Friday, 27 December 2013

Day 66 - Point 3 to Dakhla (107km)

Woke up with mixed feelings about this being the last day (on one hand I couldn't wait for it to be over so I could finally have a shower and sleep in a bed but on the other hand was loving cycling through the desolate environment and didn't want the journey to end). I got everything back to the cliff top and went over to Chris and Tom. It turned out their mound of sand wasn't a very effective windbreak. Anyway they were more or less ready to go by the time I got over to them and we soon set off in good spirits. It was perfect weather - sunny but not too hot. We were guessing what time we thought we would arrive at Dakhla and the latest was 2pm. The plan was to stop for a break after 60k and then push on to the end. We Ended up stopping after what must have been around 40k as there was a petrol station. There was nobody around whatsoever so we took shelter from the wind in an open garage and enjoyed our last ever slaggy tuna and coffee. The floor was filthy but we didn't care. I had been rationing well since Bojador and there was enough for a decent portion each. We must have stopped for about 45 minutes. A bit further up the road there was another small town with no sign of life - this must have been the case because of Ramadan. With 20-25k to Dakhla we had to stop for our final police check. We were at the first roundabout that we had seen in several days and it was finally time to turn off the N1 (the road we had been on since the beginning of Morocco). We used this as an opportunity to eat the last of the sweets that I had been carrying for probably 4 or 5 days. Police check over we made our way down the home straight (the 25km or so road into Dakhla). The new road offered some of the most spectacular views of the entire trip starting off with a descent down to a HUGE sand plain with nothing but the road running though the middle and views of hills in the distance. This of course meant having to stop in the middle of the sand plain for photos for a good 20 minutes. This exposed section of road meant that we had a strong side wind to contend with and I fell behind a bit and started to think we might get there later than planned. However this windy section was short lived and after reaching the end of the plain and a brief climb the going got much easier and I soon picked up the pace again. Dakhla is known for being a kitesurfing mecca (Chris had told me this from the start) with the constant strong southerly wind, and it wasn't long before I saw this for myself. There was a huge beach with loads of kitesurfers in the sea and kite boarders on the beach making the most of the wind - another awesome sight along this road. Chris and Tom were waiting just after this beach for me and we agreed to ride the last 20km or so together. There were now kilometre markers every kilometre closer we got and the excitement was building. The rest of this road wasn't quite as spectacular as the start but we had the coast on our left, the wind was behind us and we were virtually there so it really didn't matter. When we reached the outskirts of town there was a Dakhla sign so we had to stop, take pictures and film ourselves cycling past it. As we approached the town centre we could see a big arch ahead and decided to do another film as we cycled under this (the arch marking the end of almost 5000 miles with only the easy bit left to do in Ghana). We were all on a massive high having made it. We coasted down the main road and saw the airport on the right so thought we would go in and ask about boxing the bikes up. They said we needn't bother and they were happy to take them as they were. We weren't too confident about this as didn't want to risk the bikes getting damaged between here and Accra so decided we would get some cardboard and box them up when we arrived at the airport tomorrow afternoon. Whilst we were in the airport we saw a familiar face - Western Sahara Del-Boy came in with the guys he was with a few days ago and congratulated us for making it. He helped translate something for Chris to the airport desk before kindly buying us a soft drink each. He was saying that he had thought we may have called him yesterday as this is when he thought we were finishing - clearly a misunderstanding. Anyway he left soon after not mentioning about whether we could stay with him or not. We decided to head into town and get the hotel sorted asap before getting food. There was a nice looking hotel in the town square so went in to ask about price. It was far too expensive. Chris tried bartering unsuccessfully so I got the Ipad out and we started looking for Cheaper botels in the reception via the hotel's wifi. The search didn't come up with much. I was still hoping there might be a chance that we could stay with Del Boy so Tom sent him a text asking the question. By this time we were all very hungry so Chris and Tom went to find food whilst I continued the wifi session whilst keeping an eye on the stuff outside. I went on Couchsurfing to see if there was anyone good from Dakhla on there. There were a few results but none of them were online very often so I discounted that option. Chris and Tom had now come back and were sitting in the shade eating. I went out to join them. In the few food shops I went in I asked about cheap hotels. The shop owners only knew of a few -saying there was one slightly back up the road we came from and another a few kilometres back up the road. After some food there was still no response from Del Boy (an hour must have passed since Tom's text) so had we headed back up the road into a fierce headwind in search of the hotels. The first hotel was too expensive and there was no room for negotiation. Me and Tom then battled against the headwind the few kilometres or so back up the road to find the second hotel (Chris didn't want to ride against the headwind unless there was a definite cheap hotel so stayed put awaiting a call from Tom when we got there). Tom was fed up/losing patience by this time and just wanted to get the hotel sorted. It was an incredibly slow slog against the wind - hopefully it would be worthwhile. Eventually we got there and from first glances it looked like it could be cheap with 'Hotel' with an arrow hand painted on a wall. When we followed the arrow however and went inside it became apparent that it was a very nice place and we were unlikely to be able to afford anything. We went to the reception and asked anyway. A friendly girl insisted on showing us a really nice room. It was about 10 times too expensive. We asked her if she knew anywhere cheaper. Thankfully she did (it was back in town where we had come from) so she drew us a map and explained where we had to go to find it. We thanked her and left. As we were pushing the bikes back to the road Chris showed up deciding he would make the effort to ride the few km's against the headwind after all. He laughed when we explained we would have to ride back again. We coasted back down the road in a third of the time it took us to ride up it and found the dirt cheap hotel easily. I went in to enquire. It was an incredibly cheap 40 Dirhams each for a 3 bed room (less than £4!!!). We agreed after having a quick glance at the shower and toilet which looked basic but good enough. The room was very basic but beds were relatively comfortable. We even had a sea view (you could see the sea over some other buildings in the distance). We then all had showers which were a cold trickle and there wasn't any soap, so we had to ration the remains of a bar of soap I had saved from the last hotel between us. We monged out in the room for a good few hours enjoying the privilege of lying in a bed. Eventually at what must have been around 7.30 we decided to go out in search of a meal (only spending 40 Dirhams on the room meant that I might even be able to afford a meal at a restaurant as well as shop food for the next few days with my 100 remaining Dirhams. Naturally I wanted to get the shop food first. Chris couldn't be bothered to wander around the town so me and Tom went for a wander and agreed to meet up with Chris later on. We soon found a busy area with lots of shops, restaurants and a market. I got some fruit (something that I hadn't had for ages) and managed to find the 1 Dirham big round bread (I bought 6 or 7 of these to last the next few days). Tom got what he wanted too so we headed back towards the hotel to meet Chris. He was very keen on going to what looked like an expensive restaurant. We went in and it was very reasonably priced. I was able to afford a tagine which was great seeing as I had been wanting a tagine since we got into Morocco. The food was very nice and came with loads of bread so filled me up nicely. We had also ordered a pizza for the table to go with our individual meals. I ended up having at least half of this as Chris and Tom were too full having also had starters. We walked back to the hotel stopping for my last 5 litre bottle of water and using my last few Dirhams. The town had transformed from the odd person wandering around to people everywhere since leaving our hotel earlier and the place had come alive. There was a street show with people performing in traditional dress dancing etc which was a nice bit of culture. We watched this for a bit before wandering through the market full of fake branded clothing. Chris was looking for some shorts but didn't see any he liked. We soon headed back to the hotel and went to bed not having to set any alarm for tomorrow.

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