Meet Josh, an adventurous engineer and avid tinkerer hailing from London. With a passion for customizing not only old bikes but also cars, guitars, and skateboards, he brings a unique touch to his every endeavor. A seasoned adventurer, Josh has previously explored the winding roads of North India and Nepal astride an old Royal Enfield. As a participant in Scram Africa 2023, he's chronicling the daily escapades of this thrilling adventure. Stay tuned as Josh shares his journey through the lens of a seasoned explorer and enthusiast. This might be his first Scram, but with his passion and experience, it certainly won't be his last.
DAY 1: WED 13/09/23 NADOR => REKKAM CAMP
Today was our first glimpse of Morocco and it took my breath away. Even though we started on the highway, the terrain was incredible, the mountains and sand a brilliant red, we felt like we were on Mars, with the tarmac a grey ribbon winding through and contrasting the scenery. We then entered the first off-road stage and were all excited to get cracking, blasting as one down a gravel track and into the unknown! The biggest difficulty for me so far has been soft sand (just hold it loose and keep accelerating - completely against what you feel like you should do) but WOW! What a rush, this is real off-roading! Sometimes it was soft, sometimes harder but took real focus. We would go from vast grey expanses, to red rock hills, dry river beds of soft sand...it was an incredible variation of scenery.
Today the wind really picked up to the point that we spent most of our day riding in a dust storm, it got really difficult to see, and when we spent some time on the asphalt we were all leaning right over and I could feel my helmet being pushed against the left hand side of my head, it was just a case of going through and gritting it out. The campsite was a lot more luxurious than I thought, and we had dinner in a tent with red, gold and green hangings and carpets. After dinner we all milled around, music playing from one of the Land Rovers, having a beer and exchanging stories from the day, as we watched the sun set and the stars come out in our first night in the desert.
DAY 2: THU 14/09/23
REKKAM BIVOUAC => ERFOUD
The terrain today was constantly changing, we were going from bright reds and pinks like we were on Mars, to vast grey moonscapes, to packed yellow sand with big round trees - at one point we even had a turquoise road! We came to a flooded bit of track, and for some reason, rather than think of going around, I decided to try and plough through - big mistake. I got part way through, got bogged in and got flipped off topside tight into the puddle. We managed to drag it out, both me and the bike absolutely plastered in mud.
A bit of a bent handlebar which we straightened, and an annoyingly twisted ankle. It started off as a nice ride towards the hotel, then the rain started and got very heavy very quickly - to the point where I couldn’t see the other bike 5m in front of me. It was so hard and painful that I had to ride one-handed so I could cover my nose. We were winding up a mountain with torrents of water coming down one side and a sheer cliff on the other with huge puddles on the road to navigate.
My boots filled up, I could feel the punch of the rain drops through my jacket and I was soaked to the skin. There was nothing we could do but push on, eventually it stopped and we had a good laugh about it. Then the wind started to pick up again - tumbleweeds were blowing across the road - I had one lodged against my foot for 10km and didn’t even realise. Then the rain began again - just as violently as the first time. Again, there was nowhere to shelter for miles. Eventually we found a small cafe and took shelter and tried to wait out the worst of it. We stayed for about 45 minutes with some locals and had some tea and just didn’t stop shivering.
We eventually deemed it light enough to carry on and it did stop, just as we came to the Ziz River Valley - a sort of miniature red Grand Canyon, with a palm forest winding through it like a green, leafy river, it was yet another beautiful contrast. I arrived at our beautiful palatial hotel, squelched my way to the room and had a long, hot shower to try and get warmth back into my bones. We had dinner and a few drinks and heard the stories of breakdowns, people taking refuge with locals - it’s been chaos today, utter, utter chaos.
DAY 3: FRI 19/09/23 ERFOUD => MERZOUGA
We set off at about 10:30-11, but it started raining again on the way. We could see the dunes in the distance, glowing orange, acting like a beacon calling us to the dry. The rain did eventually stop, the clouds parted and finally we had the warm sun beating down on us. Today was the dune day and I was really worried about the ride as I’ve not been good in soft sand so far and...going up was incredible! I felt light, in control - almost like skiing - feeling rather than thinking, it was incredible and I was absolutely buzzing when I got to the top.
The views were stunning, being up amongst these unassailable dunes of a brilliant orange-red, contrasting against the blue sky - a true feeling of being in Morocco. It really was the defining moment so far. Coming down was a different story though - the sand was a lot looser and I had many boggings-in and falls, but luckily it’s a soft landing. On the way back we stopped at a cool local place, all sat on cushions having delicious chicken skewers and “Moroccan pizza”.
After this a few of us headed into the dunes for sunset - it was really cool watching one of the locals ride around the dunes in nothing but flip flops and a t-shirt putting us all to shame. After dinner we went for a few beers and a campfire which was a great way to end the day and appreciate the stars.
DAY 4: SAT 16/09/23 MERZOUGA => MARABOUT
Today was a day of vast expanses and epic scales. We started with a bit of rocky off-road, but eventually everything opened out into big flat plains of grey gravel but there were still some deep sandy bits to catch us out. This morning was all off-road, and we all stopped together for an early lunch on a flat area with a sand bank and lone palm tree with rocky hills in the distance. The Landrovers set the awnings up and everyone sat around chilling, shirts off, music going - it had a really fun party vibe, a couple of beers in the sun, everyone in one place - it’s really great having everyone together in the middle of the desert like this - it seems exactly what Scram Africa is supposed to be about.
