Friday, 27 December 2013
Day 54 - Asilah to Keneitra
We woke up at around 7am (later than intended). We got ready pretty quick - the lads were ready first so they went to a petrol station down the road to try and get some breakfast. I waited a few minutes for Michelle to pack up before we made our way to join the lads. We couldn't get any food so cycled on. The road were similar to yesterday (long and flat with a reasonable tarmac surface). There were people selling melons and porcelain at the side as we rode past and buckets of courgettes dotted along the side. Fairly early on in the day Chris got a broken spoke. It was on the dreaded cassette side meaning that to replace the spoke he would have to remove the cassette first. He was clearly worried about this as couldn't find the cassette removal nut initially and didn't have a spanner. He found the nut after emptying the panniers and wrapped a rag around the nut before attempting to use superior grip strength to unscrew the cassette bolt. This was of course unsuccessful. After some deliberation we decided the best course of action was to push on tentatively to the next petrol station in the hope that we would be able to borrow a spanner from someone there and fix the problem. We found a petrol station pretty soon and even found a lorry driver who had the correct sized spanner. Chris then tried to remove the cassette with no luck. Tom decided the best thing to do would be to phone a guy called John at their local bike shop in Chelmsford - Chelmer Cycles. John wasn't there but one of the other guys told us that we needed something called a 'chain whip' to clamp the chain in position whilst simultaneously unscrewing the cassette bolt. So we now had to ride tentatively for the rest of the day to Keneitra (a large town that was the destination for the end of the day) and hope that we could find a chain whip there. At lunchtime we stopped at a trailer selling snacks etc in a small community at the side of the road. We ended up stopping for far too long - Chris got talking to the trailer guys and told them all about the ride etc they were very nice. I opted for a lie down whilst waiting and was offered a mat to lie on. Eventually we got going, joined by a number of other people on bikes (some children and some adults). The children were encouraging us to race them and Tom got involved. Despite their old bikes they were pretty fast and were easily as fast as Tom. I remember one boy in particular having a weird sprint style of pounding it with no hands and head lent forward. After maybe 5 miles the children and some of the adults had left us to go back to the small town. The lads were a bit ahead now. One guy was talking with Michelle - they were slagging along at a slow pace. I stayed just behind sensing that she wouldn't want to be left alone with him despite him seeming very nice. After maybe 3 or 4 miles he stopped and we continued. It turned out he was trying to persuade Michelle to marry him. The rest of the afternoon continued in the slow, boring and monotonous fashion. The vegetables in buckets by side of road continued. Eventually we got to Keneitra. There was no immediate sign of any cycle shops so Chris asked a guy in a motorbike shop. He made a few phone calls but to no avail. We then found McDonald's so used wifi to try and find bike shops. Despite a lengthy search we found nothing. It was now late so we decided to look for a hotel in Keneitra and try to find a decent bike shop in Rabat (40km away) in the morning. I was still in the 'stick to the budget' frame of mind so was a bit reluctant to go to the nice hotel that Chris found. Everyone else was very keen so I went with it. The hotel set us back approx. 200 dirhams per person (more than double my daily allocated budget). After this I vowed that we would camp every night to stay on budget. Anyway the hotel was of course very nice and facilities included a swimming pool and lounge area (not that we used them). More importantly the rooms were great and came with good showers. Mark and Tom took one room whilst me, Chris and Michelle took the other. Me and Chris got the gas stove out and got some rice on the go whilst Michelle got steak and chips from hotel restaurant and Mark and Tom went elsewhere to find food. I remember having a wifi session and continuing with my cable tie bike model whilst Chris fell asleep watching tv. I went to bed at gone midnight, setting my alarm for 6 so I could get to buffet breakfast at 6.30 when it started.