Motorcycle tour – in Morocco with “Red Tulip”
It happens sometimes that life is rolling us the way THEY want to, isn’t it?
A religious friend once told me “we do plans and God is laughing”. That is how I found myself in Holland, North of Europe, listening to God’s laughing cause I said to myself, “I am going to ride to Morocco”.
Years ago I had a dream to ride to Morocco, since my family came from there and my childhood was full of stories from my grandparents about the country & and the life they had there. The land of my fathers. Mountains, desert, tagin (the traditional crockpot for cooking food), White Sea shorts, Berbers (natives who live in the mountains) tents, mud houses, children desire for a pen or a hairband. What else can I ask from a motorcycle adventure?
Well, after years of God’s laughs, I find myself in the north of Europe, Holland, motorcycle shop, red BMW R1200GS, fully equipped for my needs. Tough and tiring negotiation (not for me, for the dealer) until I feel that one more word and he will call the police. Shaking hands, full service and the Red Bimmer is mine and ready for our mutual adventure. “I am going to take you to a long adventure” I whisper. I think he was smiling when he answered, “You can’t scare a duck with water”. Right.
Weekend. I am taking my new partner to the nature for our mutual introduction. Highway, side roads, unpaved roads, off roads, low speed, high speed etc….
What a bike. I had more than 100 bikes in my life. This one is definitely one of the best if not THE best for my needs, since I am an on/off road type of rider.
I stop to rest near a field of red tulips, laying on the grass. “Look around you,” said the bike. Wow, Red bike, red tulips. “You got a name,” I whisper to the red Bimmer. I think he said “Thank you” and blushed.
Let’s see Morocco together” I offer him. “Wonderful” he said. “My fathers were tested in Morocco,” he reminds me. “Yes” I said. “My fathers came from there too, so let’s do a roots journey” I smile to him.
2 days of arrangements, I ride like 160 km (100 miles) with all the equipment to check everything, maps, GPS, tools, spare parts, tent, sleeping bag, air mattress and we are both ready.
It’s the end of April, The north edge of the Sahara is in the peak of blooming, best time to be there. Fix matched.
7PM, Holland is still cold at this time of the year and I put my face to the south and heading to Belgium, France, the Pyrenees Alps to Spain, Gibraltar. On the way, I had a few changes of the way due to small talks with locals, that told me about some “Hidden Attractions”. A tour is a tour, isn’t it?
4 Days, 2500 km (1600 miles) and I find myself in Tarifa. This is the shortest ferry way between Spain and Tangier Morocco (15 km, 9 miles, 40 minutes). I sleep at the “Tarifa beach”, waiting for the ferry of tomorrow.
Morocco is a kingdom, North West of Africa that is under a French influence in most of it, while the north part is under a Spanish influence. Morocco is geographically divided to 3 mountains belts east / west diagonally. The Middle Atlas up north, the Grand (high) Atlas in the middle and the Anti Atlas down south. The greatest desert in the world – the Sahara, starts at the southern part of west Morocco.
The ferry arrives to Tangier, “Third world border cross”. I put my head on the switch “Third world” and don’t release my passport off hands and eyes even not for a second, since in places like that it may be very expensive to get it back. Small money tip makes here miracles. The papers are stamped in a moment and we (me and Tulip) are in Tangier. A very dangerous city for naive tourists, so I open even my third eye.
Those days, there was no GPS for Morocco. So like in the good old days a compass and a map did the work. A dream of years is starting now to come true.
“The purpose of the journey is the essence. The traveling is just the tool, and together they are the way to self-fulfillment”. This is my philosophy. Tulip and I are in great relationship.
My plan was to cross the High Atlas despite the snow that I see up on tops. There are normal roads for normal people instead, but who wants asphalt when he has mountains off roads as an option? Just need to be careful since I have heard about a German tourist guy that locals drug dealers made him under a threat carrying in his car sacks of Marijuana to the other side of the mountain. He has been caught and spent 1.5 years in jail. No thanks.
Mountain roads are full of people who want to stop you from many reasons, Most of them are probably good. I never stopped to find out. Smell my exhaust, I put after-shave in the gas for you to enjoy the smell at least.
