Monthly Archives: September 2018

Marrakesh to Agadir

25th Sept

Last nights accommodation was nice, but the air con was noisy and the food and drink expensive coming in at £75 which is more than we paid to stay in the hotel.

In contrast, we are now Camping in a field in a small holding of a local Shepard. (living like kings one night and paupers the next)

Easy riding day on flat land, it did get a bit hot at 42 degrees but we were able to take breaks in the shade. We felt at one point we were riding through the desert as it was just hot and bleak and barren.

In the afternoon we sheltered in the entrance to a new building complex, this was a walled area with the entrance full marbled and tiled floor, the workers let us take shelter from the sun in the entrance way, and even made us a tea. It does seem odd to still be at the start of the building project but to have finished the entrance first, especially as the main building was a good 100 meters away and all the lorries have to deliver through the entrance gate.

We did a small detour into Marrakesh market square. The square wasn’t that busy but we could see the small alleys leading off like other busy markets we have seen.
I had my photo taken with snakes paying a small amount of change but the snake charmer wanted a lot more.
There was a queue of horse-drawn carriages waiting for customers and even though Net didn’t go near them she still ended up with an allergic reaction with her eyes watering and swelling and struggling to breathe. I am begging to realise just how precious my darling wife is. Ginette I have never thought of myself as precious but with sunstroke, constant upset stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and allergies, he may just have a point. 50 tomorrow and at times during this trip I have felt everyone bit my age. But feeling much better now.

A young lad on route shouted hello followed by fuck you, I am pretty sure he didn’t know what he was shouting. We did have some surprising answers to our attempt at hello, Bonjour and Salem, one Muslim young lady replied “hello you alright” and later another said “watchya” both in perfect Del Boy accents.

We knew we would be wild camping, it had taken a few attempts to find a suitable spot, when we finally found one we were happy with (there are so few areas around where there is no one else around) during the process of putting up the tent a Shepard came to is, he gestured that the black rain clouds over the nearby mountains may cause this spot to flood, he showed us another spot to set up camp. This was right behind some sort of water outbuilding and near his and others dwellings.

It was not a great spot but at least we knew the locals were happy for us to camp there.
We even have a dead goat hanging in a nearby tree to dry out as company.

Net was not a happy bunny.

Ginette – I like wild camping, but I prefer privacy, although we stopped several times it was almost impossible to find somewhere away from people, ants or noisy roads. The idea of wild camping is that you’re alone. I am not shy when it comes to doing my ablutions but I don’t want an audience. This particular campsite was right next to several family homes, with open space around us! To get to it we had to drag the bikes over several muddy fields and pass goat skins hanging from trees. As we sat there in the evening eating our dinner, whilst swatting the flies away and being watched by curious families Gary asked if I was OK, I challenged him to name one person who would be happy if they’d cycled all day in 42c heat, set up camp at 7pm (after three failed attempts in other fields) with no shower facilities or toilet facilities knowing they’d repeat the same process the next day. Needless to say, he couldn’t think of anyone. In the morning we scored our accommodation 4 out of 10. We had worse nights but I hoped that the following night we would find a hotel or at least a more isolated spot to camp.

Wednesday 26th Sept

Breakfast consisted of cereal and water and hot coffee in our semi-wild campsite.

After yesterday’s easy ride we knew we had the mountains to cross

The initial 20 k was still flat and we were blessed with cloud cover so the temp was a cool 31 degrees.
We reached Aymntanwt with very little climbing but this is where the hills started. Nets headset had come loose again so a local mechanic tightened up the locknut for free.
The hill climbing was fairly easy and we did the two major climbs without too much problem. The weather was closing in on us with lightning and thunder all around us, we kept on in the hope we would be spared a soaking but the rain had other ideas

Initially, we set up a mock shelter to wait for the storm to pass, even breaking out the stove for a coffee but after an hour or two, it looked like the weather was set for the day.
We did consider camping behind the building we were next to, but there were several dogs around and one locked in an outhouse where we would have camped but he didn’t sound friendly.

We donned our wet weather gear and set off in much cooler temps of 15 degrees to find a better campsite. We thought we had found another site when we realised we needed more water so decided to cycle on for rations.

At a petrol service station after asking around about hotels and campsites a local older man offered to put us up but we decided to stock up on cakes and water ready to camp. However, a driver of a small truck didn’t think this was a good idea in the storm and offered to give us a lift to Agadir which given the weather and state of the muddy surrounds we accepted.

So with all the panniers and bikes tied precariously on the roof of this already overloaded truck, we started the last stage of our journey.

We did scan the area as we drove past to see if we could of camped, well off course we could but the desert type terrain which was all dry dirt was now a sticky mud surface, no grass around and with lots of new river courses making tracks in the mud it was clear that camping would have been a very wet and muddy experience. We could see several mudslides which would have made camping very challenging.

The ride down through the mountains was not as scenic as we had expected and surprisingly there were still a few more ups to do. We had hoped for some wow moments of the views over Agadir, but it was dark when we arrived and it was clear to see that there were no views to be had. Instead, we had a gentle approach to a large valley and a drive through an industrial area. We both agreed we had made the right decision to accept the generous offer of a lift into town.

