Buxted to the Sahara, first post.

Richard Georgiou goes to Morocco.
I’ve been bragging about my trip to the Sahara for a few years now. I’ve been telling my friends (and anyone else who would listen) that I would be going again in June of 2012. To be honest with you I’m not sure if I even believed it myself. Then last night I decided, in my infinite (and intoxicated) wisdom, to ask people to sponsor me with all proceeds going to the British Epilepsy Association. Within about ten minutes I’d been sponsored one hundred pounds and several people had told me how brave I was and had wished me the best of luck. All of a sudden it became apparent that I could not back down and now I’m in a state somewhere between nervous and mild terror.

I imagine the type of person who normally undertakes such a trip is quite big, confident and has the financial reserves that mean they don’t have to worry about their money whilst they are away. Not only that, they would normally go in a group. As much as I like to kid myself that I’m exactly what I just described the reality is that I’m 5 foot 4 inches, of thin build and am basically about as far away from macho as humans get!

I rode my motorbike from England to Morocco 3 years ago but to be completely honest, I left England with the mindset that I would probably wimp out before getting to Morocco and end up just meandering around France and Spain. The next thing I knew I’d crossed the border into Morocco. There was no time to be scared, I turned up at the border and seemed to get stuck in the conveyor belt of processes to get across. This time I’ve been sponsored by many people so I have no choice, I have to go into Morocco. Not only that, I have to go all the way to the Sahara desert. Let’s just hope that summer in the Sahara is not too hot!

So, to say that I feel nervous would be an understatement at this point in time but for good reason I’d say. Riding a motorbike is a risky business at the best of times but, let’s face it, riding one that’s maintained by a computer programmer and completely overloaded with camping equipment eight thousand miles when ones directional ability is likely to get you lost on the way to the bathroom does not have a guaranteed outcome! The last time I went, I was about five miles from the beginning of my journey when I ran wide on a bend, I ended up flying onto the grass and just managed to stop my 300kg loaded up Transalp just before hitting a tree. For the next twenty miles or so I continuously repeated “Richard you complete twat!”, by the time I’d got to Dover I’d made it into a little song, I even had a little dance routine worked out too! With a start like that what chance did I have getting all the way to Morocco.

It’s Christmas Day!

After spending the last five days worrying about the trip and basically running through all the disasters that are bound to happen to me I decided it was time to get cracking. Today is Christmas day and we have the in-laws here so I decided it was a fantastic time to take myself off to the shed to slowly compile a detailed inventory. The first details exactly what I need to take with me and where I’m going to stick it. I have five places on the bike that I can use to store things, the list below will be organised by these five places in an extremely anal fashion.

Left pannier

  • 2 water bottles fixed to the outside of the pannier
  • Camping knife, fork and spoon
  • Cup
  • Cooking container
  • Washing up liquid
  • Washing up cloth
  • Coleman Petrol Stove and funnel for filling
  • Coffee
  • Mini first aid kit (plasters, antibiotics, Germalene, Imodium!)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Syndol and Ibuprofen
  • Spray on chain lube

Right pannier

  • 2 water bottles fixed to the outside of the pannier
  • 1 litre of unleaded for the Coleman stove
  • Small light weight sleeping bag
  • Fleece sleeping bag liner for cold weather
  • Pink, girly blow up sleeping mat
  • Camping towel
  • Small net book computer
  • Mini tripod
  • More toilet paper!
  • Talcum powder (try sitting on a seat for 250 miles in leather trousers in the Sahara!)

Back seat and rear rack

  • Tent in its own compression bag
  • Ortlieb waterproof roll bag for clothes, etc

Under seat

  • Leatherman Wave multi tool
  • Allen key set
  • 12 volt cigarette lighter with extension tube to poke out in front of seat and into tank bag
  • Spanners for the rear wheel nut to allow me to adjust my chain tension

Tank bag

  • Camera Nikon D300 and 18-200 lens with 2 x 16GB cards
  • Garmin Nuvi 3790t GPS and 12 volt charger with memory card containing up to date versions of France, Spain and Morocco
  • 12 volt camera charger
  • 12 volt mobile phone charger
  • Morocco PAYG sim card for phone
  • Paper map of Morocco
  • Detailed map of Quarzazate and the south
  • Block of wood that stops stand sinking into the floor
  • 2 x LED Lenser torches and spare batteries

After compiling the above list I decided to brave the house to see if everyone was happy whereby I was given a substantial list of jobs and a roasting from my wife. It was time for another list.

My Ortlieb bag will contain:

  • 12 pairs of boxer shorts
  • 12 pairs of socks
  • 10 tee-shirts
  • My beloved blue jumper that I’ve had since I was 8 (I call this jumper my lovey)
  • Another roll of toilet paper (you can never have enough toilet paper!)
  • Toilet bag containing:
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • soap
  • deodorant
  • shampoo
  • 2 good books
  • 2 pairs of baggy light weight trousers
  • 1 white shirt for my I’m feeling fat days

Anyway, real life is calling. More soon.

Buxted to Morocco, the route.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about my route and came to the conclusion that I’m not going to plan one. I want to wake up in the morning and decide where to go that day. In my day to day life I wake up in the morning and look at my diary, typically I’ll then have to go out to a few customers, make a few phone calls, fix a few computers and do some web design. The long and the short of it is that I do what my diary tells me to do. It will be nice to be able to get up and decide my myself. I want to keep the trip as enjoyable as possible by giving myself freedom.

So, with the above in mind my plan is as follows: England, France, Spain, Morocco, Sahara desert and back. No wiggly line on a map for me!

The rear of the bike.

Happy New Year! Today I learnt how to grease my chain (thank you YouTube!). After riding over 25,000 miles on a combination of Honda Transalp, Suzuki GSX-R 750 and an Aprilia RSV1000R I have found that I have been incorrectly greasing my chain. I’ve been spraying the grease on the outside of the chain but the centrifugal force (do you like that?) just flings the grease off the chain, what I should have been doing was spraying the grease onto the inside of the chain. This way the centrifugal force forces the grease into the joints of the chain. So, with this in mind I decided to remove the rear wheel and take a look at the front and rear sprockets. I replaced the sprockets only about 2500 miles ago with third party ones and wear was clearly visible. Luckily I had a brand new set here consisting of genuine Honda sprockets and a heavy duty Honda chain so I have fitted them. From now on I’m sticking to genuine Honda parts. The chain was a complete nightmare as I needed to join the two ends, there are tools available specifically for this purpose but needless to say I didn’t have any of them so I just smashed the living daylights out of the link until it fitted together perfectly. Once I had joined the two ends of the chain together I realised that I should have removed a link as now it’s at maximum adjustment. When I realised that I would need to break the chain and re-join it I thought “be patient Richard”. My next thought was that I would rather pay an expert to do it properly, this task has now been added to my list of items for Honda to deal with!

Whilst the back wheel was off I decided to remove the rear swing arm and I’m glad I did. The bearings were surrounded by grit and dirt so everything was cleaned and greased, I also replaced the rear brake pads as they had been in there for quite some time and were getting a little worn. It’s all back together and now the backend is completely ready for my trip. I know I just made it sound like putting the rear end back together was easy as I’m such a professional but the reality was not quite as simple! It took me about half an hour to get the rear axle back through the swing arm and the wheel, however trying to align the axle was a complete nightmare. When I finally got it through I just sat back and smiled, it wasn’t that bad. Then I realised that I had forgotten to include the rear brake calliper. Bollocks! After spending the next two hours getting the axle out and replacing it with the calliper in place I made a decision to go more, which in turn would make the job easier and certainly faster! I’ve learnt from that mistake!

Two and a half months to go..

The last time I checked the calendar I still had five months to go before leaving England for the Morocco. Now it’s only two and a half months away. I have a sneaky suspicion that when I wake up tomorrow morning I’ll only have a week to go and I’m so far away from being ready.

I’ve just got back from north Cyprus which was a bit of an eye opener. I thought I loved the dirt tracks but actually I’ve found that my perception has changed somewhat and they are now a pain in the arse! We hired a little Peugeot car which was ‘interesting’ to say the least. If you closed the boot too hard the lights fell out and you could feel the steering rack moving under your feet which was far from confidence instilling. On top of that it was a right bugger to get into reverse. Whilst trying to park outside our hotel I failed big time and ended up with a long queue of cars waiting impatiently to get past. In the end I had to get out and let Flowie do it! It was incredibly satisfying to hear all the swearing and crunching noises coming from the gearbox after Flowie had laughed at me!

Having just completely dissed our ‘trusty’ steed we drove it over some tracks that I think were there only for goats and it just kept on going though there were more lights illuminated on the dashboard when we gave it back that when we picked it up including one that said STOP NOW! I remember the Land Rover catch line was ‘The Best Four By Four By Far’. This little steed I called ‘The Best Four By Four Bar Two’ and it really was! So, with all that in mind now I’m starting to wonder if I should be going on the dirt tracks or whether I should be sticking to the roads. I think I’ll just get there and see what happens.

19 days to go.

It’s now only 19 days until I leave Buxted for Morocco. My preparations are coming along nicely but I’ve had a few last minute changes to equipment. It’s very important to me to have a record of this trip and I can’t think of a better way than to write a blog on my way around (hence this blog). My original plan was to take a little netbook with me but they’re just too slow. I played with one in PC World and within 10 minutes (about the time it took to load Firefox) I’d developed a nasty case of Tourettes.

My iPad was out of the question as typing on them is not something I would bestow on any living creature. You’re okay as long as you don’t make any mistakes but the moment you need to go back and correct something you’re doomed to a life of misery. So there I was moaning about iPads saying if they only had keyboards they would be perfect for my trip, it was then that I found out that you can get keyboards for iPads. I bought mine with a nice leather case for protection then got stumped by photographs. As a test I took some photographs on my Nikon D300 and wanted to get one of them rotated, cropped and resized and put on my blog. My conclusion: If you actually want to do something properly get a computer, if all you want to do is walk around looking like a complete wanker then get an iPad.

So, it looks like I’m taking my rather large HP Elitebook 8530p with me to Morocco. The Elitebook is a fantastic laptop that is designed to take a real hammering. Mine’s got 8GB of memory and a 240GB SSD hard drive so is incredibly fast but the trouble is the battery only last about 4 hours. To get around this I’ve bought another 2 batteries and a 12v charger for the bike. Now I’ve got to wire in a charging point into my left pannier that is able to cope with a draw of 90 watts. I’ve got all the cables and connectors I need so will set about getting this done tomorrow.

I’ve been worrying about getting all my paperwork ready for quite some time now but never got round to sorting it out. Earlier today I compiled it all into a waterproof folder. It contains my passport, bike logbook, bike insurance (Europe), bike MOT, Newhaven to Dieppe ferry ticket, D16 TER Morocco entry form (in English, French and Arabic) and 50 police checkpoint documents for the Western Sahara.

The bike has had a lot of work done to it in the last two weeks. I’ve changed the oil and filter, coolant, air filter, chain and sprockets, headlight bulb, brake pads front and back and replaced the spark plugs. Then it went to Everest Motorcycles in Framfield for the valve clearance to be checked, carbs synced, new tyres and inner tubes fitted front and back (with slime), grease the cables and to remove a link from the chain. With the exception of the wiring I have to do to power the laptop the bike is pretty much ready. Once I’ve completed the wiring I’ll drain my laptop battery and do a little test run and see what happens.

Anyway, it’s now twenty past nine so I’m late for bed. Night!

13 days to go, a big BANG and smoke!

With only 2 weeks to go thought it was about time I took a look at wiring in the cigarette socket so I could power my devices. Like most things in my life it didn’t go according to plan …

Earlier in my blog I wrote ‘… only complete wankers use iPads’. Well, I’ve decided that I need to use mine in Morocco. The change of heart came from a loud bang and bright flash followed by a shed full of smoke.

Let me take you back a few days. The bike was pretty much ready with the exception of the installation of a cigarette lighter socket to power various items including my tough old HP Elitebook laptop. So yesterday I decided to get it done. I wanted everything to be as tough as possible so used heavy gauge wire and high amp sockets. I actually wired in two sockets. The white one was fine, but the black one … See the photographs below.

Big 35 amp cables enclosed in tough plastic tubing.

All secured with a nice tough cable tie.

 

I then wrapped it all in tough Gorilla tape and cable tied it some more.

I then installed it directly onto the battery and plugged my laptop charger into the socket.. BANG! (followed by “Fuck!”). That wasn’t supposed to happen.

After taking it all apart and taking a look I found the following:

Red always goes to PLUS (except when I get involved!)

As you can see, I had attached the cables to the wrong terminals, doh!

So, with the smell of burning plastic still in the air I decided to throw it all in the bin and stick with just the one working socket. However, when I tested the laptop charger it started getting hot which worries me. If it’s getting hot here in the UK there’s a chance it might get bloody hot in the Sahara and perhaps start melting everything around it.

I looked over at my iPad which charges from a USB socket. Mr iPad, me and you are going to the Sahara!

I need power for the following devices:

Garmin Nuvi 3790t GPS
Sony Walkman
Blackberry Phone
iPad
Nikon D300

All the above devices with the exception of the Nikon camera can be charged from a USB socket with minimum draw so create little heat. I’ve now bought a device that converts one of the cigarette lighter sockets into a 4 port USB charging point. I’ve tested it and it works fine! Phew..

So, until the next disaster …

One week to go.

Today I have been trying to sort out the computer that I will be using for my trip. I’m still not happy about only taking the iPad however I seem to have worked out how to do everything that I need to. I’ve bought a little dongle thing that plugs into the iPad that gives it a USB port. I still find it hard to believe that Apple made me spend £25 on a USB port when everything else gives you 3 of them for free. Apple are greedy bastards but my laptop is big so it looks like I’m going to have to limp on with my iPad and with it’s £25 USB port. This trip is either going to bring me and my iPad together as one or the iPad will end it’s life as it decelerates from 200mph to zero when it hits the wall after I’ve thrown it, we can but wait and see.

I also decided that it would be a good idea to take my video camera (Panasonic HDC-SD600). Obviously this meant purchasing a car charger and a new 64GB SDXC card. I’ve not really used the video camera much so hope it all works out to be okay. I’m now carrying so much electrical stuff that I could probably create my own lightning! So if you happen to stumble across a chap on a fully loaded Transalp glowing in the dark be nice to him or you may find a thunderbolt heading your way!

The one time I used the camera before was when I decided (alcohol) to do some dancing in my shed. I read all the instructions and it turned out that I first had to take the video, then I had to send it to my computer. Once on my computer I then had to convert it to another format, only then could I edit the video and export it as a normal video. Then I was able to upload it to YouTube and all was well. The process worked nicely however I just knew that some snotty nosed little primary school kid was probably able to do it in 20 seconds on a phone! So I checked the Internet for shortcuts to my monotonous process and found loads of messages by those aforementioned snotty nosed primary school kids asking for help. When help came is was basically telling them to do what I had done which, as you can imagine, they didn’t like. That made me feel much better.

So, as the process is ‘a little involved’ I wont be uploading any videos whilst on the move, however I will upload them all upon my return.

It’s now 8:10 AM on Sunday morning. This time next week I will be on the way to Newhaven. How exciting!!

Getting excited now.

Today has been a good day for the trip. All the planning and arranging that I have done previously have come together nicely and seeing the bike all loaded up with equipment has made me really excited! Having said that I’ve been sitting here in bed for the last half an hour listening to the rain on the window and it doesn’t seem to be letting up at all. My bike has a pair of brand new tyres which are always a little slippery until you’ve done a few miles on them and riding on new tyres in the wet on the metal floor of a ferry is not good for the sphincter! Hopefully it will be dry on the morning of Sunday 17th.

I have purchased a mini travel tripod for my Nikon and Panasonic cameras and also a 64GB memory card for the video camera. I’ve already got 2 LED Lenser torches and a Petzl RXP head torch (which I love by the way!) so seeing what I’m doing shouldn’t be a problem.

This afternoon I checked the wiring had been done correctly and tested it. Once I was happy that everything was working as expected I replaced the side panels and seat and mounted the aluminium panniers. The panniers have now been packed and are about two thirds full which leaves some space for little purchases throughout the trip. I also visited Peacocks earlier and bought a load of cheap boxers and tee shirts. All my clothes are now packed up in my watertight Ortlieb bag.

