The End of the Road

And so after nine months of cycling we reached the final destination of our 10,000 km journey, receiving an unexpectedly lovely welcome from our good friend Dougal and a carload of drummers!

So, happily settled in at Meet Me There, we spent a busy month working on a new organic veg and fruit garden. This is designed to showcase the amazing productivity possible when using compost toilet ‘humanure’ to grow food (which is totally safe don’t worry!), and will hopefully one day provide fresh ingredients for the lodge’s kitchen and bar. Big thanks to Atsu and Gershon for sharing their knowledge of farming in the tropics!

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Watermelon seedlings, straight from breakfast fruit!

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(Re)building the HMS Herbs from a broken canoe…

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Tropical Hugelkultur – using layers of sand, dead wood (in this case palm fronds and old coconut husks) along with compost and black soil (‘biochar’) to make nutrient-rich and moisture retaining raised beds.

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Planting some seedlings.

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Life!

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Apparently if you plant the top bit of a Pineapple, it grows another Pineapple!

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And last but not least, brightening up a wall with a new mural, Meet Me There has lots of new neighbours…

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One last time a huge thank you to Dougs and the wonderful staff of Meet Me There!

Don’t forget we are still raising money to build a new compost toilet, we are not far from our target but could still do with a few more pennies – visit our Donations page for more info.

We are taking a rest from the cycling, but will be back one day with more adventures…

A&Z

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Ghana pt. 2

The dry, scorched north gave way to lush tropical forest and cocoa plantations as we approached central Ghana. After a couple of days in hectic Kumasi we breathed a sigh of relief as we descended to beautiful Lake Bosomtwe with its calm, glassy waters and the occasional scary tropical storm. From there we headed to the coast via gold mining country, through humid jungle and along dusty, disintegrating roads, where we met some lovely people staying in villages. Now we have reached the Atlantic ocean once again, and are heading east towards the Volta Region, our final destination!

We are already half way towards our fundraising target to build a compost toilet, if you think you can help us with the rest check out our donations page and read more about how fab compost toilets are here. A big thank you to everyone who has already donated!

Kumasi Market. The largest market in West Africa. Bloody mental!

A small section of Kumasi Market, the largest in West Africa, viewed from an overpass. It was bloody mental!

Avocado tree!

Avocado tree!

Jungly hills to the south of Kumasi as we approach Lake Bosomtwe

Jungly hills to the south of Kumasi as we approached Lake Bosomtwe.

A storm!

A storm!

Lake Bosomtwe, Ghana's only natural lake, in the crater of an ancient meteorite impact!

Lake Bosomtwe, Ghana’s only natural lake, in the crater of an ancient meteorite impact!

Elizabeth the grumpy donkey.

Elizabeth the grumpy donkey.

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Fisherman are only allowed to paddle the lake using small handheld paddles. Here someone is transporting a plantain tree on their wooden plank canoe.

Fisherman are only allowed to paddle the lake using small handheld paddles. Here someone is transporting a plantain tree on their wooden plank canoe.

One stormy night Alice heard a mewling sound coming from the bushes. Two tiny abandoned kittens in a plantain bush!

One stormy night Alice heard a mewling sound coming from the bushes. Two tiny abandoned kittens in a plantain bush!

A gold rush is in full swing in the central region, with the second largest mine in Africa after one in South Africa, a policeman proudly informed us. More evident from the roadside are small scale mines like this one. Not good for deforestation and water pollution.

A gold rush is in full swing in the central region, with the second largest mine in Africa after one in South Africa, a policeman proudly informed us. More evident from the roadside are small scale mines like this one. Not good for deforestation and water pollution.

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Our route unhappily coincided with another stretch of road construction. This time it was raining which kept the dust down but turned the road into a tacky quagmire requiring frequent stops to unblock the mud jamming our wheels. Great fun!

Our route unhappily coincided with another stretch of road construction. This time it was raining which kept the dust down (sometimes) but turned the road into a tacky quagmire requiring frequent stops to unblock the mud jamming our wheels. Great fun!

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And finally we rejoin the Atlantic Ocean!

And finally we rejoin the Atlantic Ocean!

"Garden eggs" and a bitter tasting aubergine thing that gets better when cooked.

“Garden eggs” and a bitter tasting aubergine thing that gets better when cooked.

