Friday, April 3, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Turkey 1 - Spain 0

I am the only Turkish passanger in the ferry and we are watching the
Turkey-Spain football game. Turkey is leading with 1-0. Spaniards are
not happy of course.

Good bye Africa

The ferry from Melilla to Almeria leaves soon. We had a good stay in
Melilla. It is an impressive town with around 900 modernistic style
buildings, beautiful parks and tax free prices. The gas is 30% cheaper
The Parador we stayed at was very good too. We needed some luxury
lodging especially after our hotel in Fes.
I am glad that the trip is ending soon. I missed my family a lot
especially my son. This was the first time I was away from him so long.

Last day in Morocco

We decided to take the shorter road over the Rif mountains since the group decided to take it easy instead of driving for about 8-10 hours.

I wanted to change some extra Moroccan Dirhams back to Euro before we left Fes and apparently it is a very difficult process. None of the banks or exchange offices want to change, some of them asked for the last receipt of the Euro-Dirham exchange. Apparently Moroccans are allowed to change but foreigners not. We then decided to change our Dirhams at the border.

A simple day with no planned action can be an adventure in Morocco. We were planning to buy gas in a town called Taza but it turned out to be an impossible project. The town had a huge market, people, animals, cars, trucks everywhere. 5 or 6 gas stations we checked were out of fuel. So we had no choice but drive further. Jaime with his 30 liter tank had no problem but I and Adrian would eventually run out of fuel. My bike did about 390km when we found gas, which is a record. Well the last 100kms I had to drive like a grandfather.

The border of Morocco and Spain at Almeria is not really a nice place. Bunch of people, I don't know what they are doing there the whole day. The Moroccan site is super dirty, feels kind of not safe. There are bunch of police officers but still chaos exists. After we started our paper process and were in the middle of the border crossing we realized that we needed to change money. The guy who helped us in the entrace was there and took me and Marie Anton back to Moroccan site and we changed money in a kiosk. Funny enough, by following this guy we didn't need to show our passports to Moroccan police again, so much for the security. But the golden rule of borders is valid here too. Getting out of a country is always easier than getting in.

On the Spanish site, officers didn't even check our passports. Since our bikes are Spanish registered and not very common in Morocco.

Now we are in Melilla. A small harbour town which has been under the control of Spain since 1500. Although we are still in Africa, it feels completely Spain here. Even the time is 2 hours ahead. Ceuta and Mellila are small harbour towns on the coast of Morocco which belong to Spain with heavy military presence. Spain also owns couple of small islands close to the Moroccan cost.

Tomorrow we will take the ferry to mainland Spain, spend the night in Almeria since the ferry is arriving late in the evening and the following day we will drive to north to take another ferry from Denia (close to Valencia) to Mallorca.

The Morocco trip is over but still there are 2 days and more than 600kms to my family.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Escape from busy streets of the Medina

After busy streets of the Medina in Fes, we came to the luxury hotel of Palace Jaima to get some drinks and chill out. It has a nice view of the city. I really liked Fes. On the contrary to Marrakech it is hilly, kind of reminded me the south eastern city of Mardin in Turkey. There are nice green hills surrounding the city.

Getting lost in the Medina of Fes

Finding the right direction or address is almost impossible in the Medina of Fes. If you make the mistake of asking someone, you don't end up at your destination but in a shop. We followed the recommendation of Lonely Planet and just followed the flow of people and got lost. Somehow, we came across to many important sites by doing so.

When we arrived to Fes the first day evening, there was a welcoming committee waiting for us already. Group of men trying to convince us for various things. Guide of the old town tomorrow, a restaurant suggestion for the evening, suggestion of parking spaces for our bikes etc. It is really annoying dealing with these people especially after driving for 6-8 hours, last one hour in the dark and during heavy rain. My strategy was to ignore them and not even look at their face because when you start talking to them, there is no end. But Jaime is the nice guy among us and responds to them.

When we changed our clothes and came to the door of the hotel, some of these guys were still waiting for us, to take us to the restaurant they take their commission from. We couldn't deal with them anymore and followed the official guide guy and ended up in a touristy restaurant with not so good food.

They really try to convince you to take a guide for visiting the medina. Many lies fly in the air such as we would get lost, the medina is not safe etc. There are so called official guides with an ID and they show you around for sure but also make sure that you go to the multiple shops they collaborate with. Then there are unofficial guides, which makes the rest of the male population in the medina. It questionable how much they know about the history of the Medina and its historical sites but one thing is sure that they also take you to their favourite shops.