The sun is too low now. I choose a parking spot for the night, fire, rice, tea with tealeaves and good night Morocco.
Dawn starts at 5.30 am. I collect my tent, drink tea of last night from the thermos, still hot, wonderful. Total inspection of the bike and the equipment that is carefully divided due to the weight balance. Right side of the tank is the gas canister, and the left side is the water canister. Good morning Morocco. The view is breathtaking. 1 hour of meditation, me and Tulip are on the way. A long mountain off road ahead of us down south to the Sahara.
km (120 miles) of mostly mountain roads and Tulip needs fuel. The price of the gas here is 60% of the price in Europe. Pleasure. 8 France bikes are entering in to the gas station. “Are you traveling alone?” they asked. “Yes, always alone”. Lucky me I speak French too. “Would you like to join us?”, “Yes” I said, trying to convince myself that 9 is better than 1.
They are driving fast, passing marvels view sites. Where are you running too? I want to take pictures. “You been there, no pictures? You haven’t been there” like the bike’s globetrotter Allen Katz said to me once. From time to time, I stop to take pictures and then narrow the space. One of them is driving a Honda ST 1100 “Pan European”, so I suggested him to change the name of his bike to “Pan Moroccean”. He loved the idea by his laughing to the sky.
On the dinner’s table, it turns out that they are ski instructors that just finished the season and came to do a tour in Morocco. 3 women and 8 men are asking about my tours around the world, all by myself and with different motorcycles, listening intently to the stories with curiosity mixed with envy, while I am getting more and more exited. The only thing that bothered them was “Why alone”? Go figure. “Alone because I travel mainly in to myself, brothers. The changing view is only the decoration”.
Kind of funny. I am on a German bike, came from Holland, traveling with a bunch of French on Japanese and Italian bikes in Morocco. Halleluiah to the God of the bikers.
It’s kind of late now, everyone is happy with the wonderful riding day that brought this pleasant fatigue. Good night to the ingathering of the exiles in Morocco. See you at breakfast time.
Today we ride direction Fes, the born city of my mother. Long mountain roads of the High Atlas leading us there to this amazing city. I have to stay here for a day or two to find the roots of my mother’s family. I thank the group for lovely 2 days. Hugs and kisses in the French style (1,2,3 on the cheeks), all together pictures and goodbye.
Friends are a strange thing but a good idea at the same time. Some of them are coming for a lifetime, some of them to teach us something, some of them just for a short visit and then never again. All we need to do is to be open for those stations in our running train of life. 2 days together were more than enough for me. They were nice and friendly but not for this kind of journey. When you are looking for yourself, alone is a much better idea.
Childhood stories are floating, I feel like I am in a Dejavue (Seen before) process. I take many pictures to show Mom when I will be back home. She said Goodbye to this place more than 60 years ago. I bet nothing have changed here ever since. I have decided to ask someone in her age about the past here and to take his picture, maybe he went to school with her (funny thought). I stop someone looks like 60 years old and ask for his age. “38” he says. My God. Is it the sun? The food? The climate? I give up the idea.
I put my mind on a “positive” position, Tulip is happy and the throttle is open, the open spaciousness are waiting.
Next station: Midelt (calls “The village of the apples” as well), a small village where my father was born. Long roads heading south, like 100 km (65 miles) between Fes (mother) to Midelt (father). How did they meet?
I take many pictures to show my father back home. At the entry of the village, I find a welding workshop. I stop there and get friendly with the owner. He works to get the frame of the rear panniers stronger due to the weight and the off road riding. 3 hours of very responsible work ended with like 4$. I gave him 10$. He almost got faint. Too cheap so I invite him to eat in a restaurant with me. He says, “No, let’s eat at my home”. “Ok amigo”. I grew up on Moroccan food. I drive Tulip with him as a passenger while he is waving to the village people like a happy kid, heading to his home. Lucky me I speak some Moroccan too (Thank you Grandma up there near God).
After a traditional Moroccan Tajin food at his home with his family, that were laughing a lot due to my broken Moroccan language, I offer his wife the “Instant Knorr Soup” bags I always carry with me on my tours. She gets very excited and tell me that they can only see that on the TV commercials. That feels good meeting good people on the way.