The next off-road stage was through a dry river bed, but unfortunately on the way was the not-so-dry riverbed. I ended up facing the wrong way in the mud, just after watching someone fall in front of me and just in time to see someone fall behind! It has been the first truly hot day, it’s beautiful seeing the contrast of the blue sky against the reds and yellows of the desert.
We’ve been treated once again to an ever changing kaleidoscope of scenery as we blasted across open lake beds. One of the lasting images for me was where we dropped down into a huge flat expanse of grey gravel and rocks, everyone spread out as little trails of dust, speeding towards the distant mountains - incredible, real Mad Max stuff. I did have a very hairy moment where I ran over a rock and ended up bouncing everywhere but I managed to eventually stop without falling off. I had to get off and relax until the shaking stopped.
We also got to race across a dry lake bed which turned out to be more difficult than first thought as there were random wet, boggy patches that caught a lot of us by surprise. Tonight’s accommodation is in a traditional Haima, half tents, half huts in an old walled compound among the dunes - it feels like stepping back in time. After dinner, a few of us went up into the dunes with a guitar, a couple of beers and listened to each other play guitar under the stars. It really was a beautiful, peaceful moment.
DAY 5: SUN 17/09/23 MARABOUT => DADES
I woke up at around 2am as the wind had really picked up and sand was blowing into the Haima, it got everywhere. I tried to close the doors but it was a battle trying to drag them closed against the howling winds. The storm raged most of the night - it felt like the roof was going to be ripped off the tent. This was our last time in the low desert (and finally the end of the soft sand!) and it was fitting that we came across a herd of wild camels, us struggling after a few days in the desert, passing these denizens of the sand, able to survive here easily. In the afternoon we started moving up into the mountainous part of the trip by heading up into the Saghro range.
The roads were of loose rock that switchbacked up and down the mountains. They were really sharp, and I only felt comfortable doing them in first gear at a crawl, and the sheer drops didn’t help matters. It was slow going and having to continually focus was quite draining. After a few hours we were coming down for a final run through a valley into town, and I came round a corner to find one of the guys had come off his bike, which was hanging over the edge of a cliff. I ran over and he’d dislocated his shoulder, we did our best to make him comfortable, but i.t was horrible having to wait and being unable to actually help.
It could’ve been so much worse - it was only his luggage frame catching on a rock that stopped it flying fully over the edge and down the cliff.
DAY 6: MON 18/09/23 DADES => AFOURER
The day started again with more off-road similar to yesterday (and some similar drops from me) and a bit more flowing off-road through rolling hills of green and red (actually reminded me of a Hokusai painting of Mt. Fuji). After around 20 km we stopped in a delightful little town called Boutaghrar which was a cluster of red brick Moroccan style buildings, new square ones butting up against crumbling old towers with huge storks nests on top, all nestled against rocky red outcrops, it was a refreshing change being in civilisation rather than the huge open desert. We then followed more rocky windy tracks between villages overhung with trees until we hit the Gorges d’Amejgag and wow! It was a huge gorge cut through the red rock that towered above us - simply stunning! There was something primal about the sound of motorbike engines reverberating off the sheer walls as we blasted through, truly an epic experience and so so beautiful.
One of the downsides of travelling like this is that I can’t stop and take as many places as I’d like (but also I wouldn’t be able to carry enough film!) but I guess it’s forced me to really focus on the moment and soak it all in.
Next was a climb up further into the Atlas Mountains proper, snaking up single lane switchbacks (thankfully on tarmac) up to the highest pass, Col De Tizi N’Ait at 3005m. This was still dangerous, with the photographer narrowly missing a falling rock, and Fifi was actually hit by one which damaged her suspension. The views from up in the mountains were incredible, the craggy peaks extending into the distance on one side, and giving way to gentle rolling hills on the other. We carried on and all of a sudden the mountains just stopped and we were met with wide open plains again.
DAY 7: TUES 19/09/23 AFOURER => ASSILAH
Today is the day no one was really looking forward to, a 485 km ride to the final stop of the tour. There isn’t much to write about for this leg. There were some little off-road sections we could do if we want but everyone just wanted to get to the end. Eventually we made it to Assilah and the official last day Scram tradition - heading to the beach for sunset and racing up and down in the surf. To actually be on an old airhead, on the beach at sunset with the rest of the team - it’s what we’d dreamed of, and we hadn’t believed it would happen right until this moment.
Out of all the unbelievable experiences we’ve had this is the most emotionally significant, jeeps, bikes, Landrovers, everyone flying up and down in the surf at sunset after the rain, the falls, the breakdowns, sand storms, injuries, exhaustion - it all melted away in this moment, the relief and joy and camaraderie, drag racing bikes we’ve ridden 2000 miles through the desert and over mountains - pure happiness at being alive in this moment, with these people.
"It feels impossible to reflect on just what this trip has been. Initially it was about riding bikes across the desert, about testing myself that way, and my riding skills have improved no end. But then it became more about Morocco, the incredible ever-changing scenery, huge expanses the likes of which I haven’t experienced for some time, learning to absorb the views, be in the moment and let my personal horizons expand as the horizons did, the focus on riding, and the solitude allowing the noisy areas of my mind to rest and freewheel. Then it became about the people I was with, for me because it was not about doing it fast, but doing it together; like sitting with Kendal whilst we waited for the ambulance, or people stopping and helping me up again when I fell. I felt myself being inspired, wanting to level up, to improve, feeling open to wider possibilities. Genuinely life defining"