Our decision next day was to use a guide called Ahmet, me! I didn't buy the Lonely Planet for nothing right? Jaime was afraid that we would be bothered to much by salesmen without guides but we managed quite well.

The medina, its narrow streets with thousands of shops, bright colors of clothes are sure impressive but I have to say that I wasn't impressed by the largest mosque in Africa. Well, I am from Istanbul and mosques in my hometown are way bigger and impressive for sure.

Moroccans were not extra friendly to me when I mentioned that I am from Turkey. Turkey is really a far away country for them. Except the same religion there seems to be not much common. Some guys mentioned Galatasaray and the Prime Minister Erdogan when they heard that I am Turkish but that's all.

And the food. Yes tajhin and couscous are delicious but after 15 days one looks for variations and they don't exist much. It looks like the whole country is eating tajhin, meat and vegetables cooked in a ceramic container, and couscous.

Last night we followed the recommendation of Lonely Planet and ate in a street restaurant with two tables! It is called Thami's place and I can definitely recommend it. The food was delicious, Thami is a funny guy and we really had a good time.

Leather workers of Fes

Maybe some of you have seen this scene in some tourist books about Morocco. This is the view of the famous leather district's production court of Fes' Medina. Here leather workers are producing different color leathers with natural coloring ingredients. To be able to take a picture like this it is necessary to go up to a terrace of one of the surrounding buildings. That means you have to go through one of the leather shops and go through the whole sales pitch process of leather sellers. But it is worth it. We were lucky regarding the smell since it rained last couple of days and it is not very warm. We are told that the smell is unbearable during the hot summer days. Actually, they offered us mint leaves to cover our noses.

Although the scene is impressive and interesting to take pictures (we were not lucky with colors because they were doing that day black and while leather coloring) I have to say that I felt sorry for the workers due to the bad conditions they work. The leather of Fes is famous and was used also in book bindings in the history.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Medina of Fes, absolutely worth to see

I spent the whole day walking in the narrow streets of Fes' Medina today. It is better than Marrakech's Medina according to me because it is more authentic. There are thousands of shops, different craftman's areas and leather production disctrict where they produce leather with ancient techniques. Marrakech was worth to see but I liked Fes much better.
The medina is a paradise for photography, full of colors but many salesmen don't like people taking pictures.

Amazing country with pushy sales people

Now it is time to write an entry about this issue because I am really fed up with it. Morocco is a beautiful country with impressive geography. BUT many people we meet on the roads or especially in the cities try to sell us something or want money. They never leave you alone. I am used to pushy sales people from Grand Bazaar of Istanbul and trust me in comparison to Moroccans, they are nothing. Asking a direction to any person in Marrakech or Fes can be a mistake because they don't take you to the direction you want but to the shop they get commission. It is really annoying I have to say.
I understand that pushy sales people in Fes or Marrakech behave so but when we stop with our bikes in the middle of nowhere, people are running to us from far distance to ask for money, things or sell us something. As I said, Morocco is a fantastic destination to visit and I am sure I will do it again but I will not miss the sales people.

Marrakech to Fes

The weather gods are not with us. It was raining so much yesterday, we decided to change our route. Instead of going from Marrakech to Fes over the mountains we decided to take the highway to Casablanca and from there to Meknes and Fes. By doing so we gained one day and will stay in Fes two nights instead of one.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Djemaa El- Fena night time

Yesterday evening we went back to the main square and had dinner in one of these stand restaurants. Quite some action exists on this square. But the weather is not treating us well, it rained a lot.

Now the blog is more like a blog

I realized that I made a mistake with the email updating feature and only uploaded the pictures but not the text. Apologies for that. You can now see all the blog entries complete.

Marrakech, a live theatre

The road from Quarzazate to Marrakech is a fantastic road for motorcycling. Unfortunately we got rain in the first part and it was really cold at the pass of 2200 meters. Adrian's girlfriend got very cold and my gel warmers served their purpose. I would love to drive on this road again. Marrakech is nicer than I expected. The traffic is managable and streets clean.This picture is taken from Djemaa El-Fena, the big square in the middle of the medina ( old town). It is really an impressive place. It reminded me the ancient marketplaces we see in the movies with stands, performers, animals etc.Around this square are covered streets with many gift shops like in Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. We did a short walk this afternoon. Tomorrow we will explore the city more.