Every place I went to, I felt like I’ve been thrown way back to my childhood. The language, the food, the music and the customs, brought sweet memories to the present. What a good way to experience the good old days again. I loved it. Now I need to look for my father’s house. I am curious to see it. The only information I had from my father was that it’s nearby Alliance School. So I went to the municipality building of Midelt, looking for someone local that will talk to my father on my phone, that will describe where was his home to him, so he will lead me there.
I found a secretary nice old lady that was glad to help. I called my father, thought to myself that it will take a minute, but apparently, they knew the same people, laughed and talked for like an hour or so. That call cost me like 250$, but what the hell, it was so important to me, so let it be. She jumped on the bike with 2 legs to the same side and showed me the way. Was worth it. Then of course I was invited to her house for dinner with her family. Wonderful and simple people.
Good night nature, tent, tea, million stars. Who needs only 5 stars hotel?
Morning. I sit on the map to plan the next few days. I plan and arrange the ratio between the time and the distance I want to cross every day, and learn what is waiting for me to see on the way. Uzud waterfalls, the Cathedral Mountain, etc… That is not nice to discover too late that you drove nearby an attraction and missed it. Next destination – Marzuga Dunes, the north Belt of the Sahara.
In my imagination, I can see the bike riders of Paris – Dakar enduro race, the Tuareg tributes with their blue Tarbush on the head, the golden dunes that contains a mystery of beauty and danger, mud houses that are typical to this environment. A place that have nothing, but actually have everything.
On my way out of the Midelt village, I meet two BMW GS riders from France (Same like mine), Luke & Gabriel. A few words and we decide to cross the High Atlas together due to the long distance off-road ways. For 2 days, I dragged them to different kinds of experiences.
For an example. On the way, I saw two trucks full up with happy people dressed like on holydays, singing and dancing. I could guess what the occasion is and decided to follow them. 30 minutes of driving and we arrived to a small village up on the mountain. As I thought, it turned out that the groom from the other village came to take the bride to their wedding in his village, accompanied by his friends and family.
Well, like I experienced in my childhood, I entered in to the middle of the dancing circle and danced the Maroccean wedding dance as if I was born there. That was so funny to see their surprised faces.
They invited us in to their muddy home, served Moroccan Tea with the traditional wedding cookies, we thanked them, kissed every one, the Tulip thunderous and we are back on the trails, flew like kites between the rocks and the sheeps to Ielmisil. That was a nice break. We camped by the lake for the night. I am in total exhaustion from the fatigue.
Good morning Morocco. We stopped for breakfast and mate Chris Scott with his girlfriend. This English guy is crossing the Sahara for 20 years more than 20 times with every possible vehicle. (You can find his books on the internet). Small talk, big smiley, good luck and good buy. Halleluiah to the God of the motorcyclist that connects bikers in the middle of no-where.
Well, the show must go on and we are heading to Zegura. 50 km (like 35 miles) of hard enduro through amazing views, crossing this part of the High Atlas. Rivers, mountains, creeks and one crazy canyon bring us to Zegura, the north edge of the Sahara. The locals were looking at me as an alien came from another star. I wish.
A nice family doing camping invited me to join them for lunch. I know this warm hospitality from my home. The Mom served from the best of her hand made food that was wonderful. Getting involved with locals is cool everywhere. From there, we continue to one of the most amazing hidden villages of Morocco – Todra village. It is located in the canyon between cliffs of 300 m (like 1,000 feet) high. It was Sunday so many locals came for camping by the river. This place has a very unique atmosphere.
Another day of endless plains and we are in Zegura, a Desert tourism village that is one of the gates to the Sahara. We choose a nice camping. 5 AM finds me swimming at the Camping’s pool. There are nice moments in this tour.
We are on the mountain again heading to M’hamid, 100km (like 65 miles) south to Zegura in to the Sahara. The dunes are well seen from far away, this is it. The Sahara dunes.
We are riding in to the dunes, looking to the horizon, I see a Coca Cola sigh on a small open cabin between the dunes. What ??? Isn’t that an amazing distribution system to bring Coca Cola here to the dunes? So cold Coca Cola and warm tea bring my breathing, good mood and power back. We take a 1-hour rest, but then the French guys, Luke & Gabriel want to continue now. I do not.