Our driver was a lovely man approx 30 years old, we had conversations via a translate app on his phone for a lot of the trip. Although it took a few times talking into the phone each time before it came out right. He shared with us that he had been married for a year and that he was expecting his first child next month. He had trained to work in Aluminium but due to work shortages, he was driving for a living.

He would take no money for helping us, he even helped us find a hotel.
The hotel we stayed in was in a Muslim area right next to the bus station and a very busy local market we were the only tourists around. The room was very basic, no air conditioning, very dirty/old bathroom and brown! Dinner was soup as Net couldn’t find anything else she could eat (lots of meat dishes or deep fried fish), even this was cold but the waiter was kind enough to microwave Nets for her.

27th Sept

We arrived a day early in Agadir, but agreed to go to our hotel and ask if we could check in a day early.  We had spent several hours picking the hotel on the internet, wanting something special for Net’s big birthday. We had selected a 4-star hotel with great reviews and pictures but in reality, it is more like a 3/4 star hotel. The reception area is very small and not what you would expect for a 4-star hotel and the doors from the rooms are more like fire doors, metal and bland. The room is ok and we have a balcony but not the luxury we had hoped for. The facilities are good, bar, pool and restaurant and I’m sure we’ll do our best to make the most of our time, which we intend to use to plot our next adventure. We are aiming to take a year off work, but rather than spending a year on the bike we are aiming to do lots of mini-adventures, we are open to ideas….

Fes to Marrakesh Part 2

Sat 21st

Easy start to the day with flat riding again alongside the Atlas Mountains we passed through a large town which was 10k of cycling, no issues with the traffic and the miles pass by quickly as there are so many distractions. Lots of very post, moroccan villas and olive sellers.

We turned off the main road to take a trip up to a large reservoir, this involved a 15 k uphill climb of 1300m, a tiring experience for both of us especially when the temp was at 42.5 degrees. Ginette – it is hard to describe what cycling in this heat is like, but it is difficult to breathe, the air is dusty – especially when the lorries pass by us, your body and face are constantly covered in sweat which the flies love. The buzzing noise from the flies is enough to drive you crazy, it is hard to squat them away when you are climbing a mountain or descending a mountain on your bike. On the upside the locals look at us in amazement and cheer us on. I have noticed several of them do a double take when they realise a woman is cycling in the mountains, which makes me smile. On one of our stops, a family bravely asked to take a photo.

Ginette is back to her speedy knickers self but stops often in the shade to allow me to catch up.

We based ourselves in a more upmarket (well more upmarket for this type of trip) hotel with a pool but we are too knackered to use it. The women using the pool are fully dressed, which put Net off.  Ginette – to be respectful, I have cycled with my shoulders covered and with a sarong over my shorts. Although we have stayed in a couple of hotels with pools, we have seen few women in them and all have been covered. I think me in a bikini may cause a few heads to turn, especially as my legs look like they’ve been dipped in creosote leaving me with lilly white thighs (not attractive).

We popped out for lunch to one of the small cafes we passed, the owner was in the process of sending us away when a fisherman turned up with his catch from the day and between us we managed to talk the cafe owner into cooking us some grilled fish.

As we sat down to enjoy a beer (a very rare treat) we Skype called my Mum, Tracy and Richard this was really nice. It was great talking to them but we were very tired and the delay makes it hard to have a conversation that flows.

Sunday 23rd

I am not sure where we staid,  we spent the night tucked away in an outbuilding of a petrol station.
We were both very tired and couldn’t be bothered to try to cycle any further to try to find accommodation or wild camp.. We had been heading towards a hotel but it was a further 9k off our route or a hostel which never materialised.

We started the day with a 15k climb straight from the hotel, at least it was early so we were treated to a max temp of 35 degrees on the hill climb. After this, we were both weary from the two days of high hot climbing so we were doing well not to bite each overs heads off. Ginette felt sorry for a couple of kids that had said something to her as she passed them so stopped and gave them her cake and biscuits, they then tapped her top box and wanted money, not a good morning to try to hassle Net, I could hear the tone in her voice as she told the boys off. Ginette too bloody right, I had stopped on a hill and given them all my snacks and instead of saying thank you they wanted more. I have since witnessed adult beggars doing the same which may mean this is a cultural thing. But instead of feeling like I had done a kind-hearted act I felt like I hadn’t done enough. This was infuriating as I didn’t have anything else to give, but I suppose they didn’t know this.

The scenery has been great but it’s hard to enjoy it when all you seem to be able to do is keep the pedals turning and keep the sweat and flies from going in your eyes.

I spotted what looked like a chameleon, it was on a suicide mission on the road, We stopped and tried to encourage it back onto the grass by moving my front wheel near it, only for the Chameleon to climb into my wheels spokes. Net had to hold the bike still whilst I found a stick which the Chameleon closed onto so I could move it to safety.

