Monday, 14 December 2009

Morocco

Lovely Jubbly
So here I am again, sitting in an internet cafe wondering what to write.
We both finally made it through the border and legged it for Chefchouean, in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco, which was about 100km from the border. We figured it would take 2 hours to reach this little town in the hills.
After about 40km we reached the town of Tetouan, where we decided to stay for the night. Actually Kevs C90, now named "Munchy the Crunchy", dictated that we stop at the nearest town that looked hospitable as Munchy was not feeling too well.
On the outskirts of Tetouen, whilst looking blindly for the gate into the old medina (old town) a big bald local guy, Abdul, a.k.a.Terry Savalas, pulled up besides us on his big Honda motorbike and confessed to feeling, "Lovely Jubbly".

Kojak
We exchanged more hellos, listened to more catchphrases from bygone TV shows, a little more cockney rhyming slang and then I asked if he knew of a cheap hotel in the old medina, all whilst trying to ride slow enough for Kev, on his newly named Munchy, to keep up with us.
"Follow me please. No worries mate".

Hubbly Bubbly
Even although we both knew he would make a bit of commission from us anyway he could, we followed Abdul straight to a cheap hotel (approx £6 per night for a room each) on the edge of the main square in the old medina. That was good enough. There was a lock up garage opposite the hotel that was safe enough for us to leave our bikes in overnight (approx £1 per night) The rooms we basic but so was our transport so it suited us fine. We have to have seperate rooms, which although more expensive, means that I can get a good nights sleep away from the excessively loud snoring jaws of Kev.


Curly Wurly
Tetouan is a pleasant town. It has a european feeling to it so was an easy town to get to know and an easy introduction to Morocco. It wasn't on our original destination but as mentioned earlier, Munchy was not in good shape so we stopped earlier than planned. This is not to say my vespa was in good shape either. I too had problems with my ride although they did not seem as bad as Kevs. Unfortunatly Kev is not with me at the time of writing to elaborate or defend himself on this subject because at the moment, he seems to be attached via a large rubber band to the hotel toilet. No sooner has he stepped out of the hotel, than he quickly springs back inside again, doing his David Blaine vanishing act. (which he also taught me but that comes a little later in the saga).

Mr. Whippy

After a good nights sleep and unpacking our bags for the first time, it was decided the next morning that Munchy needed an operation. After one night in the first hotel we fell into, I decided to look for a cheaper hotel as we were going nowhere for a few days. Hotel Essalam, around the corner, was a cheaper and cleaner place and close enough to the garage where our bikes were stored so we could check every now and then that they were ok. Dris, the guy at the hotel reception was extrememy helpful and friendly. Our Arabic was slowly getting better thanks to his patience and humour. Most nights were spent outside, smoking and talking in a mix of French, Spanish, English and Arabic. The days were spent searching for a surgeon/butcher for Munchy and, for me at least, eating far too many french patisseries and drinking copious amounts of fresh coffee. I'm in heaven!

Chocolate sprinkles
We eventually found the mechanic we were told was the best and biggest. We had been searching all over town for this garage, walking for what seemed like miles, asking strangers if they knew the whereabouts of the big, one and only, motorcycle mechanic. After searching for two days we found him, almost at the bottom of the street where we were staying, just three or four minutes walk away from the hotel. All the maps that were drawn for us (a series of straight lines and a picture of a bus), all the directions we were given (this way for  3 or 4kms), were all pretty useless. We found it more by chance than by being pointed in the right direction.

Pebble dash
Again, as Kev is not here to tell the story, heres what I believed happened at the mechanics...
Kev took his Munchy to the garage. The mechanic listened to the running engine. He then laughed. The mechanic then shouted to his colleagues to come and have a laugh, sorry I mean, look, at this weird bike. They laughed. More people came, shook there heads, murmurred the arabic equivalent of "Oh dear. No chance" and laughed some more.
In local arabic, the mechanic told Kev that, "If it was a camel he would shoot it, sell the carcass to the local tannery and with the profit, buy himself a small glass of coffee".

What actually happened was that Kev left the bike with the mechanic. After a couple of days we returned to witness the engine in pieces on the workbench. The crankshaft had been removed. The problem lays here. The big end bearings on the crankshaft had decided to call it a day and retire from the spinning world of bearings and decided to knock instead of spin. Hence the loud engine noises Munchy was making.
We believe that new bearings were fitted but its anybodies guess as the language barrier became as high as the price to fix it. That said, the mechanic worked extremely fast, putting aside the other mototbikes in his garage, to help Kev get back on the road asap.

