What a kip. I felt as though my body had been in splints weeks and, suddenly, I was able to get out of them, stretch, scratch and, generally, enjoy the sensation of moving about in a warm bed. I got up and went out for breakfast.
I found the covered market and a small shop where I bought eggs, milk, bread and butter. I got back to the hotel room and found that the milk was sour. Dan went out to find fresh moo-juice. When he got back, I found that the eggs were already hard boiled when I went to put them into the pan. I was cursing the Moroccan nation at this point. I went back to the shop (where, yet again, I had had to add up the bill for the shopkeeper) and got him to swap the eggs for fresh ones.
After eating, we washed some clothes and then got to work servicing the bikes. We spent most of the day cleaning, greasing, scrubbing and adjusting them crouched on our haunches on the balcony of the hotel.
The proprietor came up once or twice to our room to nose around and saying nothing in particular. We'd learned to ignore these people in certain circumstances. Later on, he came into the room when we'd finished the bikes.
“Do you have an English souvenir?” he said.
“No”, I replied and shut the door on him. Pestering Moroccans, I thought.
A lot of them are trying to get work permits or 'invitations' from foreigners so they can work abroad. I know they are poor or relatively poor but they never tell you straightly about what they want. They often have a naïve story or excuse to ask you about how they can come and visit you in England.
After cleaning up, we went out and stocked up on items for the following few days. We tried a new method in the shops. We wrote down the price of the items they told us and then we totalled it up. Usually, we are much quicker at adding up these simple sums and this puts them off their guard and seems to make them nervous. However, to works and stops the opportunity for them to overcharge us.
We went back to the hotel and cooked supper. Tuna and rice by Dan. Pudding of Bananas and evaporated milk by me. After eating, we talked about Morocco. We'd overspent and we regretted our foolish naivety when we first arrived in the country. It cost us and we just hoped that we could reach South Africa. We were looking forward to getting out of the country and into Algeria. As the man had said a few days before in the Todra Gorge, “Morocco is for Moroccans!” Indeed.
The noise outside the hotel put a sharp end to a restful night. We could revving engines, muezzin's rallying their faithful, people shouting and spitting in the street. I woke in a bad mood. In addition to being in a bad mood, I realised I had lost the new bog paper we had bought the day before. Dan spilt half of our milk too, so the day was getting off to a bad start.
After porridge and scrambled eggs, we were off at 7.20am. The air was cold again but the sun was bright. We headed out to Tinerhir on a gently dropping road out in the barren landscape. It was a long run into the quickly rising sun. We shot along, speeding through villages, passing other local cyclists and kids on the roadside at a blur. We had covered 70 kms by 10am and stopped at café at the junction of the roads to Er Rachidia, Erfoud and Ouzazerte.
We had passed a group of local cycling in the small town before here they tried to keep up with us on their Chinese bikes. For a bit of fun, we cycle next to them and nudge them in the shoulder. Our greater momentum sends them off into the kerb but we soon tired of that activity.
At the café, two policemen had conveniently set up a check point and were taking it in turns to get up from their cups of coffee and cigarettes to check the papers of passing lorries and old men on mopeds. They looked pretty slovenly with their Sam Browne belts worn incorrectly which made them look very slack.
The music blaring from the café's system was Bob Marley. While sitting there basking in the sun, looking out over a flat, sandy plain with a few hills on its flanks, we noticed a man on a moped coming from the town. He looked a little odd and we soon realised why. He had his open-face helmet on back to front. We burst out laughing and he went past us looking bemused.
We soon moved on towards Goulmima across a sandy valley. I felt quite sluggish after our zippy morning and we crept into Goulmima. We cycled straight through, picking up some kids on bicycles as we left and began to climb a hill. The kids soon dropped away and we sweated up to the top, passing a man walking his mule with a 'simple' character walking ahead of him.
At the summit, we stopped, munched a couple of biscuits each, soaked up some water and admired the view. Mountains to the left; huge open nothingness with the road winding into the distance. We were passed by the two men and the mule but soon overtook them when we set off again.