The garage provided us with fried eggs and dry bread. This was not enough to fill us up so I made us some instant noodles washed down by a bottle of cold water. We certainly know how to live the high life. Ginette – the garage ‘cafe’ area was full of men watching football, not another female in sight. The toilets were rank!! However, it was good of them to let us stay free of charge.

Monday

The tent was up under shelter on a marble floor held up each end by the guys tied to the push bikes. It was a very hot and sweaty night only coming to around 25 degrees by morning, it was also really noisy with road traffic and vehicles tooting to fill up all night. With hindsight we would have been better off in an olive grove somewhere.
We were both awake early, at one point Net was looking at me half asleep at around 4.30am with cold blank eyes. Fortunately, she dozed off and woke up a lot more cheerful

Breakfast was coffee from our own stove and cereal with water.

The ride was pretty flat all the way and easy going, Net was in a good mood so I reckon that I should find more horrible places to stay as she seems to thrive on it. Ginette – this is not the case at all, it was awful, noisy, smelly and really well lit. I was glad to be back on the road and knew that any accommodation would be an improvement on the previous evening.

We did have one small valley to drop into and climb back out, this caused Net to describe the unexpected climb as a “fudge ray doo dah” so it would seem she is now making up her own swear words. Ginette ‘and why not’ the lactic acid rushed to our legs and made me want to shout out lots of obscenities and I restrained myself with fudgery doo dar.

I had a wobble late afternoon, we hadn’t eaten much today and although there was food at the last stop fussy Net couldn’t find anything she could eat, a little cake and sprite seemed to tide me over. Ginette – as a veggie Morocco is a little challenging I generally have a choice of salad (not on the menu today) or veg tagine (my last one came with 2 big lumps of a goat!). The only offering today was daal but it looked very meaty. I agree compared to Gary, I am fussy but I would have happily visited another cafe/stand.

Our accommodation was a pleasant surprise, we paid £45 for a room in a place called “the bird exclusive guest house” and it is the nicest place we have stayed in Morroco, they even served us two free beers on arrival. Our room was massive with a huge fully slated tiled bathroom and it even had an outdoor pool.
So if Net is not in a good mood tomorrow I will revert back to shacking up in garages. Ginette the reality is, a garage may be luxury we will probably be wild camping for the next couple of nights as we can not find any accommodation past Marrakesh and we arrive are only 15k outside of the city now. Our next update will come from sunny Agadir in 4/5 days time.

wifi very poor therefore only a couple of pictures today, will post more via facebook

we are now in Agadir and we will post our final update tomorrow – wifi still poor

Fes to Marrakech Part 1

Fes

We have spent a few days in Fes as Net has a very iffy tummy. But I am now a bit stir crazy and time is slipping by so we need to move on.
Net was still not well enough to ride so we arranged a taxi to take her and her bike ( and most of my luggage) onto the next location.
I cycled the route with only one pannier which meant travelling very light.
The ride out of the city wasn’t too bad.. After about 20 k the hill climbing started, there was a 1000m to climb. The hill was not too bad and having no kit made it much easier.
This day involved three episodes.

Episode one, the city ride and flat farmland.
Episode two the hillside ride into the mountains with the terrain turning into the rocky ground with the locals selling fossils and chyrstals by the roadside.
Episode three was a trip into France, reaching the town Lafarne the buildings and streets and tree-lined avenues made it feel like I was cycling in France, very strange.

On route today I met a couple of cycle tourers from south London, they had set off from home, through France and Spain and were heading to Marrakesh but long hard way over the mountains. We have swapped emails in the hope we could meet up later that night.

Net – I really wanted to ride with Gary but after 7 days of being ill, I had no energy. It was interesting riding in a cab, the drivers use their horns and hand gestures much more than we do. One hit of the horn could mean I am behind you let me pass or simply I have seen you. If a driver wants to overtake and the driver in front fails to react the car behind drives progressively more closer and uses their horn in a more aggressive manner. They also drive in the middle of the road.  It all seemed needlessly stressful.

My taxi got lost several times on route and although I had the address and a map he struggled to find the accommodation. When at last he did he insisted on an addition 100 dirhim  (approx £10 for his troubles, I pleaded poverty, gave him an additional £2 and sent him packing.

I was a little worried when we arrived at the accommodation it was down a dirt track, a rubbish bin had been tipped over the road and 4 stray dogs were loitering outside the property. I was greeted with a warm welcome and shown my room which was fairly basic but better than some we had stayed in. The main issue with the accommodation was the noise, ideally I would have liked to snooze, as I am constantly up and down in the night I’m shattered, but with screaming children and barking dogs, this was not possible. Instead, I went in search of a pharmacist who kindly suggested I needed a course of antibiotics. I somehow managed to get lost in the local medina but it was good to get my bearings. Several men approached me but soon left when I told them about my husband. I think they see an older western woman and think money, I may be wrong but it is amazing how quickly they lose interest when they know you are not alone.

Azrou to Khenifra

Last night we met our clones, Sally and Tim the cycle tourists, I had met earlier in the day. We had a lovely evening chatting with them. They have had lots of adventures together but the striking thing is how similar they are to each over as we are as a couple.
Chatting with them has given us another perceptive on how we can do our next big trip.

