CORONAVIRUS STATUS: LATE NOVEMBER 2020
Under the latest UK regs, 5 days self-isolation then a £100 test following a week’s holiday
in Morocco won’t work for most of us. But the recent news of vaccines is promising.
Right now we’ll have to wait and see about the spring 2021 tours.
People have booked already, understanding that it’s all provisional.
I’m confident that as things look, the November 2021 tours will happen.
Come and join us on an easy introduction to small-group, back-road trail biking in Morocco, suited to seasoned motorcyclists who may have little or no off-road riding experience, or of travelling in North Africa. Your time is maximised by flying in and renting a bike, before crossing the High Atlas mountains for a 1100-kilometre lap of southern Morocco. To read more about me, click the picture, left.
Using my 40-years experience of riding in North Africa, as well as the knowledge based on writing Morocco Overland and the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook, we follow exhilarating mountain backroads to easy dirt-road excursions of 2–3 hours and cover around 200km a day. With the scenery, deserted roads and trails, great food and cosy lodgings, it all adds up to a memorable one-week mini-adventure which will leave you satisfied rather than exhausted.
What a brilliant trip that was. A great balance of challenge and relaxation. RS
We would like to thank you for a beautiful trip that will remain in our memories forever. RBE
Interesting mix of people + your amazing quiet knowledge of the area made it all feel so easy. JT.
Thank you so much for all your help and guiding. The tour has been an indelible memory for me. JK
You’ve ruined green laning in the UK for me now ;-) TY
Great mix of rough and smooth, with a dose of true Moroccan culture. [And] the biking – just right. Loved it. BR
… an outstanding trip. CM
If you’ve been there and done that, southern Morocco holds no great challenge. But just as it was for me back in 1982, first rides to North Africa can be a shambles. I came back from that trip having not seen or done half as much as I could have.
Today, I still hear of first-time visitors stuck at the border on cumbersome, overloaded machines before getting shafted, ill or breaking down while tackling over-ambitious itineraries as the days slip away. That can be all part of the adventure if you’re carefree and happily naive. For everyone else, a short guided tour can be a great primer to genuine adventure motorcycling or just a fun biking holiday.
I’ve refined my proven formula to make the ride more suited to the BMW 310GSs. And I’ve upgraded some lodgings and continue to tweak the routing so there’s always an option in the event of bad weather or other setbacks or delays.
The default bike is the BMW G310GS. The G310GS is a lower, heavier and more road-oriented machine than the clapped-out XR250 Tornados rentals it replaced in 2018. Tyres are tubeless do-it-alls as pictured above (non-standard wheels), as opposed to road-style Tourances and the like. But because we’re not on a rally and conditions are usually dry, you’ll be surprised how secure a road-style tyre is on the off-road sections. It’s all about a smooth riding style.
The difference between the 310s and a 650 Sertao (left), G650GS single or even the F700GS or F750GS twins is less pronounced. Therefore, although there are always six 310s reserved, these bigger bikes are now suited to the tour, assuming they’re available and you’re comfortable with the extra weight and additional rental cost. Seat heights are not so different and lower saddles are an option for the 310s. The bigger bikes cost between 25% and 55% more to rent, Some are older and have higher mileages. Things like ABS and a full dashboard array may not work. Read my impressions on doing the tour on an old F700GS. as well as a newer 750GS.
You can do the tour with your own bike. Some consider this but most just fly in and settle for the 310s. Initially, a 310 will feel a bit gutless, but after a few days you’ll adapt to its abilities on the dirt and find it a brilliant <100-kph canyon carver.
You fly to Marrakech and bus or taxi to a modern hotel where we all meet on the first evening for a meal and briefing. Next morning it’s a 3-minute walk to the bike rental agency. Once the rental payments and 15,000dh (~£1200) deposits are made and bikes packed, we set off for an easy, 110-km road ride to a remote lodge in the High Atlas and next morning continue along the loop, following deserted backroads and spectacular mountain and desert pistes, right up to the very last day returning over the Atlas to Marrakech. Until the last hour on the last day, traffic is negligible.
Where practical, you ride ahead to an agreed landmark or set distance and wait for the group to catch up. It’s important that you understand these instructions or follow someone else who has. Because there’s usually only one road or track to follow, this works well enough, with me bringing up the rear. Occasionally it’s better to follow me, in which case catch-up stops are more frequent to make sure all are keeping up. At any time you can stop to take photos and so on. I may ride past but will remember who’s behind me and may pull over later to let you pass. The ride does include some exposed mountain roads and tracks with no safety barrier and big drops. If you have extreme issues with vertigo this ride may not be for you.
We use lodgings ranging from rustic Berber home-stays to impressive kasbah-style boutique hotels, enjoying our hosts’ warm hospitality and freshly prepared food. It’s not all about riding; many riders regard the food as a highlight of the tour.
However, once we leave Marrakech some lodgings will be plain and rustic (left), and while almost all are en-suite with sit-on toilets, bathroom facilities may not resemble the spotless fit and finish you may be used to back home. In particular, some washrooms at roadside stops are a little ‘Elm Street’ so you may prefer to relieve yourself in the great outdoors. It’s all part of the adventure! But if you’ve travelled independently in poorer lands (or can remember when Europe and the UK were not so different) it won’t be too much of a shock.
My knowledge of Morocco gained from researching and writing the Morocco Overland guidebook means barely an hour or a mile need be wasted getting to the places overlooked by most tourists, tours and other guidebooks. When things go awry and delays crop up, as they do, I know the region well enough to reschedule the itinerary or the overnight stay at the drop of a valve. On this trip we’ll barely see other tourists. When we do stray into their territory the whole circus can be quite a shock.
This tour is not a hardcore, off-roading, dawn-to-dusk challenge.
It is a laid-back but adventurous back-country trail and road ride through southern Morocco’s mountains and deserts without vehicle support.
However, you still need to be:
• experienced and level-headed to ride competently on exposed mountain switchbacks where any number of hazards lie beyond the next bend. As one seasoned rider wisely observed: it’s not how fast you ride, it’s how well you do it.
• fit enough to handle a couple of hours off-roading and be…
• flexible enough to accept the vagaries of back-country travel, lodgings and washroom facilities endemic to North Africa.
Sound like your sort of thing? Then please read the FAQs carefully.
Or check out the galleries here and here and here with moreshots from 2019 here and 2020 here. After each tour, I send everyone a huge batch of my edited photos taken during the week.