Sideburn Sahara 2016
Words: Andy Baker/Randy Faker
"I haven't seen the others are they lost? Do you need a crap, can you keep going?"
48 hours earlier... We exchange pleasantries and clink beers for the fun holiday ahead, Casablanca lager brings smiles all round. We are introduced to the Boss. He starts the briefing in SAS style 'OK lads, blah, this is real, blah. Don't do wheelies, Don't get hurt because you can die. Out here, hospitals have blood on the sheets and shit on the walls" (or was it the other way round?)
After a nervous nights sleep (not helped by Moroccan grade 1 hash) we meet in the shiny garage. It's bike assignment, KTM 450, 450, 450, you 500, 450, 450, 'Why do I have to be Mr Pink' stuff. Mr White launches off the hotel steps and Mr Blue follows suit. The rest of us roll down. Adjusting armour, stroking our respective logo jerseys and GoPro'ing everything.
Day 1 is 200kms of mountain tracks rocky roads and stunning scenery. It all happens quickly and skills are tested, Road, flat track or Motocross but this is trail.
By supper it's clear who is a pro and who is slow. Beer and whiskey flows with Dakar style stories. We hardly notice the stunning hotel and great food.
Day 2: Captain Confidence delivers another attack plan. Today is 300km, 100 more than yesterday. Confidence is high so we speed up and... BANG! The first real injury. Adam goes off route and hits a river bank at 80kph. He dismounts in a spinning horse vault double-tuck-flip-flop, without Olga Korbut's grace, I miss him by inches. He has royally knackered his hand and cannot go on.
Water is as essential as petrol, forget to drink and... In the afternoon I take an alternative route, watched by my close friend who assumes I am location scouting. I return later a shell of my former self having climbed (with my KTM) a rocky outcrop in hope of returning to the map. Shaky and dehydrated I decline the post-ride beer and vomit in a new, beautiful hotel room. The sheets had an amazing thread count and the light switches are near the bed.
Day 3 is DUNE day, the highlight of our journey. So 15 minutes into the day Dustin has a major crash. If he had not been wearing a neck brace he might not have come home. We fix his face, strap up his wrist and put him back in the saddle. Name changed and John Wayne rides again. We reach the dunes in midday sun. Tyre pressures are low but the mood is high. Riding dunes is like bowl riding, you have to go down to get speed for the up, but stop before you fly over the lip. It is both exhausting and exhilarating in equal measures. Eric carves them like the pro he is. We take a break, Captain Courageous prepares the elite for an assault on the summit. I know it was good, I saw the photos. The Sideburn boss wanted out, but his carer didn't care, so now he's in the A team. We reach camp for sunset beers on top of more magical dunes, too exhausted to acknowledge the exfoliating sand, aching muscles or dehydrated diarrhoea bodies. It was the best of times.
We awake in a Bedouin camp. It rained through the tents overnight, but no one cared. In fact, it is great, the best night's sleep anyone has. Tents are rad, yeah.
Breakfast briefing Captain Cccccc declares the danger is over, people rarely crash on days 4 and 5. So, into the desert we go and our illustrious leader has a bad crash, two busted wrists and a popped shoulder, we now come to his rescue, Lachy straps him up and Chukka administers just the right amount of something to get him chatting with fairies. We push on without him and have another amazing day of technical tracks and vast open spaces. I blow a rear tyre in a sandstorm and take shelter in a prickle bush. Lachy waits with me and we laugh that it's a Sunday afternoon, I'd probably be sitting on the couch at home. Saeid the mechanic arrives in the Land Rover and makes a rally style pit stop completely ignoring the sandstorm. To him its just the norm! 'Go go go!' he shouts and we power off in the wrong direction. An hour later (having found our way) we are riding through rain and the red clay is so slippery the support trucks can't follow. The surfaces change numerous times and catch a few people out. Chukka gets bruises on his bruises, The one blooming in his butt crack is tagged the Desert Rose.
Day 5 it rains. It rained during the night and it doesn't look like stopping. The first leg is up and over a mountain range, the path is washed out, rutted and visibility is low. It was tricky stuff but Dusty (John Wayne) rode the entire bloody thing one handed! Hats off to you bro' that was a challenge. The valley is waterlogged and could make great footage had I not lost my new GoPro to the Gods of Speed. Captain Calamity instructs 'No one cross a river, wait and we cross in a group; which we all totally ignore and power wheelie through anything watery. Unfortunately for Wen it doesn't go so well and he is renamed Nemo. Luckily Lachy finds him! After a life more aquatic the rain eases and we have kilometres of smooth, gravel quarry roads. If you like riding flat track this is the treat, throttle pinned and arse sliding oh joy. Suddenly, as if by magic a shopkeeper appears! Oh shit we are back, no no it can't end. I enter the hotel and face the steps we rolled down on day 1. Without hesitation I gas the KTM and land on the top step a new improved rider.
Thanks Sideburn/MotoAventures those memories will last a lifetime.
If you'd like more information about Sideburn's Morocco or Himalayas tours, please email us.
UPDATE: The 2017 Sideburn Morocco trip has been announced. Click to read more.
Photos: Xxxxx xxxx