Ginette is riding again today it’s much nicer having my smiling lover back.
We had a good downhill stretch and a few hilly climbs but we are cycling along the edge of the Atlas mountains at approx 1000m on what has turned out to be a well surfaced level road with light traffic.

We have had some stunning views each side of the mountain range, it doesn’t look that high but then we are already high up on this road. The views do change often mostly dry land but the occasional green forest area.

We are still passing rural areas with the locals hitching lifts, it looks like they use the donkeys to get to the Riad then leave them at the roadside and hitch to town.
Reaching one small town at lunchtime a huge market was in full swing, we didn’t go in the market area as it was swarming with locals. We did stop for lunch in the town at a roadside cafe for a Moroccan bread/pancake handmade on a griddle whilst we wait.
This was a great people watching session observations include:

Men with full length hooded (Klug Klux clan type but not white) coveralls.
Women with children wrapped to them in fabric baby carriers.
Small pick up trucks with handmade double-decker shelves with cows at the bottom and sheep/goats at the top, plus passengers also in the top.
Busses and trucks with the roof kitted out so they can also carry sheep and goats on the roof, I don’t know how they get the animals up there.
Men great each over, hold hands and kiss cheeks, then have long conversations whilst still holding hands, this is not always just two men. it can be a group in a man hug. We have seen this lots but it was good to watch whilst we tried to converse with the lady who cooked our pancake-like dish. She had no English and we have no Arabic but we didn’t let this stop us.

Frid 21st, Khenifra to Ait Ikkou.
A nice easy undulating ride today along the main road that hugs the Atlas Mountains. There were a few sections of roadworks with gravel to contend with but the scenery changed as we travelled so it was a relaxing ride. We had mountains on one side and a huge area of flat land to the other. We did have some kids thrown stones after us but this is at schools out time when they all marching along the roads goading each so we didn’t read too much into this, I expect it would be the same in the UK.

The temp reached 37.5 degrees so we were both flagging by the afternoon.
We stayed in Maison avec vie Ait Ikkou, we had trouble finding it as the sign at the front was in Arabic. The place was really nice, we had no air con and the windows were open to the wildlife but it felt like a Moroccan homestay.

When we arrived our hostess, greeted us and showed us to our room. Within minutes of settling down, she brought us fresh orange juice and biscuits. We sat in the garden before dinner and we were pampered with fresh cold water and mint tea Later she cooked us a lovely tagine. we are now sitting in the garden being pampered whilst the chickens and goats shared this same space as us.
Some notes from today.
Descriptions of Ginette this morning (her words not mine)
Dolly bird – this reference was from Gary, I actually said I could never be dolly bird! More like
Trailer trash, then realised I was travelling without a trailer and settled on
Biker trash – Gary added
Strong and sexy.

The heat means we are stopping frequently for cold drinks
Ginette is still stared at by the little ones, after all she is still the white haired devil lady.

 

Gibralter to Fez

Gibralter – Gary’s diary with additions from Ginette

Yesterday was still wet and drizzly and was Sunday so a lot was shut.
We walked over the border across the runway into Gibralter.
We had a wander around with the rest of the tourists of all nationalities, but lots of Brits.
I had 2weeks here with the TA back in the 80s and it has changed enough for me not to recognise any old haunts.
We didn’t go up the hill as we didn’t want to pay the £5each to walk up the steps. After we tired ourselves out around the town we had two beers and wines in an English bar, the bill of £17 knocked me for six.
Back in Spain, we struggled to find somewhere to eat but in the end Net found a Chinese so we had a nice meal, however, this later upset Nets Tum as she is used to mainly fresh produce now.
I cooked on the balcony the next night and we were told off by the hotel staff.
The next day we found a cycle shop to do some adjustments to my rear wheel and fitted a new stand (I think this stand will break in a week), also a laundry trip.
Monday was National Gibralter day so we booked another night in a cheaper hotel in Spain so we could visit again.
The day was nice with everyone wearing red and white, we spent some time on a sandy beach and watched a biplane do a one plain air show.
We missed the main events on in the morning, but a nice atmosphere all the same.
We left early as the drink was taking effect on the revellers so left while the island was still in a good mood.

11th Sept

Breakfast in the park opposite the hotel of cereal and cake.
Today was to be a short ride of 27k to the ferry port and another 3k from the port to the hotel we’d booked, well that was the plan.
The ride was a bit pants, along the same industrial area back to the main road, then we had to cycle along the hard shoulder of the main road as there was no other way to get across to the ferry port.

The ferry process was simple, tickets at the port and onto the next ferry which was less than an hours wait. Our passports were stamped on the ferry. We watched dolphins playing in the wash from the boat. It was also interesting watching a Muslim women breastfeeding her daughter. She like most of the other female passengers were dressed from head to foot but she openly breastfed the child at one point conversing with her friend with her naked breast on show. The world is a strange place.

