Tag Archives: Morocco Overland 3

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.

Comfort
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.

Performance
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.

Suspension
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.

Loading
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.

Equipment
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.

Conclusion
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
preparation
• 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

m3bander

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 and borrowed a Tornado.It’s heating up again – my body thermometre 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.
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 pass 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.

WR-ing about in Morocco – 5

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

I drop down, turn west and and plough into the oued, hoping for the best, but it’s not going to happen. Soon I’m paddling madly in first, like something out of a Roadrunner cartoon, engine screaming. The temp gauge reaches 134°C. Normally 100-110.
With vigorous paddling and feathering the throttle I  j u s t  manage to keep creeping forward. On firmer terrain the bike grabs traction and leaps ahead, then sinks at the next soft patch. The rear spins, the clutch creaks, I’m panting and my mouth is parched.
I inch towards some shade to let it all cool down. This shouldn’t be this hard – I’ve made a mistake somewhere. Those nomads upstream use old landrovers and wouldn’t camp in such a hard-to-reach place.

I set off on foot to try to find the track or recce a firm, rideable route. I’ve been lured in by a couple of car tracks – a common mistake to make when the way ahead isn’t clear. Thorny acacias and stony river banks limit options, but I work out a way to the south bank where I want to be.

Back at the bike I drop pressures to 1 bar – it can make a huge difference. I’ll need it as a 250 lacks the grunt of a 600 to hook up on soft sand.
Suddenly it’s all got a bit challenging, but if I ride short sections then rest, recover and cool the motor, I’ll make it out in a hour or two. Plus there are waterholes and even nomads if something like the fuel pump goes wrong.

Before setting off I suck down one of these gels; they were going cheap on Wiggle. I’m not usually into this stuff but it’s worth a go. The soft tyres transform the bike: traction makes faster forward progress – actual riding not paddling – and less spinning and revving and more airflow = less heat: win-win.
I climb onto the south bank and ride gingerly among the rocks on the flat tyres, working my way along the valley

I find and follow a stretch of track but it soon ends in a huge mound of flood-churned sand by a big waterhole (MW6-KM256). I set off on another foot recce to see if it gets better or worse and like they do, a nomad pops out of the scrub. Another tourist in a pickle, and he’d be right.
We do the greeting thing then I ask him “Hawza? [nearby army base]. Piste?”
He points across a spit of sand bridging the waterhole where the track once was (above; Bing image below).
That’ll do me. I check it for firmness as I already trod in some quicksand. I start the bike, reach the waterhole and shoot over, but see no track on the far bank. Sod it, I take off up the rocky hillside to cut the last bend in the oued, hoping the soft tyres don’t pinch.
Elevation is always useful when lost: from the top I see the track continuing south across the stony plain towards a pass.

Two years later I was in the same place on the Himalayan and with a 4×4. I’d made much less of a mess of the oued, but this time the gorge was a dry mass of deep sandy ruts which the bike would definitely not manage. I aired-down the rear and tried to walk and push around, but the torque of the heavy bike had the chain slipping on the front sprocket. Not a good sound. Luckily the two in the car saw me panting like a dog, came back and helped push me across. Once back on firmer sand, I took off over the stony hill, as I’d done with the WR. Alone, I suppose I’d have managed eventually, as I did on the WR. The trick is knowing when to stop and rest and drink – every couple of minutes if necessary. Don’t burn yourself out – a frazzled brain makes mistakes.

mw6km256The sandy gorge from hell, as seen on Bing aerial.

Gnarly episode over, I air up with my trusty Cycle Pump. Generally I don’t mess around with tyre pressures too much, but that oued needed 15psi.

And very soon I reach another thing I’d forgotten about – an amazing view from the escarpment down to the chott (dry lake bed). If you have edition 2 of Morocco Overland you’ll see a picture of a 101 camper which stripped its gearbox trying to get up this steep climb.

That’s the climb from the base. Even on the WR it would be an all-or-nothing launch to get up it.

Behold the sun-baked chott. Surely, no more dramas.

On the chott. Like the famous Bolivian Salar, but without the electrics-eating salt.

Like you do, I get a bit carried away, looping some loops, but realise I need to head for some specific Dakar mounds on the south side to reach the track to the road.
Soon I’m back on the blacktop, the continuation of the restricted border road I was turned back from at Zag.

 

It’s another two hours to Smara. I pass a turn-off for the remote shrine of old Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Rguibi, the ancestral Yemeni forefather who led his people to this promised land, 500 years ago. The Arab Reguibat are the dominant tribe among the Saharawi nomads of Western Sahara.

