Honda sell thousands of Africa Twins, so many that they recentky reintroduced the model, but in reality how many every venture onto the African Continent, very few I woulld suggest.
So today became one of those man & machine bonding exercises as caution,GPS guidance and some mention was made of commonsense were thrust into the background and a new chapter of first's created.
Yesterday I had a ferry ticket from Trafica in Spain to Tangier in Morocco and a set of three small customs documents that proved to be one of the best investments of the trip.
The ride from Algeciras set me up for a great introduction to Africa. The road was smooth, traffic relatively free flowing with the odd roundabout hic up and once past Algeciras the road became a series of great twisting curves where a slight body movement had the Triumph headed in the correct direction with virtually no handlebar input.
The 20km trip to the Port of Trifica followed the hilltops until the coast came into view and the Port and the run in was almost direct and the only additional milage was following the cueing lines once inside the Port that obiviously where not needed today as the High Speed Cat had a total vehicle count of 1 bicycle, 6 cars and one motorcycle.
After 3 lots of "passport Please"the Triumph was secured, and I joined Greg & Kerrie who had opted for a walking only tour,in the lounge of the vessel for the 1 hour trip accross The Straits of Gibraltar.
A different feature was the vessel had a Moroccan onboard Police/Customs counter to process passengers as the journey took place. This resulted in no conversation but the Passport did get a couple of stamps an exit and a Moroccan entry number.
On arrivial the vehicles were seperated from the passengers and I passed two customs inspections and then came to the exit gate thinking I am ready to ride. Well No it was Passport Please, then a wad of paperwork was handed to me by the Customs Officer. I pulled out a small useful red pen I had been given to complete the paperwork. The Customs Officer saw it and commented "We swap, you get Moroccan Government blue pen, I get red pen?"How could you refuse?
On taking the pen he looked at where I was copying from those three small sheets of paper I mentioned before. "You very good all proper paperwork, you don't need mine"and thrush it into my jacket pocket saying "Your souvenir You have nice name Christopher I know what it means Christs Bearer" Not sure if he was trying to tell me not everyone in the Muslim country of Morocco is not of that Faith or was he trying me out? I said nothing and waited.
He returned with my passport and those three bits of paper now stamped, was it time to hit the road?
"You go into building and see Customs now?"Upon entering the building I went into what appeared to be the front office, "upstairs: was all I heard. Arriving upstairs I walked into another office, the lady looked at me and said "Not here there"and pointed across the building to where three men were sitting in a tiny space at computers with their backs to the door. I walked in and one turned and smiled and took my documents and began by punching in that number in the passport issued on the boat. The computers looked to be about 1980;s 386 models with black and white only screens but a little box came up in the middle of the screen "ök" he stopped entering any more data handed all the paperwork back said "Thank You wish everyone as smart as you job all done"
I returned to the bike and was waved into Africa. After the exit to the Port I stopped and thought no maps of Africa on Tom Tom but can still mark the Port location for my return. Wrong "no route possible"
So I rode off into the chaos of Tangier traffic carefully noting buildings and roundabouts while fending off erratic drivers and walkers who were under the mistaken impression that cars actually would stop at marked crossings!
I had a map in my head of where I wanted to go but no idea of city streets then a blue & silver freeway sign said Rabat bingo that will get me where I want to go.
After some distance but still in city traffic I say another familiar sign in any language a Golden Arch and a M, yes McDonald's exist in Africa.
I got off the main road and into the McD carpark where their Guard offered to "look after my motorcycle" thinking this was a money conjob I said nicely it's Ok. He held up ten fingers was that how much he wanted? I worked out No McD didnt open until 10am and it was only 9.45am now that's why he had time to look after my motorcycle.
At the same location was a massive shopping centre most of which was also 10am opening but the supermarket was open. Not just any Supermarket but a Mega Supermarket like a Costco which not only sold food but all types of household appliances as well as clothing so I invested in a Morocorran 2018 World Football cup T Shirt, guess there wont be many of those in Australia when I wear it.
I found the start of A-1 the main road South and after collecting a Toll ticket I was soon on a modern 4 lane divided highway passing many poorer villages but surrounded by irrigated crops of all types of fruit and vegetables including hectacres of plastic glasshouses many of which contained Bananas.
