Cycle touring diary, Morocco 2009

Facts and figures:

A circular route starting and ending in Marrakesh.
Total distance: 1522km (946 miles)
Highest daily distance: 200km (125 miles)
Bike weight (with racks): 14.7 kg
Luggage weight (not including food and water): 26.8 kg

The Diary

19/10/09 Marrakesh airport to Djemaa El Fna (7 km)

It was pouring with rain when we landed I had forgotten to pack any plastic bags to keep my sleeping bag, clothes etc. dry. By the time I'd assembled the bike and strapped on the luggage on it was dark, but fortunately the rain had stopped. I made it to the Djemaa El Fna square in the Medina (old city) with some directions from locals. As soon as I got there the hustlers started on me - "Ah come this way you want hotel, hashish ...?" I was followed around the square and down one of the streets to the South of the square to the Gazelle hotel which I liked the look of and got a room for 200 Dh with shower and toilet. Later I went on up to the Djemaa El Fna to get a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the mobile stalls, then a nice tagine and pastilla (sweet pigeon pie) at one of the many improvised restaurants that appear on the square in the evening.

20/10/09 Rest day Marrakesh

21/10/09 Rest day Marrakesh

I just had a wander around the Medina and bought some supplies. Some young Moroccan chap who said he was an English student from Agadir hung around with me for an hour or so. I was half expecting him to try to con me out of some money in some way or other as most Moroccans in Marrakesh who approach tourists seem intent on doing, but he didn't. He told me about some girl from London he'd met in Agadir who was photographing him while he was surfing and how she'd become his girlfriend, then how they had planned to get married. He would then have been able to move to Britain and live the good life, as he saw it. She sent him money for several months and then said she wanted a Christian marriage which was a step too far for him so they called it all off.

22/10/09 Marrakesh to Tadrart, in the Ourika valley (75km)

I set out with the goal of reaching the town of Setti Fatma in the Ourika valley of the High Atlas Mountains. I did have some thoughts of cycling the mule track from Setti Fatma to Toubkal (the highest peak in Morocco at over 4000m), but was not really sure whether it was realistic to attempt with a loaded touring bike. It was quite flat for about 30km until the town of Tnine where I stopped at a tourist information shop. I managed to get a map which is probably about 50,000:1 scale with contour lines of the area which I was very pleased with and also got some advice about what route to take to get over to the Tizi-n-Test pass. As I came out of the shop - cyclists rolled up. It turned out they were all from the Czech Republic and had spent the last two weeks cycling down from Fes. The Ourika valley is quite a popular day trip destination from Marrakesh. It's a nice green valley in contrast to the very dry and dusty terrain on the plain to the North of the High Atlas mountains, but to my mind has been spoilt somewhat by all the touristy cafes and restaurants lining the valley. Setti Fatma was super touristy so I had a tagine there and then carried on cycling up the valley, not really knowing how far it was possible to get. The first bit was cycling up a very wide river bed (not dry either), and then a very steep 4x4 track. I had a chat with an old Berber man seemed to be asking for food, by putting his thumb against his index finger near to his mouth, but then pointing to his head. I offered him some bread, but it was seemed not to be what he was getting at. A bit further on a boy in his early teens (who looked like he was blind in one eye) walked and ran beside me and insisted on giving me a helping push up some of the very steep hills. Of course later when we got to a small village he demanded a few Dirhams for his efforts. Next was a very steep and rough descent ( One which would be difficult to push the bike back up) which made me realize that it was probably not a suitable trail to continue up for much longer on the bike. It was approaching dusk now so I was thinking along the lines of finding somewhere to camp. Further down the descent I caught up with a group of middle aged Dutch trekkers with mules and a guide. I was invited by the guide to stay with them at his gite in Timichi which was an hour further on, but he thought it would be very difficult to get the bike there and suggested I leave the bike with a family in the next village and continue with them on foot. The next village we got to was Tadrart and asked the guide to help me find somewhere to stay the night in that village. He persuaded an old man to put me up for the night with his family. The old boy didn't seem too keen on the idea, but came around in the end if I paid 200 Dh for accommodation, evening meal and breakfast and got going by 7:00 am the following morning. Neither he nor any of his family seemed to be able to speak any French so it was all a bit awkward. They seemed to not want me to eat with them in their living space which was on the first floor of the building and open air with great views of the mountains. They seemed to want me to stay in my room, but were friendly and brought me lots of food. In the night I developed a sore throat.

