Atlas and Desert tour – New Year’s Edition

The adventure begins
We set off to our New Year motorbike Tour with a group of riders from Switzerland, Italy and Turkey and it looked promising as all of them had significant riding experience. It was a good time for everyone to get a first hand experience of the new accessories the bikes are now all equipped with, curtesy of SW Motech and their local distributor, Motomania. It was also an opportunity for me to test the Arai Tour X4 helmet and the Sena bluetooth device Motomania offered in cooperation with Arai helmets Europe and Sena, respectively.

Preparing lunch

Day 1

The first day saw us tackling the smaller winding roads at the feet of the Atlas mountain range with a beautiful green setting thanks to the recent rains in this area. The weather was kind with a pleasant temperature. This first motorbike riding day is supposed to acclimatise riders to the Moroccan roads and driving habits but the group quickly adapted which gave us plenty of time to incorporate the coffee and lunch breaks as well as the many photo stops.
We had lunch in the small town of Oulmes, getting a taste of local meat and salad prepared on the spot at the market. The afternoon saw us taking on more twists and turns as we headed towards Azrou on smaller roads with far less traffic, taking some shortcuts through the muddy tracks in the hills. We arrived to our hotel before the early sunset with smiles on all faces and headed to take a well deserved shower before meeting at the bar for some drinks before and to enjoy a good dinner.

Spring in the Atlas

A well deserved rest

Day 2

The next day saw us start early in a chilly morning to head into the cedar forests and feed the monkeys. After some fun time and a short hike we were back on the bikes to cross the Atlas. We rode on great tarmac through sweeps and turns and long straights as we climbed higher and higher on the snow covered mountain range. We stopped for a short ride in the snow and took a couple of pictures to memorise this wonderful setting.

Enjoying the rare snow in Morocco
As the group loved the previous day’s lunch experience we decided to find a similar setting. We feasted on kefta, Moroccan salad, fresh bread and drinks while some members of the group made friends with a local berber who turned out to be a self taught multilingual salesman, so they all bought some lovely fossils from him.

Simple but delicious food
We then continued our crossing of the Atlas on the winding roads and breathtaking scenery, crossing multiple small villages accompanied by the cheers of the local kids. Our stop for the night was in Errachidia for some more great food and a couple of well deserved beers.

Day 3

The only cloudy morning
The following morning we set off for the dunes of the Erg Chebbi in chilly weather and the sky covered with clouds. Luckily, 20km later the sun was out as we followed the twisting roads through the valley of Ziz and it’s beautiful oasis.

Photo stop with a stranger
After Erfoud the road offered a unique scenery as we crossed the many oases in our path but provided little challenge as we rode through the long straights. In order to break the monotony we took a turn and headed off the tarmac for some off-road fun through the desert pistes.

Enjoying the ride
We arrived to Merzouga early in the afternoon and sat for some tea before a short hike to the dunes for some photos. On this tour we usually spend the night in a desert camp where we are driven in a 4×4 while the bikes remain at the hotel. On this occasion though the group decided they would love to try a desert ride through the sand.

We packed all the luggage in the 4×4 and followed the driver through 35km of desert pistes and sandy tracks to the bivouac. On the way we visited the mines and the abandoned village of M’fis before stopping to admire the sun setting above the sand dunes. The group was relieved and happy to arrive to the camp. After changing into more comfy outfits we sat around the fire in the company of some beer to discuss the day’s riding and gaze at the cristal clear desert sky and count the shooting stars.

The group enjoyed the desert ride

Day 4

Cold desert morning
We were up early the next morning to watch the unique sunrise from atop the dunes even though the temperature was literally freezing. We warmed up in the big tent while having breakfast and then set off for another exciting desert ride to get back to our hotel.

Started the morning with some off-roading
Having gathered our luggages we set off towards Tinghir through small roads crossing the deserted landscape before tackling the small winding roads in the Todgha canyon.
We stopped for a delicious lunch of “omlette berbere” and fresh salad, then continued our way through the huge cliffs of the valley to take in the view and some pictures. We then rode to the Dades valley to enjoy some more twists and turns on a fantastic road surrounded by magnificent rock formations and the wonderful sight of the oases in the valley, and we arrived to our riyadh as the last rays of sun disappeared behind the mountain range.

