BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

We're in Melilla. Which way is Morocco?

Friday 15/2/13

Yahoo! Today we will ride into Africa. I'm hoping it will be something totally different and a new and enjoyable experience for us both.

Grumpy Tom Tom rant here,
feel free to skip this paragraph.

As we are now in Africa I have no maps for my Tom Tom, nor do I intend buying any. In fact I intend never buying any Tom Tom product again as long as I live. Yes, I'm pissed off. After a month of communication backwards and forwards with Tom Tom about all the problems I've had with this pile of crap, they have passed me onto another person who tells me, wait for it, it's a problem with my Cardo headset, not the tom Tom. I don't think so! Then a day later they had the gall to send me an email asking how their service was. Yeah, right!

Back to the good stuff. We rode around Melilla for a while and took a few photos. This photo is for our daughter Paige.

Yes, it's a Hello Kitty shop Paige.

Probably the last one of these we'll see for a while.

We found some cubic trees.

And a large, scary clown being dismantled.

We found ourselves in the local's market, so Suzanne decided to take a few photos while we were there. Having had some excellent training with hand guns in her youth, she was pretty good at shooting from the hip, even if the composition of some photos isn't perfect. Well done Suzette.

Haggle time.

I feel like I'm being watched.

Girls the world, shopping, shopping.

It was time to go so after a while we went back to the port area to find a sign and that would point us toward Morocco. 

There was a range of very interesting sculptures along the beach front.

It's quite a pretty area.

We found a sign and headed out of town toward Morocco. Next stop fuel, then we sourced a map. We were now armed with a map and compass, good, old fashioned technology. We made our way south and found this...

Mt first thought was that must be a prison, then I realised the fence went on for miles. I think we found the border.

This thing was made up of four or five fences, one electrified.
Someone definitely wants to keep someone else in, or out.

So if we have found the border fence, it's logical that if we follow it we'll find a crossing. Off we went. Within five minutes we found a long queue of cars lined up. That has to be it. I assimilated and rode down the wrong side of the road for a few miles til I reached the front of the line, and took my place behind a few cars. 

Jumping the queue, border crossing style.

Smart boy. Set up a fruit stall at the border crossing.

A Spanish policeman promptly told Suzanne to stop taking photos at the border crossing. Oops. After a few minutes another Spanish copper walked over to us and explained (in Spanish with a smattering of English) that we couldn't cross here. (I think it was a border crossing for nationals only.) There was another crossing "That way" and pointed in the direction we had just come from.

No problems, we turned the bike around and headed back. Oh boy! Ten minutes later we were in a gigantic traffic jam, cars everywhere, people yelling at each other, blaring horns, and to top it off, a police van in the middle of it all. It had it's siren on but had no where to go, then a little Spanish female cop jumped out of the van and started yelling at everyone to move their cars. It was gridlock, and nothing was moving. What a mess, this must be the crossing. We had found it. 

The upshot of this morning was that it was a whole lot less frustrating and stressful finding our own way out of Melilla using a map, compass, and street signs, than it has been using a Tom Tom sat nav.

In the middle of all this turmoil a guy on a scooter tore past me and motioned for me to follow him. He was riding a little scooter between the gaps in the cars and when I pointed at the panniers on my bike he bashed on the roofs of cars and told them to move over and make room for us...and they did! I was stunned. I couldn't let all his hard work go to waste, so I followed him. A few minutes later we were at the checkpoint. I thought "fixer" so Suzanne offered him some money, but he refused. OK, now I'm confused. He parked his scooter and disappeared.

Suzanne and I were standing there wondering what the hell we were supposed to do next, and watching people, push bikes, and scooters going past carrying loads that we would use a truck for in Australia. It was incredible.

This was a small load compared to most.

A couple of minutes later our friend returned with some paperwork for us to fill in. He helped where he could, but his English was about as good as our Arabic. No, it was actually a hell of a lot better that our Arabic. He'd point at a place on the form, then at our number plate on the bike, and we'd fill in the details. This continued for a while as we did the bike, our passports, and so on. Eventually with the paper work completed, he asked for our passports. I was a little nervous about handing over our passports, and he sensed that so he motioned for me to follow him. We hurried over to one little office, then another, then a third where they sent us to another where a guy who looked very important checked our paperwork, and stamped it with gusto. We then returned to one of the previous offices, showed the papers for the bike, and received another stamp, then presented our collection of paperwork at the booth on the border. Here we were asked how long we would like to stay. Suzanne and I were thinking of staying for three or four days, but I thought telling him that might be a little rude, so I said "We'd like to stay for a couple of weeks if possible". The border guard smiled, gave us another stamp, and said something in Arabic...then our friend said you're done. Off you go into Morocco, you can stay for up to six months.

