Friday, 29 October 2010
September 18th - The long haul up North
Yesterday we had been on the road for 7 hours, and had made about 50 miles, not good.
As I sat in the dark, waiting for the 6am redbush to boil, I knew we had some ground to make up.
Our ferry from Ceuta had been pre-booked for the 20th, back to Algeciras, and likewise, our ride back aboard Brittanys' finest, was set to sail on the 24th, from St Malo.
The skies looked dark over Marrakech, and only marginally lighter towards Tinerhir.
My original route was to have taken me from the Cascades d'Ouzoud, up the N8 to Kasba Tadla, a loop round from El-Ksiba on the R317, to El-Kebab, then through to Mrirt, and across to Meknés, via the R712.
Anyway, as I sat drinking tea, and boiling my breakfast-in-a-bag, I knew this was now out of the question due to weather and time constraints. I also knew that we needed a break, we'd been riding non-stop, since we left home, with breaks only to camp. With several thousand miles yet to ride, and in a fairly short timeframe, I decided that we should push on, to try and reach Chefchaouen by nightfall.
It's a hefty 585 miles away, and will take a good haul to get there, so we break camp early, and are on the road to Errachidia by 7am.
My boots and gear are still soaking from yesterdays floods, by 11am we make Goulmina, and stop for a leg stretch. We're back in warmer climes, and the wet boots, having dried, are now becoming damp with sweat.
We've made good time, and while the river crossings are still present, the flow of water is nowhere near as turbulent as it was yesterday. All in all, we've amassed a staggering 16 crossings, all without incident.
Coming out of the mountain pass at Zebzat, the wind nearly blows me over the edge as I stop to take a picture, Jason and Darren have gone ahead to Midelt, as I got tied up taking pictures of a family on donkeys back in Nzala, and wanted some solo time.
But now, a couple of clicks short of Midelt again, and the wind was howling across the open plains, but at least the sun was out...
It was hot, and lunch was just around the corner.
I found Jason and Darren at a roadside cafe as I entered the town, so there we stopped for the hour, incidentaly, the only long break we'd have that day.
We were so hungry, that we had double portions of chicken brochettes, with peppered onions and tomatoes, and a barrel of cokes.
Fed, and with water and fuel replenished, we hit the road for Chefchaouen.
It pained me to ride this hard, as there was so much I had wanted to see, but riding styles, and weather conditions had played a large part in eating into trip time, and if I was to spend a day relaxing, and drying out in Chefchaouen, it was going to have to be full steam ahead, as there were several hundred miles miles to go.
I had planned to head up the N13, this would take us through Azrou, Meknes, Sidi-Kacem, Ouazzane, and over the Rif, hopefully without incident, and allowing us to make good headway.
As it happened, we made excellent progress, with all three of us knuckling down, and getting on with the ride. We hit Meknes in good time, and Jason who was riding point, pulled over to get a melon for this evenings desert.
We'd not long passed through Sidi-Kacem and my eye caught the RID, it showed 1 bar... Bugger, we were still a way off Ouazzane, and there didn't seem to be much in between, and instead of doing the logical thing, and heading back for fuel, I pushed on, the Garmin not being too specific about the location of any nearby garage.
20 miles later, and with the warning light showing amber, I find a fuel stop, only to find that they're out of unleaded, so onwards we go.
After our run of recent bad luck, fortune smiled on us, as I found a welcome Afriqué station around Áin-Defali. This place was right in the middle of nowhere, yet the forecourt had several large coaches parked on it, disgorging western looking tourists, who once again stared agog as the three of us caked in mud rumbled in, hastily fuelled, and rumbled out again..
All the time feeling secretly pleased that we were doing the trip the rough way.
We finally made Ouazzane by nightfall, and with a little over 60 miles through the Rif mountain passes in the dark, it was going to be a while still, before we made Chefchaouen.
The road surface was no more rougher than it had been on the Ketama side, however, it was frequently broken by roadworks that directed us off onto the gravel detours.
I rode point, Darren behind me, with his HID lamps blinding oncoming traffic, causing them to turn their brights on me, and Jason bringing up the rear.
We'd broken rule 24, which was "don't ride at night."
The oncoming traffic drove as erratically at night, as it did in daylight, and despite the pitch dark, many of them drove with no headlights. How we made it to Chefchaouen without incident, I'll never know.
We made the campsite at Chefchaouen at 9:30pm, We booked in, and started to unload the gear. We'd made it, and could have the whole day here tomorrow to relax, and explore the town, something we didn't do the first time we arrived. Hopefully Shad would meet us here before we leave on Monday for Ceuta.
Darren looks decidedly dejected, and pitches his tent away from myself and Jason. I suspect he's reached the end of his rope for the day, and needs some space, so we leave him be.
My feet are soaked, and after a 14 hour ride look like prunes, furthermore, I can't walk properly, they hurt like hell from being cooped up in the Vectors all day.
Looking back on it now, it was a very "Nick Sanders esqe" day, a long slog by anyones standards, and not the best way to travel, but the upside was that we had won back 2 nights, and a whole day of rest, thankfully a gamble that had paid off.
Jason and Myself fired the Coleman up, and cooked Chicken curry and sponge pudding for desert. I grabbed a hot shower, and just sat under the hot water, completely worn out.
Across the way, there was a group of six English bikers, all on lightly packed KTM's and a couple of Tenerés, they were loud and brash, and I took an instant disliking to them, loud, cliquey, "know-it-all" types, and one braying turnip who obviously loved the sound of his own voice...
I was not to be proven wrong.
As I finished my redbush, and rolled another smoke, I heard the braying turnip ask this of his vegetable friends..
"I know it can be dodgy to drink the water in this country, but is it safe for me to brush my teeth with?"