By Jerry Cook
The Inaugural Spain Portugal and Morocco Tour 2019
The inaugural Compass Expeditions Spain, Portugal and Morocco tour commenced in the beautiful Portuguese capital of Lisbon. With over half of the group being previous Compass Expeditions tour participants, it is surely a testament to their enjoyment and success of their previous tours with us that they chose to join us again for our first tour into these regions. So far, they haven’t been disappointed as we have enjoyed the first chapter of our 20-day tour of Southern Europe and Morocco.
After collecting the bikes and support vans, we departed Lisbon crossing the famous 25 de Abril bridge, a suspension bridge crossing the Rio Tajo and named after the Portuguese revolution in 1974. We rode down the Atlantic coast to the most south-westerly point of the European continent, Sagres, one of the many Portuguese cities that has become famous for its surfing. A delicious seafood dinner was enjoyed in the town centre. The following morning, we visited the faro (lighthouse) and Sagres fortalesa (fort), both very important monuments in the country’s history.
With some beautiful riding through Portuguese hills and farmlands, passing remote villages we returned to the coast and overnighted at our luxurious hotel, the Vila Gale. Portugal was providing a taste of the incredible riding that we have ahead of us.
We rode into Spain, crossing the Rio Guadiana. No border paperwork procedures were necessary here and haven’t been since Spain and Portugal joined the European Union in 1986. Our overnight stay was at a 15thcentury cortijo (ranch) near the town of Arcos de la Frontera. Our hosts were extremely delighted to have an international motorcycle group staying with them and we were treated to some wonderful local hospitality, traditional meals and a very impressive sunset.
By day four we were already experiencing the third country of the tour, Morocco. A one-hour ferry crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, some relatively straight forward immigration and customs paperwork we soon found ourselves immersed in the erratic African traffic as we manoeuvred through the port town of Tangers and onto the picturesque city of Chefchaouen. This 15th century city is known for its blue washed walls and steep laneways filled with leather and weaving workshops.
Fes was our next stop and a visit to this city is not complete without a visit the Medina, a labyrinth of streets and laneways in what is the largest urban city in the world without cars and has been World Heritage listed since 1991. Fes el Bali was founded as the capital of the Idrisid dynasty between 789 and 808 AD and our guide Mohammed explained to us the history of this fascinating city and lead us through areas of the Medina, where without a guide one would be lost in minutes. This maze of almost 9,000 laneways and 80,000 plus shops selling handicrafts, carpets and leather products is the oldest working medina in the world. A relaxing afternoon was spent back at the Fes Marriot hotel and gave us a chance to reminisce on the first week of the tour, anticipating the adventures that lie ahead as we explore more of this fascinating country.