23/10/09 Tadrart to Ijoukak (116 km)

I backtracked to the town of Aghbalou further down the valley, then took a nice scenic road to Asni. There was some big climbing to do on this stretch. I stopped for a tagine in Asni, which is on the road leading to the Tizi n Test pass, and got talking to some taxi drivers and a trader who sold and bartered clothes to Berber women at their homes in part exchange for silver jewellery which they made and he sold in the markets. They thought it would take 6 hours for me to get to Ijoukak, so I planned on staying the night at Ouirgane. In fact it was mostly downhill to Ouirgane and only took me an hour. I was feeling good so decided to press on to Ijoukak. I arrived just before sunset at 5:45. I found a room for 25 Dh per night.

24/10/09 Rest day Ijoukak

I don't like to do more than 4 days cycling in a row so I decided to have a day off as I reckoned it would be another 4 days riding to Ouarzazate (where I planned to take a couple of days off to relax) and it would give me a chance to get over the sore throat and perhaps stop it turning into a chest infection. I had a quiet day mostly reading 'A clockwork orange'. My sore throat felt better.

25/10/09 Ijoukak to Aoulouz (112 km)

I set off at 8:00. I reached the top of the Tizi-n-Test pass (2092m) after a few hours. It was not too difficult as the ascent was steady. I had a meal at the restaurant at the top of the pass and spoke to a young Swiss couple, who were travelling around Morocco in a hire car stopping off at various points to go paragliding using equipment they had brought with them - seems like a fantastic way to spend a few weeks, I must try it out myself. It was an exhilarating descent off the pass with some great views. I arrived in Aulouz (ugly concrete town) at 17:00 and found a hotel. The room cost 40 Dh but there was no shower in the hotel! I felt very tired. So tired that I didn't go out for a meal and just eat some bread I had with me.

26/10/09 Aulouz to a wild camping spot (89 km)

I could barely force myself to get going this morning, but managed to hit the road by 08:30. On the outskirts of Aulouz I stopped to apply some sun cream. An old sun baked Berber man saw me doing this and approached me apparently wanting some of the cream. I tried to explain what the cream was for and that it was only of any use to fair skinned tourists, by pointing towards the sun, but the sun was hidden behind some trees so I guess my explanation was not too good. In the end I squirted a blob of sun cream into his hands and he rubbed it all into his left knee!

It was virtually all uphill today, starting out on a not too steep tarmac road, but the tarmac ran out and the road became much steeper. There was beautiful mountain and valley scenery which helped me along though. At about 16:00 I passed a village where there were a couple of basic hotels (at the junction of the road that leads to lac d'Ifni). I thought it was too early in the day to stop and I had not got close enough to Telouet to be able to make it there the following day so I pressed on. As the sun began to set I started regretting not staying at the hotel because I had not passed any suitable camping spots in the last hour. The problem was either no flat ground or too many people around. If locals knew where I was camped I would be pestered by children all evening and morning, so I just kept on going. As I approached the top of the pass I saw a track going off to the left heading towards a small valley. I pushed the bike a few hundred metres up the dryish riverbed and found quite a good spot hidden from the road and any houses. I cooked up some pasta and mixed in a couple of tins of sardines. Not feeling too bad at all tonight.

