Friday, 27 December 2013
We all woke up early today as Mother Kinza had briefed us the night before that we had to arrive in Santrokofi at a certain time. This was because there was a grand welcome planned that would involve the people of the town along with the volunteers. The others went outside to the table area for breakfast. I wasn't that bothered by breakfast until I found out it was free. Shortly after breakfast we got our stuff together and got going. We didn't have too many miles to cover but the plan was to get to a town called Hohoe (the town before Santrokofi) at least an hour before we were scheduled for the grand finish so Kinza could collect our personalised t-shirts from the other volunteers before the final few miles. It wasn't long before Kinza stopped to buy some credit for her phone. She had left Helen (Cockles) Peacock in charge of organising the other volunteers (getting them from Accra to Santrokofi and sorting out the grand welcome). Kinza had previously expressed her slight apprehension to us at leaving Helen in charge of everyone, as she had spent a considerable chunk of the last week living it up on The Cape Coast. Anyway she made the call and everything was going to plan so we continued. We were all feeling very excited about the grand welcome and finally being able to see the school/orphanage and children after all the images and videos we had previously seen at RHF annual dinners/online. Halfway through the morning Chris needed a dump. We came across a petrol station so went over to see about toilets. There weren't any and he needed to go so I gave him some toilet paper and he went for a wild around the back in some bushes. The petrol station was empty apart from the pump attendant and a religious voice was being transmitted via speakers. Whilst waiting for Chris I decided to do some press ups at the side. Chris then returned and slammed out the one-handed press ups. After the press ups we carried on with the cycling. A couple of hours or so later we arrived in Hohoe. It was the biggest town we had come across in a while and we got there with loads of time to spare. Kinza took us to Obama Gardens (a bar/restaurant with large patio and grass areas that was later to become our regular spot). The others got cold soft drinks but I was more interested in food. Me and Tom got involved with rolling an old tyre around with some children for a little while. After that Jones came for a wander with me and we found this woman at the side of the road selling some very cheap and nice looking hot food. She gave us plates and cutlery as Jones explained we would return this after finishing eating. We returned to Obama Gardens with a substantial amount of food and tucked in. It was really really good and we filled ourselves up well. We returned the plates/cutlery and I asked her what times she served the food (I planned to go back for more at a later stage). There was a barbers across the road and I had been wanting to have a haircut for ages. We still had time to spare so we went in. This instantly became a joke as we were looking at a large poster with celebrity faces/haircuts on the wall and remember laughing at Wayne Rooney being up there (post hair transplant). After seeing who could identify the most celebrities it was time for my haircut. I was going for a thick stripe in the middle and shorter at the sides (like an image of David Beckham on the wall). I was a bit apprehensive about this as had always had my standard number 3 all over cut before. I needn't have worried because everyone agreed that it looked good after. The haircut cost me 3 Cedi (£1). Chris and Tom then had a shave, with Tom going for a Will Smith goatee. After some photos of us posing next to the celebrities we headed to the point where Kinza was meeting the other volunteers to get our t-shirts. We stayed out of sight so that we didn't see anyone until the grand welcome. A few minutes later Kinza returned with our T-shirts. All of the t-shirts had the RHF logo on the front and our previously agreed nicknames on the back (me being 'Rave Train', Chris being 'Too Many Pens', Tom being 'The Colonel') except Kinza who had disappointingly gone for 'Sister Kinza' instead of 'Mother Kinza'. Jones also had one that said 'Jones' on the back (I think this may have been adapted to 'Dr Jones' in honour of the Aqua song at a later date). We put the t-shirts on and started riding the last few miles. We stopped at the bottom of the hill before the climb into Santrokofi so Kinza could make one last phonecall telling them to get ready as we would be there in a few minutes. The new t-shirt was already sweaty (a combination of the hot day and nervous excitement at what was about to happen). We decided to cross 'the finish line' side by side with our arms on each others' shoulders. We climbed the hill slowly and soon enough we could hear cheering. We then saw a mass of people in the road ahead and got into formation. This was extremely overwhelming and I remember having a massive smile on my face. We cycled through the ribbon finish line that a couple of volunteers were holding out and got an even louder cheer. Arctic to Africa was complete.
I was up before the others as usual and decided to go for a walk along the main road to find some breakfast. I headed towards the way we came in because I was up for some yams having liked them yesterday. I found these very easily, bought a couple of Cedi's worth along with the standard water sachets and dough balls. When I returned to the hotel I saw the guy who was dancing when we first arrived. He was nice and explained that he lived in the guesthouse and that the parties were a regular thing. I then went to sit down and consume my man breakfast in the gazeebo patio area where we had dinner last night. The yams were very filling and I remember saving some for later. There were chickens roaming around and small lizards running up the surrounding trees. I then went back to see the others. They had opted to have breakfast in the bar area. We left at a reasonable time. It was a hot day and there was a long, gradual uphill to begin with and the roads were particularly bad in the morning. This caused a more noticeable gap than usual in the group (Chris and Jones were quite a long way ahead of Tom and Kinza, with me generally somewhere in between). After maybe a few hours we approached some police who were checking vehicles going in each direction. We were stopped. The policeman seemed more interested in having a chat than checking up on us properly. After between 5 and 10 minutes we left and carried on. A bit later we started getting hungry and in need of a food stop. We were in a fairly remote area with no shops or people walking around with stuff on their heads. Luckily it didn't take us long to find a little cafe/hut thing outside a police building with a plastic table and chairs outside. There were a couple of food options available and it was very reasonably priced. We had a plate of chicken and rice with a sauce that was very tasty with Kinza having a vegetarian alternative. We were joined by an important-looking member of the police force and chatted about the trip and what we thought of Ghana. After Chris had finished his plate of chicken and rice he ordered another plate of chicken and rice. After some deliberation I then did the same. Having eaten well we carried on, with the roads thankfully improving again. Our next stop was probably a few hours later in a sizeable town. We found a shop that had a good choice of food so indulged in juice, cookies, coke and some other stuff. We were offered seats in the shop so sat down and ate. After the food session we got ready to leave and discovered Tom had a puncture. We crossed the road to a shop that had a nice flat smooth concrete area outside well suited for flipping the bike over and fixing the puncture. This went smoothly and after inflating the flat tyre and checking any of our other tyres that needed air we pushed on. Within the next half hour one of Chris's tyres exploded (one of the Casablanca bargain specials). This left us the problem of finding a replacement tyre. After asking some locals we found out that there was somewhere back where we had come from that should have the tyre we needed. It was a fair distance away so Chris flagged down a tro-tro (old minibuses that are widely used in Ghana as a form of cheap public transport) and went off with Jones, leaving me Tom and Kinza with the stuff. We were joined by the local children who were having fun rolling Chris's old tyre around and riding around on their bikes. We were also welcomed by some of the older locals. I passed the time by wandering around in search of food. I managed to find some dough balls and ate maybe 5 leaving me very full. Eventually after maybe an hour of so Chris and Jones returned with the correct tyre. This went on the wheel fine and we were soon back pedalling again. With first the puncture and now the replacement tyre delays we didn't have too much daylight left so had to try and keep up a decent pace to get somewhere near where we were aiming for at the start of the day. With maybe 30-45 minutes of daylight left we arrived at a small town and asked if there were any guesthouses. There weren't any here but thankfully there was one a short distance ahead. We found this easily enough and before the imminent darkness took over. We entered the gated complex (not as posh as it sounds), agreed a price and parked the bikes by the gate. We then went over to a table area to order dinner. I didn't really fancy anything on offer and didn't need to eat after the amount consumed earlier so opted out of the food. The others ordered some food and proceeded to play cards. I wasn't interested in this either so had a lie down/snooze on a bench by the table. After a while the others were done with food and cards so we made our way to our rooms. This time it was me, Jones and Tom in one room and Chris and Kinza in the other. We went for showers but the lights didn't work. Me and Jones proceeded to swap these bulbs around with the ones in the toilet giving us light. I then cleaned my teeth, and tucked in for an early night.