Smara: road’s end at the Polisario front line, but looking quite prosperous for a garrison town. I roll up and down the high street and spot a few rough-looking joints.
I brace myself and pick the ‘Golden Sands’. The bloke in the office picking his nose is a bit bemused to see a sweaty Nasrani (‘Nazarene’ or Christian; ie: foreigner). Nevertheless he leads me to a windowless cell resembling a deleted scene from Homeland: a heavily soiled mattress and a dim bulb hanging on bare wires. Oh well, I’ve lodged as bad in Pakistan and elsewhere, and it’s only one night and three quid.
I’m just unpacking when the boss rocks up.
‘Come on mate, you can’t sleep here. Look at it, it’s shit!. Let us take you to a nicer place over the road. They got showers and everythink.’

Over the road feels a bit odd. My room has walls lacquered in ripe pig’s blood sprinkled with sequins, plus a matching satin duvet. And out in the corridor a highly scented lady gives the place the ambience of a knocking shop. Not sure this is what the g-friend had in mind when I told her I was off for some WR-ing about in Morocco.


I go for a wander and see a sign for Tfariti on the other side of the Berm, in the Polisario Free Zone. The Dakar Rally used to cross here to get to nearby Mauritania, but I always wondered how that was negotiated. Since the actual fighting ended, Morocco has pursued a full-time propaganda war against the Polisario, with all sorts of fake websites making out they’re pork-eating, drug-taking smugglers and terrorists.


As always in these towns, I have trouble recognising a place to eat. Cafes packed with blokes watching football while twiddling their smartphones over a fag are everywhere, but they only serve tea or coffee.
People stare at me: ‘how did he get here?’
I try a couple of places – “sorry mate, we repair typewriters” – then stumble into this place, rough as a granite toothbrush.
‘Got anything to eat?’
‘Sure, take a seat.’

My brochette arrives. One thing I like about these basic places is the total lack of pretension, a genuine welcome plus the food is cooked right in front of you so you know what you’re getting – not yesterday’s warm-overs.
Ok, so there’s no fork to pull the brochettes off the skewer. He sees me struggling, comes over and just grabs the meat with his fist and pulls them off the skewers. That’ll work!

Smara by night.

Meanwhile a spy informs me my publisher was spotted at the London Book Fair, spreading the word.

Part 6  > > >

WR-ing about in Morocco – 3

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

I’m testing prototypes of Kriega’s new OS32 panniers on a Tusk rack. All good so far: rack is solid, bags are massive and rugged, strap on securely and easily via a plate, but come off with minimal faff too.
On a par with Magadan throwovers, but secure fitting included.

Mitas MC23 Rockriders not doing so well after ~2000km, but what do you expect from a knobby? Fine on the road and great to have grip in the dirt – means you can relax more and saved me many times

El Bouriat – the Marie Celeste of the Sands.

I swing off MW6 northwards and ride crossing-county to pick up MW3 at the base of the jebel. This is real ‘off-road’ riding – fun but can get technical, so (at my age) a light bike is ideal to stave off exhaustion.

Back on the pistes. I recall this spot from 2008 in the Mazda.

I pass through an old fortified berm from the Polisario war. In fact there are still landmines hereabouts, I learn later. Cross-country riding was not such a good idea.

It’s darn hot – mid-30s? In Assa I hop in the town trough for s splash-down.
Ten minutes later I’m sweating like a kipper again.

The incongruous gateway to Aouinat Lahna

Newly born camies

I spend a windy night in an old pump house

Ancient pictograph of the the original one horse power.

The best thing with camping is it gets you on the road early – ideal when its hot.

Cool ride to Aouinat Igoumane – that’s route MW3.

The new road ends at the mosque by the oasis. Pass through the gap in the hills and carry on west

The abandoned fort of Ayoun du Draa

There’s a lovely spring here; water as fresh as you like. On this trip I’m trying to avoid bottled water. Just like at home, tap water is fine (except Foum Zguid and other low-elevation desert towns).

The WRs horn could not hoot its way out of a wet paper bag

Track gets a bit rough up to Ain Kerma pass. Coastal ‘fog’ vegetation begins.

From here you can see the coastal dunes.

And I”m back in the Oued Draa riverbed, but now just a few miles from its estuary into the Atlantic.

Tan Tan by night – unrecognisable since my last stay in ’97.

£2.50? That will do nicely. I have not been eating enough. But then at home I eat too much, so waistband harmony ought to be restored.

I tried to get to Es Semara (Smara) via El Mahbes but got turned back at Zag.
Will try Smara again via Mseid along an old Dakar piste, then swing up on Laayoune (or maybe even Dakhla) from the interior. Inch allah.

Part 4  > > >