Slept poorly. We were up early. I had a shower so I could feel as though I had got the odours of Rabat off me. Dan and I then phoned home from the post office and just caught our Dad and Stepmother as they were leaving for Turkey. It was good to hear them. Saskia (our sister who was four at the time) spoke on the phone too. We updated them about being three weeks behind on our plan and not to send any post yet to our pre-arranged locations.
We, then, headed back into town to get some breakfast. On the way, a hustler came up to us and starting probing Dan. He told him he did not want anything. I spun round to face the hustler and told him the same and to go away. He looked surprised but persisted. Walking on for a few paces, the man followed still. Dan turned around again and shouted, at the top if his voice “FUCK OFF!” The hustler carried on walking with us for a moment but then slid away shouting insults at us. We’ve tried diplomacy but it does not work. Being rude and aggressive to the people hounding us seems to do the trick.
Soon, we picked up another mad hustler who followed us speaking in Arabic in a frenetic way. I kept telling him to go away (Imshee) but he was nuts and kept on at us. He wanted Dan to change a100 dirhams for him. He kept pushing the note at Dan. Dan tried to flick it out of his hand. The man continued and continually muttered until we came near to a policeman when the nutter drifted away.
Spending time in tourist traps like Marrakech is not a good idea. You get hustled to death. We were starting to get a very jaundiced view of Moroccans because of the constant hassle. Tourists are seen as a good way to make a living in a fairly poor country. It is usually the men who are pestering you. The Moroccan women keep the country going. The men we saw were quite pathetic and spent a lot of time sitting around drinking tea.
After some food, we put our front panniers on the bikes and headed off for a ride towards the mountains. It was lovely and warm on the road. It felt good to be out and away from the town. Our bliss was short lived. We picked up a ‘kling-on’ cyclist. We slowed down to let him pass and kept on his tail, like a pack of wolves. He tried to race off but Dan kept on his tail for a while which tired him out. The kling-on pulled over, knackered.
I caught up and we cycled on for 30kms along a steadily climbing, straight road. The odd coach came past and a few cars hooting. Soon, we came to a small village, Ourika, and stopped for a quick drink. Then, up into the foothills of the High Atlas, the larger mountains looming, snow-capped beyond.
We passed some villagers selling local rocks, fossils and minerals. Dan stopped to take some photos. A boy came up and tried to sell us some rocks. One was an egg-shaped marble in light brown colours. The other was a rock which had been chipped in two to reveal a bright purple collection of cobalt crystals and small stalactites. They were impressive but we declined.
Slightly beyond this, we turned onto a mule track and took this dusty path for a while. It followed a dry stream and, eventually, led back out to the road. It was good fun in the dirt. We carried on up the valley, the main river flowing amongst small boulders. There were remnants of a house near the river which, we later learned, had been washed away by serious flash floods in the valley six years earlier.
We had a cold drink at a small shop. It was lovely and quiet. The air was fresh and with good views from the shop. We decided to cycle back on a slightly different route. We turned off to the right of the main road and went through a village before climbing onto the edge of the hill from where there was a great view. Below us, large areas of olive trees stretched away into the distance. In the plains beyond, we could just about make out Marrakech.
There was a long straight road before we went onto a rough track. It was an un-surfaced road which led back to Marrakech. The track was dusty and dry for most of it. We slowly made our way along, dodging stones and ruts past some surprised looking Moroccans. A couple of times, we negotiated some wide but dry wadis which had indistinct tracks on them. It was fun but demanding. Then the road returned to tarmac all the way back to the city.
Again, we picked up some kling-ons but lost them as we dodged through the narrow streets of the medina which tested our handling skills. After dropping the bikes off, we went to sit in the café where we met Bill (whom Dan had met while I was in Rabat) who was an English homeopath. He had been on a trip into the mountains for a week climbing Mount Toubkal. He was interesting and had been to Marrakech before, saying it was the worst the hustlers had ever been.
We talked for a while before going to the square to eat. We had soup (1 dirham for a bowl and it was delicious) then onto a kebab stand, before returning to the café for a coffee. The soup stall was amazing. It was fast food. You sit down and get given an earthenware bowl with a rough wooden spoon. The stall runners rush about heating up more soup, washing bowls and spoons, refilling bowls, cutting bread and shouting at each other. It was very amusing watching them.
At the café, an Australian, John, and a Portuguese woman, Millie, sat with us. Dan had met them while I was away. We talked for a while. Bill told us about an Indian sundance he had seen in California which involved men fasting for three days in a sweat tent before cutting a slit in themselves with a razor blade; passing a hardened needle through the hole on either side of his chest. These were then attached to a pole in the centre of the tent and around which they danced with the needles eventually the needles ripping through their skin.
It was late so we soon departed and Bill had to go to the airport to pick up his girlfriend.
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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