When we arrived in Morocco 1.5 hours later it turned out that this ferry had taken us to a port some 40k further up the coast, which meant we had to cycle the coast road to reach the booked hotel, a nice bonus?
The ride had lots of little ups and downs all along the coast, we were battered by a side wind which at times helped push us along, however, it had strong gusts and had us both wobbling all over the road, to the point that we both came off our bikes. Ginette nearly went under a tarmac roller, it was very gusty.
The people are much friendlier in Morocco than in Spain, we had lots of eager Bonjours thrown our way and car drivers shouting encouragement as we trundled up the hills.

There were also a few inconsiderate drivers that wanted to shave the hairs off our legs with their car bumpers, not easy cycling when you also have strong winds to make you wobble.
We arrived at Tangiers and our accommodation was inside a small narrow-streeted market area next to the Kazbar. As soon as we arrived in this area we were accosted by the hawkers trying to sell us a room to stay in, one young lad spoke good English and knew the hotel we were aiming for so took it upon himself to lead the way. At this point, we were pushing the bikes as the streets were narrow and full of people.
In the end, we were glad of the man’s help, our hotel was tucked away and would have been very hard to find.
I love the pace we are in, its a Riad, with three stories all tiled inside on the walls and ceilings. Ginette is not so keen, she likes the interior decor but does not like the views (derelict buildings but if you can see the sea), nor the fact that our room opens up to the hotel’s restaurant and the only thing separating us is a very thin curtain and a single pain window. Not the best place to spend your anniversary.
Once settled we made our way out and our ‘new friend’ took it upon himself to be our guide, he took us to a cafe where we sat feeling self-conscious with lots of local boys, with Net the only lady on the level we had chosen.  We were hoping for coke but ended up with water, whilst Abdul had a mint tea, this cost us around £3 which seemed a lot.
We were then escorted to a place to eat. the place was great and the owner spoke in excellent English fully comprehending Ginettes dietary needs. we had a 5 course dinner but a £40 bill as well. This was very expensive as we only wanted a snack but felt rude refusing the food which was fairly basic. Ginette was not impressed when the waitress insisted on a tip and not understanding the currency I gave her a further £5.
After lunch, Abdul appeared again like a magic genie. he then escorted us all around the Kazbar but as this trip continued it turned into a sales venture, we were taken to several carpet and silk scarf merchants. I started to get tired and a little stroppy.
It was good to have the tour, we did see a lot of areas that we may not have stumbled upon on our own, but the feeling of being trapped tourists having to be guided was not so good. When he finally led us back to the hotel he wanted money and was clearly disappointed with the £5 I reluctantly gave him.

13th Sept

Tangiers to Lanache
Last night we had a lovely meal in a local restaurant and was stopped on the way back to the hotel to see if we wanted to purchase some weed nice!

A nice breakfast but come bill-paying time thought I was overcharged. Kicking myself afterwards that I should have known what the bill should be, will do this for the future.

The ride out of the city was rubbish, along the main Road which led right to the motorway turning before the road we wanted branched off, this was nearly 20k.

At our lunch stop, we had a huge salad and Ginette managed to fall down the loo! she’d forgotten how to use a drop toilet and her shoe (with cleats) slipped on the enamel on the floor and over she went. Her foot landed in the toilet bowl and the rest of her landed on the floor – yuk!

Once on the minor road things started to get a bit better and as the afternoon c9ntinued we ended up in a rural area with locals walking on the road edges to markets. Donkeys laden with goods. Small motorised carts and also horse-drawn carts. A cycle back in time.
The main crop was melon and watermelon so every 100 yards a farmer was selling his wares at the roadside.

We stopped for a late break and treated ourselves to a melon for 80p, the guy even sliced the melon and fed us the slices. As we entered one of the towns a group of young boys chased me, one fell over and apparently a fight broke out, which soon dispersed when Ginette rode on by this provided another opportunity to chase a bike down the road.

We had planned to try to camp but reaching the fishing/ port town we decided to head to the town centre and booked a room.

Entering town we passed a fish market at the dockside with cafes around it cooking the fresh fish, once we showered we walked back to have a meal of various fish, prawns and calamari. We were given a huge plate plus some other dishes all for £17.
We enjoyed the second part of today with the rural old-fashioned lifestyle.

Lanarche must have been an impressive town in times gone by, there are some amazing buildings that over time have been neglected. There is a lovely square where everyone congregates in an evening, was sat with the locals and watched the children play.

 

