do not know what the correct name of it is– kasbash, auberge, ot what. It looks like small fortress. A house enclosed by a high fence. We decide to wait here until the wind calms down. If it will be needed, we will stay over night. We agree that we will have lunch and drink tea. For lunch we have Tajine – lamb with vegetables stewed in a special pot. Tajine can be made of chicken, beef and lamb. I prefer lamb because it has a lot of vegetables and the sauce is the tastiest, and is moved from the pot to one's mouth with a help of a flat bread-like pie. Oranges with cinnamon for dessert. And tea....
The owner of this place deserves a separate story. I am not small at all but against this tuareg I feel like a small child. The man is some heads taller than me, his hands are huge, and legs like violins. Smile up to the eyes. If such with his Algerian relatives would decide to involve in human trafficking, everything would pass unnoticed - no hope to a person getting in his clutches. But in reality the owner of the place is very kind-hearted. Price for food and tea in his place is friendly. Our lunch lasts for several hours. The wind calms down and we go through the sand further. The plan was to sleep in tents in the desert. The weather which we cannot foresee, heartily welcome, food and wish to have comfort – under the influence of all these circumstances we decide to spend the night in another auberge (in translation it could mean – hostel, in reality – motel, tourist shelter, guest house with a possibility to sleep in a bed, use shower and receive food). This place was recommended by a French traveller.
To get there it was two options. I chose as if the straightest road. We go through a village, go along the river upwards straight to the bridge or ford- who knows, but Garmin shows that the road will cross the river. GPS maps have one drawback – they lack information about the soil, depth of rivers and other useful information which can be found on topographical maps. Qued (means a river, river bed, flood-lands) becomes wider and wider. Now it could already be some 3-5 km. All the time we see traces of recently flowing water, we go as close as possible to the mountain side, not to get trapped by mud. Around the place where it should be possible to cross the qued, we see strong current bringing its waters from Djebel Ougnat upland and probably from somewhere else (Djebel – elevation, hill). After a while we reach a slower current in a river whose other side can be seen. River bed – clay. Coasts are gently slopping and clayey. We find the most suitable place and cross the river. Then we continue along the watercourse of the qued in the correct direction. In front of us- one more river. Deeper but with already familiar difficulties – clayey bottom. After a short while we find a place for crossing also here. We are wet, again dirty, by have crossed the river. At a glance the other bank of the qued is not more than one – two kilometres from us. We can see a building at the foot-hill. It could be the place we are going to. And then we have the third river. In reality, most probably these three currents form one and the same qued, which has divided in three parts and flows along its bed which is several kilometres wide. Maybe these are three feeders of one and the same qued, each coming from its own valley in the mountains (Garmin and the map provides contradictory information). I do not know. But it is a qued and wet it is for sure.
The last crossing is the deepest and the most difficult. We spend more than half an hour while looking for appropriate place for crossing it; it grows dark and we start feeling bad. What if it starts raining in the mountains? It would be good to cross the qued, because according to the information from Garmin, if needed, it is possible to get through the elevated plane back to the motorway. But we do not wish to stay over night in the flood-lands.
With help of gods of roads, our own strength and strong words, we manage to cross this current and together with darkness we ride into a yard of an auberge. Nice oasis in a mountain gorge. Recently built buildings, one is still under construction. Person expands his business.
We agree on a price easily. Saiid says that the price will be 200 dirhams per each, including dinner and breakfast. I say that it should be 150 for everybody. He says that he has agreements with many agents for 200. I smile but understand that he knows that we will stay here anyway. Where could we go in the darkness? I say to him: “Saiid, we have found you without agents. We have crossed the qued to reach you, we are your only guests, 150 per each and it should be ok!” He asks us about the qued, tells that it could have been easier to cross it in the village territory since it is stones there but it could be deeper water as well. He smiles and agrees to our price.