I woke up pretty early (before the others) as wanted to go for a run, get the haircut and see the Baboons that inhabited the reserve before we left. I went into the living room and Jones was sitting at the table. He had already been down the track and taken several photos of the baboons by the main road. Seeing these photos made me very keen to see them for myself, so I thought I'd kill 2 birds with 1 stone and go for a run through the reserve. After reaching a small clearing after about 5 minutes of running I was told by a ranger that it was dangerous to go any further alone as the Baboons may attack me. So I turned back and headed back towards the main road. On the track to the main road I noticed the rangers' lodge with some baboons knocking about so went for a closer look. There were lots of young ones climbing over an old tractor and older ones walking around/play-fighting in the dirt. I sat for a while enjoying the spectacle. At one point a big one started walking behind me in my direction. I sensed that it might attack so swiftly got up and moved - thankfully me moving put an end to any advances. With a raised heart rate I decided this would probably be a good time to go, so headed back to the track. There were some ostriches behind a fence next to the track so spent a while watching them/feeding them grass. After this I started my run properly, going to the end of the track, crossing the road past the shop/restaurant down and heading down a dirt track for a while. It was busy everywhere and I was soon accompanied by a boy on his bike riding alongside me. A lot of people waved and said hello and I felt very welcome. Despite it being probably about 9am it was getting hot and I was glad I took a sachet of water with me. On the way back I saw Jones and Tom buying breakfast food from the shop and agreed to meet them back at the guesthouse soon. I was dripping with sweat after what was probably between a 1-1.5 hour run and got straight into the cold shower. Kinza had banned us from using her shower gel (we had used half of the bottle in a day) so I had to make do with lathering up a bar of soap. There was some sweet bread left over so I had some of this for breakfast. Time was getting on but everyone else wanted to see the baboons so we headed out to find them whilst leaving with the bikes. By this time there were quite a few visitors in the reserve, with a crowd of people admiring the ostrich and several more at the end of the track where the baboons now were. There was now a woman walking around with bananas on her head selling them to the visitors wishing to feed the baboons. Kinza bought some and proceeded to put them by her bike so she could get some photos with both the bike and the baboon in. After the baboons we headed to the main road to start cycling. Whilst leaving one of the rangers tried to charge us extra for 'visiting the reserve'.This of course didn't work as we were guests staying in their guesthouse. We finally headed off shortly before midday. The road was noticeably better than yesterday and we made reasonably quick progress - so good in fact that I was able to adopt the tri-tuck position for the first time and get a good speed going. I was starting to develop a fairly sizeable gap between me and the others. So I glanced back to see how far ahead I was (whilst still in the tri position). I then lost control of the bike, failing in my attempts to put my feet down to save falling and me and bike hit the tarmac pretty hard. I had a few small grazes and scuffs to my trainers but was more worried about the bike. Thankfully this was fine, with just the extrawheel needing to be reattached. Chris and Jones were soon asking if I was OK and helping with the bike. Chris had seen it and said it looked quite bad. I explained that I was fine and it was just a lapse of concentration/not being used to the tri position that caused the crash. I think I used wet wipes and toilet paper to clean the grazes before continuing shortly. It wasn't too long before we reached the town of Kpong and stopped for the first eating session. There was lots to choose from - after quite a lot of deliberating I went with a carton of juice some dough balls and a pasty. It was all good and like yesterday we found a bench outside a shop and sat down to eat. Our presence had attracted a fair number of people selling stuff. There were young children (probably about 6 or 7 year olds) with water sachets so I stocked up on these. There was also someone starting to cook some corn (I wanted some but everyone was getting ready to go). Typically I was last to leave due to faffing about organising the pannier bags. By the time I was finished faffing the corn was cooked so I got a couple of these for the road. The next mile or so was spent trying to catch up with the others whilst simultaneously eating the corn. They had waited for me a short distance ahead just before a big bridge. Kinza was keen to go swimming in the river that went under the bridge so we rode alongside the river and soon found somewhere suitable to swim. There were some small houses here and we were soon greeted by all the local children. Kinza gave them loads of packets of Haribo to share out and they loved it. I then decided it would be a good idea/challenge to get my Ironman swim training underway by swimming to the other side of the river and back again. There wasn't a strong current and the river wasn't too wide so it seemed like it would be easy enough. There was a hotel slightly further along the riverbank so there was the odd small boat going past. I got to about halfway and Kinza and Chris had got involved too. I was getting quite tired towards the other side before climbing onto the bank and waving across to the others. I stopped for only a few minutes before starting the swim back- it soon became apparent that I should have stopped for longer. After about 5 minutes and about a quarter of the way across, as well as starting to get fatigued my legs started to cramp - I knew that this was due to me not having swam any sort of distance in month and doing too much too soon. I treaded water to try and get rid of the cramp and started to drift slightly downstream - not a good situation. The worst of the cramp continued for probably 10 minutes before being able to swim progressively again. I had probably drifted 40 or 50 metres downstream so had to swim diagonally to get back to the others. This was a struggle but I got back eventually. Chris helped me out of the water. I was knackered and needed a sit down and some water. Tom was proving very popular with all the children and Jones had been taking loads of photos. I went round the back of one of the small buildings to change into dry shorts and bungeeing the wet ones to the pannier bags to dry in the sun. Tom was now pushing the children round on his bike - two or three at a time with one being on the saddle and the other one or two on the top tube. I started stretching and the children soon came over and copied. I think we all pushed them around for a bit on our bikes and Kinza gave them more Haribo before we finally left. It must have been about 2pm by the time we finally got going having only covered a very small distance. The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful - I think we stopped once more in a small town for a quick food session and once or twice to adjust the gears on Jones's bike, using a cable tie to pull the gear arm bracket into the correct position. The roads were still generally good and scenery was getting even better with tree covered hills being a regular sight. By about 5pm we got to the town of Ho where we would be staying. As we cycled in we were greeted with a load of people selling yams. I hadn't had yams before and wasn't keen on trying them, being more concerned about finding a guesthouse and then getting food. Then there was a police checkpoint. Cars seemed to be getting stopped but we were allowed straight through. Then as we approached a junction there was Ghanaian music blaring on our right and when we looked this was a bar/guesthouse with one guy dancing in the middle of a dirt clearing by the speakers waving at us. The general opinion was to try and find another guesthouse that wasn't so loud. Me and Tom rode around for a bit but didn't have any luck. So we had to make do with staying in the guesthouse with the blaring music . We got 2 double rooms which were slightly more expensive than the reserve but still reasonable. I asked about the music and it turned out tonight was the end of Ramadan party and it would continue until 11 or 12. Chris and Tom had ended up buying a load of yams when we came into town so I tried some. They were really nice - like potato wedges. Jones had now been introduced to Angry Birds and was playing this in their room (it was my turn to go with Kinza so the other guys shared our second room). The shower consisted of scooping cold water out of a bucket and tipping it on yourself. After the 'shower' we had a little walk around in search of a restaurant. We didn't have any luck so went back to the hotel bar and asking about food. They did food so we found a table on a gazebo/patio area that was in a quieter position. I was loving the music and decided to get a beer. They didn't have any familiar drinks so I went with a Ghanaian beer called 'Club'.This was really nice (I'm not usually a big fan of beer but this was good) and very cheap costing the equivalent of between £1-1.50 for a pint-sized bottle. After not drinking for such a long time I was starting to feel the effects a bit after just one bottle. The music continued to please and Jones showed us some Ghanaian dancing (he was really good). I made mental notes as was keen to go over to the dirt clearing/dance area later to have a go. The meal then came. I can't remember what I had but it was good. I then went up and got beer number 2. Also getting one for Tom sensing that this could tempt him to join me on the dancefloor later. I was right - after this drink Jones, Kinza and Chris retired back to the rooms for bed whilst me and Tom headed over for a dance. It was completely dark but fairly busy with children as well as the adults getting involved. We got involved. I'm not the most gifted dancer in a normal situation let alone in this foreign situation so I tried to remember Jones's moves and copied the other people. We proved popular and were soon dancing with everyone. I was absolutely loving it. Tom lasted maybe an hour before going back to the room. I carried on for maybe another half hour before calling it a night. I went back to the room and Kinza was still up either reading or texting. I had a sachet of water before cleaning my teeth and getting into bed. She instantly warned me about not sleeping commando (I always sleep commando). I agreed and kept some boxers on. I set the alarm for a reasonable time and went to sleep.