Friday  – 105k today ouch.
Set off on a planned route towards Fes, which is over 200k away so no plan to go all the way.
The ride out of town was not too bad but the road again was long and the main road had heavy lorries even though the traffic was light.
Cycling through rural cowboy country, donkeys, old trucks and locals in all sorts of odd clothes, particularly the roadside workmen who like to wear large fluffy and colourful hats.
We had a few issues with the school kids running along side-us they make us a bit nervous as they are sometimes quite a few of them and they can be unpredictable.
The Garmin wanted me to turn down a gravel road so this turn was ignored, we had to go another 20 k before we could try to get back in the right direction, we saw a sign for Chefchaouen, I wasn’t sure quite where this was but knew it was a tourist attraction which was some way closer to Fes so we followed this road.
It climbed a few hills but the road was nice had far less traffic on it. A thunderstorm and lightning was building around us and we could see a downpour in front of us, we took shelter at a bus stop.
Whilst waiting a local lad came over with his I phone on translate to offer us a room for the night. How nice, however, we knew there was a larger town in 25 k so waited for the storm to blow over.
Reached Ouazzane around 7.30, it was on top of a hill, yeah. The town was very busy, men were seated in all the cafes and the streets were packed with market stalls. We had to push our bikes through the crowd, fortunately, a car pulled up and asked us where we wanted to go and in broken French, we explained our dilemma. At first, he seemed to suggest there were no hotels but another local interjected and suggested the hostel. Later that night we walked passed several local hotels so we think there may have been a communication issue,
Found a very basic hostel with shared drop toilet and no air conditioning and went out for dinner. It is difficult to find places to eat/drink which are not full of men, but we found a little cafe. I ordered chicken and chips but Net only managed a salad. I treated her to a packet of biscuits and pop for supper.

A local school teacher engaged us in conversation during dinner, afterwards he took it upon himself to show us around his town, this was great but after a while, the inevitable happened in that he took us to his mate’s shops, carpet shops, clothes shops and asked for a donation to his school.
We did get a lot out of the tour but it leaves a sour taste when there’s a charge and attempts at sales. I don’t think we will be falling for this trick again. A noisy and hot night in the hostel, no air con and a market right outside our window, ear defenders are working out to be a must have as we use them most nights.

Saturday
We have had no internet for the last couple of days so are going by using old long routes I had plotted on Garmin, maps.me and mainly the street signs.
We did head off towards Fes and Chefchaouen, but pretty soon the road to Chefchaouen headed North East away from Fes so we abandoned the northern route and just headed for Fes.
The morning was spent cycling through the poor rural areas again, the afternoon had less habitation so we spent a long time cycling in 35 degrees with just fields and passing cars.
We thought we were going to have to wild camp, I was pretty tired so only had a few more miles left in my legs when we stumbled on an oasis of a sign stating hotel with swimming pool.
The hotel, was behind a service station and yes there was a pool but there was no water in it.
Evening meal was cooked by chef Gary tucked out of the way from the forecourt. Pasta tuna and vegetables. (out of the way means in the car park)
Some observations from today.
Ginette has her cycle legs back and is leaving me behind, especially when some dogs came barking. Seems I am fair game as long as she gets away.
There are lots of well-preserved waterholes in which the locals gather to feed their animals, wash and take large water containers back to there homes (I presume from this they have no running water). I so want to get a good photo but feel I need to ask permission as I have been told off for taking pictures here.
There is loads of rubbish just thrown by the street sides.
Lots of children ride and work the donkeys.
People wait by the side of the road and hitchhike any passing vehicles
We are drop toilet and no loo roll land
Lots of poverty, poor and old-fashioned farming methods
Cafes full of men drinking tea and coffee, rarely and women.
Loads of stray cats.
Gimmick shops sell long thin pipes for smoking the weed man.
Regular police stop points en route, we are waved on by but many vehicles are stopped.

Sunday

The service station hotel was quiet and had air con which was good, not so good was the dinner I was providing for the Mozzies. I have several raised and very itchy bites to add to my collection.

Breakfast was cereal with water (Gary had sparkling water).

The day was one of some bumpy bits and views across the hilly area, including a large water reservoir. We are both tired, it’s Ginette’s turn today be the slower one. She has a tummy bug and is going for a Guinness record on the amount of times you can go to the toilet (this is the fourth day so we will find a friendly pharmacist in Fes).

I have again discovered what Coffee and coke do to my body when trying to ride a bicycle. At the 20k mark it felt like someone had turned a switch and zapped all my energy, it dawned on me I had started the day with a coffee, then had a coke at about 10k. I will avoid these in the future the low is not worth the small high.

At one break we finally had WiFi access so booked a room in Fes, whilst the local lads played table football listing to western rap music about cock sucking, nice.
Ginette is hot and weary and has lost the use of language, a simple task of asking for something from her top box turned into a cave girl grunt and point session, ugg, but considering her bad um she is in good spirits.

The temp today was 38 degrees and our water bottles are warm yuk!

The Riad we are in at Fes is really nice, just the like the one in Tangiers but the people seem nicer, speak good English and are welcoming. The room is cleaner with far more privacy. We are going to have a day off tomorrow so that we can explore the city.

 

Spain Days 5 – 12

Day 5 – this blog up date is taken from Gary’s diaries

A cool night sleep with the alarm set to 6am.
We had breakfast in the room of a nutty cereal and yogurt with water, no kettle so just warm water to drink.
Set off in the dark but it was still 20 degrees. Stopped for a coffee after sunrise.

Trying to find towns with accommodation or campsites down route N502 on the map last night showed as an issue, so we have now plotted a different route which does go into the hills a bit but has more villages, we plotted to go to Mohedas de la Java. This is the only place we could find in a reasonable distance with some where to stay.

Wild camping is not a good idea whilst Net is still suffering from heat stroke.

