I had visited Morocco earlier, in the winter of 2011-2012. Back then we were mostly 4×4 offroading and mountain biking, but the area left me with the idea of returning for some enduro action. I had a chat with my buddies in Vetomies as they are usually up for this kind of stuff. They of course were in and before too long we had a group of nine riders set up. Actually, eight riders and a mechanic, that would not ride all legs, to be precise. The team was mostly familiar faces from Vetomies events, with a few new ones too. A nice group.
I was originally going to organize the trip with my contacts. My plan was to put the bikes into a truck and fly the crew over to meet the bikes in Algeciras, Spain and take the ferry over to Tangiers. The problem was that it would put us in northern Morocco and I wanted to do a tour in the south. Preferably starting from Marrakech. We only had a week so it would have cut the ride short or result in long days on tarmac to get to the good spots.
I had heard that Kari Tiainen, the Finnish enduro legend with seven world championships to his name, ran a safari company out of Spain. He ran a standard circuit from Marrakech to eastern Marrakech, but he warmed up to the idea of doing a southern circuit from Marrakech to Erg Chicaga and then to Essaouira. I liked the idea of the traverse as Essaouira is spectacular and we would still have a day or two to kill in Marrakech. Also, I had done a similar circuit with a 4X4 so I had a vague idea of what was where and how nice the area was.
We arrived in Marrakech airport on time, having flown from Helsinki via Oslo. Our luggage was loaded on Kari’s support car and the riders piled into a local Mercedes Benz taxi classic and the support car. These cars shuttle people from A to B all over Northern Africa and the Middle East. I find this an amusing testament to the build quality of the 200D, much like the Toyota Hiace van you see all over Nairobi, Kenia.
After a short ride over some piste we arrived in our house for the night, Le Bled de Gre. A fantastic place. Especially when it has eleven dirt bikes on the yard!
The bikes were KTM and Husaberg 350’s. They were new and in good condition. The tyres were worn, but Kari told us they would be for the first two days only, which contained some tarmac sections. We would enter the Sahara desert with fresh tyres.
The evening wound on with the normal frivolities, as everyone was getting their gear sorted. There was a huge bike trailer which would be taken to our final destination in Essaouira tonight. All our non essential gear needed to go on that trailer and we would only have the essentials packed on the support car.
We had a nice dinner prepared by the owner. I had warned everyone, that we would be on a steady diet of tajines, which are not really to my taste. Tonight’s chicken tajine was the first of many. It was nice, but I enjoyed the wine a lot more.