The brave crew who took part in the 9th edition of Scram Africa knew very well that it was not going to be easy. Ready to write a memorable chapter in the novel of their lives, they all stood before the starting line in Tetouan. Eight days and 2,485 kilometres of dunes, rivers and impossible tracks lay ahead in the steep Atlas mountains. Their destiny? The mythical Sahara, the largest and most dangerous hot desert in the world.
STAGE 1 | TETOUAN - MIDELT
This first stage takes us into the interior of Morocco. A 457km journey where we pass through the beautiful city of Fes, the muslim capital of Morocco, through side roads. During this first stage, we already began to get a feeling for the off-road tracks. Here we also face our first problems. Philippe falls on one of the off-road tracks, damaging the crankcase and clutch of his Yamaha XT 550.
We manage to make a temporary patch for the breakdown, but later on he will have to take the bike to the assistance truck for the rest of the trip. Our 4x4 friends also have some breakdowns that they manage to solve thanks to their knowledge of mechanics.
The first stage has been as hard as we had anticipated: the length of the stage results in many participants arriving at the hotel after sunset. But not without feeling the pride of having passed the first test!
STAGE 2 | MIDELT - GARA MEDOUAR
339 km, of which half are off-road. These are the details of the second stage. As if that were not enough, the temperature reaches 40 degrees and it is time to feel the heat. This new challenge forces us to stop more than usual to hydrate. This is Scram! Halfway through the stage, our friend Niels suffers a mechanical problem. But before he can notify the team, a group of locals offer him their mechanical workshop service in the town and, in a flash, manage to repair the bike. Moroccan people are always exceptionally friendly, willing to help without expecting anything in return. The Land Rovers leave us spectacular images as they pass through roads that are very difficult to access. But these machines, no matter how old they are, can handle anything! The stage ends with camping at Gara Medouar, an impressive rocky structure in the shape of a circle that acts as a natural fortress and is located in Draa-Tafilalet. It is also known as the 'Portuguese prison' - which was neither a prison nor a volcano, as some believe -. It is also known as Jebel Mudawwar, ("round mountain"). As a curiosity, movies such as James Bond Specter 007 (2015), The Mummy (1999) or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) were filmed there.
In this camping, each participant sets up their tent and prepares to have dinner in the haimas that we have set up in the epicenter of the mountain. During this stage, Isidoro, a sidecar driver, is the protagonist of one of the scares of the day: we know that he was in his vehicle when he got lost on the road. Every minute that passes there is less light, it is getting dark and we decide to go out and look for him. Luckily, it’s just a scare: he had been stranded on a dune and getting out of there was an arduous task. While waiting for assistance, he and his sidecar partner had time to make a bonfire. Finally, they arrive at dawn and are greeted with a loud applause by the rest of the group, now nothing but a family.
STAGE 3 | GARA MEDOUAR - SAHARA CAMP
And the day we were all waiting for arrives. Desert. Dunes. Sun. Sand. It may seem counterintuitive that someone wants to venture out into the desert at 40 degrees, trying their best not to pass out... but this is what we all came here for. Today's track is 228km, almost all on tracks and desert. During the morning briefing, we have to emphasize KM19 in the roadbook: REFUEL MANDATORY. There will be no more gas points for a long time. The Erg Chebbi dunes become our companions for a good part of the stage. It is inevitable to stop to admire the landscape. Many riders stop for other reasons: fatigue, hydration, falls or snags in the dunes. The physical and mental demand for this section is high, but we were all aware of this before embarking on the adventure.
During several sections of the stage, the camels accompany us and imprint in our memory images that we will never forget. Around 9:00 p.m. the last participants arrive at the camp. Again tonight we sleep under the stars of the Sahara. Our second night of camping ends with a few beers, sharing the most memorable moments of the day.
STAGE 4 | SAHARA CAMP - DADES
We get up early, surrounded by dunes and the silence. The most energetic ones of the bunch begin to run and surf the dunes while the others prepare for a long day of riding. Just after leaving the camp, in the dry lake, one of the riders suffers an accident in which he has to be assisted by the medical team. His injuries are not serious, but he is unable to drive the motorcycle. His customized BMW R75/7 barely gets a scratch, so a staff member drives it through the stage. Today, 239 km of route await us, of which 170 km are off-road. We pass through beautiful towns and some riders get to know first-hand the locals who inhabit the area. However, we will soon suffer a new mishap. Andreas falls off his BMW NineT and dislocates his shoulder. The medical team takes him to the nearest city and manages to treat him so that he can continue with the route the next day.
STAGE 5 | DADES - AFOURER
Today we say goodbye to the desert, the dunes and the heat to head towards the Atlas mountains. It is a steep mountain range that separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts from the Sahara desert. Its high peaks – some of them exceed 4,000 meters – serve as obstacles for the clouds. They prevent them from continuing to advance through the north of the continent and leaves this area particularly arid. Here we reach temperatures of no more than 9ºC and make our way up to more than 3,000 meters in altitude. The wind blows strongly and at times the clouds discharge their anger with thunder, lightning and rain. Some groups of riders stop to contemplate the majesty of the lightning and take photos that are already imprinted in their memory forever.
These roads would make any motorcycle enthusiast fall in love. Curves, asphalt, off-road and a landscape that you can't help but admire out of the corner of your eye. At lunchtime, many of us coincide at the same location and we decide to stop at a small bar in the outskirts of a town. A cold refreshment after hours of riding is always appreciated. The anecdote of the day comes when the owner of the place takes out a guitar and gives it to Mike Gray. That's where the party begins. Music, group songs and a very good vibe before continuing our journey.
STAGE 6 | AFOURER - ASSILAH
This last stage is the one that nobody wants to do, because this means that the adventure is coming to an end. It is true that this stage brings us to the end of the journey, but with a final surprise that many will remember all their lives. Assilah is a municipality on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, south of Tangier that has a long beach, and this is where we have prepared the icing on the cake. As the riders arrive at the hotel, we encourage them to go for a drive along the shore of the beach. It is a unique sensation: skidding across the sand, breaking the water on the shore while the sun goes down. Behind the helmets, we can distinguish the smile of the participants. We don't know how to explain it, it's like being kids again; like a trip back in time to that age when the only concern was to have fun and not think about tomorrow. The adventure ends in the port of Barcelona. It has been 10 days of friendship, many kilometers, laughter, moments of suffering, memorable stories, beers, briefings and a lot of gasoline.