The N9 takes you out of Casablanca, the sprawling edges of this congested city finally give way to the dull golden sand and the brilliant grey of the road showing the path ahead, winding its way up gradually into Morocco's empty interior. Our destination, Marrakech, 150 miles away. The rising temperature, first slight incline and bleak surroundings are not a relief. The first sickly sweet mint tea of the day in the modern, clean town of Berrechid, is.
As the hours pass, the monotonous gold of the sand is our only visual companion. However, a small plume of smoke in the distance acts as a beacon and brings immediate relief and an increase in speed. Moroccan roadside brochette stands are without equal. In a crescent, surrounding plastic chairs and tables, head first to the butchers shack, with its cow and mutton carcasses, sniped continually by flies. Ordering the meat, comes the price bartering, before the carcass is cut, weighed in front of you and passed to the next shack, and the man tending the grill. Liberally coated in spices, the meat comes with flat bread and a tomato salad. A post meal pot of mint tea, pouring etiquette perfected, shared with the smart gentleman who just wants to sit with us is now normal in Morocco.
Onwards the pedals turn, we race through Settat. We have the confidence and fitness of two guys who have cycled for 5 weeks. We pass through a small, busy town we cannot see on our map. We cycle on. Shepherds children run to the side of the road, cheering us wildly, waving with one hand, patting their hearts with the other. We pass another town and we recognise it on the map! We estimate only 20 minutes further along is the last town, before we attack the big expanse of nothingness on the map until Ben Guerir.
30 minutes pass, then 40.We stop under a single, leafless tree, the only break in the scenery. 'It looks like Mars', says Ally. The gold has turned into a fully baked orange under the sun's constant glare. We take stock of our water. Nearly empty, we finish it off. Hesitating for 5 minutes, we pushed on, mouths dry.Of course, we needn't have worried, a mechanics garage is only 5 minutes down the road! Although they have no water, they do have an overpriced, broken fridge selling orange soda, sorting us out until Ben Guerir.
From there we rush to Marrakech and break into the city limits! It's 12 hours since we left and we head for the Djema el-Fna, the sun setting perfectly, we are in a dream. Brought back to Earth by my first puncture, we walk into the famous square.