Leaving a city by bicycle is always a challenge, with signposts funnelling traffic to motorways and the compass is invariably our best friend. Rabat went relatively easy on us and we wound our way to the coast road, but not until after a tour of the villages that tourists never see and the smart adjacent suburbanites probably choose not to. Here the contrasts are stark.
The Atlantic breathed fresh air into our lungs and despite not leaving the Mauritanian Embassy until after 3.30pm, we covered the miles swiftly and pitched the tent between the main road and the motorway and were quickly lulled to sleep by the drone of traffic. 6.30pm bedtimes are not unusual as night falls early and suddenly but it means we are packed up at dawn and off looking for the perfect spot for a breakfast brew and some fried ‘frisbee herb bread’.
Having been gifted a good tailwind, an 85 mile day was in order. Still courting the heavy trucks with their deafening air horns, although fewer than on the main N1 road, we return endless greetings and waves, despite not knowing the meaning of many and questioning the sentiment of a few. The adrenaline really started pumping on the approach to Casablanca, through harsh port side industry and into the manic metropolis, we fought to keep a place on the crowded streets. We rewarded ourselves with a petit dejeuner, having spotted a bargain, and then finally found our quiet coast road with views out to sea. Once again chasing the sun as it dipped below the horizon and coloured the sky, we arrived in El Jedida by dark.
A couple more days through lunar landscape, looking down on the coastal plain patchwork of fields that eventually gave way to the beautiful sculpted dunes against the white, lacy trim of the ocean. Our first hustlers and hasslers in Safi and camels on the road into Essaouira. A ‘campsite’ that was really a carpark and teenage hangout, with mopeds racing round the tent in the dark in Oulidia. A ‘campsite’ in Safi that once bore all the attributes of a campsite, now sadly neglected with the added bonus of some dodgy water, even after boiling….
The run from Morocco’s capital to its hippy Mecca gave us breathtaking scenery and barren landscapes, roadside vegetable stalls against overwhelmingly dirty industry and we shared the road with donkeys, mules, horses and carts alongside a wide array of motorised contraptions. The ever present broken glass punctured our tyre, the pumpkin seller shared his whiskey Maroc and the cacophony of greetings continued. We declined kind offers of food and the shells held out by children on the verge and anything stronger than coffee in Essaouira.
A day off and we’re up to date with mending and have enjoyed a little respite in the Medina with all the other tourists and felt blessed that we do not have to climb on a coach tomorrow, even with the climbs that we know await us.