Category Archives: Project: Yamaha WR250R

Tested: Yamaha WR250R 4000km review

• 4000-km review
• Introduction
• Stage 1 mods
• Tested in Wales
• Ready for the desert
• Morocco trip report
• Mitas MC23 Rockrider  tyres
• Fuel log

The WR250R is the last in a series of 250s I’ve been trying over the years in the search for a light, economical, do-it-all travel bike. Other bikes included the CRF250LHonda Tornados (rentals) and a carb KLX250S in the US.
I used my WR principally in March 2017 for a one-month ride in Morocco, researching new routes for my Morocco Overland guidebook.
After 10 years with few changes, the WR250R is no longer listed on the Yamaha US 2018 line-up. It’s the same story in Australia so it could be the end of the line for the unique WR-R.

Short version
• Vanned the WR to Malaga as I could not face crossing Spain and back.
• Need to cane it to press on (don’t recall CRF-L/KLX feeling the same)
• Light weight is all very well, but even at 6’ 1’’, the tall saddle is a pain
• Suspension is of course, brilliant, compared to stock CRF-L (mine had Hyperpro)
• Amazingly economical: 550km to a tank. Fuel Log
• Still have back pain from the stock saddle months later
• Super build quality explains the price over a CRF-L… almost
• Huge 350-w alternator output for the size and age of this bike
• Fuel pump worries in hot conditions (played up but never went)
• Clearly suited to predominantly off-highway travels

Long version – read on…

I did all the usual things to the WR; protection; tyres; bigger tanks and luggage capacity. See this for the full story.

For me the WR was not comfortable when sat on the road at a steady speed. Tooling around off road sees you move around more, so you get tired before you get uncomfortable. I could have improved things by fitting my small Spitfire screen (left) from previous bikes, but figured it’s only Morocco, not the full run across Spain.

And I could have bought an alternative seat from the US, but these can be a gamble; what’s comfy to one is no great improvement to another. I could also have fitted my Aerostich woollen pad (left), but what would have made the seat even higher.
And I sometimes wonder whether leather trousers create less butt soreness than slidier jeans.
I did not do any of these things and as a result my memory of the WR is perhaps unfairly sore. A huge fuel range doesn’t help, as when I  have a job to do I tend to keep going until I’m worn out or the fuel runs out. Months later I still have pain in the base of my back, though that could just be my age.
At my height, bar risers certainly made standing sustainable and I can’t say my legs felt cramped as the saddle is quite high. The Hyperpro suspension also went a long way towards smoothing out the ride.
And one good thing about small capacity singles is there is no vibration to speak of.

Fuel economy
As expected, the WR was very economical for a relatively high-powered engine. Average was 83mpg (29.5kpl). Worst was 71mpg (25.2 kpl) and the best was 94mpg (33.3 kpl). Full details here. Fuel conversion chart here.
By comparison my CRF managed 86.7 with a best of 98.5 (about the same as carb’d XR250 Tornados). The KLX may have been a bit less than the WR – 88mpg was the best. iirc.
So you can safely rely on 25kpl from the WR which, x 17 litres is an impressive, butt-numbing 425 clicks guaranteed, or more like 500.
But, as I ask here: is a small bike really more economical? When you think of the easy cruising speed of a bigger twin for 10-15% less economy, the answer may be not really. What you’re really getting with a 250 is much less weight: my current XSR700 is 195 kg tanked up ready to go; WR was about 155kg.

Oil and water consumption
Zero. I was very careful to ride the bike on the temp gauge mounted off an exhaust header – generally cruising at 100-110°C. If it got much above 120 I slowed down or stopped as hot temps are said to bring on fuel pump woes.

The WR was supposedly a good 20% more powerful than my KLX or CRF;  it’s lighter too, until I loaded it up with equipment, gear and myself. I have to say I was disappointed by the performance, most probably because I could not bear to rev it hard. In some situations (uphill; headwind wind) I’m not sure it would have made much difference, anyway. Day 1 in Morocco in a headwind gale on the motorway was not a good start. Rarely did I get over a true 60mph which was not uncommon on the other 250s. Some days (some fuels?) were better than others, and there was nothing wrong with the bike other than the bulk of me and my gear.nThe brakes feel pretty ordinary with that load.