Time to say goodbye. Probably we will never meet again. Thanks for the 3 days we spent together. There are friends who come for a moment to our life, teaching us something and go. Like in a train station. Some jump on the train for a few stations and leave, some stay for good.
I breathe the place inside and decide to stay at the shaded cabin and start writing this story. Just after the amazing sunset on the far dunes, I open my tent. The 3 guys from M’hamid that are operating this cabin for the off-road travelers, make a nice company on the camping fire with their spicy stories about their village people and about the legends of the Sahara riders. Those guys never left their village and probably will never do. Everything they know about the world is what they see here. TV? Do not make me laugh. I thought to myself about those places in the world, that if people wouldn’t arrived there, than how will those locals know that there is a world out there? Good night golden dunes.
Morning. Tulip is smiling. I am at the southern point of my tour. Tangier is the northern point, M’hamid is the eastern point and Agadir on the Atlantic shore is the western one. This is for the first round since I intend to do two rounds of Morocco in different directions
My back is to the dunes now and my face are west to the Atlantic Ocean. Tulip is barking, the rear wheel draws 8 in the sand, I wave goodbye to those “One moment open heart friends” and leave them in their happy “personal narrow world”. I am alone again. My soul and body are well balanced and everything is open 360 angles. I feel like when I am flying with my loved paraglider or scuba diving. There is good and bad in everything. I am heading west to Warzazat, where the Hollywood studios of Morocco are located.
Tulip and I are crossing the yellow endless plateau direction the Atlantic Ocean. I stop for water and looking at Tulip. “Why are you sad my Iron Horse”? I ask him. “I want mountains,” He is wailing. I look at the map and tell him that “Within 2 days we’ll breathe mountain tops air again”. I am smiling deep inside. “What a partner”.
Peddlers on the sides of the roads are offering whatever they can find. Crystal stones on the mountains, shell necklaces near the sea, fruits and vegetables at the plateaus and ceramics at the deserts. The people here are connected to what the nature has to offer.
I visit the movie studios of Warzazat. Nice but defiantly not the “Universal Studios” of Los Angeles Hollywood. The arena in the middle of the desert where they made “Gladiator” with Russell Crowe behind the studios, was destroyed – pity.
I made a promise to Tulip to go back to the mountains. I look at the map and choose the mountain roads to Marrakech instead of the asphalt roads. I have heard about their fascinating market calls Jemaa el-Fnaa. I need to check it myself. Spices, shoes, cloth, colors, smells, King Cobras snakes are dancing to the flutes, hustles and noise, “Suke” by the local’s nickname. I’ve spent 2 days in this very special city”, tuned my mind to “The beauty of the simplicity”. That is all high above the expectations. I amuse myself, thinking I need to rent an apt. here and spend a year, learning about the beauty of the simple life. But….. it hits again and again that God created a beautiful world for us to see. It is yet not the time to settle down and grow roots, since I still got like half of the word ahead of me to see.
Siham and her sister are smiling to me and joined the table. Friendly locals. Tulip gets a lot of attention and proudly tells everyone that he came from Holland with some irresponsible driver. He is blushing due to the compliment he gets from the crowd of fans. Back home he doesn’t have all that since he is just one of many. After all, he is THE #1 European best seller for many years. Something to be proud of.
I put my face north to Assaouira, a small village of anglers with a rich history, a fortress and an old city. Screaming sea goals are diving on the anglers nets for launch. Peddlers with “original” Rolex diving watches offer me one. I buy it, knowing it’s good only for a few days. Then, when I went to take a shower, it showed me for days the exact time I entered that shower. Money doesn’t lie.
I look at the map. “Casablanca”, (House – casa, white – Blanca). Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are jumping on my mind with the American unforgettable romantic drama. Time to be there.
Ohhhh. Big cities are not for me. I cross the main streets and the city squares just to feel it. Tulip is choking by the smoke of the busses and me too. “Mountains” I hear Tulip crying. I am heading east to Meknes, to see their famous old city.
