We're returning to Morocco in November 2019 for a five-day desert tour with our long-term partners Moto Aventures and you're all invited.
This will be the fifth Sideburn trip to Morocco. Following on from this March's forthcoming women only tour, this one is gender non-specific, open to anyone.
This is a challenging tour, but it is not aimed at expert enduro or desert riders. Competent riders who can deal with a variety of surfaces have the skills to complete this tour.
Sideburn partners with MotoAventures, a specialist company who has been running Morocco trips for over 20 years. By joining the Moto Aventurers’ Sideburn trip you benefit from being in a group of likeminded individuals all on the same wavelength, so even if you sign up on your own you’re going to be in a group of new friends from day one. How do we know? It’s just how it happens on the Sideburn collab trips. We’ve done three in Morocco (soon to be four) and three in the Himalayas, and strong, global friendships have formed from every one of them.
You fly into Marrakesh no later than 2pm on 5th November (UPDATE - arrive before 2pm on the 4th and Moto Aventures are offering a FREE day of riding an accommodation for this tour only. Email for details). You can extend your trip at either end at your own expense and we can recommend gorgeous riads to stay in if you want more time away in either Marrakech or on the coast. Just let us know.
We organise a transfer from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate by minibus. We’ll either pick you up at your hotel in Marrakech (time to be confirmed), or at the airport at 3pm. Once at our base hotel in Ouarzazate you’ll meet the Moto Aventures crew, be introduced to your KTM, have a group meal and get to know your fellow riders and the support and guide team in the hotel. The next day you ride!
The accommodation is a mixture, ranging from a 200-year-old Kasbah, top tourist hotels and an exclusive night in a traditional Bedouin camp in the shadow of the dunes. (with proper showers and toilet blocks).
After five days of riding, you will have one more night in Ouarzazate before transferring back to Marrakech to fly home or continuing your break if you wish. The transfer will leave around 09.00 from Ouarzazarte and if flying back the same day you need to allow 4 hours for the transfer plus 2 hours for check in, so go for a departure from 17.00 onwards. Those staying in Marrakech will be dropped off at their hotels.
GOOD BUT IMPORTANT
Moto Aventures differs from the vast majority of tour companies because every bike is fitted with its own Garmin satnav that has every metre of every day’s route inputted, you follow the purple line and read the terrain. That means you can ride at a pace that is comfortable to you, no need to get stressed trying to stay on someone’s back wheel or be isolated and have to guess at desert crossroads. The group splits up into smaller ones with the faster riders leading and other smaller groups coming behind. In this way everyone travels at their own pace. We ask that minimum two people travel together so they can help each other if needed.
If you want to stop for a photo or a rest, do it, knowing that you’ll meet up with the group at the next designated stop. Alternatively, if you ride at a quick pace you can. Just stay safe and get to the next regrouping point given by the guide. Remember the support vehicle follows a short way behind on the same route as the bikers, to sort any bike issues out.
There is a fully equipped support vehicle, complete with mechanic, that transports your luggage during the day. All you need to carry is your Camelbak and camera.
This trip is for confident riders. The trip is almost 90% off-road, so some off-road riding experience is highly recommended. You don’t have to be a Dakar-level hero, but decent bike handling skills are essential. The terrain can catch people out if they ride beyond their limits or become over-confident. For some reason, we think this is less likely with a women-only group than a mainly male group, but Morocco can bite if you get it wrong.
Nothing will prepare you for riding in the dunes, except riding in the dunes. It’s wonderful and surreal and tiring and unforgettable, and Moto Aventures’ own Johnny Maroc will guide you in this alien landscape, giving tips and guidance if needed and not push you further than you, or he, thinks is safe and appropriate.
During the riding days there are regular meal and drink stops in memorable locations, some with pools to cool off in. The hotels have swimming pools too.
· Nearly 90% off road
· Spectacular trails combined with dramatic mountain landscapes and awesome views
· Beautiful winding trails, gorges, rocky climbs, and some big wash-outs. Beware!
· 2500m mountain passes with spectacular scenery
· River crossings - with and without water
· Sandy river beds & vast dry lake beds
· Isolated mountain villages
· A night out under the stars at our desert bivouac with campfire and local musicians – 90km from nearest road!
· Excellent accommodation
· Good food, with plenty of veggie options.
· Alcohol available every night, even in our desert bivouac!
5th to 11th November 2019
You must arrive at Marrakech airport no later than 14.00 on 5th November. In the past, very early arrivers have taken a cab into Marrakech for breakfast and a quick explore and transferred from there. The departure of the transfer bus will normally be planned for around 15.00 from the airport and it takes a good hour to get through the airport.
Return flights should be late afternoon/evening departures to allow for the transfer time from Ouarzazate on the 11th, or stay an extra night in Marrakech.
€2015 based on two sharing a room. Single supplement is €150
This trip is marketed by Sideburn, but operated solely by Moto Aventures Europe SL.