We now knew our "friend" was definitely a fixer and wondered how much this was going to cost us. Even after all of the warnings about setting a price with fixers first we just got carried along for the ride. He'd just spent forty five minutes running around for us. When we asked him how much, he just beamed a huge smile and said "Nothing. Welcome to Morocco." and tried to leave. We had to forcibly give him some money. He then rode off into the dust, waving goodbye. To say we were surprised would be a huge understatement. Once again, everything we have read proved to be wrong. I have no idea how long it would have taken us to get across the border without our friend. Thank you.

Fifty metres later we were in Morocco. It was exactly what I expected. The road was atrocious, it was dusty, dirty, there were people everywhere, grotty shops, bunky cars, little road side stalls, hundreds of mopeds, plastic bag litter everywhere, men staring at us, and not many women around. I thought it was fantastic. At last, something completely different to experience. We were in Morocco, on the road to Fez, and loving it.

Different and challenging, but interesting.

Wagons are very popular, drawn by horses or donkeys.

This caused a double take.
I still don't know what it is.

Once we were about fifty kilometres away from the border things changed dramatically. It was cleaner, the roads improved, and people began waving to us as we rode past. It's almost as if Morocco has a cunning plan to keep visitors from crossing the border.

One of the little towns we rode through.

...and we were heading toward rolling green hills.

In between the villages there were little stalls set up on the side of the road like this...

I think they were selling petrol by the litre,
 in plastic containers.

As we rolled down the road toward Fes we saw a lot of shepherds looking after their sheep and goats. Then a herd of sheep went across the road in front of us. 

They're out to get me I tell you.

What is it with me and wild life? Nearly every shepherd we rode past smiled and waved. I keep hearing the penguins from the movie Madagascar in my head saying "Smile and wave boys. Smile and wave" and chuckle to myself. The animal mix then moved in favour of cows. First a few, then a lot. It was starting to look like the south west of Western Australia.

We then came across a fairly new motor way with a sign saying two hours to Fez. We were in. It cost us about eight dollars to travel the two hundred and fifty kilometres, but it was a bargain. The terrain changed as was now more like Kalgoorlie than the south west at home.

We'd been on the bike for a while now and my backside was screaming "Give me a break" so we stopped at a roadhouse for lunch. Once again we encountered bi-lingual menus - French and Arabic - not much help to a couple of monolingual Aussies. With a bit of pointing and rough translating we ordered. We ended up with a huge piece of bread like a flat loaf, an omelette, and a mixed grill consisting of lamb chops, beef on skewers, and small, rissole like delicacies. It was fantastic. Yum! I think I'm going to like Morocco.

We had a guest outside the window though.

The poor puss didn't have much of a nose.

Back on the road to Fes and the terrain changed again, back to green rolling hills, with hundreds of olive trees, no fences, and lots of livestock including donkeys and camels.

Nice terrain again.

We experienced a wide variety of scenery today.

Our last hour was spent riding straight into a sun set.

And I mean "straight into."

Fes hit us in the face like a brick. It was dark, the traffic was all over the place, and there was lots of it, and we had to find a hotel. We found a cafe, but didn't have internet access so finding a bed for the night wasn't going to be easy. Then Sahid, the owner of the cafe spotted us and asked if we needed a hotel. Um, yes. It just so happened that Sahid owned a hotel that "has very good roof, has hot water." We were tired so it sounded OK to us. I mean, how bad could it be when a room costs fifteen Aussie dollars for a night? With directions in our head off we went. We rode around for about twenty five minutes in the dark and couldn't find a thing. 

We managed to blindly find our way back into the centre of town, and found a hotel, but it didn't offer parking. The Grand Hotel around the corner did, so we paid our forty dollars and went to our room. Alright, it wasn't fantastic, but I've stayed in worse back home, so I was happy. Suzanne was as well. we had a room for the night and the BM was in a garage. All good. Sorry Sahid, we really tried to find your hotel, but just couldn't get there.

It was food o'clock. Downstairs in the bar we ordered a bottle of wine and were presented with a Spanish white that was very nice indeed. Before we knew it we had a bowl of chilli olives, and cucumber, then some very tasty Moroccan fish, then more olives and so on. Who needs dinner? Not us, not now thank you.

Next to the bar was another smaller bar that had (can you believe my luck?) Karaoke. As my friends know, I love Karaoke. NOT!!!! At least when it's sung in Arabic you don't know if it's bad or not, but I'm guessing it's as bad in Fes as it is in Perth. The music was pretty good good though, and made us really feel like we were in Morocco.

Oh yes, the bar had about four resident cats, who all looked very healthy and well fed. I did see a couple of them treated to some fish by the locals, so I'm guessing they're not starving.

That was the end of a very long day. Tomorrow we'll explore Fes in the daylight and see what treasures we can uncover.

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