morocco: in the footsteps of hercules

Our first ride in Africa was always going to be short.

Having lost an hour to time change we headed to a coastal campsite 18 kilometres west of Tangiers, and, following the road out of the port, made our way along the Mediterranean to a chorus of welcoming beeps, waves, and smiles.

It was ideal in that the scenery was stunning, weather perfect and the excitement of being on a new continent made turning the crank seem easy – at this rate we’d reach camp in no time, and slide into our first Moroccan evening.

But before the camp, we met a hill. And sometimes hills can be harder than mountains. With a mountain, the road engineers know it’s a mountain: they lay the  route accordingly and at the steepest points offer switchbacks, to allow for ease of continuation towards its summit.

With a hill, it sometimes feels like the same people have just slapped a bit of tarmac directly up and over its brow; no helpful switchbacks, no ease of passage.

Almost immediately we began to feel the weight on our bikes trying to pull us back. Even in granny gear it was a grind and the euphoria of arrival soon sweated out, dripped onto our sunglasses, and splashed onto our handlebars -That was the first 100 metres.

For the next 5 k it was pointless owning a bike with pedals.DSC08091.JPG

But eventually what goes up must come down – unless you happen to be a Russian dog named Laika- and sure enough we made our way steadily to the summit; behind us the Mediterranean, ahead, the Atlantic..

From there it was a jolly slide down towards the roaring ocean’s call, jagged limestone cliffs and misty coastal spray; this was pure tour cycling joy.

Before long, we’d reached the Caves of Hercules, which according to legend is where the demi-god rested after his battle against Antaeus in search of the golden apples of Hesperides.

We figured if it was good enough for a Greek Legend like Herc, it was good enough for us, and after our herculean effort in traversing the hill we were in need of a good nosh up and sleep, which, at 125 dirham (£10) per night, didn’t take a Hercules size bite from the old budget..


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