2 May, 2022

According to Wheels of Morocco today is Day 2 of the Atlas to Desert Tour with Billy Biketruck.  But just between you and me, I consider it the first riding day so my Posts and Relive videos will refer to today as Day 1.  Sorry if it’s a bit confusing.  You’ll get used to it.

You may recall I’d specified when booking the single supplement and motorcycle BMW F800GS, F850GS, F800GSA. What I didn’t tell you was that I’d also requested a top box. So far so good with the single supplement. But what about the motorcycle and top box you ask?

Well that’s another story. At breakfast yesterday, Billy mentioned he was going to Wheels Morocco to look over the bikes. I asked that he check my bike to ensure it had a top box which he agreed to do. Later yesterday I received a WhatsApp message from Wheels of Morocco’s Viktoria:

“Hi Brett – Billy contacted me that you need a topbox – i remeber you have asked.  The problem is that we don’t have a topbox for the T7 – as we have just changed the fleet and couldn’t get one yet.  The support car will be with you every time – so hope thats ok with you”

Even though not pleased to learn of this hours before departure, I responded with “Ok”. Not much I could do about it. Riding a different and newer bike would be a nice change as I’ve only ever owned BMW motorcycles.

Billy had been talking up the T7’s in our email correspondence so I wasn’t completely taken aback. Chin up and make the most of it I kept telling myself.

The T7 is a Yamaha Ténéré 700. Per Wikipedia is a midsize adventure/dual-sport motorcycle manufactured by Yamaha since 2019. It features a 689 cc (42.0 cu in) parallel-twin engine which powers the motorcycle through a six-speed gearbox and chain drive. Brakes are equipped with rider-switchable (on-off) ABS.

I watched a YouTube review that was favourable but I’d be the judge of that thank you.  Shame the website and tour information received from Viktoria to date made no mention of the T7.  I guess they must have been busy.

Even though packing my roll bag the previous night meant I finally got to sleep quite late I was up again very early. I passed the time by watching English speaking news channels on the TV and listening to music. At around 5:30am I got out of bed and decided to attend to reception related matters before they got too busy. This included putting in some laundry and storing my suitcases, to pick up when we came back in a weeks time. I also made sure there was nothing outstanding on my bill.

I did that after showering and changing into my riding kit, including my adventure boots. Getting around in these isn’t the easiest. They are heavy and not designed for a stroll around a hotel. Or walking up and down stairs (I was on the floor above reception and the lift seemed like too much of a hassle). Everything I’d planned to put in the requested top box was now either in my jacket or the roll bag.

I made sure I ordered my omelette right on 7:30. I managed to eat it, some other buffet breakfast delights (fruit and yogurt) plus a coffee by 7:45am. This left me 15 mins for ablutions (did I mention my phobia of squat toilets?) and getting myself sorted for our 8am minibus ride to pick up our motorcycles, in my case a top-box-less Yamaha T7. I made it to reception with 5 minutes to spare. I’d already worked up a bit of a sweat in my haste.

Handing Abdoul my roll bag, I enquired about the water I expected to be in the support vehicle. So I could fill up my CamelBak. I was less than thrilled when he informed me he would get some at our first drinks break out of Morocco. Undeterred in my quest for bottled water, I managed to get a 1l bottle from the hotel (this seemed to take an eternity). I would fill my CamelBak at the depot after collecting my T7.

By now it was after 8am and others were also chasing bottled water at the hotel. But where’s the minibus to take us to the depot? Seems the Moroccan version of a minibus is the support vehicle and someone else’s 4×4. Even though I put whatever I wasn’t wearing in the back of the 4×4, room was at a premium in the back seat. I was quite flustered and running short of patience by the time we reached the depot.

The bikes were waiting for us on the street outside the depot.

My attempt to fill my CamelBak was a complete failure – see the wet patch and discarded CamelBak next to my bike. Worse still, I’d given away the remaining water so I was unable to try a second attempt. I would soon retire the CamelBak to the support vehicle for the duration of the tour.

Next was the damage report. Billy told us at the briefing to list all scratches and other damage to the motorcycle. This was critical to avoid a bill on return for scratches and damages not identified. The forms provided to list identified blemishes were a tad inadequate. Space on the form was at a premium. I took many photos and did the best I could to describe any issues I’d identified. If I’d missed something my photos would be my backup. As the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. I was no doubt overkill.

All up there were four quite new T7’s on this tour. The other three went to the amigos from the US. Mine only had about 1,600km on the clock so it was as good as a new bike (except for the scratches from prior riders). The other four bikes were BMW’s. I was a little disappointed to see a F800GS with a top box – exactly what I’d hoped to be riding. Chin up!

Given my unfamiliarity with non BMW motorcycles, starting my T7 proved to be a challenge for me. An unseen separate starter button below the kill switch was my undoing. Once shown it was pretty obvious. I felt a little silly.

Paperwork complete and bikes mounted we headed off into the Marrakech traffic. At our second turn, a right hander onto the main drag out of town, a quick look in my mirror saw one of us go down. New tyres not scrubbed in was to blame. With rider and bike declared fit to continue we pressed on. I suspect there may have been a touch of rider embarrassment.