The route today has been lovely, we have gone onto smaller roads with more small villages to stop in for rest and cold drinks. We travelled through a hilly area with loads of strange rocks just laying in odd positions like a giants game of pile on stones.

The place we are staying in is a bit expensive at €70 but is really nice.

Along the route today an old lady had a long one-sided Spanish with the odd English conversation. She was lovely to listen to, we think she was telling us that she lives in Madrid but this village is her family home and she and her mother both grew up here, this was in a village called Aldeanueva de Barbarroya.

Ginette is coping a bit better with the heat now, and the early start has meant we can eat up some miles before it gets too hot

Day 6

Another 6am alarm call so we can beat the heat.
Breakfast in the room of a nutty cereal and water
20 degrees and dark when we set off, it was really quiet this time apart from the dogs that welcomed us from nearby farms. We didn’t see a single car for the first half hour.
Riding in the dark we could still make out the hill ranges either side and we had the treat of several fantastic sunrise views due to the sun getting blocked by the hills of various heights, k e was particularly memorable with sun beams spreading across the sky.

We had a really relaxing ride, even with a couple of steep climbs to slow us down.
We climbed and dropped and climbed again through an area of natural beauty with green fields most of Spain to date is scorched yellow) trees all around. We had a few encounters with deer and plenty of photo shoots. Net coped really well, the temp didn’t go over 26 degrees as we were also blessed with some cloud cover.

We found a shady campsite at €8.50 near Gaudalope and pitched up at 10.30am, cycling day done.

Tent up we walked up to Guadalupe, a very touristy area, lovely little town and a pilgrimage site to see the “Gaudalope virgin ”. We had a nice few hours in the town, Net struggled with the heat so I bought her a large umbrella so we could walk back to camp with a bit of shade

All in all a chilled easy day

Sunday
We managed to be up at 6 am and set off in the cool 18 degrees C and dark trying to be really quiet so as not to disturb the few other campers.

We have 64k to do today to reach a campsite which is marked on the map. We are still cycling in an area called “Extremadura” which is a great area with loads of hills and scenic views.
There must have been a cycling event on as there were a lot of cars and vans going by cheering and waving at us, some shouting and filming, you could see they had cycle tops on and bikes on the racks.

Today was cycling by a large reservoir, showing the signs of the drought with undulating terrain, we reached the campsite fairly early so spent the rest of the day chilling and taking dips in the pool. Spain tends to shut from 2 to 5 the pool did the same but unusually the bars stayed open so it was Siesta time.

Dinner was cooked on the camping stoves, vegetables, and pasta.

Monday
Another early start, however getting up at 6 is still a lie in as on work days my alarm is set to 5.15am. We are getting Better at this early start packing away in the dark and hopefully not making too much noise.

Today’s ride had some good moments of pretty views and some long stretches of burnt yellow land, we had a long day today and was blessed with cloud cover until 12 then 2 hours cycling in the heat of the day. At one stop there was no shade so I put the umbrella up for Net to shade under. She is still suffering when the full sun is on her but she has improved greatly.
Bumped into 3 British cyclists today, they are going from Madrid to Malaga, they are travelling far lighter than us, and have booked accommodation, how organised.

We, however, reached Belacazar having aimed here as it half way between the marked campsites, it was 2pm 35 degrees and we wanted to find somewhere to stay.

After having no joy after asking in my worst Spanish at one bar, another bar proved more useful and we have now planted ourselves in Bar Auberge for the night.

It looks like a hostel for travellers and pilgrims as we have a bunk room for 6 people, we are hoping to have this to ourselves.? Fortunately, we did but it was a very hot night with only a poor fan to keep us cool

Tuesday

Another early start, much easier when you don’t have to pack away the tent, on the road by 6.45. Cold and dark, around 12 degrees. when the sun did come up we had cloud cover so we both wore a long-sleeved top till around 11 when the temp started to climb rapidly as the cloud was burnt away.

Today we ended up cycling on the N502 again, this is no fun as there are too many big lorries on this road, we did try to divert a couple of times but need back on this road our break we had to have by the side of the road this is another set back to this main road it doesn’t pass through enough towns. But we were entertained watching an army of ants dispose of our crumbs.

Our last stretch of road was down and up a valley which was at the end of another large lake, we cycled over the dam onto a short uphill to our campsite.

We have a pool, a bar and restaurant and we have been on a short walk by a fast running river, of which we have not had many due to the dry river beds.

Wednesday

The ride today was in two sections, the morning through a mountain nature reserve the afternoon through rolling farmland.

I really enjoyed both sections, but the morning was the best. We had a lot of steep up and downs with switch back roads but all on a single track sealed road so it was hard going but the area was beautiful. Ginette spotted a couple of snakes sunning themselves and we had what we think where Eagles flying overhead, hence the ABBA song was on repeat in my head.

The rolling farm land had cotton, pepper, limes and lemons as crops and the road again was quiet so this ride was pleasant and we hade up the time we lost in the hills in the morning.

We have booked a hotel in a town we picked from the map called Ecija ( pronounced Etheka) and what a treat this little town is. It has narrow cobbled streets, several tourist places of interest and looks like a lot of people come to see this town.
It is famous for its Easter parades.

