Riding trials in Morocco may be something that you don’t often think about... Patrick ’Maya’ Feraud organised a classic five-day trial a few years ago, which took place in the Rif area around Chefchaouen. Even if we were taken in by the event the trial was never repeated; beaten by administration issues in 2011, it was rescheduled for 2012; the second event was finally abandoned due to an inadequate number of entries to make it viable. This lack of interest was evident for riders from the Provence, Alps, and Cote d’Azur regions of France as their region offers many similar riding areas to those found in North Morocco. Even if the same format is retained for the next event he has decided to locate his new event in classical desert area, with a totally different terrain.
FOUR STAR HOTEL
It was at the airport of Errachidia, which is on the same latitude as Marrakech and less than a hundred kilometres to the Algerian border, that we found Maya and his companion Pascale, who is responsible for assistance/recovery. A further seventy clicks away by road in the direction of the famous dunes of Merzouga we arrived late at night at our destination for that night in Arfoud, where we found the rest of the route-finding team, Francois Maudhuit and Bernard Delchevalerie from the Entrecasteaux club and Max Figarella from Horizon Moto.
The entrants in the previous five-day event will remember the modest hotel in Chefchaouen. The Xaluca d’ores has already been reserved for April 2016 and it merits its four-star status. Obviously we will be spending more time on the motorcycles than we will in the swimming pool, but we appreciated the spacious and comfortable rooms and the massive restaurant and bar area that will allow everyone to congregate. In the morning I was surprised to find that the hotel was built in the middle of a vast plain which in principle is not well suited to trials. However, there was no need to worry as our intrepid organiser has had plenty of experience in the organisation of superb events such as the five days of Verdon and the late, lamented three days of the Blanche Serre as well as the six enduros they have operated from the same base camp.
After a substantial breakfast from the hotel buffet I found the Montesa Cota RT 260 and Beta Evo 300 4T on which I was going to ride the following three days. A small issue was that the Cota had arrived with a seat unit, which was not the case with the Evo. We know the disadvantages of such a seat, which have to be balanced against the real advantages of an extra four litres of fuel carried by this accessory. We would have preferred the same luxury during the gentle trial riding on our Italian mount!
It was by the easy, rolling tracks that we headed out in a south-east direction to join the dry bed of the Ziz stream. After a while Maya turned off towards the higher ground that we could see in the distance towards the east. We did not have long to wait before we were attacking a steep slope covered with brown blocks with a hint of red in the sunlight. Even if it was possible to ‘slalom’ without too much difficulty between these major obstacles we were sure that after a few days of riding there more than one rider would find out how solid they were! After another super climb we arrived at the summit, which overlooks the village of Erfoud where far below we could see the ladies of the village washing their carpets. In the time it took me to repack my camera, Max and Francois had already found a way down the other side: a rock strewn path down which we found a few kids who amused themselves by showing us the best way down.
The immense plain that opened out in front of us was dotted with strange mounds. Bizarrely we reached them rapidly, when they had seemed so distant. Even if they are the most common type of summit, they are by nature less rocky than the tormented minerals that form the high mountain peaks. Otherwise the rocks that lay uncovered were amazing in their variety.
Here we passed from the brown rocks below to the large inclined slabs, later large blocks presented a much more regular basaltic surface, which later had a more broken aspect that resembled a lunar landscape. The sand had done its work in shaping the land and was itself varying between fine and rough that had formed a hard surface crust of pure sand or one mixed with pebbles, which were themselves covered in a fine layer, etc. There is no need to say that you will not suffer from riding over a monotonous surface here!
It was much the same story with the landscape itself that, thanks to the nature of their underlying rock formation had been sculptured into many different shapes by the wind and the flow of water. In addition we were lucky enough to have had sufficient rain that the desert had a green hue and we thought we were a lot further south, in sub-Saharan Africa than in the Maghreb.
At this point we were riding hard, with our front tyres spitting the crusty sand over the machines towards the same goal we’d had in sight for a long while: a building planted in the middle of nowhere. At the heart of this arid area is the Kasbah Hotel Said, which is a real haven having a charming garden, a serene swimming pool and offering an excellent table, around which we sat sipping tea whilst admiring the many rally souvenirs adorning the reception. Pampered by the affable boss of the place, Brahim, we stayed late until the digestive drink had been served. David Casteu has installed his own residence in the grounds, which serves as his base for testing or training. We reluctantly leave our host but our paths will cross regularly during our stay, and if you join the event so will yours, as he will provide all camp meals during the event. A guarantee of quality!
Shortly after leaving the sweet surroundings of the Kasbah we encountered a vast amount of stone blocks from the quarry. We stopped to buy from the workers a few of the celebrated fossils of Erfoud. Max gives the workers a quick demo, before joining us on the majestic tracks found at the foot of towering blocks that will certainly offer the section plotters a multitude of options. The blocks were yellow at one point, before turning a rose colour. Maya stopped us at the side of one of them, where we made up a couple of sections, when a guy came by smiling and told us it was exactly the same at the other side of the hill. Bathed by the light of the stunning sunset we could not refrain from playing on these granite outcrops with the most amazing grip you will ever experience. It was just a shame we had to leave tonight.
Our climb up canyons, and some pretty big descents in between, led us to a palm fringed water source where the palms were growing amongst the dunes. Our next two days also filled us with the same level of enthusiasm and left us imagining a raid-trial quite unlike anything that had ever taken place before. Taking into account the tracks that will be used between sections they were by far the most relaxing we had come across and possible in any event for the most novice of riders that will have their own sections. With three sections ‘cool’ in the morning, a similar number in the afternoon and a mini race against the clock in the evening on the sand dunes, they will be able to ride them all without much difficulty. For the rest there will be the chance to ride in this exceptional environment and in order to maximise the chance of finishing in good order each evening there will be 15 to 20 sections in a day with four different levels of difficulty, as is found in a number of classic events. We are certain that the first event will run from the 1st to 4th April 2016! All your premix and fuel will be taken care of by the organisation.
You are keen but your mates do not have a licence? Don’t worry, your national one is no use out here as a Moroccan licence and repatriation insurance are already included in the entry price. Other than the papers for your motorcycle, a valid driver’s licence and passport, you only need a valid medical certificate. It’s difficult to make it simpler that that; with this super opportunity leaving from a classy four-star hotel Maya promises it will be a less intense competition and more of a sporting ride out amongst friends. I am sure, from what we saw this is highly possible.
Poking through the sand, these giant slopes form long crests.
The palm groves allow us to ride in the shade and mud.
Women washing carpets in the river.
The reception of the Kasbah Said has a collection of rally mementos.
Maya opens the way up the hill.
Max and Bernard ride a canyon looking for a way onto the plateau above.
Max and Francois cross the river for the photo.
TRIAL MAGAZINE 97
This climb was all steps!
Going between two outcrops, the ride is never technical.