When we reached 104 kms, we stopped by a ford for lunch where we ate bread, cheese, tomatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, biscuits and drinking yoghurts. Feeling bloated, we crashed out in the shade of our bikes for nearly 45 minutes. The sand I was lying was quite comfortable and my shemagh was wrapped around my head to keep the flies off. The silence, when there were no passing cars, was amazing. Only a slight breeze disrupted the silence. Despite the bright sunshine, the air was still cool.
I got up and had a drink of water and the refilled my bottles from the jerry cans on the back of my bike. Dan was soon up and moved off, limbs a little heavy. The road wound around a few small rises, past a derelict building, a water hole (which was marked on our map) and followed a line of telegraph poles, most of which were either fallen down or the wires had come away from them.
The distance on Dan's computer was reading differently to mine. While cycling, we fiddled with the buttons to see if there was a difference in the programs and, in doing so, I reset my computer to zero when I hit a bump. I swore, infuriated. Dan said “You've got to do it when its in the odometer mode”. I swore at him and set off in a rage like a spoilt child. I cycled until it hurt and came to a halt just inside the town we were heading for.
I looked up a hotel in our guidebook and we went into the town passing several army barracks and along the main street. In the first hotel I went into, the receptionist was lying on a sofa. Another man was lying asleep on a second sofa. I was in no mood for these lazy Moroccans.
I wanted a room for two people, I said. The receptionist got up from his sofa and gave me a key to look at the room. I went up some stairs and looked into the room. One of the beds was not made. I went back down and told him to go and take a look for himself.
I was shown another room on the third floor which, he said, was 68 dirhams (£5.29) a night. No chance! Fed up, we moved on towards the town square where the locals taxis were lined up. We found 'Hotel Les Oliviers'. I found a room I liked and had a second bed moved in for 50 dirhams (£3.90) a night. We piled our bikes and bags up into the room and settled in. We lounged about after paying the bill for two nights and leaving our passports with them.
Quite tired after a long day, we lay about for a couple of hours talking before cooking supper. I had a cold shower before going to bed.
Distance 139 kms Average speed 16.1 kmh Time 8 hours 35 minutes.
We were up at 6am after an adequate night’s sleep. Porridge for breakfast again (the milk was sour though) plus scrambled eggs and bread. The World Service woke us up with the news that Robert Maxwell had died due to natural causes. My arse. It was more like the fat sod fell overboard from his yacht because he could not see his feet. My left knee was aching in the way that my right knee had ached in France. I put the support on it.
We picked up our passports and were away by 7.35am. We climbed out of Boumaine Dades onto a long straight road onto a gently rising, barren plain. The air was cool enough almost to the point of being cold. But, the sun quickly overcame the nip in the air. The road was quiet with only occasional lorries passing by us but not much else.
A few crumbling Kasbahs lined the route and before long we rode into Tinerhir, a town which looked as though it was developing rapidly judging by the number of building sites in it. We stopped at a ‘Ziz’ garage and filled our fuel bottles with ‘Super’ petrol to see if this would stop our cookers blocking up with carbon, which had become a problem.
We found the town centre, had a cold drink and shopped around for lunch with people staring at us, as usual. Soon, we left, cycling towards the Todra Gorge some 14 kms away (we had not realised it was this far away when we set off). The ride up involved a couple of steep climbs, but otherwise the ascent into the gorge was steady.
Nevertheless, it was hot and sweaty work. In the villages on the way up, the kids were troublesome, throwing stones and waving sticks at us or swinging rope pretending to whip us. We adopted scare tactics with the catapult which had a temporary effect and enabled us to get by them without any direct hits.
The entrance to the gorge was well hidden. We rounded a bend as we came off the tarmac and, suddenly, we were in the depths of this beautiful gorge. It is spectacular with sheer, light red coloured rock on either side of you in the narrow opening. A small river flowed in the base of the gorge. We had to ford the river a few times on the way up, stopping to take photos of each other as we crossed. It was great fun and gave us a sense of adventure that we had not had for a few days.
