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My first trip to Morocco

Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Pro, Tinghir palmery and Ait Zilal in Morocco
We're not in Kansas any more... Or Europe. Prepare to have your mind blown
Pole position for the ferry to Santander

I've just come back from Morocco. Riding there was an amazing experience. I was working as part of the Globebusters team leading a group of riders around the country, working with two much more experienced guides – Craig and Pete – who had both toured the kingdom many times before. Some riders did join us along the way – with one couple flying to Malaga and collecting a hire bike for the trip – but most of us met in Portsmouth to take the ferry to Santander, then took three days to travel across Spain. That's a great ride in its own right, but it was just a warm-up for what was waiting on the other side of the Straits of Gibraltar.

Getting into Morocco isn't like getting into Spain – or any EU country. There's a fair amount of bureaucratic faff involved... and it's not a particularly well-organised faff. Immigration was done on the ferry, with passports stamped, but then the whole customs process to get the bikes over the border was a frankly chaotic scrum inside the port. The key thing is to make sure you get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) – and don't lose it. Then you have to buy your insurance and change your money. Having the experienced members of the team on hand to brief everyone really made the process smooth for everyone in the group.

Some roads have really good surfaces (others less so)

Coming out of the port, there was an instant degree of culture shock. I've ridden in plenty of places with sketchy road conditions and fruity drivers – Sicily, Albania, Basildon – but none of that truly prepares you for the madness of riding in Morocco. The initial run to the "blue city" of Chefchaouen had everything: donkeys, deluded scooter riders, random lorries, polished roads, perfect roads, no road at all where it was being dug up for a new highway to be laid...

Amazing roads and scenery in Morocco. This is on the way to Cascades d'Ouzoud,

Next day we raised the stakes even higher, heading to Fes (or Fez) and getting our first taste of Moroccan city traffic – though, having ridden in Naples, I didn't think it was too bad. The drivers in Marrakesh and Tanger, which we also visited, nudge the lunacy needed nearer to the red but, despite the apparent absence of rules of the road, everyone got through the carnage without incident.

The cities in Morocco were simultaneously fascinating and challenging. Especially the medinas – the ancient hearts where generations have lived in narrow, often covered streets. The sheer volume of humanity packed in, walking around all the time, is mind-boggling. We took a city tour around Fes, seeing traditional crafts still thriving – potteries, tanneries, weavers and more. Everywhere you go there's someone looking to sell you something; every step you take, you're slightly worried about pickpockets in the crowds (to be clear, nobody had anything stolen – it's just European paranoia taking over).

We covered a lot of ground – heading out to the coast before cutting back into the heart of the country. The road from Agadir to Essouaria is up there with other great coastal rides, like California's Pacific Coast Highway and Sardinia's Strada Orientalis (though, okay, the surface isn't so consistent). I was surprised how green much of the country actually was, especially heading into the mountains.

What was heartbreaking was riding over the Tizi n Test pass, through the area damaged by the recent earthquake. We saw whole villages flattened, with emergency tents set up to house the survivors (I didn't take any pictures – I felt that would have been deeply disrespectful). Naturally, the highways had been badly damaged too and I can't tell you how many miles were ridden standing on the pegs, slithering over the gravel replacement roads - once or twice I even had put the Tiger 1200 GT Pro into its off-road mode...

Despite these occasionally challenging conditions, the riding was outstanding. You can't beat hustling a big bike like the Triumph along a seriously twisty road through a glorious landscape – and that's what Morocco has in spades. There are the red-rock mountains, the lush cedar forests, the vivid green palmeries surrounded by arid hills, and then of course there is the desert...

Heading south, towards the Sahara, across the hamada - a rocky desert

For me, the riding just got better the further south we went. I was surprised how much I was reminded of America at first – the wide-open landscape evoking Arizona, New Mexico and, especially, the rocky red vastness of Utah. The heat was relentless, usually over 35°C, which meant stopping for regular rehydration was essential. Somewhere at home I have a camelback... wish I'd remembered it...

Then there were the actual camels. Heading across the hamada, I spotted a flock (herd?) of wild camels, but once the group got to Merzouga – where the sand dunes tower over the town – we got to experience the beasts first-hand. Our ride into the desert – for a night under the stars, with traditional food and music around a campfire – was one of the highlights of the trip.

Overall, the trip was astonishing – but it definitely highlighted the benefit of doing it with a well-organised, professional tour company. Potential problems were anticipated and avoided. The fourth member of our team was local fixer Mohammed, whose expertise and assistance was invaluable. When a rider was ill, they could travel in the support van; when a bike broke down on the final day, it went into the van as well.

Morocco will always be a challenging place to visit, but the support made it simple. For me, it's the only way to do it. To book a place on next year's trip, just click here.

Sailing back to Spain. On the horizon on the left, Africa. On the right, Europe

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