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Turkana Test Trip, the Morocco edition 2019

Turkana Test Trip, the Morocco edition 2019
By Peter Scheltens Bartang.eu Bartang.Eu

When you live in Europe, like I do, the top adventure destination is Morocco. From Amsterdam, it is about 2,000 km as the crow flies to Tanger. Riding there and back is too far for a short trip, but luckily there is a quicker way to get there. A week before my departure, I dropped off my motorbike at a cargo company that took it to the southern tip of Spain. I flew to Malaga in the early morning, picked up by bike, bought a ferryticket and arrived in Morocco in the late afternoon. A long day, but a guarantee for instant African adventure.

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The plan was to ride as far south east as possible, in search of the high dunes south of Erg Chegaga, near the border of Algeria.

From Chefchaouen, the lovely blue city in the north of Morocco, I rode to Midelt to pick up the 'Cirque the Jaffar’, an offroad track through the High Atlas with dramatic views. Leonie and I had been here seven years earlier in preparation of our RTW Trip. At that time, the big bikes with heavily loaded aluminium panniers, a lack of riding experience and a bad version of food poisoning made it the worst track we had ever ridden. This time, it was a different story. On my light Honda CRF250L, with the light soft luggage set on the back, I could fully enjoy the rocky piste and the amazing scenery.

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I continued passed Agoudal towards the Dades Valley, famous for the winding road that leads into the gorge. Another day of riding brought me past Zagora, the  gateway to the Sahara. At the end of the  road, in the town of Mhamid, I found a place to camp. At home, while looking at the map, I noticed a track through the desert leading from Mhamid to Foum Zguid. I had always wanted to ride the dunes and now I was here, I wanted to give to ride this track.

I stocked up on water and fuel and waited until the late afternoon to start riding, to avoid the scorching sun and to be able to wild camp in the desert halfway the track. I set off in the direction my GPS was pointing to, but noticed there were about a dozen tracks leading into the desert. It was hard to find the right track, but I chose one and rode off.

The sand was deep and hard to ride. I hit the gas, going as fast as the little CRF250L would carry me and tried to keep momentum. My rear wheel swirling in the deep sand and the engine revving.

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After a few kilometers, I was far away from the original line on the GPS. This was probably not right. Just when I was about to turn around, I saw a patch of green on my left, an oasis with lush green palm trees. Someone was waving at me. I had not been dehydrated enough for this to be a mirage, so I turned left. At the edge of the little palm tree forest, two men welcomed me and pointed to a rug on the ground. “Du thé?” one of them asked, when he pointed towards a black burnt cattle. Yes, that would be great. He poured three cups, holding the cattle high above the little glasses.

Turkana soft luggage RTW options for waterproof and dustproof saddlebagsThe sweet tea tasted great. In broken French and some English we talked about my bike and the track. They said I had taken a wrong turn and pointed towards a hill in the distance. After a second glass of tea, I took off and followed their instructions.

The route continued through the deep sand. Both the bike and I struggled.

I got stuck a number of times and had to dig the bike out by hand. A tough job in the desert heat. At some point, I got stuck half way a small dune so badly that my bike just stayed upright. I sat down next to it, to catch my breath and started wondering whether it was wise to continue. I was tired and thirsty. I have a Garmin InReach Mini device with an emergency button, but who would come to save me out of there in the desert if I would really get into trouble? As if someone had overheard my thoughts, I suddenly heard the low humming of an engine in the distance.

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I could see a car riding over the dunes, popping up every now and again.

 It was riding on the same track, in my direction. I was parked in a rut and from his side he could not see me or the bike and would hit it if he continued. I ran to the top of the dune and waved my arms to stop him. The car suddenly turned 90 degrees and stopped near the track. I pointed to the bike, half in the sand, and he understood I needed help. Together we dug out the bike. The man looked at the packed bike and my tired face. He shook his head and made clear he thought it was not wise to continue.

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I agreed that it was better to turn around and head back to the campsite. While I struggled on the track, the car stayed behind me until we reached the main sand road where our paths parted. Grateful f or the help from this stranger, I returned on the campsite, completely exhausted and suffering from a slight heatstroke. Although my adventure seeking heart had wanted to continue on this quest, my head made me turn around. Another bike, another time, with a friend, I’ll tackle these dunes for sure!

I continued the test ride through Morocco through the oasis town of Tata and the city of Ouarzazate, the desert location for many Hollywood movies. By the time I arrived back in Chefchaouen 10 days later, I added another 2.500 km to my bike and the first kilometers to the Turkana Gear. Both the Turkana HippoHips and the Turkana Duffalo had held up greatly! The terrain had been rough, with rocky riverbeds, dusty gravel roads and sandy tracks. I had ridden in the rain in the high Atlas and for days in the burning sun in the desert.

I had dropped the bike multiple times and packed and unpacked the bags every day. They did what they were designed to do. Apart from minor design changes to the look and feel of the bags, this 2019 Turkana Test Ride confirmed these bags are production ready!

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The design of the bags was finalised upon my return in the Netherlands and taken to production. Not much was left to do other than a few small details. At least we know after a decade of evolution for these bags, we can say we have an incredible product to offer.

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