Whilst we were sheltering indoors the night watchman took pity on us. He said we could stay in as long as we wanted, and brought us watermelon. If it had been cooler I would definitely have fetched my pillow. Anyhow, we returned to the tent and I think I stayed awake listening to the wind most of the night. The tent was bowing in the strongest gusts. We had already put out extra guy ropes, and tied it to my bike in case.
This morning we showered and broke camp quickly, ducking into the relative shelter of the wash block to cook breakfast. The weather forecast said the wind should be dropping, so after a quick look at a fossil co-operative we headed on into the desert. We rode down to Merzouga, and then the next village at the end of the road.
The wind continued to howl, and the bikes were leaned firmly into the wind to ride a straight line. The large quarry vehicles created even more of a challenge with their whip winds sucking you in as you passed. The sand was blowing in clouds across the road. Hitting the thicker sand on the road was quite an experience. The bike swerved violently until it returned to the Tarmac, then it settled back upright. I just held on and tried not to react, hoping the bike would know what to do, and tigger saw me through it!
Stopping is now an adventure, in the time it takes us to decide what to do next a small bike will arrive to offer us a hotel room, 4x4 desert safari, or camel ride. When you say you just want bread (it is only 11am) they don't really know what to make of it.
Zane finds it frustrating, feels like walking cash machine. We try to ignore them mostly, it is easier than starting a conversation. They know this makes it harder for you to decline. We were accosted 3times in Merzouga alone. Equally a young lad helped us buy some bread as we were ready to leave a shop. We let him keep the 10p change. We're getting too generous!
Stopping to take photos with the sand dunes the Berber was quite upset we didn't want the usual tourist services. He had "never met tourists like it!" Approaching the end of the road, before it became sandy piste there was one cafe, the staff were also very affronted that we were happy just to have gotten there, and just wanted to head back the other way. I know we're unusual, but the this is our trip.
We stopped for bread and tuna between towns in the shade of some trees. Zane said if I needed the loo I should be quick before someone turned up, and I thought he was joking. It was moments later a moped arrived, the owner just watching us from the other side of the road.
As we ate he cleaned his headlight, and dusted the clocks. After a while he asked permission to take pictures of the bikes. He seemed quite taken with them, which made a nice change. As we got ready to leave he asked where we were headed, and gave us a hotel business card, "for next time."
We headed to a hotel recommend to us by the second guy who had approached us. It was a kilometre off the road, across a wide corrugated piste (track). Zane went down for the second time this trip crossing the sand bar in the entrance to the hotel.
We had help up righting him, and then getting the bikes across from a car of locals who had also just arrived, with two European girls. Unfortunately, after the effort, we had misunderstood the price per person as total. He gave us the grand tour anyway, but was not willing to negotiate enough on the price.
The hotel was stunning, and the rooms clean, with big beds, en-suites and a swimming pool. Dinner could be had outside under local style shelters, on the roof terrace, or in the restaurant. Maybe next time? Sigh.
We continued the search. And after considering another trip 2km across the piste headed on for fuel instead. The petrol station guy recommended the camping we had been considering, and we explained the problem. He guided us to the back door through a 'hotel village' a couple of km off the main road.
Perfect. A sheltered enclosure, lots of shade, swimming pool, we were starting to worry about the price. No need, this is the best priced site yet, and we are not alone. There are 2 American Moroccan girls, and 3 Dutch ladies. Time to unwind. Even the food prices are reasonable.