I’ve been trying to find the perfect tent for years but every tent I’ve bought over the years has had one problem or another. This time round I will be using my new Coleman Tauri X2 tent which I hope will prove to be perfect. We’ll see!

The only thing I feel disappointed about is the fact that I have been unable to find a light and small fold up chair. I tend to start early and end my day early so I can enjoy my evenings. One creature comfort that I would love is a nice chair to sit on but alas it looks like I’m going to be confined to the floor for a month.

With everything now mounted on the bike and less than a week to go I’m now getting very excited, however at the same time I also feel a little lonely. I know that when I leave Buxted I’ll be on my own, when I’m on the ferry I’ll be nervous and on my own. In France I know how to say the basics but I don’t understand enough the have a propper conversation so I’ll be on my own there too. Ditto for Spain and ditto for Morocco.. Being on my own is fine but it does take some time to adjust.

Anyway, I’ll try to get some pictures of the bike all loaded up tomorrow.

Bike fully loaded up and ready to go.

Here is the picture of the bike all loaded up and almost ready to go..

Honda Transalp XL650V

My Honda Transalp all loaded up and almost ready to go. I just need to add the crash bars and wait for my second Ortlieb bag for the tent.

Honda Transalp with crash bars fitted.

Good morning people. Here is a picture of my Honda Transalp XL650 with the crash bars fitted. Almost ready now, just need to wait for my small Ortlieb bag to turn up for my tent. 4 days and I will be riding from England to the Sahara desert!! How exciting!

Honda Transalp XL650V

Here is my Honda Transalp XL650 with the crash bars fitted.

8 hours to go.

It’s now 23:30 and am off to bed. When I get up in the morning all I have to do is to jump on my bike and say goodbye! I’m completely excited and can’t wait to get going. Most men (and lots of women) dream of doing something like this but never get round to doing it. If they knew how I felt right now everyone would do it. Anyway, sleep tight..

The time has come.

Well, the time has come for me to go to Morocco. I’m incredibly excited and a little nervous. I’me going to name this first part ‘Trying to find Newhaven’. JFDI !

Day one.

Okay, let me paint the picture. I’m sitting in a camp site in France stuffing my face with a jambon and fromage omlet and chips, or to be more precise I’m just outside of a town called Saint Martin Du Pean which is basically about 150 miles south of Dieppe. The first thing I did when I arrived was to have a glass (read swig) of Gentleman Jack that I had decanted into one of my aluminium bottles. This made me feel like a god of speaking French and gave me the confidence to try it out. After the disaster of trying out my French I decided to only speak in loud English from this point onwards. They’re bound to understand English if I shout.

Anyway, here’s how my day went. I arrived at the Newhaven port at around 8:30 and was promptly directed to security where they told me to unpack my panniers. Having forgotten my nicorette patches they were duly told that picking on me wouldn’t get them anywhere and that they could unpack them themselves if they really felt the need. Needless to say they promptly set about unpacking both my panniers, tank bag and the storage space under my seat. I told them that my father-in-law was a Judge and that it would be in their interest to put everything back in the same place that it was taken from or it would be taken further. When they had completed their task they told me that I was free to leave. After mentioning that I was suprised that they hadn’t picked on a disabled person I drove out of Newhaven onto the ferry.

I met a lovely couple on the ferry, they were touring around France on their Harley for three weeks and we talked through most of the journey. We arrived in France where I duly programmed a destination into my GPS. I’m sure it knew exactly where it was going but I couldn’t see the screen so I just followed my paper map which seemed to work fine. The roads were almost empty with the exception of a huge traffic jam near Rouen which stopped cars for about 10 miles. Luckily I was on a bike so just zipped past them. I asked my GPS find me a camp site which it did so I followed the directions but there was no camp site. I then asked it to find me another camp site which it did but after 21 miles there was no camp site. The third time I asked it it directed me to this camp site. This site does exist but is full opf camper vans and old people but hey, it’s only one night.
Anyway, I’m going back to my tent to set up my bed and sleeping bag, etc. Night.. Rich x

Day two.

Only day 2. It feels like I’ve been on the road for at least a month. I’m smelly, my back is okay but my backside is sore, and my bags and panniers are already a complete mess. I thought I would be feeling new to all this for at least a week but already I feel like a seasoned traveller. My French flows out like a native (as long as all there is to be said is hello), I’m completely fluent on driving on the right and I’ve learnt some demon “how to cut everyone up at a roundabout” moves from the locals.

Anyway, yesterday I forgot to add the mileage to my blog so here it is:

  • Day 1: 161 miles
  • Day 2: 332 miles

I’m in a camp site just outside a small town called Montricoux which is about 20 miles south of Cahors. So, with 100 miles under my belt tomorrow I’ll be in the Pyranees heading into Spain.

Last night at about 2am I was woken up by a MASSIVE clap of thunder. It was absolutely hammering it down and the sky was alive with lightning. I love storms so just lay there listening to it for a couple of hours, though I came to the conclusion that they are best experienced with company. When you’re alone in a strange country a storm just makes you feel more alone.

Both the camp sites that I have stayed in so far have been very nice but completely dead. It feels like everything is deliberately going out of its way to make me feel lonely. Perhaps I should have bought my ted! ;-)
Yesterday is was not that warm so the mosquitos left me alone however at this camp site much further south the weather is very humid and hot and I seem to have had an encounter with a team of nyphomaniac mosquitoes. I know the ladies from Priory of Our Lady are reading my blog so I will refrain from divulging all the details but suffice to say that a mosquito bite on the old boy that screams ‘scratch me!’ is not good.

Day 3. Welcome to Spain.

I’m going to start my day 3 blog with 5 words; hot, humid, melting, mosquitos and bastards. At about 3 this afternoon I stopped to get some petrol. It must be something in the region of 35 degrees here and to be honest I’m strugling and on top of that the mosquitos are everywhere and are definately the most persistent I’ve ever known. The nymph ones from yesterday are nothing compared to the ferocity of today’s little buggers..

Anyway, today I crossed over the Pyranees and into Spain. I’m now in a camp site about a mile south of a town called Berga which is about 40 miles north west of Barcelona. I covered 370 miles today (and my bottom felt every one of them!) bringing my total miles travelled so far to 863. Last night at the camp site I got chatting to a lovely young French couple, the girl was studying English at University which made life much easier. They were travelling around France, Spain and Portugal. We shared disaster stories of which I suprised myself by the amount of them I had! We also shared my Gentleman Jack Whiskey which went down a treat. I crashed in the tent at about 11:30 and went to sleep straight away. I woke up at about 2 to a huge, sorry, HUGE thunderstorm. It was fantastic! When I woke up this morning I found that my bike fad been signwriten; “ENGLAND TO” on the back of the left pannier and “SAHARA DESERT” on the other. Then when I was packing up my tent I found soggy piece of paper under the front with some wet blue disolved ink that I’m guessing was writing before it got wet! I wish I knew what it had once said!

I left the camp site this morning at about 8:30, luckily before I got too far I decided to check my wallet. It was then that I remembered that I had left my passport with the camp site. Ten minutes later I was back at the site with my passport in my hand. Lucky!!

I decided to use the fast toll roads today to get some distance covered. So, within 15 minutes I had joined the motorway to find they were doing some major work. There was only one lane and no overtaking. To make it worse there was a huge truck at the front carrying most of the local forest. Needless to say this was going very slowly and no one was overtaking it. After following the truck for about 15 miles I decided to go for it. (Greg – JFDI!) I overtook about 30 cars, trucks and campers and it felt great. I’m very glad I did as the road works and single lane continued for the next 120 miles! That’s what you call road works!!

Anyway, I’m knackered and am going to go back to my tent to chill and kneed my buttocks back into shape. Tomorrow is another day.

20120619-210445.jpg

Day 4 – 2am

It’s now 1:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep because of the most incredible thunderstorm ever. It’s absolutely hammering down and the thunder and lightning is more like explosions. There is no more than half a second between the lightning and the thunder explosions. Luckily the tent has proven to be completely water tight, I just hope the bike is too! I’ve got my petrol stove on just outside my tent and am making myself a coffee. My mosquito bites are all itching like mad, some of which I can scratch in public and some of which I can’t! However here in my tent I can scratch them all, aaaaahhh!

Day 4 – 7am

It’s now 7am and I’ve just unzipped the tent to find a completely blue cloudless sky. Since I left England the sky has been mostly overcast and the temperature has been nvery hot. This morning it’s hot and very humid already and it’s only 7am.. I’m going to be cooked today!

Day 4.

Today has been hard. I have covered 387 miles today bringing the total to 1250 which is not bad for 4 days. It started with a completely clear blue sky and it’s still clear now at 21:30. Maybe we won’t get our storm this evening.

I left the camp site at about 9:30 this morning and made good time, I set the destination on the GPS as Valencia and thought I’d stop before getting into the city and set a new destination. However I forgot and ended up in the most crazy place ever. The roads in Valencia are as wide as they are long. Their roundabouts are just huge but have no lanes. I didn’t notice the ladies riding their bikes whilst wearing incredibly short skirts and also didn’t notice their knickers either.

Yesterday morning I got out of bed and my hand ached from holding the throttle in place for such a long time, my back hurt from sleeping on the floor, my hips ached from not moving them whilst riding all those miles, and my arse … I think you get the point. My point is I was wondering if I should get rid of the bike and buy a van or a truck to do these trips in.. However, today I decided to split from all the motorway riding and jump onto some of the smaller roads. The combination of perfect roads, no cars and my bike was made in heaven. The bends were sweeping and the weather and road were hot so my tyres had loads of grip. I spent the best part of 4 hours on those roads and loved every minute of it. No truck or van could replace my bike and I’m keeping it!

When on the motorway I keep a close eye on my mirrors, especially when in the fast lane. After playing around on the lanes for a while I got back onto the motorway, I was chugging along at 70 when I noticed a small dot in my mirror, within a few seconds a Bentley Continental GT went hurming past at what much have been at the very least 180 mph. I’m glad I wasn’t in his way!

All in all another hard and boring day to read about. I’m not really sure why I’m writing this blog yet as I’m just trying to get south as quickly as possible. Nothing has really happened to write about yet. I stayed in miserable camp sites that are basically car parks for mobile homes and can’t wait to get out of all this white plastic. To be completely honest it’s been quite a miserable trip so far but then again, this trip was always about Morocco, not France or Spain.

Tomorrow I’m going to ride tyhrough the Tebernas semi desert in southern Spain to try to do something interesting.

20120620-221056.jpg Do you ever get the feeling that the Spanish hate the English and their Volvo’s?

Day 5, restoring faith in my trip.

Welcome to day 5 of my blog. Yesterday I was feeling very down about the whole trip, I kept on asking why I was doing it and I was unable to come up with a reason. Having said that I’d stayed in camp sites that were car parks for mobile homes and caravans and I’d only really ridden on motorways. It’s not really that suprising that I was miserable. Today I decided that I was not going to go all out for distance, instead I was going to enjoy myself. I rode to the Sierra Navada area in southern Span which is where all the Spagetti Western films were filmed. I planned to find a hidden little spot and stick up my tent away from everyone and their camper vans. Once I arrived here in the Sierra Navada I just rode around, up and down the mountain roads I went with a big smile on my face. Then I found a camp site completely by accident which is fantastic. Very quiet and got chatting to a chap called Andrew who is taking his Landrover down through Africa. I was great talking to him but I am blaming him for the Lateness of my blog! ;-)

I also tried out some new Spanish today and caused 2 girls in the pharmacy to crack up. I went in and asked for some ibprofen, they didn’t understand so I asked for some Neurofen, she disappeared off into the back and came back with a box of ibprofen. I said mucho gracios (please excuse the spelling) then I said stupido Englesi and pulled one of my demented faces and the laughed.

Whilst riding through the smaller roads I had my jacket undone a bit to get some air through it, I was going about 60 mph when I felt a wack on my collar bone which stung, I thought I’d hit one of their flying beetle things and carried on, then I felt something that felt like a sting on my chest so I stopped and found a huge black bumble bee and two lumps where the little thing had stung me. When you’re a bee, even a big one, playing chicken with a man on a motorbike is not going to end happily, poor little thing.

I stopped today to top up on fuel and ended up in the middle of a small dust storm. I was trying to fill up my bike but I kept on getting sand in my eyes. I searched in my box for a teeshirt to cover my head and came across the head scalf my lovely neighbour bought me (I can say that as my lovely wife Flowie will hopefully have forgotten by the time she sees me!), it was ideal, so thank you Rachel, oh and Simon ;-) The petrol attendant chap went running for cover when the wind got up, I remember thinking what a wimp, running away like a little girl. Next time I going to run away too though it was over in less that 5 minutes. The whole sky went orange, it was a sight to see.

Today I only covered about 200 miles but it has been the first day where I was able to stop and think where I was and be happy. I love this travelling around thing but it can be miserable if you push too hard.

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Day 6 – A very hard day but successful.

Today has been very hard but also successful. I left the Sierra Nevada mountain range this morning at about 10 and rode about 250 miles to the port in Algeciras, I bought my ticket and rode onto the super fast ferry across the Gibralta Straignts to Ceuta. 35 minutes later I was riding off the ferry into the massive heat of the African continent. However at this point I was still in Spanish owned territory. From there I rode south to a small logistic place called Fnideq where I had to get out of Spain (which was easy) and into Morocco (which was very difficult). When I crossed the border 3 years ago it was okay so I was expecting it to be easy again, boy was I wrong. I parked up and bolted everything down and employed the services of two young men. One fills out forms and tells me what to do and the other queue’s for you as to make it as quick as possible. That’s the ploan anyway however security has been ramped up and the border control wanted to see inside my panniers and under my seat etc. Then they wanted to see inside my tank bag which had lots of gadgets that were all being charged by my motorbike. I had to draw them a diagram of how the wiring was set up from my battery to the devices. All this took about 2 hours and over 40 degrees of heat. Now, the going rate for the young menis five euros each so I was counting on fifteen Euros all together as it had taken more time than normal (notn that they hung around with me!). I paid them 16 Euros in 2 Euro coins and they were happy at first but then they wanted more..

FUCKING HELL an ant the size of a dog end has just stood in front of me in the hotel reception and stuck his pincers up in the air. “Come on! I’ll take on anybody!!”

… anyway, they tried to convince me that coins were not worth as much as notes so I told them that if they gave me the coins back I would be happy to give them notes instead. They said they would keep the coins and have the notes aswel! I smiled and told them I had been to Morocco 3 times and that I knew when I was getting a bad deal. I then left. 10 points to them for their efforts!

Anyway, I was busy riding into Morocco dodging all the people and cars whilst programming my GPS mto get my into a hotel when I rode past an Ibis hotel so I pulled in and booked in for the night before I melted. (I’ve been trying not to make eye contact with this giant ant whilst typing this incase he attacks me!)

The last time I stayed in an Ibis hotel it was about £50 GBP a night but tonight just cost me about £80 GBP. Still, when you’re melting into a puddle it didn’t seem too bad. I finally got to my room, stripped all my soggy clothes off, set the shower to completely cold and jumped in for the most amazingly welcome shopwer of my life. I also had to pay extra for secure parking for the bike but at least I know it will still be there in the morning.

When I was finally able to relax and thought it was all over I realised that I still needed to get insurance for my motorbike. I checked the Internet and it turns out that the insurance off here is close so tomorrow I’m going to have to battle mmy way to the port in Tantier and get it there. Then, and only then can I relax a little and start to enjoy Morocco.

Oh, and apparently the Scunthorpe Telegraph newspaper have printed whole page story about me doing this trip for Epilepsy. If someone wants type it into Facebook so I can see it that would be great!

Wish me luck ladies and gentlemen for tomorrow!

I can’t seem to add descriptions to the images so I’ll just write them here and you’ll all just have to work out which is which.

Photo of me at the Algeciras Porto waiting to board.

Photo of the beautiful Sierra Navada in southern Spain. A wonderful place.

Same again but of the bike.

There is a photograph saying “Good bye to Algeciras” and another saying “Hello to Ceuta.

There is a very sweaty photograph of me as I got through the border showing what a hard time I had had.

Then another photograph after my beautifully cold shower direct from heaven!

Oh, I almost forgot, there is also another photo of me being stupid on the ferry, I asked some Spanish blokes to take my photo. We all had a bit of a laugh (probably at my expense which is quite normal)..

Anyway, I’m now going to brave the Morocco evening and try to find a place to eat.. bye :-)

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Day 7 – Getting to Marrakesh.

