Stage 24 - a challenging day
A strange start to the day, as on the evening before, we had to switch our clocks forward by one hour; Morocco adjusted it’s time forward to GMT+1 on Sunday, May 8; in April, the government had decided to switch from GMT+ to GMT for the holy month of Ramadan (which explains in part why I’d messed up my times at the start of this tour).
It was already fairly warm on waking, with just a hint of breeze. I think Essaouria must be a real party town, as the music and laughter (and dogs) were heard through much of the night. Once again, glad I’ve got a decent pair of earplugs to filter out the worst of the noise. I missed the sound of the surf, though.
Getting away at a decent time all things considered, we’re into some hill climbing straight away. Big vistas of ocean and headlands made it a scenic start, however. We’re over the first major climb of the day by the first 20 km or so, when we enter a 14-15 km stretch of rough gravel road. This section particularly challenging to me at least, as the cobble-sized gravel loose and very broken up in places. The day had quickly warmed up to mid- to high-20s by this point, making it a bit of a slog to get through. I was lucky enough to keep upright at least; others took some tumbles with a few scrapes and bruises later being reported. The time spent on this section plus the heat, resulted in my water bottles being consumed quicker than normal, which was a bit concerning. The first available coke stop at almost 60 km.
Once through the gravel, we’re into the second climb of the day; much of this done on the busy N1 highway. While I’ve found Moroccan drivers to be really good, overall, there’s something about crowded two-lane highways that are just not pleasant. Most particularly the tendency of some on-coming drivers to pull out to pass, with cyclists clearly being nothing to worry about, we’re sure to hit the non-existent shoulders with alacrity.
I get to the first coke stop at close to noon, both bottles essentially empty. 2 litres of water and an ‘orangina’ drink later, plus a snack, revives. Only another 5 km of the N1 and I can turn west to get back onto a secondary road and make my way to lunch. I eventually get that done, but arrive much later than normal. The early afternoon now we’ll into the 30s, it seems. The remainder of the day is going north into a headwind, but that’s actually fine, as the ocean breezes are at least cooling.
Our hotel in Essaouria is right in the Medina; of course I get lost straight away in the maze. Local citizens seeing me pause at this or that corner, point the way without hesitation; it’s like they’ve been waiting all along to help these lost, dishevelled fools in Lycra. The hotel, once located, is wonderful.
Once showered and calmed down a little, I find a high rooftop restaurant bar serving cold Casablanca, and look out over the Atlantic in the late afternoon. Tomorrow is a rest day. Good.