Lake Iriki, another dimension and time

This picture is taken in the middle of Lake Iriki. There is no more water on the surface but there was 30 years ago. From one end to the other is about 30 km. Driving on this lake surface was an amazing experience. One can literally close his eyes and drive full speed at least with a car. In the middle of the lake is this small tea house.Our offroad trip took 4 days. After we left Medina we visited Gorges de Todra, a beautiful canyon. Our final destination was Merzouga. When we arrived to Merzouga, it was already dark. Finding the auberge we are going to stay was a challenge because we had to navigate in the dark an on sandy tracks. Thx to our GPS we managed to do that. Asking directions to local people is useless because they all try to convince you to stay at their hotel.Next day we met our crazy guide Salh and his brother Mohammed. Our tour for the first day supposed to be only 80km and it took us from 10am to 6 pm. The reason for that was the dunes around a village called elraina. I think we spent 3 hours in 10kms. Not only us did have problems with the dunes, our guide's 4x4 and many participants of the Aicha rally. Next day was even more difficult. We did 230 km on offroad tracks and sand dunes. When we arrived to the tent camp it was already dark. Last day with our guide we visited the Lake Iriki then drove on some Dakar tracks, had lunch in an oasis and arrived to Foun Zguid. First time asphalt after 3 days!The following day we said good bye to our friendly guide and drove towards Zagora on an offroad track again. 130 km of offroad track took us about 4 hours because the road was very rocky and we had to cross river beds multiple times. I guess the temperature reached 40 celsius. After Zagora, the road was asphalt to Quarzazate and magnificient with mountain passes. Yesterday we stayed at Bikers Home in Quarzazate, a cute place run by a Dutch guy and his Moroccon wife.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Morocco, the country of extremes

Now I understand why offroad enthusiasts love this country. It offers different geography and climates in one day. Just half an hour before this picture taken we were sweating like crazy on the sand dunes and now we had to drive on rocky roads. Some rocks were as big as my head. The temperature also moves around extremes. An ultimate challenge for the riders, bikes and the equipment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Second day on the desert

We are on our way to Mhamid. I am sending this post from Tagounite. Today's track is easier compared to yesterday. We made 150 km until lunch. After lunch we need to make 90km more. The scenery varies all the time. Desert, open areas like surface of the moon, mountains with rocky roads. There people in the middle of nowhere. Just before arriving to Tagounite we passed a village which reminded me those 1001 night stories' descriptions. Palm trees, buildings matching the color of the landscape.Now I understand why Morocco is so popular especially for motorcyclists.

Magnificient sand dunes of Merzouga

This was the view from the hotel we stayed in Merzouga. It is first time for me on a desert. It is absolutely breath taking.Next day we started our ride on the desert. It was a difficult day. We made only 80 km that day. There was a section of 10km sand dunes and we spent there at least 3 hours. Everybody dropped the bikes but no big damages. It is a different world here and I like it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Midelt-The first day in Morocco

It was a long day. We arrived to Melilla about 8am. First to do was to change money. Jaime remembered the old man he changed money before. The old man was at the same gas station. Then we head to the border. Not much to say about it. Typical chaotic border scene. A guy helped us for 5 Euros. The whole process took about 45 minutes.
I have to say that the first 200km on the way south were not so special. There were at least 3 radar controls.After Guercif the scene became more interesting. On the right side the middle Atlas mountain range appeared. After Guercif we stopped at a village to photograph some ruins. 20-30 kids surrounded us immediately, asking for money, pens, other things. I walked away from my bike 10 meters to take a picture and realized afterwards that kids took my camera bag. Lesson learned we won't leave the bikes alone even for a second. Last 50 kms of the ride was nice because we passed some Berber villages with interesting architecture. When we arrived to Midelt it started to rain like hell. We liked Hotel Kasbah Asmaa. It has decent quality and charm. The food was good to.It was a good day. We arrived to our destination earlier than planned.
Tomorrow we have more kms to drive. We will continue driving south and then towards Tinerhir to see Gorges du Todra. Afterwards we will head southeast to Merzouga next to Erg Chebbi sand dune.

Border control

KTMs everywhere


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tomorrow is the day!

Finally, I finished all necessary work in the office. Packed my gear and checked the bike for the last time. Tomorrow morning at 8am the ferry leaves from Palma de Mallorca harbour to Denia. I will meet Jaime and Marie Antonia one hour before. I hope I haven't forgot anything important, I always forget something before these trips, I wonder what will it be this time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our route

Our route in Morocco will be roughly like this. After we arrive to Melilla we will head towards south to Midelt. Next day our final destination is Merzouga next to sand dunes. We will ride on sandy tracks for the next three days. Then we will head to north to Marrakech but need to overnight in Quarzazade. 2 nights will be spent in Marrakech after that we will drive towards Fez with a stop somewhere in between. After one day in Fez we will head back to Melilla. We will be on the road for about 2 weeks.