There were two or three hotels at the entrance where the richer tourists stayed. We stopped just beyond these near to some women washing clothes and donkeys munching away on grass waiting to carry the washing away. One of the women thought we were taking photos of her and demanded 10 dirhams. But, she soon realised we were just stopping for lunch.
We saw a kid running down a track as we took out our food and our hearts sank. Here we go, we thought. He soon approached and started asking for food and performing some amateur dramatics in the process. “J’ai faim”, he said. “No”, we said, somewhat mean spiritedly. He pushed a little harder and we were not convinced he was genuine. I got up and chased him off.
A few minutes later, a man came up and tried the same thing, adding only a few more comments such as “It’s cold, isn’t it?”. We told him we didn’t want anything from him. He said we could come up to his village 20 kms away and stay. Dan and I were getting angry. We told him to go away and that he could not have any food and to leave us alone. He persisted more angrily. “This is my country! Morocco for Moroccans! Go back to your home! You are Jewish!”
At this point, I had had enough. I got and went up to him aggressively and threatened him with a good wallop.
Two more kids had joined him and I sat down again and he looked taken aback at my action towards him. I looked up again and he had taken out and opened up a tiny pen knife which he was gesturing towards us. Unfortunately, I did not have a machete on me because I could done a ‘Crocodile Dundee’ on him and said ‘That’s not a knife, mate. This is a knife’.
The man had a sinister look on his face. Was he actually now threatening me? Ok, it was no machete so I took out my Swiss Army knife and opened up the largest blade and showed it to him. He swore at us (it sounded like it, anyway) and walked off with his pride hurt, I expect. What a pathetic individual.
Dan noticed a scruffy white dog sidling up to us to cadge food too. He threw at stone at it and the poor thing sloped off a short distance and watched us.
We seem mean but we really had had enough of being hassled. You feel remarkably vulnerable when you are just you on your bikes and miles away from home.
Some Land Rovers and other visitors walked past us. Most walked up a few hundred metres into the gorge and soon came back. We finished off and rode up the track. It was hard work with our heavily laden bikes crossing several fords, most of which I came off in. I was not concentrating.
The gorge continued to be stunning as we climbed up it with great strata of rock curving here and there, the peaks looming above us. A few kilometres up, we stopped, took some more pictures and turned back. The descent was far more enjoyable.
Back at the entrance, we stopped for a drink at a café. The waiter came up and started to talk with us about alcohol, religion and women. That was an unusual bit of service! The ride back to the main road was quick, only slowed by those shitty kids throwing stones at us and who received a couple of stinging volleys from the catapult by Dan.
We found a hotel, Hotel Salaam, in Tinerhir and got a room for 40 dirhams (£3.10) with free hot showers. We went straight out into the town and bought supplies, having to add up the bill for one shopkeeper who had muddled around for ages in a very complicated, haphazard method of addition only to appear as though he just came up with a number which came off the top of his head.
We showered and cooked up back at the hotel. Tomorrow, we are heading towards Er Rachidia which was 133 kms away so we needed an early start.
We were up, fed, washed and out by 7.35am. We felt a little guilty because we had said we would drop by and say goodbye to Hussein, but we really were not in the mood for heaps of bonhomie so early in the morning. We pushed off.
The morning air was cool nearly to the point of being cold. The sun was coming up and the sky had the odd cloud floating around. We soon reached the edge of town and were out in the dry, desert terrain. It was amazingly quiet when there was no traffic. I could hear my tyres humming on the tarmac as we glided towards Skoura.
Skoura is an oasis in the middle of all the barren but beautiful land with palm trees scattered everywhere. We pulled into a café for a coke after a couple of hours on the bikes where we met an Englishman on a year out from university doing a medical project locally. He seemed alright but was a little cocky towards us. He kept saying “Ten weeks to here is about right”. How would you know? You came here by Land Rover. You haven’t had to wait for two weeks for visas and haven’t been in hospital. Twat. We chatted to this pretender for a bit and pushed off.
