Africa - at last!
It is 600 miles to Agadir, the last major city in Morocco and the point at which I will asses the safety further south. Three Spanish nationals are currently being held hostage by terrorists in Mauritania, a new development since my last post, and things look bleak for the future of Riding out the Recession.
On a plus side, I made it to Africa. I got the ferry on Friday to Tangier after riding the final 75 miles from Jerez de la Frontera to Tarifa and within 40 minutes of catching the ferry my visa was stamped and I was on African soil. I have never felt less safe in all my life. Suddenly I am a rich man in a poor continent. My bike was being fawned over and touched, my bags being groped and I was asked for money instantly.
Mohammed met me off the ferry and followed me for half a mile. “I am blind now, this is me with eyesight. Can I have some Euros, a couple of Euros? I will show you to a cheap hotel. You want to change money? Have you set your watch to the right time? These are my daughters.” You can’t fault the guy for trying but I said no. He was the first of many people who would walk with me along the street asking for money or trying to sell me cheap hashish.
I left Tangier this morning and managed 30 miles. I had taken over an hour to find my way out of the city and my poor mileage reflected this and my ability to sleep through any alarm - no matter how loud. My planned 5.30 wake up and 6.30 exit had been scuppered, and with it all chance of any decent daily mileage. The ride was along the coastal road. Miles and miles of sandy beaches and light blue sea passed me on my left hand side. In another country this would be a beautiful beach resort, in Morocco the roadside was lined with rubbish, burnt out vehicles and small dwelling which had been scraped together. I thought I had spotted a money making opportunity when a I cycled past a building site 5 miles long which was a Qatari resort currently being built.
I just rolled in to Asillah, the first town outside Tangier and was loving it until a confrontation with the man at reception in my hostel. I was going to camp but it would have been 100 Dirham and the attendant kept telling me how he would stay awake to fight off the men that would attack me in the night. I thought I had found a bargain with my 100 Dirham (roughly 8 pounds) hostel but the man on reception just turned on me.
“You haven’t paid.”
“Er, yes I have.” I replied sheepishly.
“You have paid the room, but not me. I want 100 Dirham.”
“You want 100 Dirham? Why?” I was angry now, but concerned that he had my bike in the garage.
“I don’t understand” I said and ran off. I am a bit scared to go back if I am honest.
Tomorrow I am going to try and do another 60 miles along the coast and see where I end up. I hope I find a campsite because I did find one earlier after 10 miles which was only 30 Dirham. It felt silly to stop so early though so I pressed on. How I wish now that I hadn’t.
If I thought Spain was tough going, the language and culture shock here is something completely different!