Calling a trip the “Wrong Way Round” was always tempting fate. About the only thing we got right was the prediction of something going wrong. There were many reasons on the first trip why we “fell a bit short”, but mostly we like to blame Charles. And the Transnistrian Chief Prosecutor.
The plan was all going to plan until we got the news. Matt, who had finally gone to the doc’s after spending a few weeks failing to put on his own slippers was told that a life of banger racing, drunken trampolining and generally dropping himself on his head had not been kind to his back. In fact he was about six inches shorter than he used to be but his wife Jaki hadn’t noticed, assuming that perhaps he just had tall hair before.
Suffice to say, the doc was not impressed with the plan to ride a moped 7,000kms off-road and Matt was grounded. Enter stunt double Greg McBride, Extreme Trifle veteran and Co-founder. He was raring to go and seemingly unperturbed by the fact that he did not possess a bike licence. Mind you neither did Kaspars, a fact he admitted on the day we were leaving.
Matt nobly handed over his beloved “Purple Peril” in the full knowledge that a blind chimp is marginally better at riding a bike than Greg. To add insult to injury, as Matt waved us off through gritted teeth the headlights on the Transhit packed up and so we sat around drinking tea while Matt had to fit a new switch.
Kaspars meanwhile was waiting to be picked up from Gatwick and now we were running late and in danger of missing the ferry. After limiting ourselves to one pitstop for the bog and essential travel supplies (pasties, donuts, espresso) we made the ferry port with 20 minutes to spare and then got pulled over for a search which was the last thing we needed.
After the sniffer dog had sniffed the back of the van and eventually been resuscitated we waited for the inevitable “what is the purpose of your trip” interrogation. This could have gone either way. Either they would decide we’d actually consumed a good portion of the drugs we must be smuggling or they might believe us and let us on our way. Since no one seemed to be slipping on a marigold we assumed it was the latter, and after a few shakes of the head we were let on our way to join the ferry queue. Bellend last obviously.
The next two days consisted of the customary spank across some bit of Europe and there is nothing further to report of proceedings until our arrival at base camp in Marbella, since by now you will already have assumed that we had the typical mishaps on the way down such as getting the van and trailer stuck in a churchyard or ordering spaghetti bolognese for starter AND main course by accident.
Thanks to Roger Bruton, Plymouth – Dakar Rally veteran, for putting us up on the first night with dinner and wine at his Ferme de Candeloup Hotel. It was a welcome retreat after 15 hours on the road.
The campsite in Marbella was also a bit of a result as it had a compound where we could store the Transhit whilst we took the mopeds off to Africa. The owner was not that pleased since he assumed none of us would make it back alive and he’d have to pay to scrap the van.
Once the van was unpacked, the bikes were off the trailer, and the tents were up, we gathered for a team “talk” in the bar. Things went downhill once Kaspars spotted a bottle of “VAT 69” gathering dust on the top shelf. The next morning our camp was a disaster zone of bent tent pegs and snapped guy ropes hence the packing and leaving process didn’t quite go as planned since we had to spend some time finding and then fixing things.
Even hours later, Charles wasn’t quite as fixed as we thought having spent 20 minutes at the ferry port in Algeciras looking for his sunglasses which were in fact on his head underneath his helmet…
The Moroccan border experience in Ceuta was fairly standard with everyone claiming to be the best fixer in town, “I know Chief of Police”, “I know the King of Morocco” or in top spot “I support Manchester United”.
It’s hard to fathom quite how it took over two hours when the actual border process went like this:
1) Hand over terrible quality photocopied customs form – STAMP
2) Hand over passport – STAMP
3) “Have you got insurance”, “No”
4) “Will you get insurance at next town”, “Yes”
5) “OK go”.
We went to the next town. We didn’t get insurance.
The plan was to head down the Mediterranean coast and find a place to rest up ready for a long slog the following day inland towards the Atlas mountains. We found a beach front cafe and stopped for some mint tea which was the sort you could glue a rock to a ceiling with. Eventually curious locals started to mill around until a chap called Aziz asked if we wanted to stay the night as his place.
With an expectation of pitching tents in his back yard we were surprised to be offered the whole floor of a beach-front house with its own kitchen, bathroom, and walled garden to park the bikes in. The only thing to top this off would be some cold beers though we knew this was a long shot. Aziz took a deep intake of breath and shook his head saying it was not possible and as if by way of apology promised he could get us weapons grade hashish in five minutes if that helped. We politely declined.
As if fraught with guilt Aziz then summoned his 10 year old son, gave him some money and sent him off in to the night. About an hour later he came back with a couple of carrier bags of…cold beer! It was now us that were fraught with guilt although only until the top came off the first beer. Aziz said we could drink on the strict condition we didn’t wake up his wife. Assuring him that we weren’t likely to go all Magaluf on him, he bid us goodnight and woke us the next morning with breakfast of hot coffee and cakes.
After the customary round of photos, swapping of email addresses and false promises of meeting up again in the future we headed out for the next leg of the journey out towards Fez and the Atlas mountains. Things had gone way too smoothly up until now so we knew we were due an incident.
On the outskirts of town there was some temporary roadworks which in Morocco means a hole that could swallow a tank with a traffic cone marking the edge. We all slowed to a halt to let a taxi through coming the other way only to hear a faint cry and the sound of a T80 sliding past us with Greg in front of it, rather than on it. Normal service had been resumed.
It was definitely looking like two wrongs make a wrong.