A house sized soundsystem damaging the ears of some children.

A house sized soundsystem damaging the ears of some children.

Cape Three Points, Ghana's southernmost tip, where we spent a lovely long weekend with...

Cape Three Points, Ghana’s southernmost tip, where we spent a lovely long weekend with…

... Dougal Croudace!

… Dougal Croudace!

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Spot the squash.

Spot the squash.

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We stayed in a bamboo house on stilts with a compost toilet underneath.

We stayed in a bamboo house on stilts with a compost toilet underneath.

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Cocktails on the beach for Alice’s Birthday.

Mali pt. 2 // Burkina Faso!

The road from Bamako to the border with Burkina Faso was long, undulating and probably the hottest yet – often requiring having a little afternoon sleep in roadside restaurant shacks. Our days were long and repetitious: morning, hot, rice, staring kids, sleep, hot, cooler, tent, bed. We were excited to reach Burkina Faso and the surprisingly tropical feel to the forested south-west was a welcome break from the scorched brush of the highway.

We’re very grateful to have received a few donations for the compost toilet already! Please visit this page for more information about how you can help with a sanitation project in southern Ghana.

The usual crowd of inquisitive children

The usual crowd of inquisitive children

A nice camping spot under a tree

A nice camping spot under a tree

... with a scorpion under Mike's tent!

… with a scorpion under Mike’s tent!

After 4 long, hot days slogging from Bamako to  Sikasso, the last big town we'd visit in Mali, we were exhausted and filthy. After a long stressful search through busy, polluted streets we couldn't find anywhere cheap to stay. A last thought - "lets try at that Catholic Mission!" Turns out one of the Fathers there, Jean-Baptiste, had met us at one of the breakfast stalls on the way. We flopped on large comfortable sofas  while Jean poured us glasses of ice cold water from a jug. "Your room is being prepared" he said. We sat, knackered and dazed, surveying the wonderfully kitsch Christian ornaments and posters that post -colonial Catholic missions do so well.  Another smiling priest arrived, opened a bottle of wine and poured us two large glasses.

After four long, hot days slogging from Bamako to Sikasso, the last big town we’d visit in Mali, we were exhausted and filthy. After a stressful search through busy, polluted streets we couldn’t find anywhere cheap to stay. A last thought – “let’s try at that Catholic Mission!”
Turns out one of the Fathers there, Jean-Baptiste, had met us at one of the breakfast stalls on the way. We flopped on large comfortable sofas while Jean poured us glasses of ice cold water from a jug. “Your room is being prepared” he said. We sat, knackered and dazed, surveying the wonderful ornaments, holographic posters and other paraphernalia. Another smiling priest arrived, opened a bottle of wine and poured us two large glasses with ice cubes. Our room was great, after a cold shower and a change into cleanish clothes we descended to eat dinner with the priests. Rice, green stuff, “To” (like polenta), and a whole chicken with chips. It really was like on a film where a weary traveller ends up at a strange house to find they are expected and a fantastic feast is waiting. We gorged, and then gorged on mangos before going to bed for a long, excellent sleep. 

Something Waterfall

The Chutes de Farako. Running a bit low now as it’s the end of the dry season. 

It seems that most occasions, but particularly marriages, are accompanied with crazy processions of honking mopeds wheeling around the town.

It seems that most occasions, but particularly marriages, are accompanied with crazy processions of honking mopeds wheeling around the town.

Ladies panning for gold and doing laundry

Ladies panning for gold and doing laundry

We have reached Burkina Faso! Here we turned off the tarmac highway to head through the tropical forested southwest.

We have reached Burkina Faso! Here we turned off the tarmac highway to head through the tropical forested southwest.

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This is actually fairly small on the spider scale

This is actually fairly small on the spider scale

GIANT MILLIPEDE!

GIANT MILLIPEDE!

We visited Sindou Pics, an incredible formation of eroded sandstone.

We visited Sindou Pics, an incredible formation of eroded sandstone.

Zak has bought a traditional vest thing.

Zak has bought a traditional vest thing.

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We went on a boat ride to see some hippos on Lac Tengrela. Sadly our camera died just as we got up to them - hippos are enormous!  Some nearby kids were splashing around in the water, but the hippos didn't seem to mind. On our return to shore the boat man surreptitiously crafted this necklace from a water-lily for Alice, she has since become his boat wife and Zak will now continue the journey alone.