Well, I made it. I’m in Marrakesh. It’s been a long dayin the saddle but I have rewarded myself by booking two nights at the Ibis hotel here (cost is about £40 a night). The bike is in secure parking and I will be trying to get lost in the souks of Marrakesh tomorrow which is suprisingly difficult as I think I’ve got a firm grip of their layout from last time but we’ll see.

My day started in confusion as my phone had changed it’s time zone to Casablanca time, my ipad was showing another time and my watch was nowhere near either of them. So as much as I’d love to tell you what time I left I have absolutely no idea!

So, I packed up my belongings and set off to Tangier to get my motorbike insurance. Thankfully the weather was nice and cool and a strange kind of overcast but beautiful. I rode out of Fnideq and up into the hills/mountains and I had to stop beacuse it was just so incredibly beautiful. I took a photograph but it won’t show it as it was. I was stood on the side of the mountain and the clouds were very quickly coming up the side of the mountain and over my head a height of about 20 feet. I’m not too proud to admit that it bought a tear or two to my eye. I switched my phone on and received a message from Flowie saying she hoped I’d have a great day and to be safe. She was going to Tunbridge Wells. I sent a text message back saying “I’m on my way to Tangier. I’m stopped on the side of a beautiful mountain with clouds coming up and right over me. It’s devistatingly beautiful. Sometimes you just have to stop and think where you are and what you are seeing. Have a great time in Tunbridge Wells.”

I typed the Tangier port into my GPS and was told it was about 45 miles away. When I still had about 20 miles to go I saw a sign that said Tangier Port Med so I followed it. I rode around the port until I’d got myself completly lost. I decided to go to the place with the most people and tried asking a few people where the insurance national was but no one spoke English or French. After about 10 minutes I decided I needed to find someone who spoke English so I went to the busiest place and shouted “Excuse me, does anyone here speak the Queens English.” I got lots of blank looks but one lady shouted back “Would a Scottish bird do?” She liased with various people and I finally got a police escort through about 10 roundabouts to the Insurance National where I was able to purchase some insurance. I was happy as I didn’t need to go into Tangier. Result!

I then stuck the map to my tank bag and headed south for Marrakesh. The further south I got the more things changed. The huge birds of prey were just amazing soaring above me as I zipped along in awe. The place is completely nuts, there are people on the motorway on donkeys, there and huge lorries that are so overloaded that they slow to about 5 mph when going up even the most slight of gradients and there are nutters playing frogger for real. One minute you’re riding along happily thinking about life and the next you’re dodging some chap who’s just jumped out in front of you in the fast lane! Then as I got about 200 miles from Marrakash I noticed something in the road ahead. I slowed and changed lanes, it was a dead cow and it’s insides where strewn all over the road. As I said, things are very different down here.

When staying in the camp site in the Sierra Navada I met a chap called Andrew who is driving his landrover through Africa to South Africa. We chatted a lot about our trips and swapped email and phone numbers. We were going to meet up in the Ibis Hotel but for one reason and another never did. However we have been staying in touch via text messages. Unfortunately his power steering pump failed in southern Spain, I knew he was at a camp site that didn’t have Internet access so I texted him saying that I could find him a dealer using the Internet when I got here and text the details to him. My services were not needed though as he found a dealer just up from his camp site. If you read this Andrew, Good luck my friend and enjoy every moment (especially the disasters!).

The temperature today has been around the 20 (ish) mark which has been wonderful but when I started getting close to Marrakesh the temperature rose quickly and humidity went mad, then the sky darkened and an eery mist fell over the city just as the sun was going down. It was beautiful, I hope the photographs come out.

I saw a lorry on my way that was so overloaded with hay bales that it looked like it was going to fall over. I wished I could take photographs when on the move. Then luckily when I was filling up petrol it appeared so I took some photographs. Amazing!!

Oh, I almost forgot, one of the chaps here remembered me from the last time I was down here and is very funny. He is looking after my sheepskin seat cover thing incase it rains tonight. He said that the English have sexy time with sheep, I told him it was the Welsh!

Anyway, tomorrow is about meandering around Marrakesh and taking it easy. The next day will involve getting over the High Atlas Mountains to Quarzazate. This is where it turns from a trip to an adventure and is the part I am really looking forward to.

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Being cooked on high in the Marrakesh oven.

Today has been a bit of a plan changer. Previously I thought I was going to be able to ride the bike to various places in the Sahara desert and set up my tent. The people here in the Ibis hotel asked me where I was going tomorrow and when I told them my plan they seemed suprised. They said you cannot stay in a tent in the summer down here. I asked why and they said simply that I would die. However, me being me decided to think that one over. I thought today being 46 degrees centigrade (113 F) would be a good test so I jumped in the Ibis car and got a lift to the famous El Fna square. On the way there I was treated to the Marrakesh driving and roads. At one point we past a car in the fast part of the road that had lost it’s right rear wheel and suspension, etc. It had then slid down the road on it’s .. errr .. bottom. I arrived at about 10 and the heat wasn’t too bad. I visited a few cafe’s and got completely lost in the souks for about 3 hours (which I’ll talk about later) but when I got back out into the open the heat was incredible. It was also very windy. At his stage the sky was still quite overcast but you just couldn’t get away from the heat and humidity. I decided to go to another cafe and have some food and water which took about an hour, not because the service was slow but because I think the world turns more slowly when it’s hot. When I went back out into the square the wind had stopped and the sky had cleared so I got the full force of the sun. I walked around the square to see how I would cope. It was at this point that I decided that I need to stay in a building when down here. A tent would be suicide.

Anyway, going back to my visit to the souks. I turned up with my stupid English confidence, did one lap of the square which included the mandatory orange juice for 4 Dirhams (about 35 pence) and boldly wandered into the souks. I slowly meandered around foolishly not paying any attention to where I was going or to what direction I was travelling in. I walked for about an hour until I got to the Berber tannery, this is the camel and beef tannery. I knew it was going to stink as I was handed some mint to smell whilst in there but I wasn’t prepared for quite how much a smell could offend the senses (I think it was the ammonia vat that helped me to find my way out nice and quickly!) I then headed for the Arabic tannery which is for goats and sheep. This also stank, I took my photographs and promptly left. Whilst on my way back to god knows where there was a loud bang and crashing noise and everyone stopped and went quiet. Everyone started walking towards the noise so I did too. There was a complete human traffic jam so it took an age to get there but after about half an hour I got to a building that had definately blow up. I was told by the police that some gas cannisters has excploded. I’m not sure if the bang I heard was the explosion or the the building falling down. I think the explosion had happened before and what I heard was another part of the building falling down but don’t hold me to that.. Not good!

Whenever I go away I like to buy something to remind me of my trip so on the way back I past a few shops and enquired about a rug. I was taken into the back of a shop and given some tea where I got the full demonstration. The rug was hung over a flame for about 5 minutes and not only did it not burn but it didn’t singe at all. He also tried to burn a hole in it with his cigarette which obviously didn’t make any difference at all. I told him that I had limited space on the motorbike but he then folded and rolled it up into a tiny space. The rug was made from cactus silk which is impervious to flame and in the heat of the moment I decided that I had to have one! That part was easy but now was the hard part, deciding on a price. He started at 2500 dihgams (about £192) and after doing some quick conversions in my head I started at 500 Dirhams (about £39). We settled at 1600 Dirhams (about £123) which I was happy with.

It was now definately time to get back to my air conditioned room and some some chilling. Throughout the day I must have been asked if I wanted some hashish by about 20 people, they would always come up to you and put their arm around you, then in a whisper it would start “Would you like to feel good sir”, “The best hashish in Maroc sir” … Then one chap made me laugh by saying “hashish, spices and viagra”. Being that my wife was about 2000 miles away I figured the viagra wasn’t such a good idea!

I finally got back to the square where I continued to melt, I ordered coffee, water and some bread for me and (to the amusement of the waiter) some tuna for a skinny little cat that looked like it had seen better days. I then jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hotel. The chaps at the Ibis Hotel Palmerie wanted a photograph so I took one of the 3 of us which I promised to put on my blog.

Anyway, now I’ve experienced the real heat of this place I’m left feeling a little nervous of what to expect next. I know I can’t camp so I have no choice but the stay in hotels or rooms. One thing is for sure thought, I’m not going to let this restrict or change my plans of where I want to visit. Going over the high Atlas Mountains tomorrow should be nice and cool as they are so high. I’m looking forward to that.

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Day 8 – It’s 7:30 and I’m up and raring to go.

It’s 7:30 in the morning of day 8 and I’m up, showered, shaven and raring to go. I’m completely excited about getting up into the High Atlas Mountains. About half way to Qaurzazate there is a small road on the left which, according to a chap I was talking to yesterday, is absolutely beautiful. “It’s only for four wheel drives though” he told me. If it looks like it’s getting too bad I can always turn back.. Got to be worth a try eh? It’s hot outside already and the thought of camping is horrible but maybe I’ll feel different when it cools down when I get high up..

So, that’s the good over with, now for the bad. I got out of bed this morning and could hardly walk. My calfs are so tight that I had to do a funny walk to get to the bathroom. This is obviously because of all the walking I did in sandals yesterday. What a toughie I am! The other bad is the traffic chaos. When I turned up here on Saturday it was about 9:30 pm and the traffic was very heavy. Yesterday whilst going to the El Fna square in the taxi the traffic was mad. Today is Monday morning and I’m going to be going out at rush hour. I’m hoping against hope that they don’t have a rush hour. I’m sure it will be better once I get out of Marrakesh.

My quest to take pictures of local people is not going very well as it says in the Koran that you are only allowed to have your image taken by Allah, however there are practicing Muslims and non practicing Muslims. You can tell the difference by a rough patch on their forehead where they bow down onto the mat and pray. I’ve been looking out for it but everyone I strike up a conversation with seem to have the rough patch, hey ho.

Anyway, I’m going to pack up my stuff now and make my way down to my bike ..

Day 8 – I’ve arrive in Ourazazate. From here?

Today I rode over the High Atlas Mountains which were beautiful. I took the left turn half way through which was interesting to say the least, their idea of a road is not mine. I kept on stopping to look at possible places to pitch a tent and finally found one. I unpacked my tent and was half way through putting it up then the police came past and told me I could not camp here. It was a bit of a suprise as there was no one else around and the place was dead quiet. I asked why I couldn’t camp and was told that it was now allowed and that it was too hot. Fair enough, so I packed up my tent, loaded everything back onto my bike and continued. This time I found another spot but when I looked at it more closely the place was a mass of rubbish and smelt terrible. I moved on again. The next thing I knew I was back on a road heading towards Ouarazazte.

When about 40 miles from Ouarzazate I needed a shot of caffiene as I had a stonking headache. I stopped at a little cafe in the Atlas and was having a couple of their violent double espresso’s when the coolest Berber dude walked in wearing his fantastic vivid blue robe. He ordered and sat on the table next to me. I asked if I could take his photo, to which he replied “Smile if you are alive, if you are alive smile!”. Excellent! He told me that that was the Berber’s rule and that they like to smile! I told him that in England he would be called a dude to which he laughed. We chatted a bit about this and that. He was taking a group of Italians to Ouarzazate. I said my goodbyes and rode the rest of the way to Ouarzazate.

I remember looking at Ouarzazate on Google Earth when I was planning this trip. I saw the big roundabout with a little orb thing in the middle. Now, picture the scene, it’s 37 degrees, the sky is very dark and the humidity is unreal, there are flashes of lightning every few seconds and I turn up at the roundabout that I saw on Google Earth with the Orb in the middle. I stopped, took off my jacket and let the rain cool me down. It was one of those moments I will remember for the rtest of my smiling life.

I rolled into Ouarzazate at about 4pm and booked into a hotel. I dumped my stuff in my room, took a cold shower and changed. It was only about 5 which is too early to eat but I thought I’d go for a ride around Ouarzazate to see what restaurantes there were around. I don’t think I’ll have a problem finding one later.

Ouarzazate is a town where people tend start their adventures from, a kind of admin centre, so there are lots of 4×4′s around but as far as I could see, no one was stupid enough to have an adventure in the summer on a motorbike … well, with one exception that is! :-)

Tomorrow I’m going to ride to Erg Chebbi to see the awsome sand dunes. I have no idea where I will stay but with the heat here it wont be in a tent that’s for sure.

I’ve uploaded lots of photographs, I got a bit carried away with my own face (lol) so please forgive me!

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Day 8 – An encounter.

Here’s one that will make you laugh.. I just went out and had some food. Whilst I was getting off the bike this chap came up to me and said “Doctor” and pointed over at the pharmacy. He said he needed 2000 Dihrams then said he had “a sore knee”. I said “You want to feel my arse!”. He took a step back and said “No!” and ran away!!! LOL

Day 9 – Sod the road I’m going over the desert.

Today has been awesome! The original plan was to ride the bike from Ouarzazate to Errachidia via the N10 I think. It’s a good road but I kept on looking at the desert and thinking I could ride on that. So I dived off the road and rode perpendicular (do you like that!) to it for about 5 miles. This was far enough from the road that I could hear absolutely no noise at all. Absolute silence is something that is missing from our lives normally and it was a very odd experience. The riding was fantastic, the ground was like gravel and sand mixed up and wasn’t too bad for the most of it. I did hit a few patches of sand, the first one was most scary but I soon discovered that if you keep the throttle on and power your way through it’s not a problem. The back end slides about a bit but as long as the throttle is on that doesn’t matter. The biggest problem is the drops, there were a few times where I had to stop quite quickly and find another way through. Being a typical man (and a boy scout for about 10 minutes!) I actually took a compass with me which I used for rough directions when riding in the desert. I didn’t really think I’d ever use it but I’m glad I did. I took some photographs in the desert but when you stopped you had about 20 seconds before you melted into a puddle so not too many.

I also mastered the roads in the towns. Drivers here use either side of the road but with a preference for the right sometimes, they go round roundabouts mostly anticlockwise but not always, they sometimes even keep to the right of the keep right signs. Traffic lights depend on your mood and vehicle mainenece has to be seen to be believed. I saw an old Renault 5 with 3 wheels and a trailer where the fourth one should have been driving down the road. I saw cars driving along with no bonets and a person in the engine bay. If the car wanted to go faster the driver would shout to the person in the engine bay! Coaches tend to have not only people in them but also a number of people ‘on’ them and I’m not even going to start on the lorries. Also, everything on the road spews out copious amounts of smoke out of every orrifice. One thing they do all have in common though is that they go slowly. This means that their ‘Chaos System’ actually works very well.

I found a nice Riad in Errachidia which is lovely, with tonights meal and tomorrows breakfast, secure parking and the use of their swimming pool the price was 300 Dirhams (about £25 GBP).

I think I may have got a very weird case of sun burn (without the red, or the burning!). My hands have been in the sun for most of the day and they are brown, not red, however my left hand has developed some very tiny little blisters which if you gently roll your finger over them they fall apart and release some clear liquid. I’m sure they would be very painful for most men but I’m just to tough to feel them. I’ve zapped them all now and they’ve gone. Hopefully I wont wake up dead tomorrow ;-)

I saw a number of donkey carcasses today, some of them reasonably fresh and some quite old. I took one photograph of one of the older ones as the fresh one didn’t look good. I found myself riding along wondering what kind of life they had, hard I imagine though I did see one donkey this morning being given cold mineral water and a good scrub. The owner waved at me when I went past to which I waved back..

I’ve looked at the menu for this evening and it’s full of tasty things that I cannot read but the lady who booked me in said she would read them all to me in English which was nice of her.

I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to know that my bottom has recovered and felt nice today. I covered 190.7 miles today in complete comfort bringing the total travelled so far to 2498.6.

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Day 10, I’ll have the sand dunes please sir.

It’s now 7:30 am on day 10, what a crap night’s sleep. I asked for the menu for dinner last night and they said “No choice, we cook food”. A huge salad promptly turned up which was fantastic. I ate the salad which completely filled me up. Just as I was about to leave the table the waiter bought me another set of cutlery, it was at this point that I realised that the salad was just a starter! The main course turned up which was comprised of copious volumes of vegetables and 3 chicken kebabs. It looked beautiful but there was no way I was going to be able to put a dent in that. Luckily, at that moment, 3 cats also turned up. They thanked me for their hearty meal and were on their way. I managed most of the vegetables but still felt embarrased that I had not wiped the plate clean. Phew, I’d made it through the meal. Then the pudding turned up which was date yoghurt which was very nice, it tasted quite like rhubarb. I promptly made my exit in fear of another course.

