Week 4 - Cap Spartel in Morocco to Mohammedia in Morocco
We’re in Africa and it’s raining, there’s something wrong there!
Stayed in Cap Spartel till Tuesday waiting for the weather to improve and the culture shock to lessen. I really wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to go out of the relative familiarity of Europe. It was all a bit scary, still is, but it’s getting better. Everything is different here, the landscape, the culture, the people and the first time we have encountered real poverty. Everything is hard work, getting food, finding places to stay etc. I’m hoping it’s something we’ll get used to the more travelling we do.
Set off Tuesday morning, decided to stick to the coast and head towards Casablanca. We had been told by Debbie, who we met in the campsite, that hotels are pretty cheap in Morocco so we thought we’d try one out, as the thought of a hot shower and a real bed were irresistible. Strange place Morocco, you can’t tell if it’s falling down or just being built. We passed loads of abandoned buildings with new construction going on next door, but nothing is finished and no one appears to be working on anything. Perhaps the builders have stopped for the winter and all will be a hive of activity again in spring.
Arrived in Larache and found the lovely, if a bit tired, Hotel Espania.
The staff were all really friendly, took Ant to a safe garage to park the bike and recommended a few restaurants to try out in town. We went to the Restaurant Atlantique and had our first taste of eating out in Morocco. Something must have got lost in translation as neither of us got what we ordered, but the food was lovely anyway. Stayed in Larache an extra day so we could explore the town. Went to the local bike shop, the lookout point, the market and the sea front. Stood watching the Atlantic waves crashing in for ages.
The next morning we braved a trip to the post office to send some snail mail. Had to stand in the back and try and figure out how it worked. There were a load of different counters and no discernible queuing system, but we got there in the end.
Carried on south towards Rabat and passed a weekly market. Traffic madness, there were people and cars and trucks and donkeys everywhere. There was also a policeman with a whistle, but he didn’t seem to be making much of an impression on the traffic!
Stopped for a coffee and a bite to eat and realised the sore throat I had woken up with had turned into a cold. Oh No! After all those vaccinations I’ve been struck down with the common cold. Well that’s a bit melodramatic but I felt pretty rough. Headed on south along the coast, but no campsites and ended up riding into Rabat in rush hour with about 20 mins before the sun went down. No other option but to get a hotel for the night so we checked into the Hotel Bouregreg. Finally managed to get hold of my Mom and Dad and discovered they are in Morocco too! Have passed us on the road and are close to Casablanca. Agreed to meet up with them the next day.
Made the most of the hotel breakfast Friday morning. Ant had 4 plates of cake. Took some mad riding and a few u turns before we got out of Rabat on the right road. Went past the royal palace, but you couldn’t see anything just lots of guards with guns. Following the coast road and the scenery was beautiful, but my cold had developed into a full blown snot fest so not really able to appreciate it. Found my parents at the Campsite L’Ocean Bleu and gratefully collapsed in their campervan with a cup of tea and some beachams tablets. I wimped out that night and slept in the camper. I wonder if it’s too late to employ Mom and Dad as support crew.
Saturday morning one of the local fishermen came round the campsite selling that mornings catch so we haggled for a couple of fish, we think they were sea bass. Everyone went shopping and left me feeling sorry for myself in the camper. Back at the site we made friends with a scruffy looking dog we called Bob. The fish were amazing grilled on the BBQ. Ant slept in the tent with Bob the dog, as I stayed in the van again.
On Sunday we were woken to the sound of drums and shortly after 3 coachloads of Moroccans arrived. The campsite caretaker explained that they put on food and a show every Sunday and the local people have a day out to the seaside. All 3 coachloads trooped across the campsite to use the toilets and to have a look at the strange English people. At one point a little girl just stood and pointed and laughed at Ant, but he has that effect on most people not just Moroccans.
Ant got bored with me sniffling and generally being pathetic, so he went for a ride. Headed up into the mountains and was flagged down by some of the Northern Eagles, a bike club from Casablanca.