27/10/09 Camping spot to Telouet (79 km)

I Had the same meal as the night before for breakfast. I realized that there was a house within view just a few hundred metres up the valley, but I suppose it must have been unoccupied. I made it to the top of the pass and soon after the road turned to Tarmac again. I descended to the Tizi-n-Tichkca road and then began climbing the pass. I felt very tired on this climb. I turned off towards Teloet a few miles before the top of the pass. This familiar ground now as I'd done this route in reverse in 2005 when I cycled from Ouarzazate to Marrakech. As I arrived in Telouet I was approached by Assi who ran a family owned hotel. He took me to the hotel which was very nice and comfortable. We drank some mint tea and talked. He was converting an old building into a hotel which was on the outskirts of the village and very close to the Gloui Kasba. He had not taken out a bank loan and was doing much of the work himself over the last 6 months. A very nice place it's going to be too.

28/10/09 Telouet to Ouarzazate (81 km)

A few miles from Telouet I found a piece of roadside 'sculpture'. It was made up of the partially decomposed hind legs and backbone of what was probably a mule or donkey with the head tied onto the backbone with the shoulders and front legs missing. Stones had been placed around it's hooves to hold it upright. I wander whether a Moroccan or a westerner did it?

The piste from Anemiter to Tamdaught was being 'improved' on a large scale with heavy plant to widen it. It is a great shame as the character of the original windy; humpy and bumpy road, which would have been handmade, is being destroyed. I suppose the locals will appreciate the new road though as it will make communication much easier. There are still a few miles of the original road left but in a few months I'd imagine it will all be obliterated. Luckily a particularly steep and rough section that I remembered well slogging up the last time I was here had been untouched. I hammered down the track and the Toyota 4x4 behind me had no chance of keeping up! A new bridge has been built just up the road from Ait Benhaddou. About 5km down the road from Ait Benhaddou a Western man in cycling clothes walked out to the road from a house to meet me. He was one of a group of 4, all from Lyon in France. He was riding a tandem with his teenage daughter (probably about 15 years old) and they were accompanied by 2 lads in their late teens/ early 20s on regular touring bikes. They had that day arrived by bus in Ouarzazate and were just having quick look at this area before turning around and heading in the opposite direction towards Tafilalt. Their plan was to stop off each evening at a school to buy equipment for them. They had just stopped at this house and asked if they could store their bikes there while they went for a walk, but the family had offered to make them a meal, which I was invited to share. I tucked into a meal of Tagine, some kind of flat bread similar to Naam bread and a fruit salad: very nice. I gave the family 50 Dh said my goodbyes and set off. About 30 minutes later on the main road I pulled over to have a leak and the French cyclists caught up and overtook me. They were flying along at a good pace and I had to put some effort into catching up with them. Once with them it was an easy ride to Ouarzazate as I slipstreamed them all the way. I found the main square and got a room at the same hotel that I'd stayed at in '05.

29/10/09 Rest day Ouarzazate

Felt a bit unwell today with some chest pains

30/10/09 Rest day Ouarzazate

Felt better today. I had a nice relaxing couple of days here. It's a very chilled out place and no hustlers bothered me.

31/10/09 El Kelaa M'Gouna (95 km)

I set out with the intention of reaching Tinerhir today (about 160 km which should have been possible given the flatness of the road). I made a good start and managed an average of just over 20 km/h for the first 2 hours to Skoura, but before I'd left the outskirts of Ouarzazate I had noticed a nagging pain in the left hand side of my chest, while I was breathing heavily. This surprised me as I'd felt fine this morning and the previous day. I stopped in a cafe in Skoura and saw my reflection in a mirror - not good - very pale. The wind picked up (headwind) and my energy levels just plummeted. The chest pain got worse and I realized I was not going to make it to Tinerhir. I had to take a lot of rests and it was the worst day of the trip so far. I seemed to be travelling at a snail's pace. The strange thing was I was not coughing and my chest was not phlegmmy. I found a nice hotel for 120 Dh with en suite bath and shower in El Kelaa M'Gouna qt 17:00. I lay on the bed for a bit of a rest and woke up at 01:00 having not eaten or showered or even undressed. I went back to sleep and woke up at 07:00. The only food I'd had the previous day was breakfast!

1/11/09 Rest day El Kelaa M'Gouna

I was very tired today but only suffered chest pains when I deliberately tested my chest by breathing heavily.

