My private Dakar
Doing the Dakar just once in my life! For most of us this just remain a dream. However, you can get pretty close to the dream. In Morocco. On the old Dakar tracks. If you are just a Joe Bloggs type of enduro rider and you get the chance to ride a Dakar racer, then the Gods are smiling on you. And Dirk Schäfer followed the dream.
Text and photos: Dirk Schäfer
I am feeling itchy. It‘s the excitement. I have no idea on how many motorcycles I have ridden. But I have never sat on a bike which had been en route to Dakar. To be correct: should have been. Half fascinated, half at a loss I stood in front of the Rallye- X-Challenge, the one that did not make it to Dakar. The year it was to pass the ultimate test, in 2008, Dakar got canceled. And now I can use this monster to ride part of the tracks for which the Touratech works team had originally assembled the machine.
Before leaving for Morocco together with four friends I started getting acquainted with the high seat. An adequate set of rally instruments is hidden under a zippered cover. A short frown: now how does this navigation instrument work again? A massive extra fuel tank extends the range to Sahara-compatible distances. Only the storage space for my travel utensils leaves something to be desired. The aluminium rack on the back is just about big enough for a slice of toast. No matter, let‘s finally get on with it!
e ride around the snow-covered Atlas mountains along the stony Plateau de Rekkan in eastern direction at a lively pace. The rally bike instils a sense of cockiness. Maybe I should join a real rally one of these days? And bang! My right shin hurts. My tailgating was just rewarded with an intimate knowledge of ballistics. In other words: being that close to Guido‘ 690 sends stones flying past me left, right and centre. But at high speed things pass quickly.
From the Plateau de Rekkan there are only few options down to the plane of Erfoud. One of them is the Col de Belkassem. A staircase-like bumpy descent, spiked with rock slabs awaits us. Rally cracks and true off-roaders would probably just keep a straight face. Good thing nobody can see my face. But sitting so high, it saved me from doing the shuffle with my feet. Take a deep breath ... and go!
We have an appointment with Eduard in Hassi Labied. A few years ago, the native Spaniard and his wife moved to Erg Chebbi. And when he is not busy organizing orientation tours for motorcyclists or giving them tips, then he thunders through the dunes with his 1200GS Adventure. Anyone who has ever tried that knows that Jimmy Louis can do it. Most others will fail in their attempts to succeed, alone for physical reasons. But Eduardo has the physique and after months of playing around in the sand, he has full control of the beast. Built like a tree he has loads of tips for the passage to Foum Mharech for those built more like a twig.
Some call it a pass, but in reality it is a flat gap in the rocks resembling a funnel: the access road to Foum Mharech. The closer we get the middle of the funnel, the more desolate the track becomes. Guido just keeps banging on. For a brief moment I can see Roland and Ali from the corner of my eye as they battle with physics. And although we are riding together: in this moment we are each on our own. But it is very comforting to know that you can trust your friends should the need ever arise. This has little to do with making time, important is arriving together.
A pit stop at the Auberge Oasis revives the spirits. The owner tells us of the old rally days and how the express caravan bolted westwards across the dried out von Lac Maider. There can be little mention of bolting, let alone higher speeds, over the next few kilometers as the north side of the Foum Mharech confronts us with deepest Fesch-Fesch. Gradually I notice that my office-steeled body is reaching its limits.
The Lac Maider welcomes us with bright, penetrating light. This irritating shiny surface looks like polished from a distance. But there is something else, too. A dull sound getting slowly louder and louder …roooaaaAARR! A rally buggy shoots past us with an infernal roar. Followed by a wagon train, could well pass for a mini Dakar. Either that or messrs Peterhansel, Roma and Despres having a Sunday daytrip.
We turn the lake into a fountain of dust which follows us although we have long reached a gravel path. Makes you wonder what it looked like when the real Dakar passed through with hundreds of vehicles.
Bristly bushes line the hard to recognize trail. Then small squares appear on the flickering horizon. The houses of El Fecht. A small village at the edge of world history. The asphalt is not far away. A few boys walk towards us. „Are you racing a rally?“ they want to know. „No, no“, I grin Or should it have been yes?