After a good ten hours sleep during last night’s sand storm, we woke this morning to prayers echoing around the old fort and now head further in to the Sahara desert along the dusty tarmac roads surrounded by the distant Anti Atlas Mountains.
Along the way we take a fuel stop and drink coffee with a hint of spices whilst we listen to further prayers. It obvious to see the transition now becoming prominently Arabic and much of our French is no longer understood, especially in a Welsh accent anyhow, with the greatset respect Dai.
We made steady progress along the N1 at low speeds so we could take in the magnificent bright yellow desert landscape with the deep blue Atlantic sea as the back drop, something I have never seen before. The N1 ran along the South West coast of Morocco and was surrounded by dunes either side with a sheer cliff face just a few meters away. There were ladders dangling down from the cliff face leading to the waves smashing in to the rocks below. The muscle pickers used these to climb down precariously so they can collect their catch at the end of the day. Dai being a fisherman found this fascinating and out I perspective his jolly jaunt around the harbour.
Approaching Tan Tan, Dai warned me of “Little and Large” who were two guardemerie well known for issuing fines to motorcyclist. We slowed right down so they didn’t have any excuse to stop us, but they did. They requested our Fiche which was the first time whilst in Morocco, and then waved us on our way.
In Tan Tan town the atmosphere changed dramatically and you could really feel the tension. The military presence was increasing the further south we rode. We stopped for coffee at a locals bar and not long after being there a fight broke out between a local drunk and the bar owner. There were soldiers watching the football in the bar but they didn’t react. As a crowd gathered we prepared for our escape but then all seemed to calm down so Dai went for his haircut at the Coiffeurs next door. It kicked off again and we thought this time we should leave.
Exiting the lawless Tan Tan we took it real easy as police road blocks are now every 2 – 3 miles. Unsurprisingly, we were stopped again. This time “Little and Large No. 2” asked for our passports and driving licences. We were concerned as our Moroccan insurance policy ran out yesterday and thought this could land us in jail for the night. We reluctantly handed our documents over. The Guarermerie then told us we didn’t stop at the stop sign, well we did but we have become so good at balancing our heavy bikes we didn’t feel the need to put two feet down on the floor. They Presented us with a 700 Dirham fine each! (the equivalent of 70 Euros each). I asjed to speak with their general and they replied saying it was he who told them to stop nus. Dai argued with them and I asked how much the fine will be if we didn’t ask for a receipt. Suddenly a second charge book was produced for 500 Dirhams each. Still not happy at the injustice I said we didn’t have that kind of money as we are camping and have a long way to go. A third charge book was then produced where the guardemerie explained if one of us took the blame for not wearing a helmet (which we were) then we would only have to pay 300 Dirhams between us and could be on our way. The fine was paid and on we went, very slowly, with iur helmets on and feet dragging along the floor.
Further down the road we were stopped five more times and suspect the authorities were radioing ahead to warn of our arrival. No more fines were issued though we did have to submit our Fiches at every check point. I feel this may be an example of things to come.
Still travelling the Desert road, two fighter jets thundered over head at unbelievable speeds similar to the oncoming trucks that are not speed limited and when they pass create a large crash of thunder and unbearable screech in my helmet. This is mainly due to the wind which was also causing us to lean the bikes at 45’ so not to be blown in to the dunes
In places the wind had swept the sand across the tarmac road creating mini dunes which had to be approached cautiously. The dunes then turned in to salt plains which made it too irristable not to go off road. With a 250 kg bike and over 100 kg of equipment this was soon to be regretted as the bike became buried in the deep powdery sand. Eventually I made it back onto the tarmac very out of breath and wonder how on earth I am going to cope with the Congolese roads ahead.
The next two petrol stations had run out of petrol, luckily the third hadn’t so I refuelled the bike and my spare container in case of further shortages down in the Western Sahara.
We arrived in Layounne, Western Sahara ahead of schedule and to Dai’s disagreement I located a three star hotel (The Sahara Line). The receptionist told us we could park the bikes in the secure car park at the, so we did and to our disbelief the car park was full of United Nation Vehicles and we’re wondering why their presence is necessary.
Tomorrow we continue the desert road further south and I predict another 1000 miles of sand covered tarmac to contend with until we reach Mauritania.
Now I try to sleep as the streets below come alive and celebrate Morocco;’s win against Mozambique.