Many times I saw well dressed people standing on the edge of the highway some were hoping for a free lift while others were collected by buses running up and down the coast on express routes so do not divert into the villages. Passengers climb over fences and barriers and simply hail the bus as it come towards them.
All along this major highway I could see people working in the fields weeding and crop planting or tending to flocks of sheep or herds of goats. Many holdholds seemed to posess a single milking cow and a couple of horses used to pull their carts.
In one paddock many people were harvesting rocks! They were sitting beside large rocks with a hammer breaking off pieces that were stacked then trucks would come and collect a load for road foundations or house building.
Needing fuel by now I stopped at a well maintained roadside truck stop and happily paid about 30-50c a litre less then in Spain. As it was also lunchtime I ate at a cafe also at the same site and tendered my credit card, well apparently they don't take them but what transpired was a trip to the fuel station where he took my card again and gave cash to the restaurant all rehearsed without any drama.
After further travel it was time to turn around and head North again but not before paying the toll. At the booth the usual credit card was offered , no we dont take Visa (it was a Mastercard) you have another card,that was handed over an the reply was No good. (despite being used at McD,the Supermarket and fuel station). Need money he said, I asked Euro's ok Yes so hauled out the equivalent amount but that was refused by now of course a long line had formed as only one gate was opened. He held onto one of my credit cards and opend the gate so I moved to the otherside ready? to rejoin the A-1 Northbound. After much guestering I realised yes he would take Euro's but only paper ones so a 5Euro was located and I was free to head North. I thought all good now for the Northern Toll booth. Wrong again no credit cards unless they were from the Toll company and no he wouldn't take even paper Euro's well this was the major entrance to Tangiers and a long line with accompaning horns was soon in chorus. Out of no where well way down the line a truck driver came running up. No wasn't angry at me it was the Toll Collector (apparently they do this often with Tourists hoping to make a bit on the side) he thrust a 50 of their local currency at the Toll Collector who opened the boom gate real quick before I could get my gloves back on but I was gone and moved over to a parking bay just up the road to reorganise. The truck went past blowing it's horn but giving a big wave which was returned.
Again it was refuelling time so I stopped at a Servo,they are all serviced by attendants, not self service. He put 4litres in and turned the pump off, I needed at least 12litres, I said full he replied No and walked into his little hut as I had not paid I waited. He did return and finished refuelling saying basically a friend needed a battery so he came before me!
He too would not take credit cards so I figured the two lots of fuel to be 15 Euro so offered him the paper Euro's he looked studied his calculator gave the 5 back then also 4 in coins so I happlily thanked him and rode off.
The roundabouts in Tangiers are of two types exiting riding playing Russian Roulette or a death wish, I think of them as the first. Traffic crossing other then on the main road will often go at 90o ie straight across on the wrong side of the roundabout and to counter this the traffic on the main road section tries to cut them off! Added to the mix can be animal drawn carts and masses of foot traffic as well as the ever present Police doing random licence and insurance checks but not the slightest bit interested in sorting out traffic. Well the Triumph is a bigger bike with plenty of instant response so I joyfully played their game.
,also skillyfully avoiding those traffic stops. Not that I wasn't legal but they can be very time consuming especially for people holding foreign documentation.
I found my way back to the Port but had to do some siteseeing in order to get into the right flowing traffic lines so armed with prior roundabout protocols I made it to where I wanted to be.
The documentation trail continued at the Port without trouble until the second last hurdle. They had decided to X-Ray every vehicle so cue's soon lengthened and when my turn came it was ride the bike onto the platform,stop engine ,hop off, leave riding gear with bike. All done I was asked quickly remove bike put gear on later,I thumbed the starter,NO RESPONSE, tried again same so simply pushed the bike the last 300m in Africa and up the ramp into the Australian built vessel.
A quick side story as I was pushing the bike towards my ferry terminal my ticket was checked , again, and a man came from the other company, looked at the open return, and said why you wait 2hours we have a ferry going in 15minutes and closer less push,we take your ticket it good because they not tear off stub when you came over so we get both lots of money! I happily took his offer and on arrivial back in Spain the Triumph started first push of the button, I guess a Triumph can only safari soo much.
So now Africa is another continent the Triumph has travelled upon joining Australian,US & Europe Continents . Likewise Morocco is now added along with Greece,Portugal & Gibralter as new countries I have ridden it in. It will be an impressive resume to present when in 2019 it is entered in the most travelled Triumph competition at the International Rally.