New Year’s Eve

The Dades valley
A great night in a heated hotel room was a welcome change after a night in the desert camp. Following a sublime breakfast we set off in the chilly morning to ride the most photographed road section in Morocco, before heading towards our accommodation near Ouarzazate where we left our luggage to lighten the bikes for an afternoon of off-roading.
We rode to the Oasis of Fint where riders have the opportunity to try mild river crossings and enjoy a cup of mint tea before heading back to visit Ouarzazate and return to the hotel for a great dinner. It wasn’t to be the same this time. After some self-challenging, the group wanted to try crossing the oasis all along which people usually do with much lighter enduro bikes.

Towards Fint with the snow capped Atlas in the background
The ride starts through some narrow donkey tracks that ends abruptly at the sandy shores of the river. Then began the hunt for the best and easiest spot to cross the water and trying to find a way to the village some 10km down the stream.

Some water crossing
I was proud to see the team spirit and effort as all riders helped each other through the deep sand and mud. We rode slowly but surely through some breathtaking scenery, rocky sections, sand, mud, multiple river crossings and between big rocks trial style with the GS bikes.

New Year’s Eve ride full of challenges and joy
Although the thermometer showed only 18 Celsius, we were sweating at some sections but everyone enjoyed the challenge. As we overcame the obstacles one by one the confidence and joy grew and we finally reached the village from where flowing dirt tracks took us back to Ouarzazate.

Wonderful scenery
The group was rather knackered by the time we arrived back to our base, just in time to see the beautiful sunset above the lake. As it was New Year’s Eve we sat in the lounge for some drinks and to recall the previous days’ riding and the day’s great challenges before heading to dinner. We did not wait for the fireworks and went to sleep before midnight.

And some more splash

Day 6

Game of Thrones
We started the sixth day of the tour in style and headed to visit the movie studios in Ouarzazate. We then rode to the Unesco World Heritage site of Ait Benhaddou in splendid weather. The group loved the sight of the old Kasbah and as a special treat I have arranged for a permission to ride all the way to the entrance on our bikes.

Ait Benhaddou by bike
After a short visit and some coffee/tea break we took the old French Foreign Legion road towards the Heights of the Tichka pass through sweeps and turns with little traffic and breathtaking scenery. What more could we ask for on the first day of 2017?

Our ride on the first day of the year
We connected to the Tichka pass just before the top where we stopped for the usual pictures and then continued towards Marrakech enjoying the curves and sweepers this road has to offer.

Stunning Atlas vista
We arrived to the hotel and after a quick shower and a beer at the bar we were off to the chaos of Jamaa el Fna.

On top of the Tichka
Having spent the last 6 days riding through remote locations, sparse traffic and relaxed atmosphere, it was a real shock for the senses to be amongst thousands of people swirling at the scare filled with touts and merchants all trying desperately to get our attention. We had dinner at the square and enjoyed the vibe before heading back to our hotel for some quiet.

Dinner at Jamaa el Fna


Day 7

Taking smaller roads
After a great breakfast we loaded the bikes and were off to tackle the last leg of our journey. Before doing so however, we headed to find a karting track as the group has been talking about a race during the whole trip. We spent more than an hour at the track before continuing the trip.

Our last riding day
We took the national road before turning off for a detour through some off-road section and smaller roads near the Oum Er-Rbia river. The weather was great for riding and it got hotter as we approached Casablanca, the temperature eventually reaching 22 Celsuis by the time we were back at our base. Leaving the bikes behind, we took the bikers back to their hotel for the last night of their stay and some drinks at the bar.

Back to the starting point
It was a pleasure to meet these guys and be their guide for this trip. They were excellent riders with a great sense of humour and a mindset for adventure which made for a fantastic adventure. Thank you in the name of Wheels of Morocco and BMW Motorrad. Ride safe!


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