We woke up pretty early as planned. I remember listening to music from Kinza's laptop (the first time we had heard anything that wasn't on my very limited iPod playlist since Gibraltar). Me, Chris and Tom sorted out our belongings into 2 sections (stuff that we would leave at the hostel and stuff that we would need for the next 4 days until we got to The Orphanage/Summer School in Santrokofi). As Kinza had already planned for us to stay in accomodation each night we happily ditched the camping stuff as well as unnecessary clothes. Luckily for Chris Kinza had some clothes that her brother had donated that were his size. He opted to carry the absolute minimal amount of stuff and leave his extrawheel behind, carrying only a handlebar bag and a few clothing items bungeed onto the pannier (the idea of this was to minimise the chances of getting a broken spoke by not putting any additional weight on the back wheel). Tom decided to bungee one pannier bag on top of the pannier rack, taking only clothes, pump/multitool and pillow. I kept the trailer and both pannier bags, one of which contained the Iberia blankets and pillows and the other containing clothes. I left the Lycra and cycling shoes behind and took a couple of pairs of casual shorts, t-shirts and running trainers knowing that it would be an easy 4 days. After getting all the stuff out of the room and down to the storage area we set to work re-assembling the bikes. Whilst doing this we got talking to some Canadian guys who were also staying at the hostel who were doing a work placement in Accra. They had been there for some time and it was good to talk to some other foreigners about what Ghana would be like. We were also joined by Jones (one of the ex-students from the summer school who RHF are now supporting to do an electrical course at a college in Accra). Jones would be joining us for the remainder of the ride. After re-assembling all of the bikes we got going with Jones and Kinza leading the way. Accra turned out to be a congested, noisy, smelly nightmare. At one point Chris went too far ahead and got separated from the rest of us - typical of Chris. His phone wasn't working so we waited at a junction whilst Tom rode off ahead to look for him. He came back not too long later having not found Chris. I then had a look further along the same road, with no luck. Thankfully when I got back we had been able to get in touch with Chris, and he had ended up at a famous landmark. Thankfully Jones knew where this was and we were soon reunited with Chris. We posed for a few photos before carrying on. As well as the traffic chaos, pollution and noise we had to contend with at times very poor road surfaces and massive potholes. It soon dawned on me that given these conditions it would take considerably longer to cover the same distance that we would be able to on decent roads. Our route took us along the coast for a short distance before escaping the worst of the chaos of the city. We stopped for some food -it was still very busy. Before this we had to exchange the American Dollars that we had with us (we mistakenly thought American Dollars were the currency used in Ghana) into Ghanaian Cedis. Thankfully this was straight forward. This was my first experience of the sachets of water, pasties and bread dough balls (the dough balls became a favourite of mine and I would describe them as being like mini plain doughnuts without the sugar) from street sellers that are available everywhere. Everything was very cheap, the food was very good and people all very welcoming - we were invited to sit in a shop to eat what we had bought despite half of what we had having been purchased elsewhere. We probably stopped for about half an hour before continuing. We stooped again for more food about an hour later. This was weird - we were in the habit of stopping less often and eating more during in each break. It felt like we were making very slow progress and we were behind schedule for today, but it didn't really matter due to our low daily mileages. This time I had grilled corn on the cob, more bread dough balls and some liquid ice cream thing. Again all very nice and all very cheap. This break was probably another half an hour or so. We still had a little way to go until we were completely out of the city and the roads for this area were particularly bad, with Tarmac reduced to dust track in places. It was far nicer when we were finally free from the city altogether sometime in the middle of the afternoon and we could enjoy fresh air and nice green scenery. At around 4pm we decided to stop at a guesthouse in The Shai Hills Nature Reserve. We may have had a couple more hours of daylight left and hadn't covered as far as intended, but we weren't sure whether we'd find the next guesthouse before it got dark. After agreeing a reasonable price (according to Kinza as we hadn't got to grips with the Ghanaian Cedi's yet) one of the rangers showed us to the house. It was very big with 3 bedrooms, 2 showers and a large living area. We all congregated in the master bedroom. The bed was massive and could have probably have slept all of us in. One of the first things I saw was a little lizard running up one of the walls - I asked Jones about this and this was very normal. After taking it in turns to have a shower/use Kinza's shower gel we headed back out to the main road in search of food. There was a shop/restaurant on the other side of the road so went there for a meal. They had the music blaring (something I had already noticed was popular everywhere). We sat down on what I think was the only table there and they were happy to turn the music down when we asked. There were fairly limited options (it was a case of asking what the woman could cook for us rather than getting an actual menu). Out of the options I went for goat with some rice this was something new to me and a typical Ghanaian dish. I was tempted with a beer but decided against it thinking of my budget. I can't remember what everyone else had but do remember the goat tasting like liver (It was OK but I wouldn't rave about it) and the sauce being very spicy. The sauce and rice were good. I had a sip of Chris's beer which was really good. After being reasonably full we walked back to our guesthouse (Tom sensibly brought a head torch out as it was hard to see where we were going along the tree-covered track in the dark). We congregated again in the master bedroom messing about on the bed and discussing the days ahead. Jones then walked in sporting a new haircut. He had got it done for a very reasonable price in a barbers next to where we had dinner. I was starting to get hungry again so borrowed the head torch and walked back to the shop to buy a pack of biscuits. I was also in need of a haircut - the barbers had just closed but would be open again early in the morning - I decided I would go back first thing and get the hair sorted before we set off. The biscuits were consumed within an hour before I went into one of the smaller rooms and went to bed.
Our flight was early afternoon so we agreed that we would pack up everything from tramp corner and start walking over to check-in at 11am. When we got there we were told that it would cost us €60 extra to take the bikes. We were not happy about this as there was nothing stated about a €60 charge for additional/oversized luggage when we booked the tickets, and given the fact that we didn't have to pay anything to get the bikes from Dakhla to Casablanca with Air Maroc we were surprised at the amount we were being charged. Chris asked to speak to the manager of the airline (Iberia). We were told that he would be along in the next 20-30 minutes. He never showed up. We were running out of time so had no option to make our way over to the Iberia ticket/office area and pay the €60 each. To make matters worse the card machine they had didn't work so we had to go and find a cashpoint in the airport and withdraw an extra 20 or 30 Dirhams than we needed to as the cashpoint would only give out cash to the nearest 100. We went back, finally paid for the bikes and checked all the bags in/collected our boarding passes. We didn't have much time until our flight left so quickly went into the departure lounge shops to get some food with our 20 or 30 leftover Dirhams. There was a very limited choice (despite being in Morocco most items could only be purchased with Euros) and everything was overpriced. I think I managed to only buy a bag or crisps (I was expecting to have enough for 2 or 3 items). Chris was especially annoyed about this as he had taken extra money out to get food/coffee. Anyway we boarded the flight OK and took off on time (we needed to as we had just 1 hour between landing in Madrid from this flight and taking our second flight from Madrid to Accra). The flight was good with TVs and earphones allowing us to watch from a choice of programmes or listen to music. We got to Madrid on time and there was just enough time for a quick coffee and snack (Tom) before boarding the next flight. This second flight also took off on time with no issues. This flight was really good - we each had complimentary flight pillows and blankets, had the TV setup like before but best of all we were given a free pasta meal with desert mid flight!!! I have never been a fan of in-flight meals but given the fact that we hadn't had any pasta since Pizza Hut in Gibraltar and the fact we were all very hungry this was amazing. It was a long flight and after watching and listening what I wanted to on my TV and meal I fell asleep for a few hours. I woke up towards the end of the flight and we spent the remainder of the flight playing 20 questions.This was highly amusing. I decided that I would take 4 of the complimentary blankets and 4 pillows as both would come in useful for us in Ghana. So I spent the last part of the flight emptying various items from Tom's backpack, putting these smaller items in a carrier bag so I could cram the blankets and pillows in the backpack. This was all done on the sly. We landed fine and went through passport