I never rode the bike on the standard suspension and with Hyperpro front fork springs and a 461 shock with a HPA on the back I didn’t have much to complain about until I came back over Jebel Sarhro with a full tank and souvenir carpets. By then the preload was surprisingly maxed out. I could have fixed that by turning the HPA collar down on the shock body. In fact, I found out months later that HP had fitted an ’80kg’ rear spring – presumably 80kg rider weight? I weigh at least 20% more in my gear. They knew my weight from before. Seems off they went so light knowing what i was going to use it for.

Road riding
With a 21” front wheel, knobblies and modest power, I can’t say the WR ever got a handful on the road. With the big load, it was the brakes which limited speeds.

Off road
Off roading in Morocco mostly involves rocky or gravel tracks, and the Rockriders (right) did the job at full road pressures, but the back wore surprisingly fast. Fuller review here.

I don’t regret the cost or weight or mounting issues of the Tusk rack (left): it gave a very solid platform for the Kriega OS32 system and a bit more besides, and didn’t miss a beat. Full review of the Kriegas here.
The Giant Loop Fandango Pro tankbag is reviewed here. A handy little pod if you can get it for the right price.

The WR’s dashboard is about as basic as they get – just the speed reading and a trip or odometre, plus some warning lights. I fitted a Trail Tech temp gauge (left).

With a DRD correction chip (right) the speedo was spot on and could be changed between kph and mph with some sequential faffing. The odometer was 11% over, but reading were corrected for mpg calcs. The GPS was hard-wired in and I never needed the additional power plugs.

Durability and problems
The 2008 stator recall had been done by the previous owner and I was aware of the fuel pump issues – some early OEs seize and eventually pack up when working at higher temps. I do wonder if it could be down to American fuel which can get quite ropey in my experience. I was using the original pump and didn’t bring my spare (left) which helped make life interesting. After a while, at times when the bike was warm, I heard the fuel pump priming or whirring on turning the key on, but before hitting the button. This should last a couple of seconds; if it keeps going I suspect it’s bad for the fuel pump so I always made sure I got the engine running as soon as I turned the key on with a warm bike. Cold; no such issues and at any times there was never any fuel starvation or hesitancy even when hot, just too much whirring at times.
When I  got back I fitted the few aftermarket pump before selling the bike.
Other than that – no issues with the WR which is why we love Yamahas for overlanding.

Effortless on the dirt, as expected, but me and my gear (130kg?) was too much weight for the WR on the road, so it does not make it the do-it-aller I hoped it might be. I’m pretty sure a WR450R could be that bike, but Yamaha won’t be making those before the Chinese get there first.
You know what, for normal overland travels rather than gnarly, hardcore off-road exploring (not the sort of riding I do) I think I’d almost settle for a latest CRF250L (a couple more horsepowers) with some decent suspension. I’ll have a chance to try one in the desert later this year.

My current bike is an XSR700 Scrambler, a bright idea I had while flat-out at 57mph on the Atlantic coast of Western Sahara. We’ll see how that turns out this winter.

abr7 - 12

WR-ing about in Morocco – 9/9

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

Chilly morning in Tilmi – and it’s going to get a lot chillier.

I set off up the track and soon find it’s in unusually good shape and actually with a very gearing-friendly gradient. Good road building! Down in the valley, the very last village on the south side.

I stop on the Tizi Ouano pass, just short of 3000m or 10,000’. Nearly over now and, with the worst exposure behind me and all excess weight ditched, the WR burns down the track. I cover the 40kms in a little over an hour then brace myself for Agoudal village.

That’s the sign you need to watch out for if coming from the north and wanting the dirt crossing to Dades.
If you stop they’re on to you.
As it is right now, you could easily do this pass on a GS12 with topbox and Tourances
Or if you don’t fancy it, stay on the asphalt and make your way down to Schmodra Gorge and Tinerhir, via Ait Hani.
Better still, at Ait Hani (before Todra) turn NE up the valley for Assoul, Ait Jacoub (nice auberge here), mysterious Amellago, and down through the amazing Rheris gorge to Goulmima.
All off-axis, great riding and not a single, rainbow cheche vendor will you see.

Clear of Agoudal, for me my friend the piste is over, so I pull over on a culvert to brush the chain with lube. Mario from Slovakia on a 700 TA pulls over and we have a good chat. He is finding some indolent, scrounging Moroccans hard work. I say get off this axis. He says I want to do MS6 Merzouga to Zagora. I say with that load, and those tyres you may find it hard work.