For most of the way through the meal the waiter insisted on keeping me company and trying to talk to me in a combination of Arabic and French with a tiny spattering of Engligh thrown in for good measure. It was an interesting conversation but a very difficult one. He told me that down here in Erracidia they use mud and straw for making their buildings. I looked around and noticed for the first time that the entire building including the pillars and walls were made of mud and straw, amazing. I will take a photograph of this before I leave. I asked if the rain affects the building, he told me that they only get about 20mm of rain each year but if they got big rain the building would disolve. He also mentioned that the walls of the enclosure are now only for decoration but they were originally built for defence. I asked how old the building was but he didn’t understand so in an attempt to explain age I said I was 39, I said this is English and French but he then introduced himself as Mohammed and from that point onwards called me 39. He thought that was my name which made me laugh every time he called me. I didn’t get to find out the age of the building. Whilst we were talking the Mosques started their call to prayer which I love, it always makes me feel like I’m sitting in a National Geographic article when I hear it. I noticed that my waiter friend had no rough patch on his forehead meaning that he was not a practicing Muslim and thought I’d like to hear about Islam from a non practicing Muslim as a comparison to the last person I spoke to; a hard core practicing Muslim. I asked about their view on strangers and he said that it was mainly about tolerance. Simple, be good to people. He said the extremists had given Islam a bad name and that many European people were now scared of Muslims for which they had no need. Luckily, he said, the type of ignorant people who have those beliefs tend not to come down this far into the Sahara. I said there were nutters in every religion to which he smiled. I told him about my experiences with the Moroccan people and he seemed pleased that they were all good.

Anyway, my point was that with the set meal and the interesting company I completely forgot about my caffiene hit and consequently ended up spending the night with a headache from hell. I had coffee, water and my petrol stove on the bike but the bike was locked away in secure storage so that wasn’t an option. I dosed myself up with paracetamol, codiene, ibprofen and about a litre of water but a headache caused by caffiene withdrawal is a tough fella and refused to budge. I’m now sitting at the table and have just drunk half a cup of strong, black coffee and my headache has completely gone already. Thank you caffiene god!

Today I will be travelling to Erg Chebbi where there are huge sand dunes, it’s only about 100 miles away so should be an easy ride. I asked one of the people here if there were any good places to stay whilst in Erg Chebbi and was in luck. The chap has a brother who runs a riad called Riad Aicha. (http://www.riadaicha.com/index.html). Hopefully I will be able to get him to look after the bike and all my stuff as I plan to trek into the dunes and take some photographs. When visiting Morocco previously, I walked up some dunes just south of Mhammid in my motorbike attire and nearly passed out because of the heat, this time I will be dressed in shorts and tee-shirt and will be carrying food and copious amounts of water. I’m not sure if the place I will stay at has an Internet connection so I might not be be able to post my blog this evening, either way I will write it and post it when I can.

I’m now over 2000 miles away from home which might not sound that far but on a motorbike that might as well be the other side of the planet. I’m feeling the distance and am missing various things from home namely, family, my buisiness partner and friend Pete and, believe it or not, the weather. I find myself lusting for rain, yesterday I rode past a man with a hose and told him to blast me which he did, he had a big grin but his face which read ‘stupid Europeans’. I also miss the small size of the insects at home as the ones out here all look like they’ve been pumped full of steriods! There is currently a giant beetle like thing that is flying around looking for a suitable landing spot. Let’s hope I don’t look like a helipad to him!

Anyway, it’s time to bid you farewell for another day. I’m off to the dunes.

Day 10 – Beaten by the heat.

In England most day pass without learning anything new, however in Morocco I’ve been learning new things on an hourly basis. Today I learnt 3 new things. The first is that my body is phyically unable to cope with temperatures over about 45 degrees. The second piece of new knowledge is don’t ever drive through what the locals call ‘tempests” and the third is that if you tip water over your head you cool down for about 10 minutes.

I rode out of Auberge TiniT heading east at about 9:30am, the 90 miles or so to the sand dunes in Merzouga was going to take about 3 hours. As I got closer to my destination I could feel the weight of the ever increasing heat pushing down on me. The the stony desert started turning to sand and camels appeared everywhere. Where ever you looked the ground was doing a shimy with the crazy levels of heat, even just 30 feet away was flickering around like the back end of a jet engine! I got a bit lost on the way and stopped and asked a policeman who was very helpful though insistant that the dessert was not a good place for a motorcycle. I rode through a town called Rissani and on to Merzouga and it’s sand dunes.

On the approach to Merzouga I saw what looked like a very small tornado, I was enthralled and watched it’s progress as it neared the road in front of me. It seemed to grow in it’s ferocity and then died, I was so excited. Then I saw another one and I was headed right for it. This one was larger and more difficult to see through. As I got closer I could see that it was actually quite big and the sand was circling very quickly inside. I closed my visor and was about to enter when I decided that it might not be such a good idea. I hit the brakes at about 60 mph but it was too late. The sand instantly entered my helmet, sun glasses and eyes though that was the least of my problems. I could feel the bike being violently shoved around, then I felt the front end slip as I came off the road, I eased off on the front brake a little and finally stopped. I kept my head down for about another 10 seconds and it was all over. After clearing my eyes of sand I looked to the west where I could see what I had hit. I will NOT ever be doing that again!

When I got to Merzouga there was a car with it’s bonnet up and I was waived down. When I stopped it instantly became apparent that the temperature was way too hot for me. This was not a game any longer, this was the kind of heat that kills people. I was given the hard sell by the chap who pretended to have broken down so said my goodbyes and sped off. At this point I was quite nervous about stopping as the heat was just killing me, however at the same time I knew that if I didn’t persist and get to the dunes I would regret it later on.

I rode into and through the small town of Merzouga which ends with a road that turns into a stony track and then into a dune at the end. I parked the bike, got off and removed my helmet and jacket. The stiffling heat was nothing but phenominal. All I could think about was the heat but I need to get up a sand dune and take a photograph. I grabbed one of my aluminium water bottles from the bike and tipped it’s contents over my head and teeshirt. Unfortunately the water had warmed up considerably so was hot. I grabbed my camera and walked about 150 feet up the closest dune. As I neared the top of one of the small dunes the heat and wind started evaporating the water that I had just poured over my head and cooled me down enough to be able to take a little video and some photographs. Within about 5 minutes I was dry again and heating up so I went back to the bike, put on my gear and rode back through Merzouga. It was so hot that I felt I couldn’t breath and decided to stop at a small place that sold water and coke etc. To the suprise of the people sitting on the chairs outside I rode the bike up the steps and into the shade. I jumped off, grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, removed the lid and proceeded to tip the entire contents over my head. It was wonderful, ice cold water all over my body finding every sweaty crevice and cooling me down. I stood there revelling in my cool and content state when one of the chaps who was sitting on the chairs came up to my with a big grin and said “It is hot.”. I just about managed to reply with a yes. He pulled up a chair and got me a coke and I sat down. I asked how hot it was and he raised his arms as if feeling the air. He said “five five dot six” and smiled. Then he pointed to his big rubber watch which had a thermometer on it. “That’s cheating” I said. He proceeded to tell me that two women had died in the past week from the heat. He told me they are having a “hot time” and that the “heat grows strong here”. I decided that staying in Merzouga was not a good idea and to ride back to Errachidia. I had a difficult time man handling the bike back down the steps backwards when I left but was helped by the chaps on the chairs. I pad and left.

On my way back I was stopped by the police at one of the checkpoints and asked where I was heading, I told him and he looked over the bike. It was taking some time so I got off and took off my jacket. He asked me where I had come from to which I replied “Merzouga.” He looked at me for a while, smiled and eventually said “Next time my friend, bring a Toyota.”. I could not have agreed more. I tipped some more water over my head and made haste for Errachidia.

I like to keep my fuel tank reasonably full just in case supply runs low or some other disaster, I’d covered 160 miles since filling up and wanted to refuel. I stopped at a few filling stations on my way back but the electricity was off so had no luck. I finally found a station that had electricity when my odometer read 213 miles. I can do about 240 on a full tank so was very relieved when I was finally able to fill up.

I arrived back in Errachidia at about 6 and stopped at Cafe France for one of their potent coffees then rode on to the Auberge Tinit where I will stay again tonight. It’s a fantastic place with lovely people and air conditioned rooms. I promised that I would write about it in my blog so here goes. If you happen to be in Errachidia and in need of a place to stay I can think of no better place than the Auberge Tinit. I have been staying in Ibis Hotels and the Auberge TiniT is infinately superior. The Ibis chain of hotels are okay but you could be staying anywhere in Europe whereas this place is far more Morrocan. The rooms are clean, the service is excellent and the prices are good, not only for the accomodation but also for the drinks and food. The swimming pool is the perfect temperature and the food is superb. The lady who books you in is not only very helpful but also lovely and the waiters are friendly and like to practice their English which means lots of interesting conversing. There is also ample parking and a secure location for my motorbike. They also do a demon salad!

Next on my itinerary is the small town of Mhammid which is one of the places here where the road stops and the desert begins. To get there I will be going back to Ouarzazate, I will then be heading south through the Draa Valley to Mhammid. From there it will be back to Ouarzazate and then Marrakesh. From Marrakesh I will ride south through the Tizi n Test pass which is tough but beautiful. I’ll then ride North back through the Tizi n Test pass back to Marrakesh where I will meet up with my wife and some mates (collectively called ‘The bitches’) for another crazy time in the souks of Marrakesh!

Anyway, I think the time is close for another of Auberge TiniT’s salads. Until tomorrow …

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Day 11 – Nothing interesting to report.

I’m trying hard to write a blog each day however, to be honest, not a great deal happened today. I rode the bike from Erachidia back to Ouarzazate and I’m back in the Ibis hotel. The temperature is okay now at 38 which is actually really nice.

On my ride back I saw a few kids playing tennis so I stopped and sat with them and watched for an hour or so. As much as I’d like to say they were outstanding they were actually completely terrible. Not once was a serve returned in the hour or so that I was there. It was painful to watch! Not exactly Wimbledon. One chap put on a hat and all the others took the piss out of him by calling him Michael Jackson. Of course I was unable to resist jumping up, grabbing my bollocks and making a high pitch Aouw! They all appreciated my humour which is a real difference to England.

Whilst riding along I couldn’t help but to be surprised by the vast amounts of nothing here. I stopped and took some photographs of the desert between Errachidia and Ouarzazate so you can see the kind of landscape here.

Anyway, as I don’t really have much to report back on today I thought I’d do a report on my equipment (No! Stop there, not that kind of equipment!). You might want to skip this section as it will be completely boring unless you’re planning a similar trip or have too much time on your hands!

First of all the bike: Honda Transalp XL650V 2006.
The bike is actually far more capable than I am. It has not missed a beat. I’ve been sticking to 70 mph on the motorways, 60 on the fast N roads and when the weather entered into the 50′s I stuck to 50 mph so I didn’t melt my tyres which is ample out here anyway. The temperature guage rarely goes over one third, it goes up to about half when stopped in traffic in very hot weather but the fan then cuts in and stops it from going any higher. The bike has two cylinders so develops ample power from 2000 rpm upwards. I tend to change down a gear when the revs drop to 2000 rpm and change up at 3500. Overtaking is a brease out here as there are hardly any cars on the roads and they have long 10 miles straights where you can see for ever. Even a Honda Transalp must have about 10 times the power to weight ratio to anything else on the road so if you do get in trouble on the road, just open up the throttle and everything disappears. The brakes are good even when used hard for quite some time in the twisties. The bike must weigh about 260 kgs fully loaded but unless you have to man handle it it doesn’t matter, once on the move it feels good and quick. When I rode into the tempest thing yesterday the weight actually helped. Also I accidently came off the road when I was not paying enough attention and rode onto the sandy gravel at about 50mph and the bike coped well. I nearly shit myself but the bike was fine! I do wonder what it would have been like on my old Aprilia RSV1000R here, actually I’d be in prison by now for doing 170mph! So, the bike is perfect with the exception of the seat. Unfortunately a bike seat needs to be shaped in a certain way which is completely incompatible with bottoms for anything over 200 miles so my 8000 mile trip requires copious amounts of talc. Being able to cover 235 miles on a full tank is great.

The aliminium panniers are great, I lock them with 4 padlocks which keeps everything nice and safe. Having the 4 water bottles on the panniers is an excellent way to carry water. If I do drop the bike the panniers also stop the bike from completely falling over which makes it far easier to pick up. The Webmoto crashbars are a good idea as they protect the radiator if dropped, even at speed. I managed to cartwheel the bike at 50 mph in Ibiza 3 years ago and bent the forks slightly. Other than thatit was fine. What a tough piece of kit the Transalp is.

My Oxford Limetime Luggage tank bag has proven to be superb. It’s got lots of compartments which you always manage to fill, the zips are strong and it’s proven to be completely waterproof.

The camera I decided to take is a Nikon D300 with a AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm lens with vibration reduction. Both the camera and lens are sealed against water and dust which in an environment which includes sand is a very good attribute to have. I can ride the bike in the rain with my camera hanging over my shoulder and not worry about it. The battery is also fantastic being able to take about 600 photographs on a single charge. I will probably not have to charge the camera throughout this trip. It’s also a tough cookei so is able to take all the knocks and bangs it will inevitably receive. It would be nice to have a video facility on the camera but the D300 doesn’t have one. Next time I will take a D700 which does have HD 1080 video.

My Panasonic video camera has been fine but is not built to the standard as the Nikon camera. In future I will take a Nikon D700 which has a video facility so will not take the Panasonic video camera. The battery life is also pants.

I have 2 Ortlieb dry pack bags which are exceptionally tough, 100% waterproof and have no zips to break and I love them. One holds all my clothes and washing/shaving stuff and the other holds my tent. Because of the way they are made you can squash them down to a very small size. In fact I squashed mine down so hard that I bent some of my tent poles and snapped all my disposable razors which makes shaving far more interesting!

When you are used to PCs the iPad is terrible restrictive however the battery life is fantastic and it’s nice and small so I would take it again.

I bought a few sturdy folding knives with me and they have been very useful. At one camp site I had to cut some rope to get my bike though a barrier. I also had to cut open a tin of salmon I bought when the opener catch thing snapped off. I never remember to pack nail clippers so the knife can also be used here. I also found that my touch screen GPS doesn’t work with gloves so cut the index finger off my left glove. The long and the short of it is that you should bring a sturdy knife or two if you’re not travelling by air.

I brought my Petzl Myo RXP head torch with me which has been used daily. This is their top spec head torch which costs about £80 these days. It sips at the batteries and is built like a tenk. The other torch I bought was a top spec LED Lenser but I’ve hardly used it.

Oh, the GPS mis a Garmin Nuvi 3790t which is Garmins top spec unit designed for cars however it has coped perfectly with the heat here. I use Gorilla tape to tape it to the top of my tank bar and it’s been superb. It also has a facility where it tracks where you have been so when I get home I will be able to link it up with my computer and upload my actual route travelled to my blog, though I will probably have to find a teenager to work out how to do it! Having the ability to enter lat/long points is very usefull and is has been used daily.

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Day 12 – Through the Draa Valley to Mhamid.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for quite some time now and it’s finally here. Today I will be riding my bike from Ouarzazate, south through the Draa Valley, to Mhamid.

I think it’s only about 100 miles or so so will attempt to stop often and take photographs and video. What a way to spend a Friday!

Day 12 – A fantastic day, Sahara Zagora Garage and more tempests.

Today has been fantastic however it is now 8:30 pm and I am sitting in a room that has air conditioning that is so completely pathetic that it only seems able to reduce the temperature to 41 degrees. I just know I’m not going to be sleeping tonight!

I left Ouarzazate this morning at about 9:30. It was a hard start, I had absolutely no energy and had to get dressed up in all my motorbike parafanalia and lug my heavy tank bag, my bulging Ortlieb bag, my crash helmet and 2 litre bottles of water from the third floor to reception, then to the secure parking about 300 metres away. By the time I got to my bike I wasn’t feeling so bright. I loaded everything onto the bike and rode about 100 metres to the petrol station to fill up. By the time I actually got underway I was shaking like a raw sausage and not feeling great at all. Once I actually got going and got some air around the old jacket I started feeling better.