We went on a boat ride to see some hippos on Lac Tengrela. Sadly our camera died just as we got up to them – hippos are enormous! Some nearby kids were splashing around in the water, but the hippos didn’t seem to mind. On our return to shore the boat man surreptitiously crafted this necklace from a water-lily for Alice, she has since become his boat wife and Zak will now continue the journey alone.

Dakar to Banjul via a scary sea voyage

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Sandy piste on our way to Dakar. The only thing that improves dragging a loaded bike through sand is being chased by hordes of screaming children.

We took a small detour to the tourist spot Lake Rebta or Lac Rose, a super salty pink lake, where we had a good time floating around (impossible to sink!) while people tried to sell us things.

We took a small detour to the tourist spot Lake Rebta or Lac Rose, a super salty pink lake, where we had a good time floating around (impossible to sink!) while people tried to sell us things.

We reached Dakar, where this tiny bar became our haunt. For Edinburgh people, this  place is the equivalent of Burlington Berties!

We reached Dakar, where this tiny bar became our haunt. For Edinburgh people, this place is the equivalent of Burlington Berties!

Cycled out to see the statue of the African Renaissance, controversially expensive and strangely communist-style.

The statue of the African Renaissance, controversially expensive and strangely communist-style.

Black kites circling over downtown Dakar in the early evening.

Black kites circling over downtown Dakar in the early evening.

Senegalese public transport!

Senegalese public transport!

The village of Toubab Dialaw where we had a nice swim after a particularly hot and sweaty day.

The village of Toubab Dialaw where we had a nice swim after a particularly hot and sweaty day.

Flower strewn steps to Pomeguine beach.

Flower strewn steps to Pomeguine beach.

Baobabs at dusk!

Baobabs at dusk!

We cycled through a strange landscape of baobabs and very tall coconut palms like lampposts.

We cycled through a strange landscape of baobabs and very tall coconut palms like lampposts.

The largest baobab in Senegal! It wasn't particularly tall, but is as thick as a small house at 32m in circumference. It's apparently 850 years old. An enthusiastic man beckoned us round the side to an improbably small hole and helped Zak climb inside. Dark and cool, with the shrill squeaking of agitated bats clustered in a furry mass on the ceiling and flitting about my head. The floor was thick with bat shit, crawling and heaving with unidentified creepy crawlies.

The largest baobab in Senegal! Not particularly tall, but as thick as a small house at 32m in circumference. It’s apparently 850 years old. An enthusiastic man beckoned us round the side to an improbably small hole and helped Zak climb inside. Dark and cool, with the shrill squeaking of agitated bats clustered in a furry mass on the ceiling and flitting about my head. The floor was thick with bat shit, crawling and heaving with unidentified creepy crawlies.

The road to Palmarin.

The road to Palmarin.

Bike under blossoms...

A baobab fruit

A baobab fruit

The inside of a baobab fruit. The seeds are encased in chalky white stuff which tastes a bit lemony.

The inside of a baobab fruit. The seeds are encased in chalky white stuff which tastes a bit lemony.

Nice camp spot near the village of Palmarin.

Nice camp spot near the village of Palmarin.

We're in mangrove country.

We’re in mangrove country.

We decided to get a boat across the Saloum delta to Banjul, The Gambia - but first we had to find a boat in the small, bustling fishing village of Djiffer. We bumbled around confusedly for a bit, attracting hoards of snotty faced kids who attached themselves to our legs. Eventualy we found a guy, who in broken Franglish told us that we could, maybe, get a boat to a village across the water and then go direct to Banjul tomorrow. We bought some supplies and hurried to the shore to await our vessel.

We decided to get a boat across the Saloum delta to Banjul, The Gambia – but first we had to find a boat in the small, bustling fishing village of Djiffer. We bumbled around confusedly for a bit, attracting hoards of snotty faced kids who attached themselves to our legs. Eventualy we found a guy, who in broken Franglish told us that we could, maybe, get a boat to a village across the water and then go direct to Banjul tomorrow. We bought some supplies and hurried to the shore to await our vessel.