2/11/09 El Kelaa M'Gouna to Tamatought (109km)

I felt quite good, in terms of chest pains, until Tinerhir. I stopped here and bought some Fanta type drink and 200g of peanuts. I eat almost half the nuts. On the way up the Todra gorge I didn't feel too good - nausea. Even drinking water made me feel worse. The lower part of the gorge was, I felt spoiled by tourism, with lots of roadside stalls selling souvenirs, cafes and hotels etc. The deepest and narrowest part of the gorge was overrun by coach loads of tourists and knick-knack sellers. The gorge got nicer after that though as the vast majority of tourists venture no further up the valley. Stomach ache and nausea got worse. I knew I had to drink but it was a chore. I found a nice clean, friendly and well decorated hotel in Tamatought with en suite bathroom. The price was 250 Dh including evening meal and breakfast. I was joined by 2 4x4s worth of French tourists who ignored me during supper. I felt too ill to finish my meal of couscous.

3/11/09 Tamatought to Tilmi (56 km)

Breakfast went down fairly well this morning and I set off at 08:45 with the intention of heading North directly to Imilchil along the mostly tarmaced road. I knew there was a rough road going over the mountains to the Dades gorge to the West and when I got to the junction I realized that leaving out this trail would be I cop out which I would regret so I changed plans and went for it. For the first 10km the dirt road was smooth and fairly flat but then all that suddenly changed. The road got very rough and steep, but the scenery was amazing. I didn't feel nauseous but drinking water was still difficult. I felt fairly strong which was just as well, as I needed to be in order to cope with this trail. There were very few people living up here (no villages) - those that were, were mostly living in caves. They had piled rocks up by the entrances to the caves and there were clothes lying around although I didn't actually see many people at all. Near the top of the 2800m pass I met a Czech couple coming the other way in an old leaf sprung Toyota Landcruiser. They were going all the way to Cape Town in South Africa. That was the only vehicle I saw on this road. This trail is probably the roughest I've ever cycled with a laden touring bike. Much of the trail was a river bed. It was a fantastic 15km technical descent off the pass to the Dades valley. In the first village I got to I was ripped off for 9 Dh. I was told a price for three bottles of purified water but the wrong change was given and when I queried it the price of the water had changed! What could I do? As I left the village some children threw stones at me, when I didn't comply with their demands for Dirhams, bon bons; cadaux and cigarettes. This was a regular daily occurrence.

I found a place to stay in the village of Tilmi for 140 Dh including evening meal and breakfast. It was primarily a cafe, but also an antiques shop with some rugs too. I was given a room in their house with lovely big wood beams, one small wood framed window with stained glass, and a nice patterned rug. It was not the least bit touristy and there was a nice relaxed atmosphere. I was made a good tasty tagine too and my appetite had come back thankfully.

4/11/09 Tilmi to Imilchil (88 km)

I had bad guts during the night and I had to get up at 05:30 for a liquid shit. I had a good appetite for breakfast: omelette and bread with jam. I was on the road by 08:00. I got out of the quite heavily populated valley and up towards the pass after 10 km and had to take an emergency roadside liquid shit. There were spectacular views of the Dades gorge from high up on the pass. It was about 30km to the top of the pass, but a couple of km before that I met a group of 4 Spaniards coming the other way on motorbikes. They were doing a 3000km 7 day tour of Morocco and were travelling very light. There was more nice scenery on the other side of the pass but it was not all downhill as the bikers had said - I guess they barely notice the hills with the motorbike engines doing all the hard work. I met an Austrian couple travelling in the same direction as myself, in a Peugeot 206 hire car. I was amazed they had managed to make it along this road as there were some very rough and rutted sections. I bet they would not have tried it if the car was theirs! HI had some trouble with children in Agoudal who kept hanging onto the bike and I lost my temper with them and shouted some abuse - they seemed surprised! From there on for the next 30km it was easy going on a smooth and gently descending dirt road which turned into Tarmac for the last 20km to the town of Imilchil. I found a hotel for 150 Dh including supper and breakfast. It was a very nice Tagine the owner made for me and an extra bonus was that he spoke Spanish, so I was able to have a good chat with him. It made me think how much easier the trip would be if my French was good, and how much it would add to the whole experience. No food eaten during the bike ride.