Dan had been wearing his turban to keep the sun off and it had left a blue mark on his head. He looked comic. Instead, he wore his shemagh for the first time. We sped along. After that coke, I felt dizzy. It was great to be cycling again. I felt as though I had released a lot of pent up energy and tension. I also had an overwhelming sense of freedom.
To the north of us was the High Atlas. To the south of us were further mountains and around us were dry wadis, brush land, stony desert and groups of camels and goats. Huge strata of sedimentary rock appeared in the mountains, red, brown green and white in colour. It was all mixed into this amazing area. The air was cool but the sun was hot.
After lunch, I wore my shemagh for the first time too. We stopped in El Kalaa for a drink. From here, the road was through a long conurbation through to Boumaine Dades. Kids constantly cried “Bonjour, Monsiuer” or similar, which we kept ignoring. It’s either the prelude to taunting us for asking for a dirham. A few of the little shits threw stones at us but when we skidded to a halt and threw stones or pretended to throw stones back at them they all ran off. A couple of European Land Rovers went past, their occupants waving at us.
At 4pm, we arrived in Boumaine Dades and got a room at Hotel Abrar. 70 dirhams (£5.45) plus free hot water. We washed and showered before going down to pay and fill in the forms. We then ate in our room, but not before the creepy receptionist came up and asked for our passports again. This really annoyed because of the memories of our brush with the police after we left Casablanca.
I felt very uncomfortable without my passport. A little piece of me was missing. The receptionist said he had to take them to the police to see and that we could have them back in the morning. I calmed down a bit and thought back to earlier in the day when we had seen another cavalcade of cars and motorcycle police whizz past us. There was a helicopter flying above too. This was probably why they were paranoid about us .
Distance 117.5 kms Average speed 13.9 kmh Time 8 hrs 52 mins.
I woke up early dying to get to the bog. Bad guts again and shocking wind. It must have been our fry-up the night before.
It turned out to be another slack day of clothes washing, sleeping; buying supplies (the Quaker oats were great energy for cycling) such as four, tinned meat and fish) for the next few days. We were looking forward to moving on. We had decided to take it easy while Dan was still recovering.
I knocked up a couple of letters; one to Simon Ekin (a mate of mine from the Army who cycled in the opposite direction to us with his girlfriend about a year after Dan and I returned home) and one to Penny.
We ate some cauliflower cheese for supper that we made in the room. I washed it down with a beer and then I washed the vegetable and fruit we had bought for the next day. Strangely, I felt whacked after a hard day of doing nothing.
I woke up feeling pretty unenthusiastic about another day in Ouzazerte. I was up and going of the hotel when I saw Brian and Sarah packing up. Sarah had had a nose bleed and was sitting on her bed with a tissue under her nose. I helped them downstairs with their kit.
While they packed their bikes up, I went out to get breakfast. On returning, I talked with them for a while before wishing them luck and saying goodbye. I was sad to see them go. They were a very nice couple.
Back in the room, I made porridge and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Afterwards, I sat on my bed feeling pretty fed up and frustrated. I was keen to get on the road but faced another day waiting for Dan to get better. It felt as though our money was draining away.
At 10am, we went to the hospital to pick up Dan’s bill and his passport. We were feeling pretty glum. They charged us 126 dirhams for two nights in the hospital. The man billing us had put charges of three times 42 dirhams rather than two times 42 dirhams. I questioned him about this but he was adamant about not changing it. Git. This added fuel to our poor feelings about many of the Moroccans we had met and our feelings about them dropped to a new low.
We met Hussein and went to his room. We swapped addresses, looked at some of his photos of him and his fiancée and left, saying that we would drop back in before we left. Not all Moroccans are bad. Hussein was a decent bloke. He was not on the take like many of the others we had met so far.