A DOUBLE BANANA! Noone else seemed very impressed though

A DOUBLE BANANA! Noone else seemed very impressed though

Dawn as we left the pretty fishing village of Dioneware for our terrifying voyage Banjul. After a 6am start with the first call to prayer we packed up hurriedly and followed our host through the dark streets. The tide was out. We waited and watched lights in the distance, made a coffee on the stove, and vaguely worried about what was going on. At last it was apparently time and we set off, pushing our loaded bikes into the river mouth bed, still in the dark. Sand turned to mud, mud to deeper mud, until the bikes dug deeply and pushing barefoot in the slippery quagmire was exhausting. Finally we reached firmer sand, and a few other people with luggage and children awaiting the voyage - a relief! Our pirogue lay on its side in the water ahead of us, with the crew bailing water out while the boat slowly righted itself. Sunrise was beautiful as we navigated the shallows. A man back on shore waved, and we waited as he waded across the  bay and clambered in with a huge gas canister. We taxied out of the estuary and the crew hoisted a large, battered sail. Initial enthusiasm wavered as we hit increasingly hairy seas, our low boat tossed about by huge waves thrown up by the meeting of river and sea.

Dawn as we left the pretty fishing village of Dioneware for our terrifying voyage to Banjul.
After a 6am start with the first call to prayer we packed up hurriedly and followed our host through the dark streets. The tide was out. We waited and watched lights in the distance, made a coffee on the stove, and vaguely worried about what was going on. At last it was apparently time and we set off, pushing our loaded bikes into the river mouth bed, still in the dark. Sand turned to mud, mud to deeper mud, until the bikes dug deeply and pushing barefoot in the slippery quagmire was exhausting. Finally we reached firmer sand, and a few other people with luggage and children awaiting the voyage – a relief! Our pirogue lay on its side in the water ahead of us, with the crew bailing water out while the boat slowly righted itself. Sunrise was beautiful as we navigated the shallows. A man back on shore waved, and we waited as he waded across the bay and clambered in with an enormous gas canister. We taxied out of the estuary and the crew hoisted a large, battered sail. Initial enthusiasm wavered as we hit increasingly hairy seas, our low boat tossed about by huge waves thrown up by the meeting of river and sea.

The bikes safely stowed for our voyage.

The bikes safely stowed for our voyage.

Finally the sail was furled as we approached Banjul and The Gambia.

Finally the sail was furled as we approached Banjul and The Gambia.

Senegal!

We finally left the desert and found ourselves in West Africa. A couple of days wandering St Louis du Senegal provided a welcome conclusion to sandy cycling, with crumbling French buildings covered by cascades of flowers, and refreshingly cold and cheap beers! We then kept up a new found trend of cycling a relaxing 20km a day instead of 100+ and spent a few days camping near the Langue de Barbarie national park.

The fishing fleet at Guet Ndar, St Louis du Senegal.

The fishing fleet at Guet Ndar, St Louis du Senegal.

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The view of the old town from the Faidherbe bridge, which was designed by Gustav Eiffel and somehow shipped to St Louis during French colonial times.

The view of the old town from the Faidherbe bridge, which was designed by Gustav Eiffel and somehow shipped to St Louis during French colonial times.

If you ever wondered where discarded charity shop clothes end up... It was difficult to leave this cavernous shed of wonders without an entire new wardrobe.

If you ever wondered where discarded charity shop clothes end up… It was difficult to leave this cavernous shed of wonders without an entire new wardrobe.

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Back in the land of beer!

Back in the land of beer!

The other side of the bridge

The other side of the bridge

Cat in a bowl!

Cat in a bowl!

Crazy toucan thing! (Yet to find out what this is...)

Red billed hornbill

Nice camping spot.

Nice camping spot.

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Canoeing around the Langue de Barbarie natural park.

Canoeing around the Langue de Barbarie natural park.

A European roller.

A European roller.

This monkey honestly stole one of our bananas.

This monkey honestly stole one of our bananas.

Trans-Saharan Puppy Special

We left Dakhla, Western Sahara, and headed south down the desert highway into Mauritania. By now the continual buffeting from strong winds and penetrating sand was getting to us, and we began to yearn for some greenery.

On the way we met lots of puppies.

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The steeds looking resplendent as we left Dakhla.

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A brief windy stopoff and some awkward posing for a selfie at the Tropic of Cancer!

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puppyspecial

Petrol station pups – how many can snuggle in a bucket?

