Morocco here we come
We crossed to Africa from Algeciras to Ceuta, so basically from Spain to Spain 😉
We took a ferry operated by Balearia (54 € per person with a motorbike); the crossing took 1 hr. We were the only bikers on board and overall there were not too many passengers. We filled up our bikes in Ceuta for 1.408 €/L, with additional 30 cent discount per litre, that made the price very acceptable 🙂
The border crossing with Morocco went really ok. No paperwork was needed in advance, bikes had a separate lane, the luggage was checked, but not in great detail.
So… hello Africa!
It rains in Africa
Go to Africa, they said. It will be dry and sunny, they said.
It hasn’t rained here for months, so the first rain made the roads, covered with a thin layer of dust, rubber coming from the tyres and oil dripping from the cars slippery as ice. We were extremely lucky twice. Once a car spun around in the middle of the road, the other didn’t make it in the turn and passed one meter in front of Joris, at full speed, into the gravel on the opposite side of the road.
We were warned about some severe weather here in Morocco. But we hope it will improve and we will still see the most beautiful parts of the country.
Chefchaouen and Fes
Chefchaouen was our first stop in Morocco. We bought a local sim card (easy task this time), found a hotel a bit outside of the city (a bit strange, but with a great view). As it was within a walking distance, we went for some sightseeing, getting lost in the maze of the blue streets.
We also found a great spot for dinner – a tiny bar, very clean, with a friendly owner and delicious, freshly made food for a great price – if you ever get there: Snack Abdelwahid 🙂
The central part of Chefchaouen is very picturesque. We are glad we came here, despite it got a bit touristic over the last years (sometimes you need to pay to take a photo of a blue street!)
Fes was a next stop on out route through Morocco. We spent two nights there, had some walks around the old part of the town, getting lost at our own pace in the Medina and enjoying some coffee and sweet cakes at Cafe Kortoba el Karaouine.
Fes gave us mixed feelings. Yes it is worth the visit. But being a touristic place, the visitors are no more than just ATMs on legs. The honesty of people working with tourists is not the best. It is like “welcome to Morocco, good country, good people” and at the same time “gimme your money” (yes, we heard it spoken directly). Also for Agata, who was here 11 years ago the city lost some of its magic – it seemed… smaller and less colourful. Or maybe the expectations were too high?
We finally reached Atlas. There is something magical about the mountains. Maybe this is why we like them so much. We set base at Auberge Ibrahim in Agoudal (recommeded) to explore the neighborhood. We took a standard loop trip from Agoudal to a beautiful Dades Gorge and then go back up via equally stunning Todra Gorge. Most of the gravel piste that was once there is now paved, but there is still a part with bad gravel, rocks and washed out ruts. We saw just one biker there (on a heavy KTM), a couple of 4x4s, and a lorry, which was “fun” to pass (still quite easy for the bikes, cars have a bigger problem). In Todra Valley they built a dam and therefore rerouted the road completely, so for a while we were in a white spot on the map, as no navigation had the updated road yet (not an issue, there is no other way so you can’t get lost).
In Agata’s opinion, everything has changed since she was there 11 years ago… but not for better. Including the behavior of the kids who throw stones (Agata was hit on the head), show middle fingers with angry faces and just grab whatever you have on the bike just to get it, repeating “donnez moi, donnez moi” (“give me, give me”).
A lot of people think that we are on long holidays. No, we are not. And from time to time we need some time off, too. So we took a few days off in Merzouga. We treated ourselves into a hotel for better rest, caught up with posting, film editing (check our YouTube channel if you haven’t done it yet!), Joris changed oil in the GS, we did some laundry, that was very due, found a tailor to fix Agata’s glove and topcase inner bag (well, it is better now, but still far from being fully and neatly fixed).
We also met our friends there – Baśka and Kowal (Podrozemotocyklowe.com) and their group. We joined them for one day of riding and one night of wildcamping (on Mars 😉 ) – thanks so much!!!
And actually this is how we met Frederic, who joined the group on the way and as they were slowly going back north and he wanted to go south, he joined our duo for a bit.
We decided to quickly go towards the coast, skipping cities and other “attractions” of Morocco. On the way we passed by some beautiful places. One valley mesmerised us so much, that we decided to stay there for the night. The climb was steep, twisty and rocky. Joris hit a rock with a pannier and had a bit of a hard landing, but all was OK in the end. The panniers again proved to be bulletpoof. Or at least easily fixable 🙂
As you know, difficult roads lead to great places. The spot we found was fantastic. A million star hotel. We had a small campfire, grilled the lamb chops, that we bought earlier that day at the very local butcher and had a great rest.
In the morning we decided to get up early and cover some distance. Unfortunately, the fine sand in the riverbed had other plans. While riding out, Joris had a nasty fall (yep, traction control sucks when it stalls the engine… ) and twisted his knee. This stopped us for some time, but Joris The Tough finally was able to hop back on his bike and continue.
