“so are you guys joining us on the dirt, or taking the highway?”
“We’re joining you on the dirt rd” Sal responded tersely…
“Are you sure Sal?”
“This is your time babe, just take the dirt road…”
It’s not all sunshine and roses but I do consider myself to be the luckiest guy on earth for being with Sally. We’d been doing 8 to 10hr days on mountain passes, some good going but mostly rocky, bumpy roads. Heaven for me, but not so much fun on the back.
The morning of this particular day of off-road riding started out at 2000m altitude, 8 degrees and raining. Not horrible stormy rain, but on the back of the last few days it wasn’t really what we wanted.
At breakfast we talked about my planned route through the mountains…
“We’re taking the highway today aren’t we Dean” it wasn’t a question.
“Um… Yeah I guess so.”
After an hour in the rain, the storm broke and we stopped for a cup of tea and to take some layers off. Two other guys on bikes who were in the same small town stopped too, and we sat and chatted over the worst cup of tea that’s ever been made.
They were headed towards the bit of piste (french for dirt road) that I had pencilled in before the rain started (and before our earlier agreement to take the highway), which just happened to start about 800m from where we were sitting, and end at the town we were headed towards.
It was just a bit too tempting.
Before we headed off Sal put her wet weather gear back on muttering something about the storm on the horizon, while I expressed positive thoughts about our chances of staying dry.
It’s very rare that we set off in some direction that Sal doesn’t want to go in. I’m not usually brave enough, but it wasn’t actually raining – and we’re in Morocco!!
I’m not religious, but on these rare moments I find myself fervently praying for a good outcome.
No rain and a nice track = happy Sally.
Rain and sandy track = Fury Road.
In the end it was somewhere in between, a bit of rain, but mostly beautiful piste that criss crossed a wide dried up river for the afternoon. There was also a point where we literally rode into a large open cut mine (Erzberg rodeo style!), complete with enormous trucks and yellow bunting, at the same time as it was raining, that bit wasn’t so great, but it wasn’t Fury Road either 😉 We spent that night in a cheap hotel (surprise surprise!) and the 2 Czech guys decided to join us for today’s ride too.
We’re now in the south of Morocco, the desert bit, and desert means sand, and (if you’ve been paying attention you’d know that) sand means Fury Road.
Yesterday it took us about 4 minutes to overtake our new friends and then we spent most of the day waiting for them, especially in anything that had the slightest bit of sand to cross, so we weren’t surprised when they decided that the route we were taking today was too difficult, and after 70km they took the highway north instead.
We spent the rest of today following a 170km gps track that didn’t really have an actual track matching it, more like a hundred different wheel tracks spread across a few hundred metres in the desert, that all went roughly in the same direction.
Sometimes the tracks diverged and then came back together and other times they kept going in different directions, and we had to double back or ride through the dunes to get back to the ones going in our direction.
The track followed a riverbed at first, then it was stony desert, then it wound its way between separate sand dunes, and yes, (you’ve been waiting for it!), eventually the track crossed dunes, and then we were continuously in rolling dunes.
Not big bad horrible Dakar style dunes, but still Fury Road worthy.
“Babe I want to walk this bit!” Sal demanded as we were looking at sand dunes as far as we could see into the distance.
“We’ll be here for a week if you want to walk all the sand” I replied and kept the throttle wide open.
Now I started this post by emphasising how lucky I am to have such an amazing adventurous woman in my life, and I’ll go back there now. We must have ridden almost 150km of sand today, 2up, with luggage.
Most people won’t understand how difficult that is. But anyway, there aren’t many bikes you’d try it on, and even fewer passengers who would contemplate the idea.
Sand requires speed, a bit like water skiing, too slow and you sink, the faster you go the easier it gets, but if you fall off at high speed it’s going to be ugly.
So we’re going reasonably fast, the motor is wide open to maintain that speed so the rear wheel is continuously sliding, and I’m standing up, trying to get all of my weight as far back as possible to let the front wheel steer instead of ploughing.
This means Sal is leaned back at a horrible angle over the rear bag with my bum pushed into her face so she can’t actually see anything at all.
The other difficult part of sand riding is that you can’t really steer very precisely, you just point the bike in a vague direction, keep it wide open and don’t stop for anything.
This means that we quite often end up going in undesired directions before I can coax it back on track, like into even bigger dunes, into deep ravines, over big rocks or across deep ruts in the sand. And to top it off we frequently veer off into unexpected directions when the front wheel buries in a deep patch…
Sounds like fun huh! Even more so for Sal as she can’t actually see what’s coming, so she gets totally slammed by every impact.
But even with all this excitement today, there was only just the smallest hint of Fury Road, coming after the twentieth demand for “walking this bit” was ignored, where I had to actually stop because things got a bit too hairy in some deep ruts.
“I’m not doing this bit!!” Sal stormed off across the sand dune, finally in control of her own destiny.
Love that woman.
I made my way to a firmer patch of ground so Sal could get back on, and we roared away again, in the middle of the vast nothingness of the desert, just us three snaking our way towards the next oasis town.
A desert is an amazing but also intimidating place, and more than once I found myself wondering what on earth we were doing there? We have friends, family and a nice home in Australia, we have a garden and nice places to hang out… But here we are surrounded by mountains of sand and rock in northern Africa.
As we covered the last few km into town, tired but now back on the safety of a tar road, a deep feeling of awesomeness crept into my mind, We did it!
I reached back and hugged Sal.
“good work babe, I’m exhausted”
“Great ride huh!” 😉