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.
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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