He also had a brief brush with Moroccan law enforcement as he accidentally went onto the toll motorway slip road and rode back up it the wrong way. They let him go when they realised he didn’t speak any French so that was lucky. Tried to cook the Turkey thighs we had bought from the shop on Saturday, but they turned out to be Turkey bottoms! When we looked it up the packet did say Turkey tails so we resolved to make better use of the phrasebook when shopping.
Week 5 - Mohammedia in Morocco to Sidi Ifni in Morocco
Left Mohammedia heading for a campsite in Da Bouazza which was south of, but closer to, Casablanca. The downside of this was that we had to ride through Casablanca. Although Rabat is the capital of Morocco, Casablanca is a much larger city. You can tell this by the thickness of smog you are inhaling from about 2 miles outside of town. They don’t go in much for catalytic converters around here!
Traffic was mayhem, but Ant has developed a taste for it now and follows the Moroccan example of racing into gaps that clearly aren’t there. Found the campsite pretty easy so waited for Mom and Dad to catch up and had a chilled out evening of drinking and chatting.
The next day we decided to catch the bus into Casablanca. We walked up to the main road and waited for 45 mins, but no sign of a bus so flagged down a taxi. Can you guess how many people you can fit in a Mercedes 400? Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed 7 including the driver. There were already 2 people in the front seat so the four of us squashed in the back.
We found a local market and Ant made a new purchase of a Tagine cooker, which will double as a BBQ and fire container, we walked around the ancient medina and found Rick’s Café from the film Casablanca. Well actually it’s a replica built in 2004. The real one was in Rabat, but I guess that doesn’t sound as romantic for a film title. We stopped for a coffee and a photo opportunity.
Then we walked across town to the Mosque of Hassan the 2nd, which was really impressive. It’s huge with really ornate mosaics and tiles. If you look at it from the other side it looks like it’s floating in the sea. The pictures really don’t do it justice.
Then came time to get back to the campsite. We needed to do some shopping so we got a couple of petit taxis (There are two types here. Grand Taxis go from town to town and Petit Taxis take you around within the town boundaries.) and asked for Carrefour, which was the supermarket we had seen on the way into town. The taxis didn’t take us to Carrefour, but to another supermarket. We got out to see what was going on and the taxi driver said he could wait for us while we did the shopping then take us to the campsite. That seemed reasonable, but should have rung alarm bells as our campsite was 20k away and petit taxis can’t go outside the town! Did a lightning fast shop and got back in the taxis for a hair raising ride across Casablanca at rush hour. It turns out that there was also a place called International Camping Oasis in Casablanca and that is where the taxi drivers thought we wanted to go. After much grumbling and renegotiation we got back to the taxi rank and got a grand taxi who knew the right campsite. Adventure or major stress? I’m still undecided on that one!
Left Da Bouazza heading for Oualidia. The map said the road was scenic and they weren’t kidding. Miles and miles of stunning coastline with big Atlantic waves crashing onto rocks and deserted beaches.
Only occasionally spoiled by whacking great petro chemical factories. Went through Azemmour and El-Jadida, just outside a chap avoiding getting his car wet in a puddle nearly killed us so we thought we’d stop for a spot of lunch.
Found Oualidia, but no campsite just parking for campervans by the side of the road. The security / campsite / wide boy / fixer said we could pitch our tent there if Mom and Dad were also coming in a campervan, but only after having tried to buy me from Ant for 50 camels! So glad he let us stay there as we were right on the beach of the natural lagoon Oualidia is built around. It was really beautiful.
We had no provisions so decided to go to a restaurant in town. We all had the set menu and I have never seen so much fish in my life! Starters turned out to be a big plate of sea urchins. Ant had to ask the waiter what to do with them as we didn’t have a clue. It turns out you use a spoon and scoop out the tiny orange bits from the middle. It’s like eating very small, very salty roe. Unfortunately half way through the plate Ant noticed some of them we’re still moving which kind of put me off. After that we still had fried fish and grilled fish and crab and lobster and clams to get through. We all staggered off to bed so full of fish we could have burst.
