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Stage 4 - Straits of Gilbraltar

We were hit with a horrendous deluge sometime before midnight, followed by lessor rain and wind squalls through the night. While the tent inside remained dry, everything outside was sodden. Morning prayer wakes me up at 4:00 a.m. - the rain is a minor drizzle at this point, but puddles everywhere about. The rolled up tent and fly at least double their normal weight; fortunately, plastic garbage bags on hand served to protect remainder of duffel contents from these dripping items. Sure glad I don’t have to carry this stuff further then the truck.

A perilous but short descent from the camp onto a coastal boulevard; really, that road is so steep it can’t possibly be legal. The weather clears to an almost cloudless sky, and we follow this coast hugging avenue into old Tangier, past colonial era buildings, parks, and squares. The city is soaking up the morning sunshine looking very impressive, and seems worth a lot more time than I’m able to expend on this trip.

Todays ride shorter than the past two days, but with an expected 1500 m of climbing ahead. Good news is that it’s all to be done by the time we reach the lunch truck. Great views out across the entrance to the Straits, and back at Tangier. For whatever reason, I fail to pull the camera out while riding through Tangier, so this shot looking back on the city is all I’ve got.

Some uncertainty at a round-about but … route points onto a dirt/mud track leading upward, so… it’s an adventure ride, after all. Up ~100 m, and then down again the same through concrete lane ways and past ladies trudging back up the hill from early morning prayer or perhaps a shop.

The view across the Straits to Spain is just stunning,. Finally, I can see Gibraltar in the distance. Pretty impressive rock, all right.

Several more minor climbs, quick descents and soon enough onto the main event of the day. As Doug describes these climbs, they’re ‘tasty.’ We’ve a bit of shoulder, and by and large, traffic pretty good. Reach the lunch truck, which is parked just shy of the top, in reasonable time. The wind is howling from the west at this point, so I’ve got on my jacket plus two jerseys, and huddle in lieu of the van. Wolf down a couple of sandwiches as soon as I can and push off … want to get over and down. Descent not a fun time due to gusting crosswinds.

The temperature jumps when on the coastal road again; that’s the climbing for the day, more or less, and just another 40 km or do, with generally a quartering breeze to help. Wonderful wide avenues, manned at regular intervals by street sweepers, who stand leaning on their hand brooms obstinately in the bike lane (yes, a designated bike lane).

Not much left in the legs after the morning, and I just would prefer getting the day done. Eventually miss my critical 90° to left, but only overshoot a hundred metres or so; road construction is my excuse this time. Course correction made so now am going due south on sort of a bridge (rutted concrete, over what might be called a slough). No rails and oncoming traffic make it more interesting. Another 90° after the bridge and on a long straight bit of road going east (which surprises me but the tailwind pushes one into definite comfort zone. This last 10 km to camp flashes by; swing into a Shell petrol station with large gravel parking lot behind - our camp for the night. Great views looking across to Spain; wind still blowing very strong out of west. Getting tent up is a challenge, but Omar (Moroccan interpreter) is a big help.

No showers, but basin and cold water faucets revive, as does the sweet Moroccan mint tea. Pizzas in the restaurant, courtesy of TDA.

Dinner over very quickly, just too windy and chilly to stand about outside. Retreat to the restaurant attached to this Shell station, write this up and recharge various bits and pieces. Just past 7:00 pm and I’m for bed as soon as I can.

Tomorrow will be ‘spicy’ … Doug reckons the climbs will rival the Blue Nile Gorge, albeit sans baboons and rock throwing kids. But the final climb will take us into Chefchaouen and a rest day.

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