To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A 30% deposit is to be paid at the time of booking and is accepted as part of the total cost of the tour and will not be refunded unless the applicant cannot be offered a place. The balance of the total cost for the tour must reach Moto Aventures no later than EIGHT weeks before the tour date, and you will receive an auto reminder by email for this.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE PRICE
Six night’s accommodation (based on two people)
Five days riding
Bike rental of late-model, meticulously maintained KTM 450 enduro bikes with free GPS installed.
Transfers to and from Marrakech
Full board and drinking water during the day’s riding (soft drinks & alcohol extra)
Fully equipped support vehicle with mechanical back-up
Personal travel insurance (must include repatriation cover. Email if you need details)
Helmet, boots, goggles and gloves.
Money for alcohol, souvenirs, etc. Reckon €50 unless you’re a big drinker…
A 1000€ returnable deposit against bike and/or GPS damage.
Here is the full itinerary...
7 DAYS TOTAL - 5 DAYS BIKING.
Day 1 - Arrival at Ouarzazate airport and transfer to our 4* hotel in the town. (About 5 minutes away.)
Day 2 - (approx. 186kms)
Breakfast. Final briefing, and departure for Dades. After refuelling the bikes its straight off-road, 20Kms across a flat plateau and it’s into a sandy and twisting riverbed. From there it’s undulating, fast sections interspersed with rocky trails winding their way through major washouts and gullies. Picnic lunch somewhere up on the plateau. 10kms on road and then onto a beautiful, narrow, sinuous mountain track – so narrow and steep in places that the support vehicle can find it difficult - before we come back out for the final 8kms on road down the fertile Dades Gorge, taking us to our night’s accommodation.
We are staying in a 4* hotel with unusual local decor and spectacular views across the Dades valley towards the High Atlas, offering spacious accommodation and plentiful buffet meals.
Day 3 – (approx. 250 kms)
Leave hotel after breakfast and depart for Merzouga.
The first 30kms are south of Dades on a flat plateau that leads us into the Jbel Saghro mountain range. This range of mountains is arguably the most beautiful in Morocco. Very twisting, well prepared tracks with stunning views are waiting to be ridden. 100kms after the days start we stop for a coffee break on the main road joining Alnif in the south with Tinerhir in the north. After coffee it’s a further 60kms to lunch at an auberge (Moroccan inn) close to the desert village of Mcissi. We refuel in Mcissi then it’s off again through the Moroccan desert on some fast, sinuous trails. We navigate by GPS through small dunes and dry riverbeds and visit the unusual constructions of The Orion’s Star and the Stairway to the Stars both designed by a German architect out in the middle of the desert. Particular care to be taken on this section.
We stay in a family owned small desert lodge at the foot of the biggest dunes in Morocco
Day 4 – (approx. 100 kms)
Breakfast and we will attempt to reach the top of the highest "cathedral" dune. After lunch in the lodge, it’s off to the desert bivouac - starting with hard packed winding tracks to a large dry sandy riverbed crossing. Then it’s onto very pleasant, fast winding, sandy trails. Loads of Acacia trees and for those who know East Africa you could be there – just missing the giraffes and elephants – and on to tonight’s accommodation in our pleasant Berber bivouac with hot showers, situated close to a large area of middle sized dunes.
In the late afternoon/early evening, once the sand has cooled down, weather permitting those wanting more biking can go and play in the dunes or alternatively walk to the top.
Campfire and local “Tamtam” (drummers) in the evening.
Day 5 – (approx. 220 kms)
Breakfast and another chance to play in the dunes before we head out across the desert towards Remlia where we refuel the bikes from the village shop using old wine bottles (no health and safety considerations here). The 28Kms from Remlia to the small hamlet of M'harech where we stop for lunch is 'fesh fesh' (a very soft powder not unlike cement dust). This section can be quite a challenge. From here we turn North across a very flat plateau on super-fast twisting tracks that wind around all the flat topped hills and Acacia trees that dominate this area (those of you wanting to attempt some of the numerous sandy dunes that are formed by the wind piling up the sand against these rocky formations are welcome). Don't get any air though; it’s not sand waiting on the other side but big, gnarly rocks. In the town of Tazzarine we refuel and have a drink before setting out on our last 50Kms of the day that brings us out at a viewpoint just above the village of N'Kob before we carry on to our 3* hotel which is a renovated Kasbah.
Day 6 - (approx. 205kms)
Breakfast, refuel and we are off again. 8Kms of deeply rutted sandy riverbed will warm you up for the days ride up and over the Jbel Saghro mountain range for the second time on this tour, but a different route. Very beautiful, rocky tracks with truly amazing views south over 'Monument' valley and north towards the Atlas Mountains before bringing us to Skoura where we have lunch at a small Moroccan restaurant.
The last 105kms of track into Ouarzazate take us into the foothills of the Atlas before turning south down a black sandy riverbed and into our garage where Hussein (our mechanic) will check over your bike for damages.
Day 7 - Transfer back to Marrakech airport/hotel.
NOTE: At all times we will try to maintain this itinerary but due to accommodation availability, weather or general conditions the company might have to alter part of it.
Photos: Sam Christmas and Andy Baker