5/11/09 Rest day Imilchil

The Stomach good this morning - good appetite for breakfast. It was overcast today and even spat with rain, but luckily I managed to wash and dry my clothes O.K. I just rested today. Imilchil has a special kind of market in August, where the goods are people - looking to get married!

I finally gave in and I bought a souvenir from the shop next to the hotel – a small Berber rug.

6/11/09 Imilchil to a camping spot 10 km East of Tounfite (97km)

A good day. I had planned to stay in a hotel in Tagoudit, but I rolled up in Tagoudit too early in the day so I carried on. I’m glad I did too because I found a great camping spot up on a hill to the East of the junction where to the left is Tounfite and to the right is Midelt. The ground on the hill looked very rocky and dry, but these goarse bush like trees were managing to grow there so there was good cover from the road. People had been chopping wood up there and so there were plenty of handy sized pieces of wood for making a fire in the evening. It was still quite early in the day at about 4:00 pm, when I arrived there, but I decided that the town of Midelt was too far away to be possible to reach before dark and anyway this was too good an opportunity to pass up as nice quiet camping spots with no houses nearby are quite hard to come across in the Atlas mountains. I was able to cycle right up to the camping spot, set the tent up and have a read of my book in the shade of a tree. Just before dusk I heard the bleating of goats approaching and soon they were all over the place, closely followed by a shepherd in his early 20s wearing arctic cammo trousers. He was all smiles and very friendly, but my French was just not good enough to really have much of a conversation which was a bit awkward because he just stood there grinning. In the end I just sat back down under the tree and carried on reading my book, and he left after a few minutes. I cooked up some pasta and tinned fish and then when the sun went down I light a camp fire and kept it going until about 10:00pm. It was quite cold in the night, probably below freezing.

7/11/09 Camping spot to Zeida (69 km)

I got on the road by 8:30. After a few miles the road turned to tarmac. After a while I came across some road works at a junction for a small dirt road heading off to in an Easterly direction. The tarmaced road seemed to be heading off in a Northerly direction which was wrong according to my map so I asked one of the road workers. He said to follow the tarmac road, but then a boy in his mid teens on a bike seemed to be suggesting that I take the dirt road, so I did with him closely running behind pushing his bike. I was not too sure about this as the road did not look too well used. After a few hundred metres he was panting away and seemed to have changed his mind about whether this was the best road for me to take. It was steep so I was a bit annoyed with him. I turned around and went back to the road, with him following shouting something or other. I asked some other road workers near the junction and they all said to carry on along the tarred road. This boy carried on following me and seemed to be saying I was going the wrong way. I just carried on down the hill. He was cycling frantically after me and ended up jumping off his bike and grabbing onto mine to stop me. I told him to fuck off and eventually had to make gestures that I was going to give him a good kicking if he didn’t leave me alone. It did the trick. The road continued northwards into a valley – not as per my roadmap. I concluded that my map was out of date and that this was a new road which met the N13 main road to Fes a bit further up the road than Midelt. It turned out that my theory was correct. I decided to head northwest to Zeida. The N13 was not very nice to cycle along. It is just two lanes but the lanes are not wide enough for a lorry and a bike so if traffic was coming the other way they would hurtle past with inches to spare. This was not good as the wind had picked up and the lorries caused a great deal of turbulence which was pulling me about all over the place. I reached Zeida by 1:30 and thought of going further, but people were telling me that there was no hotel in Ait Oufella, which was where I was planning to turn off the N13 and head Westwards through the Middle Atlas towards Khenifra. I bought some peanuts and sat on a curb on the outskirts of the town to think it over. I decided to stay at Zeida. I found a hotel with satellite TV and watched my first bit of TV for a couple of weeks.