control. Whilst queueing we got talking to a woman named Mary who worked in the airport. She was very friendly and was very interested in the ride. Chris ended up giving her his phone number and email. We got through without any real issues (we just had to fill out a customs form stating what we were doing in Ghana, how long we would be there etc.). We then went to collect our bags and bikes. The bikes just about made it (the boxes were in bits and I would have definitely lost some of the bike parts had I not cable-tied them together). I did lose a cheap roll mat but wasn't really bothered about this. However one of Chris's pannier bags had got lost (his attempt to stick a bungee around both bags had failed and only the bag with the label had made it). So we made our way to the lost bags area hoping it would be there. It wasn't. In the bag was Chris's helmet, tools and clothes. He filled in a form describing the lost bag and its contents in case it showed up. We had been in touch with Kinza and she had arranged a taxi to pick us up and take us to the hostel where she was. So we walked towards the exit. We were immediately bombarded with men wanting to carry our stuff - this was an unnerving experience and certainly not what we needed at the time. We found our driver who was holding an 'Arctic to Africa' banner, and followed him to his car. We were then faced with the tricky task of trying to fit the 3 bikes, 2 bike trailers, pannier bags and ourselves into a small people carrier. The task was made harder by the swarms of men surrounding us insistent on helping. I told them to go away on a few occasions but they wouldn't listen. There was no way it was all gonna fit in as it was so we had to rip the bike boxes apart and squeeze each frame, wheel and bag in carefully. We just about managed to get it all in, leaving Chris the front seat and me sitting on Tom's lap in the one empty back seat. The swarm of men wanted money having 'helped' us. I refused to give them anything, I think Chris may have given them a few left-over euros. We then drove out of the car park headed to the hotel. The drive gave us our first opportunity to see Accra. There was lots of traffic and people everywhere. When we stopped at traffic lights there were several people walking around with various stuff balanced on their heads that they were selling. It must have been at least 8pm and dark at this time so I was surprised that it was still this busy everywhere. After probably 45 minutes or so we got to the hostel and were reunited with Kinza. It was great to see her again and tell her about the trip, and her tell us about what she had been doing/what the plan was for the next 4 days whilst enjoying a pizza. She then showed us our room. It was basic with 2 bunk beds and another bed in the middle that Kinza had already claimed. The highlight though was using Kinza's shower gel. It was a real treat to not to have to lather-up a bar of soap for once and actually come out of the shower smelling nice. We went to bed pretty early as knew that we would have to get up to pack up/get out of the room and get cycling by a reasonable time in the morning. The talking continued in bed for maybe an hour or so before we finally went to sleep.
This was a very boring and uneventful day. We woke up late as there was no reason to get up and very little for us to do in the airport with no money. We took it in turns to go and brush our teeth in the toilets so that one of us was always with all the stuff in our tramp corner. Whilst putting some chocolate spread on bread I dropped the jar causing it to smash. Not wanting to waste anything/not having money for any more food I proceeded to scrape the chocolate spread from the bits of broken glass and onto the remaining bread. This was a slow process but it gave me something to do. I also spent the morning completing a model bike made from cable ties. Some time after this Chris and Tom returned having successfully found an area with wifi. I went to check this out leaving them with the stuff. When I returned they had moved a massive table and Chris was busy making notes on his next trip idea (flying to New Zealand and cycling home). They also tried to download Rush Hour 2 on the Ipad at some stage - it didn't work. We were approached a few times by airport security (the airport was immaculate with cleaners sweeping the floor around the clock) - luckily they were happy to let us stay in the corner when we told them about our flight the next morning. I remember the airport background music being played on loop, one of the songs being a weird version of 'My Heart Will Go On' from Titanic. During the afternoon I spent some time wandering around the airport in search of some free packaging tape for re-taping the bike boxes - I didn't have any luck. I had a walk around outside too but still no luck. Tom managed to buy some somewhere later on so I needn't have worried. We went to bed pretty early.
I woke up probably around 7.30 and decided to go for a walk around the town as the others were still asleep. I headed along the coast for a bit thinking I might find a beach but no such luck (there were just rocks). The town wasn't really very interesting and the best bit was definitely the cycle in yesterday with the massive kitesurfing beaches. After maybe an hour of walking I headed to the nice hotel from yesterday to use their toilet and go on wifi - there weren't many staff around and the ones that were didn't care. The standard Facebook status update and browse of the news feed followed (it was nice to not have a limited time to do this). After maybe half an hour Chris and Tom joined me guessing that I would be here having a wifi session. Tom told me about him having to use the awful smelly 'hole in the floor' toilet at our hotel for his morning dump (the toilet was blocked and it overflowed). They also got on the wifi and I remember Tom trying to finish editing the final desert video 'The Dash to Dakhla' and the accompanying song 'Camels' by Santos playing over and over again. I also remember sending Benji a message (the guy who we met in Nordkapp who was cycling around the world) thanking him for persuading us to take on The Western Sahara. We spent a good 3 hours here (pretty much as long as we could before we had to go back to the hotel and pack ready for our flight which was late afternoon). We packed up (I found a discarded Puma sports bag in the wardrobe in our room which I used as my hand luggage bag). We got to the airport around 1.30 or 2 (knowing that it could take a while to find cardboard, take the bikes apart and box them up). We asked if they had any cardboard at reception. They didn't so me and Tom walked to the kiteboarding shop not far away to get some boxes whilst Chris stayed at the airport with the stuff. The kitesurfing shop was really nice and I would have definitely bought at least a t-shirt if I'd had any Dirhams left. Unfortunately they didn't have any boxes - the owner said our best bet would be to go to TV/appliance shops near the market. This was a bit of a walk away but was the only option - we were told that we would be able to get a taxi from the market to the airport for 5 Dirhams so it wasn't too bad. Me and Tom then spent an hour or so looking in several shops collecting enough cardboard to box up the 3 bikes. We then set to work flat-packing all the boxes before flagging a taxi over (the first taxi was a similar size to a Ford Fiesta which was too small so we had to wait for a bigger one more like an Escort). With some help from the driver we squeezed our mass of cardboard into the boot and off we went back to the airport. Unpacking was a bit tricky with a strong wind. We then set to work boxing Chris's bike up. My packaging tape that I was given in Casablanca was rubbish so had to rely on some tape given to us by the guys at check-in to tape the boxes around the bike. The whole process was made twice as hard with the strong wind and we weren't allowed to pack them up inside the small clean airport. After Chris's bike was done the check in/baggage guys came out and helped with me and Tom's bikes (Chris didn't do the best job of boxing his bike flatly). Eventually the bikes were all adequately boxed and we were done as check in was in full flow. Thankfully we didn't have to pay any extra for the bikes. We went through to the departure lounge which like the check in/reception area was small and it was clear that the airport only did one flight at a time. The wait wasn't too long before we were led out towards the plane. One guy who helped us box up the bikes and checked them in was now loading them onto the plane - Chris joked that he would probably be the pilot too. The plane was nice considering how cheap our tickets were. There were no problems and the plane took off on time. The highlight of the flight was undoubtedly an unexpected free meal we got - it wasn't big but we were hungry with our food rations and this helped. We also played '20 questions' which is a game where you think of a famous person and the other person/people have to guess who it is - this was fun and helped pass the time. We landed in Casablanca and went to collect the bikes. Our slaggy boxing attempts had failed and the taped together cardboard was on the verge of falling apart. We carefully put the boxes on some trolleys and made our way to a cafe. It was pretty busy but we found a table, left the trolleys by the side and got out the chocolate spread and bread from my bag for a food session. There was no wifi. Next on the agenda was to find somewhere to sleep. I left the stuff with Chris and Tom and had a wander around. The airport was fairly big and I located a quiet corner away from the busy areas easily enough. We went to my quiet corner after the cafe and set up camp getting the roll mats and sleeping bags out, used the boxed up bikes as a barrier to help hide us from view. We looked like tramps. Anyway we then went to the toilets to clean our teeth before going to sleep.
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.
