Thursday, 15 March 2012

Had a fab time in Marrakesh last night. Ate on the square then wandered und town. Belle bought a Berber  robe which she intends wearing tomorrow. All bought desert head wraps. Not sure what they’re called. Accidentally got up at 0530 because Dennis thought we were an hour ahead of London. We’re not – we’re on the same time, so we’ve been getting up an hour early everyday since getting to Morocco. and we've been giving him stick ever since!
V hot today and faces are getting tanned. Peter also had black stains on his face from brake dust and oil, where he’s been mechanicing and it won’t come off. Looks a bit mad. Steve flew home this morning following crash on Sunday. He’s Ok but a bit sore and decided that he shouldn’t continue, best decision really as it will only get harder from now on and sleeping rough most nights won’t do him any good at all. Shame to see him go, but for the best.
Late leaving today despite our early start because we had to fix all of the bikes – routine- before riding up into the Atlas Mts. Very hot day. Belle wore her Berber robe which delighted locals who waved and chatted and approached us even more.  Went through some very remote villages and stopped at a few shops for food and some C90 parts as Dennis’ brakes failed – not a good idea on mountain roads. Locals wanted blog address so they could look us up. Managing to converse with them well as many speak French. Not sure what they think of my grammar as it is pretty appalling but they seem very happy and very willing to come up and chat and  seem delighted that we have a common second language. They love the bikes too and think its funny we’re riding them on such a long mission.
An exceptional ride today – fabulous mountain roads right up into the High Atlas and 2100m. Tizi -Test pass. No snow though, which was great. Exhilarating descent on tiny track roads with lorries coming towards us and taking up most of the space. Sheer drops, gravel, goats, washed away surfaces – all the hazards you could wish for on a bike but we all did it, albeit with some very close shaves, but no falls and no accidents. Dennis had a very close call with a truck – oncoming truck just missed him on a blind corner. Now wild camping somewhere in the mts.
Had a fire and a good meal last night, cooked al fresco as usual by Sue. Delicious although Sue didn’t like the ingredients she had to work with. We’ve got a bit of a yoga and massage programme going on ( not as weird as it sounds) because all of us now have sore shoulders and necks due to the constant rough riding on bumpy roads. So every morning, Sue wrings Belle’s neck and it works, and every evening Belle sorts the shoulders of others. That works too. We’ve also found a way to help Nadine’s knee be a bit more flexible – good old Deep Heat. Stinks but does the trick and makes things more comfortable for her.
Ironically, we have an exceptional phone signal up here in the middle of nowhere. No wifi though. Cut Peter’s hair off because he said it was itching and he no longer looked like his passport photo - which he didn’t. Thought he might not get into Western Sahara so we had to sort it. Did a team cut and he now has a Mohican. Not bad with a pair of scissors and a comb nicked from a Spanish hotel.
Now 0446 am and sitting here blogging under the most incredible starry sky. Very bright and full of stars, no light pollution.
Off to Tan Tan Plage tomorrow. Another long ride ahead.

 Set off as planned from our wild camp. All slept well and nobody was eaten by bears during the night. Early morning riding is great because the temperature is cool and the light is fantastic. More towns , scenery changing by the kilometre into dusty scrub and flat,rocky terrain. Then Will got a flat tyre but it took air so after a quick pit stop, we were on our way again.

Landscape changing by the kilometre into flat open dusty scrub stretching for miles and miles. Then up into the Atlas Mts again.Not as  high this time, but equally spectacular – bright orange rocks, almond trees, high peaks and mist that made it all look like a Japanese water colour painting med both amused and bemused at our sudden arrival and buying of all their bread. Lunch at the top in a shack cafe, chatted to the locals ( all men) who seemed both amused and bemused at our sudden arrival and buying of all their bread and cake stocks. We must boost local small economies hundreds of percent every time we stop but we really have turning into a travelling circus and major entertainment spectacular. The Jalaba (the Berber coat) is doing a great job acting as a conversation starter. Everybody comes up when I get off the bike and wants to shake my hand for wearing it. They probably think I’m some sort of motorised transvestite as it is a man’s robe, but it was far more spectacular than the horrible lacy things they did for women.

