A couple days of preparation by Pieter and I at Bart’s apartment had our bikes and gear in reasonable working order. My stove was working well on unleaded gasoline and Pieter had received a new stove by mail. During Pieter’s bus trip back from Rabat — where he had gone to get his visa for Mauritania — his wallet had been stolen, so we had an extra day off while he coordinated with the Belgian embassy to get his paperwork in order.

The road from Agadir to Tiznit lived up to its reputation as a terrible cycling route. The first section was busy with heavy trucks spewing clouds of exhaust. After Inezgane, the traffic is not as heavy, but the road drops from four lanes to two and then the road construction starts. After a while of riding in the traffic lane with a two foot drop off at the shoulder we started looking for other options. We rode through the gravel and freshly graded sections or off the road entirely along side paths. Finally we turned off the main road toward Tassila. Our spirits improved as the traffic decreased and we found a place to wild camp next to a dump in a national park area. The dump was unfortunate, but it was more scenic than it sounds.

The next day took us back to the coast at Aglou Plage and then to Sidi Ifni where we stayed at a campground.

Heading East from Sidi Ifni the next morning we came across Julian, the French cyclist I had met briefly in Essaouira. Since he was headed to Guelmim as well we rode together for the day.

Julian wanted to take a day off in Guelmim, but Pieter was eager to head into the desert so he and I picked up supplies and rolled on out of town that afternoon after exchanging phone numbers with Julian. Guelmim feels like a dusty border town and seems to mark the edge of the real desert. Riding on we were soon in flat, windy desert. We stopped at a little village off the road and asked where we could pitch our tents. The school master suggested near a spring on the edge of the village, but the wind was very strong and showed no signs of letting up so Pieter asked if there were any other options. After consulting at the village masjid after prayers the schoolmaster told us the we could sleep in a spare room in the masjid.

This was a fantastic option and we were able to cook and then spread out our sleeping bags out of the wind. I found it a great experience to be woken before dawn by the call to prayer in a little village in the desert and then watch the sunrise over the masjid walls.

After tea with the school master we rode on toward Tan Tan. The wind did not let up all day, with crosswinds full of sand and dust gusting at perhaps 30 kilometers per hour. Pretty miserable cycling conditions. We took a short break partway when we ran into some Dutch men — Martijn and his father and brothers — who I had met briefly back in Imsouane. After a cup of strong Dutch coffee we continued on and finally made Tan Tan by late afternoon where we got a couple rooms at a cheap hotel for the night.