We walked back into the town centre to buy Dan a new hat because his had been stolen at some time since he had collapsed off his bike. Not finding one, we looked into a couple of carpet shops and a hotel to see if they had any but we finally resorted to buying him a turban for 15 dirhams in one of the carpet shops.
After that, we had a lazy afternoon after lunch. Dan cooked up ‘bubble and squeak’ in the evening and we listened to several music programmes on the BBC World Service. The shows were ‘The Vintage Chart Show’, ‘Multitrack’ and ‘Tommy Vance’s Rock Salad’ which was about great rock guitarists [Twenty years later, I have just started to learn to play the guitar].It was excellent stuff and a tonic to a fairly frustrating day.
I got up at 7am and went out to get egg, milk and bread for breakfast. The local shop had Quaker Oats so I bought some too. The presence of these British foods felt like a luxury. We had porridge, scrambled eggs and cowboy coffee (made in a saucepan).
I slept after breakfast and Dan went up onto the roof. Brian came in for a while to see if Dan could mend his speedometer for his bike. I went out into town to buy lunch and walked a long way to find the fruit and vegetable market.
I returned to find Brian’s front wheel off and his rack undone with the two of them fiddling with the components of the speedometer. But, they couldn’t fix it. Sarah was still in bed recovering from their trip the day before. Brian and Sarah went out for lunch while Dan and I ate children’s tinned spaghetti, corned beef and yoghurts (I had not found the market). They had left us their room key so we could use their hot shower. I took advantage of this wonderful offer.
In the afternoon, Brian and Sarah returned with a bagful of dates (of which I was a bit suspicious of their fitness to eat!) and shared them with us. We talked for a couple of hours about Morocco and what we were going to do when we got home. Brian and Sally were very nice and easy going. We got along with them very well. Dan started to look tired and they left.
We cooked up some food we had bought that afternoon and Brian and Sarah dropped off their key again so we could use the shower. We were about to eat when Hussein knocked on the door twenty minutes early. He came in and chatted with us while we ate. We showed him pictures of our family.
Hussein and I then walked up to the Hotel Azghor for a coffee. It was another expensive hotel, quite modern with its bar half full of Moroccans drinking beer. Some of them were rolling around after what seemed like only a couple of beers. We sat outside in the cool air next to the pool overlooking the town.
We talked for over two hours about his fiancée, Penny, British colonial influence, the relations between the French and the English and travelling. It was interesting but tiring trying to think and speak in French for all that time.
I went back to our room after saying good night to Hussein and found Dan lying on his bed. Brain and Sarah had given us a Mars Bar each, plus some soap powder and their address. Despite no cycling for a couple of days, I was shattered.
I was up early to get to the hospital for 6.30am. Walking up to the hotel was, initially lovely. The air was cool enough for me to have to wear my fleece. The sky was dark blue, the sun rising orange and then gold in the east over the arid countryside.
I took a tin of Heinz Scottish soup with lentils for Dan’s breakfast. He was feeling better and said he was going to come out that day. Unfortunately, I had to go back to the hotel to get our cooker because the hospital kitchen was locked. I cooked the soup in his grotty room (there was some horrible liquid running right across the floor and I had an idea that it was coming from the loo next door). I kept his room door closed to keep any prying eyes out. Dan wolfed down half of the tin of soup because he had eaten virtually nothing for over 24 hours.
I left Dan and went back to the hotel for some breakfast. For the rest of the morning, I went down to the Kasbah which was at the bottom end of the town, a reasonable walk away. I walked past four Moroccan lads, one of whom said “Hello, it’s an American!”
I sternly corrected them “I’m not an American. I’m English”. They walked past me and the same boy, showing off, said to his entourage “The English are the same as Americans”.
Again, I corrected him in a loud voice. I find some of these Moroccan men pathetic.
