Larache, Morocco - Polarsteps
Day 4, we get up and Joe, our Belgian mobile home neighbour, invites us in out of the cold for coffee with him and his sweet old retriever, Bill. He's had some wild adventures, and he loves travelling around this way now; he knows Morocco well. He's also on his way south, where his wife is meeting him in Marrakesh, but right now he's staying an extra day in Asilah because Bill has made some dog friends and he wants to give him the chance to play with them more on the beach.
We stay a while and have good talks, and then pack up and almost leave at a decent time, but we leave our stuff unattended for a few minutes and the campground cats piss all over a bunch of Kini's things, and now they need cleaning and then cleaning again. We get going late, but we're so much faster on these roads than we ever were while trying to follow the Eurovelo; we're on asphalt and we're usually just following one national road that goes everywhere we're going-- we don't need to do a lot of map/GPS checks.
We're passing through small villages and gradually climbing; we take a water break at the side of the road, and Louis rolls up-- a speedy bikepacker from France who's doing a shorter jaunt through Morocco and heading right now to see a friend at a bed & breakfast in Moulay Bessalem, quite a bit farther than we're going today. We talk for a bit on the roadside and then ride together, us at our steady, lumbering pace, and Louis darting next to us to talk, then back over to let cars pass, then back over to hand us cookies from his handlebar stash. We finish the gradual climb together and then start a long descent, and the road opens up into rolling hills on all sides. We're in Larache quickly, our stopping point for the night; we join the city traffic, weaving through roundabouts, and eventually come to our camp spot on the south side of town and wave Louis off to Moulay.
We found this rest area through one of the apps that the van-campers use; it lands us at an urban park full of picnicking families and kids playing on playgrounds, and we wonder for a moment if this is completely the wrong place to pitch a tent, but then we see the fenced-off corner full of European camper-vans. We wheel over and the guards at the entrance welcome us and show us where to set up. We don't have a common language with the elder of them, but he comes back a couple of times to make sure we understand that we should lock up our bikes and bring our panniers into the tent for the night, and also that the water is good to drink (we're near a sink, and he fills his glass and downs it in front of us to demonstrate).
There's a 0% chance of something happening to our bikes or our stuff in the night, because the night guards light a campfire in the parking area next to us and then set up their patio table and chairs less than 20 feet from our tent. We're the only tent campers and their placement is not accidental. In the early hours of the morning I recognize the shadow of one of them, patrolling a tight circle around our set-up.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