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Oh just one more…

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Lichen on gemstones yo

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Domestic bliss.

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We found paradise in Mauritania. Also home of the largest and tastiest grilled fish of the trip so far.

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Nothing like (another) sleepy puppy for some good R&R

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Naww

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Diawling National Park, Mauritania. The bumpy track made for slow progress, but with just 40km to the Senegal border where we planned to spend the night and an incredible array of wetland birds, we were happy to dawdle.

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Warthog!

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Senegal coucal

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Yellow-crowned gonolek

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Lunch, more puppy love…

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The piste to Senegal

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Border puppies at Diama…

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and just one more to sign off…




Wind, Sand and Sea in Western Sahara

Western Sahara, controversially claimed as a bit of Morocco, was not as boring as we had anticipated. The desert was emptily beautiful, plus the strong northerly winds kept us rolling speedily along, although sometimes it just blasted sand in our faces and into our suffering bikes. There were also lots of camels!

Passing lorry drivers and policemen stopped to give us oranges and dates, and our new friends the Taunton couple (from the broken bridge in the last post) passed us multiple times, inviting us aboard for soup and our first beer for a very long time (big thanks and happy travels to Susan and Adrian!).

The scary Atlantic.

The scary Atlantic.

We found a hole. We're not sure what the hole is for as the only sign was in Arabic. It was also surrounded by an official looking rope, so this being Morocco we assumed it might actually be quite dangerous and didn't go in for a scramble around!

We found a hole. We’re not sure what the hole is for as the only sign was in Arabic. It was also surrounded by an official and sturdy looking rope, so this being Morocco we assumed it might actually be quite dangerous and didn’t go in for a scramble around!

We camped on some cliffs overlooking some salt flats.

We camped on some cliffs overlooking some cool salt flats.

Morning visitors!

Morning visitors!

So...sandy...

So…sandy…

Many of the towns down here have invested in a variety of animal themed sculptures. This roundabout featuring an angry octopus wrestling a fish was one of the best.

Many of the towns down here have invested in a variety of animal themed sculptures. This roundabout featuring an angry octopus wrestling a fish was one of the best.

Camels!!

Camels!!

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Zak's cutlery woes. After leaving my fork and spoon as part of the trail of my possessions which mark our route, I nabbed this spoon from a hotel kitchen. It is amazingly thin, and got badly crushed when it fell out of my pannier and I accidentally ran it over.

Zak’s cutlery woes. After leaving my fork and spoon as part of the trail of my possessions which mark our route, I nabbed this spoon from a hotel kitchen. It is amazingly thin, and got badly crushed when it fell out of my pannier and I accidentally ran it over.

Traffic...

Traffic…

The exceedingly windy approach to Dakhla.

The exceedingly windy approach to Dakhla.

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We camped at a kite surfing beach with friendly residents Kai and Ulrike, and a brood of fluffy puppies. This particular little one spent the night in our porch!

And they were keen to get in on breakfast...

And they were keen to get in on breakfast…

Back to the Atlantic, via some desert.

We descended from the Atlas mountains into our first Hammada (rocky desert). Where all these little rocks come from we don’t know, but they are everywhere and very evenly spaced. It was still cold, so we decided to head as quickly as possible for the coast and some warmth. On the way we met some American Peace Corps volunteers, sent by the government to do good deeds in far flung places – thanks to Larissa, Sanjay, Brittani and co for your hospitality!

We met our first fellow cycle tourer. Jean Claude has been touring in 88 countries over the last 30 years. We cycled together towards Ouarzazate and shared one of the tastiest mint teas of our trip so far.

We met our first fellow cycle tourer in Morocco. Jean Claude has been touring in 88 countries over the last 30 years. We cycled together towards Ouarzazate and shared one of the tastiest mint teas of our trip so far.

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Those tricky decisions

Those tricky decisions… evidently a dirham (less than 10p) makes all the difference with hamburgers.

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Scorpion under the tent!

Scorpion under the tent!

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We finally bought a whole rotisserie chicken.

We finally bought a whole rotisserie chicken.

Camping amongst argan trees is dangerous as they are really spiky!

Camping amongst argan trees is dangerous as they are really spiky!

The long road south.

The long road south.

The Souss Valley national park. This stretch of river and coast is home to over half the worlds population of the endangered bald ibis. Sadly we didn't see any.