Saiid, nomad – Berber – as he would like to call himself, because he is sick and tired or roaming around, at the dinner table tells us that this place has been found by his father. He has told the vicegerents that it is derelict and that he wishes to take care of it. Thus his family lives here already for ten years. They pay the king for using this place 7,000 dirhams per year. We did not understand whether it is rent or what. Saiid says that he can live here as long as he wishes. When somebody finds a house that is definitely derelict, he can go to the vicegerents and receive the place for himself. And again one nice, adventurous day with waters and new conclusions have come to its end. Tomorrow we will experience the toughest section of our trip – sandy qued beds with length of several kilometres; therefore we go to sleep timely.
We have covered 168 km, out of which 150 – without pavement and rather much- by azimuth.
Monday, February 22.
Versatile Sahara and free as a Marlboro cowboy
Morning is sunny as usual. It has not rained during night thus our trip through the Sahara to Merzuga can continue.
At the breakfast table we ask Saiid about the road conditions. As it turns out, the qued Ed Dooura (Qued Rheris, the name depends on the map), which we would have tried to cross if we decided to follow the planned route and would have not met Saiid, cannot be crossed because of the volume of water.
He recommends us to try two of the many possible crossing places of the qued. One is approximately 30 km away from the route along the road, the other, also along the road, but already approximately 80 km away from the route. And then it is possible to try to struggle with water in the ordinary crossing place of the qued, as well as, of course, in any place where we decide. We decide to try the two recommended places one after another. We reach the first rather quickly. We make some circles across sand and bush fields and reach the river. We cannot cross it because of the depth. And even if we could cross it because of its depth, we are not eager to get into mud. We decide to look for a place closer to the mountains. The road is along and beside the bed of the qued. In some places we see camels, in some only stones and sand. Like in a normal tourist Sahara. Cool. We have to cross the next sand-gravel-stone field. We have got used to it already. It is a place where is seems that you can open the throttle fully (like on the salt lake). You feel free like Marlboro cowboy – drive following your eyes. We do not try to speed too much yet the distance to the horizon is covered quite fast. In front of us- river. With a current, steep banks and deep. On the opposite bank – not too high sand dunes. It seems that such they are up to the horizon. We do not wish to turn round; therefore we break up to look for a ford. And we find it.
We cross the river without problems - its bottom is stone covered - and we are next to the dunes.
Sand in the dunes is very loose, and we can see that it is fresh. We try to move but it is soon clear that the heavy bikes loaded with our belongings will not be able to cover these several kilometres until the foot of the mountain, harder surface, within one day.
But the one who tries to find, he finds! It is possible to ride along the river on the stones. The direction is not really correct, but we will get until the foot of the mountain and along it and then it will be correct. And it is so.
The road, or to be more exact, the direction is the south. It is much drier. There we do not see the green plants like it was on the other bank of the qued. And more and more often the correct direction we tell only with GPS.
Vastness and possibility to ride in any direction makes as feel that we really can follow our noses in the direct sense of the word. They let as feel free like birds in the air. On the one hand I am proud about myself, proud about my "Susanin” (Garmin GPS receiver which I have loaded with Morocco maps), that in this nowhere I can tell- we go that direction. Yet inside I have little worries whether we will not come to a river again, a huge sand field or unsurpassable mountain. But both together- Susanin and me we cope quite well. We find a well. It has water in it. The well has its name as well. Not far from the well we see a house. Derelict. And again the usual smooth fields with compacted sand – unless you decide to break or turn the steering wheel sharply...
The feeling is close to ecstasy. And around the midday we reach the original route. We are tired, yet satisfied. We order cola, tea and also fuel, since the unplanned section of the road has emptied our fuel stocks. We have crossed qued along an extraordinary trajectory. I do not know whether this way was easier or heavier than the usual one. For sure it was longer. We have been completely away from the tourist route and have managed. This makes us proud about ourselves.
Until the asphalt to Merzuga it is just 50 km. But the difficulties anticipated in this section of the road- crossing the qued – sandy snaky paths in the labyrinth of bushes – we do not manage to try. After riding of some hours, we get to know from a local man that we will not reach Merzuga if we follow this road, that qued Ziz is also full with water. Probably due to the fact that we are tired, that the previous experience and the big unknown have influenced us, we decide to try to reach our destination otherwise. We cross the qued in a place, where it is narrow and small; the crossing point is covered with stones and then it seems that we will be on asphalt.
