Tuesday, 22 September 2009

She Says – Thwarted once again!

22 September
I should have just given up. Apparently destiny just wasn’t on our side and we were not to salvage this part of the trip! We headed off reasonably early towards Ait Herbil, location of some cave paintings I wanted to see. We were not far out of a small town by around 11am, when Xander suddenly realised that the trip computer was no longer giving us readings for speed and distance travelled - unlike the usual multiple 8s when it breaks down, which it has done continually since England, this time we were getting nothing at all. By the time we reached the town, Xander had realised that the odometer wasn’t working either, so it meant a major problem. Without the odometer, we have no way of knowing how far we have travelled on a tank of fuel and therefore when we would need to fill up. Crucial problem! Xander was still not feeling well as he didn’t sleep all night, had a low fever and felt awful all night, but he was better after getting going this morning. So we stopped and he poked around to see if the cable for the speedometer had become disconnected – no, worse than that, the damn thing had snapped!

Somehow, Xander remembered seeing a sign for a mechanic as we entered town, so we drove back to see if the cable could be welded together to provide a fix, even if it was temporary. Over the next hour or so, the mechanic tried twice to join the cable, with it working both times but breaking after only 100m or so test drive. After the second time we gave up, but when Xander asked the mechanic how much we should pay him, he shrugged and implied that we didn’t have to pay because he didn’t fix the problem! We insisted and he basically said to pay whatever we wanted (we think! It was all fractured French). Not knowing what was a fair price, we decided on 50 dirham (the cost of a meal of tajine or couscous, less than 5 euros) and he seemed happy but embarrassed by this. We decided we should go back into the town to a restaurant for lunch. I think the mechanic may have asked us to join his family for food, but we didn’t quite catch what he was saying before we geared up, plus Xander felt it would be taking advantage of him if we did. The restaurant we had seen was only serving drinks, so we sat there for a while trying to work out our options for the rest of the day and what to do about the broken speedo cable. Basically, we could stay somewhere and get a new cable shipped, or buy a new trip computer. We both preferred getting a new computer, seeing as the old one obviously has issues and will probably just die anyway, and if paying for expensive shipping it seems better to get something larger! A new computer would be very expensive though. It turns out our GPS has a trip odometer - I can proudly note over 13,000km travelled so far! Combined with the speedometer it has, which we’ve already been using as the bike is in miles per hour and we need to know km/h, this should get us through for the short-term and, most importantly, will enable us to work out when to fill up for fuel.

With these options on our minds, we decided to turn back and head straight to Tan Tan. We realised later we didn’t need to, we could have kept trying to see the rock paintings, but I think we both just got focussed on getting somewhere where deliveries could be made, internet checked out, and where we could base ourselves if that’s what we decided to do. After a disappointing lunch of bread and spreadable cheese (hooray for Laughing Cow!), we banged on to Tan Tan and got here around 5pm. We got stopped at our very first police check – we’ve passed heaps of these while in Morocco, but have always been waved through. Apparently we can expect more of this from now on, as we are about to enter Western Sahara, Morocco’s occupied territory. However, we weren’t prepared this time and had to dig out copies of our passports for the police, as they prefer to take copies and let you move on quickly. We’ve stopped in a hotel that is costing a bit more than we would have hoped, but it is really clean and looked after (a bit unusual so far in Morocco), and the bike is locked in a garage. By this stage, poor Xander was really tired and worn out, so it was the best option for us. While I took care of formalities, Xander got chatting to a few Western-Saharan men, who not only could speak English, but wanted to buy him a drink! They made it very clear they were Western-Saharan, not Moroccan, and their attitude was quite different to other people we’ve met so far. After a rest, we went out for pizza (it was cheap and neither of us felt like a big meal, especially Xander) and got some food for tomorrow - everything was still closed today and we don’t want to risk not finding food tomorrow as we have a 300km ride ahead to Laayoune (if Xander is well enough). The lady at the hotel has been great, very helpful, speaks good English, and helped me get photocopies of our passports. We’ve now got lots of copies, as we’ve been told to expect many more stops in Western Sahara, and if not there, we’ll need them in Mauritania! So much for the few copies we got in Rabat…

We decided over dinner that we would just use the GPS and not buy any parts for now, and have worked out how to calculate distances for individual trips so we can monitor our fuel consumption. If we are able to base ourselves somewhere to get deliveries or if the GPS becomes a problem, then we will get the new trip computer. Please, no more problems?!?! We’re both on the edge of giving up. We don’t want to give up, but it’s getting really frustrating. I have had to remind us a few times lately that the only timelines and deadlines we have are those we give ourselves, so if we need to spend longer anywhere, we just have to do it. Of course, visa durations and living costs restrict us, but it’s fairly straightforward to get visas extensions (I hope!). However, more and more I am thinking we will only be able to get through Africa and not make it to South & Central America. If that happens because of limited money, then we should be able to explore some more of Africa than we have planned, which would not so be bad.