September Adventure: (Press Trip)
Europe to Africa by Bullet and Continental GT
by Ed Adams (LMA Director)
For five days in September, this was the call we answered. The two directors of Royal Enfield tour operator Legendary Motorcycle Adventures, and two journalists looking for copy. Four 'bikes: Chrome bullet Classic, Desert Storm (Special Low), and two Continental GT's, followed by a 22 year old Range Rover support vehicle. The formula was simple: a rough route plan, and the serendipity which comes from being self-contained. Canvas swags to sleep in, Kelly Kettles to cook on, and a small group for whom the journey trumps the destination. Modest daily mileages, amiable pow-wows to share objectives and experiences, and the leitmotif of trusty thump from the laconic Enfield motors.
Arriving by ferry always adds to the journey, a chance to enact that wonderful word: 'disembarkation' , to let your tyres kiss the tarmac of new lands, and to fumble through your jacket pockets to find your passport! Arriving as evening fell, we followed the coast road from Tangier Med port, through Tetouan (rain?! who ordered rain?) to climb the Rif Mountains for a first night in a charming lodge.
Dawn showed the majesty of our surroundings, setting alight the red cliffs and tenacious scrub, and we lingered over breakfast before plunging on to Chefchaouen, the Blue City of the Rif. A great choice for those deterred by the claustrophobia of larger medinas, 'Chaouen' alleyways afford mountain views, and the townis permeated by the smell of worked cedar wood, of spice and tagine.
These consumed, we rolled on, down the N13 to Moulay Idriss, and a wild camp among olive trees, with a view of Volubilis Roman city below. Opulent farmland is still worked in part by mule-drawn ploughs, so we can share a Roman view, but are glad we travel on Bullets instead of sandals.
We continued to ride South the following day, down through Meknes (what computer game can compete with negotiating a city on a motorcycle?), then the climb into the Eastern High Atlas through Azrou - Africa, too, has its' hill stations! Our aim is to find a wild camp site in the Atlas Cedar forest - also familiar to Himalayan hands. Late in the day, we leave the tarmac and strike out across a mini-Mongolian plateau towards our own, private valley. Up on the pegs (yes, even on a Continental GT!), we potter onwards, stopping where the track runs out amidst majestic trees. Our cooking fire has a heavenly cedrous scent, and two of our number sing and strum guitar as we settle into the whisky-fuelled afterglow of a memorable meal. Ahem!….memorable, yes, because, at 7,500 feet, split peas take FOREVER to boil!
In every round trip, there's a moment when you turn for home, and this time it's made harder by the fact that the Cedar forests feel so homely. But turn we must, and we follow our tracks back through Azrou (puncture pit-stop courtesy of the local, off-duty constabulary), Meknes and a visit to the ruins of Volubilis. A gloriously kitsch campsite (showers, wonderful showers…), our last night in Africa, then a dash for the ferry, our longest day at 230 miles. Trip average is 130 miles per day, a total of 630 miles……times four 'bikes, that's 2,500 miles without trouble. Both journalists want to buy Royal Enfields. Job Done!
Our thanks to Subbu and Shreyas from Royal Enfield, to Faical from the Moroccan Tourist board, Caro Blake from Bannister Blake PR, and the crew, Belen, Sam, Simon and Hugh. And to the lovely lady who sold me the ferry tickets, and gave, for each vehicle, a cake. Another feature in favour of open-face helmets……
Our 'bikes caused a lot of interest in Morocco. The Royal Enfield, apparently, is a 'good camel'!
We understand that safety is paramount: our tours are designed to comply with BS8848, the 'Gold Standard' for operation of adventurous expeditions. Our characterful guides are trained expedition medics & competent mechanics.