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Stage 5 - Mediterranean

Not a wholly restful night due to the persistent winds, I’m no longer used to cracking tent noises all night. And sleeping on a bed of parking lot gravel was never my favourite. Anyway, day eventually dawned bright and cloudless, that’s a positive. Scrambled eggs for breakfast - a treat.

Wind still very strong out of the west, so no hanging about in camp looking for a second coffee. Away before 7:00 being pushed along nicely by those winds. Drive train sounding good (that is, virtually silent). I forgot to mention that I subjected the bike yesterday afternoon to the guys at the Shell car wash… 20 Dirham for a (power) wash and dry, a deal. The subsequent application of lubricant helped too.

All ok for the first few km or so, whereupon the coastal hills started their bite and it became very apparent that today was going to be a long and difficult one. We’re cycling southeast down the coast, steep brush covered hills on our right, Mediterranean on our left. Water looks inviting from up here in the sunshine, not too sure that it would be all that welcoming down below. A few small fishing boats are out there in the morning sunshine. We pass through some small villages, mostly barely awake it seems. Most if not all seem to have deserted beaches, cafés and the like all firmly closed. I know it’s Ramadan, but I suspect Covid-19 has also taken its toll on these obvious beachfront hangouts.

We run southeast for about 32 km on the coast highway, then turn southwest and inland at Oued Laou on RR406, a very tertiary sort of road passing through farmland and a moderately wide valley which beguiles for the first 10 km or so. Then the hills really start with repeated ups, lessor downs, and more ups as we climb into the Arif Mountains. I sort of stick with the program to reach the lunch truck at ~54 km mark. Maybe it’s just not enough fuel today? Shove down a couple of sandwiches and oranges, and refill both water bottles.

Roadside water point and rest station

Coke stop - closed

I push off again in the company of Mark, a nice guy who could be a cousin if not younger brother of my very good friend Dan in Denver. The similarities are uncanny. Nope, inadequate fuel not the issue - the legs just don’t have it today for whatever reason. The next 20 km keeps going up through a fabulous gorge before finally we’re dumped out on a wide highland valley sort of terrain. At least the road has stopped inflicting pain. I see a large town or collection of buildings at least, perched on top of a fairly prominent hill. Surely not?

Surely yes is the answer; the last 10 km really kicks up and it’s on a road under construction or improvement at least. Very bare, dusty, construction debris abundant and generally steep, and of course the day has heated up nicely. It’s a struggle to weave up this hill, nothing pretty about it at all. Finally reach Chefchaouen and it’s a Thursday afternoon; the streets are jammed with people and vehicles, a blast of noise after the road solitude of the past hours today. Tricky to see my route on the GPS in the glare but after some climbing to the seeming top of the town, reach hotel. And it really is a blue town!

TDA has out us into this great hotel (above) for the next two nights; thankfully a rest day tomorrow, as I need it. Ha… I’m on 3rd floor, but with view; what are the chances of a working elevator?

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