The Kasbah was a typical structure of the country, its walls covered with a mud and straw mix, with a palace in the centre of it. There were a few tourist shops in the vicinity. I walked into the free part of the castle and walked about the narrow, dusty streets for a while.
At one point, a fat, old Moroccan woman rushed behind a female tourist ahead of me and slapped her bottom, which she then did to me as well. I looked at her, rather surprised, and walked on. There were a few dingy shops and alleys, but I was not very enthusiastic about looking around more, and I did not feel like spending any money or forking out for a guided tour around the palace, which was, apparently, being left to fall apart.
I returned to the hotel to read some more on my bed. At midday, I went up again to see Dan and cooked the rest of the soup and washed some apples for him. He was looking a lot better and was chirpier.
I left via the doctors’ house because I had left my t-shirt there. Hussein was in and I chatted with him for a while. As I was leaving, I noticed the grotty sate of their kitchen with half eaten food everywhere; dirty plates and dishes on the surfaces and a cat standing on the table eating the scraps. It was almost an unbelievable demonstration of the hygiene standards of even intelligent doctors.
I was amazed by the whole establishment. The rooms were dirty and smelly; the floors covered in fag butts and the walls covered in grimy fingerprints. Cats walked about on the dusty floors. The bogs were filthy and stank. In the wash area, the basins were clogged with discarded food. Cats growled around the waste bin in the loos, which was rarely emptied. It was pitiful and so easily rectified. It seemed to be a mixture of ignorance and laziness. A doctor had said to Dan that there were more problems with disease in Britain!
After lunch, I washed more clothes and then went down to the lobby to watch the Rugby World Cup where England was playing Australia. There were a couple of Moroccans watching too. It was good to see Twickenham on TV. It brought back happy memories of drinking beer before watching a match there, the atmosphere of the match and in the pubs afterwards while drinking with friends.
Towards the end of the match, a load of Aussies, Kiwis and an Irish girl (over-landers) turned up to watch the match. A Moroccan who had been studying in Brighton Polytechnic for three years brought them in. I was gutted when England lost 12-6. The over-landers all gave me a hard time when we lost which pissed me off, immensely.
I felt drained and went up the hospital and found Hussein. I told him my bad news about the rugby. Then, I found Dan standing in the main entrance waiting to go. He had packed all his bits into his sheet sleeping bag and had told the hospital staff he was leaving. They were rather surprised and asked what was wrong. (I didn’t have the heart to tell them that their hospital was a shot hole!). We stood around signing papers for a bit and left as soon as we could.
At the hotel, Dan lay on his bed while I went to get food. Coming back into the hotel, I saw Brian and Sarah again outside the hotel looking tired and dusty looking for a room. The only rooms available were 67, 82, or 92 dirhams a night. I asked the hotel staff if there were any cheaper rooms but they were all full. They took the 82 dirhams room (£6.45 a night) which had hot showers and running water. I helped them up with their kit and bikes before going out to get the food for supper. We ate beef broth, boiled eggs, French toast.
My feet have been getting pretty smelly in the boots I walk and cycle in. It’s getting a bit embarrassing despite washing my feet and socks as much as I can, and powdering them. Brian came into our room for a chat (I was desperately trying to keep my feet covered!).
At 7.30pm, I had arranged to meet Hussein and walked up to one of the big tourist hotels on the hill in the town for a drink. It was luxuriously furnished and totally out of touch with the realities outside. We sat at a table next to the pool and talked about Moroccan politics (in French), his ambitions, family, and the different ways in which a young person starts out in Morocco compared to a young person in England. It was interesting but our French was lacking the depth needed to really talk about things. We sat there for two hours. I felt tired so I made my excuses and agreed to meet up the following evening, before walking back to the hotel.
I went up to the room and found Dan and Brian chatting again. I joined in and we talked about bikes, cycling and travelling before crashing out at 11.45.
By the time my alarm went off at 6am, I had had hardly slept. At 6.20am, I got dressed and went to see Dan. He, unsurprisingly, had not slept well either, and felt hot and rough. I fetched his sheet sleeping bag so he could lie on something a bit more comfortable.
