Don’t be afraid to travel to Morocco: you’ll discover a beautiful country, maybe taking the same paths as we did. Pape, Fabio and Nunzio are enthusiastic about their “motorbike week” in the African country, between asphalt and a lot (and we really mean it) of dirt roads. Especially now that they are back and can savour the taste of their journey calmly
They’re back. Pape, Fabio and Nunzio have returned from their adventure in Morocco. Actually, they’re already back at work.
We followed them day by day, thanks to the reports and photos they sent us every evening. We all got excited: personally, I waited every evening for the material, which was later published on the website. A couple of times I stayed up until 3 am without even realizing it, daydreaming about those beautiful photos and those phrases that had a unique taste: that of Africa.
There was no evaluation to speak of now that they were back, a nice chat between the four of us, just to summarize the whole thing, now that Morocco is history. We talk about it with AlbertoPape, who was in more than a way the group’s spokesman, a sort of Emilio Salgari, as the others called him referencing a popular Italian writer of adventure novels. And yet, he reminds me that they all collaborated in the drafting of the reports.
So Alberto, all things considered, what do you guys think of your trip?
“That it was great! We had lots of fun, we saw beautiful landscapes and once more we discovered a fantastic country, which deserves to be visited. We came out enriched, even though we had some fears”.
Fears about what?
“We wanted to go off-road, but we weren’t familiar with this aspect of Morocco. We made tons of researches on the Internet before leaving, and we have found conflicting opinions. We also didn’t have really suitable bikes. Here in Italy with Fabio and Nunzio we go out with specialized motorbikes, but down there we had to rent our bikes. The night before going on the historical stage of the Dakar, the Zagora-Merzuga, Nunzio got sick; he really had a troublesome night. We also met some plane pilots, who were there for work, and who warned us that the day before there were some motorcyclists that had hurt themselves on that very same path.”
Did you run the risk to miss the stage?
“We thought about it, but in the end Nunzio dug his heels in, saying that we had gone so far just to make that stop and that he wanted to do it. And besides, halfway through it, we knew that there was a village from which departed a road track which would have taken us on a much easier route.
Eventually, we made the stage without any problem. The only hidden danger we found was the fesh-fesh, the fine sand, where it’s very easy to get stuck. But Tunisia, last year, was a much harsher place from a difficulty standpoint: there are real dunes there, with steep climbs and descents. In Morocco, on the other hand, we almost always travelled on the plains, perhaps at high altitudes, but on level ground; no bends whatsoever”.
Have you ever found yourself in trouble?
“We were lost for a moment when we did Cirque du Jaffar. Because there, as we wrote in the report, we found ourselves with the road completely destroyed, and we had no idea of where we should have gone. Then two children showed up. It was incredible, they might have been 4 years old, and they had come to show us the way. They told us to proceed along the frozen riverbed, but it seemed impossible to us. Then came the old pastor mentioned in the text, and he gave us the exact same indication. In the end, we trusted them and we did well “.
You have often written about people coming out of nowhere. We were intrigued by the boy who lived in the house in the middle of nowhere, between Zagora and Merzouga. How did he sustain himself?
“This question has been a constant throughout the journey. We have often seen isolated houses and small agglomerations in complete nothingness. Maybe at high altitude, or in very cold areas, and we wondered what those people could do up there. How they lived.
As for that boy, his situation might be a tad bit easier to understand. He was there with his family, 15 miles from a town. He had an off-road vehicle ready in front of the house. Probably if you ask him he’s a guide. He also earns something from small businesses: he sold us gasoline, and offered us tea, taking more tips “.
Any negative aspects?
“Mainly two. The first one is that you are almost all the time between 7850 and 8530 feet, and if you are not used to those altitudes -as we do- you have to live with a headache. And driving your bike becomes tiresome because you have no energy left. The second negative aspect is the total absence of alcohol, everywhere. In Marrakech you can find some booze, after all, we managed to drink 2-3 beers. But aside from that, you get nothing”.
The most beautiful side of the trip?
“The children. They run towards you, they high five; every time they give you an emotion. Obviously, they want something in exchange, but they are content with just a little bit of something. And they’re always willing to offer you something, with their exaggerated helpfulness, as the whole population does.
When you go out of the big city, everyone in the street greets you. They shake your hand and bring it to their chest. It’s a salute you reciprocate after a while. And then you have the old Berber women, with a truly beautiful tattoo on their front and chest. Too bad we couldn’t take any pictures of those: they just didn’t allow us. We were never afraid, anyway. Not even at night. Morocco is a country to visit and discover, with wonderful people inhabiting it.”
A funny adventure to tell us?
“The night before Cirque du Jaffar, we found a promising hotel. You could see it from afar, illuminated, with the towers, the fountain, the swimming pool. We expected a nice evening, and we wanted to start with a coffee.
A man served us, and in the meantime, he was taking notes on a small piece of paper. Immediately we noticed that he had a sort of tic: when he turned the page he always licked his two fingers. He prepared some coffee, but he forgot to put sugar in it. When we asked him to bring us some, he took the lumps with those two fingers, the ones he licked. I turned the other way, I just didn’t want to see. But eventually, we drank the coffee “.
How much does it cost to live as a tourist?
“Morocco is a cheap country. The official currency is the dirham: 100 dirhams are worth about 8.1 Pounds. In three, usually, with 7-800 dinars we could have dinner, sleep and have breakfast; and in beautiful hotels too, no top-tier stuff but still pretty good. This means it’s 21 pounds each per day. To which you can add another 7 pounds for lunch”.
Did you eat well?
“Not so much. They always bring you their meat and vegetable dishes, tajini, mainly based on chicken. They eat a lot of chicken, even skewers. Rarely sheep. But the quality of the meat is low. They told us that they usually slaughter old animals, which no longer make eggs or puppies or milk. Then you eat soups. In short, you need to be content with what you find, but you won’t starve for sure”.
Any advice for those wishing to take a trip to Morocco?
“Just go, absolutely. Go without any concern, to see a beautiful country, waiting to be discovered. And avoid organized trips that only take you to tourist places. Like at the Dades Gorges, where they take you only to the lower parts; the beauty is up there though, at 9563 feet of the pass, when you find the whole Atlas and you’re left speechless.
There are no problems even on the streets. Apart from Marrakech, where they drive like madmen. For the rest, we found quiet people, without us ever running any actual risk”.
Previous chapters here
Morocco 01 – Alberto’s Mal d’Afrique, when saudade crosses the ocean
Morocco 02 – Pape, Fabio and Nunzio in Morocco!
Morocco 03 – The African way of life
Morocco 04 – Following the footsteps of the real “Paris-Dakar”
Morocco 05 – Chilling in Morocco
Morocco 07 – In search of emotions in the old town