Professional development is key in any business. Corporations spend thousands of dollars on management retreats, corporate training with a goal to rewarding their dedicated work force. The motorcycle industry is the same in this regard – bringing together their dealers from around the world to training seminars in order to educate about new products. For Dave Groleau, of Bentley Motorrad, such a training expedition brought him to Morrocco in February and an opportunity to ride some of the rugged terrain the country offers.
“I was given the opportunity through the dealer program with BMW,” says Groleau. “BMW released the all new 1200GS in a worldwide release program in Morrocco to dealers worldwide for two months.”
Groleau is an experienced GS rider owning his own 1200 but the way that this educational experience panned out, he had the opportunity to test the model in every possible riding situation accompanied by a personal tutor.
“If I wanted to go away and sit on the beach, Morrocco would probably not be my first choice,” said Groleau, “riding however, there was some pretty phenomenal riding. The Atlas mountains runs through the middle of Morrocco, some 5600 feet altitude on some passes and half an hour later you can be in the desert.”
While Morrocco seems to offer it all, getting there from Kelowna isn’t a quick trip. You have to get to Europe, either from Vancouver or Toronto, which is a nine-hour flight but once you are in Europe, there are direct flights from just about every major European city to Marrakesh, Morroco.
Morrocco has two official languages, Arabic and Berber, and currency is the Dirham but you can’t bring it with you. Upon arrival, you change your money at your point of entry but don’t plan on taking any with you when you leave either. It is not allowed.
“You cash your money in at the airport when you leave,” said Groleau. “I think you can’t leave with any more than 1000 Dirham (about $10).”
After his interactive corporate training seminar, Groleau and a few other dealers rented BMW GS motorcycles from Edelweiss Bike Travel (www.edelweissbike.com) for an additional four day, self guided ride across the country on some exceptional terrain.
“The pavement is good, but narrow,” recalls Groleau. “It is like someone paved a goat path. You can be riding along and come across a donkey pulling a cart to a guy in a car. It’s everything – very diverse.”
As a GS rider, Groleau and company did not take the main roads. At every opportunity, a diversion to the road less travelled was preferred. This is where the true experiences of a foreign country can be found. While Morrocco offers some five-star accommodation, you can find “living like the third world right next door.”
Even though Morrocco is a Muslim country, and there is no consumption of alcohol in their culture, foreigners can get a beer in the hotel and some of the local restaurants will serve alcohol upon request but will not offer it to you.
“There are a lot of restaurants that don’t serve liquor at all,” advises Groleau. “Morroccan red wine is pretty good. The local beer is quite good. With 14 Canadians arriving at a restaurant that normally doesn’t serve beer, we emptied them out over dinner.”
As far as must see places aside from the riding scenery, Groleau recommends taking in the public markets, especially in Marrakesh, to see anything from “spices, rugs, snake performers, guys with monkeys, food, etc.” Be prepared to be harassed if you take any photos. As soon as you do, someone will demand payment from somewhere.
“They will make you feel very uncomfortable if you don’t pay,” states Groleau. “As soon as you pull out a camera, there’s a hat that comes from somewhere looking for money.”
Morrocco is a land on contrast where tradition and culture are highly respected and only hints of technological advancement make their way into everyday life.
“You will see a guy with a donkey and a pile of sticks, but while sitting on the donkey in his traditional clothing, he will be texting or talking on his cell phone,” says Groleau. “Cell phone service is great and cellular towers are decorated as palm trees.”
From Marrakesh, the group rode straight to the Atlantic and then rode ocean side for a day and even a bit of the Saraha. Several diversions into the Atlas mountains and back plus side roads, added up to about 3,500 km around Morrocco.
As for the brand new BMW1200 GS, Groleau can’t recommend it enough and if you want to learn more about the bike or ride one, stop by and visit Dave at Bentley Motorrad in West Kelowna.