Already a while back, Sideburn had bandied the idea about in our collective head (like Frank Sidebottom's but bigger), about the feasibility of Sideburn endorsed trips. Then in February GI was invited to Morocco to ride a desert tour with Moto Aventures and covered it for MCN. He had an amazing time, a trip of a lifetime even, so it makes sense to give it the Sideburn stamp of approval.
AND WE WANT YOU TO COME WITH US
I will be going this time, and can't wait. I have zero sand experience (apart from building a few sandcastles on the Gower in south Wales). But GI reassures me that my combined rookie flat tracking, minimal green laning, many miles of road riding, and a bit of bravado should see me through. If it wasn't a little daunting, it wouldn't be so exciting!
Here are some evocative photos of GI's trip by Sam Christmas.
There is talk of a wind-down night out in Marakech on the way back (so leave the next day instead, on Sat 18), staying in a riad off the main square of Jemaa el Fna. (I spent a week in the Marrakech medina with my young family a couple of years ago. It's mental - in a good way).
We will draw up some more complete details nearer the time. BP
My brain is chapped, my eyeballs need Supergluing in place and every screw in my head has vibrated loose.
I’m on a motorcycle tour of Morocco with the company Moto Aventures. I flew into Marrakesh, drove over the High Atlas Mountains to Ourzazate, joined a group of Portuguese riders and set off on three days of punishing off-road riding on a 450cc KTM enduro bike.
Every day begins with one of John the tour leader’s short and to the point briefings. If your blood doesn't run a little cold, you’re not listening.
‘Watch for the wash-outs today. Don’t overstretch yourself or you will fuck up,’ barks John, like the father I never wanted. He then gives details of the map we must select from the satnav’s menu.
The big attraction of this tour was to ride at Erg Chebbi, the 30-mile long, five-mile wide range of wind-blown dunes. I have zero dune-riding experience. I’ve fallen off three times when John pulls up on a gently rolling hump of sand then points to a golden mountain, the biggest dune in sight. ‘We’re going up there.’ I don’t know what to say. There’s so much adrenalin pumping around my damp body, I don’t think I’ve blinked for 20 minutes.
I press the starter to bring the Austrian dirt bike to life and follow John’s wheel up the shallowest side of the 125m dune. It doesn’t sound high, but it’s 40-storeys above our accommodation for the night, a desert bivouac less than a kilometre away as the crow flies. Steadily I make it to the summit. There is flat area on top, but it’s as wide as a single car parking space at a supermarket. My emotional state is flicking, like a puppy’s tail, from exhilarated to intimidated.
Then John informs me I have to ride down the steepest face. He says goodbye and, as he rides off the end of the world, disappears. From the top, there’s no sound or sight of him for four or five seconds, then he appears, as a dot below. Now it’s my turn. I’m as scared as I’ve been on a motorcycle in years. I don’t want to go, but neither do I want to back out. Every muscle is tense. I’m imagining the front wheel digging into the sand, stopping dead and the dirt bike flipping to land, like a Mexican luchador, on my fragile spine. Pumping my fists on the grips seems to dispel the thoughts and I click the bike into gear.
Five seconds later I’m the speck, still on its wheels, exhaling an f-bomb. Tonight I’m going to drink a beer at the top of another dune with new friends, then sleep under the stars (till it becomes too windy and I drag my mattress into the nearest Bedouin tent). Tomorrow I’ll wake and feel like I’ve been run over by a dustbin lorry. After checking my boots for camel spiders and scorpions, I’ll climb onto the borrowed KTM 450 and do it all again. Life does not get any better…