My strategy heading out of town in the traffic was to hang back towards the rear of the group.  This was a bad strategy as it meant I got every red light that was green or amber when the others passed through.  Realising my mistake I made my way toward the front, immediately behind Billy.  This was better but still problematic. Billy’s tempo was at times a touch random. It was hard to tell when he was slowing down or stopping to allow the riders at the rear of the group to catch up.
Our first stop was in the town of Tamallalt.  I was immediately behind Billy and missed his sudden right turn into a side street. Our first opportunity for a group photo underneath a painting on a building of the Moroccan King.
 
All the other riders made that turn.  I pulled over after the turn and parked as near to the kerb as I could. It was a 50m walk with all my riding kit on to be part of the the first group photo.  It turned out pretty good too don’t you think.
 
With the heavy traffic in Marrakech we’d been riding about an hour I’d guess.  Whilst it wasn’t a particularly hot day, a drink of water wouldn’t go astray.  Anyway, we were back on our bikes and continuing through Tamallalt.  Or so I thought.  Two blocks later we pulled over at a convenience store for a drinks break.  Even though it was early days, something about the T7 wasn’t compatible with me.  I found parking the T7 was difficult for me.  Riding it was fine – plenty of power and decent riding position.

As agreed we each gave 200 Moroccan Dirhams to Abdoul for the kitty.  Thankfully he put it to good use by buying plenty of bottled water, some of which I consumed during our break.  After 20 or so minutes it was time to hit the road again.

It was another 100km to Ouzoud Falls. The roads were pretty good and became more twisty with different scenery as the road climbed.  We left the bikes in a car park and checked out the falls.

 

Lunch was close to where we parked the bikes. The chosen restaurant was one of only two that were open – all the others had chosen not to open due to Ramadan. We feasted on a traditional Moroccan lunch (bread, Moroccan salad, Tagine or Couscous). It was delicious. I’m looking forward to more of these. Abdoul settled the bill from the kitty.

After a great lunch we started on the last leg of our first riding day to Bin El Ouidane. The hotel was only another 55km and there were some fantastic twisty mountain roads on the way. The scenery was awesome. Especially on the descent to Bin El Ouidane Dam on the R304 even though the water level was very low. We stopped shortly after the dam wall to regroup and take some photos. I later learned there’s been no decent rain in that part of Morocco for the last three years. Another victim of climate change.

 

Two minutes later we turned into a quite steep uphill driveway.  At the top was our hotel for the night, Widiane Resort.  We parked our bikes and made our way into the hotel. After a longer than usual check-in process I was soon in my room.  Wow, it was huge and had a view of the dam.  Very nice indeed.  Hope the hotels in the coming days were up to this standard.  I showered, changed (shorts, t-shirt and flip flops) and went in search of a bar.  Another tour participant joined me in this vital task.

The bar proved harder to find than we’d expected.  Billy mentioned the bar was in the building closest to the dam (the lower building).  This required a 10 minute walk down the very steep driveway.  Then over the main drag on a elevated walkway followed by a lift down to the lakeside building.  We found no sign of a bar.  Only what appeared to be tradesmen renovating the building.

Undeterred our next search focused on the next building back up the hill.  The one we’d already walked past (middle building).  By this time our search party included the three mates from the US.  A thorough investigation over a couple of levels found the building unoccupied.  No bar nor staff to direct us to the bar or ask us to leave. Very strange.

Back to the main hotel building (reception and hotel rooms). An enquiry at reception revealed a bar was up the lift on the very top floor of the building.  We made our way up there and again it appeared there were renovations in progress.  We did find someone who worked in the bar and assured us they had cold beers which wy ordered. We ventured to the roof terrace overlooking the dam. Over a few beers we took in the views, recounting the highlights of the days ride and our impressions of the hotel.
 
Dinner was at the hotel.  This made complete sense. It felt like we were a long way from any town or village that may offer alternate dining options.  Also it was close to the end of Ramadan.  One of the hotel staff told us the renovations were part of a update and re-opening at the conclusion of Ramadan. Apparently it was common that hotels had low occupancy over Ramadan – and the week following.  That would cover all our time on this trip.  I’m sure Wheels of Morocco, Billy & Abdoul are aware of this.  They will have made any necessary contingency plans.
 
Dinner was a hot/cold buffet with plenty of choices and catering to local and western tastes.  I joined the line and surveyed the options.  Upon picking up a plate from the stack provided I immediately noticed it was still wet.  Closer inspection revealed the plate was also dirty.  So were all the plates in the stack.  It was as though they had only had a light rinse after their last use. Not washed or dried in a typical kitchen dishwasher.  I alerted someone from staff who removed and replaced them with a new stack of clean and dry plates.  Not a great way to start a meal.  Nonetheless I filled my plate, joined our table and did my best to enjoy the meal.  A couple of glasses of Moroccan red wine helped repair my disappointment.
 
This basic kitchen error spoiled my stay at this 5 star hotel.  No doubt it was due to the renovations or Ramadan related issues.  Hope things have improved by breakfast.

 

 

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