Who Needs An Adventure Bike? Part II

In the midst of a misty Morocco, a young Ben Lee is searching for the sand dunes of the Sahara

Missed the first part? Read it here

 

Riding to the Desert

 

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but I was knackered after the day's struggle. Enter Fes – a maddening maze of bustling streets stuffed to the Moorish arches with four-wheeled automobiles. It's the perfect place to relax after a day of more near death experiences than a Final Destination movie marathon.

I start early, determined to pin the Fazer in a south easterly direction along the R503. The aim is to burst out of the clouds and bake in the scorching Saharan sun. Next stop, the desert. Soon we're riding through the polar opposite of yesterday: straight roads and blue skies. The landscape slowly dries up. Grassy plains become scrubland, rolling hills become jagged peaks. By lunchtime, any hopes of selling the FZ6 with "one careful lady owner" in the description have been firmly hammered to pieces. It seems as though the pockmarked road surface becomes more manageable the faster we travel, but too fast and the buffeting wind would surely push the bike into the desert. The answer is a steady 120kph, the front wheel skimming over potholes.

The sight of tagine pots on the heat and the smells of barbecue necessitate a stop for lunch. It's lamb kefta and mint tea in Zaida. But I'm not here for the fantastic food; I've got a desert to find. A celebratory blast of speed takes us from a village called Rich, along a winding canyon road to the bustling town of Errachidia. The sun falls low in the sky as we ride down into the desert.

Motorcycle Maintenance – Morocco Style

 

After a night spent re-greasing my chain and picking bits of glass and nail out of the rear tyre with a kitchen knife, I head on. Deep into the desert. Asphalt sizzles under the searing stare of the morning sun. Starved of grip after battling a British winter, these delicate threads of tarmac are hallowed ground. The rear BT-023 cements itself to the pavement while the front can't keep off it enough. It's moments like these, where the speed, wind, sun and incredible scenery all unite to produce an eye-widening, fizzing excitement, that tell me I made the right decision to ride bikes, and the right decision to snatch this opportunity to escape to a different world.

Kids swarm over the streets of Rissani. It must be school time. Out here, nature dictates where you can build a life. Clusters of mud houses crowd the edge of verdant valley floors, while thin strips of asphalt venture over vast empty plains in search of other civilisation. The N13 threads its way between square fields marked with mud walls. Tight right-angle corners force the Fazer down into first gear. Straights let the engine wind up through second and third, before pulling on the brakes again. Finally the farmland stops and arid desert begins. Life has well and truly run out.

The suddenly smooth road with not a soul in sight allows a constant 170kph. Two gigantic dust devils swirl through the Martian landscape beside me, inconstant pillars of sand rising 50 metres into the sky. And what a sky. The rain and snow that are at this moment punishing Europe are kept back by the fortress-like Atlas Mountains, and here an unbroken kingdom of blue reigns from horizon to horizon. The sand dunes of the Sahara are close.

I pause for a tagine of chicken and lemon at a restaurant on the edge of Merzouga. This little village is a place where internet only reached three years ago. One solitary satellite serves the entire region and the service is patchy. Real roads only got this far ten years ago, and the desert is forever reclaiming its invaded privacy. And to top it off, gigantic sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi rise 150 metres above the village's buildings. It's an incredible sight.

 

Tarmac gives out to stony track but I push the Fazer on. No slight chance of a poxy puncture will stop it from bringing me right to the edge of the sand. I pull up as the front tyre touches the dunes. This regular commuter bike, usually consigned to slogging through the hard miles, has ridden some of the most challenging and awe-inspiring roads that Spain and Morocco have to offer. And now, with no fuss, it's taken me to the ends of the tarmac'd earth.

The side stand clicks down and its base buries itself in deep orange sand. I walk into the dunes in my leathers. The brilliant contrast of blue sky and vibrant orange sand is intoxicating. Nowhere on the entire planet could be further from a damp day in Devon than these dunes and this sun. The heat and the breeze. This is glorious.

Whatever you ride, you can take it anywhere. Don't wait five years until you can

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