Friday, 27 December 2013

Day 55 - Keneitra to Casablanca

I got up shortly after 6, snoozed for a bit then went downstairs bang on 6.30 for buffet breakfast. I had it all to myself. There wasn't a huge selection or quantity of food considering the size of the dining area but food was decent. Tom joined me about 15 minutes later shortly followed by Michelle and later by Chris and Mark. There were very few other people there so we ate most of the buffet - the member of staff supervising the breakfast was not impressed and even said we shouldn't eat more than 2 croissants per person. Anyway after breakfast we went back to the rooms and promptly packed up as both Chris and Michelle were very eager to get going (Chris because of the spoke and Michelle because it was her last day and wanted to get to her Casablanca finish destination). We chatted to the staff when sorting the bikes out and they were very interested in the ride and gave us free water and coffee from the kitchen. We set off probably around 10 later than intended. We cycled about 35km to just outside Rabat non stop, saw a McDonald's so went in to check directions. Mcdonalds security insisted we parked the bikes in a car parking bay rather than lean them against the wall outside - it was becoming clear that McDonalds was considered a prestigious place to dine in Morocco - unlike the cheap unhealthy place it is considered to be by us. Mark got a meal which meant another delay. We had to get into the centre of Rabat via a bike path. We weren't expecting this bike path to also be used by motorbikes and motor tricycles. Once on the edge of the city Chris went into a nice hotel to ask for directions. Tom offered the concierge some food before remembering it was Ramadan (awkward). After we left the hotel we battled our way through the chaos of Rabat's roads before thankfully finding the bike shop pretty quickly. I was feeling extremely drained due to the pollution and chaos. Chris managed to get the spoke sorted - they didn't have a chain whip for bicycles so had to use a motorbike chain whip. They did offer to sell us the chainwhip but we decided against it as it was big/heavy, hoping we would be able to find one in Casablanca. Anyway we were all hungry by the time we finally left the bike shop so the next priority was food. The road led us along the seafront and there were lots of restaurants but none served food at this time. We pushed on past more restaurants starting to get very hungry. Thankfully we found a supermarket not too far away and so had a big food session. I got the gas stove out and cooked a load of spaghetti whilst squeezed into a small shaded area behind a sign. Even at the supermarket we had to park our bikes in the car park. It was probably about 3 by the time we left. Michelle was setting a good pace and were all keen to get to Casablanca and get her hotel sorted before dark. We were cycling relentlessly for hours and I was getting very hungry towards the end, but got in the zone and was able to ride through it. Eventually we got to Casablanca when it started to get properly dark. Thankfully Michelle's hotel wasn't in the manic centre, and riding through the outskirts wasn't too busy. Her iPod took us what was apparently the hotel road - down some backstreets. We went down these to no avail (even if it was down here there was no way Michelle would have stayed as she didn't feel safe). The people here were all helpful but it was a bit of a slum. She was clearly distressed with the whole situation so we went back to the main road to try to find the correct address for her hotel. As we were looking at phone maps an Australian couple started talking to us. They didn't know where we needed to go but pointed us in the direction of Ricks (a famous restaurant from the old film 'Casablanca') at the end of the road where we would be able to get wifi. We had to use the wifi outside as we weren't allowed in in our trampy dirty attire. Michelle successfully located the correct address for the hotel so we headed towards this. It was quite a long way back the way we came. We successfully found the correct hotel but Michelle again wasn't happy with the location as it there were dirty old buildings everywhere with lots of people (although better than the slum). She called her mum and her mum convinced her that the place had good reviews which described it as being a good neighbourhood despite the appearance. We also got chatting to a Dutch guy who was staying at the hotel and he said the same. This sealed the deal. We all decided to stay too as firstly we knew Michelle would prefer us to stay in the same place for her first night and secondly it was late and this was the easy option for us. Mark used his superior bartering skills and managed to get a great discount for our extra room after a lengthy discussion with the receptionist. We went up to our rooms. They were nice and spacious and beds were good. However the had cockroaches in. Then I found massive cockroach next to my bed. Not really phased by this we made sure we out all food in a cupboard before bed. I had the dirty plastic sausage that I had bought at the supermarket earlier with bread for dinner - not good. We then thought it would be a good idea to venture out to explore the surrounding area so Michelle would feel more confident going out once we had left. We had a quick look for food unsuccessfully so settled for a cafe selling tea and soft drinks. I fell asleep here. Tea was apparently v good. Me, Tom and Mark went back after the cafe whilst Chris and Michelle continued looking for food. I Went to bed when I got back probably around 11.30.

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