Actually all three of us dropped the bikes in the tricky sand there… We then said to ourselves, that in the future we will try to look for more easily accessible spots for the night.
Another great place to stay overnight was Camping Tinnougba – a small family campground run by a humble Berber family. We loved it there and regret not staying one night more…
Close to Laayoune we had a small “anniversary” – 20 000 km on the trip. On that occasion we went to McDonald’s for a small celebration. and then decided to go outside of the city and camp wild .
It was supposed to be a calm night. We found a spot to camp in the middle of nowhere. A military guy came to check up on us, called his supervisors and got a confirmation that we were allowed to camp.
We slept very well until midnight, when gendarmerie car siren woke us up. And there was no discussion. We needed to break the camp (pack wet, as it was super foggy) and were escorted 30 kms to the “camping”, which was more than a sandy construction site, with no facilities except ruined toilets. So that was it for a good and restful night. In the morning the fog was still there so we packed wet again. Luckily, we were heading to Dakhla and planned a few days of rest and “regrouping”.
We stayed in Dakhla for a few days in the camper’s parking at PK25, enjoying doing nothing. Frederic was slowly preparing to go back north and we actually waited for Anna from feeltheworld.pl who was on her solo travel to Africa to reach Dakhla, so we could join forces and cross Mauritania together.
Crossing Morocco and Western Sahara territory took us 21 days and we covered almost 3800 km. We still have mixed feelings about the country. It has changed during the years, you can see that enormous funds are being invested in the infrastructure, especially roads. But at the same time, we feel it lost its magic. Anyway, the world is changing and we can’t stop it. So we can only enjoy the moment and then move on towards next adventures
After spending 3 hrs at the borders (1 hr exiting Morocco, 2 hrs entering Mauritania) we are in Mauritania!
Few things to note:
1) most of the no man’s land is asphalted, the rest is sand with sharp stones; the car wrecks are no longer there,
2) Mauritanian side has many new buildings and plans for further development,
3) Mauritania is so much cleaner than it was! No more wrecks, dead animals, less garbage next to the road than in Morocco!
4) costs: 55€ for a 30-day single entry visa (or 650 MAD but once you show you have euros, the dirhams will not be accepted); 100 MAD for permit for a bike for 5 days; 130 MAD for insurance for a bike for 10 days (there is just 3 or 10 day option, pity the times are not aligned across the documents)
We went to Nouadhibou, to stay there for the night, but first, we wanted to exchange or withdraw some local money. The border guys gave very unfavorable exchange rates, so we decided to get the money in the town. It was not that easy, ATMs did not work most of the time and when asking to exchange the € in the bank, they advised us to use black market 😉
Anyway, all in all we got some cash.
First night in Mauritania did not feel like being in Mauritania at all.
We had a dream spot by the sea, Villa Maguela, clean, quiet, welcoming. A place to stay in Nouadhibou for travelers that are looking for an oasis, especially on the way from or to a Moroccan border.
Next place to stop was the capital, Nouakchott, where we initially planned to get some visas. It turned out, that the Ivory Coast consulate moved to Nouadhibou, and the only one “interesting” visa we could get was to Guinea-Bissau, but we decided no to cross through it anyway…
One person we met on the road, still in Morocco, said that Mauritania is beautiful now, as everything is blooming. We did not know what to expect, as Mauritania = sand. But again, we were surprised how green it was. There was grass, some green bushes and trees. Definitely not the landscape Agata saw here in January 2016. So maybe a different season?
Anyway, it looked more like savanna and not a desert.
The last leg of crossing Mauritania took us on a nice, heavily corrugated track leading to the border with Senegal. Finally we were off the asphalt and the route was easier than we heard in all the stories. Yes, it would have been a struggle in the rain, but it was OK now and after a few kilometres it became easier and easier. Some people we met later, said they had never seen this track that bad in dry season though… Anyway, we saw a lot of nice animals there, including crocodiles, Pumbas 😉 (warthogs) and a zillion of birds and insects.
The route ended with a border crossing in Diama, and despite it was already Friday afternoon, we crossed it swiftly and without any problems, paying the National Park communal tax (100 MRU pp), no exit stamp fee (they asked 400 MRU pp, but could not provide receipt so we did not pay), 4000 CFA pp for crossing the bridge, 5000 CFA for a 4-day passe-avant (CPD would be stamped in Dakar though) and we did not buy any insurance here (we then bought the Brown Card in Dakar, for a good price). We ended the day in Zebrabar, chilling by the sea over a well deserved beer.
Crossing Mauritania took 4 days and 810 km. We treated is as a pass through country and it was a bit unfair, as it has more to offer and it has changed for better over last years. Yes, there are still problems with petrol, the traffic is hectic and the potholes on the roads are enormous, but it got cleaner, more inviting and just nicer.
- 4601 km
- 25 days