Monday, 15 November 2010

Alan and the Tenére - Mission "Group catch-up"

For the moment, I'll leave myself, (smugly beardless), Darren, and Shad in our tents, and fill you in on the whereabouts of the determined Alan, and his Yamaha.

Since getting to Marrakesh on the 17th to spend time with his girlfriend, he's been determined to rejoin the group, pushing himself possibly harder than us to do it. In his own words, I'll hand the pen over to him.


After the nightmarish experience of riding through Fez, I was not particularly looking forward to my ride to meet Jill through Marrakesh. As it turned out, the main roads through Marrakesh are fairly straight, and 6 lanes wide, so plenty of fun to blast through and have a bit of fun making use of what little power the bike had left, but also keeping a 360 degree look out for every other fool on the road. Once I got to the south side of the city where google maps had told me to be, (as I don’t use sat nav), things got very hectic. Getting caught up in all the motorised traffic as well as the horse drawn variety, in roads that were now becoming streets, then turning into back alleys of a maze within a maze.

After 30 minutes of battling everything, I finally admitted defeat and pulled up behind a taxi to get directions, even before I managed to get off the bike with my bit of paper, a very nice gentleman on a little scooter pulled up next to me offering his services for free, offering to get me to where I needed to be. Desperate, alone, hot, thirsty, hungry, and most importantly of all “stupid”, I believed him. Yet again I was going to ride in away I had never ridden before, whilst going at what felt like, and were, break neck speeds.
I followed this kind gentleman through what could be best described as a bustling packed market street full of people, which whilst on a scooter is fairly simple but not on a fairly large 660, and after 10 minuets of crushed toes and bashed mirrors we turn off this back street into a smaller street, where thankfully the Riad Alma was located. With a curt nod and thank you I start to unload, but this kind gentleman is standing looking expectantly for something more, so after some dashing, bartering, and “this is nothing to me, how is this going to help” I part with €5.

Instead of giving a long drawn out report on the next five days, I will just give the basic good, and not so good bits.

Riad Alma.
Excellent could not have asked for, or booked a better place. Worth every penny and most needed after the time on the bike.

You have the basic street sellers, so with these, just use common sense. If it looks as if the tables are dirty and not many locals are eating, then move on.
The food stands that set up at night time in the main square are worth trying, but don’t use it as a main meal to fill you up.
The cafes and small eateries around the main square are more for the tourist. The food is ok but basic, the prices are what you would expect for a tourist trap.
The best food we had was going to some of the Riads, where there seemed to be proper chefs, rather than cooks, and far more pricey, but well worth it for an evening meal.

Places we visited.
The main square, full of street vendors trying to use animals to make money from the tourist. The animals are not well looked after, and are abused to get them to perform. You make your own choice.

Jardin Majorelle gardens, Nice, but I am a bloke and there is not much to get my attention. I could walk round in 5 minuets Jill, 2 hours.
Tanneries, I have a strong stomach and the smell didn’t bother me too much until I got to the pit with the rotting chickens and hides laid on the top, that turned my stomach. For Jill it was all a little overpowering, even with mint placed under the nose.
We also visited a few of the tombs and old palaces. Yet again I am not the arty type but those into photography would love this.
The most relaxing place to visit was Les Bains De Marrakech you have to book this a day or 2 in advance but it is definitely worth a visit, and book the hammam and massage after, I did not want to move away from the pool for a couple of hours.

Getting about.
We had no hassle, or even felt threatened walking about inside the main walls, it's worth getting lost within the maze of streets, as this will take you away from the more touristy attractions, and there are always taxis to get you back to a familiar place easily enough.
Things to be wary of
The kids giving you directions, they are always lying and just want your money. This is definitely once place where nothing is free. Don’t look to closely at the horses they are not in a great shape and many have open wounds.

Leaving Marrakesh, and rejoining the group.

To start of with, thanks for the kind words Si, it was a great adventure and I couldn't have asked for a better leader, (and wing man, Shads).

As much as I was enjoying Marrakesh, I missed being on the bike, and in a group having a blast. It was soon time for me to leave, (21st), to start my journey home. I had been in touch with Shads by text, so I knew it was going to be a 10-hour ride to get me to Ceuta. I had checked out ferry times on the net and knew there were a couple of late ferries, but thought I would try for the 6.30pm crossing, giving me more time to get through Spain. (I will be keeping everything on Moroccan time as that is what I had been working to).