We slept well that night despite our prominent position. Woke up fine as usual as did Chris and Tom and we set off on time. This place really had the feel of a ghost town with nobody around and no sign of life in the morning - not that it was much busier last night. This would be a pretty dull day with much of the same roads that we had for the previous two days and not passing through any towns. It was a bit cloudier than it had been before and even a bit misty. We had been told that there was a petrol station at roughly the halfway point between Bojador and Dakhla so thought that this would be the only stop of the day. Our plan was to stop for a break halfway between where we'd started and this petrol station which must have been around the 50-60km mark. However after about 40km we came across this little town that wasn't on the map and had barely been signposted. There was a petrol station so naturally Chris wanted to stop. The petrol station was filthy and there were a lot of flies. After asking one of the few people around about being able to get some food/coffee from the cafe we were told that the cafe was closed but the petrol station shop could be opened. So this man ambled off to wake up the guy who worked in the shop. After about 10 minutes we had had enough of waiting and were about to leave. Then the man reappeared and told us the guy who worked in the shop was just coming. So we waited a few more minutes and the shop finally opened. It wasn't good - there was a very limited choice of stuff and I think Tom and Chris ended up getting a small carton of juice and chocolate bar each. I think I had some bread and chocolate spread that I had in one of my pannier bags. We than sat in the fly infested forecourt to digest these as quickly as possible. I said that this place was like the Keld of The Western Sahara (referencing back to when we all did Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk the previous year) which Chris and Tom both laughingly agreed with as it was a crap little town in the middle of nowhere. Anyway the day had brightened up since earlier and it was a nice ride between here and the petrol station with a few little hills as the day progressed, which was a welcome change from the flat. We got to the petrol station in pretty good time and went in to see what food they had. We weren't expecting much and weren't surprised when we saw what was on offer (although it was better than the town from earlier). I got some teacakes as there was no bread (more expensive and less filling but no other options), a big carton of juice and some chocolate. Chris bought a load of coffee sachets as they didn't do coffee, along with a few other bits. There were no charging points inside but was one outside so went outside to plug stuff in. Meanwhile a policeman was doing a passport check inside and Chris and Tom were eating at a table. I stayed outside as there were a number of guys staring and didn't trust leaving the charging electronics unattended. So I grabbed a chair from just inside the door and sat at an outside table eating the cupcakes with chocolate spread. The policeman then came out and handed my passport back and Chris and Tom soon came out too. There were flies everywhere - not exactly a pleasant experience. Anyway after the food and coffee (via the stove) we pushed on. We saw a truck of camels outside on our way out which was a bit random. The rest of the days' cycling was very uneventful and we agreed to stick to the routine of starting to look for somewhere to stop at around 7.15 and camping. Around this sort of time we saw a suitable looking antenna/wall and went over. There were a pack of dogs which didn't look particularly menacing but Chris and Tom were put off so we went back to the road and carried on. Time was now of the essence and there weren't any other antennas/walls in the distance, so we stopped by the side of the road a short distance away (far enough away from the dogs) behind a few mounds of sand. I wasn't very keen on this spot so wandered a bit further away from the road to see what I could find. We were by the sea and there was a continuous cliff which kind of stepped down to the water in places where the rocks had gradually broken away. This presented a spectacular camp spot a short distance down. It was an easy walk down to the spot so I went back to the others to let them know I was gonna camp there. They had set the tents up and were staying put, so I made my way back to my spot and set up the tent. I positioned the tent next to a twiggy bush to get a bit of extra wind protection which worked relatively well. It was dark by the time the tent was up so opted to cook inside the tent with my bike light as a torch, with just the outer door open for a bit if ventilation. There wasn't a lot of space but this worked well. After the food I needed a wee but didn't wanna get sandy feet so simply kneeled upright at the door of the tent and went - an advantage of being on my own in a secluded spot. After that I went to bed, alarm set for the standard 6.30 with only 107km to go to Dakhla tomorrow.
We all woke up fine, finished clearing up the few bits we left out last night. We set off roughly on time. I soon found myself way ahead of the others and could barely see them after what must have been less than 5k. Chris was taking it very slow as was getting paranoid about something going wrong with the bike and wanted to put as little strain on it as possible. This was annoying as it felt like we were crawling along unnecessarily slowly and led to a brief argument between me and him. Chris apologised shortly after and picked up the pace to a normal level. The weather was a bit sunnier today and this was reflected in the temperature (it still wasn't too hot thankfully). We were heading towards Cape Bojador which was the last town before Dakhla. The landscape was still pretty similar except we did spot the odd few camels in the distance. We made it to Bojador without any problems by early afternoon and decided at this point we would try and push on as much as we could today to try and make the last day as short as possible (also spurred on by the prospect of a bed and shower when we got to Dakhla). The edge of Bojador was pretty special with a couple of giant ostrich statues standing either side of the road marking the entrance to the town, and several large lampposts either side of the road leading into the centre. We had to stop for the police check which gave us time to take this in. There were a few friendly police dogs knocking around one of which I remember was called Linda. The check lasted about 15 minutes which was pretty normal. After making our way into the town we quickly found a cafe and stopped for a break, planning to leave in 45 minutes. Chris and Tom stayed at the cafe whilst I went on the hunt for wifi. This was unsuccessful so had to just make do with the standard food session. Despite trying 3 different shops I couldn't find any of the thin quick-cooking noodles that were normally readily available so made do with an overpriced old bag of rice that I saw in the third shop as didn't want to waste any more time looking around. So went back to the cafe and got the gas stove going outside the shop next door that was closed. A couple of kids were asking for money which I refused as was extremely low on money myself and literally every Dirham was needed. Anyway the rice eventually cooked and we ate on the chairs outside the cafe as the owner didn't mind. chris was eating out of his homemade bowl (the bottom half of a cut-in-half 5 litre bottle of water) and his spork (which was the only surviving spork from the start). Tom had to go and buy toilet paper before leaving as there wasn't any in the cafe toilet, I was the only one that had some but would need it for myself as was on my last roll with at least 48 hours until Dakhla where the next toilet was likely to be. We must have left about 45 minutes later than intended and it was probably around 3pm. It had got hotter since we had stopped but still not uncomfortable. A truck with a massive speaker with Islamic music blaring drove past and gave us a wave as we were leaving which was cool. The mid afternoon heat didn't last too long and the riding was back to the relentless stretch of flat straight road with very little change in landscape. We agreed to do the same as yesterday and ride until about 7.15 before stopping and camping. At around this time we saw an antenna with surrounding wall in the distance which was the same kind of thing that we camped next to yesterday so decided we'd pitch up there. When we got there however the ground was crap. There was a small community of houses with a perimeter wall that was out of sight of the main road and we wouldn't have known it was there if we hadn't come over to the antenna. Chris initially wanted to try and remain out of sight and try and camp somewhere behind the wall but changed his mind when he saw a shop open. We went inside and Chris and Tom enjoyed a smoothie whilst I made most of the first normal toilet I had seen in days. They started making some chocolate spread rolls whilst I went outside and set up the tent and got the stove on. I enjoyed some slaggy tuna in the tent (which was in a very prominent position in the middle of some buildings across the road from the shop). I didn't care because it was very quiet and there was virtually nobody around. Shortly after I had set up Chris and Tom came over and did the same, pitching within very close proximity of each other and with the bikes right next to the tents. We must have gone to bed between 10.30-11 and the alarm was set for 6.30.