Plastered
So, Munchy had been fixed. Or at least operated on to make him feel better. (Actually I'm not entirely sure if Munchy is a boy or a girl. I'll let you know) This meant we could continue on our journey to Chefchaouen, in the Rif mountains, a further 60km from Tetouan. This should only take about 1 hour maximum but took a little longer than that as Munchy was still recovering from his operation. As for my Vespa...(as yet - no name, but the carrot cruncher was a close contender).
This particular wasp was getting vertigo. It started in Spain really and very slowly got worse as we hit the Algarve. I was keeping quiet about it hoping it would miraculously get better or go away. Well it didn't. It was getting worse. Along fast straights and motorways it was fine. Ticking over it was fine. It didn't like shopping around town or enjoy going uphill. Any names to suit this kind of character would be greatly appreciated. Answers on a postcard please...
As we left for yet another very short journey to the next town it was getting bad. Kev on his Munchy would/could not exceed 70kmph. Me, on my Vespa with vertigo, could not go slower than 70kmph, otherwise it would just want to splutter to a snails pace. So when a hill showed itself I had to almost literally take a good fast run up to it to make it to the top. While Kev slowly but surely crawled his way to the top. This was getting to be a problem as we were after all going into the mountains.

Hammered
We arrived in Chefchaouen after about two hours. I arrived first, done the customary, "Wait for Kev routine", followed by the "Got bored waiting for Kev routine", then finished with a, "I' ll have to meet him at the hotel we agreed to meet at, should we get split up routine". The reason I only waited for 5 minutes instead of 10 minutes was because the local big boys kept asking how much my scooter was worth. Not, "Do you want to buy some hash"? Or, "You want hotel"? or even, "Come to my shop and see some blankets", but " How much is this worth"? This was a little worrying since I have no insurance against theft. So naturally I legged it, or should I say, limped it, uphill in search of the hotel we planned to stay in.

Unfortunatly for me, I done the kind of thing I told myself countless times not to do. I asked a policeman for directions. He of course gave me directions but not necessarily the easiest or clearest of directions, sending me up another very steep hill towards a small entrance to the old medina. The Bab (gate/entrance) to the centre of the old medina was barely big enough for my Vespa and I wasn't entirely sure I was allowed inside with my bike as it looked like a small narrow winding path with locals who were shopping and staring at me, wondering what I was about to try and do. A helpful guy lent me his son to show me the way to the hotel, which I would never have found coming in from this direction.

Spannered
What I was about to try and do was take the stupidest path into the heart of the old medina I could imagine. Some paths were quite steep and all were very narrow, with some high steps that the scooter could not clear without being lifted slightly. For my Vespa that suffers from vertigo, it was all too much and it decided to stop going up any more hills. Luckily, as the young kid sitting on the back of my Vespa had lots of friends shouting his name as he rode past on the passenger seat, they all helped me push the scooter uphill.
I say helped.
They pushed the scooter, not necassarily in the right direction but they were all happy enough to try and help.
I finally hit a downhill path were I 'bumped' the vespa back into action and made it to the centre of town. I found the hotel we agreed to meet at. Haggled my best but it was still too expensive. By this time Kev came strolling towards me, thanked me for waiting for him, then we both looked for another hotel with easier access for motorbikes. We found a most agreeable hotel for a most agreeable price and here we are now, living da vida loca.

You get the jist
The last few days have been spent searching for some decent local produce, which proved to be harder than I imagined. There are plenty of guys offering the best of the best but it is the worst of the worst. Its ok now though. I am most happy.
The rest of the last few days have consisted of me, on the hotel roof terrace, with my Vespa engine in pieces, replacing bearings and oil seals. I said I had a problem. Oil was leaking from the crankshaft onto my stator plate. I knew I didn't do a very good job of changing the bearings and seals a few days before I left UK so I packed some spares with me and have just finished putting everything back together. The engine is back in the chassis. It started second kick, ticked over pretty well for 30 seconds, I turned it off and thats how I left it as it was getting dark.

Yawn!
So tomorrow we will go for a test drive as Kev is also uncertain that his Munchy will make it to Fes, our next planned destination.
So far we have not broken down but have just had a few "teething problems", I would say. Actually, "Routine maintenace" is a better description.

Teething problems
Nothing can stop us now.
Or can it.........?

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