Morocco: to Rif and Med coast

P1010903-Rif-bike-view North to the Rif, Chefchaouen and then the Med' coast.

we rode to the bus station and caught a bus North to Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. This sounds pretty easy but there is more to the story:

Our Swiss friends enquired at the camping area (as they spoke french) and the CTM bus left at 11:30 about 5 km from camp. We also got some grease from them to try to stop the frustrating squeaking in the rear hub. Off we went arriving at the bus station just before 11am only to find the bus was full and just about to leave. A very friendly man told us that there was a festival on in Chefchaouen and that all the buses would be full but we could get a taxi for 800 dirham. (AU$90) and it would only take 3 hours. We decided we would wait till the next day if necessary and thanked the man who then said 700 dirham… he was the taxi driver and later we were to find there was no music festival. (This is one of the frustrations of Morocco, almost always the friendliest people turn out to be on the cadge or simply con artists, which then makes you wary or sceptical about anyone who is friendly)
We decided to ride on into the city bas station a further 5km. As we arrived a first guy started pestering us in french and then guy asked "where we were going"… "Chefchaouen"… "follow me" he said and led me through the congested terminal while Annette waited with the bike. At an unmarked office we bought two tickets for the noon bus for 50 dirham each and we didn't need a ticket for the bike. The same guy was waiting outside the office and showed us where to go to wait for the bus.
I waited anxious about whether in fact our bike would go on. I removed the pedals as I figured that would make things a little easier and we packed the panniers and rack top bag into our duffle bag so we only had 3 item, bike, case and one big bag. As it turned out the guy who had helped us was loading the bus and although there seemed no doubt the bike would go on but he said it would cost 100 dirham. We tried to argue and luckily Annette had 50 dirham in change which he frustratedly accepted. Then a man turned up with a full sized motor-scooter and it was to go in first. I think he had paid 50 dirham for the scooter but I couldn't be sure. Our bike went in and to make it a little easier I removed the front wheel.
The bus was full so we were lucky to get seats and there were only 4 other foreigners all going to Chefchaouen. Along the way it started pouring rain and then about 4 hours later the driver insisted we get off with our bike just by the roadside. He spoke no english and a taxi driver seemed to indicate we should take a taxi although there was no way our bike would fit in his taxi. The driver had not said anything to the other foreigners and was patient as I tried to sort out why we had to get out. Finally a man who spoke some english told us this was as close as the bus went and it was 5 km to Chefchaouen. With this I got the bike and our bags out in the rain and the other foreigners got off pleased they had not headed on unawares. As I tried to organise the bike and our gear in the rain one of the foreigners called out from a local bus which had amazingly materialised (I am sure to the taxi drivers chagrin). I rushed over with the bike not really expecting to get it on but to my surprise the driver was very helpful and the bike went in. Annette had struggled over with our other bags and they just fitted as well and we were off. It ended up being 9km and all up hill into Chefchaouen … and raining! The local bus ride was worth a few hundred dirham to us and as we hoped off we expected to be asked for the fare but it was FREE.
We decided, as the camping area was above the town, which was built on a very steep hillside, and it was pouring rain that we would stay in a hotel. Also according to the Lonely Planet the camping would be Dh70 and the cheapest hotel was Dh100 (about $3.00 difference). We pushed out bike up the steep hill into the maze of narrow lanes in the medina and found the cheapest hotel which was clean and adequate and had a hot shower.

Tuesday we woke to the sound of pouring rain but the forecast was for improving weather on Wednesday so we stayed in the hotel for the morning and went for a hike around the village in the afternoon.

Wednesday we rode to Tetouan and on to Martil. We figured it was 70km and mostly downhill so hoped the bike would make it. It didn't but we amazingly had the problem solved! Here is the story:

In the morning I decided to grease the hub thoroughly with grease I had got from our swiss friends in Fez. When I pulled the hub apart there were 3 balls broken on the inner ball carrier and one missing from the outer drive side. The grease solved the squeaking noise we had had for over 1000km and things went quite well for the first 30 km including 10 km of climbing up about 400m in elevation. Then at 43.5 km there was a sudden crunch and the pedals would not turn the rear wheel. I pulled the hub apart to find both the drive side bearings completely destroyed plus there was only one pawl of the 4 left intact. (photos here) It seemed unlikely the bike would go on at all. I re-assembled the hub without all balls in either of the two right (drive side) bearings. We pushed up hill for the next kilometre then amazingly coasted down the hill with no right side bearings. We pushed up a slight hill into a very small village and there was a rummage sale at a house on the roadside and I thought I could see a 20'' wheel. I went in and asked and he said 100 plus 5 dirham. I indicated I needed to check it would fit and although the axle was too short I thought I could bend the frame enough to get it on so I went to pay only to find he meant 150. I had not bargained and it was now a little late, and also no one spoke a word of english. Then to my dismay I found the single sprocket was the wrong pitch for my nine speed chain. Off we went to the local mechanic who happened to be the next building in this very small village. Meanwhile we had 10 kids gawking at our every move. The mechanic was amazingly helpful and stopped work on the motorbike and went to a separate shed where there where old broken bike bits. He changed the axle for one out of another bike and installed a 6 speed screw on cluster and then fitted it to our bike, all for 60 dirham. The whole thing took less than an hour and the bike was going perfectly. No squeaking, no crunching, no out of round wheel, no worries pedalling (in one gear). We carried on, for me the first time for the day I could enjoy the scenery without worrying about the bike. Fantastic!!

Tetouan was 62 km from Chefchaouen and Martil where our campsite was, a further 8km. We passed 70 km as it got dark about 8:30pm with Martil still in the distance. At least it was flat and a pleasure to ride our one speed bike. At 76km about 9pm we found the camp which to our delight had an on site restaurant. Dinner, pitch the tent and in bed by 11pm.

Thursday on the coast at Martil we lazed around and took a walk along the Mediterranean Coast and past the touristy apartments and restaurants that lined the foreshore.

Friday would be our last day in Morocco. We rode up the Mediterranean Coast, enjoying the views. We were expecting a few more villages but really saw no where to eat or even buy food. Finally we stopped at a beachside restaurant and were invited to join 4 local men eating their huge couscous lunch. We joined them with a spoon each and all ate directly from the large tagine platter. We bought some drinks from the restaurant , which was all it actually sold. We pressed on and suddenly we were in a queue and to cross the border from Morocco to the Spanish territory of Ceuta (or Sebta in Moroccan). Here we were officially entering "Europe" though we were still on the African continent. There was no campground so we looked for a hotel but the first one we felt was overpriced at 50 euro (especially seeing we had come from cheap Morocco only a few kilometres away). The next few were full and we asked the police about camping and they suggested the beach we had just past which had "No Camping" signs. We had hoped to off-load the trailer before riding around the rock promontory but this was not to be. We spotted a great campsite on the NE side and climbed enough to get some great vies across the straits to Gibraltar. Dinner in the centre of the clean well organised town had many contrasts to Moroccan towns.

Our "wild" camp proved an excellent haven from both the strong winds Ceuta city and we were on our way to the ferry about 8:30am Saturday. The previous evening we had been quoted 25 each but now it was 32.50. We queried this and were told if we really rushed we could get the 9am ferry for 25, so naturally we said yes and with just 10 minutes to get our tickets and ride the last kilometre we were on the 9am ferry out of Africa.