There is something magical in traveling alone, although I scream sometimes in the helmet up to the sky, just because it’s so difficult to be with the thoughts in all times. This situation is a mixture of an undesirable meditation with the changing reality. Kind of an illusion mixed with a daydreaming during the physical changing situations of the off-roads. Lucky me I take many pictures since the camera remembers everything. Just like with dreams, that the moment they come true they are no longer dreams. Then you have to recreate new ones cause who can live without it? What if Tulip had a self-awareness? What would he say or feel about that? I do anthropomorphize Tulip cause sometimes I feel like he is aware of my needs. What a partner.
I place the map on the table, got 2 more weeks in Morocco a head of me before I will have to climb back north to Holland. I open the map and find a winding road heading west to the sea. The sun touches the horizon, I find a remote village and a place to camp. I sit for dinner and there is a Deaf-mute man comes and sit with me. We start a hands conversation and he tells me that at the age of 11 he stopped hearing. I ask him “How is it to be Deaf-mute”? He explains his philosophy way, says most of the people around him are talking nonsense and gossips most of the time, so he is not interested in that kind of “noise” anyway. I ask him if he remembers the music he used to hear as a child, and he answers that he is in thoughts all the time. An apathetic philosopher.
On the top of the electric pole at the other side of the street, I see a stork teaches her kids how to fly. I would like to be present in the lesson about “How to bring babies”.
The owner of this small motel is an Italian, ex-captain, that got this one as an inheritance, and he came here for his retirement. Stories in to the night until I lose my consciousness of fatigue. Good night philosopher, good night Mon Captain.
A new day is up, the coffee of the morning is hot and I ask myself “Shell I drive back south to the family in Todra that are inviting me every day on the phone to stay with them forever?” Shell I choose the living in a muddy house, goats and chickens, or shell I go on with my “irresponsible way of life”. The memory of “God created a beautiful world for us to see” re-penetrates my mind. “Patience, I still got so much to see”. Yes, we can talk about it but it’s too early for that now, so I put my face west to cross the Anti-Atlas and whisper in Tulip’s ears that we are going up to 2,000m above sea level like he loves. Roads are rough and it’s freezing. The guy who designed this bike is a technological genius. I cross the canyon and climb to the watershed line on the upper trail of the mountain. Small villages and nice people are on the way. The camera got a breath stop due to the amazing view. Kids are waiting for presents that I have in my tank-bag. Even a color hairband makes a little child smiling with a sparking light in her eyes, same like a pen or a marker pen to the boys. Lucky me I brought lots of them. The main ally of the village looks empty even when some people are walking there. Strange.
I stop at the top, stretch my body on the ground, the sun and the wind are petting my face. “Is that how you make love to the nature”? An euphoria feeling sprayed in my mind. Why is it so difficult to get this euphoria every day everywhere?
It’s meditation time now. I put my mind on “No mind situation”. Years ago, I made a decision to change my attitude to life, and then everything started to change, mostly in good ways. The beauty and the happiness of life are hiding in the simple things.
I jump on Tulip, he is barking and surging forward. I cross a village in no-where, looking at the people. Everybody has his story of life but after all, they are all the same more than less. Here nothing much is happening, they born, grow up, getting old, never leaving the place and still they are happy because they don’t know something else. They are just clueless about the “Outside world”. Bikers and off-road 4×4 travelers don’t go through very often here, so the excitement they show is well understood. Simple and good people, sending a warm smile and want to talk, to host, to know. Every guest is an issue for a year in their gathering. Give them 100K$ and it means nothing to them because they probably don’t know what to do with it. exactly like you gave 1 Million $ to someone on a lonely island alone. It’s worthless.
I surf from the mountains west to the sea level, heading north to Tarifa for the ferry to Spain. Paper work, 40 minutes on the deck of the ferry for wind and salty air. Thanks to Morocco, to the mountains, to the people, to the emotions. Thanks Tulip for being such a good friend and thank God for the chance to experience all that.
My face to north, plan the way through the Mont Blanc, the highest pick of the Alps. Therefore, I cross Spain, Andorra, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and Holland. 11,000 KM (Like 7,000 Miles) within a month of a dream in a reality that is like a dream too.
“If you are sitting at home, nothing happened”. (Uriya Shai)
Meet you on the next tour 🙂