It’s funny, I wear all the motorbike gear to protect me in case of a crash but the bigger risk out here it probably from over heating because of all the gear.

Anyway, I got onto the N9 and started the first step of my journey to Zagora. By 10 O’Clock the heat was once again pressing down on me but I seemed able to cope with it today, perhaps I’m starting to get used to it now. The Dra Valley has beautiful parts but most of it is how I would imagine Mars to be. There are lots of signs warning you to be careful of the river going over the road but at this time of year there are no rivers. The road seemed to stretch on forever and is the only break in the vast masses of nothing. There were parts today however that reminded me of the Grand Canyon in Colorado. I took some photographs and video (when it worked) today. I hope they’re okay.

I stopped in a small town called Tinzoulin for a coffee and some water. I found out that most of the places that sell cold water also sell it frozen. I now buy one bottle of cold water and one bottle of frozen water. By the time I’ve finished the cold bottle the frozen one has thawed.

I turned up in Zagora and stopped by one of those signs that rotate from time, to date, to temperature. By the time I got there the temperature was reading 48 degrees. I was immediately joined by a chap on a moped who introduced himself as a good machanic. He said he had a garage around the corner and that I could join him and his brothers for a drink. I’m always sceptical about such offers but he said Honda Transalp XL650. He then told me that it’s big brother, The Africa Twin is a great bike with the exception of the regulator which brakes often. Having read about that before I left I instantly knew he was knowledgable on the machanics of my bike and knew what he was talking about. I followed him for about a kilometre to his garage. His Garage was called Sahara Zagora Garage and he specialises in preperation work for the Paris Dakar for all kinds of vehicles including some big team names. He got his photo album out and showed me all the cars, bike and huge trucks he had prepared and fixed over the years. He also knew Patsy Quick from Heathfield. He told me that she had nearly broken her back in the Paris Dakar. I got my camera out and took some photographs, then I got my video camera and and we all had a good laugh. Unfortunately I cannot upload the video from here so you will have to wait until I get home. I asked about the Garage and they said they have this garage and another in Senegal. They also said they have a shop called the Sahara Boutique but it was closed. I sais it was a shame as I wanted to buy a present for my wife. Needless to say we then rode there and they opened it for me. I bought a nice present for my wife after the mandatory haggling.

When it was time to leave they asked where I was going, I told them Mhamid and was told that it was 10 degrees hotter than Zagora in Mhamid and that I should wait until about 8 before setting off but me being me decided against it. One of the brothers had planned to go to Mhamid today to see his sister but his sister told him it was 56 degrees so he stayed in Zagora. I asked for their number in case I needed some assistance with the bike and they stuck a stricker on one of my panniers. It’s very good to know that should I have any problems with the bike that I have the number of a very knowledgable machanic.

I set off from Zagora and within 5 miles was in the most barren, rocky desert I could imagine. The roads were getting very narrow by this point and were mostly covered in drifting sand and when something came the other way one of us had to jump off the road to pass but this was not a problem. About half way to Mhamid I saw a stopped Renault car with it’s bonnet up and was waived down. The last time I stopped I got a hard sell but this looked different. I stopped and was told that they needed water for the car. I had 7 litres of water and a working vehicle so I gave them 5 litres, made sure they were okay and left, they were very thankful. Apparently they had been there for 3 hours waiting for someone to stop. 3 hours in what must have been 55 degrees must have been hell.

So there I was happily riding towards Mhamid when I saw a load (herd?) of camels crossing the road up ahead and decided to get a video. I switched the video camera to record and put it in my lap. When I got closer I grabbed the camera and pointed it at the camels. Unfortunately the thing was bloody hot and turned itself off. Another good reason for not taking it in future.

I rode through a number of small towns on the way to Mhamid. One of them was called Tagounite. I rode towards their big pillars and noticed that is was very windy. Sand and rubbish was blowing everywhere. I rode into it at about 15 mph and promptly came off. I didn’t realise but it wasn’t just windy, it was another one of those sand tempest things. I picked myself up, cleared the sand from my eyes and looked at the bike, at this point people were running towards me and managed to get the bike upright again. I checked the bike over but it was fine, just a few new scratches. I was told not to go into the wind when it was round. Makes complete sense to me!

I rode through the town and out the other side when I saw another one. This time I stopped the bike and grabbed my camera and video hoping it was going to work this time. I got some photographs and some really good video but will have to upload the video when I get back to England. I rode to Mhamid.

When I reached Mhamid it was a bit of a non event. The road just turns to sand and that’s it. I was joined by some kids who wanted me to swap my bike for a camel. I asked how long it would take for me to ride a camel to England and they smiled. No deal. Mhamid is a bit of a dive of a town with no open decent accomodation as far as I could see.

I found somewhere to stay but so far it’s been complete hell. First of all the owner was not there so I had to deal with a young chap who not only did not speak any English at all but also didn’t understand my french or drawing or actions. We spent about half an hour trying to get in touch with the owner who speaks English and finally he turned up. Out of season he said. No food. Okay, I thought, my body can live on it’s fat reserves for one day. No problem I said. I could see the big box and fan outside so I said air conditioning. Yes, he said so I took the room. It’s a basic affair with a straw roof and mud walls and cost 200 Dirhams. I think I was over charged but hey ho, it was worth it for just the air conditioning alone (so I thought at the time).

I’ve now been here for 2 hours and so far the air conditioning has managed to get the temperature in the room from a heady 63 degrees C down to 36 (temperature readout on the AC unit) and a HUGE, and I do mean HUGE, scorpion has dropped from the ceiling onto the floor about 6 inches from my foot with a big crack/thud. FUCKING HELL!! If I’d have had anything inside me to shit out I would have done it at that point! I went and got the owner and said scorpion, not good. He grabbed his boy and dog (which is very friendly and lovely by the way) and came to my room. They looked at it for a while, made lots of ooohh noises and then the young chap took off his flipflop. I asked if they could just take it away. The owner said I could try to move it if I wanted to but it was not a good idea so I left them to their own devices. There was a whack and then it was dead. I was then brave enough to take a photograph. They kept their dog away until the sting had been cut off then the dog ate it. Disgusting! Since then I have discovered that the toilet works but the taps and shower are so pathetic that was would take about half an hour to fill the sink. Even I am finding my smell offensive so I really must stink!

Now I’m sitting here about to finish my blog thinking that another bloody scorpion could fall on my face in the night. Riding out here at night is not a good idea so I’m stuck with it. I’ve got a feeling I’m not going to have the best nights sleep. Tomorrow I will be going back to Ouarzazate and will be booking myself into the poshest hotel I can find!

Anyway, it’s now time for me to check the room completely for creepy crawlies and try to go to bed.. This was a terrible mistake.

I’m back, it’s now 12:30 in the morning and the temperature is still 35 and I’m knackered but can’t sleep. Theres something in my room that’s making a clicking noise and the bloody thing is moving around so I know it’s an insect of one kind or another. I went outside and brushed past a plant that stung me and I just can’t wait for the sun to come up so I can escape this place. How can it be so hot in the middle on the night! How can time go so slowly? The clicking noise has now been joined by a loud moaning sound outside. I thought it was a person at first so went outside with my head torch and knife but there was no one there luckily. Must be some kind of animal, it’s doesn’t sound good. I have tried doing a video to see if I can record the noise but the recorder will not start. The temperature readout on the AC unit is now reading 34. My plan is to wait until it starts getting light and leave. I’ll hopefully be back in Ouarzazate by noon.

Amazingly, I got on the bed, closed my eyes and the next thing I knew it was 7am.

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Day 13 – Mix together wind and sand and a hard ride.

I left the room in Mhamid at 8am and made my way back to Ouarzazate. I was hoping it would be a nice easy 160 miles or so but the wind made it a really hard slog. Within about half an hour the wind had zipped up to a gale and I had to lean the bike into the wind at about 35 degrees just to keep it going straight. Going round a left hand bend but still leaning the bike over to the right is a new experience for me! You have to force your head into the wind which makes your neck ache. Having said that all those things are minor in comparison the the reduced visibility by the sand that is blown up and finds home in every orrifice. I pushed on and made it to Zagora in good time. I had a coffee and a whole litre of fresh orange juice which slipped down a treat then headed off again to Ouarzazate. The wind stopped about 50 miles before I got to Ouarzazate which I was pleased about as I wanted to take some more photographs of the amazing landscape.

In one of the little villages I rode through today I saw a man beating the living day lights out of a donkey with a stick. It’s amazing how quickly one’s mood can change from pure contentment to complete anger and rage. I dived off the road and toward the man, skidded to a halt and jumped off the bike. At this point all I wanted to do was thump the man but I called him a bastard, grabbed his stick and whacked him with it as he ran away. I stayed there for a few minutes with the donkey which was very friendly. Evil man. It was not a good day to be a donkey as I also saw one dead in the road. Sad.

I turned up in Ouarzazate completely knackered and stinking like an old tramp so rode straight into the Ibis hotel and booked a room the for night. I was asked if I wanted the special, in Morocco it’s always a good idea to find out quite what that means so I enquired. Dinner and breakfast, phew! I booked the special and lugged my stuff up to my room. Where I had what was I think the longest and coldest shower of my life. Now I’m back in the lounge revelling in the fact that no scorpions are going to fall on me.

Since leaving England I have had no time for reading or just chilling and now I’m going to siting here with a glass of Gentleman Jack, my book and do nothing. Aaaaah.

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Day 14 – Beautiful mountain roads and bibbing the National Anthem!

I had such a fantastic ride today from Ouarzazate to Marrakesh that I’m tempted to go back to Ouarzazate just so I can do it again!

I left Ouarzazate this morning after a nice shower, breakfast and talc fest! I forgot to put my sheep skin rug on the seat which made the seat one hundred times more comfortable! Steve (BDMLR) was right in that the best place for a sheep skin is on a sheep! After only about half an hour I was in the most glorious mountains ever, with the temperature in the mid twenties at 7000 feet it was indescribable meandering around the beautiful mountain roads with cool air on my skin and devastating beauty all around. I took my time and enjoyed every minute. I stopped at a few cafes and had copious amounts of fresh orange juice and coffee.

About half way there I stopped and put my Walkman on. Riding along those perfect roads listening to your favourite music was one of the wonderful moments in my life, pure indulgence. Call me girly if you like but I had to stop more than once to wipe the tears from my eyes (with 3000 feet drops at the edge of the road and no barriers on the hair pin bends it’s a very good idea to keep your eyes clear!)

I have been looking for some trillobite fossils to give to people as presents and for me. However all the ones I have seen so far have not been good. Even at Erford which is where most of them come from. I stopped a few times on the way back but couldn’t find anything I liked. Most of the places between Ouarzazate and Marrakesh sell minerals but not many of them have trillobites and none of them have good trillobite fossils. Then I found a fantastic shop high up in the mountains, it was very large and had everything with the exception of good closed trillobite fossils! The salesman was excellent, his English fantastic and he answered all my questions with all the detail anyone could want, then left me to browse in my own time. I found some items I wanted to purchase and asked the price. The price was fantastic so I bought them all. He told me that people don’t like to haggle these days so he just came in with the best price first. Whilst I was looking around some of his friends turned up including the son of the shop owner and we all introduced ourselves and had a good laugh. It got even funnier when I got my camera out as one of his mates could ‘gurn’ like no other! We went next door and had a coffe and ice cold water. He insisted on paying and wouldn’t even let me get my wallet out. Too often here us outsiders assume that people are only after our money however in my experieces most people here value friendship more. I didn’t manage to find any good trillobite fossils that I liked but we have swapped email addresses and he will keep his eyes open for one in excellent/perfect condition for me. He asked if I had any old mobile phones or clothing in England that I didn’t want any more as they can be used as currency in the mountains so when I get back to England I will be asking everyone to give me their old mobiles and will send them out to him.

I rolled into Marrakesh from the wrong side and had to cross through to get to the Hotel Ibis Palmerie that I wanted to stay in. The traffic was not good and I found myself following a little black car. When I overtook the car the people inside shouted “Hello England!” and bibbed some of the British National Anthem, of course I joined in and we all had a good laugh! I followed them for a while but the traffic was a nightmare so I blasted off into a side road and made my way to my friends at Ibis. El Houcine gave me a great price which was the topping on the cake.

Tomorrow I will be riding south on some dodgy mountain roads named the Tizi n Test pass. I have been looking forward to this for years and for me this will hopefully be one of the many highlights of the trip.

So, smile if you are alive and if you are alive, smile!

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Day 15 – Tizi n Test and a beautiful Auberge high in the mountains.

I am now proud to say I have completed the Tizi n Test pass in the High Atlas mountains. I left Marrakesh today at about 10 O’Clock and followed my GPS to a cash point machine as I needed to draw out some money. I immediately entered into the most hideous traffic. The driving was as bad as I could imagine, including mine just to stay alive! There were people going round roundabouts the wrong way, people pulling out whether things were coming or not, lorries driving on the wrong side of the road, animals a plenty going everywhere however the pinnicle of the jam was a completely overloaded articulated lorry attempting to reverse round the roundabout whilst on his mobile phone. Obviously people were shouting at him but he didn’t seem to notice them at all. Oh, and to top it all off no one paid any attention whatsoever to traffic lights or the policemen at the junctions. When I got to the cash point machine I drew out my money and just stood there and watched. It was complete mayhem, people were driving on the pavements and the mopeds were just doing whatever they pleased, and everyone was bibbing their horns. Complete madness!

Anyway, after a few turns and about 5 kilometers I was finally on the R203 with very little traffic heading towards the mountains. I could see the huge High Atlas mountain range looming from above which made me excited but also a little nervous as I’ve read lots of good and bad things about the Tizi n Test pass. As I got closer to the mountains and started to climb I found myself driving through a complete dump of a town with loads of rubbish, dust, animals and knackered old vehicles. The one thing it had going for it though was the most fabulous smell. I have no idea what they were cooking but it made me stop. I pulled over by the side of a cafe and said my hello’s. I was given a table and chair and asked what I wanted. As always I ordered two black coffees, two glasses of orange juice and a bottle of water. They didn’t have any orange juice so I bough a fanta instead. It reminded me of something that Lailai had said in the Sahara Zegora Garage. He said “We do not say fantastic, we say fantaplastic!”. I asked what the smell was but they had just finished eating and the food was now gone. Shame.

Just as I was leaving I saw some little kids trying to push start an old mercedes car that wouldn’t start. They could only just about get it moving so I helped push and the mother who was driving managed to get it going. Everyone said thank you even people who were just standing around watching. I jumped on my bike and continued towards the mountains.

I slowly began to climb and quickly found myself at 2000 metres (about 6000 feet). With big drops at the side of the road and few barriers I made concious effort to not make any mistakes! I did think about putting my Walkman on but decided I really needed to pay attention so refrained. One mistake here and you could find yourself flying off the edge of a 6000 foot mountain like superman! The quality of the road was okay for most part however there were a few hairy spots where the road had fallen away a bit, you just had to make sure that you were on the inside at those points. One very real danger was running into something coming the other way on one of the many incredibly tight bends however everything went along at quite a sedate pace which meant I was able to enjoy the amazing views, all while keeping a firm eye on the road!

The Tizi n Test may not be a long route but it does take quite a long time because you can’t get any speed up. The roads just bend and bend then the go back on themselves and bend some more. I finally reached the highest point which was something like 2180 metres (about 6500 feet) and saw a shop and cafe with a sign saying “Tizi n Test 2100 metres” so I decided to stop and take a photograph. The views were just amazing. I sat down and had a drink and got chatting to the owner, a chap called Mustaffa. I finished my drinks and browsed around his shop and bought a few things. Many of the shops you go into here have loads of very nice things but the moment you get in there you get brain freeze and don’t know what to buy. Mustaffa was very helpful and I finally bought a few nice things. I told him I was going south on the Tizi n Test and that I would then need a place to stay, I asked him if he had any suggestions. He said that I was in luck because he had some very nice rooms..

I was taken to look at the rooms and completely agreed, the rooms really were very nice and typically Morocco too which I like. They also have the most incredible mountain views, they don’t have air conditioning but the best part is they don’t need it because at this altitude it’s nice and cool. It turned out that I only had another 30 kilometers to the end of the Tizi n Test so I paid Mustaffa for the room (which was normally 400 Dihrams but for me 300!) and finished the Tizi n Test. It seemed to take forever to cover the 30 kilometers. Every time you manage to get the bike up to 30 mph you have to almost stop again for the blind bends. You could try to race along but would probably end up flying to your death so I took it easy.

