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Carrying on a Motorcycle :: Berber Man

Carrying on a Motorcycle :: Berber Man

by , March 5, 2014

Last time Grant Forbes, the original adventurer, left us he revealed the ins and outs of carrying on a motorcycle. Today, he throws us on the back of his Suzuki 500, and pushes forth into the Morocco of the 70s.  A land of Berber men and their amazing carry…

So, it’s still 1973, and we’re thumpin’ along on a back road somewhere between Fes and Marrakech. Pretty much out in the boondocks, or it was then, anyway. I’m in front on the Suzuki and my American mate, Pete Seeley, is just a few hundred metres behind me on his Triumph Bonneville.


I’d met Pete in a camping ground somewhere in Portugal and we’d been traveling together for a few weeks since then. He’d bought the Triumph brand new, direct from the factory in the UK, but it was an unreliable bastard of a bike. Every morning, my much-maligned “Jap Crap” Suzuki would start on the first kick, and then I’d have to turn it off and wait until Pete spent five minutes (on a good day) coaxing the Triumph into life. Those were dark days for Triumph, who were the last man standing from the once-glorious British Motorcycle Industry, but the purists would still ogle Pete’s Triumph and scoff at my Suzuki.

Anyway, miles from anywhere, I noticed that the Triumph had disappeared from my mirrors. Thinking “breakdown” of course, I pulled to a stop and he was nowhere to be seen. So I threw a U-turn and found him by the side of the road a couple of kilometres away, with a grizzled old Berber man, fully decked out in traditional woolly jelaba, leather slippers, the whole kit.

As I drew closer, I saw that the old man was dabbing at Pete’s very red nose with a wad of cotton wool. It seems that my American friend had been stung on the hooter by a bee and hauled to a stop in pain. The old man had materialised from out of a paddock (no buildings for miles), diagnosed the problem and pulled from out of his little embroidered vintage shoulder bag the cotton wool and a bottle of some kind of salve.

We may well have been indulging in the local kif a little earlier in the day, but this wasn’t a dream. The Berber man had appeared in the time it had taken me to do a U-turn, and was carrying the good stuff in his amazing bag. I wonder what else was in there?


It was one of those great little traveling experiences and we all had a laugh about it later on.

Those bags were often sold cheap as crusty second-hand cast-offs in the souks, while shiny new “tourist” product of dubious quality and generic design dominated the shelves. But those little Berber bags had a beautiful, simple fold-over top that they weren’t reproducing for the tourists (and coincidentally, I had that same functional fold-over construction on the bellows pockets of my classic waxed-cotton Barbour motorcycle jacket).


Reasonable examples of the bags today fetch up to around $400 to $500 which would have kept our old Berber friend in high supply of goat tagine for quite a while, I’d say.

And reasonable examples of 1973 Triumph Bonnevilles go for a lot more than that…and certainly for a lot more than 1972 Suzuki 500’s. But I’d be steering very clear of old Triumphs in case you happened to stumble across Pete’s particular example, which I’m sure had been cursed.

But more about that in the next story…



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