I decide to follow MH1 right through to Tounfite, but dodge the over-rated Cirque de Jaffar finale and stick to the tarmac.
I’ve done my share and there are scores of ‘Jaffars’ all over Morocco (not least, Sarhro D-West).

Soon I’m climbing on a frost-damaged, storm-ravaged road with more carts and mules than cars.

I get to Agoudim village and turn right, head over a rather radical ditch which no village Merc van could manage, and soon the road starts to disappear.

Within a km I’m riding along a bike-wide path above the river bed. This was one of the easier sections.
This does not feel right. And that is because (all together now):
“It’s Never Over Till It’s Over!!”

There is no trace of asphalt now, just a massive landslide where the road – only a few years old – once was. I park up and walk on, wading through streams. There are knobbly tracks, but really this all looks a bit hardcore. How long will it go on for? Why was there no sign: ‘Road closed after Agoudim’?
Oh well, all good research for the book I suppose, so I schlep the 80 clicks back to Imilchil – a village I’d not usually spend my money on.
At the servo I ask the wrong question: ‘When was the road cut to Tounfite?’
‘Yes there is asphalt all the way to Tounfite’ three blokes tell me. Whatever, then.
It’s late, I’m cold and hungry and I’m about to set off north – a long way to anywhere with a hotel.
Then, at the edge of town a nice-looking kasbah.
Same bloke from the garage: ‘100 ds chum, and another 100 for nosebag’. Not bad at all for what it is.

It was a good call. All that night a freezing wind howled from the north, rattling the panes. I slept in all my clothes and sleeping bag. Six am next morning (above): the snow may not be deep but the wind chill is arctic. A good day not to be riding. So I stay over and spend the hours uploading one of these posts.

At breakfast next morning, two German backpackers are wrapped up in all they have.

Nice bloke at this place – good tucker again last night and a full Moroccan on a platter.
Last night I looked at the big picture on Base Camp and saw a new road go round the washed out gorge. I managed to get on the HUBB Morocco forum. Confirmation: old route totalled, new route carved over the hills. There is tar to Tounfite after all.

So back I go, over the unnamed 2650-m pass.

Down the other side.

Past some old seabed at 7000’.

Nice formations.

And right here. This is your turn for Tounfite, though you’d never know, so I made a big sign.

Just up the road I meet Mario again, kindly helping a local biker with a jammed gearbox on a moped not worth 20 quid. Mario’s lost his mojo. He made the same mistake I did, but got stuck early where some kids helped him pick up and turn his bike round. He spent the night in an Agoudim auberge, but got the shits eating local, his key chip played up so he had to climb the hillside to call home for advice (‘try the spare key’).

But he still wants to do the Cirque. I tell him I’ve not done it for years and it’s become a pretty gnarly 4×4 route and has been closed lately. If you fall over on that thing, you better hope there’s someone around to help or it doesn’t land on you as you slide down the hill. He seems despondent. In Imilchil yesterday some kids threw a football at him and just missed him.
I know that feeling – bad aura – call it what you like, but it can ruin many first trips in Mk. I give advice on how to dodge it in the book (eg: avoid cities until you’ve got the swing of things) but no one really takes it in. We all learn best from our own experiences – which may later happen to concur with received opinion. But you need to find out for yourself.
Make no mistake: the hassle in mainstream tourist Morocco is truly world class, but is a lot less bad than it used to be.
Next door in Algeria – nada. Tunisia, lame! Libya, Niger (pre-2011) – nothing. Mauritania, small time.

We ride together for a bit then split at a roundabout with a wave. I come round a bend and suddenly the Atlas goes flat.
Next stop: Middle Atlas.

Unfortunately the elevation does not abate and I’m getting chilled to the bone. Again.
That is biking; you just endure (or you forsee the need for appropriate clothing).
I need a hot feed and stop in Timahdite to the aroma of grilling brochettes, but before the stand is down a grinning bloke walks up to me with outstretched hand, ‘Hellomyfriend. Whereareyoufrom?’
F-the-f-off, pal, I’m not in the mood. I take off.

