TRAVEL

Morocco

Trial Magazine - - TRIAL MAGAZINE - AR­TI­CLE: DJIZ

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.

VA­RI­ETY IN­CLUDED

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.

CASTEU AP­PROVED

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.

QUARRY BLOCKS

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

Maya

This climb was all steps!

Go­ing be­tween two out­crops, the ride is never tech­ni­cal.

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