8/11/09 Zeida to Arhbalou (90 km)

A terrible day. The plan for the day was to head for Khenifra via some minor roads in the Middle Atlas, starting just north of Ait-Oufella. Things did not go well from the start. There was a strong headwind with similar problems with the traffic as the previous day. I fought against the gradient and the wind to get to Ait-Oufella and to where I thought the junction was. I had a feeling that navigating on these minor roads could be difficult as there the only village marked on my map is Boumzil and that was probably 50km away. There was nobody to ask near the junction anyway, so I just went for it. The road became rougher and rougher and it eventually after a few miles it became clear that the road was being used for access to local houses only and not for onward travel, because the further I went the less used the road was looking until it started looking like nothing had driven it for ears. I met a man coming in the other direction with a donkey and he had never heard of Boumzil and said it was not possible to cycle this route. I have a strong feeling that this road was the right one as its shape corresponded well with the map, but it was getting very rough so I decided to backtrack 10 km or so to the village of Oualegh on the N13 and go via the town of Itzer. I felt quite annoyed at the wasted time and effort as I freewheeled back down the N13. I carried on past Itzer and then took the road to the West. Things seemed to be going fairly well – I was climbing back up into the Middle Atlas, but then I came across a junction which did not quite fit with my map. I turned left, because according to my map if I kept left then I would go directly to Boumzil. After a considerable climb I realized that the road was going in the wrong direction. I gave up trying to get to Boumzil and decided to just go with the flow which seemed to be to take the path of least resistance. This is where having a motorbike or 4x4 would be good, because backtracking down a steep hill you’ve just slogged up would not be so soul destroying. The tarmac road I followed joined up with the R503 road to El Kebab about 20 km from Zeida. It was about 2:00 now and I could have just cycled directly here from Zeida in an hour or so! Bollocks – a real fuck up! I just gritted my teeth and carried on, but the wind direction had changed so that it was still a headwind. It was very nasty especially in the villages where dust and grit was blowing all over the place. At about 5:00 I rolled into the town of Arbalou. The place was a real tip with plastic bags scattered all over the fields, caught in the trees, hedges, walls and telegraph wires. It looked like a promising place to find a hotel as it was a busy market town but I didn’t find one. On asking in a café on the Western side of town I was told there was no hotel. They must have been able to see my disappointment. One Hash pipe smoking man behind the counter said I was welcome to stay at his house. He looked a bit of a dodgy type to me, but the other guys reassured me – “tranquil, tranquil…”. It was cold and very windy and camping would have been a bit of a nightmare so I decided to take him up on his offer. He lived just off the main street in a small ground floor flat with a toilet, kitchen, 1 small bedroom and a living room. He got me settled in then disappeared for a couple of hours, so I relaxed and watched some satellite TV. When he came back we went out to a café and had some Moroccan mint tea then went back to his place, where he showed me some photos of his family and friends. He came from a village in the Todra Gorge. His father had a hotel there and he used to take tourists on guided walks in the mountains. It seemed that he was currently not working and I felt possible happy not to be. He collected money from tenants in 3 houses which his father owned in the town. He went off again and I went to sleep at about 9:30. I woke up, then went back to sleep pretty quickly when he came back some time later smoking his pipe.

9/11/09 Arhbalou to Beni-Mellal (153 km)