I ride on to Azrou, bound to be worse there. Pull in at a Ziz with a resto, but can tell from the bloke’s face that he is normal. A sizzling chicken taj with a vachette on top for long life and many sons.
With a coffee, 3 quid. Keep the change, amilago.

Fes is near but I don’t fancy doing battle with that. Maybe somewhere on the outskirts? I pass a huge, flash Relais for Fes yuppies. Sod it, I’ve earned it. My rationale for roughing it (not that there’s always a choice) is that you can justify the odd splurge. Friendly folk, 300ds room-only, wifi’s out and telly controls indecipherable, but I cook up some room self-service. Fyi flavoured cous-cous is great travel food: just 200ml of boiling water then 3 mins stewing. Add some vachish and a tuna and you’re as good as fed.

When it’s over it’s over (except when it’s not, obviously) so, even though the clocks have gone forward, I try to make the 5 o’clock boat out of Tan Med. Should be doable if I press on. It’s springtime in the Rif, the warm air is like Nivea vapor and I’m finally out of the chilly mountains. My hands remained numb for days.
It’s not an easy ride from Fes via Ouazzane to Tan Med, hundreds of bends, more traffic, more roadside hazards and more aggressive driving compared to the laid back south. But the WR is humming away. I wouldn’t want anything faster – better brakes and SM tyres maybe.
I get to TanMed at 4 but there’s no 5 o’clock. Next boat is 8pm, there’s no wifi, a squall blows the bike over and settles into rain. The 8pm departure drags on to 9.30.
But I am nearly Out Of Dodge! No matter how much you may have enjoyed your travels, it sure is good to leave the AMZ and especially North Africa.
The stresses, frustrations and fatigue suppressed for nearly 4 weeks begin to bubble to the surface.
That, in a nutshell, is why they call it ‘adventure motorcycling’ and not a touring holiday with full RAC back up.

Leaving a port around midnight with the rain streaming down a bug-splattered visor and not knowing quite where you’re going is a recipe for riding into a ditch. But better this way coming back to familiar Costa del Sol than entering northern Morocco on the way out. Thanks heavens for my Montana. After a few false starts, I rock up at a hotel, not an expansive golf resort with ornamental marble ponies.
It’s late but matey is up and there is room at the inn.

Next morning the WR is can’t be stopped: was it breakfast? is it the softer, more humid air, no wind?
More like: the end is in sight.

I drop it off at Fly and Ride’s Malaga warehouse…

… then ditch the Bell in a bin and walk through the light-industrial roadside trash to the airport.
Job done!

m3acoverMorocco Overland

65 routes covering nearly 12,000km
• Includes scenic byways suitable for all vehicles, including motorhomes
• Guidance on 4×4, 2WD, moto or MTB choice and
• Off-road riding and driving tips
• Moroccan ferries, border procedures, port maps and fly-drive options
• Selected recommendations on places to stay
• GPX waypoint files to download


WR-ing about in Morocco – 8

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

Last night I tracked down the exact point where Jebel Sarhro ‘Double West’ picks up off the Nekob highway, near Tansikht.
I tried to find it a couple of years ago with a group, but failed. We did it coming down in 2013 – a spectacular afternoon’s ride up MH14 and down MH15.
Glad I left the Husky Terra at the auberge on that occasion and borrowed a Tornado. It’s heating up again – my body thermometer doesn’t know if it’s coming or going.
My Hyperpro suspension has softened a bit too, and I found my PLA (preload knob) was close to max.
I emailed Bas at HP and he suggested not upping the low speed comp (also now on max) but cranking up the rebound which I do in the shade of a palm. Who’d have known (turned out later they’d spec’d a way too soft spring for my weight, despite asking)
Those carpets are actually pretty heavy and, annoyingly, I filled right up at Agdz, instead of just a couple of litres to get me over. I’ll feel that extra weight on the hill.
Back home, I’ll screw the hydraulic PLA ring down on the shock body a bit and return the comp settings back to medium. With 4 settings it’s easy to get baffled by a high-end shock unless you RTFM.
But they sure do make a difference. My WR rides like my old 650X – there must be something to this progressive spring theory. With a hot back wind from the south, it’s a tough, 2500-foot climb over 10kms to this pass.

The bike grinds up in 1st and occasionally 2nd, and in places the exposure gets a little alarming.

