Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650

Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

May 29th, 1999 -- Tired, sweaty, and dirty . . .


1,000 Miles to Sahara

As we rode across the piste (dirt trail/road) into the Sahara, I looked down at my dusty odometer, and saw the numbers 15,120.  When we uncrated the bikes in Casablanca, it read 14,115.  Therefore, after 10 days, we reached the 1,000 mile (1,600 km) mark.

After Casablanca on May 23rd, we rode down the coast to a great little town/city named Essaouira.  Truly a "must see" destination in Morocco.  This is where the people from the desert come to vacation.

We checked in to the Hotel Tafoukt.  They provided secure parking, outstanding dinner for 2, nice room with good bed/view, and a large breakfast for 2 -- all for just $45/night!  This certainly worked with our $100/day budget.

Yes, we have all of our camping gear, but with these prices . . .  Also, the sand and the heat would be a little rough.  Eventually, we won't have a choice, but it's still early in the trip and we're within budget.

We stayed in Essaouira for 2 days, enjoying the friendliness of the locals, and the fresh fish.  A short walk from the hotel brought us to the port where the daily catch is grilled right on the spot -- a full meal   with salad and drink costs about $5.00 per person.

Heading out on the port, with the Medina behind

We entered the Medina and visited all the local wares.  The Medina is the "old" city, generally walled in for protection.  Now it exists as the primary marketplace in most towns.  As you walk through the narrow streets, you will see a variety of small shops selling just about anything you can imagine. 

Essaouira is known for their wooden crafts, and we were not disappointed by what we saw.  The only thing saving us from buying one of everything was the lack of space on the bikes.  We also didn't want to start an expensive habit so early on.

And so we departed Essaouira on May 25th, a few dirham less than when we arrived.  Dirham is the local currency -- roughly 10 dirhams = 1 dollar.  We rode a couple of hundred miles to the very active city of Marrakech.

We arrived mid-day, and it was already getting close to 32C (90F).  We found a hotel for $42 night, including breakfast only.  Yes, it was more then Essaouira, but it had a POOL!  After unloading the bikes, we stripped off all our gear and dove into the refreshing liquid.

After showering, we rode to the Medina to have dinner.  As you can see, it was a very boring evening under the stars.  These friendly guys served up a feast of mixed salads, tajines (vegetable and meat stews), and cous cous dishes.

 Dinner in Marrakech

On May 27th, we left the metropolitan city and headed for our next vista of views:  The High Atlas Mountains.  OK, so we've ridden the Blue Ridge Pkwy, the US & Canadian Rockies, the Alps, and the Dolomites -- This doesn't make us experts on mountain passes, but we've been lucky enough to have had the experiences.  I would put the High Atlas at least on par with any/all of the above. 

HAtlasHousing.jpg (89688 bytes)

Aside from the sweeping twisties and spectacular views, add a dose of culture that brings you back in time.  The old ruins and newer homes are built from clay, cement, and straw right into the side of the mountains.

As we rode by, children would run to the edge of the road and wave frantically.   Stop where you think your alone for a photo, and within seconds the children will materialize -- It's actually kind of spooky

.Excellent Adventure

As we rode further away from the towns and small villages, the road slimmed down to slightly larger than a single lane on a highway, with no dividing line.  As we approached oncoming traffic, we would shift right while they shifted to their right.   This was scary at first, but was quite exhilarating at speed.

And so after 1 week we arrived at Ouazazate on Thursday, May 27th, another on our list of places to recommend.   Here we met another motorcyclist, Tanguy from Belgium.  After realizing we were not the police, he approached us.  A few Coke's later, we followed Tanguy to his hotel -- $15 per night for the 2 of us!  OK, breakfast wasn't included, but they had private parking and we had our own toilet, bath, and view.

View from hotel

Friday came and we took a day-trip south with Tanguy to the Oasis city of Zagora.   The effect of palm trees against a dry, arid mountain is . . . well, quite dramatic.  We took pictures, but like most pictures I take, you really need to see for yourself.

Oasis village

We left Tanguy outside of Zagora, as he prepared to cross the piste heading further south.  He bought his first motorcycle a Suzuki DR500, about a year ago.   He's been travelling for 40 days and plans to tour for 18 months throughout Africa, S.America, and SE Asia.  If you want to contact him:

Saturday's early departure pointed northeast.  After battling high winds and temperatures reaching 39C (105F), we arrived in Errachidia, only 90 kms from Rissani and the beginning of the Sahara.  There are 2 types of hotels in Errachidia, 4-star and 2-star.  We're at the Hotel M'Daghra, paying $17/night with secure parking, toilet and shower.  As we were extremely dehydrated (even after drinking along the route like camels), we showered and napped.  The streets here are empty between noon and 5pm, due to the heat, winds, and sand storms.  After 5, the climate becomes tolerable, and the streets are alive with action until about 11pm.

After much discussion, we decided to go to the Sahara this morning.  We left the hotel at 6am to "beat the heat".  It actually worked! 

Something between road and piste

We rode to Rissani, after which the pavement ends and the piste begins.  After getting lost a few times, we went back to town to hire a guide. 

Living in New York City, and with most of our miles accumulated on touring roads/machines, the piste was a little frightening at first.  My bike is 500 lbs. without all the extra gear or my svelte 200 lb. body! 

And so we road into the Sahara and our first piste.  We were hot, sweaty, dehydrated, coated in a thick layer of sand, and we've traveled our first 1,000 miles of the Ultimate Journey.

1,000 miles (1,600 kms) -- we ride!

Hope you're enjoying it too.

— Chris

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