Had a good old chat with some of the older men who told us that only they live uop their during the winter while their children and their families live in the town where they or their children can into the mountains for gthe summer because its cooler. Most of them speak French and I am still mullering the grammar but it is a means to communicate and everybody so far seems very eager and willing to have a chat. They’re also quite happy to have their photos chatting probably opens doors.
Rode on the other side of the mountain, planning to stop at Tan Tan but then things started to go wrong. Four punctures in one after noon, and a broken spoke, then a problem with the air filter on the truck. This all held us up so much that we are now well behind.  Stopped at Tafroute to refuel, met a local chap who again was fascinated with what we were up to, where we had come from, and where we were going. Had a good old chat to him in French and he pointed out the .lion rock, which is apparently a local tourist attraction. Its just the shades and strata on the rock which appear as a ,lions face. And it does look like one. Lots of administrative buildings in the town, and he told me that it was the main centre for admin work in Morocco – Tangier, Marrakech. Casablanca etc, and that’s why the houses look different – a sort of Moroccan New Town, and not old village dwellings passed down through generations.
Then Nadine got a puncture. Stopped to sort that out, and Sues helmet rolled off down the mountainside. Fortunately her head wasn’t in it at the time and Mike retrieved it with minimal grumbling. Scratched her visor though. We were still at  4000 feet by this time (1614hrs) and with nowhere to stay and no wild camping places showing up. So we decided to ride for the nearest town (Bouizakarne ) and find a hotel. Committed the cardinal sin of riding the last 20 miles in the dark, but we had to, and anyway, it meant we couldn’t see the potholes and sheer drops into adjacent ravines.
 But hotel spotting was harder than expected. Eventually found one, much to Mike’s delight but that was short lived when it transpired that there was just one room for 3 people which was already taken – but they did have a concrete football pitch in a secure compound that we could use for our tents. So that’s what we did. Ate in the town. Tajine all round, except for me and John who both had bean soup which was nice. Then an aches and pains session - Sue, Pete, Nadine, Mark and Gordon all had painful shoulders due to the long rides on very bumpy roads. So we sorted that out before hitting the sack (not together), dog tired.
Up early again, trying to make up time. Left the football pitch campsite on time despite Mark cutting his finger badly and having to be patched up, but he did the he man thing and pretended it didn’t hurt. But it did; we know Mark and you men should carry safety warnings. No more playing with sharp toys boys please. But he was OK.
Got stopped by the police ant another road block but this time, rather than wave us through, they stopped the truck for questioning. Detained for about 10 mins then allowed to carry on.
Headed towards Tan Tan. Rode about 60 miles of the 150 before Nadine’s bike ran out of fuel. Bit of a problem as our stocks were low and we still had a way to go, so we put a bit in all the tanks. Set off and 10 metres later, and she gets a flat, so we stopped again to sort that. Finally get going 30 minutes later and it was much hotter, so layers came off. We’re now in the desert proper and its is just as I expected – flat, sandy with rocks, weird and colourful rock formations and a few scrabby bushes.
Five km from Tan Tan, guess what? Yep, Nadine runs out of fuel again. Must be some problem with her carb which we’ll have to fix tonight. Got stopped again as we reached Tan Tan, this time having to produce passports and explain ourselves. They were very nice though, particularly when I produced my International Police association badge ( thought it might come in handy sometime). Then fuelled up, found a garage to fix the truck and a cafe for lunch.
Then we were mobbed by youths and small boys which was Ok for a while but then very wearing in the mad midday sun. They just wouldn’t leave us alone, asking for presents, money, food etc. These are not poor people but  hassling travellers is what they do, and although expected, one youth  in particular really pushed it. After putting up with him for about 90 minutes, and asking him to leave us alone, he still kept on and on, trying to pull things off gthe bikes and asking for stuff. So I’m afraid I burnt his ears with probably the rudest bit of French I knew, which amused nearby locals and got the message across. I don’t like doing that but he really was too much.
Eventually got a sandwich at the cafe – took ages and several prompts from me, possibly because I’m female and so not sufficiently important  to be listened to. But another bit of voice raising  did the trick, as did some arguing when the inflated bill arrived. Don’t like doing that, even when the prices are far less than at home but I don’t like being taken advantage of either and if you give it, it just makes it worse for other travellers.
So we moved around the corner and are still here, sitting in the shade and catching up with blogs and diaries, waiting for the truck to be fixed.
Looks like we’re be sleeping on the beach tonight at Tan Tan as we’re not going toget as far as we hoped, and we’re going to have to adjust the onward route as well if we’re to reach The Gambia before its time to come home.
Can't do pics at the moment as the internet connection is very weak and slow so not even trying. Apologies for the long essay on this post but nothing better to do and I've just copied it straight from my diary.

More alter if we can get a wifi signal. If not, will text to Tam, Mike and Sue's daughter who will post but it will only be a few linesd. Thanks Tam