Morocco is not even 20 km away from Spain, but it’s already whole world away. I am excited to resume on cycling on the roads here, which seemed to me pretty good so far.
I fetch my bike hosted in Tangier at JM’s place and put the panniers back on. I traveled on foot for 2 weeks with two of them, a 25 L and a 12 L, and it appeared to be very convenient too. Slightly odd-fashioned, but safe against the wandering hands in the medinas as they are designed to be waterproof and have an unconventional closing system for handbags. The bad news is that while unscrewing the bottom hooks, to avoid breaking them by accident, I lost one precious piece of plastic. The Vaude bottom hooks are made of 1 piece while the Ortlieb ones have two, and I didn’t see it falling. It’s not a critical loss but the pannier has less stability without the bottom hook. And it must put more stress on the top hooks.
At one point I was thinking going west towards Asilah on the coast, but changed my mind to visit the Rif mountains again, cycling this time. I will stay away from the Oceanic coast and the big and touristy cities of Rabat, Casablanca, Essaouira, until halfway down through Morocco. There, I’ll have no choice but following the coastal road through the Sahara.
I leave Tangier, a city that didn’t make me feel like taking any picture, in the afternoon. I just want to get a bit outside the populated area. For the first time in almost 3 weeks, it is raining, and this just on the day I take the road.
The coastal road leaving Tangier by the east is relatively car free. But under the clouds sky, nothing looks really interesting. I get a bit nostalgic when, behind a turn, I see the Gibraltar rock standing in the sea and wrapped into a thing layer of fog.
The major difference is that people tell me “hi” or something else all the time. People in their cars, people by the road, cops at road blocks, etc. Even a tow truck driver stops by me at the bottom of a small hill and tried to convince me that he should take me, and if I want I can be released at the top to enjoy the descent … With a limited common vocabulary, hard to make my point here ….
I meet a tourer, Simon, in the opposite direction, just before I leave the coast to go in the land. For this soft re-start, I will make it to Tetouan, 100 km, in 2 days, through the smallest road leading there. Not knowing the local rules and precautions for wild camping, I ask the houses in and around the villages if I can set up my tent nearby. But the people speak no French, no Spanish, just Arabic.
When explaining with signs, either they don’t understand, either they do but refuse I stay here. It is getting night, and wet. I am left with finding a spot away from the road, not obvious as the road itself is half mud, and the rest is 100% mud. I finally walk up on a hill, manage to lock my wheels with the mud clogged my fenders, and sleep before the rain. Not a very positive first day.
The next day, I am packing under sprinkles and meet again Simon on the road. We cycle together to Tetouan.
The people by the road are still cheering (well, the males only) and am surprised to see some kids asking for pens and money, by their houses. I hadn’t seen any in the touristy cities.
Under the rain, the road is muddy and the scenery unappealing. The frequent potholes and road works ask for vigilance. We reach quickly Tetouan, and after a tea I start my search for a cheap hotel and internet to hide and catch up with photo uploads while the rainy days pass.
I stop by a place where the shower has warm water, a treat. And it’s any time of the day, a super treat. With a recently bought comb, I untangle my hair for the first time in weeks (hard work) and can then venture in the medina of Tetouan.
In the medinas and souks of the Moroccan cities, one can find everything for cheap. It’s all there, kitchenware, all kind of fabrics and clothes, half hard drives, cigarettes per unit, chicken alive, dead, plucked or roasted, washing machine in parts, iPhones and Samsung Galaxys, chick peas … and sometimes in the same shop. However, I am very unlikely to find a half bottom Ortlieb hook or silicone seam seal for repairing my tent. I have seen nothing about “outdoors” here, while Asian markets get all the backpacks and mountain jackets before they are sent to Europe shops. No traces of the Chips Ahoy with big choco chunks either, those cookies which saved my life so many times on the Spanish roads.
For the hook, I shaped a replacement with a plastic ring; for the fast-dry towel I forgot in a train, I have sadly a normal towel instead now; and for the Chips Ahoy, a real loss, fortunately I can find croissants for 1 dh and healthy meals from 15 dh.