I said my farewells to Jill at 9am, after collecting my bike from the secure parking, and started my journey hoping to catch up with the others somewhere in Spain. But you will all know by now that is not going to happen.

Driving out of Marrakesh, and picking up the signs for Casablanca the bike was acting surprisingly well, being able to do 65mph, and sometimes 70mph was quite a treat. The road through to Ceuta is not one to really talk about, I was trying to cover ground, not look around, so apart from lacking in fuel stations and being a toll road, which only takes cash. I will leave it up to other reports to do the explaining.

I had decide to leave all my spare Dirhams with Jill, so she could go for another massage, taking with me just enough for fuel, and not much else seeing as I had had a big breakfast, and my camelback was full, and with a spare 1.5ltr stashed, I would survive. This plan would have worked, apart from the fuel being almost twice as expensive on the A5/A3, maybe it would have been a different journey had I taken the N1. As it was, I had to take a detour into Rabat to get some more Dirhams, I also took this opportunity to refresh my self with chicken and chips and a cold coke, as well as a bit of map reading, as I had left Marrakesh without thinking of which route I would take through Spain.
I was hoping to hear from Shads as to their progress, and follow a similar path. Chicken and chips devoured I set off thinking it was going to be a close call for me to catch the 6.30 ferry. I found the coast roads very European, and nothing like the rawness of the rest of Morocco, not so much of a let down, just an anti climax after the experiences of the last 2 weeks. As I neared Ceuta, time was running out so instead of constantly canning, (how that makes me laugh), canning it with a top speed 70mph, I will try that again. Pottering along at 70mph, I stopped to look for fuel before crossing the border. Getting over the border was yet again a very quick, and simple process, taking only 10 minutes. Finding a ticket office still open In Ceuta I bought my ticket with an hour to spare, before I could board the 9.30pm ferry. I decided to take a little ride around, find my way, then stop off and get something/anything to eat. I was now getting quite an appetite, and a sore arse.

I think it was at this point that I text Shads, to find out where they were, and which way I should head, explaining that I would try to catch them. He advised me that they had been riding hard as well and it was not worth the risk of trying to catch them up, and I should stay safe and catch up upon my return to the UK. I felt deflated, as I was looking forward to riding in the group again, all be it at the back. I now made a personal choice, I would still ride hard, putting as much time and miles in as I could but not taking unnecessary risks. At least I knew speeding was not going to be a risk, plus, I did have the advantage of being fully rested. In that hour of waiting I got the map out and decided to head for a pass in the Pyrenees recommended by the French family Shad and myself had met in an auberge.

I can't remember the ferry crossing it was very much a case of getting a seat, putting the headphones in, a bit of Pink Floyd's dark side of the moon, boots off, and customary dribble down the chin. I was woken up by the thrusters marking our arrival in Algeciras, at 10.30pm.

From the moment we had arrived in Santander and started our journey properly, I had been wearing body armour, with just a t-shirt over the top, now in Spain (half past midnight local time), and a bit of a bite in the air, I had a choice of either getting wrapped up warm, back in my UK biking jacket, or use the refreshing chill to keep my wits about me, which seemed a more drastic but necessary option.
The next 5 hours where spent riding in the dark, due to crap lights on the bike, getting worried by any car coming up from behind, and hoping that they had seen me, praying it wasn’t a pissed Spaniard, or on the hill sections, getting passed by HGV’s, as the bike had now decide to drop down to 40mph up hill, 50mph on the flat, and 60mph down hill.

I managed to pass Malaga, and at Granada, I finally managed to head north which felt good, even though I new I had to go east, North was going to take me home, or at least back to the other lot, which was ultimately what kept me going.
Reaching Jaen at 2am, I was making good ground, and felt like I was getting somewhere. Still feeling quite all right, I reckoned that if I could see the sun rise, I had a good chance of keeping my self going to make France by late afternoon.

This, however, was not to be the case. I got another hour and a half further on, and going through high passes, I starting to feel the cold, and my mind wandering, it was time to be Mr sensible. I started looking for anywhere close to the main carriage way, but out the way of people and houses. I finally did a bit of a u-turn down a slip road, which took me into a farmers field. I had a quick recce, and saw nothing to concern me, so I parked up pulled out the sleeping bag and roll mat, boiled a tin of something, ate, had a great cup of tea, and climbed into my very familiar and comfortable bed, pleased that I was getting closer to familiar faces.

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