We left at 6am. It was still dark but dawn soon broke. We had had a sweet Moroccan cake each before leaving. The air was cool and a few people were in the street. Road surface not too bad. Long downhill out of Ouezanne.
Coming out of a small town up the road from Ouezanne ,Ain-Defali, a man who had passed me earlier on his bike had stopped by the side of the road. He waved us down and indicated his tyre was flat. I lent him my pump but it was clear that his tyre was absolutely fine. He did a couple of cursory pumps and then asked if he could have the adapter which went with the pump. We said no and carried. (See what I mean? So many Moroccans are trying to get something from you. It was a war zone).
At one point, the road surface deteriorated into loose gravel with a track worn into by vehicles. It was fine as long as no other traffic was coming the other way because you could keep on the solid parts of the surface. Once, trying to back into the bit which was tarmac, my front wheel slid away but, fortunately, I was moving slowly.
At one point, a lorry was coming uphill towards me on this loose surface. Dan had stopped ahead. I had to slow down quickly and attempted to keep to the side to avoid the oncoming lorry. But, I lost control in the unsteady gravel and came off my bike. I had managed to land on my feet somehow, but it was something I could have done without.
We came into a town and stopped for breakfast on a grass verge where we boiled four eggs for a butty each, plus extra bread with jam and a cup of tea. A couple of people came up to say hello, one on a mountain bike, the other an old man with a stick who only spoke Arabic.
After breakfast, we were out into the countryside, which was open and dotted with haystacks. Some of these haystacks were quite small which were covered in a layer of mud and straw to protect them (who needs a tarpaulin when you’ve got all that mud?). The roads became long and straight. The sun was bright but not too hot.
We stopped to buy a fizzy drink and some mineral water once. Dan had a few kids trying to put objects in front of him on the road but he made for the offending kids on his bike who quickly ran away when they saw he meant business.
At one point, feeling quite tired, we found an olive tree to sit under and had lunch near the junction of the Ouezanne-Sidi Kacen-Fes roads. We had a short doze. Dan and I had covered 90kms.
After our lunch break, we stopped in a place called Nzala-des-Beni-Ammar for a drink in a café. We could see kids picking up stones in preparation to throw at us. We were having none of that. The little shits were going to face retaliation from two cyclists with superior firepower.
I got the catapult we had bought in France and quickly launched a high speed projectile which buzzed through the air as it sped towards the little toe rags. They scattered like they had never scattered before, diving behind buildings and walls.
There were some lorry drivers in the same café as us and they all laughed at the plight of these small troublemakers. One of them offered us a lift to Fes. We declined. The stone throwing kids had made themselves scarce; we had finished our drinks, so it was time to move on.
Leaving the village, we cycled out and along the road until, coming off a plateau, Fes suddenly appeared to us in the distance. A white mark blur surrounded by trees. As we came closer to the city, I began to feel hungry so we stopped at a smart looking café for an orange juice and a cake. The café was smart enough for someone to tell us to move our bikes from the front of it before we could go in.
Entering Fes, we picked up two touts on their mopeds. We carried out a policy of silence when they spoke to us. They tried driving in front of us but we pushed them away. One came on the inside of me but I cut him off. It worked. Both who had attempted drove off in disgust! “Go Fuck yourself!” one shouted.
We then stopped to ask a policeman the way who then got all officious with us. We moved off and, coming towards the main post office, we saw Rachid waving to us. We pulled over, relieved to see him. He led us to the Hotel Savoy and spoke to the people on reception, sorting a room out for us.
Once in the room, we showered and changed before going out with Rachid into Fes. To get to the old medina we took a taxi to (Gate) Bab Guisson and walked into the old city, Fes-el-Bali. Rachid took us into the centre. It was incredible. Small shops in narrow streets, everywhere; donkeys carrying enormous loads; kebab stalls billowing out delicious smells in the alleyways; masses of people jostling past in their djellabas. It was an amazing atmosphere.
Rachid took us into his local bar. He ordered us ‘un petit sandwich’ each which was ‘kofta’ (which is mincemeat cooked on a kebab skewer) in bread. It was delicious. We drank mint tea. He then left us briefly to go and warn his wife that we had arrived earlier than expected. Men in the bar were playing board games. The bar was a room off an alleyway, reached by going up the narrowest of stairways. Smoke from the kebab stall wafted into the bar. The bar looked shabby but it was popular. We were sitting on a carpet, not chairs.
Rachid returned and showed us how to play the board game. He was very quick and it took us a while to pick up. We soon moseyed over back to his house which was not far away. We turned into a short alleyway which led to a low passage to the left. We had to crouch a little along the passageway which had a thick wooden door at the far end. In we went. What a house! It was three storeys tall with a courtyard in the centre. The top two storeys had balconies looking into the courtyard below. Amazing. Rachid, his mother, sister, wife and daughter lived in the house.
We were taken upstairs and sat down in a room. We said hello to Rachida, his wife, whom we had met in Chefchaouen and had tea brought to us. For supper, we had a lamb tagine. We ate by dipping small pieces of bread in the sauce and picking off pieces of meat with the bread. It was delicious.
We talked for a while and watched the TV news before leaving. Rachid took us to Bab Guissa where he found us a ‘petit taxi’ which took us back to the hotel. Our first experience of Fes had been intense.
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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