11th January 2011
Day 91 - Marbella to Gibraltar/La Linea 86km

A strange day... started well, then went rapidly downhill. After about 30km of super speed and stunning sunshine my rear wheel suffered an inflation related failure due to small nail like foreign body entering the wheel in question. A puncture on my last day! aaaghhhh!!! And then the clouds came... And then it tried its best to rain, regardless of my protesting. And then the hills began. Lots of them! But I kept going, determined never to be beaten back by anything on the last day of the challenge.

I finally arrived into La Linea (the town that's on the Spanish side of the border) and found a cheap hostel. Stopping for just 30 seconds to check out the room, I then jumped back on the bike and crossed both the border and the airport's runway. Gibraltar is so small that the main road into the town cuts through the airport runway, only closing the road whenever a plane needs to take off or land.

I cycled through the town. What a grubby little town, and not what I was expecting.  Many of the buildings were really run down, but the architecture so bloody British. Traditional royal mail postboxes lined the streets, old school phone boxes, imported traffic lights, a Natwest Bank on every corner -  the British so desperately trying to cling on to some sense of the old and long gone times of the empire. Spain is no better, with Ceuta just across the water... So, after one last climb I finally arrived at Europa Point... Maybe it was just me... Maybe it was my own fault for expecting something more. It was a scrappy piece of land, with a battered up lighthouse, a mosque (its only redeeming feature) and probably the worst cricket pitch in existence. Apparently the building site was due to the "Beautification of Europa Point" (as the sign said) that was currently under way... I was so disappointed. Only the allure of another continent just across the water kept my spirts up. In the end a big anticlimax. It was also typically British weather. Dull, grey and likely to annoy.

So... I found a nice little pub that served cod and chips, and stuffed my face full. A few pints (San Miguel was the closest to respectable that they had) and a pretty good warm apple pie with cream and ice cream helped matters. Then it was back across the border, and back to the hostel. I guess I will go back tomorrow and try again. The weather didn't help today. I hope it will be better tomorrow because I would like to take the cable car up to the top of the rock and take a walk along the ridge.

12th January 2011
Day 92 - La Linea/Gibraltar

After a well earned good nights sleep, and a few hours pottering around on the internet, I jumped on the bike and cycled towards the border. When I arrived there the road across the runway was actually closed to let two passenger jets take off, which was pretty cool!

It was a beautiful day, with no clouds in the sky and the temperature rose over 20 degrees. After the jets had passed the road reopened and I cycled on into Gibraltar and headed down Main Street. Somehow I didn't find this road yesterday, but this is the main shopping street, and it is packed full of places selling electrical stuff, perfumes, alcohol, box loads of cigarettes and cafe's and restaurants plying for trade with their "Traditional English Breakfast's and  Traditional British Roast Dinners". A strange experience as it all felt a little bit like a southern English country town, but with way more Union Flags flying. Apparently its only a Union Jack when its on the back of a ship or something? (thanks Keith!)

Todays destination however was not at sea level, but the much higher. I took the rather shaky and old cable car up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. The view from the top was amazing, and I could see as far away as the snow capped mountains around Granada looking north, and of course a clear view of Morocco the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. The number of ships waiting to dock up in Gibraltar or Algeciras was incredible.

After taking a few panoramic photos, I went off in search of the monkeys! Gibraltar has a rather unique creature living on its rock. A colony of Barbary Apes, native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria, they are the only nonhuman primates living wild in Europe. Legend has it that as long as the monkeys exist on the rock, the British will remain in control. Apparently when their numbers got so low (down to just 7 in 1942) Winston Churchill ordered more to be brought in from the Atlas Mountains! Large signs in multiple languages warned visitors in a very clear way that the apes are wild and will attack and bite if provoked. Equally large signs warned that the apes are not to be fed and that they will forcibly take any food from you. I took a lot of photos, and watched as a large monkey ran at a woman who was opening a plastic bag, and it stole her giant bar of  Cadbury's chocolate. There was then a lot of screaming and screeching as the other apes fought to claim the prize... It was fascinating to watch them from so close, as they sat in front of me just 2 metres away.