Many times throughout this trip something has happened that has reminded me of a scene in a film. Then I’m off into the script. When the scorpion dropped from the ceiling whilst staying in Mhamid I jumped up on the bed. It made a horrible scurying noise as it walked around my room. I said to myself “Sounds far away”, the next thing you know I’d broken into the script for American Wierwolf in London. “Sounds far away, not far enough. Come on Jack. . You really scared me you shit. Jack! I continued the script through the hospital scene and the following scene when he get’s invited back to Nurse Price’s place.. I did the same when I stopped in Mazourga. A large insect had decided it liked my tank bag and I wanted to get going again. When I looked at it more closely and saw that it was just a large, black bumble bee. I said “You’re not so bad” which set me off once again, this time it was Nedley the corrupt programmer from Jurassic Park. “You’re not so bad, thought you were your big brother. you like fetch? Fetch Go on, fetch you idiot. . Aaaah, no wonder you’re extinct, I’m gonna to run you over when I come back down. And on and on I went. So far I’ve been through most of the American Weirwolf in London, Jurassic Park, The English Patient, No Country for Old Men and Appocolypse Now. I have a very bad memory normally but can somehow remember the sound of films. I don’t really remember to script itself, it’s more the sound which obviously includes the script but also lots more too. Weird eh?

Anyway, I digress. When I finally got to the main road at the end of the Tizi n Test pass I stopped the bike, got off and congratulated myself for a job well done. I had completed the Tizi n Test pass that everyone talks about. Some people have said that you’re not a real man until you’ve completed the Tizi n Test but I think that may be pushing it a bit (quite a lot in fact!) others have said that it is the best road in Morocco which I completely agree with. It didn’t feel as adventurous as the trip to Merzouga or Mhamid but it was a different kind of adventure and I’m proud to say that I have completed them all.

After half an hour of congratulating myself (such things cannot, and should, be rushed) I decided it was time to head back to the Auberge. It seemed to take forever which was fine by me. I arrived and had another of my long, cold showers and sat down with Mustaffa and his wife for the most fantastic Berber omlet and salad. He talked about many things including money in England and Morocco. Here the average monthly income is approximatly 1300 to 1500 Dirhams. That is about £100 to £130 GBP yet petrol is 12 dirhams a litre which is about £1 GBP. So, taking those figures into consideration, the average person in Morocco earns about a tenth as much as their British counterparts but their petrol prices are only a little cheaper than ours. Sounds like a raw deal to me. As much as I like to think that I wont ever complain about the price of petrol again I know that the next time I stick £100 in the car I’ll be moaning along with the rest of the population of England.

So, I have now finished my food and am back in my room. Mustaffa his started the generator for me so I have light but it will be switched off at 11pm. There are candles in the room that I can light should I need light. How fantaplastic is that?!

I decided to try to charge my camera battery today but it didn’t charge at all, neither did my iPad. I have all my charging stuff in my tank bag which sits on top of my petrol tank. Everything was plugged in correctly and all the lights were on but it just didn’t work. No charging, the sore arse and the severe heat has made me rethink travelling in the future. I haven’t really gone anywhere on this trip that you could not go in the comfort of a Toyota Landcruiser or Range Rover. Perhaps my next trip will be in a nice posh Range Rover with air conditioning and beautiful comfortable seats. I’ll have to think about that one…

Tomorrow I will be heading back through the Tizi n Test to Marrakesh where I will book 3 nights in a nice hotel. I will walk around the souks and see if I can find some trilobites and other nice things. It’s also tempting to get one of those fabulous vivid blue Berber robes, I already have a white one but blue is my favourite colour !

Okay, I am back in Marakesh after a beautiful and sadate meander back through the Tizi n Test mountain pass. Entering Marakesh was, once again, a bit of a challenge, not only because of the amazingly incomprensible lack of even the slightest bit of driving ability, but also because of the unforgiving, intense heat. It is once again in the high 40′s which after the cool mountain air comes as a rude shock to the system.

I was told by Mustapha when I left his mountain Auberge that his brother had a cafe on the road back to Marrakesh and that his little brother Joseph would be there. I eased my way back gently and found his brothers cafe and stopped. I said hello to Joseph and introduced myself and got a huge smile. “Mustapha said you would come!” he said. I ordered my mandatory 2 orange juices and a cafe noir. Whilst I was waiting I saw some nice trilobite fossils on the side. They were complete which means they have the trilobite enclosed completely in rock and you open them up to see the fossil. They originaly wanted 500 Dirhams a piece so I just said no and sat down. Obviously this was my haggling method for today, let the games begin! Joseph came over and asked how many I wanted. I said I could not pay his prices and that I would go back to Erford so not to worry. He said he would give me a friend price as I knew Mustapha. He called his brother and they talked for sometime. I ended up buying 3 very nice trilobite fossils for 700 Dirhams which is about £52 GBP.

I tried to get the bike as close to the edge of some of the severe drops before I took the photographs but my body just refused to get it any closer than about two feet. Close enough I think!

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Day 17 – Chargers are complete rubbish, I’ve got the hump.

Today I’ve got the hump. I got up and had a slice of cake and a coffee for breakfast, then grabbed my sun glasses and wallet and hailed a taxi to take me to the square to get a USB charger for the iPad and Walkman. I turned up in the square at about 11 and found a few electrical shops. I told them I needed to charge my iPad and they sold me a crappy little plastic thing that plugs into the wall with a USB socket on the side. I asked again that it would charge my iPad, they said yes so I paid. I then went to look for some teeshirts and boxers. Believe it or not everything here is incredibly expensive. They say “Look, it’s Dolce & Gabbana, it is very good.” I say, I just want a cheap teeshirt. They say it is cheap for Dolce & Gabbana. I say I just want a crappy teeshirt, I bought the teeshirt I am wearing for about 40 Dirhams in England (Peacocks!). They want 200 Dirhams for a D&G teeshirt. You end up getting dizzy by all the circles you go round in. I must have visited 20 places that sold teeshirts and they all have bloody massive metal plates with leather stitched onto the breast. I don’t want that, I just want a crappy cheap teeshirt!

Anyway, I needed at least 2 teeshirts and 2 pairs of boxers so I asked for a 2 teeshirts without the massive metal and leather plate attached to the breast. I bought two teeshirts and 2 pair of boxer shorts. I got back here to find the metal plate attached to one of them. I will go back tomorrow and get it swapped for one without a metal plate. This time I will check it over myself.

I at least managed to navigate around the souks without getting too lost today. I took my compass and GPS and using them together is excellent. Whilst I was walking back to the El Fna square a young man of about 25 told me “This way to the El Fna”. I said I know the way and don’t need a guide. He was like a yoyo, whatever I did I could not get rid of the irritating little git. I firmly said no a number of times and told him I would not pay for something I didn’t want or need but it didn’t seem to make any difference. When we finally turned up at the square and he asked me for money I laughed and told asked him “For what?”, he said he was a good guide. I told him that I didn’t want or need one 20 minutes ago. He insisted on following me for the next 20 minutes trying to persuade me to pay him for his trouble but when he tried to take my wallet out of my pocket I finally snapped. I grabbed him and in loud and concise English told him to FUCK OFF! Finally he left me to my own devices.

If you spend too much time in Marrakesh you actually start to turn into a mobile cash point machine. Well, this cash point is now closed, pissed off and dangerous. It’s such a shame as the Morocco people on the whole are lovely, friendly and would bend over backwards to help you. Here in Marrakesh though you have to be careful. I’m sure that most of the people are great but the exceptions ruin it for the rest and are what you remember.

Whilst in the souks I asked the GPS to locate the Riad that Flowie has booked and it found it (or somewhere close). It’s right in the middle of a load of tiny little and incredibly busy lanes. I’m not sure but I think to get to it you have to go through all the tiny lanes. There is no way I’m going to be able to get my bike through the souks. Simply trying to walk through them is a complete nightmare, I can’t even imagine it with the bike all loaded up. I’m probably going to just pay to leave the bike in the secure parking of the Ibis Hotel.

When I finally got back to the hotel I was looking forward to getting all my devices plugged in and charging but suprise suprise the chargers I bought don’t work. I told the lady at the reception of the hotel that I needed to charge my iPad, she kindly tried plugging it into her computer but that didn’t work either. She suggested I go to the supermarket as they may well have a proper iPad charger. It is a 20 minutes walk so I’ll go later when it’s a bit cooler. 42 degrees today.

I thought Marrakesh was going to be the pinnicle of my trip but it’s been the bad part. To be completely honest, I can’t wait to get back home to England where no means no, where the price advertised is the price you pay and where when you buy something it works. I’m just thankful that I always keep my hand on my wallet.

What a shit day.
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Update: I’ve now had a little, food and sleep in my nice cool room and feel much more calm and positive. I’m sitting here wondering how I got myself into such a bad mood, I think the combination of the chap grabbing my wallet out of my pocket, being hot and flustered and not having any decent food caused my mood to go down hill fast. I’ve been using this holiday as a little diet, just eating a small piece of bread/dry cake for breakfast and then having a small lemon tart (which is to die for by the way) for dinner. For some reason I don’t seem to get hungry here. My bloody sugar levels must have been at an all time low. Lesson learnt.

I’m now going to jump on the bike and go to the supermarket to see what goodies I can find.
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Update: 20:00
In my emotional haste to tell you all about the bad things in my day I completely forgot to tell you about the good parts.

When browsing around the souks I was grabbed and asked if I wanted some viagra. I smiled and said no thank you. He said “You come and look at my shop, I am Berber Doctor.” I thought it could be interesting and there was a beautiful smell that reminded me of my Grandad George wafting from the piles of scipes and dried plants. It smelt of lemon scented duraniums. He proceeded to take me through an amazing array of herbs, spices and various other things. He told me about viagra for women, he said you slip it in her tea when she is not looking!! I told him that in England we have laws against such things! It was fascinating, I ended up buying some kind of plant (dried) that has the strongest lemon smell ever, which apparently it keeps the mosquitos away. I also bought some red lipstick which looks like a lid of a jug. It’s made from popies and when you lick your finger and rub it on the lid it goes bright red, I thought it might be good for my visitors! I also bought various spices for cooking, some cinamon sticks, a dried plant that the Berber people use as a tooth pick and some rosemary. As a gift he gave me some pumice for rubbing away dead skin on my feet (he obviously didn’t look at my beautiful model’s feet before offering me that!).

From there I headed back to the teeshirt shop (I had promised I would go back and buy some teeshirts if he gave me a good price and I always try to stick to my word. We chatted and I bought the teeshirts. He then told me he had a question for me. He proceeded to tell me about an Indian girl (who lives in England) that is on holiday here who keeps on coming back to his shop to see him. He told me that she has asked him if he could get a visa and visit her in England. He was very excited and completely in love which was lovely to see. At this point my suspicious mind was thinking he wants me to help him get a visa but I was wrong. He then very carefully proceeded to tell me that he assumed that as I lived in England that I must have had loads of ‘relations’ with women and had lots of experience. Before I had an opportunity to set him straight about the 'lots of relations' part he said he needed to ask me a question. He said it is very difficult to get a visa to visit England when you live in Morocco and that he had visited the consulate and it was not looking good. His question was what should he tell his Indian Girl. I told him that the complete truth was always the best option. I was standing there feeling very sorry for the poor chap, in England getting the lady you love is difficult enough, add in visa and language problems and it's just not going to happen.

I told him that my wife and some friends were going to be visting in a few days and that we would come and look around his shop and join him for tea. I would very much like to do that.

Anyway, I have just got back from the supermarket with a charger that charged everything. I've tested it and I now have music! The Walkman charges but unfortunately the iPad doesn't. The battery on my iPad is on 8% now so this will be the last blog until my wife brings my chargers over on Friday night. My mobile is also charging now too.

Bye!

Message to wifey, Mia and Elaine.

Hello my lovelyness,

Today I found the Riad. It really is incredibly hard to find!!! I walked to the rough location, then had to ask a man to help, he had to ask another man, who then asked another man, in the end we walked around so much that we finally found it. I then cleaverly added the exact location as a favourite in my GPS. Now, it is in an area that is a complete nightnare for motorbikes so I have arranged to keep the motorbike here in secure parking at the Ibis Hotel.

Here is what I suggest. You get a taxi from the airport to the Ibis Marrakesh Palmerie Hotel where I am staying, there are two Ibis hotels in Marrakesh so make sure you tell the driver that it is the Palmerie Ibis Hotel.

When you get here I will jump in with my luggage and we can get the taxi driver to take us all there, if he can’t find it I can help him with the GPS..

How does this sound to you?

Can you please confirm that you have received this and that you are happy with these arrangements.

I am very excited about seeing you all (especially you my lovely!). I am missing you a lot now :-)

Enjoy your night of freedom from us boys!

Love you
Richard
xxxx

Just a quick update …

Hello friends. I just thought I’d write a quick update to let you know we’re all fine and having a ball.

I will be writing about the following once I leave Marrakesh and head north:

–My dismal time dodging donkeys, mopeds and people playing frogger in order to get my bike through the incredibly busy souks to find our Riad.

–I get asked if I want to get high and shoot a Klashnikov!

–Finally I get to see my wonderful wife, but she’s not a happy bunny!

–Me and my Borat impression.

–Don’t watch ‘Banged up Abroad’ when abroad alone.

–I finally have working chargers!

–How I got my head stuck in a teeshirt that was too small :-(

–Flowie gets a bit miffed at people offering to take us the the square so decides on a tactic.

One more update from Marrakesh

Good morning friends,

Somehow, to the horror of my friends, I have managed to completely omit the fact that my friends have turned up here in Marrakesh. So, I would like to take this opportunity to rectify this abhorrent situation by mentioning the fabulous Elaine and super lovely Mia. With the exception of the first night which was, shall we say tense, everyone has been in great form and is enjoying the madness of Marrakesh.

The last few days with my friends.

My friends have now flown home and I am sitting in a hotal in Rabat. Here’s the report on the last few days.

The day before Flowie, Mia and Elaine turned up I decided to get a taxi to the location of our Riad and then ask the locals until I found the place. I waited by the road for a taxi but had no luck. I decided to start walking the 5 miles in the hope I’d be able to spot a taxi though there were just none around and I ended up walking all the way. I got to the right area but could not find the Riad so I asked someone who asked someone else who asked another person, etc. After about an hour of wandering around we finally stumbled on it by accident. Getting lost in Marrakesh is very expensive as everyone charges for directions. When we finally found the Riad I’d clocked up the equilivent of about £20 in ‘finders fees’. Having said that my patience was wearing thin and I’d happily have paid double that! I set a point in my GPS so I would be able to find it again and walked back to the hotel. On the way back I found myself in a cafe, one of the street sellers who walked over to me had lots of beautiful wooden boxes. When abroad I tend to find myself speaking in a strange way, seperating out all the words in the hope that someone will understand me, then for some weird reason I tend to put on some kind of accent. I was looking at a wooden box from the street seller and found myself doing a perfect Borat impression. “It is very nice, I like, very much..”. I heard myself and laughed, I said Borat to myself, the salesman laughed and said Borat and made me do it again. We had a good laugh, they obviously know Borat over here.

When I got back to the hotel decided to go through my stuff and pack it all up into the smallest space possible, I found the two cheap teeshirts that I bought from the supermarket. XL they said, shuld be nice and baggy for the bike. I put one of them on which was a bit of a squeeze and then found that the neck was so bloody tight that I was unable to get the bloody thing off! After about 5 minutes of struggling I gave up and just grabbed the neck and stretched it hard. A few minutes later I managed to get it off. Only me!

The Riad is on a tiny lane/path and to get to it you need to make lots of turns. The lanes are wide enough for me to get my bike through but not wide enough for me to turn it around and as I was bound to make a few wrong turns. Even with my trusty GPS I was very apprehensive about taking the heavy bike into the souks/lanes. When I arrived back at the Ibis Hotel I asked El Hucine if it would be possible for me to leave my bike in their secure parking for a few days for a fee. He said it was no problem but they would not accept payment as they would do it for me for free. So the plan in my head was that Flowie, Mia and Elaine would get a taxi from the airport to my hotel. They would up me and my luggage and take us to the Riad. I texted Flowie to tell her I had a plan, however there was a problem. The Riad had arranged for a taxi to pick them up from the airport and taking them directly to the Riad. My plan was scappered.

