Stage 7 - Transition
The moon still well up when I finally crawled out of the tent about half an hour before sunrise; a slight breeze, but otherwise very quiet morning over the lake. I did hear calls to prayers at some point during the night but otherwise a pretty good sleep. Grabbing the camp shovel, I head up into the olive grove to verify that that all is well. That bit of morning calisthenics out of the way, it’s back to camp, dress for the day, pull down tent and re-pack daily bag, get a coffee and breakfast, check water bottles, and push off. Holly (medic) has been making up ‘oral rehydration salts’ so I do one bottle with that not-so-bad tasting concoction, the other with straight (treated) water. I’ll aim to drink both bottles by the time I reach the lunch stop at the planned 70-75 km.
Today is I think the prettiest morning so far on this trip. The first 2-1/2 kms on a rutted dirt track rolling along side the lake, temperatures cool but not requiring a jacket. Very quiet, only fields and rolling hills at first but then increasingly, people (mostly women, it seems) mounted on donkeys or on foot, shepherding their cattle and sheep out for the day’s grazing or just to tend to the fields themselves. We reach the broken tarmac and yet more ruts and potholes and follow that for another 27 km or so before reaching the normal (still potholed) tar and gravel road; this initial 30 km takes me more than 2 hours, due to both the road condition and a bunch of hills along the way.
More hills, a veritable rolling sea of hills today; none are bad individually but in total they’re taxing. The downhill sections are a terrific respite but with the tight curves and road conditions, I’m not about to let go of the brakes and take full advantage. Been there, done that. The morning goes on like this … it really is a remarkably beautiful countryside. The sun gets hotter by the hour, though. I find a coke stop at about 50 km (at this point it’s past 10:30) and pull in, both for a coke (or Pepsi as it turns out) and a bottled water to re-fill my own. I wanted to make lunch before 11:00 but that’s not going to happen today, it’ll be more like noon. I eventually get there, and surprisingly, find a whole bunch of people; iIm not the only laggard today. The heat seems to be bothering everyone. None of us has a thermometer but the guesstimates range into the 30s. Re-fill water bottles, grab a banana for the road and push off again.
Jala’s coke shop:
The afternoon is just very warm, almost no shade at all as we’ve moved into much more open country. Coming around a hill at about 85 km, a real change; still cultivated fields, but now overseen by bare, dun-coloured hills, I suppose a harbinger of what’s coming up in the next week as we move further south. Onto the N-8 for a short 8 km or so, but with a tiny shoulder so not too bad, then off again onto a tertiary road and finally into the outskirts of Fês itself. A maelstrom of traffic, people, round-abouts, twists and turns, and a few more hills. Start the final climb of the day to this hotel, which is perched well above the city, up by the old forts. I miss the turn-off, of course, and start descending; damn. figure out where I went wrong and double back, seeing Tony going downhill on the other side, replicating my error. Calling out to him, he crosses over and we eventually find the correct path, cleverly hidden at the end of what we both thought was a taxi rank or car park. Oh delightful, another hill, this one definitely steep with switchbacks. However, we make it.
A very luxurious hotel up on top - great views of the city. A wonderful patio with shade and wonder of wonders, cold beers. Bliss.