Everyone remembers where they were in March 2020. Me, I was hurrying back from the Mauritanian border ahead of a nationwide transport shutdown when debris on the road punched a hole through my Africa Twin’s sump (left) as the Corona tsunami crashed into Morocco.
With two days to get out or be trapped for months (as some were), what might have been a fairly easy roadside bodge with putty, dragged on for well over a year as my attempts to fly back to Morocco stalled. Read that story here.
By October 2021 travel impediments cleared and travel confidence rose, so I flew out to 41°C Marrakech with a new battery and oil pan. Amazingly, the stock lithium battery took a slow charge and lit up the dash just like it should. Even the tyres (the rear an MYO tubeless) weren’t totally flat and the chain was in good shape.
With these vitals established, I replaced the sump, oiled the motor and – with Hail Mary on redial – pressed the Button of Destiny. She fired right up to a steady tickover with no clattering or error codes!
Nice one, Honda.
Actually, the ‘MIL’ icon did light up on a test ride, but I wasn’t too bothered as those things can come on if your shoe lace is undone. It did remind me to check the coolant level which I did and it went away.
Next day I packed up and headed south to pre-run my Fly & Ride tour route ahead of November’s group. Even though it’s first year had been at Honda’s off-road centre in Wales, I’d only ever ridden the AT on the road so it would be a chance to actually discover how it handled the dirt.
Having not ridden in a year and a half, once swinging into the High Atlas’ bends, the creeping front Motoz Tractionator Adv knobbly took some adjusting to. I’ve had tyres like this before, though not on such a big and powerful bike, so I kept things smooth and gentle as I got accustomed to the feel. As so often happens, a day or so later odd felt normal: the very nub of the human condition.
Heading south without a group I was free to divert up a series of switchbacks climbing a hillside, just to see where they went. I didn’t think twice about it and the AT took to the gravel like the giant trail bike it is. I sometimes feel the trail bike layout and riding position is embedded in my muscle memory so then when I’m doing it everything feels fine.
I free-wheeled back down passing a few MTB-ing Marrakshis and near Ijoukak popped in to see one of my tour hosts, Houssain, who told me of a new track over the High Atlas which reached a high col further down my route but bypassed an initially gnarly climb. On the AT I was happy to dodge that particular ascent which anyway, was never a great start to my tour’s off-roading.
It joined up near the newish road which climbs up to over 8200 feet (2500m+) before dropping down the far side of the Atlas. A great way of breaking into the hills
After a tasty feed in Igli, down the valley I decided to check out a way across a river bed feeding a drying reservoir which I’ve been wondering about for years. But that soon proved to be beyond the limit of me and AT, and without going cross-country, the link suggested on Google Maps probably wasn’t there.
I scooted on along the highway over to Taliouine for the night, appreciating the effortlessness with which the big Honda knocked out these flat, main road stages. That was two tour days ticked off in one, and in the heat it was enough adventuring. Time for a brew.
Next day I headed into the Anti Atlas, following the new road east out of Agadir Melloul (MA13) to swing by a homestay in the oasis of Assaragh and see if they were still up for it. They were, so after another chai, I said I’d see them in a month.
From here it was down the ‘waterfall’ into the Aguinan valley (MA13), always an impressive descent.
Then out through the cool serpentine canyons and into the baking desert. That’s Jebel Timouka on the horizon below – an abandoned piste and no place for an AT.
Far south and at a much lower elevation, I knew it would be cooking down on the desert floor, so the best thing was to keep moving. As long as you remember what you’re riding and where you are [heavy bike; middle of nowhere], the AT zipped along the desert trails well enough. I very much doubt I’ve ever used more than half of the 88hp in all the time I’ve owned it. Topping up in Taliouine from the same servo guy who’s been there for years had returned 60mpg (21kpl; 50 US). I don’t think it will get much better than that; one of the juiciest bikes I’ve had for years.
One benefit of a high-end Adv is you get quality – or at least, adjustable – suspension. Up to a point that means you can get by with tyres left at road pressures and let the springs absorb the shocks. And the knobbly front Motoz lead the way with a reassuring bite.
It’s only and hour or two but this is a desolate stage and the thought of having a flat on my still-tubed front was not appealing. I stop off on a ford a schnik-schnak and a cool down.
Once back on the asphalt the Palmer screen is working too well and I can bear it no longer. I stand up into the breeze to decompress the backside and generally air the heck off.
I get to my usual roadhouse where the tour 310GSs often arrive on fumes, but the coffee machine has packed up and there is no fresh OJ. Quelle horreur! So all that remains is a late-afternoon, 100-click ride ride back out of the desert and over to Tamnougalte where I’ll spend a couple of days to explore some new tracks.
The pool looks tempting.
All the veggies come from the adjacent garden irrigated by the nearby Oued Draa. And they taste like it too. Potatoes with actual potato flavour. Remember them?
A cool dawn. I should have got out there but fancied a day off – this heat really wears you down. There’s no wifi so I get absorbed into my interesting book.