After thinking about it I decided to take the bike to the Riad afterall. Flowie had emailed the owner and asked if they had onsite and secure parking for the bike and was told that it would not be a problem. I really didn’t fancy the idea of lugging all my heavy stuff with me from where ever the taxi would drop me off to the Riad so the riding there was definately going to be the best option.

So, the next morning I got up, had some breakfast and checked out of the comfortable hotel. I didn’t fancy taking the bike through the souks when it was busy and my friends were not turning up at the Riad until around 9pm so I needed to waste a day. I visited a few cafes and had some coffee, went for a ride around the city walls and visited more cafes. Then I found a nice comfortable cafe that was air conditioned and made it my home for the next few hours. They had a large TV on the wall which was tuned into the National Geographic channel. My favourite! I sat there for about 5 hours and watched loads of programs whilst drinking coffee and eating iced cream and sorbets. All was going well until ‘Banged up Abroad’ came on the TV. It was difficult to understand all the details as it was in Arabic but I got the gist of what was happening. A man had gone on holiday abroad on his own to a place that looked very much like Morocco but may have been somewhere else I’m not sure. He was sitting in a cafe having a drink and all was well in his world. When he decided to leave he was told to get into a van by some gunmen who promptly kidnapped him and held him captive for 3 years! I watched the program for an hour with real interest, it was fascinating. When it was finished I found that my mood had changed, I had gone from looking forward to seeing my wife and friends to being scared of being kidnapped! Morocco is full of what we believe look like shady individuals but are just normal people going about their daily business. Obviously I was not kidnapped and nothing bad happened at all however, if you are going to be travelling alone in a foreign country I would strongly advise you not to watch Banged up Abroad!

Anyway, the time ebbed away slowly and before I knew it it was time to leave and ride to the Riad. I paid and jumped on the bike. The cafe was only about 3 miles away from the Riad and I was hoping against hope that with the help of the GPS I would be able to get there using main roads and only the last 200 metres would be small lanes. Unfortunately this was not so! I was hoping it would be quiet in the evening but this was also not so. I rode about half a mile then entered the souks, many of the souks and little lanes have very high walls and corrigated iron roofs which means the GPS jumps around all over the place. This was not what I needed. There were mopeds and people everywhere, donkeys pulling carts, cats, kids playing, people grabbing me as I wobbled along, one chap asked me if I wanted to smoke some weed and shoot a Klashnikov! Everyone was asking me to visit their shop “Gratis they would say”, “Gratis for a butchers” they said which made me laugh. Even with the bike on tickover in first gear it trundles along faster than walking speed. I was having to use my clutch to go as slow as I needed to go. If I went any faster I’d definately run someone over, it was like a real game of frogger, the little buggers come out of everywhere! Then I arrived at my first dead end. I got off the bike and pushed it backwards for about 50 feet until I got back to the next choice of lanes as the bike was too big to turn around. Some of the locals wanted to try to lift up the front to turn it around but couldn’t even get it off the ground. That was the first of 3 dead ended I visited. I had to take my GPS to a place where the sky was visible, work out where I was, then go back to the bike and try to remember where I was supposed to go. Where the GPS simply said “left” the actual options on the ground were sharp left, sharpish left, left, mild left or not right. I just guessed but finally after about 3 hours turned up outside the Riad. Thank Christ for that! I got outside and revelled in the fact that I had finally found the place and that I could get the bike inside and forget about riding through the souks for the next few days.

I turned on my mobile phone and received a text from Flowie saying where are you. I replied “Outside the front door of the Riad”. She opened the front door with a smile and gave me a big hug which was just what I needed. I asked the chap where I could put the bike and was promptly told that they could not have the bike in the Riad. Bollocks! It turned out that Flowie, Mia and Elaine had turned up at the Riad, Mia had been asked if she wanted jiggy jiggy with the luggage man, all the lights were off, all the furniture was packed away and they could not even get a drink. She was not happy! I tried talking the man into letting me put the bike in the entrance of the Riad but he had a better idea. I was to follow him. I dumped all my luggage and got back on the bike. After about 15 minutes of following I was shown a busy place in the souks which was a car park for mopeds. I was told to leave my bike there. As much as it didn’t feel like a great idea from previous experience I knew it would be safe. I locked up the bike and went back to the Riad.

I got back to the riad to find Flowie’s mood had deteriorated further. Yay, the holiday begins! They had managed to find some water in the Riad then we all headed off to the El Fna Square for some food. Needless to say the GPS was completely useless as the high walls meant it struggled to find a signal in most places. In the end I grabbed a bloke and asked him how much to take us to the El Fna Square. He started at 100 Dirhams (about £8) so I walked on and ignored him. The price finally reached 20 Dirhams and I took him up on his offer repeating 20 Dirhams to the square a number of times. After about 20 minutes of walking around we finally got close to the square. He must have taken us the scenic route as we now do it in about 10 minutes. He then told me that 20 Dirhams was rubbish and that he could not even buy one joint for that and that he needed joints of his family! I told him that he shouldn’t have offered 20 if he was not happy with 20. We finally got to the square and I gave him 35 Dirhams as I was so pleased to finally be there. He told me that 35 Dirhams was nothing so we walked off and left him. Unfortunately the first few places we tried to eat at were closed as it was getting late. We finally found a place and sat down to eat. We ordered our drinks and then our food. Elaine and I decided to walk into the square and have a look around. In the middle of the square in the evening they have food stalls like a giant BBQ, you simply park your bottom on a bench and they bring you some food. It’s just a mass of benches and smoke! The first one Elaine and I saw had a sheeps head (including it’s eyes) sitting on the table. We looked around for a while and went back to eat. We had chicken targine and it was very nice.

By the time we finished our meal we were all completely knacked so we followed the GPS, which thankfully worked a treat, back to the Riad and went to sleep.

The following morning we all woke up and all met for breakfast. It was decided that the Riad was not as bad it it seemed the night before. The morning light revealed quite a nice Riad afterall. The plunge pool was cool and deep, the breakfast wasn’t bad and we were all in better moods. We decided to visit the El Fna square again for a look around and then some of the souks. Flowie being Flowie managed to get her head around the directions which was a gift from heaven! So, we set off for the square, after about 10 minutes were were all getting tired of being told “The Mosque is closed, you cannot go that way” and “You want to go to the square?” that Flowie decided on a tactic. The next chap who came up to us didn’t even get given a chance to open his mouth! Flowie jumped in immediately with “You want to know the way to the Post Office? 100 Dirhams!” He looked at Flowie with a confused look on his face and Flowie continued. “Okay 90 Dirhams, I will direct you”. He smiled and got the joke. We continued to the square.

The day was comprised of looking around the square, visiting some of the souks and having a number of restaurante stops. After a long and hard day we followed Flowie back to the Riad.

That evening we decided that we would spend the following day shopping in the souks, then the day after taking a trip into the mountains to see a waterfall.

The following day we made our way through the souks and haggled like never before, Many purchases were made but usually only after an hour or so of hard haggling. Everyone tells you a different story so you have no idea who is telling the truth. When you’re haggling you don’t really know what price you should be paying other than to convert the price into British Pounds so you just do your best. I tried to purchase some scented oil for a friend and was told 200 Dirhams, I just walked away muttering under my breath that I was not stupid. Needless to say I was followed for the next 10 minutes but the persuit ended when I went into another shop and bought exactly the same oil for 40 Dirhams with no haggling. Flowie got the hump too with rediculous starting prices, She asked the price of a crappy plastic fridge magnet that in England would have been about £1, the conversion was around the £10 mark. She made her point by storming out of the shop. She got her fridge magnet in another shop 1 minute away with fixed prices for about 60 pence.

The El Fna square is not the best place to be with a snake phobia and Flowie has a snake phobia. We gave that part of the square a very wide berth but there are people who come up to you all over the square with large pythons and cobras and try to put them round your neck. There are also people who try to sell wooden toy snakes. When someone came up to Flowie with a wooden snake and jigged it in front of her she nearly died, she screamed and run away like Lindford Christie! This happened a couple of times and the word went around that there was a nutty woman who HATED snakes so they all gave her lots of space which was nice of them. For the rest of that day Flowie was very jumpy and on guard and when someone came up to us in one of the souks with some belts and jiggled them in front of us like a snake Flowie screamed and burst into tears. Luckily he was some distance away as my natural reaction was to get thumpy which is never a good reaction. I think the belt seller was more scared of Flowie than she was of his belts but he appologised and showed us that they were only belts. No one likes scaring people and the people there were just going about there daily business, no one deliberatly targetted Flowie and once they knew it didn’t happen again. Seeing my wife scared shitless and burst into tears changed my mood completely and as much as I know it’s the wrong thing to do if it had happened again I’d have thumped someone. Luckily it didn’t. It’s just the heat and out of control nature of the place.

That evening we visited a fantastic restaurant that served the most beautiful food and good wine too. We then made our way back to the Riad for a swim, natter and bed. I think it was here that Elaine told Mia the the jiggy jiggy luggage man would have wanted paying for sex! Elaine started to back track but Mia told her that she had dug her hole and something along the lines of shut the fuck up.

The following day we all got up early and met up with our guide for the trip to the Ourika and the mountains. I think we were all a little sceptical but when we met our guides which was Mohamed, who was only 17, and his uncle we knew we were in for a really good day. Mohamed spoke superb English with an American accent and was so full of beans and life that you could not help but instantly like him. On the journey to the mountains we talked about loads of things including his trip to America where he had spent the last year studying after winning a scolarship, and religion. Mohamed was happy to answer our questions on Islam and on his own life. It was fascinating. We visited a few places on the way which was fine by us and then got to Ourika. Ourike was a large market where to locals go each week to get all their groceries. It was great walking around seeing the market in full swing. We saw some chicks that had been died all kinds of different colours, I know it’s not nice but they were very sweet. Flowie bought a basket and was immediately joined by a chap who tried to sell her a neclace for the entire duration of our visit. Even when we got in the minibus he was standing there outside knocking on Flowie’s window saying “What you wanna pay?”. That’s real persistance!

When we arrived at the mountains for a little trek we found that you have to have to have an official guide so Mohamed got us one named Said and got the price right down for us which was great. He showed us his license and was very helpful. When we finally got the treking part were all realised how stupid our choice of footware was, Me, Flowie and Elaine were in sandals and Mia was in flip flops. We all made it up the first part but Mia’s flips flops were just not up the the job of the last part and waited for us at a kind of cafe. It was a proper climb to get up to see the waterfall but it was worth it. The water was very cold but it didn’t stop Flowie and Elaine from getting in. I took the photographs and we all triped and stumbled our way back down to meet Mia. When we finally got to Mia she informed us that we had taken all the money with us but luckily the coke vendor looked after her and gave her a coke, etc. We paid up and headed back to the minibus. Once we reached the road we could see a large minibus full of kids and women that was trying hard to do a 15 point turn. The front wheels were about a foot from the edge and getting closer. The men, who were safely on the ground, were all shouting instructions. It was mayhem!

On the way back Mohamed asked us if we wanted to visit a place that sold verious oils and herbs. We said yes and half an hour later we turned up. It was fascinating, they had an amazing array of herbs and plants in their gardens and we were told of their uses by a very knowledgable chap who spoke good English. Then we went inside and he showed us the finished products and the prices. He then left us to browse around and decide what we wanted. The first thing that happened was that Flowie somehow managed to squirt a concoction of 35 spices into her eye! She was promptly taken to the bathroom where she washed it under the tap. 10 minutes later her eye was fine, just a little bloodshot. Then Elaine managed to twist her ankle and was taken hobbling to a room where she was given a massage on her swollen foot. Then Mia took off her hat and her glasses went flying across the room and one of the lenses popped out, needless to say they jumped in and fixed Mia’s glasses. We made our purchases and got back in the minibus before any other disasters could occur! I can’t help but feel we would not be welcome there again!

On the way back we decided that we needed some alcohol so Mohamed came to the rescue, he said he could not buy it for us because of his beliefs but he could take us to a supermarket that sold it. Flowie and Mia disappeared into the supermarket and Elaine and I sat by the mini bus and waited for them, and we waited, and we waited. Elaine and Mohamed were going through Elains iPod music collection singing away happily whilst I watched the dented cars go by. Flowie and Mia finally came back after and what had been quite a hard time with two bottles of wine. Yay!

We decided that we would get dropped in the El Fna square and have some food on the benches in the middle. So we said goodbye to Mohamed and his uncle and paid them with a nice tip for being so good. Unfortunately Elains ankle seemed to be getting worse and I had a thumping headache from lack of caffiene so we dicided to go to the nearest cafe for a coffee and water. We toyed with the idea of getting a man with a trolley to take Elaine but she just hobbled on. She found that if she walked on the side of her foot she could get up to almost full speed. Mia’s body had run out of energy so the guards were up. We sat down at the cafe and had some coffee and discussed where we were going to eat. I went out and found one of the BBQ things that was up and running but there was a bloody great python between us and benches. I told Flowie but she was fine. It’s when she is suprised that bad things happen. We had couscous, chicken, lamb, squid and bread and it was lovely though the chicken was not cooked so we left that. There were no sheeps heads thankfully.

Once we’d eaten we walked back to the riad to start on our wine. On the way back through the souks we saw a cart carrying what we thought was a body covered by a blanket. Me being me quietly said “Bring out your dead.” from good old Monty Python. Then we saw another one but poking out from under the blanket was some bread. I think the blanket was there to keep the flies off. Me being me said “Bring out your bread.” We all had a little chuckle.

Anyway, we got back to the Riad, drank the wine and chatted for a few hours. Mia perked up back to her normal self and we had a great evening. I said my good byes to Elaine and Mia as I’d be gone before breakfast. Flowie carried most of my luggage to the bike about 10 minutes walk away. I said my goodbyes to my wife and started getting the bike packed and ready. I stopped and walked over to the middle of the lane and could see Flowie in the disance walking back to the Riad to get ready to go back to the airport. I stood there and watched her in case she turned around but she didn’t. I was very sad.

The lanes were very quiet so my made my way back to the road in about 3 minutes where I set my destination for Casablanca. After about 120 miles I arrived at Casablanca to find that the hotel had no rooms available. I visited 5 other hotels and 2 rooms but they were all fully booked so I got back on my bike and headed north East to Rabat. Luckily the Ibis Hotel here in Rabat had rooms so I booked one. Most of the Ibis hotels I have been staying in are called Ibis Budget Hotels, this one is just called Ibis Hotel and is supposed to be a bit posher but the only difference I have found so far is that it’s bloody expensive for a room and the price of water and coffee is almost double. I’ll be going out tonight to get my drinks and food.

When I got here I was looking forward to pluging in my iPad and giving it a good charge as I’ve got the chargers now that Flowie brought from England. I’ve just plugged it in but guess what. Everything will charge with the exception of the iPad. Luckily it was 80% charged so I’ve been able to write this blog and upload my photographs.

Tomorrow I’m going to ride to Ceuta, get across the border and then get a ferry over to Spain. I’m looking forward to camping again.

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Leaving Morocco, 608 miles in a day and finding Heaven on Earth.

Goodbye Morocco and hello Spain.
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Today I got up early, had a salad for breakfast and got underway. I left Rabat at around 9am and rode directly to Ceuta. It took me about 5 hours to cover the 190 miles. I expected to have a nervous feeling about crossing the border back into Spain but it never happened, perhaps I’m toughening up afterall. As I got closer to the border which is at Fnideq I started seeing signs for ferry tickets so decided to stop and get a price. 780 Dirhams. I looked through my wallet and my tank bag and every other location but could only muster about 300. Bugger.

My memory is terrible but I thought I remembered getting back across the border from Morocco to Spain was easy, how wrong could I have been, there are about 10 places where you have to stop. One for sniffer dogs, one for passport, one for exiting Morocco, one for my Morocco number in my passport, one for for checking the contents of my panniers and tank bag, then all the same again. After finally exiting Morocco I then had to get into Spain, being a British passport holder I thought that would be easy, how stupid of me. I got to the Spanish gates and was asked to remove everything from my panniers. They weren’t really interested in anything except for the bag of 35 spices I bought from Marrakesh. When he took them away I thought back to the program I had watched whilst sitting in the cafe waiting for my wife. I hoped and prayed that they really were 35 spices! The border chap came back and told me that the spices were good and that I could go.. Excellent!

