In the last post we were wild camping in the desert. We get up with the wind in our face. I take it like a man. So does Michèle. The sun is shining and it's cold. I'm wearing fleece, jacket and pants. We later found out that we are at 1100 metres of altitude and that there's a big downhill coming all the way to a town called Tighmi.
Michèle comments: An idea is bouncing around in our heads to go next to the Canary Islands (they belong to Spain). That morning, Benoit turned to me with a very serious look on his face. His tone matched his expression. "If we go to the Canaries, as it looks like we will, I think we should sit down one night...," he began. I started to cringe at what he could be about to say. It could not be good, I thought. Then he finished, "... and get really really drunk." Yes, the lack of availability of alcohol in Morocco has been, um, well, not fun. Sometimes a beer at the end of a long day's ride is just what a tired cyclist needs.
On the way to Tighmi we stumble upon a sad sight. A wild cat, freshly killed, lies by the side of the road. We later did some research and we think it is a small spotted genet.
In Tighmi, we find the one and only hotel. It's cheap but not in price. When we get there, the place is closed. But we are told the guy will be back soon. Soon, like four hours later. Waiting with us is another guy who claims to be staying there too. When I ask the price he answers
- Pas cher mon ami (Cheap my friend).
Hmmmm ... the fix is on for the double economy. The guy finally shows up. According to him, we are his friend and we are welcome ... to pay 150 dirhams for a room that should be 60. The room is actually fairly big. It contains two stained mattresses each about 3 cm thick. No sheets, no blankets. Just one skanky pillow each. We didn't end up using them. The shared toilet doubles up as a shower. When I ask if there is hot water, the guy points to a hot plate next to the shitter. I guess you use it to heat the water. If you can avoid the one and only hotel in Tighmi, do it! Michèle comments: Another example of when we should have taken a photo but we didn't. Benoit's description of the Tighmi hotel room is too generous. It looked like a prison cell. No, prison cells might be a step up. Dark, bare, grey walls. One small window high up on the wall. I asked the hotel guy for some sheets. He handed me two folded items. One was a sheet that did not smell clean. The other turned out to be a man's shirt. We paid too much for the room. It was just one of those days when we didn't have any fight left in us. I think the hotel guy knew that.
The next morning we finally feel at a 100%. Next stop is the Atlantic coast. The ride from Tighmi is predominantly downhill and we eat up the kilometres fairly rapidly. Equally rapidly, traffic behaviour deteriorates. We no longer feel safe. Morocco overtakes the UK for lack of road safety. Some cars are passing us at 130 km/h and coming within inches. But worst of all are cars coming into our lane to overtake slower vehicles. Not giving a shit, they accelerate towards us, honking loudly for us to get out of the way. We do just that and I get my full repertoire of insulting hand gestures. How can people be so careless. We stop at a shady spot a few metres from the road. A taxi stops just behind us. The driver waves, I don't wave back. The shady spot is a little lower than the road itself. We head straight for it. So does one of the passengers of the taxi. He walks at a hurried pace and it's not to come and talk to us. Without thinking twice, he drops his drawers and squats in front of us. I let you imagine the rest. We look the other way and tell each other that it's going to make a good blog post. Michèle comments: I cranked my head the other way as soon as I saw the guy scootch up his Berber robe. I did not want to see what was coming next.
We reach the Atlantic coast. More precisely, Aglou Plage. Nice place. In a month it will be filled with French snowbirds in camper vans. Lots of housing projects on the go. Villas being built up and sold to rich Europeans. But I don't care about all that. I don't even care about the camel rides on the beach. I just want to see the open ocean and the unobstructed horizon. The multiple row of waves slowly making their way towards the shore.
We end up staying at a campground and the next day we pedal only 2 km to spend Michèle's birthday money at an expensive guest house. Very relaxing and close to the beach, I have my first swim in the Atlantic ocean in 30 years. The water is warm, the waves are big and I come close to drowning due to the strong undertow.
Michèle comments: I had been clenching my fist around my birthday money for over a month waiting for a great way to spend it. Here it was, at the oceanside, and with copious meals included. Our arrival at the coast coincided with the rediscovery of our appetites. It could have been the sea air. It could have been that our food choices suddenly expanded to include more that just tajine au poulet and omelette.
The next day we head out. On the road, we've started developing a strategy for dealing with the traffic. Riding close together, the person at the rear keeps an eye on the flanking traffic while the person in front keeps and eye on the cars passing slower vehicles. Seems to work well. The worst cars are the shit box Mercedes taxis (also known as Grand Taxi). These cars are usually packed with 7 people and sometimes a goat on the roof. Watch out, these drivers will not stop or slow down. Best to bail on the soft shoulder when you see them coming.
Michèle comments: After Aglou Plage, we hit the village of Mirleft. Not much to it. But the first place we stumble upon turns out to be a gem. It's an auberge and café and restaurant. The chef is originally from Belgium. The price of a double room is 180 dirhams: it is clean, with a huge bed and a wash basin. Breakfast with real coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice is included. Free WiFi too. The food is so good that we stay four nights and stuff our faces. Compare and contrast to the 150 dirham prison cell room in Tighmi.
We pedal to the next town, Sidi Ifni. There, we bump into Thomas, one of the cyclists we met on our way to Ait-Baha. He is with a new friend, Claudia. We all have dinner together and decide to stay in town for a few days. It is refreshing to hang out with some new people. The activities are kept simple. In the evening we make dinner and have a few drinks. During the day, it's off to the beach for some swimming. Looking up at the beach from the water, you can see several locals, sitting there, staring at Michèle and Claudia in their swim suits. Michèle comments: The wind has been very strong and from the south, normally it's from the north. It froths the sea to a frenzy. Going for a swim is a real workout. We exit the water with our torsos bruised from the punching waves. Over those few days, the seas get so rough that the fishermen don't go out and fish is off the menu.
After several days, Claudia is off on her own and Thomas, Michèle and I head off to Guelmim, the gateway to the Sahara. Michèle comments: Thomas - if you are reading this, please send us a photo of the four of us (you, Claudia, Benoit, me) on the beach near the port of Sidi Ifni. When it was raining. And Benoit had your yellow bag on his head.
Michèle comments: Yes, that is the photo with the yellow bag. Thanks, Thomas!
On our way out of town we meet up with an other cyclist, Philippe. He is cycling down to Senegal where he will meet up with his family. After our first passport control, we pedal out town for some of the best cycling we've done yet.
To be continued...