Lessons Learned: Traveling by Motorbike

In the past, I have traveled the world as backpacker. Last year I got my motorbike license and now I am keen on finding out how to get around by motorbike. Currently, I am on my fist “real” travel by motorbike to Morocco. In this post I want to share my experiences.

Getting around

  • Instead of using GPS I am getting from A to B by asking people on the street when in doubt. This works very well outside of big cities.
  • Driving into big cities is one of the most annoying things when traveling by motorbike. Entering or leaving a big city can easily take 45min or more.
  • Historic city centers (aka “Medina”) in Morocco have very narrow streets and are usually closed for traffic. Unfortunately, most accommodations are in the historic centers. If you have to carry your luggage to your room you might need to find a room outside the center.
  • Moreover, as backpacker I refuse to book accommodations in advance. As a biker this can be annoying since finding an accommodation with garage might be difficult. Especially, if you have to get on and off your bike every time you ask somewhere.
  • When I get hungry while traveling I prefer to stop at restaurants where I can watch my motorbike. Sometimes this can take some time. Usually, restaurants at motorways are most convenient.
  • In the beginning I was worried to record videos while driving. Some years ago when I was in Nador people reacted very aggressively when I was taking a photo. However, I cannot report any problems so far.
  • Roundabouts work as follows in Morocco: if you enter the roundabout on the right-most lane you are supposed to take the first exit. If you want to take a different exist take the left lane.
  • Crossing the border from Spain to Morocco is very easy. There are two stops on the Moroccan side: (i) at the first stop you get the entry stamp into your passport, and (ii) at the second stop your vehicle papers get checked. Bring a green insurance card and the papers for your bike. You will receive a small paper that you are supposed to keep until you exit Morocco.
  • There is a lot of smog in big cities. Especially the region between Rabat and Casablanca is not fun to drive even if you just pass through.
  • In general, motorways and secondary roads are in good and very good condition.
  • Moreover, I find driving in Morocco pretty safe in comparison to other countries. Of course, there are also some idiots.
  • If you park your motorbike on uneven ground watch out that you don’t have to get back on it up-hill. You might get back on your bike but it still is leaning to the side on the stand. It can be hard to push it up-right if you are too short (or your motorbike to tall).

My conclusion

  • Probably, I will get a holder for my mobile phone for navigation purposes in big cities. I don’t really like to 😉
  • Moreover, I will try to avoid entering big cities at all. It is probably much more relaxing to find a place to stay outside the center and just take a Taxi in case if I want to do something in the center. In the end I am not much interested in big cities.

Additional hints

  • If you run out of gasoline, you might be able to buy some from locals. However, watch out since it might be mixed with water.
  • Buy the gasoline with the highest quality (highest octane number)

In Ceuta, I walked to a Spaniard who travels every year once or twice to the desert. He recommended me following things to bring and do:

  • two component adhesive (metal)
  • spare enforced tire tube (front and rear)
  • spare levers (left/right) in case you fall and damage one
  • he recommended the GPS app “OruxMaps GP” (Android)
  • spare air filter

Moreover, he said it makes no sense for motorbikes to remove pressure from the tire when you want to drive on sand. This only makes sense for 4×4 cars. He washes the air filter with water and soap. It dries during night. After your journey you remove all plastic parts and the tank from your motorbike and clean it thoroughly.

Goodbye Andalusia

Time flies very fast. After two months in Andalusia it is time to say “Goodbye”. Here is a short summary of things I did during my stay.

For new year’s eve I hiked up the hill behind the La Chanca district of Almeria. My idea was to take a nice panorama with all the fireworks above the city. When the people in the street where counting down the last seconds of 2017 I was ready to shoot. “3, 2, 1, …” but nothing happened. I thought “Well, perhaps the Spaniards are slow starters.“. Unfortunately, I was not aware that fireworks is not famous in Spain. I had to blend the photos of about 30min together in order to get something that was similar to what I was aiming for.

One awesome thing about southern Spain is the short distance to northern Africa. You can literally take a ferry for a weekend trip to Africa. Ferries leaving from Almeria usually take 6-8 hours to destinations in Morocco or Algeria. I did a weekend trip to the UNESCO world heritage site in Fez/Morocco. The medieval city center is definitely worth visiting. Especially if you are interested in people. On the way to Fez I also drove up into the Atlas mountains. Unfortunately, I did not have more time. Morocco is a rewarding destination: easy to travel, cheap, and exotic.

There are many more locations to explore around Almeria like the nearby Sierra Nevada or the Tabernas dessert. One weekend I drove to the Lighthouse of Cabo de Gata. To the bottom of the lighthouse is a famous photography spot where you can photograph the rocks of the Las Sirenas reef. Instead of taking a shot of the grand vista I wanted to shoot a close-up off the most famous rock so that details of the texture become visible.

I was lucky that morning: the waves hitting the rocks caused spray that caught the first rays of the morning sun and created nice light spots. I decided to go for a long exposure to create a moody and quiet image. I am pretty happy with the result.

It was an awesome time in Almeria. Let’s see when I will come back to spend some more time in this region. Let’s continue!