Riding a Harley-Davidson through Morocco – Part 3 of 3

continued from Part 2

As the ride to Fez did drain a lot of our energy, most were looking forward to a gentle bimble on N roads along the coast back to Ceuta. But it took us 7 hours for the first 150 miles, R509 & P4115, stunning scenery enjoyed at a average of about 20 mph between potholes. In Morocco, there is one simple truth: the nicer the scenery, the worse the roads. It felt like 80 miles of off-road riding, and once more I was impressed how well our Harley-Davidson took the punishment. The leading BMW was clearly in its elements.

Mor8-7459-X3TLC for a punished bike

Also on this day 8 my patience as backmarker was tested, but you need to understand how worrying it can be if you are the last rider without a chance to catch up and no friendly rider behind you to help in case of a emergency.

Only few question the value of a backmarker, and these are most often those who try to ride at the front of the peloton. But if you have a bad day, when you left your mojo in the hotel, you are happy not to be alone. I think what kept us going at the back was also the knowledge that we would return into our comfort zone soon, that dinner would be paid for in Euro and not Dirham, in Spain.

Mor8-7505-X3

The ride along the coast on the N16 was a dream, if only all of Morocco could have this road quality. It seemed that all roads from and to the northerly tip of Morocco, Spain’s Ceuta, were of high quality, and within 2 hours we covered the remaining 150 miles and were back where we started: the dreadful border crossing.

Mor8-7478-X3

Getting out through border controls was as chaotic as getting in, but once you were through the last barbed wire and entered the streets of Ceuta, it seemed a switch was flipped and you rode at Star Trek Warp-speed into a different world. The EU suddenly looked very appealing.

Mor9-7510-X3Ceuta

It was a good choice to spend the last night in Africa on spanish soil, as the few last miles to the ferry to Europe could be done without riding through mayhem. However, it took us the best part of dinner to understand to what time our alarm clocks should be set.

Mor9-7517-X3

Be at the ferry at 6:30 menat check-out at 6am. That was easy math, but what time was it now? Morocco (and our heads) were on UK time, in Spain it was 1 hour later. But then all clocks changed to stupid summertime that night, and thats when the confusion started, coupled with the worry that iPhone and iPads may not adjust automatically. To cut it short, we all had our little tricks and hedges and made it in time to leave the African continent – for some after just 4 hours of sleep.

Mor9-7528-X3
Sunrise near Gibraltar

3 days later, after spending again 24 hours on a ferry, we were back home in the UK.

Conclusions

At many stages during this trip I said: “Never again”, today I prefer to say: “Never say never again”. It was a exceptional adventure, with a kaleidoscope of emotions, at times extreme for machines, riders and our pillion.

Looking back, we were ill prepared, at stages borderline naive, and luck was clearly on our side more then once. However such a expedition is the only way to learn, to be able to improve. The motto of the Sons of Democracy is: “making it up as we go along”, and that works well if you have the RAC one phone call away, so here some things I would consider next time my ride ventures so deeply into the unknown:

Mor8-7498-X3

– consider having a service van following the group. It does not need to be a fully equipped H-D workshop, but have a bit more then just a spanner and duck tape in the tool box. Fuel canisters would add to the riders peace of mind, and of course a fridge with cooled drinks…. and a BBQ, maybe a bed.

– understand the altitudes you visit and local weather patterns

– know exactly where you can get your bike repaired. I regret not having visited Harley-Davidson in Casablanca for a chat, ABC photo and a T-shirt

– if you have to guess about road quality, plan shorter rides (max 250 miles), some free or a half day rides, which would have been nice in Casablanca, and have the discipline to stop more frequently for photos

– do not start nor finish your ride with a 24 hour boat trip between Portsmouth and Spain. It drains your energy, as the only nice part is the excellent 2 hour dinner on the Cap Finistere. Otherwise consider the Eurotunnel, ride to the end of France, stay in nice hotel, and join the seasick sailors at the end of the next day. Below is a calculation showing that it does not cost more and does not take more time. It only adds some time on your motorcycle, and that is why we ride.

gapanalsyis

A splinter group of SoD went to Morocco on BMWs they rented in the south of Spain, here a link to their ride report. Gary comes to the conclusion it would be best to fly to Morocco, and rent bikes then and there. A safe option, convenient, saving time and avoiding the border mayhem. This said, I have never flown to Casablanca and sometimes even Heathrow 5 can be a challenge to survive.

While rentals are a great option to explore distant places, riding your own bike has its emotional merits. Within a 3000 mile radius from home, I would feel cheating strapping my bike on a boat or truck, and there has to be good reasons for leaving it at home to enjoy the ride on a rental. But as many of us do not have the time, patience or butt, and the prices for flights are very low, the options offered today to ride at distant destinations are worth exploring.

Moroccoday8-Mclick on photo to view full photo gallery

In July, I will ride with 5 friends to Nordkapp (N71 10.240 E25 47.032), 5,000 miles in 10 days, and I think with this adventure I may well have reached my personal limit of endurance. This year, I will then have travelled from the southerly latitude of N30 degrees (Ouarzazate) to N71 degrees (Nordkapp), which is above the arctic circle (N66 33” 44’).

Nordkappsquare

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5 Responses to “Riding a Harley-Davidson through Morocco – Part 3 of 3”

  1. Excellent pieces. Keep posting such kind of information on your site.

    Im really impressed by it.
    Hi there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg
    it and in my view recommend to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  2. Great, thanks for posting your trip! Have been thinking about Morocco on a bike (and i happen to ride a Road King as well) since i visited in 2008.

  3. Love your trips. Keep on going mate!

  4. […] King Classic (FLHRC) « Riding a Harley-Davidson through Morocco – Part 1 of 3 Riding a Harley-Davidson through Morocco – Part 3 of 3 […]

  5. Dude, I envy you! Ride safe!

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