Week 6 - Sidi Ifni in Morocco to Sidi Akhfennir in Morocco
Monday morning was grey and chilly in Sidi Ifni so we stayed another day. Sat in the town having coffee with Jeff, chatting and people watching. We all went for the cheapest chicken tagine ever. 25 Dirham each which is about £1.90, bargain! Got back to the campsite and met Petre and Yanna a Czech couple on a Transalp, who were on their way to Dakar. Unfortunately they had had their passports with their Mauritanian visas in stolen. They had got replacement passports, but the replacement visas had been sent to their home, so they were on their way to try their luck with the Mauritanian border.
Set off bright and early Tuesday morning after bidding farewell to Petre, Yanna and Jeff. We promised to email Jeff when we’re back in Europe in case he is nearby and we can meet up for a few bevvies. Heading south from Sidi Ifni toward Plage Blanche, scenery stunning again but just after Fort Bou-Jerif we ran out of road, literally. The tarmac just stopped and there was a dirt track.
It didn’t look too bad and we could see the track heading down to the beach so we opted for a bit of off roading. It was alright to start with but pretty soon we came to a steep bit that wasn’t really a track any more, just a gulley with rocks in it. I jumped off and Ant tried to get the bike down but fell off and landed on his head. Luckily it was his head so no harm done!
We picked the bike up and tried to turn it round, after getting it wedged sideways, taking all the gear off, falling off and dropping it a few more times we got it back up the hill. We were a bit knackered after that so we had some lunch.
It was a beautiful spot on the side of a valley with a river at the bottom and the sea at the end, but I can think of easier ways to find a spot for lunch. To get to another paved road south we had to go all the way back to Sidi Ifni, so 3 hours later we were back where we started! We took the road to Guelmim. No sign of a campsite and we were a bit bruised from our earlier exertions so we booked into the Hotel Adil Mossafir, which was really quite posh. We had dinner in the restaurant and went to bed feeling much revived.
Wednesday we headed for Tan Tan after a continental breakfast, which included some kind of salty rice pudding and stuff that looked like jam but tasted like olive oil (made a mental note not to eat that again). Scenery changed and started to get really desserty. Nothing for miles and we saw our first herd of camels grazing at the side of the road.
On our way into Tan Tan we were stopped at our first police checkpoint. They have them entering and leaving every town in Morocco, but this was the first time we had been pulled over. The Gendarme looked at our passports and wanted to know what we did for a living. In our pidgeion French we explained that we were tourists and we were waved on our way. Despite the lovely camel statue
there was nowhere to put the tent up in Tan Tan, so we carried on to El Ouatia and had a choice of 3 campsites. We picked the one with a painting of a motorbike on the wall, well it was either that or toss a coin. We pitched up and went to the beach, but the wind had really picked up so we retreated to the shelter of the tent.
The wind meant we were stuck in El Ouatia for another 2 days. Tried to leave on Thursday and Friday, but felt like the bike was tilted at 45 degrees and Ant was battling to keep it on the road. We were also getting punched by the wind every time a lorry went past as they don’t have nice rounded fronts like they do in Europe. About 10k out of town the world went orange from all the sand in the air so we decided it was safer to wait till the wind had dropped.
This gave us plenty of time to get to know El Ouatia. There was a town square with about 20 businesses, 3 were butchers, 4 were café / restaurants and all the others were general stores selling exactly the same stuff! There were subtle differences like they all had a chiller cabinet for milk etc. but only some of them had them switched on. Goodness only knows how they all manage to keep going. One thing we have noticed about Morocco is that prices are a movable feast. Everything is up for negotiation, except your basic food essentials and if you return to a shop more than once the prices start to come down. It makes shopping a bit of a lottery, but it can be quite fun wheeling and dealing.
On Saturday the wind had all but disappeared so we set off south again hoping to get to Laayoune, but with an eye on stopping at Tarfaya if the wind picked up again.
Another police checkpoint at Sidi Akhfennir and we were off onto a lovely twisty coast road with dunes and estuaries and flamingos. It was beautiful and we were making good progress until we came round a left hand bend and the bike hit a pot hole in the road. Suddenly the bike wouldn’t go left anymore. We drifted to the right off the road and into the sand with Ant frantically trying to get back to the tarmac. The bike did that sickening your about to fall off wobble and then we fell off. The bike dug in and cartwheeled, Ant got whacked in the face by the handlebars and I flew over the top. I remember a lot of tumbling and then coming to rest face down in the sand. A quick check confirmed I was still alive and I could hear Ant groaning so he was still alive too. Then I started the process of checking all my limbs to see if they still worked. Painful signals were coming from my left ankle but other than that I seemed to be in one piece. Ant was making horrendous noises, but he turned out to be just winded from the impact and once he managed to get his breath he was ok. We checked each other over, Ant had a painful not entirely normal looking shoulder and we both had painful ribs. We managed to flag down a passing car and the gentleman phoned for the police and an ambulance. Unfortunately the nearest hospital was in Tarfaya which was still about 45 mins away so we made Ant an impromptu bungee sling and settled in for a bit of a wait.
After that it seemed every driver passing stopped and we had a steady stream of Moroccans asking if we were ok and retrieving our belongings that were strewn about in the sand.
The police turned up, checked our paperwork and made Ant give a description of the accident whilst we were waiting for the ambulance. Thankfully the ambulance wasn’t much longer and we set off on the 45 min drive to Tarfaya. The ambulance drivers in Morocco don’t appear to have the same kind of training as the UK, so I think we hit every pot hole on the way.
The hospital in Tarfaya was just an emergency assessment place. It was considerably better than a mud hut but it was also a long time since it had been cleaned. By this time we both knew nothing was broken, so the doctors didn’t think it was necessary to send us to Laayoune for x-rays. They bandaged my now very swollen ankle and then poured alcohol on it to cool it down. We both had a pain killing injection, I was just about to reach for our sterile needle kit, but thankfully the needles were wrapped in sterile plastic wrappers. We were given medical certificates and discharged. A policeman had accompanied us to the hospital and told us we needed to go back to Sidi Akhfennir to report to the police station. An hours taxi ride and 300 Dirhams later we arrived at the police station in Sidi Akhfennir. Much to our relief the policeman said we could stay in a hotel in town and report to the police station at 10am tomorrow. He showed us the bike in the police garage and all our gear was in an unused room in the station. The policeman kindly portered some of our luggage round to the Hotel Akhfennir and negotiated us a room and price. How’s about that for service! In the hotel we met Lila who was an angel, she sorted out our room, bought us clean sheets and towels and 30 mins later we sat down to a wonderful chicken tagine. We phoned the Mom and Dad support crew and told them about our minor mishap. We fell into bed thankful to be still here, but anxious about the trip to the police station tomorrow.
Sunday we woke feeling really sore. Lila did us a lovely breakfast and many pain killers were consumed. We hobbled round to the police station like condemned prisoners. When we got there everyone was amazingly nice. They bought us chairs and offered us tea and coffee. We went through all the paperwork a dozen times. Calls to the insurance company and many translations from English to French to Arabic later the police discovered a problem with our medical certificates. They needed more information so we would have to get in touch with the hospital, but it was Sunday and they were closed. The police asked us to sort out our medical certificates the next day and go back to the police station. Thankfully we were allowed to go back to the hotel. Mom and Dad support crew rang and said they would be with us tomorrow to help us and see if we could get the bike to somewhere it could be repaired. More lovely food supplied by Lila, this time cous cous, and we went to bed for a considerably better nights sleep now it appears we are not going to be added to the Moroccan most wanted list.
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