- Buyer's Guide
Carrying on a Motorcycle :: Gendarmes and BMWs
As I’d mentioned previously, Pete’s Triumph Bonneville was a bit of a bother.
After hanging out on the deep southern beaches of Morocco for a couple of months, that fine example of British engineering wasn’t getting any better. Triumph mechanics are thin on the ground down there, so we packed up and limped into the capital city of Casablanca where Triumph mechanics were, not surprisingly, also thin but we found someone prepared to have a go anyway.
The repair job seemed to work, but by the time we were back inland again and heading for the city of Fes, things weren’t running well. And I was running out of money, too, which meant heading North again to find work in London.
In Fes, it was crunch time. The Triumph just wasn’t going to make it any further, and nobody in that crazy medieval city was going to repair it. So Pete organized a truck to take it to Ceuta where the ferry runs across the Strait Of Gibraltar and into mainland Spain, a whole country full of motorcycle freaks and willing spanner hands.
Now, I should mention that in 1973 Morocco it was more than likely that any foreign tourist under the age of 30 was, at any given moment, carrying a substantial quantity of illegal, Moroccan-grown substances that enhanced the traveling experience somewhat.
A visit to the mountains where the local farmers produced substantial blocks of hashish to order and helped pack them into the spare tyre of the Combi was as much a part of the tourist trail as the souks of Marrakech.
Some sly farmers were known to tip off the police, which meant they could sell the same blocks of hash several times over, keeping everybody very well fed and happy. Except for the odd tourist, who ended up broke and in jail.
The most feared people amongst the young hippies in Morocco were the black-uniformed moto-gendarmes who would swoop into the camping grounds on their shiny BMW boxers and create mayhem.
A police raid on the Combi vans and backpackers was a scary and possibly dangerous experience, and happened often enough for these guys to have a reputation as mean, tough and coldly efficient (if you’ve ever seen the movie “Midnight Express”, well it was set in the same times and a similar culture).
The day the truck was due to pick up the bike was the day the gendarmes swooped into the camping ground. Gulp! Maybe they thought we were seriously big operators and were planning to ship a whole truckload of hash?
They declared that perhaps they should just escort the truck north, all the way to the border.
So, it was off through the Atlas Mountains we went. Shortly after hitting the road, their real mission was soon revealed…they just wanted to show the Aussie boy on the Suzuki how well a BMW-mounted cop can ride!
Soon, we’d left Pete and the truck in our dust, and with a BMW either side of me we had an amazing high-speed, mountain-road, double-the-speed-limit fang, complete with flashing lights and a blast of the air horns whenever somebody needed overtaking. It was fun, scary, challenging and exciting. What a day!
Once we’d arrived in the north, we shared glasses of mint tea, had an outrageous laugh, and the gendarmes fired up their BMWs, waved a cheery goodbye and headed back home through the mountains. I was a little surprised that they didn’t bust out the kif pipe!
I waited for the truck to lumber into Ceuta, then helped Pete push the bike across the border into Spanish territory, and he was safely back in Western civilization.
From there we parted company, and I headed across the Straits and north through mainland Spain, with a now confirmed lusting for a big black BMW, a seriously bald front tyre and an even more serious cash problem…