But we are not. Not yet. We still have to try to avoid the mud of the salt lake, to avoid falling in the sharp turns of the road where the base is washed out, and we manage! Before the sunset we are in Merzuga, at the foot of Erg Chebi (Erg – sands, Chebi – the name of these sands). There are uncountable ergs in the whole Sahara, and each has its name. We have found a tent of nomads, and there we will spend the night.
Before the sunset we have to manage to ride in the dunes. The locals say that it will not be easy with our bikes, but why shouldn‘t we try? So we leave our belongings and up into the sand!
Erg Chebi is the largest sand dune in Morocco, not by territory but by the height. They are approximately 10 km long from the North to the South and 3-5 km wide from East to West.
As it turns out, the sand gathers where it is moisture. In Merzuga it is lots of water, it drains upwards through the sand and the moist sand attracts dry sand, delivered from the Sahara by the wind. This is the way how this nature phenomenon has grown out of sand during many years – several hundred metres high sand dune in the middle of a plateau.
It does not change its location, just the tops of the dunes moves under the influence of the wind. Tourists here are offered different entertainment – starting with skiing and motorized transporting through the dunes, ending with camel riding, tracking and staying overnight in the middle of the erg.
We have covered 160 km, out of which 140 km – without pavement and approximately half of it - by azimuth.
Tuesday, February 23.
Farewell to Sahara. Way homeward
Information which we received about the ferry traffic from Nadora to Europe, makes us to pass a decision to try once again to look for adventure and off-road in the Atlas and Rif mountains and not in the north-east part of Morocco (Eastern plateau along the border of Algeria).
In the morning we meet the sunrise in the dune on our “camels”. In the Erg there are many tourists, both- on camels and on Quadra cycles, on foot and on motorcycles. The sunrise is not extremely colourful. We do not manage to make impressive photos, but this does not make our spirits worse. We have got up before the sunrise, have made real morning exercises while riding up the dune. We have spent the night in a nomads’ tent. Everything is running like clockwork. It does not matter that three days have disappeared from the trip route. We have lots of impressions and basically they are good or very good.
Before going to the north, across the Atlas, I offer to go to take a picture of flamingos and make a circle around Erg Chebi – along its eastern side. Flamingos are really pink with a very red beak. It is impossible to get close to them and we cannot make good pictures without an object-lens. Before riding through nowhere we have to fill fuel. We do this in a fuel station in the centre of Merzuga – in Latvia such a structure would be called a small shed. The selling unit – 5 litres or any other volume if you can prove its volume. No bargaining. Don’t wish- don’t buy.
There is a volcanic desert to the east from the dunes. Smooth cover with small stones. Direction – to the north. And you can drive as you wish and where you wish. There are also roads. But it is not so interesting to ride along them and they are with holes, and again we feel like Marlboro cowboys, yet the background picture is different – stately sand dunes. When we have already reached a road to Erfoud, we meet an endless line of L4 Challenge participants. All with Renault 4 automobiles – very old Renault beetles. The largest start number which I noticed was some figures before two thousands. The view is really impressive, we are in high spirits. Road- unbelievable desert, fellow-travellers- perfect.
From time to time, to escape the dust and jams created by Renault cars, we take a small off-road ride, but the direction unchangingly – Erfoud, and then the Atlas with its perfect off-roads.
In Erfoud we fill up fuel, renew our water stock with hope to find an off-road in the North direction.
The trial to go in the chosen direction, but not along the road, is successful and even more. The maps are wrong, the road which had to be covered with asphalt, is without it and we have to cross the mountain-pass off-road.
Upslope in some places is impressive, as well as the stone blocks uncovered by water in the course of time. Without serious incidents but with high adrenaline we reach the mountain-pass.
Further the road goes through the plateau, yet still without asphalt. It becomes hot. We are in Africa!
When we reach the next crossroads, where the next off-road section could start, there is no doubt left that we cannot go into the mountains. Rivers are full with high water.
We continue go to the north along the road which is not marked in the map, but in real life it is a rather good freeway. It becomes windy and cold. It is a little bit pity that we did not try the planned off-road section. Yet when the road is crossed by the next in turn river, I calm down because water is high, current- strong and most probably we would have arrived at a deadlock.