13th January 2011
Day 93 - La Linea/Gibraltar

After a lot of research to find somewhere to leave my bike, I finally struck it lucky at a local bicycle shop. The agreed to store it for only €15. So that done, I could relax! Some internet research about Tangier and the usual clothes washing followed. I bought my bus ticket (for 7:30am tomorrow morning - eek!) and an open return ticket from Tarifa to Tangier on the high-speed ferry, and I was ready to start travelling again. A takeaway pizza, some bottles of beer and a few episodes of Prison Break were all I needed for the evening.

14th January 2011
Day 94 - La Linea to Tangier (Morocco) 45km Bus, 50km Boat

The alarm went off at 6:20am, and at that point I realised I should have gone to bed a little earlier last night. The bus was on time and I arrived at Tarifa with a few hours to spare before my ferry. I walked along the beach, was was stunning and watched the early morning surfers having some fun. Just before the harbour is an island, joined to the mainland by a narrow raised road, about a few hundred metres in length. This is the most South-Westerly point of Europe and the bottom-most part of Spain. The Moroccan coast really seems so close now.

The ferry ride was quick, and I now have the very first stamp in my passport! At Tangier port I was hassled and followed by a man trying to be my guide. I was warned that this would happen, so I politely refused his offer. He continued to bug me for another 10 minutes until he finally got the message that I wasn't interested. I took a wander around the city for a while, asked the prices of a few hotels that I knew I wouldn't be able to afford, took a green mint tea and finally found a hotel room right in the centre for only 180d (about €16). The room has an amazing view across part of the city, the beach and the coastline stretching off into the distance. I think I will have to try some panoramic photo's from the balcony tomorrow morning.

The city seems quite European in places, and there seems to be quite a lot of French students here. I took a bigger walk around the area and had a bit of late lunch - a big plate of really cheap cous cous with chicken and random weird vegetables. After another mint tea I shuffled back to the hotel. I am thinking about taking the train to Fes in a few days. Its only about €10 but 5 hours travel, but if I take an early morning train I will get to see a little of the Moroccan countryside.

I really want to just relax here for a day tomorrow, and catch up with my website and do some reading. I still have a few pages left of the book on Spanish history, and then I have the book on the White Rose Movement to read that was a present to me from Cristina when I was staying in Caravaca. I must also start the process of drafting up some ideas for the script to the documentary. I don't really want to leave everything until I return to Munich, as I will be busy then with work also.

15th January 2011
Day 95 - Tangier

It was already late afternoon before I realised that my clocks were all wrong, and not all the clocks in Morocco! They are at GMT, and not European time... oops! I had spent the morning in the hotel as everything seemed to be closed up in the city centre, and devoured a few croissants for breakfast. It was another beautiful hot day, and I finally made it out at lunchtime, to take a walk to the station.

The Tangier main train station is a brand new building, and looks very different to everything around it, mainly because it is in the centre of a massive building site, and nothing else is finished yet. This part of Tangier will have high-rise apartment blocks, expensive hotels and big shopping centres within a year or two. A ticket to Fes tomorrow morning only cost me about €14, but leaves at 8:25am... I walked back to the french quarter and found the internet cafe/theatre bar that I found yesterday and did some well needed research on Fes.

I don't really know how many days I will be able to stay in Morocco now, as my funds are severely limited. Stranger still is the fact that I really want to be back in Munich now. Maybe I would be enjoying myself a little more if I was here with a few friends? After such a long trip across Europe I really thought that I would enjoy the break in Morocco, but after so much time on the road I honestly feel like I want to be back home now. I think I will spend just a few days in Fes, depending on hotel prices, and then head back to Tangier. Then it would be 1 nights stay in La Linea (I still have 20 British pounds left to waste away on some fish and chips and a few beers in Gibraltar) and one night in Marbella, before reaching Malaga for a flight home.

