KM START = 12,204
(Trip = 1,834 )
KM END = 12,408 (Trip
Valencia > Denia > Xabia > Benidorm (eek)
Federico, Estrella and the kids, a few photos and we are off down the coast. On
the road and it feels like the first day of holiday riding – sun on our backs
and amazing views of the coastline from twisting coastal roads.
Denia to Calpe is fantastic. No desire to head to the big smoke of Alicante so
we decide to crash the night in Benidorm – the logic being there would be
plenty of cheap beds and none of the hassle of a big city.
My God! Where
to start with this place, and what to write what has probably already been
slandered so fully. I am sure one of the devils trick questions is whether you
would like to spend eternity in a Mediterraneran country, on the coast all day
in the sunshine. What he neglects to tell you is that place is Benidorm, whereby
you wish you had chosen eternal damnation in the roasting fires of Hell –
passion for concrete is beyond that of Stalinist Russia. Hopes of dinner were
dashed when our roast chicken and vegetable dinner led the CSI Benidorm team to
conclude that the chicken may have indeed been roasted in a previous
incarnation, but the lab results came back negative with no traces of vegetable
matter apparent on the plate.
A bus ride
home with a group of purple rinse English bingo tourists, followed by a stroll
along the chic ocean boulevarde home, where another middle aged expat sat with
her Murph and the Magic Tones synthesiser and proceeded to destroy all your
favourite songs from the 1850s and 60s. Pierpaolo is under strict instruction
that at any point, should I ever call this entertainment, he is to take me out
into the back paddock and shoot me.
KM START = 12,408
(Trip = 2,038 )
KM END = 12,809 (Trip
Benidorm > Alicante > Vera > Almeria > Nador (Morocco)
feeling great, then realise we are in Benidorm so elation quickly subsides.
plastic breakfast, some photos to remember this abomination by and peel out
early en route to Alicante in search of an Algerian Visa.
I joke about the time here in Benidorm, and think it as a wonderful remedy for
anyone thinking of early retirement. If ever there was an incentive to stay
working you just need to take a look at that place. The potential to be used as
a base for corporate team building exercises is also discussed, as in this light
work seems like a fantastic option.
How did this
place come about? One theory is that it was all a big competition to find the
most inappropriate building structures for a coastal town, but instead of
submitting scale models for consideration, you could actually submit your entry
in life size. The competition organisers were swamped with over 600 applicants,
with the whole thing being sponsored by the Spanish concrete industry and UK
Pension Funds. Its a little bit out there, but there is some currency in the
port we are given no news on visas, but advised to head to the consulate in
town. Its a public holiday in Algeria, and embassies are of course slave to
anything that allows them to reduce the amount of those hectic 10.00 – 13:00
working days, but we are told that if you bang on the door loud enough, someone
loud banging yields helpful people and we are advised that a 7 day transit visa
is no problem…just dont mention the South in your travel plans. One can only
imagine what goes on in that corner of the country, but we stay safe and talk of
our long held desire to trace the majestic Algerian coastline. Only problem
being that the visa takes 2 working days to process. So this will have to wait
for another day.
heading to Gibraltar via the Alhambra of Granada seem to head off the
rails…seeing all of the port signs in Arabic has aroused in us a need to get
to Morocco ASAP. Plans are quickly changed and by lunch, we are heading to
Almeria for a night ferry to Nador.
Almeria has a
nice friendly port town feel to it, and already the Arabic influnce is present
in the signs and the shopkeepers. Our 11PM ferry is delayed – Pierpaolo looks
at the inside and says its quite evident why! One of the vehicle loading ramps
has collapsed and is dangling waywards like a piece of deranged metal spaghetti.
Thanks that our bikes werent going up it or beneath it at the time. But a Motley
collection of 12 smoking captains, 17 handwaving locals, 23 disinterested
bystanders and 1 forklift truck manage to make amends and by 2AM we are on the
seas heading to Africa at last.
