BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Marrakesh to Ouarzazate, via the Tizi N' Tichka Pass. What a ride.

Thursday 21/2/13

We made the most of our breakfast selection again today before loading up and heading out on the road.

We had spent some time consulting Google Maps and writing down directions to find our way out of town and onto the correct road to Ouarzazate. (It's pronounced Wa Za Zat.)

We won't get lost today...

...Oh yes we will.

After riding around town for a while and covering a few of the roads twice we finally found what we thought was the right road and headed off. I wasn't totally comfortable because we were heading slightly off the direction I thought we should have been going. We did see a few interesting things though...

Abstract art, Moroccan style.

A pot or two.

I suppose we could ship a small container home.
There were lots of shops to buy all sorts of things from.

School's out.

After forty minutes of riding, these things started to look a little on the large size. Apparently there is a pass through there somewhere.

We reached a village and consulted the map. 

Dour Ouriki provided a reference on our map,
and confirmed we were on the wrong road.

Sure enough, we were on another road that sort of paralleled the road we wanted to be on. Looking at the map I couldn't see a road connecting the two, so it looked like a forty minute ride back into town to start all over again. A closer look revealed a little back road connecting Dour Ouriki to Abidar, on the road we wanted. That'll do. That's the beauty of the BM, it will cope with any sort of road. Off we went.

The river flowing through Dour Ouriki,

The road was OK, actually a lot better than I expected. There were a few nice bits and the terrain was interesting. We came up behind a ute carrying some Donkeys, with a guy sitting on one of them. He then changed position and lay across their backs. I motioned that we'd swap our bike for the donkeys and he laughed. Oh well, it was worth a try. 

Four donkeys and a person in the back of a ute.
Try this at home.

The simple life.

Suzanne and I often see things like the photo above and discuss life. A donkey for transport, a cow or goat for milk, a few chickens for eggs, grow your veges. It can't be all bad. Everyone seems to be stress free and happy. Do you remember the TV series "The Good Life?

No, it's not Jimi Hendrix.
This guy was carrying a pile of sticks.

The foothills of The High Atlas.

Cactus, shepherds, and sheep.
They're everywhere here.

We pulled a right at the next village, Abidar, and before we knew it we were on nice winding roads. Here we go.

It needs a little bit of a fix up,
but I reckon I could get it cheap.

There are lots of donkeys,
including two on a BMW.

Now the real fun starts.

We reached the snow gate, and were relived to find it open. When there is snow covering the pass they don't let vehicles through.

Then it was into the pass proper. The road was steep, with bend after bend after bend and a lot of hairpins. As usual, most of the road didn't have any safety barriers or railings. They were only on the "dangerous" bits.

Suzanne threw her usual quote at me again here. Don't look down, so of course I did. This is what I saw.

All through the pass there were men selling "crystals" like Amethyst, Quartz, Mica, and a few others. Suzanne and I stopped to look at one stall and were a little dubious of their validity. The colours of the crystals were very intense. We didn't buy any, but gave the guys few dirham for letting us take photos.

These guys were on the roadside for miles and miles through the pass.

What do you think? Real...

...or not?

Back on the road again, and through the pass.

We're about half way to the top. If you look in the bottom right of this photo you can see part of the road to get up here. Check out those mountains!

And the road just keeps going like this...

...and this.

Then it got serious. Suzanne wouldn't look down and was just pointing the camera at the side of the road and taking photos, and sometimes over her shoulder.

Yes, it was quite high.

Going up.

We were just down there.

I will point out that both of us were pretty uncomfortable with these types of roads early in the trip. I'm pretty much OK with them now, but I did have a few "moments" today. Suzanne has also improved and is a real trooper. I don't think I could sit on the back of a bike on these roads.

Some of the bends were made very interesting as long buses and trucks coming in the other direction negotiated them. I actually stopped a couple of times and let them through. I thought it was better than being pushed off the edge of a cliff on a hair pin bend.

As far as I'm concerned, big trucks have right of way.

We reached the snow line and there wasn't much snow around at all. 

Even I wouldn't call that

I'm pretty happy we didn't come through yesterday though. Just as we rode over the top of the pass Suzanne announced that the camera battery was dead. Oh well, we got lots of photos (about 450) going up anyway.

The road down was just a blast. A flowing chain of left - right second and third gear bends, and so much fun. I had a ball. Turn left, throttle, brake, turn right, throttle, brake, repeat, repeat until your arms hurt. FANTASTIC!

We weren't far away from Ouarazazete and we saw a small village. I took this opportunity to say to Suzanne "It's a lot smaller than I expected"  making her think it was Ouarzazate. She wasn't thrilled to think that this little village was our destination. Sometimes I'm just a tiny bit mean. : )

Then I got a taste of my own medicine. We arrived at what I though really was Ouarzazate, and it was very small, with only one hotel. Oh oh! I decided to ride on a bit further and found the real Ouarzazate a couple of miles down the road. The small area we rode through was set up to support the film studio that is there.

we rolled into town and promptly found a cafe, without WiFi. We had a drink anyway, then I went for a little walk and found a small hotel about fifty metres down the road.

Hotel Azoul is owned by Muhamid Ali (No, not that one.) Ali is a really nice guy. He got his offsider, Abdul, to show me two rooms so I could choose the one I preferred. When I saw the suite, the choice was easy. It's a really nice little hotel and has that special "feel" that makes you feel very comfortable while you are there. Our room has a small lounge area , and most importantly, probably the best, hottest shower we've had the pleasure of enjoying anywhere. That's a rare commodity in Morocco as far as our experiences go. Our room was only about fifty Aussie dollars, and our bike is living right outside the front door.

After chatting and having some tea we discovered that Ali is the owner of the hotel and he has spent three years renovating the old apartment building that it was. He's done a great job.

An added bonus was that breakfast is served on the roof and is a very nice way to start the day. Check it out at

We did our usual wander around town and found the markets. The tourist markets that is. We really like the sand people outfits. We call them that because they look like the Sand People out of Star Wars. We had a look at a few and the price dropped from $70AUD to $50AUD for two without us saying anything. We'll see...

For dinner we visited a restaurant that was recommended by Ali at the hotel. It was very nice, but expensive. Extremely expensive by Moroccan standards. It was a very nice restaurant though.

Tomorrow we'll have a look at tackling the Sahara and maybe get some sand in our eyes.

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