After seeing Dan, I cooked Hussein his first ever scrambled eggs for breakfast (which he seemed to enjoy) and then cycled into the town centre to look for a room in a hotel. I found the Hotel Royal for 47 dirhams a night (about £3.70 a night).
It was 10am by the time I had everything transferred into the hotel room. There were two other older Spanish mountain bikers leaving as I went in, at one point. They cycled wearing jeans! I was having a coffee when I saw Brian on the other side of the street with their bikes. I nipped over and said hello. They’d just got in after spending the night in Ait-Banhaddou, which they said was lovely. Sarah was shopping in the supermarket which stocked lots of decent tinned food, including Heinz tomato soup!). We spoke for a while before they headed off for Zagora.
I went back to the hotel room for a while before heading back up to see Dan at midday. He had another prescription for medicine to ease his throat. . Also, the doctor said she would give him a penicillin injection. I went off to get the medicine and hypodermic set for injection.
Dan had still not eaten. Poor sod. He upset me a bit when he said I should have not pushed him to cycle to Ouzazerte when all he had to say was “Stop!”. I didn’t say anything but I did feel a bit pissed off that an seemed to be blaming me for his condition. He had blamed me before for something of his own doing.
I left feeling a bit lonely and a little angry. Penny came streaming into my head and I imagined what she was doing. I bought some eggs and fruit for lunch. The rest of the afternoon I spent dozing, washing clothes, fiddling with the cooker, writing my diary and thinking about home.
I went onto the roof of the hotel to hang out my washing while admiring the magnificent views of the mountains and the dry surrounding countryside. It was warm and sunny. For supper, I had some Heinz Cream of Mushroom soup (which felt like a luxury and was very comforting.), bread and fruit. I lay about reading for a while before going up to the hospital.
Dan looked better and apologised for his outburst earlier. He asked me to get the penicillin from his bags so he could avoid having an injection. He had eaten a little couscous and was expecting to come out the next evening. We chatted for a while about how far we would get on our money and about food.
I left at about 8.15pm, dropping in to see the doctors. They asked me to cook them some more scrambled eggs in the morning. I walked back to my room where I sat about writing and listening to the BBC World Service.
I had a feeling going through my mind that the ‘travelling’ was only just beginning. It was probably because we had crossed the High Atlas and the terrain had changed so much. The dry land stretched for miles around and gave me the feeling of being just a dot on the horizon. The air is so dry that it makes my nose dry out enough to give me nose bleeds. Soon, we might have to start wearing our shemaghs around our faces to keep some moisture in our bodies and the sun off. I’m tired.
Dan was still feeling rough and still had diarrhoea. We decided to start a little later to see how he felt and if he improved. I went out to buy some breakfast and bought fruit and milk, neither of which is great for someone with diarrhoea. I cooked up some rice and heated the milk which we had for breakfast. It was not great.
We left at 9.10am into a lovely morning with cool air and bright sunshine. The first 15 kms to the top of the col was long, winding and steep. Dan was struggling. We stopped several times to drink and eat biscuits. At midday, we reached the Col du Tichka, which was a typical tourist spo. There were boutiques selling trinkets, stones, minerals and expensive drinks.
I made some soup while Dan lay down. A couple of coaches stopped, tourists rushing off, taking photos and rushing back onto the vehicles again. One Moroccan asked me to write a letter in English for him, which I did. Dan wanted to push so I said I would catch him up after writing the letter for the man.
The road further on dropped for about 20kms into a spectacular valley but Dan had to stop suddenly to go to the loo. His stomach troubles were taking their toll on him. He was getting worse with the loss of fluids from his body.
Meanwhile, the scenery was amazing, becoming desert-like, while in the valley it was green with palm trees mingling in the earth coloured villages. As we approached Ouzazerte, it became increasingly dry. Dan was stopping frequently and was looking awful. The light started to, putting and orange-pink colour on the land. It was simply stunning.