It was a difficult start to the day with a strong headwind, overcast and cold. Overall the road was ascending but there were lots of short downhill sections which made extra work of the 2070m pass about 20km on from Arhbalou. Near the top it started raining lightly but the conditions were pretty bad because of the very strong wind and low temperature. Mist obscured the views and I was glad to get off the pass as it got progressively warmer and the rain stopped. It was very fast going for the rest of the day and quite enjoyable, apart from some teenagers throwing stones at me close to the city of Kasba-Tadla. I was hit by a stone with my back to them so I stopped and invited whoever had thrown the stone to come and see what would happen if they came and threw a punch at me face to face. They were not keen to do that, so off I went. I had originally planned to find a hotel in Kasba-Tadla, but as I was going so well at 20 to 30 kph and it was only 30 km further to Beni-Mellal I decided to carry on. I arrived at Beni-Mellal at 5:00, but spent the next hour trying to find a suitable hotel. I found it to be a very chaotic place and quite bewildering as I just could not find any correlation between the street plan in my guidebook and what was actually there. I could not find any signs with street names and even asking people where the square in the medina didn’t help as they didn’t know where I meant. I went into one hotel reception and the male receptionist seemed more interested in doing some paperwork or other than dealing with me. It seemed a bit of a seedy place anyway so I left. I eventually found a reasonable place. It was quite an ordeal negotiating with the staff what should be done with the bike. They would not let me take it to my room as most hotels will. At first it seemed they wanted me to leave it outside around the back of the hotel, then downstairs in the café, then in the boss’s office and then finally befind the reception desk. It was a palaver I really was not in the mood to deal with, but we got there in the end. I came to the conclusion that it was a difficult city in which to get things done.

10/11/09 Rest day, Ben-Mellal

I got some directions for a laundrette from the hotel receptionist and spent the next three quarters of an hour trying and failing to find it. In the end it was easier to do the washing myself. I went to hang my clothes on the roof of the hotel and found there was a huge great scrap yard come rubbish tip immediately behind the hotel – nice! I failed to find an internet café either. Everything seems difficult in this town.

11/11/09 Beni-Mellal to Marrakesh (200.4 km !!!)

I had a late start and set off at 8:45 after a light breakfast of swo 10” bread rolls with butter and honey, small cups of foul tasting coffee and two Moroccan dairylea triangle equivalents. I didn’t eat anything else until I reached Marrakesh. To keep my energy levels up I drank about 4L of Hawaii orange and coconut fizzy drink. Conditions were perfect for cranking out the kilometres today: I was feeling strong, there was virtually no wind, a temperature of 28 degrees centigrade, clear blue skies, and the road mas mostly flat and straight with a pretty good tarmac surface. There were a few short descents and climbs into and out of river valleys intersecting the road and there was a climb of 10km or so over a hill, but overall the flattest 200km I’ve ever cycled. There were nice views of mountains to my left most of the way. I had a few stones thrown at me again, but I’m getting used to that now. A days cycling in Morocco just would not be the same without a good stoning! A middle aged Morrocan man on a bike showed me the way towards the Djemaa El Fna and I arrived at the Gazelle hotel in the Medina at 5:45 with 200.4 km on the clock, that is 125 miles (to the nearest mile) The computer showed that the time spent in the saddle that day was 8:06:06 hours and the average speed was 24.7 kph (15.4 mph) It beat my previous record of 115 miles on the day I cycled from San Juan to Mendoza in Argentina down the ruta cuarenta back in 2003 (11 hours on the road). I was certainly tired but by no means exhausted. I could certainly have managed some more kilometres today. I feel I could have managed to make it from Kasba-Tadla to Marrakesh which would have added another 30km to the daily total. It felt good to get back to Marrakesh and after a bit of a lie down I went up to the Djemma El Fna to for a couple of orange juices at one of the orange juice stalls and then on for a feast of chicken tagine, mixed grille, salad and pastilla (a sweet pigeon pie). After that I went to another stall and bought 250g of cashew nuts and then a snickers bar. I had a wander around the square listening to the street musicians and story tellers. I met a Moroccan chap who I’d spoken with in the same place 3 weeks ago.

12/11/09 Rest day, Marrakesh

Bumped into the same guy in the same place in the square again. He started explaining that the band I was listening was playing Arabic music as opposed to Berber music and they were singing about freedom. He said they were celebrating the moderate flavour of Islam in Morocco. Unfortunately he then started demanding money for the information he’d given me. I was quite disappointed by this and told him that he had been deceiving me by pretending to be friendly when he was actually hustling. I refused to pay him any money and he followed me back to my hotel pestering me all the way.

13/11/09 Rest day, Marrakesh

14/11/09 Djemaa El Fna to airport (6.5 km)

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!