I stop into the wind a couple of times to cool the motor and calm the nerves. Luckily, round the corner the track keeps its elevation along a saddle…

… to reach the plateau.

There are nomad tents with grazing sheep and patches of bright green cultivation against the barren rock. I pass this ruined agadir, or fortified storehouse.

I then reach the point where MH14 coming up from Nekob joins this route, but it looks like no one’s used it for a while.
I last did it 5 years ago on an F650GS (above) and a mate on a TTR. Now it’s becoming another abandoned track suited to light bikes looking for a challenge. F ‘650’ was a great bike; I wish they (or anyone) would make a light, 500cc version. Then, a few km on I suddenly join a wide, graded track. That wasn’t here last time. What a relief! I can finally relax for a bit. I’m all for off-roading, but that climb was a bit gnarly.
Surely they’re not building a road to the few hamlets up here?
More probably it’s another haul road put in by prospectors to extract Jebel Sarhro’s gold and other minerals.Down in this basin I follow the haul road skirting a village, but it has yet to breach the ridge. Lots of trucks, rock hammers and dead ends leading to quarries.

With the Garmin map I work my way back to the old village track, get over an antenna pass and carry on north.
It’s actually a very nice track, and I realise why. After storms, work parties from the villages re-cover bare stony sections with sand and gravel to smooth it over and spare the van transporters a hammering. Only useful village tracks get this sort of maintenance.

I recognise this knot of villages by the Oued Dades. Nearly over. I am pooped.

Suddenly I briefly plunge into a verdant oasis of trees and barley. After all the rough, rocky riding it’s quite mesmerising, a real tonic on the eyes.

I stop on the bridge to admire the washerwomen. It sure is nice to see greenery and water.

But as I reach the N10, before I’m even in neutral, I’m set upon by a teenager demanding money. The N10 is on what I call the Tourist Axis: Marrakech; Ouarzazate; Todra (do me a favour!); Erfoud; Merzouga (Chebbi), with branches down to Mhamid and up to Imilchil. A few years ago at Tinerhir there was a scam where they let fuel pumps run without actually dispensing fuel. (Harder to pull off on a bike with a translucent tank).
I ignore the rude boy and he goes back to work at the blacksmith nearby.
Keep off these axes and you’ll find another Morocco of genuine, friendly people.
There a Ziz nearby – lunch is 40d, a bit more than normal, and a bloke points me in the wrong direction for the toilet. Ya got me! [dickhead].

Time to head up the Dades valley – one long line of auberges and axis activities, but there are scenic views to be had.

Higher and higher I climb. I plan to stop away from the over-priced ‘hello-mister’ throng, at the very last village with the very last auberge before the main ascent tomorrow.

Tilmi. End of the road.

The Assaka auberge is basic, but Hussain cooks up a mean lamb tajine. A good one stews for two hours. He shows me his special, aromatic four-spice mix. Everyone had their own recipe.

Time to translate the day’s jottings into legible data.
Tomorrow one last piste then homeward bound.

Part 9  > > >

WR-ing about in Morocco – 7

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

 Leaving Tan Tan Plage. Up the coastal highway to Guelmim, then inland into the mountains where the skies are about to drop with a big crash.  

  I Rukka up. Not in a £1000 two-piece suit, but a classic 1980s PVC onesie off ebay for 40 quid.
If you positively, absolutely do not want to get wet (other than what runs down your neck), classic Rukka PVC is the best. Just be careful what you search for – some uses of Rukka PVC onesies are unorthodox and NSFW.  

I start climbing. It looks grim up there.

No PVC onesies for these two. Woollen jelabas rubbed with goat fat does just fine.

Between the downpours you can smell the scent of the herbs off the hillsides.
Riding a bike all day makes it easy to dodge food, but at this little village shop I pull in for some bread, cheese and yogs.

Laughing Cow – one of the great travel foods of Africa. You’ll find it all the way to the Cape and back.
Rumour has it Damien Hirst got his idea to pickle a cow in formaldehyde after finding a 15-year-old packet of Vache down the back of his sofa one night while on the munchies, and finding it tasted unnervingly fresh.

After Tafraoute the road climbs steeply onto the western Anti Atlas. It gets bleak and darn chilly.
I watch the elevation rise to over 1900m or 6200’ and get colder and colder and colder.