The next step was getting to the port. I followed the signs and ended up at the official ticket office. It cost me 58 Euros for the ferry ticket and they took Visa which made me happy. I paid and made my way to the port in Ceuta. When I got to the port the security chap asked me to open my panniers and tank bag so the sniffer dogs could do their job. I had a pair of extremely smelly socks that I had been wearing for the past few days and hoped the dog would survive. The dog was fine but did stop for some time to savour my socks!

The ferry crossing took about an hour as I was on one of the older ones that didn’t seem to have any urgency whatsoever. I asked some Moroccan people to look after my bags and jacket for me when I went by buy a drink, the lemon lilt hit the mark perfectly. Once in Spain I rode around Algeciras for a while until I stumbled upon a cash point machine as I’d need some Euros for the tolls, food and camping. I drew out 300 which I hope will last me all the way back but we’ll see. I found a camp site about 40 miles north east of Algeciras which is nice. When I arrived a German chap called Jorg and his daughter said “Hi” and I ended up having diner with them. I’ve just had a very nice Irish coffee and am about to go to bed.

Tomorrow I will probably head north from here through the hills for a few hundred miles until I find another nice camp site. Oh the choices?!

608 miles through central Spain.
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Hello everyone. Today has been long and hard. I left the town of Estepona this morning at 8am and headed in a north easterly direction with the intention of trying to ride 300 miles. I got to the 300 mile point and asked my GPS to get me to a camp site. I tried 3 but they were either mobile home cities or closed. I decided to try another 100 miles north but again no luck. I have finally found a nice camp site just north of a town called Zaragoza. I’ve just checked my GPS for today’s mileage and have achieved my record; 608 miles, not kilometres but miles! It took me 13 hours and I’m completely knackered.

As always there were a few events along the way. Around the half way mark I was on the motorway over taking an articulated lorry whilst going round a left bend when the tyre on the truck literally exploded. The tyre that blew was about 15 feet in front of me and bits of tyre went everywhere, I got hit by two quite large lumps of tyre (one on my chest and the other on my crash helmet) but managed to stay on. I was going about 70 mph and the lorry about 65. Immediately after the tyre exploded the lorry wandered over to my lane so I had to turn hard to miss it. The natural reaction is to brake but that causes the bike to stand up and want to go straight on, my fingers went for the brake but luckily I didn’t pull the leaver, I leant the bike right over and turned in hard and hoped my tyres were up to the job. Everything seemed to go in slow motion but turned out okay. Everyone slowed to a stop amid all the sparks and smoke that was coming from the lorry’s wheel. I stopped my bike in front of the lorry and got off. As I got off the bike I could hear lots of skidding but luckily there were no crashes. When you’re just a little bike with no seat belt, no air bags and no metal protection around you it’s always a little daunting when riding next to large trucks, I usually try to get past them quickly but never really knew why. Now I know why.

I had to refuel a numbr of times today, the fuel stops usually costs me about 15 Euros. Then surprisingly at one stop the bill was 270 Euros. My Spanish is limited to hello, good bye and one two and three so I tried to explain that there must have been a mistake. The chap kept on asking for my card but there was no way I was going to give it to him until we finialised a realistic price. There was a bit of an argument where my solution, to the displeasure of the chap, was to simply sit on the floor with folded arms and not pay. I heard the word policia amoungst his shouting which I was happy about. However the police were not called as a truck driver turned up and paid his 270 Euros worth of diesel. The chap then smiled and charged me 15 Euros for my petrol. It doesn’t take a Cambridge student to work out that a bike cannot take, or run on, 270 Euros of diesel. I didn’t bother smiling, paid my bill and promptly fucked off.

After having no luck with the camp sites I ended up opening up the throttle a little too much and got caught for speeding. I was waved down so I stopped. The policeman blabered on in Spanish. I listened to his 5 minute tirade and then said “English”. He took a deep breath and continued in Spainsh. Not understanding a single word of what he was talking about I decided to get on the bike and drive off. He did lots of shouting but there was no police chase that I was aware of. Hopefully I will not be arrested at the border but only time will tell.

So, here I am at the camp site. I ordered some food thinking it was salad with vegetables but what turned up was calamari which was fine by me.

I’m now sitting in my tent about to go to sleep. I think I’ve successfully managed to keep all the mosquisos out of my tent and I don’t think the 30 degree temperature will stop me from sleeping. I have my water bottles and my wee bottle so I’m all set for a good nights sleep.

Tororrow I will cross into France via the Pyranees and see how far north I can get. I’m on a mission now to gey home. I miss my wife.

No alarm for me, I’ll wake up when I wake up. Nighty night.

Today I found Heaven!
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I woke up this morning, packed my tent away and left the site at around 8:30. I told my GPS to take me to a town called Pau in southern France. The distance was about 120 miles. When I got underway the GPS started jumping around all over the place, one minute it was saying “Turn left in 20 miles”, then after just one mile it would say turn right in 40 metres. This kept on happening so I switched it off and used signs. I’m not sure if the GPS update I did before leaving England worked or not but it didn’t know about loads of new roads and roundabouts. I was getting more and more pissed off with being lost without the GPS so when the Police chose me for a random breath test I had to bite my tongue, hard! I was the model Englishmen and scored a zero on their meter which made them happy. After about 2 hours the scenery started to change, I was in the French Pyranees and it was beautiful. I didn’t have a clue where I was going but I didn’t care. I entered a 3 mile long tunnel and when I came out the other side I was in France and it was even more beautiful. The French Pyranees is simply Heaven on Earth with beautifully well kept little villages, perfect roads, very little traffic and the most incredible views everywhere. After the brown of Morocco the green was very welcome. Just what I needed!

I decided to try to GPS again in France and see how it faired. Perfect. I fancied seeing some of France so I told it to take me to Dieppe without using the toll roads, I knew I would not make it all the way but that was my ultimate destination. It took me west towards the coast then north, I rode through some small villages which were so typically French it made me smile. I stopped at a small shop and bought a brown mini French stick, some pate and some ham, then rode on until I found a nice quiet spot to eat.

At that point the weather was perfect, it was 26 degrees with a deep blue sky, however the closer to England I got the darker it became. In the distance I could see some very dark areas of sky with lots of lightning. I checked the GPS and that was exactly where I was heading. The temperature went down to about 15 degrees and the rain poured down. I rode in the rain for about another 2 hours until I was completely sodden.

Let me tell you about riding a motorbike in the rain. The first thing to note is that a motorbike has a much higher power to weight ratio than a car. It also only has tiny pieces of rubber the size of a 50 pence piece in contact with the ground, so opening up the throttle in 1st, 2nd or 3rd gears on anything except a straight is likely to end unhappily. Also, if a car is going round a bend and hits something slippery like oil, diesel or even a drain cover there are other wheels that will keep the grip. On a motorbike you’re on your arse. We have to look out for various things on the road that are not good to ride over in the wet including, diesel, oil, drain covers, white lines, shiney tar, cats eyes, etc, etc. So I think I’ve explained that you need to keep your eyes on the road. The big problem is that we don’t have wipewrs so our vision is terrible. Also, it’s important to look over your shoulders a lot on a bike and when you do the water and wind from outside goes straight down your back. Then there is your groin, the water hits your jacket and runs down into your groin. Not nice! Now I’ve writen that I’m looking forward to getting into my comfortable car!

I stopped at a petrol station, filled the bike up and told the GPS to find me a camp site. I did toy with the idea of a hotel but I would feel like a bit of a wimp if I opted for a hotel. Call yourself a man Richard? By the time I got to the camp site I was literally praying to every God I’d ever heard of that it would be open. It was open, yay! I walked into reception leaving a trail of water behind me. I paid my 6 Euros and found a nice grass pitch and managed the fastest erection ever (!!!). About 1 minute.

So, here I am now sitting in my tent typing my blog listening to the rain hammering down on the outside of my tent. I’m wondering if I can get to Dieppe tomorrow, it’s only about 330 miles away. The problem is that the ferry crossing takes about 4 hours so I’ll probably arrive too late. I think I’ll try to get most of the distance covered tomorrow, then get a ticket for the next day. Oh the fun I have!

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I’m 10 miles from Dieppe and completely sodden.

This morning I woke to find it hammering down with rain. Great! Then I checked my GPS thinking I had 320 miles to Dieppe but it told me that I had 410 miles. My tough guy attitude told me to get back into my sleeping bag and sleep some more, so I did. When I decided to get up it was 9:30 and still raining. I’ve had many times in my life where I’ve not wanted to do something but nothing compares to being in a nice warm sleeping bag knowing you have to go out in the cold and wet, pack everything up, get into sodden leathers and ride 420 miles in the rain on a bike. To be completely honest the thing that was stopping me was knowing that I could not get there in time to catch the ferry back to England, if I thought there was a chance I would have been up at the crack of dawn and on the bike by 7.

Anyway, I left the camp site in the pouring rain at around 10:30. It was an incredibly miserable ride and bloody dangerous too. The weather was producing sun and blue skies followed by torrential rain combined with a strong wind. I found myself riding through heavy rain into the bright sun. The combination of fogged up glasses, a visor that I just couldn’t see through because it was fogged up on the inside and being rained on hard on the outside, and riding into the bright sun simply meant I could not see. I had to guess where the road was many a time. Still, I’m still alive, if not a bit pruny, so it couldn’t have been that bad!

Whilst I was riding through the rain today trying to see the where the road was going I thought back to my time being cooked in the desert, at that time I couldn’t think of anything better than cold weather and rain. The grass is always greener on the other side!

I stopped at a petrol station to fill up and a chap came over and started looking at the bike. It turned out that he was from England, John was here with his wife and son and daughter, I think they were travelling around France. He said he had a bike and that he couldn’t believe I had been all the way to the Sahara on it. It made me think that actually neither could I! As I was getting on the bike a French lady leaned out of her window and told me that I was going the wrong way and that the Sahara was that way, it made me smile.

At my next fill up I realised that I would not have to fill up again before getting home which was a wonderful feeling, I was nearly home. Originally my plan for today was to get 100 miles from Dieppe but I ended up going pretty much all the way. Tomorrow morning I’ll get myself and my bike to Dieppe, get a ticket, jump on the ferry and chill until I get to England. I’ve missed England very much and am looking forward to being home with my wife, son, dog and 3 cats.

I’m now at a camp site just outside of Dieppe, I was assigned pitch number 87 which is next door to a lovely couple who have cycled to Paris on their bycicles. I mentioned Buxted and to my surprise the chap knew it, he went to school in Nutley!

All I’ve had to eat today is a slice of apply pie, which was lovely by the way, and I’m starving but can’t be bothered to go to the shop. It’s an early night for me then home.

Sunday morning update
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Last night the people in the tent next to mine came over and gave me some sausage, bread, cheese and a tomato. I thanked them and ate like a king! We talked for some time and it turned out they were students going through medical school. As tempting it was to show them how sore my arse was I decided against it, knowing doctors they would probably wanted to stick their finger up it which I’m not too partial to. I went to bed content listening to the rain on the tent.

I woke up this morning at 5:45 with my mobile phone alarm going off. It was a sound from home that I didn’t much like. I usually leave the phone switched off but must have left it on when I went to sleep last night.

Last night when chatting to my tent next door neighbours I found that there was a ferry sailing from Dieppe to Newhaven leaving at 6pm, however I remember that when booking the ticket in the opposite direction there were usually two sailings per day. I had a choice to make, get up early and catch the early ferry if there was one or take it easy and catch the one at six o’clock. I could hear no rain on the tent and was hoping that I would unzip the door and be confronted by a glorious blue sky however, I unzipped the door to find dark grey skies all over. It was going to rain, hard.

The rain held off whilst I packed everything onto the bike and got ready for my 9 mile trip to Dieppe. I got on my bike and rode off, within about 1 minute of being on the road the heavens opened and I got soaked right through. Luckily being Sunday morning the roads were quiet so all I had to miss were buildings and trees. I made it to Dieppe and rode into the port. Unluckily, being Sunday, everything was closed. As the rain came down harder than ever I decided to take shelter under the overhang of a building. As I did the automatic door slid open and let me in. It was the ticket office, great! The next ferry home was at 6pm and the ticket was 100 Euros, not great!

I could go for a trip around Dieppe on the bike and find a nice cafe and have some breakfast but the weather outside can only be described by the word deluge. I’ve decided to stay in the ticket office with the coffee machine and snack machine to keep me company. I’ll have an espresso and a packet of M&M’s for breakfast please machine.

I’m back home. Thoughts.

I’ve just arrived home and it’s fantastic! I bounced down my lane and into my driveway. Dumped the bike and went inside to find my wonderful dog Georgie laying on the floor shaking her head with excitement. I took my crash helmet off and gave her a giant cuddle, she pined and pined and pined and kept on wanting more. Then my wife appeared on the stairs with a big smile. Oh God it’s good to be home!

So far I’ve made myself a coffee with water from a tap and drank it out of my favourite cup and have had a quick lay down on the most comfy bed in the whole world. I also said “Hi” to one of my cats who ignored me completely. Nothing really changes.

So, I’ve completed my trip to the Sahara desert and back I thought I would share my thoughts with you.

Saying that this trip will completely change my life would perhaps be an exaggeration however it’s simply impossible not to be affected by it in many ways.

Firstly, seeing people in Morocco working so hard to simply sustain a very basic life will, I hope, help me to appreciate the things I have and the life I lead. Because of the low average wage in Morocco, Moroccans pay about 8 times as much for fuel as we do pro-rata. There are many financial examples I could give but I’m not only talking about money. We never turn on the tap to find there is no water, we never turn on the lights to find no electricity, we never avoid going to the doctors when we are ill because we can’t afford it. Those things put English life into perspective and make you realise that we have it good here.

Secondly, many times in southern Morocco people with nothing invited me for coffee and bread and would not let me pay. Their kindness and generosity will stay with me and, I hope, make me a better person.

Thirdly, successfully dealing with the many hard times that were thrown at me in Morocco has had a marked affect on my confidence. When I went to Morocco on my bike in 2009 I noticed a big increase in confidence and this time in 2012, having gone much further south and experienced a far more difficult time I feel more confident than ever. I run a number of small companies and there are big changes in the pipeline because of various factors. I know I will be able to make the most of these changes and direct them well.

Fourthly, when one hears of the turmoil in various parts of the world it’s easy to think “Aaaah, but they’re used to it”, or “But they know nothing else”. However it’s not like that. The people I met who have nothing still crave after a better life, a new iPhone, better car or better house. They’re not any different to us here in England. They try to start businesses to make money and be successful. On the road to Merzouga I was stopped taking some photographs when a young man of about 15 slowly rode up to me on his donkey. His English was not bad but the conversation was difficult nonetheless. I said hello and patted his donkey. He said he was going to Erachidia which was about 100 miles away and that it would take about 10 days which was 8 days riding and 2 days off for the donkey. We talked for about half an hour about all sorts, he said his donkey was the best in Morocco as he gave it good food and lots of love which was great to hear. It did look far better fed and kept than others I had seen. Before I set off I asked why he was going to Erachidia. He told me in not so many words that he had a delivery business, he was slow but hard working and reliable. Obviously in England a delivery service that relied upon the speed of a donkey would not be overly successful however he was no different to me really. Trying new things, getting new customers, looking after existing customers and hoping for profits. Before I left he told me that if he worked hard he would be able to afford a new phone soon. He showed me his current phone which looked about 50 years old! All the numbers had been rubbed off the buttons and there was a large crack on the tiny screen. It only worked when plugged into the charger as the battery had died but it was his pride possession along with his donkey. I got on the bike waiting for him to ask me for some money but he didn’t. I donated 10 Euros towards his new iPhone which was graciously received.

Fifthly (is there such a word?), I noted that even when you’re completely exhausted, hungry, sore and being cooked by the most violent heat you can imagine you always have enough in you to carry on. You just have to get up and do it! I stopped in a place called Zagora whilst on the way to the desert in Merzouga, Zegora was unbearably hot but I was told that Merzouga was about 10 degrees hotter. Even the locals were avoiding it. On the way to Merzouga I was stopped by the police who told me it was too hot for a motorcycle. All I wanted to do was turn back and find somewhere with air conditioning but I carried on regardless and I made it.

Lots of things happened on my journey that I have not written about in my blog simply because I didn’t have the time to add everything. If I did include everything it would compete with War and Peace as far as length is concerned.

Going away is exciting but coming back is better. I’ve missed you England.

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