The Souss Valley national park. This stretch of river and coast is home to over half the world’s population of the endangered bald ibis. Sadly we didn’t see any, but it was beautiful.

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Camels!

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We met a crazy French guy who lives here (yep, as in right on that cliff) for 6 months of the year for some reason.

We met a crazy French guy who lives here (yep, as in right on that cliff) for 6 months of the year for some reason.

We got new hats!

We got new hats!

We had a great idea, skipping some boring main road cycling by heading along the supposedly unspoiled Plage Blanche. The tarmac ran out at this bridge, destroyed by the terrible floods which hit this part of Morocco at the end of 2014. After some deliberation we crossed and ascended (pushing) up a steep gravel track/river bed. The path did not improve at the top, and we were unsure of the way even after asking a confused shepherd. So, we turned back to a turn off 20km back. At the broken bridge we met a couple from Taunton in a campervan the size of a lorry, with a Mercedes on a trailer behind, trying to turn round. We hoped to blag a lift up the hill and hopefully beyond, but they didn't seem too keen to put our dusty bikes inside. So we cycled and bickered into a headwind (of course) back to camp nearly where we had stopped earlier for lunch.

We had a great idea, skipping some boring main road cycling by heading along the supposedly unspoiled Plage Blanche. The tarmac ran out at this bridge, destroyed by the terrible floods which hit this part of Morocco at the end of 2014. After some deliberation we crossed and ascended (pushing) up a steep gravel track/river bed. The path did not improve at the top, and we were unsure of the way even after asking a confused shepherd. So, we headed back to another turn off for the main road 20km behind us. At the broken bridge we met a couple from Taunton in a campervan the size of a lorry, with a Mercedes on a trailer behind, trying to turn round. They gave us an arm wrenching tow up the steep hill, and we bickered into a headwind (of course) back to camp nearly where we had stopped earlier for lunch.

This is what we will be doing for the next couple of weeks.

This is what we will be doing for the next couple of weeks.

A chilly time in the Atlas mountains

The Atlas cedar forests. It was so cold our water bottles froze overnight.

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I'm really lichen these forests...

I’m really lichen these forests…

Uh oh..

Uh oh..

Barbary macaques!

Barbary macaques! They were pretty bold, as we stood watching them a bus rolled up and the tourists started handing the monkeys food to get better pictures. 

Baby ones!

Baby ones!

We finally found Christmas!

We finally found Christmas!

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After what feels like months of battling headwinds, finally a strong tailwind sent us zooming across the cleverly named Plateau de l'Arid towards Midelt and the High Atlas.

After what feels like months of battling headwinds, finally a strong tailwind sent us zooming across the aptly named Plateau de l’Arid towards Midelt and the High Atlas.

Climbing up to the High Atlas.

Climbing up to the High Atlas.

Lonely pines

Lonely pines

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The Ziz Gorges

The Ziz Gorges

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Getting Festive in Fes

Fes wasn’t actually very festive (perhaps unsurprisingly) so we abandoned all hopes of a Christmassy time. It was nice though.

A nice door. Lots of tourists were taking pictures of it with enormous cameras so its probably something important but we couldn't work out what.

A beautiful door. Lots of tourists were taking pictures of it with enormous cameras so its probably something important but we couldn’t work out what.

The blue door, one of the many entrances to the Medina...

The blue door, one of the many entrances to the Medina (old city).

Lots of the buildings are being kept up (apart? prevented from collapse?) by elaborate wooden joists.

Lots of the buildings are being kept up (apart? prevented from collapse?) by elaborate wooden joists.

Snails (alive!)

Snails (alive!)

The Medina from Place Rcif

The Medina rooftops and satellite dishes from Place Rcif

Batha Museum garden

Batha Museum garden

The tanneries, we were there on red dye day. You can see the yellow ones drying from the day before. Yellow dye is the most expensive because its made of saffron.

The tanneries, we were there on red dye day. You can see the yellow skins drying from the day before. Yellow dye is the most expensive because its made of saffron. It smelt really bad!

Very narrow streets, particularly good for bicycle navigation...

Very narrow streets, particularly good for bicycle navigation… Fes Medina is a crazy warren, apparently it is the largest car free urban environment in the world! We spent most of our time there getting hopelessly lost.