Back again at the basic Igherm hotel – 7 quid rooms. If the footie was on there’d be standing room only in the bar, but it’s just some bint reading the news.
Luckily, hot chorba (soup) is on. I get two bowls worth then retire to my cell to warm up from the inside.

Next morning – chilly – but WR fires up on the button. I love that about efi.

Down the road towards the High Atlas.

In Taliouine I decide I’ll try the Jebel Sirwa transit (MH7), seeing as I’ve not done it for years.

I ride the switchbacks up to Askaoun. A few kms out of town is a rough sign for Anzal.

Last time I did this route I met two locals in a VW Golf, but the track is a lot rougher than I remember – a bad sign as it means it’s no longer used by locals. Sure enough I get to the gorge and the track is now a streambed. A fourbie could crawl over this in Low 1st and so could I, but alone, I decide not to risk it. As many of us know well, it takes just one unlucky fall-over to do in a shoulder.

Instead, back at Askaoun I turn west. They’ve sealed the other half of MH7 – a lovely spring afternoon’s ride down to…

… the dam which is brimming over with a winter’s rain.

Another £1 vache stop at the village shop. A couple of KTMs and a DRZ shoot by. The first bikes I’ve seen.

It’s pizza night at the Bab Sahara in Tazenacht! The staff dress up like pantomime gondoliers and Pavarotti booms from the speakers. “Just one Cornetto… Give it to meee”.

Tazenacht is a normal market town and a great place to buy Berber carpets at good prices and zero hassle. I can’t resist a couple.
That’s £120 quid’s worth – a lot of money really, but all dyed and woven by hand.
I only hope the women who weave them out in the villages on the Issil plane get their fair share, but I doubt it.

Just another photogenic ruined mudbrick kasbah off the Oued Draa valley.

The dam up at Ouarzazate releases water daily to irrigate the gardens and palmeries all the way down to Mhamid on the Algerian border. Produce, eggs and meat as fresh as you like (vachish excepted).

I pull in at Tamnougalte. Tomorrow I’ll try a gnarly new way over Jebel Sarhro, then over the High Atlas and home.

Part 8  > > >

WR-ing about in Morocco – 6

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco 4000-km trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

So where were we? Leaving Smarai.

I pull in for cheap fuel. In Western Sahara they subsidise it by 30% (as well as cooking oil, sugar and flour) to encourage northerners (like the bloke in the cafe last night) to relocate among the indigenous Saharawi in the middle of nowhere and help consolidate Morocco’s stake on its part of the former Spanish territory it occupied in the 1970s.
Matey here by his ancient Landrover told me he was an extra in Harry Potter III. There are loads of these old Series IIIs in WS, used by nomads to move from camp to camp, wherever the pasture is.

More wind-trees. Handy for nav: they always point south.

Talking of south, in 2015 I had some fuel buried in the WS – a place I call the Dig Tree. One of my aims on this trip had been to take an ambitious ride right through inland WS to Dakhla. This would have been 600km with very little likelihood of seeing anyone or anything; not even sure where the wells are. A fuel cache halfway made this less risky. Until things get desperate, fuel is always more important than water.

I even brought my 10L fuel bag. The WR has proved reliable and easy to ride so far. Even with my worst recorded consumption of 71 mpg (25kpl; usually high 80s mpg) I could just make Dakhla on tank + 10 litres carried, without digging up the cache.

I reach my marker on the Smara road and follow the track south for a few kms. But even though the weather is 10° cooler (= reduced water consumption), it’s clear that heading to the Dig Tree alone across unfamiliar terrain would be nuts. As I now know well, all it takes is one sandy oued to spanner things up. And the tension of keeping it together for two days or more would not make it at all enjoyable. I have been there and I have done that.

Out of curiosity I call up the Dig Tree waypoint. Only 200 clicks, south by southwest.
I’ll head for the Dig Tree, another time. But not alone on a moto.

Further on down the road, tucked in against the usual headwind, I spot the famous Bou Craa phosphate belt. Part of Morocco’s motive to grab WS was to get its hands on the largest reserve of phosphate in the world (or so I read in the internet).

The belt (or series of belts) runs some 100km towards the coast, bridges the N1 highway and dumps the rubble at a deepwater jetty south of Layounne.