But, Dan suddenly felt very dizzy, giddy and weak with ‘pins and needles’ in his feet and hands. [He had lost a lot of fluid]. We had to stop. He couldn’t go on. He had done well to get that far but we had pushed our luck. Dan crashed to a stop on the dusty roadside and collapsed off his bike.
There was nothing for it but to wave down a car to see if I could get someone to take Dan to the nearest hospital, which was in Ouzazerte. I waved down the first vehicle that came past which was a lorry carrying a load of small rocks. I asked them (in French) if they could take us into town but they were only going a further 4kms up the road.
But, just then, a car pulled up behind and a man wearing a jacket and tie got out and came to the front of the lorry where I was standing. Fortunately, he was some sort of ‘head man’ for the region. He said he would take Dan to the hospital in Ouzazerte. As he said this, an old Renault 4 pulled up. A woman got out and came up to us. She was a doctor. I told her what I thought was the matter with Dan and she confirmed that we should get him to the hospital. Dan was whisked away in one of the cars.
I was left with the men in the lorry and the bikes. With the help of two of the lorry drivers, I heaved the bikes onto the top of the lorry and then jumped onto the top too. We quickly drove into town (which was quite fun because you’d never be allowed to ride on the top of a lorry in the UK). The evening air was warm. The lorry dodged past cyclists on the road and soon stopped outside the local hospital.
The three of us struggled to get our heavily laden bikes of the top. I thanked the lorry drivers for their help and offered them something for their trouble but they refused to accept anything. I thanked them again and they left. I walked up to the hospital gate, passing through a crowd of people and asked the gate guard if they had seen an Englishman going in. I told him my brother had been brought to the hospital by a ‘town councillor’ at which point he opened the gate straight away. I nipped back to get the bikes and wheeled them into the compound.
From there, I went into the hospital, found Dan and saw the doctor. The doctor said he had ‘flu, a high temperature (38C), diarrhoea and that he could either stay in the hospital or go to a hotel. We decided that he should stay in the hospital. I was handed a list of medicines to get at a nearby pharmacy. I rushed off on my bike and bought the medicines plus bottles of mineral water and yoghurts (For me. I was starving!). I had to hurry because visiting hours were coming to an end.
I returned and found Dan in a room by himself. I handed over the pills and a male nurse dosed Dan up. Dan’s throat was so sore that he found it difficult to swallow the tablets. I was told to go and cook up some rice for him because that was all he was allowed to eat (It was all self-catering in that hospital).
The kitchen was pretty smelly and unclean, like the rest of the place. The loos were next to Dan’s room were very smelly and the basin in it was full of discarded food. I took the rice to Dan but he was in no mood to eat. I left him there to get some rest.
My next problem was to find a hotel and to get the bikes there. As I was leaving the hospital, the gate man and the man I had had to hand Dan’s passport over to earlier, stopped me and said I could stay at the hospital. They took me to the duty doctor and sorted it out with him.
The duty doctor said I could stay in the doctor’s hostal across the yard. Hussein (the doctor) took me across and showed me into a room with a bed and room for the bikes. I got the bikes in and was offered the use of the hot showers. ‘Wow! Luxury’ I thought. I showered and changed. Hussein then showed me to a shop where I bought eggs and milk. Hussein said I could eat with them tonight. I felt overwhelmed by his generosity.
I took Dan his wash kit, towel, flip flops and book to him before returning to the hostal. There, I was made comfortable and chatted to the other doctors for a while before we ate. Various people came in and out to say hello and they were all told about my circumstances and our journey.
Finally, at 11.30pm, I went off to bed feeling quite tired after the nervous energy I had expended. I got out of my sleeping bag and crashed out but not before Hussein bought in sheets and blankets (He also said I could use his bed! I politely refused).
Distance 100.7kms Average speed 10.5 kmh Time 9 hours 30 mins
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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