I woke up fine at 6. There was a bit of a delay leaving as Chris needed to replace one of his tyres. He was rushing to do this and ended up exploding the inner tube on the rim of the wheel. He was frustrated with this so I took over and successfully fitted the new tyre. We took all the stuff down to a deserted reception area so just left our room key on the desk before leaving between 30-45 minutes late. We were once again lucky with the weather as it was overcast so not too hot. We exited the town on a different road from the one we came in on. There was a strong sidewind until we rejoined the M1, where the wind was behind us. I had pushed on ahead of Chris and Tom as was now the standard morning thing. Luckily for us the M1 had smooth tarmac on our side of the road (the other side was bumpy). The wind remained behind us but the road didn't continuously remain smooth - there were some fairly bad patches (one in particular was where there was resurfacing work going on). We arrived at Laayoune in good time and had the standard police check on the edge of town before going in and finding a shop to buy food. They had run out of the standard big round bread so I had to make do with some thin stuff which wasn't as nice. We were charged more than normal for the food which we could have done without with our lack of funds. We were, however, able to sit in a nice square in the middle of a road junction which had a nice shaded long marble bench ideal for getting the gas stove on the go. A friendly local guy came over and started talking to us. He told us a bit about the town and himself and we told him about the ride and where we were going. He pointed us in the right direction as unlike the other towns we had passed through Laayoune wasn't easy to navigate with several different roads branching out and no signposts. I had my standard big portion of slaggy tuna and when I had finished and washed up the mess tins in a fountain Chris and Tom had fallen asleep. I woke them up so we could get going and we pushed on. We decided we would camp in the middle of nowhere in the desert tonight and the remaining few nights until Dakhla rather than our original plan of staying in hotels wherever the towns were. The reason for this was that it would be much easier to cover each days increased distance equally and stop whenever we had cycled 170-180km. Also we didn't have any money left for staying in hotels. We bought enough food to sustain us for the next 24 hours or so until we would arrive in Cape Bojador (the next town). The next stretch of road turned into the most desolate relentless bit so far with nothing (not even the odd camel) around, just the occasional truck or car speeding past. The landscape and road too didn't really change with a continuous straight, flat Tarmac surrounded with nothing but rocky sand with small bushes everywhere and pylons to our left. We continued pedalling until around 7.15 when it started to get dark. Chris suggested we pitch up behind a wall surrounding a large antenna as this would act as a windbreak. Me and Tom agreed so we made our way to the south side of the wall, cleared a few rocks away and popped up the tents. Chris went to bed more or less straight away whilst me and Tom decided to cook some more slaggy tuna. We were well aware of the risk of scorpions being under rocks so were very careful when moving them to create a windbreak for the stove. It was now properly dark so we had to rely on the head torch to do anything. By this time a van had pulled over at the side of the road (50 metres away) which was slightly concerning. They eventually drove off after maybe half an hour or so by which time we were eating our slaggy tuna. About 15 minutes later we had finished, put the food in the tent, cleared up the worst of the stuff and were going to sleep. Alarm set for 6.30 tomorrow.
We woke up ok, but didn't leave until maybe 5.45 (a bit later than intended). We were cheered as we cycled through the town by a group of men which was quality. Initially there was a climb out of town which didn't fill me with confidence with over 200km still to ride. At the top though was an amazing view of a flat road at the bottom of a descent stretching as far as the eye could see. This along with the fact that it was a cooler cloudy day made the massive day seem possible. The riding was fantastic early on with again nothing but road, baron desert, the odd lorry and pylons in sight. We stopped for a break after around 40 or 50km next to the road overlooking the first proper sand dunes we had seen across some water. The coffee came out as did the slaggy tuna as we sat on the floor admiring the view. About 45 mins later we pushed on. The riding continued to be awesome and after a while we started to see quite a few camels (we were now back by the sea). I was slightly ahead of Tom and Chris when I heard Chris call me. I looked around and saw maybe 8 or 10 camels running alongside the bikes. I couldn't believe what was happening - who as ever heard of a load of camels running alongside anything before or even camels running at all come to that? Anyway they started off quite far away and got closer to us as they continued to follow getting to within 10-15 metres away . This lasted for a couple of minutes before they suddenly changed direction and walked across the road behind us. Truly bizarre. And to top it off Tom captured it all on the itouch. We all had big smiles on our faces for the next few hours after this and would shout 'CAMEL' at every camel we saw - needless to say these other camels didn't start running with us like the previous ones. Somewhere approaching halfway between Tan Tan and Tarfaya we had to stop for another police check. When this now standard formality was over we headed over to a petrol station over the road in search of food. we found a cafe and walked in. It was a large deserted grand place which looked like nobody had been there in years. There was a pretty limited choice but didn't mind as was relieved to find anywhere at all selling food. I bought some bread and juice and banana , got some chocolate spread I had in a pannier bag out and ate. There were a lot of flies. Chris and Tom had heir standard coffee with the food. When we left Tom needed a poo as had diarrhoea. He had to go in the disgusting smelly hole in the floor toilet next to the cafe. We then went to leave and got chatting to some Moroccan guys who were probably a bit younger than us. They loved the rave train and had a play with the iPod. One offered to buy it. For the next 50k or so the cycling was great with a healthy tailwind behind us and some ultra smooth sections of road. Some Stunning sand plains and hills too. Then we changed into a north westerly direction and things became 100 times harder. We now had a strong sidewind blowing sand across the road making progress painfully slow. I was concerned about this as we had to make Tarfaya by dark. This north westerly stretch of road lasted a good hour, maybe an hour and a half. We stopped for a break during this stretch taking shelter from the wind/sand at the side of the road behind a sand bank when we saw the 40k to go to Tarfaya. We were onto rations of food by this point and I remember eating a load of sweets to fill myself up. I was eager to get going Chris and Tom were a bit more reluctant - after 20-30 minutes we were cycling again. The remaining kilometres were far easier than the last hour with the sidewind soon turning into a tailwind. The road had now started following the coast again and we passed quite a few isolated houses dotted along the road most of which had dogs tethered outside - most of which seemed happy enough. Thanks to the impossible sidewind turning into a nice tailwind we made it to Tarfaya comfortably before dark. Surprisingly there weren't any police checks as we entered the town although the road did run through what appeared to be a missing section of the town's surrounding wall . Anyway we rode around for a bit in search of a hotel. Chris dismissed the first one we saw for being in a rather ghetto area. There were a few potentials along the Main Street but we decided to hold out and try and find a nicer looking one. At the end of the street we found a decent looking hotel and Chris went in to enquire about prices and to look at the room. 60 dirhams per person for a spacious 2 bed room with private bathroom - sweet. We carried the bikes and everything upstairs and settled in. Chris was first in the shower and described it as a trickle. Me and Tom soon found is out for ourselves. Also the toilet didn't flush. Our solution to this was to scoop water from a big barrel next to the shower into the cistern to fill it up using a plastic bottle that been cut in half. Very tedious. Soon after familiarising ourselves with the room we headed downstairs to the restaurant in search of food. Chris and Tom ordered a meal whilst I decided I'd go out to the shops later to get food due to my shoestring budget. Meanwhile we got chatting to some Moroccan journalist guy who was very interested in the ride. He was with a group and they had just finished their meal on a nearby table. Him and his group then moved into the lounge area. We were all eyeing up their leftovers. I asked the waiter if I could take these leftovers over to our table. He had no problem with us doing this and even brought us clean bowls and cutlery. I had enough bread and soup here to fill me up (no need to buy dinner - result). Chris and Tom had ordered food - this didn't stop them also having a load of the leftover soup and bread before their meals. I still went to buy food at the shops later but this would be for tomorrow. We were in bed by about 11 with the morning alarm set for 6.
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.
