We woke up listening to the rain outside. I went out and found a nearby market to buy breakfast. I bought cereal (Frosties! In Morocco?), milk, bread, and eggs. We ate, packed and left by 9am. The traffic out of Casablanca was appalling, and the fumes were choking. This was their ‘rush hour’.
We soon got past the fumes, lines of mules and carts, taxis and bustling people, out onto more open road. The land seemed barren with thin grass amongst the rock earth. Rubbish lorries drove past us dripping foul smelling liquid from their tail boards and bits of debris into our path. They took it to a huge dump on the right of the road to Marrakech. There was rubbish everywhere. Roadside stalls were selling sandstone ornaments which were carved and cut by chilly-looking men in situ.
Dan’s bike developed a clunking noise, so we stopped and tried to sort it out. But, we could not find its source. It would have to wait for the service it was going to get in Marrakech.
We stopped in Berrechid for supplies at about 11am, stopping for lunch a couple of hours later. Lorries and cars were driving past us far too close for comfort, knocking us around in their wake. We had found ourselves shouting and swearing at them in a vain attempt to show them our displeasure and our impatience with their lack of regard for our presence on the road. The drivers hoot at us, showing their annoyance and implying that we should ride on the shoulder of the road. But, we refused to ride there because, more often than not, the shoulder is rutted and pot-holed which makes it uncomfortable and difficult to ride.
We stopped to cook up a lunch of rice, tuna and peas on an official looking piece of concrete with had man-holes in it. A man came up from a nearby building site and said hello. We politely said hello and then ignored him in our attempt not to get involved with the usual intrusion. (It may sound narrow-minded of us to be so frosty towards the locals, but they generally were after something from us other than a friendly chat. We had become very suspicious of people walking up to us in Morocco). He soon took the hint and walked back to the building site. Privacy is sometimes hard to find when you are out on the road and you feel vulnerable when you have nowhere to hide!
While we were eating, Dan and I sat in amazement watching a storm in progress which was not far away, to the north of us. On the left edge of the storm, we could see a wind funnel forming; a long, dark tube coming off the main body like the hose on a vacuum cleaner. The wind funnel broke away from the cloud and then shrank towards the earth. The main storm was flashing with lightning, with great, dark streams of rain being dumped on the flat farmland below. To our rear (to the south-west), we could see another storm. It was a terrific sight.
We cycled on into Settat, passing the ‘Royal’ racecourse on the left of the road where the small grandstand was full of people, with racehorses being trotted around for the punters to view. Entering Settat, it seemed like a modern and smart looking place (probably due to the presence of the royal racecourse). We quickly passed through.
The road was quite flat and we sped along. Dark clouds loomed ahead, the countryside looking drenched after the recent downpour. The air temperature dropped so I donned my waterproof. Soon, we came into the rear of the rainstorm and were given a good watering. The terrain changed noticeably just north of a place called Mechra-Benabbou, becoming sandier in texture and orange in colour, almost as though it was the first sign of the desert ahead.
We crossed a swollen, chocolate coloured river, still getting a good soaking from the rain, and thought that we might have to camp out that night because time was pressing and the light was starting to fade. The rain stopped but it was still cold.
I got the ‘bonk’ soon after the river which I remedied with a few lumps of cream cheese I had with me and a couple of spoonfuls of strawberry jam. I soon felt a fresh as a daisy with some energy back inside me.
An Australian couple on a fully laden motorbike zoomed past us. We pushed on. Dan was feeling tired and weak, probably as a result of his recent stomach problems which had almost cleared up.
The light started to but the sky was clear; it’s orange and then purple light shone onto the orange ground and surrounding hills, making the whole area look stunningly beautiful. The houses we were passing were now the same colour as the ground they sat upon.
It was quite chilly and dark now, and we were about 4 kms from the next town or village, Skhour-des-Rehamma, according to our map. Just up ahead, we saw vehicle lights and, as we neared, it became clear that there had been a road accident and the ‘Gendarme Royale’ was present. Dan and I were now riding on the shoulder of the road, aware of the danger of Moroccan drivers at night.
We passed the accident and, finally, the street lights appeared of the town we had seen on the map and we sped in. On the left was an auberge. They had a spare room for 50 dirhams which we took.
We were cold and tired so we decided to have a couple of hot drinks in the bar to warm up as they took down our passport details. We chatted in French to the man who wrote down our details. He happened to double as a technician for the Moroccan Post Office.
We told him about our jobs (I had previously decided that I was a student of English literature at Newcastle University (which is where Dan had actually gone to university), deciding that telling people I was an ex-soldier was not the best start to a conversation with a stranger). Dan told him about his job as a micro-electronics engineer. The man replied that we should not talk about such things because people will talk. (We would soon find out why he had said that). How odd, we thought.
We went back to our room and cooked up some supper in our room. After we had eaten and washed up, there came a knock on the door. I made towards the door and there was a second knock. Such impatience! It was a policeman. “Papers, please!” he said. We showed our passports and, after a quick inspection, he left. That was all a bit strange.
Soon, we were in our sleeping bags and on our beds. It was cold in the room and we were still cold from the day.
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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