In the driving seat on a desert sidecar adventure through Morocco

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Taking a vintage sidecar ride through the lunar-like landscapes of Agafay desert was an absolute highlight of my Morocco adventure with Flash Pack. The entire experience – from the people we met to the epic mountain scenery and our canyon-side picnic – was like something out of a movie. It made me cry with happiness, several times. 

From the moment we arrived in the vast, dusky pink contours of the desert outside Marrakech, I knew the day would be special. Our vintage vehicles were waiting for us under a cluster of palm trees – a series of retro motorbike sidecars in pops of green, red and blue.

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This escape to Morocco was my first taste of group travel

Our crew of drivers were badass, too. They were a mix of local people and those who had lived in Morocco for years – they fell in love with the country and never looked back. 

I’m originally from Mexico, but I’ve lived all over the world – from Germany and Japan to Montreal in Canada, where I’m based now. 

I’m very comfortable seeing the world as a solo traveller; I like to stay in a place for at least three months to get a feel for the culture and its people. So, this escape to Morocco was my first taste of group travel.

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I didn’t believe in group travel until I tried it

It was actually a format I didn’t really believe in until I tried it. But I chose this adventure for the extra support it gave me as a woman travelling solo in the region. The holiday totally exceeded my expectations, mainly because of the way we were able to tap into so many local, authentic, off-the-radar moments, such as the sidecar desert adventure. 

At each new turn, we were surrounded by local people who knew the landscapes and its stories, inside out – including Ismail, our brilliant Pack Leader and guide. He added so much depth to our experience of Morocco, providing us with an inside look at its history, culture and different communities, and recalling tales from his childhood, too. In just two weeks, he gave us the kind of vivid flavour and sense of place that it would normally take me months to uncover alone.

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We rode out to Berber villages across the Agafay Desert

On our sidecar journey, we went off the beaten track to a series of ancient Berber villages stitched across the Agafay valley. One of these was Tameslouht, home of the Zaouia of Tameslouht – an incredible, palace-style building that was built in the Middle Ages. 

Once a religious and community mainstay in the remote mountain spot, the Zaouia acted like a hidden architectural treasure on our sidecar ride. It appeared out of nowhere, in the middle of this otherworldly desert terrain. We parked up to explore the rooftop turrets overlooking the village, along with elegant tiled arches and little nooks where you could enjoy mint tea served in ceremonial silver pots.

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We met Moulay – known locally as a legendary bird whisperer

While we were there, we were lucky enough to meet a man called Moulay Hafid. He and his family live in the Zaouia, ancestors of the original inhabitants. Moulay is known as a legendary bird whisperer, so we got to see him interact and do tricks with the local wildlife. Sadly, we found out he died soon after we visited. But I feel so grateful to have met him – and to have shared that unique experience. 

After our stop at the Zaouia, we continued on into the undiscovered plains of Agafay, slowly climbing our way up a series of spectacular winding roads, all dotted with olive trees. In a panorama that time forgot, I looked back to see our fleet of vintage bikes zig-zagging between the rugged peaks.

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I could see our vintage bikes zig-zagging between the peaks

There were two Flashpackers on every bike, so we took turns to sit on the back or in the sidecar. I was riding with May, a British Flashpacker, who was one of four people on the trip that I’ve made a lifelong friendship with. 

Everyone in our group was great, but I particularly clicked with May, along with the photographer, Connor from Vancouver, an American called Lindsey, and Manuela, a fellow Mexican traveller. Over the course of the two weeks, this lot became some of my favourite people in the world. We had so much fun together, hanging out, talking and laughing like crazy.

The other Flashpackers were part of the reason I cried so many happy tears on the trip – including when we reached the finale of our sidecar adventure. Ismail had gone on ahead to prepare a cooked picnic lunch for us, complete with the most extraordinary views over the Atlas Mountains and Lake Takerkoust.

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Our guide had gone on ahead to prepare a picnic lunch

When we drew up at Kik Plateau, 1,800 metres above sea level, we found these little tables for two, set up with beautiful crockery and artisan Moroccan carpets. It was an above-and-beyond surprise; one of the many that Ismail arranged throughout our adventure. 

The so-called “picnic” was actually a lavish spread of pomegranate salads, chicken, rice and avocado dishes, all cooked al fresco in one of the planet’s most scenic kitchens. The Berber omelette was a particular hit with our group. Cooked in a tagine, it combines eggs with a rich, spicy tomato sauce – and was absolutely delicious. 

I love my job back home, but it’s very stressful. I’m in charge of a huge team and every day I deal with highly complex, big-budget projects. So, to have Ismail take care of us all so well, with every last detail of the trip organised to perfection, was amazing. I could completely relax and disconnect. 

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My sidecar experience was breathtaking 

From a golden sunset on the rooftop of the Riad Bensouda hotel in Fez to stargazing in the Sahara desert and meeting a nomadic family living in the Tundra Gorge – and of course, the sidecar journey – my Moroccan experience was full of breathtaking moments. It felt like an act of fate: I got to share it with the best group of people, at exactly the right moment in time. 

Flashpacker, Analy Torres, is from Mexico, currently lives in Montreal and travelled with Flash Pack to Morocco

This year, Flash Pack’s “Don’t be a Tourist. Be a Flashpacker” campaign aims to encourage travellers in their 30s and 40s to stray away from the expected path – seeking out the road less travelled.

Images for this story were shot on location in Morocco by Flash Pack photographer Connor McCracken.

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