Part 4 - That is not a tyre lever
The awful night’s sleep was only topped by waking to find that an irrigation pipe was leaking, and rather than irrigating a patch of dying grass, it had in fact irrigated Charles’ tent.
On a positive note Charles, assuming that he’d pissed himself, got up early so by the time the rest of us awoke, he’d pretty much fixed the problem with his bike (dirt in the carb) and set about knocking up breakfast.
Told you so
It was a beautiful sunny day and we had an awesome ride ahead. The first 3,000 metre peaks beckoned. In all the excitement Kaspars was already out of the gate and winding his way up the valley before the rest of us had finished our morning ablutions (one wet wipe under the armpits and one down the pants).
By rushing off Kaspars broke one of the trip’s golden rules – never lose sight of the person travelling behind you. On this occasion it was Kaspars who came off worse.
A trail of debris
A few hundred metres up the valley we started findings bits of Kaspars’ luggage. First a bungee strap, then his jacket, and then his rucksack.
Around the next mountain bend we started finding bits of Kaspars’ bike. First his number plate and back light and then his top box. At this point we were expecting to find bits of Kaspars.
Fortunately he had noticed that his bike had suddenly started handling really well and knew something was wrong. The nuts and bolts holding his luggage rack to the back of the bike, had made a bid for freedom. In the process, so had everything on the back of the bike.
That should do it
After combing the roadside for the rest of Kaspars’ belongings, we deployed the “emergency temporary fix procedure” and promptly set about his bike with gaffer tape and cable ties, so we could limp to the next village for repairs.
As fortune would have it some locals were cannibalising a Peugeot 306, as spare parts for a Mercedes 230E, and unsurprisingly had quite a few spare nuts and bolts. After a bit of spannering, we were on the way again, albeit an hour or two behind schedule. Not normally a problem this, in fact to be expected, except that today we’d set ourselves a massive task to reach a waypoint 350km away.
Our target – the village of Imilchil, gateway to the incredible Dades Gorge.
The wrong kind of pancake
It was no longer a sunny day. The weather was changing as often as the altitude but we’d had time to enjoy the stunning national parks and we’re making good progress.
We’d been in the saddle for nine hours already. Just when we allowed our heads to fill with happy thoughts about reaching our destination Kaspars weaved to a halt. His tyre was as flat as a pancake.
And now it started to rain. No one had packed waterproofs. We would have to make some, and fast.
The biggest tool of all
So in summary, we were stood half way up a mountain in the rain wearing bin liners. The sun was dipping behind the mountains, the light was fading and the temperature was dropping.
The puncture wasn’t going to fix itself and there was no way we were camping on the side of a mountain (again). Oz strode over purposefully with the toolkit. That is never a good sign.
The bare minimum of tools we needed was a spanner for the wheel spindle and some tyre levers. Oz had packed five 10mm spanners and a selection of “tools” that looked like they came free with some flat-packed furniture.
Grab a spoon
With no way to remove the back wheel or get the tyre off we had to deploy the “ dig-yourself-out-of-a-hole procedure”. This basically means using items for other than their intended purpose. Since Oz (as far as we can work out) has no intended purpose, he was sent to the naughty step.
By luck, more than judgement, Oz had packed a pair of mole grips and a pair of pliers. These combined with a large rock were enough to release the wheel spindle. The tyre was then removed with the combination of a screwdriver, bottle opener and one of the shiny new metal struts holding Kaspars’ luggage rack on.
We put it all back together and waited for the dreaded “hiss”.
We were good to go and desperate to make up time.
Having not seen a soul for hours we rounded a mountain bend and nearly went head first into a group of villagers laden with produce. The donkeys got spooked by our bikes and some minor carnage ensued as people got catapulted out of saddles while tomatoes and oranges started rolling down the hill.
It looked like someone had emptied the kiddies ball pit in McDonalds. After some apologies and general rebuilding of cultural ties, we set off again wondering it we’d ever make it.
Knock for service
Piss wet through, we still had over 50kms to go to reach Imilchil. On these mountain roads, in near darkness, it meant another 2 hours of exhausting riding. Instead of looking at the scenery it was all we could do to stop becoming part of it.
We finally stumbled in to town, shivering and aching. Like a beacon in the dark we found the soft lights of Chez Bassou.
After what seemed like an age the door opened slightly. This was evidently not the first time a bunch of bedraggled travellers had turned up at the owner’s door. As we were the only guests he beckoned us and our bikes in to the restaurant.
We chucked ourselves on some cushions and slowly unzipped our jackets as all the aches and pains started to hit home. Our hair was matted, faces full of dust but all that mattered was the pot of refreshing tea that the owner laid down in front of us.
Half an hour later we were tucking into a hot lamb tagine. All hail Morroccan hospitality. It beats a muesli bar from a Travelodge vending machine any day of the week.