With thoughts about the experienced today and both previous days, we reach Missour, where we should think about staying since it is already late and dark. There is a camping on the map, but not in real life. We stay in a hotel. It looks refined from outside but compared to all the previous overnight stays, it is a real hovel. Sheets are dirty, bed is broken, no electricity, water in the tap is rather not running than running. Dinner not really tasty, no bargaining what so ever. If I had experienced something like this before, I would not have been so excited about Morocco.
We have covered 468 km. We are exhausted.
Wednesday, February 24.
Way homeward and the choice of a tent
We wake up traditionally early. At seven o’clock we have breakfast and set off. The sky and the weather forecast with certainty show that it will probably be nothing to do in the Rifs, but we have a plan! We will try to make a circle in the Middle Atlas.
It is a pity but the police patrol does not let us to drive along the motorway which we should take to get into the chosen small roads and off-roads. There is no road in the mountains, it has fallen down. The snow and mud slope as well as water from Djebel Bou Naceur have washed the road away and the vicinity is dangerous.
We have to adjust our route again and this time – with hope to get forward.
The first already adjusted trial to cross the access to the off-road in the Atlas is a flop because the current in the river is very fast; the water is not very deep, just up to the knee, but it throws in the river. One’s leg makes such a wave that the trousers are wet up to the very butt. Again we will have to turn round. We should get as close to the Mediterranean Sea as possible, so that tomorrow, weather permitted, we could have a ride in the Rifs and catch the ferry in the evening.
The more northwards we go, the less hope that we will be able to implement our plan. Behind us- blue sky, in front of us – black clouds. From motorways we switch to small asphalted roads, to ride a bit “as normal people”. The speed decreases, while the number of villages through which we go increases, increases also the number of different turns, “traps” and serpentines. This day we could call a day in a carousel. From time to time we have to stop because our heads cannot follow the road. At midday we ride off the road, into mountain junipers, rest a while, have a lunch and continue our way. We had decided that the next night we will spend in tents. Also the place we had chosen with the help of the map and my “Susanin”, we just had to reach it. The darkness set 40 km before the chosen place. I had an idea to find the place for staying over night in the nearby village. During the trip I have got a valuable experience as to- what to do in order to get what you want and not – what wishes your new friend – an assistant. We should find a café, order tea and talk to the owner...
The owner understands neither English, nor French; but soon there appears his friend who talks English quite well. We start explaining our need. But, as it turns out, this is a very small hamlet, without tourists and without hotels. It is not allowed to host travellers in a private room without consent from vicegerent. I did not understand whether it is also not allowed to invite your friends to stay overnight, but in any case we understand that we have no chance to stay overnight here.
Upon leaving the English speaking guy several times told to us sternly to go slowly and to keep the throttle closed since the road is in bad condition.
That we already know since that was the reason why we had to ride in darkness. Although we do not fancy riding in darkness, along waterlogged road with potholes, we have to do it.
And big is our surprise when after an hour, when making the last serpentines along a ground road, we reach a fence. There is nothing else but two Moroccans who, having understood that we are looking for a place to stay overnight, say that we can enter. They are guarding the tractors parked at the fence ... they would not disturb us (whether they will guard also us - that I did not understand). The place is really good. Highest local top. Until the horizon just tops of mountains and hills but we can see over them. Downwards, some hundred meters bellow – a lake (artificially made for HES). As we conclude already in the morning, the fence is around the HES territory. Obviously a strategic object, but it did not disturb our sleep. Around us- only sky and stars. It is full moon and very light. It is so beautiful that the heart breaks. Mountains with lights – village next to village, while we are here – on the top of the mountain, so close to the sky completely alone. We face a problem when we try to get the tent pegs into stone. As a result we have to refuse using pegs for erecting the tents – instead we use stones. Thus, a conclusion is- when choosing a tent for the trip, it should be though also whether it is possible to pitch it without using the pegs.
We have covered 520 km
Thursday, February 25.
Price for not being alert and farewell to Africa
We wake up early, before the sunrise to say farewell to African sky. It is worth seeing it and the time which we gained turned out to be useful for the further homeward way.
