Welcome to Africa (23 October)

With the bikes sorted we made our plans to head south and make up for lost time. Destination Granada. Out of Madrid the roads started to become more interesting. Eventhough the wind was still strong and biting the sight of olive plantations along the road gave us the satisfaction that we were indeed making progress towards warmer climes. We then crossed the Sierra Nevada with its stunning snow covered mountain tops and arrived at our campsite for the night. We received a very warm welcome and were told that, had we arrived an hour earlier, there would’ve been paella for us…

We were glad we are carrying earplugs with us because the site was much closer to the busy road than we had expected!

Granada to Algeciras was a real high; the first part reminded us of the morning of our ride in California with Walt and Cindy Hastings as we could feel a Mediterranean air but were surrounded by low fog. This was followed by a 50km stretch in him drizzle until we came down the mountains and approached Malaga.

Here the weather became hot and the vistas opened up to a majestic Mediterranean Sea bathed in sun and populated by sailing boats. We both cheered in our intercoms; we had made it to the Mediterranean! Not a great achievement if you are used to driving down with the family for the summer but it was a real milestone for us on our 650cc bikes we commute to work with!

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We had planned to cross straight to Tangier but the ferry timetable dictated that we should land in Ceuta; the Spanish enclave on the Moroccan side. We had been warned of the touts who make the crossing a nightmare but frankly, with a big smile some jokes and a determined air we managed to be left in peace. I think that looking Moroccan helped too! In fact, the first thing I was asked when we got the bikes through customs was whether I am Moroccan; a question I was asked a 100 times during my last visit and have already been asked a dozen times in the last couple of days.

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Once I told the customs official “tonight in Chefchaouen and then all the way to The Gambia” he smiled, waved us through and wished us a safe voyage.

That’s where Africa began! As soon as we were on Moroccan soil things changed rapidly. The roadsides were populated by people selling everything and anything. Cars were mostly old Mercedes Benz 240 which had probably spent their youths as taxis in Germany but were now on a second or third life. Repair and reuse. People changed too, faces were darker, women wore veils and men robes. We also saw hundreds of sheep and goats whose days were clearly numbered (its Eid on Friday) and a few donkeys who probably wishes their end was nearer. Speaking of fauna, Louise spotted a camel! I didn’t though and am pretty upset with that; I usually spot things first…

So after a long day on the saddle we finally made it to the Rif mountains and the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen. We found a guard for our bikes, Abdul, and our hostel for the next two nights, Riad Baraka. Funnily enough, as we were speaking to Joe, the owner, he told us that he gets adventure bikers now and then and asked us if we’d heard of “Tim Cullis who wrote a great review about this place which has increased business ever since. I over-heard him speak of Morocco and there’s no doubt this guy is an expert”.

So here we are, enjoying Chefchaouen for two nights. Unfortunately we have to go to Rabat tomorrow for a day or two to get our Mauritanian visas. We’ll take the small picturesque routes but it does mean that we’ll have to miss Tim’s recommended route to Fez.

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