May 29th, 1999 -- Tired, sweaty, and dirty . . .
1,000 Miles to
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
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 32°C (90°F). 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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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: email@example.com
Saturday's early departure pointed northeast. After battling high winds and
temperatures reaching 39°C (105°F), 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!
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.
Hope you're enjoying it too.