Yesterday was our one month anniversary on the road, we left London on the 7th of January and it was fitting that we had the bikes serviced here in Casablanca after having done about 6500 kilometers on them so far (about 4000 miles).
We had some fun and games coming up from Agadir to Casablanca with a few interesting incidents to keep us on our toes!
The road from Agadir to Marrakesh is notoriously dangerous as it curves through the mountains with a slippery tarmac surface that gave me one big slide on a bend that nearly made me fill my pants! Keith was behind and thankfully didn’t go over the same part of the road that I did and so managed to avoid having his scare!
Moroccans drive like maniacs and it doesn’t seem to concern them that they are driving an articulated lorry or an overloaded taxi up or down a mountain road, they go as fast as possible with the minimum margin for error – i.e. none! It’s all based on the Arabic phrase – “Insh a Allah” which translated means “God willing”, this means that they are pretty fatalistic about accidents, God willed it and it had nothing to do with the fact that they were overtaking on a blind corner with no idea of what is coming around the corner! It makes for a fun and varied driving experience in Morocco as you try and avoid God’s messengers of death!
One incident I had on the way up the mountain was particularly fun! I came around a corner about 80 km/h (50 mph) to find a water truck going in the same direction at about 30 km/h (20 mph) as he struggled to go uphill. The truck was spilling water all over the slick and dusty tarmac surface that was heated nicely by the sun as it was about 30 degrees C outside.
Normally I would just sail right by, but there was one of God’s messengers coming the other way downhill with his overloaded taxi of death. No problem, I’ll just put the brakes on to scrub off some speed and let this taxi past… front brake on, rear brake on… screeching rubber sound, front wheel sliding away from under me as I see the back of the truck and the front of the taxi approaching me fast and I feel God’s fingers holding them in a pincer movement that would have made Hannibal proud!
Thankfully we have now done quite a bit of offroading so my reactions kicked in and I released the front brake, kicked out with my left boot to right the bike and then gassed the bike between the two vehicles with my handlebars still waggling a bit from the tank slapper I was recovering from.
Phew! It was a close call and I’m glad I haven’t ended this trip under the back wheels of a truck, or worse on the bonnet of a very wide eyed taxi driver! I saw it all in slow motion and he was definitely saying Insh a Allah as I squeezed in between him and the truck. The take away lesson is you can drive slow but you can’t always be prepared for what is going to happen around you in Africa!
It was Keith’s turn when we got into Casablanca when we pulled up in front of our hostel in the Medina of the old city. He hadn’t noticed that his bike had been running hot in the traffic of the Casablanca and when we pulled up outside the hotel he switched the ignition off and went inside to sort a room out.
It was only a couple minutes later when I heard a big whoosh and a load of water was dropped on the pavement and Keith’s bike was engulfed in a cloud of steam. The hot water in the coolant system had built up a huge pressure with the radiator off and no water circulating and had caused one of the pipes to pop off and release all the water and steam on the ground. Not a big thing to fix, just pop the hose back on and refill the radiator with water. We were servicing the bike the next day so we didn’t bother with distilled water, however the takeaway lesson is to not switch the hot bike off as you don’t want that happening in the desert!
We have been enjoying the big city buzz here in Casablanca, checking out the huge and ostentatious Hassan II mosque and enjoying the street cafe life. It’s been a good time to get ourselves and our bikes sorted before we make a push for our next country, Mauritania.
The bikes are now spotless after a hopefully good service, it was certainly cheap at less than 100 pounds per bike including parts and labor! As long as they didn’t wreck anything we should be okay – Insh a Allah! The mechanic reckons he has sorted Keith’s clutch and both bikes are certainly running a lot smoother now that we have treated them to fresh oil and a bit of a tune up. We’ve also put in new reusable stainless steel oil filters and added Water Wetter to the water in the radiators. Lets see how these perform in the big wide world!
We’ve loved being in Morocco and the friends that we have made here but I think both of us are now champing at the bit for our next country.
The plan is to ride south tomorrow to the old Portuguese town of Essaouira before pushing south to the start of the Sahara and Tiznit and Tan-Tan via another piste between Assa and Smara. We will then continue down the Atlantic road along the coast to Mauritania. It will take us several days and we will try to blog as we go but who knows how good the Internet connections will be south of Tiznit.
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