Papers, papers, more papers

After changing the tire, it was time to photocopy some important documents before the trip. Traveling with the motorcycle requires a different way of organizing the traveling papers. You need to have back up copies for many documents. I made extra copies of my driving license, passport's first page, registration papers, insurance green card etc. According to some Swedish sources, Morocco does not require international driving license but it is recommended so I will take it with me.

I still haven't decided if I want to take the Leatt Brace with me. I tried it during the weekend again using the under arm straps and on my Dainese jacket. It felt better but I need to test it again tomorrow over my Dainese body armour and KTM jacket. I really want to take this piece of safety equipment with me but there is no point of riding uncomfortably.

Time to change the tires

I normally use my KTM service in Mallorca for all reparation work. It is called Mundimoto. I like them and the mechanics are doing a good job. But changing tires is not a major part of their business therefore I took my bike to a friends recommended place. It is funny that mechanics are the same in different countries. They do 5 things at the same time :-) Anyway, after about 1.5 hours my offroad tires were on. I have now Pirelli MT21 front and Dunlop D908RR back. Ready to race :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Some practice driving

Today the weather is finally good. I wanted to test my new Leatt Brace if it is comfortable to wear while driving on the asphalt.
Unfortunately it limits the head movement a lot. It is better if I can
wear it under my jacket as it supposed to be but my jacket is not
designed for that. I guess I will not take the Leatt to Morocco this
time. I have no time or money to buy a new jacket. It has been a while
I haven't driven my bike. It is nice to be on the saddle again. I
should practice more to get in shape before Morocco.
I want to test the video camera before I leave. Maybe I can set it up
good enough.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Research about Morocco

Now it is time to read about Morocco. I just received the latest
edition of Lonely Planet and the Michelin map. The LP guide is a thin
book, so I can take it with me. The Michelin map is the best updated
paper map in the market. In my GPS I will have the topo map of
Morocco, but it is always better to plan the routes on the paper map.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I was planning to ride my bike, change the stickers and wash it today but the weather is really bad (for Mallorcan standards). I guess, I will skip all of that.
I still have the old stickers from my Turkey trip, stickers from Lelles, one of the leading motorcycle dealers in Sweden. They sponsored my trip 2 years ago. For the Morocco trip, I plan to put 2teker, advrider, some dakar stickers. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Preparations, preparations....

For me planning of these type of long journeys is a great part of the experience. I simply love to plan my trips. Some people might argue that too much planning takes away the adventurous part of the journey. I agree with that if one tries to stick to the plan during the journey if it is not possible anymore. I like planning but am also very flexible to changes during my journeys.

This trip is not much different than many trips I did before. There are some common tasks and things to do.

First step is to plan the routes. Jaime and I spent decent amount of time to investigate the routes. We first talked to our friends here in Mallorca who have been to Morocco. I got great tips from experienced riders in advrider, ukgser and horizonsunlimited forums. We adjusted the route according to the group's riding skills and the motorcycles we ride. I will put our route here soon.

Second step is buying the ferry tickets. Since we live on an island, a beautiful one indeed, we need first a ferry to reach mainland Spain then another ferry between Spain and Morocco. The total ferry rides cost us about 350 € per person.

Next step was to fix lodging. We fixed so far lodging in Merzouga, the 3 nights with a guide who will accompany us with his 4x4, a lodging in Quazazadan called Bikershome thanks to information on UKGSER Morocco knowledge forum. I am currently working on bookings in Midelt, Marrakech and Fes. I guess we will stay in Ibis hotels in Marrakech and Fes.

Finally and most importantly preparation of the bikes and personal gear. My favorite part. I guess that section requires a new post.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Morocco, the land of Atlas Mountains and sand dunes

In about 30 days, we will be sitting in a ferry from Spain to Morocco.

Why Morocco? Well for two reasons: First, we live in Spain now and it is easy to get to Morocco from here. And the second reason is actually funnier. My friend Jaime and I were talking about doing a motorcycle trip and discussing different alternatives. "Now there is a economical crisis, we should go somewhere cheap! Let's go to Morocco" were the convincing words of Jaime.

I wanted to see Morocco so much, of course I didn't argue a second. From now on, I will be documenting this journey in this blog. This is my first blogging attempt, I hope it will turn out to be OK.

Time for a blog

I think it is time for a blog to document my motorcycle trips. I have been writing in different forums about my trips but this blog will be a place where all my trips can be read.