We woke up around 6 - 6.30 and left an hour or so later. This was later than intended. I got told off for filling all my water bottles out of the water cooler at reception. We got going down the A1, and saw the first sign for Dakhla (it was well over 1000km away still but at least it was a morale boost to see it signposted). We got photos of this before Chris had to go off and have a poo in a bush - his poo bodyclock was very random and when he needed to go he needed to go. Anyway we absolutely smashed it approx. 100km to the next large town of Tiznit with no breaks. This was down to very fast smooth flat roads and a nice tailwind. We found a petrol station on the edge of town and had a massive food session I spent over 90 Dirhams on cake, juice, chocolate, crisps, yoghurts and water. Chris and Tom were extra happy as they did coffee. We sat in the shade (it was getting hot) on the floor outside and started the session. About 15 mins later Chris had finished eating, laid down and fallen asleep. I was really hungry and must have been eating continuously for 45 minutes. Tom had also decided to lie down after probably half an hour. All the momentum had gone and Chris in particular struggled to get up and get going again. It was now getting very hot indeed and after passing through Tiznit and riding maybe 10km through the desert we decided to stop and have a siesta by a shop in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully the shop sold bread (which we couldn't get at the petrol station) and water. Tom was washing as usual with the prickly heat rash. Chris was soon lying down. I managed to find a power socket so charged the speaker and iPhone whilst playing some music. I laid down too and was pretty close to falling asleep. We must have been at this shop in the middle of nowhere for at least 2 hours before finally leaving at around 3pm. It was still hot when we got going again but not as bad as before. It was relatively hilly which didn't make life easy. I think we stopped one more time for a break before the end of the day. Just before reaching our destination of Bouizakarne we descended down a breathtaking hill and there was this huge expanse of desert ahead. We then turned a corner towards the bottom of the hill and the town came into view all on its own surrounded by desert. This was an awesome sight. Of course several photos were taken and Tom got the I-touch out to do some filming. He dropped it whilst filming the descent into town. Thankfully it was fine. Chris had gone on ahead into town and I met up with him at the main junction 5-10 minutes after the I-touch was dropped. I got some water straight away from a shop - I already had water but wanted cold water. No sign of Tom. 5 minutes later still no sign of Tom - we figured he must have been doing something with the I-touch. Eventually 10-15 minutes later he came along. He had been stopped by the police who wanted to see his passport. The time was probably 4.45. There was approx. 30km to go to the next town of Guelmin. I wasn't overly fussed but thought we should really carry on as should be able to get there before dark. Chris was against this idea so we stayed in Bouizakarne. We found a cheap hotel very quickly with the help of a local man. The hotel was very basic and had the Moroccan standard hole-in-the-floor toilet and crap shower. However it was only 60 dirhams each, was nice and quiet we weren't confident on finding anywhere else so we took it. We managed to get 2 rooms as nobody else was there. I soon went for a shower. There was no soap and the shower head bracket was loose. I managed to secure the shower head with some string before having my shower. It was cold but had a reasonable water pressure. After Tom and Chris had their showers we decided to head out to find food. I wanted to cook as had spent too much on food in the petrol station earlier. Chris was keen to get a meal. After a few failed attempts to get food at restaurants Chris settled for the cooking. We resupplied at a shop before heading back to the hotel. When we got back the main door was locked and nobody was in. We were stuck outside as the owner must have gone out for the Ramadan feast. We weren't amused. We tried to reach through this hole/window in the door to pull down the handle from the inside. This of course didn't work. We looked around the perimeter of the hotel and there didn't appear to be a way in. Chris wandered round the back. A few minutes later Chris appeared inside the door. I don't know how exactly he managed to get in but apparently he managed to scale one of the massive walls, go over the roof and climb down inside the courtyard area. He had to go in his room and get the multitool screwdriver to unscrew the lock and let us in. Once in and having screwed the lock back on we took some plastic table and chairs from the courtyard into our room and got the slaggy tuna on the go. The music came out too. It was a great relaxing meal and we had eaten sufficiently. We got an early night at about 10pm. I looked at the iPad and began plotting my next cycle tour.
Woke up on time, had a poo in a bush nearby then went back to others. We had breakfast whilst they were getting up then they had breakfast which delayed the agreed leaving time by maybe 15 or 20 mins. It was good just being the three of us - it was like our previous 'Istanballers' tour again. We stopped at a cafe/tourist shop area for breakfast at around 10-10.30am and it was starting to get pretty hot. We sat in a nice courtyard area and ordered large omelettes. I got chatting to some Belgians who were doing some charity work with schools further north in Morocco. The omelette was really nice and of course came with the standard round bread. I got the speaker out as there was virtually no other customers around and had a nice chill out after the food. We creamed up and left between 1 - 1.5 hours after arriving. The next section (as was the majority of the day in fact) was inland, undulating and hot. There were no big towns all day and the scenery was awesome. At one point just before we stopped for lunch I had a pretty close call with an overtaking car driving in the opposite direction - I wasn't in imminent danger just had to slow down to let the cars pass. Another standard bread and chocolate spread lunch break in a small town and we pushed on. When we got within about 25-30km of Agadir the road we were on changed from a southerly direction into an easterly direction causing our tailwind to turn into a sidewind. We didn't expect it to be as mental as it was - easily the strongest cross winds I have ever ridden in we had to take it slow and steady, lean into the wind to stop getting blown over whilst having to move out of the way of passing vehicles which themselves created a strong draft when overtaking. So it was a case of trying to maintain a reasonably straight line somewhere in the middle of our side of the road (we would have been blown over had we been at the edge) Tom even fell off at one point. These conditions slowed progress significantly - thankfully this only lasted about 30 mins/about 6 or 7kms as the road turned south again. After the winds it was fast and relatively easy riding. Chris stopped at a beach and wanted to go on a jet ski. I told him he could go on a jet ski if we were still on budget when we got to Dakhla. We arrived in Agadir just after 6pm, saw a McDonalds as we headed into the centre so decided to stop here to check where the Ibis budget was (we had looked this up last night when having dinner in Essouira). Chris and Tom had a meal as didn't eat that much at lunch - I was ok as had a massive lunch. We got the directions without having to wait too long for wifi to load so collected our bikes from the car parking bay and made our way towards the hotel (Chris was very tired and wanted to go to one of the other hotels we had passed to save having to go this few extra km's to the Ibis budget). Anyway we followed the road towards the hotel. We had passed the standard Ibis and were now heading towards the cheap Ibis in a less attractive part of town. Some guys invited us over for some food when they saw us cycle past which was nice and we may well have joined them if they'd been next to our hotel. Anyway we found the hotel soon enough next to a major road away from other houses and people. We left our bikes stood in a corner in the trusted hands of the car park security guard. Then came to paying - they were asking 100 dirhams or so more than what was advertised for the same room on their website. I wasn't having this and after some discussion the price was matched to the price on the website. We went up to the room - it was pretty small but had everything we needed (decent beds, shower, toilet and wifi). Shortly later the receptionist came to our room. Saying he'd made a mistake when checking us in and had not charged us enough for our room and that someone would have to go down to reception and pay the balance. I was tired and irritable so well up for an argument. So I went down to reception in nothing but a pair of shorts to talk with the manager. After about 10 minutes of me repeating to him that 'it's your problem for not charging us enough for the room, we are already in, and have already paid what we agreed on arrival, we will not pay the extra money you are asking for' he finally gave in and let it go. I then forgot what room we were staying so had to go back down and ask at reception. Tom had got the gas stove out and was knocking up some slaggy tuna on the window sill. I went down to use the hotel computer by reception for a Facebook session. I managed to eventually upload 5 photos out of maybe 50 that I wanted to due to the computer being a bit dodgy. By the time I went back to the room Chris and Tom were in bed getting ready to go to sleep. I had the slaggy tuna they had left me and went to bed promptly after at maybe midnight.