16th January 2011
Day 96 - Tangier to Fes (300km by Train)

Getting up 10 minutes later than I should have made the walk to the station a fast one. I got on the train with just a few minutes to spare! I met two different Moroccan men on the train, one of whom recommended a cheap hotel in Fes, which I have ended up staying in, and he also gave me the number of his nephew Samir, who in in Fes right now but normally lives in France.

The Moroccan countryside is not what I had expected. Lush green fields and rolling hills heading east in the direction of the Atlas Mountains. The train passed through many small towns and a few smaller cities, and I got a chance to see what I guess could be the real Morocco, the real working people, travelling on mules and working the land, as opposed to the greatly westernised Tangier and the Atlantic coast cities.

Upon arrival at Fes I walked around for an hour searching for the hotel recommended to me by the guy on the train. The directions were fairly vague and I walked around in circles until I stumbled across it purely by accident. At only 160 dirham per night (€15) it was really basic, but there was a bed and a bathroom, but sadly no hot water.

I took a walk around the area in the afternoon, and arranged to meet Samir in the evening for a drink. I ended up at his house to watch the football and eat some incredible Moroccan sweets (marzipan and chocolate) that were made by his mother. Samir lives in Nice, and deals in antique Moroccan carpets and furniture.

17th January 2011
Day 97 - Fes

Today I delved into the total and quite indescribable chaos of the Medina. The old town of Fes is home to a quarter of its population of 800,000 people, and is the most well preserved medieval city in the world. Its labyrinth of twisting streets contain literally thousands of tiny family run shops selling everything from Moroccan carpets, jewellery, souvenirs, leather bags, handicraft, spices, food, fake running shoes, traditional clothing, live chickens, severed camel heads (really!) and a massive array of things I simply cannot begin to describe.

This is the largest car-free urban environment in the world, and transportation of goods from outside the city walls to the inner parts of the Medina is done either by hand pulled carts or by donkey. In fact the donkeys that carry the produce on their backs are known here as a Medina taxis! They have special sign posts illustrating the direction and streets where they are allowed to travel, and the bigger mules are restricted only to certain routes.

It is a highly stressful place, where being a tourist, I am constantly being both hassled and hustled. This is out of the tourist season now, so the street vendors were desperate to try and make the hard sell. I took a big walk in what I though was a straight line, but after about half an hour I was somehow back at exactly where I started?! I decided to take a break and a mint tea, and found a cafe with a rooftop balcony. I sat up there above the chaos and tried to make sense of it all. Impossible!

I struck up a conversation with a girl from Hungary, but currently living in Oxford, and we decided to look around together. I guy who worked in her hotel offered to show us around for an hour. He took us to a few places that the tourists never go, and got to see the insides of a few of the buildings. We also visited the Tannery,the oldest leather tannery in the world,

where a collective of nearly 300 families work with leather. From a balcony high above we watched as the workers cleaned, dried and dyed the leather - from cows, sheep, goats and camels. It was a scene that is hard to describe, but was incredible to watch. Unfortunately the guide then took us through the leather shops and we were subjected to a pushy salesman trying to sell us some leather bags, jackets, belts etc. That was the con. The young guide obviously gets his commission from anything we would buy. After half an hour of trying to get away we finally made it outside. It is no good explaining to them that you don't have money. These guys assume that all foreigners have cash to spare and they get more than a little upset when we said no...

Trying to get out of the Medina was equally as hard. A young Moroccan boy started (without being asked) to lead us to the main gateway, and upon arrival demanded money. I gave him 5 diram and he bugged us for more money for the next 10 minutes... I refused to give him more. I didn't have much more! Whilst trying to find the Synagogue in the Jewish quarter a local man pointed us in the right direction, and then all of a sudden he was guiding us all around the area, and then brought us unwillingly at the end into a friends rug shop... no surprises there! Yet again it took an enormous effort to get back out of the door. These salesman are pushy people, who play the tourist by trying to make them feel guilty for not buying something...