Ginette suffered a major hangry session as we couldn’t find anywhere that would do food until 9pm even though all there bars where open, even the take away didn’t cook till 9.
She got frustrated and ended up with no dinner. I was too greedy to be able to skip a meal so waited for the pizza place to open. Then spent the evening chatting with the 3 cyclists we met a couple of days ago, they not only happened to be stopping in this town, they are also in our hotel, small world.

 

6th Sept Day 11, El Penon, Algamitas.

A flat start to the day through the rolling countryside, the fruit plantations now replaced with grain which has already been harvested so the fields are barren and dry.
We had a 30k stretch with no towns so was ready for the break when it came.

Osuna is a pretty town and has some historic buildings that have been built on the top of a hill so you get some great views over the plains all around.

The latter part of the ride we knew meant some climbing to get to the campsite, but boy oh boy I didn’t expect the last 2K to be as steep, we had some 33% climbing to do which is not easy with a bike and kit at 40 kg, and at the end of a hot day of 33 degrees. Then to top it off once signed in at reception we still had more steep climbing to do and then the camping area was up a set of steps. So this afternoon has been quite a challenge.

The site however now we are here is well kitted out, the WiFi is superb and the views to die for. This day is a typical Stuart Patten-Lawrence route where the final destination is at the top of a hill, although I may have surpassed Stu this time as we have been also told that this is the highest mountain in this area.

We are both pretty tired today and looking forward to a break, but as we are only 2 days ride from Gibralter we plan to plough on and take our rest days down on the Rock.
I have changed tomorrow’s route to shorten it and reduce the climbing, it won’t be as pretty but it will save our weary bodies.

7th Sept

Awoke with our heads above the clouds, a fantastic view over the cloud-laden valley with just the highest hilltops showing. We had to ride back down the valley so ended up in riding under the cloud cover.

I was very tired today but Nette has found her mountain legs and was riding strong.

We had a very hilly ride today, we are most definitely in a mountain area, one ride in the afternoon was like an Alpine climb with a long slow climb up to 1005m, we stopped a few times but the last stop had a wow moments as we went into a cafe to find all its back windows looked over the valley.

Then the last winding switchback narrow road to the accommodation we had booked in ………. this was a lovely little town but the hotel was shut. We waited from about 4.30 till just after 7 knocking on the door, we even fed ourselves cooking on the stoves. In the end, when 7 pm past we gave up, we had seen a sign for a campsite further down the road so we set off and camped. We would have done this earlier but we had booked the room.

Sat 8th Sept

Rubbish ride today, drizzled all morning, rained all afternoon then drizzled for the evening, felt cold and had to wear waterproof even at 20 degrees.

A hilly start to the day up and down, the views dramatic with the black clouds over the hills, at least Net had no issues with heatstroke today.

I had a few navigation issues today and we had to stop 3 times to replan the route.
As we got nearer to Gibralter the area became more industrial with gas and oil and scrap steel works all around us.

My bike slid from under me on a roundabout due to the wet roads and Diesel spillage, we were in an industrial estate. I managed to somehow stay on my feet while also slip-sliding over the slippery road. No damage to me, the bike needed the front wheel and handlebars realigning as the wheel was at an odd angle.

The approach to this Spanish town across the border from Gibralter is most uninspiring, it felt like I was going to work as there was so much heavy industry around.

When we finally saw the sea, again it was a disappointment as the view we had of Gibralter and the Mediterranean was also of oil tankers and refineries intermixed with sandy beaches (empty as it was still raining).

Our hotel was booked in an earlier stop in frustration, it cost more than we would prefer and our first reaction is that is not worth it, this town in our first impressions is the worst we have been to on this trip, unfortunately, we had already chosen this for our rest day.
On the plus side, we have just had a nice Chinese meal.

All of this section was taken from Gary’s diaries. I have had an up and down week. Firstly suffering from heat stroke and struggling to have any energy in the afternoon.

We have covered 500 miles since starting out 12 days ago, which is not bad given how poorly I have felt. We have cycled through some really pretty towns, unfortunately, the photos do not do them justice.

Gary has not mentioned the various bike issues but there have been plenty of stops for minor repairs. We need to find a bike shop to complete some of the more major ones like a broken stand (Gary’s not mine).

Gary’s Spanish has been very impressive, although I can understand slightly more than he can, he definitely has more confidence in using the language.

Other than the heat one of my main issues has been food. The Spanish do not eat until late and it is difficult buying anything before 8.30 – 9.00pm. I am used to eating much earlier and need a couple of hours to digest my food before sleeping. This has meant we have been living on pasta and rice dishes. Gary has been great but this limited choice can be a little repetitive.

I have also got really bad saddles sores! Which has made cycling painful, especially in the heat.

Gary has suffered from mosquito bites, he is covered in them.

It is surprising how poor the wifi connections have been in Spain, on several days we had no access at all. Now that I am starting to feel like myself again I will start to contribute to the diaries next week and aim to update the blog more frequently.

I am really looking forward to Morocco and sharing our adventure with you.