Wednesday, 15 October 2008

7: Rainy days on the edge of the desert


Heavy flooding on the way south

Crossing over to Tangiers, I cleared the remarkably hassle-free passport control and customs and headed down the Atlantic coast to Rabat, a two and a half day journey along a surprisingly barren stretch of coastline. After collecting my Mauritanian visa in Rabat and enjoying a couple of evenings in the city with a group of people met through couchsurfing, I continued inland via Meknes towards the Middle Atlas mountain range. My intention had been to cross over some of the high mountain passes that lead into the Todra and Dades gorges but early rain and snowfalls haven't cooperated with my plans and instead I found that just riding along the sealed roads was a challenging enough. Even some of the main sealed roads have been cut here in the south and I'm trying to find out which route I can take back towards the Atlantic now, as I met Gerhard, a German cyclist yesterday, who had found himself cut off and roads closed with the runoff from the sodden mountains reaching into the normally dry desert region around Rissani and Merzouga.

Earlier today I was a couple of mouse clicks away from booking a flight back to Dublin. Adjusting to riding alone in Morocco has been harder than I would have imagined. The transition from an 'invisible' cyclist in the ride down through Europe, to being a very obvious outsider hasn't been a smooth one and I have found the demands of many people, particularly those under ten years of age, for sweets, money, my bicycle, and sunglasses quite a strain. Of course, it's not the first time I've been in such situations, but you are an easy target on a bicycle. While other tourists prefer air-conditioned buses, four-wheel drive vehicles, or fast motorbikes, and can therefore be more selective in what and who they choose to interact with, the cyclist has no such luxury. And, of course, this is the beauty of cycling too, that you have this proximity, that you break down barriers and are able to engage with people more readily. So I'm taking a day off to read up on how the global economy is descending into freefall and to sit back and take in a place for a day or two before packing my bags and riding on.

I've posted some photos too, just click on the link to the slideshow. I realise they are mostly of landscape rather than people. I'll try and work on that.

P.S. The above was written on a grim day in the desert. I just bought a headscarf from a group of guys that I've been hanging out with here in Erfoud for the past couple of days and they have convinced me that rather than cooking my head it will keep me cool. Inshallah. All is rosy once again.

Bislama.

Erfoud, Morocco

Trip distance: 5143 km

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