I'd never experienced a panic attack until this trip. I was in the middle of the Medina in Marrakesh and I felt an awful realisation I’d lost my Triumph Explorer. I don’t mean it had been stolen – I’d forgotten where I put it.
Up until then the trip had gone to plan: Crewe to Portsmouth, Santander to Algeciras in Southern Spain. There I was told to find ‘Carlos’, the go to guy for overlanders to Africa, and one of his daughters sorted me out with return tickets to the newly built port of Tangier Med, which has a reputation of a smooth entry into Morocco.
I never tire of sea crossings but the majority of this one was spent in an excruciating slow queue getting my passport stamped, and the view as we approached the coast of Africa was spoilt by sea mist, but we were here. Chaos, is the only way to describe the entry
procedure. If this is the best, I can only imagine the patience required at the other entry ports.
Straight out of the port and onto a modern motorway. This side of the country would have to wait for sightseeing as I had to be in Marrakesh tomorrow to meet my partner Nik who was flying in to spend a couple of days with me before I continued my trip.
I didn’t have a sat nav covering Morocco, just a map and some printed directions so Marrakesh was going to be a test. I thought I was doing well – I knew I was close to the Riad I had booked but didn’t realise it was in the walled Medina. I stopped by the railway station and got the map out for the final push when a gent on a moped asked if he could be of assistance. I showed him where I wanted to go – about 2in on the map – and he said follow me. So off we went, round and round the city until we pulled up outside… his cousin’s hotel. A quiet word and off we went for another 20 minutes and pulled up in a car park. ‘Vehicles aren’t allowed in the Medina,’ he said, ‘and your Riad is round the corner.’ Brilliant. Nik is flying in a couple of hours so there’s plenty of time.
‘Jump on my bike,’ says my new buddy so with a top box wedged between his legs, me on the rack in full biking gear holding two panniers, we blast at 20mph through the not so narrow streets. Hmm. My bike could easily fit down here and my ‘guide’ doesn’t appear to have a clue.
I can’t hold the fully loaded panniers any more and my temper is about to snap as Tim the Riad manager pops up asking where my bike is because he’s made room for it. Meanwhile taxi moped man is now demanding the equivalent of £20. Nice try. The situation is sorted by a huge Moroccan man who appears from nowhere and all is peaceful again.
Nik and I have a great few days of tagines, mint teas and sightseeing but in the madness of parking the bike and arriving at the Riad I had a nagging doubt of where exactly I’d left it. So with the help of Tim’s trusty assistant, Mohamed, we set off on what I think will be a 15 minute early morning stroll to find the Explorer. An hour later panic starts. Every building, corner, compound and parking place look nothing like what I remembered. But just as we are to give up for the day, there it is: dusty but untouched. The relief is indescribable. The rest of my travels in the High Atlas mountains are exhilarating, but the high point of the trip has already happened: finding my bike.