KM START = 12,809
(Trip = 2,439 )
KM END = 13,220 (Trip
Nador > Driouch > Kassita > Al Hociema > Ketama
Wake up in
Africa! What a great feeling. Going through customs and immigration at 6AM –
the usual sort of hustle and hassle you would expect at any such place, but even
the hustlers turn out to be helpful and gladly point us in the right direction
without demanding any baksheesh.
customs and immigration police could not be more helpful, and within an hour we
have our visas, Feu Verts (vehicle Green Card) and are on the road. Hooray for
Moroccan tourism – we love you!
route to Chefchaouen was thought to be just a dull transit to escape the Spanish
motorway option, but within a few kilometres our assumptions are blown out of
the water. The roads are amazing, with perfect tarmac, camber and scenery. Kids
waving whenever you pass by and scenery that is like a rolling collection of
great landscape paintings.
of our 400km in the saddle is mind boggling. Some parts remind me of the
Australian scrub, fields of Irish green, other bits like the mountain forests of
Northen California. The smell of a cut eucalyptus further confuses the senses,
and its hard to imagine that you are actually in Africa. But the towns are a
reminder – wide streets that are like rifle barrels, shooting off into
nowhere. All filled with hawkers, merchants, donkeys and belching diesel trucks.
Its chaos, but its a privilege to be part of it all.
Amid all of
this, the thought of doing Africa from North to South springs to mind… we both
can start to understand Tonis obsession with African overland travel.
By the end of
the day and I can confidently say that I have had the best days riding in my
life. A great decision to come here earlier than planned. We have also had
cheese (sort of - Le vache qui rire)
sandwiches for 3 meals straight and we hanker for some real food. We arrive in
Chefchaouen, a wonderful medina town on the edge of the Rif Mountains. The walls
of the town are all painted blue and its a perfect place to chillo ut for a
while, refuel our bellies and enjoy the feeling of being in another continent.
REST DAY –
A chance to relax and
stay in one place for a full day. Ambitions stretch as far as going for a walk,
taking a hammam, and washing our clothes so that they are no longer biohazard
First one is the
hammam. 50 metres from our hotel with no hot water, we venture down and subject
ourself to washing the Arabic way. First thing is to leave any preconcepetions
about African hygiene you may harbour at the hotel, along with any inhibitions!
In towns where few people have running hot water, this is the only place to wash
Basically it involves
going to the local bathhouse (8-12 for men, 12 – 8PM for women) and paying
someone to beat the living crap out of you for 20 minutes. All in your jocks.
Admittedly its not a very good advertisement for this personal hygiene routine,
but it captures the essence of it all.
We undress in the
hall to our jocks, don some communal flip flops, then go into a shower area with
a tiled bench. The masseur runs a trough of hot water and gives you a bucket
which you can douse yourself with liberally. Then the fun starts.
I am instructed to
lie down on the floor face down, whereupon the massueses arms and hands start
tearing and thumping at my body. Strangely enough I am enjoying it (please no
Brighton jokes!), with the masseuse expertly contorting me to positions best
reserved for Christmas turkeys.
Then I become one
with a piece of restored furniture, as the massuese takes to every square inch
of my body with what feels like 40 grade sandpaper. So this is what a deep clean
feels like! I feel about 3 millimetres thinner all over by the time he’s
finished, and then its my chance to sit back and laugh as he repeats the routine
We leave the
hammam feeling fantastic, and decide that hotels with no hot water is not going
to be a problem for the rest of the trip. Some delightful breakfast, served of
course with lashings of heavenly mint tea, and its time for a hike into the
A rough idea
of heading to a village up in the hills seems a good idea, but finding our way
to the correct path is harder than imagined. A local chappie advises us to
follow him, so somewhat stupidly we agree. What proceeds is a hike up the
steepest goat track you can imagine, with scree and rocks falling as we climb
higher and higher.
En route, our
guide meets up with a friend of his who is driving a flock of 40 goats up the
same track. We take a break and a few photos with the goats, and they smoke what
would be one of many kif (marijuana) pipes together. Bill Clinton would have
been proud, as neither of us inhaled :o)
To cut a long
story short, we are shown a very beautiful part of the Valley which would have
been inaccesible had we not bumped into our guide. Wonderful rock formations,
fields of kif in cultivation and contact with the local farmers and shepherds
that would not have taken place if we were by ourselves. But in true Moroccan
style, there was payment expected at the end, for which we somewhat begrudgingly
gave the guy 250 dinar (25 Euro), a fortune considering the average local wage
is about 60 dinar per day. Lesson number 1 in Morocco is that nothing is for
free, and negotiate before you set off. But there were no bad feelings, just a
raised level of awareness.
Back down to
town with aching legs, with a shave and a haircut in the Moroccan stylee (cut
throat and naff in that order!). After that its off to dinner overlooking the
Kasbah in town. An amazing day, for which we say our thanks into our pillows as
we drift off to a heavy nights sleep.
Tomorrow will be time to head south to the ancient city of Fez, and towards the Saharan sands of Erg Chebbi.