June 12, 2007 GMT
A bientot Maroc, bienvenue Europe (encore)

This latest offering sees us out of Morocco and back in the land of supermarkets and toilet roll....

The Atlantic coast is quite different from the rest of Morocco and, to be honest, not that exciting, other than the world's 3rd largest mosque and the thrill that is Casablanca (but you do have to think of of as the 1940's rather than now), and it's the only part of the country that we saw that didn't have donkeys as regular road-users.

A blat into Tangier (note to other users, use this port, Sebta is horrible!) for the culture shock that is returning to Spain and our total lack of managing even the most mundne of tasks... (buying food on a Sunday? In Spain?) luckily we had our souk dates and almonds for emergency snacks.

First stop, trouble in Gibralter, again with the Spanish police at customs. Maybe it's our swarthy, road grimed good looks that did it for them, but a quick look in our top-box and the nonsense biking items therein secured our hasty exit into paella-land..

Rigolos and the bike.JPG

After a few nights free camping in some gorgeous spots (red-necked nightjars harrassing our tent and nearly a roadkill cookout of partridge and hare) and some not so gorgeous spots (our fave, behind a garage in a building site), we hit the highs of Madrid and the blag that is staying at a siblings in a foreign land, hoorah and all-hail Imogen's sister, Liz, and her boyfriend Carlos.

Carlos was super fab and sorted out all manner of bike issues - into the garage for some badly needed repairs (new chain and sprockets, bearings and a general service) and we were told that the cost would be EUR 1000!! Fearing a money drain of massive proportions, Carlos was on the case and whittled them down to EUR 450, alas, 12 of that was cleaning as (get this) the bike was "too dirty to work on" what class, didn't they know we had been collecting that dirt? Where else can you coat your bike in camel, donkey, goat and sheep poo, mud, dust and sand?

We hit the tourist trail and upped our culture quotient with the help of Liz and her best tour guiding, wearing all their clean clothes and filling the flat with the mountains of laundry that disgorged themselves from our road weary panniers.

Finally dragged ourselves away from luxury and headed towards the Pyrennees for (more) birds in the peaks, including the awesome lammeigier (ask Marianne Taylor for the spellin) . Excellent roads and nose-bleedingly twisty high passes at 2800 metres, and one walk in our trainers in the snow to find wallcreepers (alas, they remained elusive), up to a high of nearly 3000 metres, torrential rain and storms...
sheltering in the Pyrennees.JPG
us cooking up coffee for 5 cyclists from Bordeaux and 2 German bikers, sheltering in a handy garage.

More near roadkill fun in the form of the slow-witted marmot (not to be confused with marmite as one hapless conversation went with a French climber) and 3 baby black-winged stilts in the Camargue, which Imogen skillfully shooed off the road whilst being dive-bombed by the parents.

Now soaking up the sun in the south of France (thank the Lord), the Med here we come.

James on the hunt.JPG

Posted by Imogen Mitchell at June 12, 2007 03:20 PM GMT

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