In the evening I met up with Samir again, and we found ourselves in a bar and finally a kind of nightclub/bar that he knew. The music was really great, and was apparently Algerian - a mix of the traditional with the modern western house music.

18th January 2011
Day 98 - Fes

Today I was highly determined not to get dragged into another carpet shop. I met up with Diana (the Hungarian girl) and we managed - after two attempts, the first took us in a complete circle after 30 minutes of walking - to get through and out of the Medina and up onto a hill overlooking the chaos. It was so peaceful. The sun was hot, but the temperature quite cool in the shade. It was so nice to be out of the noise and stress of the streets below. We then took a walk back to the French Town, where I am staying.

This is the modern part of Fes, built by the French when they were in control of this part of Morocco. After a few more mint tea's (I just cant get enough of the stuff!) and a dodgy pizza (we could not actually find somewhere that served cous cous!) we parted company. Diana was heading off to Marakesh on an overnight bus, and so I hooked up again with Samir and he pointed out a cafe with free Wifi. I sat and used possibly the slowest internet connection ever built (google searches seemed to take about a minute...) but managed to book my flight home. I will fly out of Malaga on Wednesday 26th, and I have to fly first to Madrid, and then take a connecting flight back to cold, cold Munich. I took a look at the weather forecast for Munich and shivered...

Morocco is an interesting place, but I am just not in the right mind to really enjoy it. I feel like I should be back home now, after such a long time travelling. I miss the friends and the work, so I am really looking forward to the last few days of travel. I will take the train back to Tangier on Thursday, stay a night there and then take the first boat back to Tarifa on Friday morning. I should be back in La Linea in the afternoon, so I will have time to pick up my bike and check in to the hostel I stayed in before for a night. Then Saturday will be the cycle to Marbella, and then Sunday the very last leg of this adventure with the cycle to Malaga again. I then have a few days to sort out any loose ends and lighten up my bags a little before the flight home to Munich.

19th January 2011
Day 99 - Fes

Today I decided to just take things easy. I stayed in the modern part of the city, and hung out in cafe's trying to get some work done on the computer. I have my train ticket for tomorrow, 1pm back to Tangier, and I think I have everything sorted for the long trip back.

It will be good to sleep in a normal bed as well! The Moroccan beds are like concrete, and every morning since arriving I have woken up with back pain. I don't know how the people here can cope with freezing cold showers, rock hard beds and having to bargain for everything. It's a stressful place!

20th January 2011
Day 100 - Fes to Tangier (300km by Train)

Wow! It's day 100!!!

After a nice and lazy start I hung out again in the internet cafe to use up some time before my train. I took a last mint tea (I am definitely going to have to make some of this stuff when back in Munich) and loaded up my bag with cheap croissants for the trip back to Tangier. The train journey was a long one, but the scenery more than made up for things. It was really interesting to see the real Morocco again, away from the tourism of the bigger cities. Just the poorer people working on the land. I even passed a farmer with some Camels, but wasn't quick enough with the camera to get a picture of them. The weather has been changing a little today, with the clouds rolling in. I hope it wont be too bad for my last two days on the road. Saying that, I am really looking forward to getting back on the bike again.

I am writing this whilst on the train. We are not so far from Tangier now, maybe just an hour away, and the train has finally reached the west coast of Morocco. The beautifully calm Atlantic Ocean is on my left as I travel north. There seems to be barely a ripple on the sea, and this certainly appears to be a part of Morocco that has been left untouched by tourism. It will be dark in an hour when I arrive (its 5pm now) and I hope there is no problems with staying in the hotel I was in before. I must get up really early to make the 8am boat tomorrow morning...