We head to Chefchaouen – a small town at the foot of the Rifs. With a small medina in blue colour. The hope to get into the Rifs is completely destroyed by rain and the scenery with rivers which have left their banks. We find the town without a problem. We drive through it with hope to find a bank in order to change dirhams to euro, a parking place and a nice restaurant to say solemn farewell to Africa.
Here we yielded to temptation and forgot that we are just tourists. We were caught by next in turn ‘assistant’. He showed to us an eating place, as if good, arranged a parking place, really good, next to the medina, asked for his assistance 10 euro. Got five and was satisfied. But nothing ended with this. The lunch was shitty. If this meal was the first tajine, it would have been also the last one. If this was my first tea, probably it would have been the last as well. And, if it was my first invoice for lunch, it would probably have been the last which I would have been ready to pay for a received service.
This only means that the recommendations of other travellers to try to manage as much as possible yourself are very true. Do not be afraid to get lost in an unknown place, feel the smells, check the premises, clarify the prices etc! This will pay back for sure. Not only meaning saved money, but, mostly – delight and pleasant communication with people as well as satisfaction that you did it yourself.
After lunch we decide to drive in medina without the offered guides. Beautiful! Seems that there you can buy everything for the most different prices. Vegetables, meat, clothing, spices, essences, footwear, souvenirs, etc. And even the weed – both dried and not dried almost attack us. If one wishes to smoke pot, no problem, go to Chefchaouen! To tell the truth, almost everywhere where one can meet tourists in Morocco, one can buy the weed. Possibly the trafficking of the weed is one of their income sources.
We have to change the money – the last activity to be performed. It turns out that it is not so simple. Dirhams one can buy in every bank, exchange point or at the street corner. The best exchange rate is in the bank. When changing money in a fuel station or elsewhere from hand to hand, the price is 1:10. In the bank it is 1:11.4. But to sell dirhams you need a passport and a receipt from the place where you have bought them and, the main thing, is to find a bank, where they have euro.
We managed to find a bank, but we did not have receipts. An old guy with Beard (capitalized, since he beard was huge) appeared in the bank at the service window out of nowhere. In a coat with a hood. What does he do there? It turned out that this mister can, if we wish, to change our dirhams against euro. Yet again the rate is 1:10. But it is for sure better than to bring them home and to store in a collection album.
We keep the small coins as souvenirs and also this is done. Now we have to get to Tanger, cross the border and to take places on a ferry. And then we will be in Europe. It is a pity that our trip is approaching its end but all fairy tales once end.
From Tetoan to Tanger there is a dual motorway. We cover this distance quickly. The last tea in a roadside tavern, last talks to interested people and we are in Tanger. Big city. European luxury. At least it seems so when driving through. The border crossing point seems much more civilized than it was in Ceuta – either because it is in the city territory or because it is in Moroccan not Spanish colonial territories. Without crowds of refugees and merchants, without barbed wires.
At the ticket box the next odd job man is approaching, but having understood that we will go to the box-office ourselves, forgets about us. We buy tickets, fill in the police paper and move forward. Another assistant approaches Starts to regulate the traffic. We agree that he will get his money if he will lead us quickly through the line because we have just 15 minutes until the departure of the ferry. He earned his 15 euro, but we could have managed also without his assistance. One phrase we are short of – buddy, you can help us if you wish but I will not pay you.
We have chosen ferry of a Spanish company, direction - Tenerife. Leaving time – 6.00 p.m. We are at a pier at 5.55 p.m., but the ship is not there. People are waiting. We leave at about eight in the evening but it does not matter for us. We are under the influence of impressions, spending the time in the cafe of the ferry, napping after the finished beer can. Each having his own thoughts, remembering the best moments...
We have covered 245 km.
The trip is over, long live the trip!
It is still tomorrow, the road from Tenerife to Fuengirola, it will be a visit to Gibraltar and the last night before going home. It is in front of us but the big adventure is over. Together with excellent fellow-travellers we have crossed Morocco from the north to the south, from Ceuta till Mhamid. We have crossed the gateway of the Sahara from Mhamid till Merzuga. We have been in the High Atlas. We have managed all this, all this has been experienced. We are proud about the accomplished, seen and experienced. We are glad and satisfied.
