Friday, 27 December 2013
Day 53 - Gibraltar to Asilah
Knowing we had to cycle to Tarifa to catch the ferry to Morocco at 11 we were up and out by about 6.30. We all went to the petrol station to spend the last of our pounds (I got some Lynx Africa, Lucozade Sport and Eat Natural bars) before saying goodbye to Gibraltar. The pace initially was very slow so I took the lead to try and encourage a faster speed. At the start it was flat and easy but as we neared Tarifa we were greeted by a seemingly never ending uphill not steep but relentless. About 10k before Tarifa we stopped for a short break at the top of the hill as there was still over an hour until our ferry left at 11. I wanted to carry until we got to the ferry. Anyway then came the descent into Tarifa - we saw a guy selling tickets for the ferries by the side of the road so went to see how much they would be. I think it was about 40 euros each we managed to get all 5 of us a ticket for €151. We asked about the bikes and were told we didn't need a ticket for these. Got there with about 15 or 20 mins to spare and went to board the ferry. We were told we needed to pay another €15 extra per bike. Mark and Chris in particular were outraged by this as there was nothing on the vehicle pricing list saying bikes costed anything extra and felt like we were being mugged off. This led to a big argument between us and the ticket people. Eventually we gave up and paid as this was the only option. The ferry was pretty basic compared to normal ferries (no outside bit and a relatively small area for everyone) I gave Tom an Eat Natural bar and Lucozade as it was his birthday along with with a bowl of M&S crunchy nut strawberry cereal. I too had a food session before all of us got our passports stamped by a Moroccan policeman on the ferry. Chris of course fell asleep. When we got off the ferry I was very apprehensive about Morocco as had never been outside Europe before. We had another passport check immediately after setting foot on land. The first thing that stood out was a couple of massive Moroccan flags just outside the port. I had told everyone to wait by these for a photo so was a bit annoyed when they rode off. I followed but realised that it didn't matter that we didn't stop as there were these huge flags absolutely everywhere and shortly got the group flag photo courtesy of a man wandering around selling bags. My first impressions were that Morocco was very clean (no litter and men sweeping the streets everywhere, noticed there were lots of men with hoses on grassy areas, lots of motor tricycles carrying various goods around and of course the endless abundance of flags. It had a very strange feel. It wasn't long before we came across a McDonald's. It was a relief to see something familiar so of course we went in. It was empty, extremely clean and had a security guard. We sat outside and found that it had wifi. So inevitably this turned into a fairly long break with status updates and messaging accompanying the food. I felt a little more at ease after we left McDonalds and carried on out of Tangiers. The riding was flat, easy and relentless - after a few hours I was feeling extremely tired and finding it hard to keep my eyes open. Hence we had to stop for a nap at a petrol station cafe in the countryside. As it was Ramadan there was very limited food and drinks available so we were only able to get snacks. There was a nice seating area so we made the most of this and probably napped for a couple of hours (there were very few other people there and the owner did not mind). I felt more refreshed after the break enjoyed the rest of the day's cycling. Things that stood out were people waving and cheering as we rode past (really nice), everywhere continued to be very flat, massive trucks piled high and wide with as much stuff as it was humanly possible to fit on and awful air quality/cars with no catalytic converters. We got to the next biggest town at around 6pm and managed to get pizzas. I was being cautious with the budget so despite it being very cheap I decided I'd just get one pizza, Chris got 2 and nearly decided on 3. We met a Nigerian guy Patrick who befriended us at the restaurant. He had come here in search of work but wasn't getting any luck. We chatted to him for a while and told him about the trip etc. We were lucky to get the pizza as Ramadan hadn't yet finished for the day. We were initially aiming to push on a bit further before stopping but due to our long pizza session/daylight hours running out we decided against it. We cycled out of the centre of town - by now Ramadan was over so the town had come alive with people buying/selling food and eating. Luckily we soon found a quiet park area away from the locals ideal for setting up camp. It started getting properly dark very soon after tents were done, so had an early night getting to sleep between 8 and 9.