It had rained heavily on the morning we left Rabat. The roads were still soaked as we dodged through the city centre and out onto the Casablanca road. Cycling along the edges of the road was a filthy, gritty experience because of the soil having been washed onto the road by the rain. It was quite warm, with the sun appearing regularly between the small clouds. The road was fat and fast, however, as we shot along parallel to the coast and a railway line (which we had thought about taking at one point, but we were discouraged by the hassle of getting the bikes onto the train).
The countryside was not particularly interesting. We stopped in a small town in a café for a couple of drinks. At one point, after having left the café, on a straight stretch, we stopped for lunch, cooking up some tinned ravioli and peas, finishing off lunch with some yoghurts.
Suddenly, while sitting on the edge of the road, we saw a police motorcyclist with his lights flashing speeding along the road waving everything down. He sped past in the direction of Rabat. Just behind him, another police motorcyclist screamed past us. No more than a minute later, a whole cavalcade of police motorcyclists and expensive looking cars sped into view. As it came past us, we realised it was someone important who actually waved at us as we stared at them. Dan and I looked at each other after the caravan had gone past us. “Bloody hell” I said, “That was Ronald and Nancy Reagan!”
By this stage, we were standing up and were feeling stunned, amazed, bewildered and amused. Was it really them? Is this country mad? What’s going on? We laughed nervously. For the rest of the afternoon, I pondered on what we had seen. It made what would have been a very ordinary day’s ride bearable.
Casablanca soon appeared, large and sprawling. We stopped, eventually, outside the medina and walked in with our bikes, looking for a hotel. Hustlers and touts came up to us, as usual. I was getting very bored of them. They are very tiresome in Morocco. Dan, at one point, elbowed one of them in the stomach who had grabbed him. I went into a couple of hotels but they were full, uninterested or only spoke Berber [I recall an incident in Chefchaouen where Dan and I had asked to go into a ‘hammam’ (like a Turkish bath), but the man at the entrance had refused us entry, citing that he thought it was likely that we, as westerners, had AIDS! Such was the suspicious and unenlightened nature of some of the locals. I was getting the same feeling at these hotels].We were in no mood for this and walked out of the medina, sick to the eyeballs of these places where we were hassled relentlessly.
Casablanca’s medina is not a patch on that of Fes, In fact, it is rather dull and nasty. We stayed in an expensive hotel (by our standards) nearby called the Hotel du Foucauld. It was ordinary but we had the advantage of a lift to use to get our bikes and kit into our room.
We showered and went out to find a Vietnamese restaurant that was recommended in our guide book.
Distance 99 kms Average speed 12.7 kmh Time 7 hours 45 minutes
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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