Now, when I am writing these lines, I am still there with my thoughts, I am still there, in Africa. Somewhere in the gateway to the Sahara and in the clay of the Atlas, in the Moroccan music and aromas. I understand that I have to come back. My work, my family, my duties are expecting me. Therefore I put a full stop here but I will never stop hoping that I have shared with you a little bit of my feelings, and that we both together or each separately will go there once again.
Short summary on everything
Within the framework of Morocco trip we have covered 3112 km
Approximately 500 km of them- roads with poor or very bad asphalt or just with traces of asphalt.
Off-road (roads without asphalt) approximately 500 km
Out of these approx. 150 km – without any features of a road, driving like a ship along the sea using a compass (GPS)
We always had with us a mandatory reserve - 4 litres of water each and 15 litres of fuel together. Both stocks turned out to be useful.
The weather was not very hot, we did not have any problems related with equipment or our health, thus it would have been enough also with 3 litres of water. But all, whom I was asking and I was asking many people, replied that the weather is atypically cold and abnormally wet.
The price of fuel from 10.5 dirhams in the north to 14 dirhams in the southeast.
Exchange rate from 1:11.5 to 1:10 (euro vs. dirham)
Odd job men are everywhere. It is worth agreeing with them about the volume of assistance and price before they start doing anything. If you will look for a service, hotel and a souvenir shop, or any service yourself, you will have an opportunity to evaluate it and to agree upon the price. If you will be delivered somewhere by the assistant, it will be hard to change anything. It could happen that you offend people.
From the point of view of border crossing it is useful to ship to the Moroccan ports – some formalities of border crossing you will be able to organize already while on-board (police papers and, possibly, also the passport control).
Overnight stay expenses in a rather nice place what we could call a camping house or a road-side motel - 10 to 20 euro per night. If you have been successful in bargaining, the price includes also good dinner and breakfast. If not- you will have to pay much more.
Tea – 5-10 dirhams per glass/unlimited volume of tea, depending on bargaining. They can ask also much more; it is wise to agree on the price in advance to avoid such situation. The better and more pleasant for the merchant the bargaining process has been, the more tea you get and the more personalized it is.
The price of a 1.5 liter water bottle depends on how hasty you are, and is between 5-15 dirhams. Probably, with successful bargaining it costs even less. They can ask also for 20 dirhams, but it is for sure too much.
Substantial, tasty and rich meal, possibly, even with beer and wine one can get in the very campings, cafes at the fuel stations, roadside taverns, and also in the centers of villages without special bargaining for +/- 100 dirhams per person. Such meal would include some salad, tajine, orange dessert and tea. Unless you have managed to be caught in a net of an odd job man and ended up in his suggested place. After successful bargaining the price of tajine is around 25 dirhams. Plus price for tea, dessert, salad and the tip.
Tips are not mandatory, but if you feel that the service has been excellent and the invoice is not too high, you can leave the tip as well. If they bring the cashier’s check, the tip is recommended. Give the tip or the money for the service only after you have received the service.
You can pay with euro almost everywhere. Yet, the exchange rate will not be as good as when exchanging in the bank or withdrawing the money in ATM.
People are friendly and cooperative. I do not dare calling them impudent and poor. Tourism is their source of income, thus they try to earn as much and as good as they can.
It is not recommended to buy stones (semiprecious stones and fossils) anywhere. Sooner these are productions of local craft or China industry. They are rather good as souvenirs from Morocco but that should be kept in mind when agreeing about the price.
Not always the maps correspond to the reality. Also the newest ones.
In Morocco roads are being reconstructed and renovated. The small mountain roads without asphalt are being improved. During the maintenance they are probably in worse condition than before the maintenance, but after the repairs the small road becomes a normal clay-gravel road. If it does not rain. If it rains, it is clay with some small admixture of gravely, if any.
The route of our expedition is available here (PDF file)
To obtain a comparatively new Morocco road map OZI (edition of 2008), e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Garmin map can be found on I-net.
Brussels. March of 2010.