We got up pretty early and successfully left at around 6.30. After getting some directions from a lorry driver we headed out of town. We cycled past a power plant when exiting the town. After this there were a few noticeable climbs early on - the biggest we had come across since getting into Morocco. Tom got a puncture pretty soon after a few climbs, which then turned into an excuse for a coffee and snack break. I think me may have then stopped fairly soon after for some more food before the big push to Essouria. The ride to Essouria was pretty hard with very little towns or settlements along the way, it was a lot of hillier and hotter as the road took us inland and the road surface wasn't the best. With probably about 30km to go we had some dogs running after us (thankfully they didn't get too close). Another 5 or 10km along we stopped at the bottom of a big climb for some much needed water and food. Chris pushed on. Anyway after the 5-10 minute break we pushed on slowly up the hill. We then got to a t-junction taking us onto a main road which was newly tarmacked and we turned right. There was a relatively strong cross wind as we were heading west. Thankfully this westerly road didn't last long and we were soon at the top of the hill overlooking Essouira. When I arrived Chris was chatting to a biker who very kindly offered us some water. We then rolled down the hill into the town. One of the first places we saw was a surf-style bar/restaurant selling meals and beer we of course decided to stay here. We were very pleased to see familiar food such as spaghetti bolognaise, pizzas and burgers on the menu. I went for bolognaise as did Tom. I can't remember what Chris and Mark got but it would have been something familiar and they got a beer with their meal. We had a chat about whether to stay here for the rest of the day or try to push on further (it was early afternoon and we could still have covered many more km's). I was strongly in favour of staying as it was really nice here and we could still get to Agadir tomorrow (which would mean we were sticking to the schedule) as this was around 185km away. Tom wanted to push on and I Chris wasn't all that fussed. I managed to persuade Tom and Chris to stay in Essouria for the rest of the day. After the meal we went to leave and got chatting an English family who were really friendly and interested in what we were doing. We explained that this was where we said goodbye to Mark and that we needed to find him a cheap hotel for 2-3 days. They pointed us the direction of a bar towards the old town who's owners would be able to advise us on the best places to stay. After our conversation we saw some guy doing camel rides on the beach and enquired about prices. He said 140 dirhams for all of us each getting a 15 min ride. Although tempted I stuck to the 'stay on budget' mentality refusing the camel ride and we headed towards the old town. We failed to find the bar we were referred to so just found a cafe. Me and Mark went to find Mark a room whilst Tom and Chris chilled out at the cafe with the stuff. I found an ATM and got a load of money out for me, Chris and Tom (the 80 Dirham per day original budget was well and truly out the window and we were getting low on cash). I told them to budget 200 dirhams per day from now on and stick to this as I didn't want to have to withdraw any more money out in Morocco. I withdrew the money and carried on with Mark into the old town. The first few places were far too expensive so we headed towards some cheaper looking hotel signs. We hen bumped into a guy who escorted us down an alley to a hotel. Mark went to look at the room and was happy. It was within his budget so he decided to stay here after insisting he had to chain his bike to something in one of the downstairs rooms rather than leave it unlocked in the hall. The guy who showed us the room asked for a tip and said he would show us around when we got back up to the main bit of the old town. Mark gave him some money we walked up to the main bit and he disappeared very quickly. We then went back to meet Tom and Chris. Chris had ordered more food. Chris and Mark went for a swim and I went to find a shop to buy food whilst Tom watched the stuff. I had to walk down a couple of roads before finding a shop next to a petrol station. They didn't have any chocolate, so I had to make do with bread, fruit and juice. I got six bits of bread (enough for some for now and some for breakfast). I went back to the others and they had finished their swim. Chris thought the water was cold but wanted to go back in again. Me and Tom weren't keen and Mark wasn't keen on going in again. Tom gave in and went in after 10 or 15 minutes with Chris. I had a food session at the cafe - the cafe had stopped serving food so the waiters didn't care about me eating. This must have been around 3.30-4.30. An hour or so later Mark went back to his hotel to have a shower and change before we would meet back at he surf bar for a drink later. We headed back to the bar shortly after and got some beers. The bar had a very nice outside seating area with sofas so my plan was to stay until closing and then sleep on these sofas overnight. Mark rejoined us about 30 mins later and I gave him a beer. They bar closed at around 6.30 - when we initially arrived it was just before this so we got our drinks in promptly upon arrival. Mark talked about his plan for the next few days which was to spend 3 days here and 3 days in Marrakech before his flight home. After a lengthy chill on the sofas we decided to try and find somewhere to get a meal as were still pretty hungry. There was a restaurant a few doors along still open so we went here. The owner was English and very friendly. I got a margarita pizza as this was the cheapest option and I was keeping a close eye on the budget. The wifi here was good so I had a Facebook session. The pizza was passable. We then had a lengthy chat with the owner about The Westrn Sahara and he told us that it wouldn't just be a sand dunes like we were expecting but also rocks and plants dotted about everywhere. He also told us about the camel gateway - we were really looking forward to this. He was happy to let us sleep on his sun loungers outside overnight which was a relief as the alternative would have been dragging all the stuff to the sandy beach and sleeping there. I made use of the restaurant toilet before getting the Blue Kazoo out and lying on one of the sun loungers. Chris and Tom needed to go to the supermarket to get food and water for the morning. Just before they left me and Chris were discussing sleeping arrangements and I let out what must have been the loudest most prolonged fart of the trip to date. About 10 seconds later we saw a man emerge from the darkness very close to us. It was the night watchmen. Thankfully he didn't seem bothered about the fart. Chris and Tom then left to stock up whilst I went to bed having got the double lounger. It was reasonably comfortable. It must have been around 11pm and I set my alarm for 5.30.
I successfully got up at 4, had a shower - this time getting far less water on floor due to strategically angled shower head. Found some Coco Pops in the cupboard and blew a few ants off before having these for breakfast. The others woke up at 5 and a few minutes later the security guy knocks. We explained to him we still had half an hour - he was just checking up on us to make sure we would be out on time. I was first ready closely followed by the others and we began making our way out of the flat at 5.30. We loaded up the bikes still under the guards watchful eye. We were pedalling at about 5.45. It was fantastic to be cycling this early as the roads were very quiet and it was nice and cool. Pretty soon after setting off Chris's gears started jumping badly and he couldn't ride smoothly in any gear. After a bit of deliberation we decided that the best thing to do was to cable tie the gear arm in position. This stopped the jumping but meant Chris only had one gear (not a massive issue as the day was flat). We pushed all the way to El Jadida before stopping (prob about 50k). El Jadida was a really nice seaside town with great beach and palm tree lined roads - the nicest place we had come across in Morocco so far. It had an Ibis budget hotel allowing for the tourist/beach trade. As we couldn't find a McDonald's we had to make do with a standard shop snack breakfast. The guy at the shop was cool and let us eat right outside. This was at about 8.30am - it was great to have coverered 50km already and gave us a chance to claw back some of the time we lost yesterday. We sat outside the shop and had a big breakfast/lengthy break. The rest of the day gave us some spectacular cycling with awesome coastal roads and country roads - far nicer than the smelly busy roads we were used to. It was noticeably hotter than normal. As it neared midday we stopped at a petrol station for some food. It was in the middle of nowhere and we were warned about eating even before we started by the locals there. So we got our food and cycled just down the road out of the sight to eat. We found a nice spot by the side of the road. I also used this as an opportunity to make my front fork bottle cages (I'd been carrying a couple of round plastic tubes that I had found in Spain and taped these to the forks). After a pretty long break we pushed on. There were miles and miles of deserted beach that we cycled past which looked ideal for surfing/windsurfing. We came across another town between 2 and 3pm called Oualidia. This was also very nice and had stunning beaches but less touristy. We stopped here for another food session. One of the locals took a photo of Chris and Toms bike. After this it was non stop all the way to Safi at the end. I was getting tired and hungry towards the tail-end of the day, with this last push taking what seemed like forever. There were lots of fisherman with buckets of fish they were selling at the side of the road. I got talking to another cyclist whilst riding who was from Safi who had caught me up. As well as the standard conversation about the trip and me asking about him/what cycling is like locally I found out that we should be able to find somewhere to stay in Safi for approx. 60 dirhams. And there were lots of good fish restaurants there. This conversation was a welcome distraction from the monotony of the ride and must have spoken to him for about 30 mins. Eventually I reached Safi and descended into the town to meet the others at the bottom of the hill. From here we made our way into the centre and found a nice looking hotel. Chris went in to check the price. Meanwhile we were approached by some guys saying they could find us much cheaper hotels. The nice hotel was too expensive so we followed one of these guys to a much cheaper alternative down the road. It was very basic but only 60 Dirhams per person so we decided to go for it. We attracted a load of kids whilst waiting outside the hotel who loved the bikes and everything on them - they were really nice. We had to carry the bikes up some stairs and into the room which wasn't by any means a five minute job and then had to rearrange the room to accommodate the bikes. We had a splash wash in the sink in our room as the showers were either non existent or awful. Mark wanted to go out and get a meal whilst me Chris and Tom decided to cook more slaggy tuna. Halfway through boiling the water Mark comes back telling us about this awesome kebab restaurant. He persuaded us to go and get a kebab with him. The man who showed us our hotel before was lurking around outside and Tom gave him 20 Dirhams as a token gesture not knowing Mark had also given him 20 dirhams earlier. We got to the restaurant and were we glad Mark had convinced us to come as his food looked great. We all ordered the same as what Mark had. We were given a plate of salad and a few massive baskets of bread when all we asked for was a beef kebab each. We were slightly concerned that they might try and charge us extra for this. The kebab and chips were really nice and this along with some water came to only around 60 Dirhams each. Chris headed straight back to the hotel as was tired after this long day whilst me, Mark and Tom had a quick look around the market and picked up bread for the morning. We got back and promptly went to bed at about 11.30.