Travis in dirtbike utopia
As I lay on a cold and dirty concrete floor going in and out of sleep, my stomach cramping from a nasty bought of Portuguese airport pub food revenge, I was not at all the least bit bummed out. I had just had the most unreal experience of going as fast as I dared on a 2016 KTM 500 for five straight days through Dakar rally stages, great big Saharan sand dunes, and some amazing Moroccan countryside. I believe that the moto gods created Morocco as a utopian dirtbike paradise.
I knew my trip was going to be good when we arrived at the MotoAventures home base and upon the briefing of our ten rider group, Johnny, our African born, man of the world, moto version of Clint Eastwood leader informed me that due to his injury from his last Sideburn tour was not going to be able to guide us and instead I was to be the guide. Holy cow, I thought, We are all going to die.
Luckily Johnny has been running MotoAventures tours for over 20 years and like a MacGyver/Crocodile Dundee. He always knows exactly what to do. He had given every bike a nice GPS device and was going to follow us in a Land Rover to pick up the broken bodies and bent, mangled motorcycles. So I was given the freedumb to ride as fast and far as I wanted to the next fuel stop or hotel or wherever the GPS took me. Sweet!
So we all fuelled up on sans plomb (unleaded, green handle) and made sure everybody's GoPro was dialled in and took off out into the desert. The first vehicle I saw was an army tank. After identifying it as such I stopped riding directly at it. For the first few days I struggled with my role of guide/ group ambassador. My desert racing background has left me as scared of dust as a cat is of a full bathtub. I tried to ride a subdued pace but some of my fellow Colorado buddies seemed to want to ride hard to keep up with me. One of them severely dislocated his thumb but managed to ride the whole trip with a mangled and swollen hamburger paw. I finally decided that my dust would not be anybody else’s problem and just opened it up and hammered down pretending I was actually riding a Dakar rally. We would meet up at scenic spots were I could peel away from my inner desert racer and take in the amazing scenery. We met up for provided lunch (usually stewed and roasted meats with vegetables served in ceramic ant hill looking baking pots called tagine). We laughed and some teased me about my stupid speeds. We enjoyed stories of each other’s moments of greatness. It was a fun social trip but on a whole it was very personal and something I enjoyed mostly solo.
Day three and four were spent mostly riding sand dunes. Some dunes were over 300m (1000ft) high. The wind was blowing and conditions were not ideal but it was like nothing I have ever done on a dirtbike. Johnny, our guide, had to saddle up and show us how to ride dunes as one could get very hurt or lost in the massive out of this world landscape. Johnny, the former Dakar racer, wearing work boots and no helmet, thoroughly impressed me with his skills. It was very apparent that he had a lot of experience riding. After the dunes we spent a night in a bivouac. The wind howled through the camel hair tents and filled everything we owned with sand. This was probably my favourite part of the whole trip. The clean hotels with their fancy pools and jacuzzi tubs were nice but the organic conditions of the bivouac made me feel less of a tourist and more at home.
The riding was challenging and most of it very fast with plenty of danger. By the fifth day our group had two broken wrists, one dislocated thumb, and one badly blown up knee. I fared well with my desert racing experience but the universe keeps its balance so on my flight home I had a 20 hour layover in Lisbon which I mostly spent violently excreting my guts out and curled up on concrete floors. The yin and the yang. I had more fun in Morocco than I think one dirtbike bum should ever expect to have in a lifetime, so I sure hope to make it back to the moto off-road Mecca again.
Words: Travis Newbold
Photos: Adam McCarty @york.st
If you would like to go on future Sideburn adventures, to Morocco or the Himalayas, please email us for more details.
Photos: Xxxxx xxxx
Photos: Adam McCarty @york.st