Saturday 6th ~ To Rabat via Roman ruins at Moualy Idriss
All wake feeling a little better today than when we arrived yesterday evening. Mind you, that wouldn’t be hard. We start the day with a short run back the way we came, to see the roman ruins at Moulay Idriss. We arrive before the coach loads of tourists and almost take the local touts by suprise. Almost – not quite. They’re still well able to try to sell us something – not fussed what – fossils, our Bikes “looked after”, a guided tour or a genuine Moroccan ____ (insert tat of choice here). Anything to part us from a few bob.
Toms camera get a cold reception at the entrance and is not allowed in. So we say fine – we dont want to come in, turn on our heels and exit. I’m relieved, the ruins remind me of the campsite – both have seen better days and dont look very appealing. I have to admit to being distracted too – there’s a chance of a proper cup of coffee at the coffee bar attached to the ruins – just beside the tourist shop that I manage to just take a quick I’m-not-really-interested look at. Terry’s not so lucky and gets the full treatment from the old salesman, who plagued him til we were leaving! Meanwhile, there’s a bit of Bike fettling going on and some of us have relented and gone into the ruins for a look – Tom, complete with small video camera and a bit of subtlety. I have coffee – I’m happy.I go to see what’s going on with the Bikes – all I can do is get coffees and soft drinks, so I do. That’s the extent of my help.
Now I learn a little more about this continent as I need to relieve my bladder. I find the loos. Go about my business and as I leave there’s a man with his hand out – expecting me to give money for this privilege. I bristle and refuse / ignore him. He near enough blocks my path (nearly said passage – not appropriate). I return to where the lads are gathered and the Bike fettling is going on and am having a moan about this beggar. Ian, who throughout the trip showed a vast amount of knowledge of local customs and practice – even in places he’d not been before, informs me that the man probably does actually clean the toilets and his only income would be from sticking his hand out to the tourists. What he expected to receive was the equivalent of about ten pence and yes, he was understandably miffed at my reaction. In relative terms – I’m a millionaire. I give it some thought. I returned to the toilets, found the guy and handed over about twenty pence and an apology. While in principal I detest begging, in practice I’ve just got a lesson in world economics. If I were the local toilet cleaner, I would do the same as he. Good luck to him / shame on me, my ignorance and assumption.
Moving on, the roads are a blessed relief today. Set in rolling hills surrounded by good farmland, the colours make Irelands forty shades of green look like monochrome, it’s mild and pleasant. Bliss on a Bike. Funny how different one day makes a place look. Funny how much easier these roads are compared to yesterdays. Hmmm, mentally I shrug and just thank the gods for small mercies.
I find a ‘Farmacia’ in the same town as our lunch stop. Yes, I said lunch stop. ANYhow, the Farmacia understand my stumbling French and sell me, with no hassle 60 x 50mg Diclonfenac tablets for about ten euro. WooHoo! I’m sorted! anti inflamatory and no codeine content! I have enough opiates with me to dope the entire group for a week / but these are the only pills I can pop without rightly fecking up my system – not to mention my capablity to ride a Bike. Happy now, I also find a phone shop that sells me a Moroccan sim card and about seven or eight euros worth of credit to go with it. Chuffed at my resourcefulness I join the lads for lunch. Sadly I later find out the sim and my phone wont get on – I can send all I like, but cannot recieve! *Fume!!!* Meteor, my ‘service non provider’ get an earful upon my return – but that’s no help to me now.
Back on the road with a full stomach and caffeine levels suitably adjusted, the rest of the day goes well until we reach the outskirts of Rabat itself. The town is mayhem with rush hour traffic, we cant find a hotel. We were supposed to be camping – but our leader cant find the campsite we were headed for. I think it turns out that this campsite no longer exists, but I’m not sure. Most of the group are actually relieved as we would prefer a hotel tonight anyhow. It shouldn’t be expensive, should it? Not here, not now, not for what we’re looking for – not top notch tourist – we’d happily settle for something a little less fancy, wouldn’t we lads?
Disaster strikes. On one of our laps around the town centre (we did a few), Toms bike makes ominous noises. We must stop and investigate. We pull up onto a roundabout exit that’s in the process of repair and is not open to traffic. All the Bikes and somehow the car and trailer too enter this exit. A watchman / labourer comes over and makes it very plain that we cant park here! We explain and his attitude melts into sympathy and leaves us alone to curse and swear. Looking over the bike it is easy to see now what’s wrong; a spoke has parted company from the rim, destroyed the chainguard and punctured the tyre. Tom is not happy as he was assured by all he asked, that a loose spoke (the Bike was checked and this was noted earlier on) would not cause any major problems. Now, it has to be said that this is normally true – the chances of a serious problem are slim, possible but slim. However, two things come to mind; one is that if this does cause a problem it could result in a serious crash and secondly, exactly this happened to me, was the single most serious crash I’ve ever had and it’s how I remodelled my nose and am lucky to be here writing this story now! In my case, speed was higher and I highsided the Bike, landed on my face and slid face first along the road. (My Son was on the back at the time, aged seven – another story for another time. Suffice to say it was serious.)
Tom is angry as all assurances led him to believe that a loose spoke was a minor thing, and it was. But it might not have been. So, here we are, middle of a Moroccan town, rush hour, no hotel sorted yet and a Bike that’s not going anywhere. Some of the lads are on their mobiles, trying to suss a hotel. Aint mobile internet a wonderful thing?! No joy though and now we’re worrying. Meanwhile me and Andy (master mechanic and a good line in interesting curse words) are doing what we can with Toms Honda Benly. As cameraman he has a superior bike to the rest of us. (stop sniggering)
So, long story – edited version; I manage to bodge three Honda C90 spokes into the holes we’ve removed three mangled and loose Honda Benly ones out of. We gaffer tape the inside of the entire rim to replace the remains of the rim tape and cover the rust. We get air into the tyre and pray. While all this is going on, we have the inevitable audience of locals, getting whatever amusement they can from the mad tourists. Among them is an English teacher and his son. They take pity on us and the teacher offers to escort us and find a hotel.
The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing – you never know when, but I assure you, you will come across it when you need it.
He gets in the car, his son on the back of a Bike. We traipse around some more, but this time armed with local knowledge. Soon we have a hotel. It’s not the usual touristy place, it’s one locals use, it’s right beside the old city walls (this proves to be a bonus later on) and it’s the equivalent of £15 a night, per twin room. Sorted! “Hotel Lutece” is immediately renamed by us “Hotel Lettuce”. The Bikes get parked in the foyer. The car down a side street. We arrange a ‘guard’ for £5 per night to look after the car and more importantly the trailer for us.
Sheesh! That turned into a long day. We settle down. Some just want a long shower. Some seek alcohol. Some food. Some ‘Net access. Some just want to chill. A bubble of tension has just burst and we slump – glad of the break and the rest. This has not been an ‘Adventure’ thus far and certainly no holiday. It’s a test of stamina and resources- both riders and Bikes. How quick and how well can you adapt? But then what did we expect – a package tour with all the rough edges smoothed and nasty bits edited out? No, we’re all big boys here – we’re just taken aback and uncomfortable. There’s a general vague feeling that we haven’t got the full facts – a grip on the overall ‘plan’… and all the suprises are not nice ones.
Anything else I might say is heat of the moment – hot air – emotion not logic, not rational. But wait a minute – we’ve every right to be emotional haven’t we? This entire journey was motivated by emotion not logic, that much is certain. Tomorrow is another test, for entirely different reasons.
I settle into my room. a nap always does me a power of good. But first I open the curtains and meet the neighbours;