Friday, 27 December 2013
Day 61 - Bouizkarne to Tan Tan
We woke up at about 4.15am (still completely dark outside) got ready and was next door waking Tom and Chris up at approx. 4.45. We had breakfast at the plastic table and chairs that were still in the room before moving these back into the courtyard. We were making our way out at 5.15 and pedalling by about 5.25. It was the crack of dawn and I was well up for seeing the desert sunrise. About 20 minutes later we were treated to this - an awesome sunrise, cloudless sky and no one really around on the desert road where we were. The rave train was in full swing this was a definitely one of the highlights of the trip. After the 2013 playlist I had on my iPhone finished I tried to change playlists but this just resulted in random jumping of tracks (my iphone had been dropped several times earlier in the trip and was now very temperamental) so turned the music off. We were all in a good mood after this awe inspiring start to the day and the desert scenery was stunning. About 10-15km before Guelmin Tom got a broken spoke. Chris took charge of the situation as he had the most experience in dealing with broken spokes. Meanwhile I took this opportunity to go for a poo (I could have probably held it for a bit longer but it made sense to go now as this would eliminate the need to stop again later). Anyway I came back to Chris and Tom who were still fiddling around. The broken spoke was on the cassette side so the chain whip was needed. Chris successfully managed to replace the broken spoke but failed to true the wheel despite his best efforts. We had to disperse Tom's weight between me and Chris before crawling the remaining kilometers to Guelmin. There weren't any problems getting to Guelmin but once there needed to locate a bike shop. We went into a nice hotel to ask about local bike shops. There was apparently one that opened at midday. It was currently between 9 and 10am. The receptionist was happy for us to use the wifi in reception so we Youtubed 'how to true a bicycle wheel' (my idea). I didn't actually watch the video but Chris and Tom described it as complicated/beyond their capabilities. Chris then checked his emails. Our flight from Dakhla to Casablanca had been cancelled - the airline was offering us the option to take the same flight but 24 hours earlier or later and today was the deadline for selecting which flight we wanted. This meant we had to take the earlier flight as we already had our Casablanca to Accra flight booked with a different airline on the same day that the 24 hour later flight would have been. Chris emailed back and confirmed that we wanted the earlier flight. So in a way we were lucky that Tom had the broken spoke because if it hadn't been for this we would have never gone to the hotel and Chris wouldn't have checked his emails and we could well have got to Dakhla on 05/08 as planned and there wouldn't have been a flight for us. Twisted karma. Anyway Chris and Tom went to try and find a bike shop whilst I stayed in the hotel reception with the stuff having a Facebook session. They returned maybe an hour later with a trued wheel. Neither were particularly happy with the job as it cost 60 Dirhams (more than average) and the wheel wasn't spinning perfectly true but it was significantly better than it was and certainly rideable with weight. We left the hotel and went into town to find food. We stopped at a shop and bought and ate the usual stuff. A man asked us for money and then proceeded to loiter around. We didn't stop for long. We would probably be hard pushed to get to Tan Tan today and stay on schedule due to the broken spoke delays. On the way out of town there were some roadworks and a diversion around these where the traffic was going. I thought I'd be clever and squeeze around the barriers and cycle along the edge of the closed road (a seemingly more direct route). This failed and I ended up having to haul the laden bike up a steep kerb and push it through some sand before rejoining the others after the roadworks. There was a bit of a headwind which made the hard task of reaching Tan Tan by the end of the day even harder. Anyway we kept the momentum going as we had to make Tan Tan as there was nowhere before. The riding was pretty hilly but very enjoyable due to more amazing views all around and nothing apart from desert, electricity pylons and the odd group of camels as far as the eye could see. We were getting hungry as the afternoon progressed Chris went ahead. We then saw him at what I think was an abandoned cafe which offered us a sheltered canopy to sit under. So we has the afternoon food session here sitting on the concrete floor. After about half an hour a couple of motorbikes pulled over where we were. They were a young Dutch couple who had been touring all around Africa. Chris in particular (with him being well into motorbikes and having a keen interest in motorbike touring) was loving hearing about where they had been etc. they were both really nice and offered us some of their water. They also gave us the welcome news that we should have a tailwind for more-or-less the rest of the way to Dakhla due to the apparently constant southerly wind. After a lengthy chat we gave them the Arctic to Africa web address/Facebook group, said goodbye and they rode off. Chris and Tom described the girl as 'the one'. Anyway we continued towards Tan Tan with the wind behind us making progress swift. I was now ahead of Chris and Tom. I slowed down as couldn't see them behind me for a bit. Still they didn't catch up. I turned back expecting there to be a puncture or broken spoke causing the delay. It turned out that a lorry had forced Chris off the road by passing too close and in doing this his extra wheel had fallen off. Thankfully no harm done. We smashed out a 25km per hour average speed for the rest of the way resulting in us getting to Tan Tan at about 7-7.15pm just as the sun was setting. We were chased by a couple of wild dogs just on the road leading into the town which was unnerving. We shouted at them - this didn't deter them and we pedalled faster but they could keep up - luckily some passing cars forced them onto the other side of the road and they stopped chasing us when we got to the edge of town. Tan Tan greeted us with the infamous 'Gateway to the Sahara' which is a statue of two camels facing each other with 'the gateway' being the gap between them. We took some photos of this just out of range of the dogs before having a police check before as we entered the town. When we were waiting for the police to check our passports we asked one of them where the cheapest hotel was. He replied with one and said it should cost around 60 dirhams per person. After getting our passports back we found it. We had to wait for the owner to return from the Ramadan meal. We were hungry so looked for a shop to get food - nothing we could see. There was a cafe so we went there as there was a wifi sign outside and Chris wanted coffee. The wifi didn't work. After the coffee we went back to the hotel, sat down outside another cafe next to the hotel and waited for the owner to return. Whilst waiting a guy from the cafe came out and asked if we would like any free Ramadan food. Of course we accepted this kind offer. We were then presented with an assortment of different foods from delicious soup and bread to some not so nice sugar coated pretzel things. At the end we were full so didn't have to worry about dinner. By this time the hotel owner had returned so we thanked the cafe guy and went to enquire about room prices. The owner wanted 300 Dirhams for one of his 3 person rooms. The bikes would go in a secure garage and we were assured that we would be able to get these when we left at 5.30 the following morning. Chris wasn't happy about the price especially after what the policeman had said and tried bartering but the owner wasn't budging. I also had a go at bartering -this didn't work either. We eventually decided to pay the 300 dirhams and get the room - given the fact we didn't have to pay for dinner this wasn't too damaging on the overall budget. The room was good - spacious with comfy beds and a good shower. At about 10.30 we went out to get food from a shop next door that had been closed before. We then went straight back to the room and went to bed soon after. The alarm was set for 5am knowing we had a massive day ahead of us tomorrow.