I inspect the half-inch-thick belt and polished rollers. If the rozzers caught me looking and taking photos of this they’d flip their lid. I was told later it only runs of windless days so the phosphate doesn’t end up like the trees.

Someone very generously offers me a stay in their house in Layounne. I get my laundry done, am fed like a fois gras goose and catch up on admin.

The house is on the very edge of the city, overlooking the Saguia el Hamra (‘red river’).

Recent storms (which brought on the desert wildflowers), broke through this dam-bridge on the N1 highway into Layounne.

Hold on, I’m going the wrong way if I want to take the new coast road north to Tarfaya, not the main N1 desert highway. The Garmin map puts me right. It’s a marvel to have routeability in the desert.
Initially the coast backroad is not so interesting.

Lots of grubby fishing shacks and the Atlantic.

I pull into the lee of a barchan (crescent) dune on its southward march. Yes, it’s a new direction now but the headwinds adjust themselves. What gets me is why don’t all the barchans end up in Mauritania? It’s the mystery of dunes – or maybe the Atlas mountains are a huge reserve of raw rock to grind down into grains.

Diggers keep rogue dunes off the road.

Trucks use this road, as it bypasses the steep climb in and out of Layounne if headed far south.

Up ahead I spot a strange thing in the sea, is it an island? Turns out to be the famous beached Armas ferry which ran aground a few years ago.

Iirc, it was to serve a a route to the Canaries which lay less than 100km northwest, but it didn’t make it past it’s maiden voyage. Smells a bit of a fishy insurance job. Plus a ferry to Spanish Canaries would bring up all sort of issues with migrants trying to get to Europe. Up north, Tan Med port is like Alcatraz. So are the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Tarfaya was known as Cape Juby in the French era, a refuelling stop on the early Aeropostale service to Dakar (or St Louis) in Senegal. St Exupery wrote of it evocatively in Wind Sand & Stars mentioned earlier – an existentialist classic, fyi. He would have been based in the white fort behind the monument.
St Ex was lost at sea during WWII and they built this plane sculpture in commemoration, but it looks a bit crap, like a big toy. Maybe its supposed to; he also wrote the famous Little Prince childrens’ book about a pilot lost in the desert (as happened to St Ex one time). Its one of the most read or translated books in the world which I finally read recently. I didn’t get it; W, S&S was more my thing.

And just off shore there it is: the famous Mackenzie trading post set up by an enterprising Scot in the late 19th C. Built on a tidal reef, if was perhaps exempt from taxes, or at least immune to Reguibat raids.

This is how it looked back in the day. I approach the ruin for a better picture. Locals boys are gallivanting on the rocks and, seeing my camera, assume I’m some sort of perv. They start shouting and throwing rocks: ‘Fak-off, peado-scum!!’
I ignore the onslaught; they don’t realise I’m much more fascinated in the historical monument behind them than their skimpy beachwear. Been wanting to see this place for years, a few jibes won’t stop me. I get my shot and scarper before they call the police. Mackenzie cooked up a bat-shit scheme to flood the Sahara so freighters could sail to Timbuktu. Read more about that here.

Up the road I pull in for the last cheap fuel in Afkhenir. Normally I try to skip lunch, but after the generous gorging in Layounne my stomach has expanded and will take a day or two to re-shrink. I order an omelette, the guys suggests fish. Oh, go on then, I’m right by the seaside after all.

He yanks a sole out of the fridge, grills it and brings it over with lots of lemon. Seven quid for a whole battered sole with side salad. Quite a lot but well worth it for a treat.

A fisherman drops in with his catch and rests his Moby on a plank.

Just up the road is the Gouffre Afkhenir, a collapsed sea cave fenced off right by the road.

Below the cliff edge the heavy Atlantic swell is booming against the wave-worn cavities, crashing in and rebounding in all directions. Nice to watch. Hypnotic.
That’s a radar station on top. I think they built the new whiter one back from the edge a bit, just it case it got ‘gouffred’.

Where shall I stay tonight? I can go back to the place in Tan Tan, but that would be too easy. Let’s see what El Ouatia, right by the sea, has to offer? Hotel de France? That will do nicely. 230d half board, great wi fi and a nice Spanish-continental ambience and old-school waiter. (Spanish influence still persists on this coast).
They help me push my bike up the steps for the night.

And proper coffee too. Nice spot.

Part 7  > > >