Next morning we set off for Essaouira and about 10 mins up the road came across Cyprien the cyclist we had been leap frogging for a couple of days. We stopped for a chat and he is on his way from Belgium to Senegal. If you would like to keep up with his adventures in his flat cap his blog is here http://lesaventuresdes.blogspot.com. He had been in a hotel in Oualidia the night before, where he had met Danielle a Spanish chap who has just started a cycle trip around the world. While we were chatting another BMW pulled up, ridden by an Argentinian who had been off playing in the desert for a few weeks. He gave us loads of tips about where the good riding is in Morocco. He was a really interesting chap and he splits his time between Argentina and Miami for work so he spoke excellent English. Unfortunately I failed to make a note of his name and it has since dropped out of my head! I gave him our blog address though so hopefully he might be in touch down the road.
The next few days were sunny and uneventful we carried on down the scenic coast stopping in Essaouira, Taghazoute and eventually ending the week in Sidi Ifni. The landscape has changed considerably this week from green farmland to hilly, where we got our first glimpses of the Atlas Mountains, to more barren and desert like.
We finished the week in camping Sidi Ifni which is right on the beach. My cold is back with a vengeance and we have met Jean Francois or Jeff, who is a French Canadian travelling around Morocco by bus. As I was sniffling in bed, Ant and Jeff went into the market and bought us some camel meat for tea.
Ant also found a restaurant where they had beer and managed to buy 4 cans wrapped in newspaper under the counter. We BBQ’d the camel and Jeff made a fantastic tomato risotto to go with it. It was lovely. Camel tastes like a cross between Pork and Turkey and is fantastic BBQ’d.
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.
Mending, sort of.
Week 7 - Sidi Akhfennir in Morocco to El Ouatia in Morocco
Monday morning after another lovely breakfast, courtesy of Lila, I tried to phone the hospital to see if we could resolve the medical certificate / police problem, but a combination of my bad French, their limited English and a bad phone line didn’t get us very far. So we were left with no option but to travel the hour back to Tarfaya and go back to the hospital.
We checked with Lila and there was a bus to Tarfaya at 11.30 from outside the hotel. We went down to the café to wait for it. We needn’t have worried, it appears the bus service runs more like a coach so it turned up at 11.30 and then hung around for about 30 mins for all the passengers to have a break. Lila spoke to the driver for us and arranged a drop off near to the hospital and a Moroccan fare rather than a tourist one (did I mention she was an angel!). The bus was something else, there were big cracks in the windscreen and the wing mirrors were held on with string! If we thought the road was a bit narrow at times on the bike it was nothing compared to passing lorries on the bus. Luckily the driver was obviously used to it and didn’t feel the need to slow down at all.
We made it to Tarfaya in just over an hour and we hobbled to the hospital. The doctors were great and phoned the police station to make sure the paperwork we got was what they needed. After putting one of every stamp they had in the hospital on the new medical certificates we were sorted. We wandered in town to find the bank and found an interesting sea front with what appeared to be a fort in the sea.
Unfortunately we had less success with the banks. There were two in town and both the cash machines were broken so we just bought some water and couple of bananas trying to conserve our cash and walked back to wait for the return bus. The driver had said something about 4, but it could have been 4 o’clock or in 4 hours so we weren’t entirely sure what time the bus would be back. Whilst we were waiting lots of people stopped to ask if we were ok. It turned out everyone knew about our accident and our fame was spreading. After waiting for an hour and 45 mins there was still no sign of the bus. A taxi pulled up and said he was going through Sidi Akhfennir so we squeezed in with the 4 people already in there. This turned out to be the most terrifying taxi ride yet as it was a 120kph hurtle through the dessert in the dark, at some points racing about a foot from the bumper of another taxi. When we made it to Sidi Akhfennir in one piece Ant and I vowed not to travel that road again, 4 times was enough any more would really be pushing our luck!
We stopped at the police station to hand in our new medical certificates and they asked us to come back in the morning for more paperwork. The Mom and Dad support wagon had arrived whilst we’d been away and we hobbled round to the van for a very welcome cuppa. We had met Boujmaa in town earlier, he is a park ranger for the national park just south of Sidi Akhfennir. He offered to come to the police station to translate for us and invited us all round to his house for dinner after. We agreed to meet him tomorrow and went back to our hotel where Lila came through again with grilled fish and Lamb chops for all four of us. Mom and Dad retired to the van and we fell into bed.
Boujmaa met us the following morning and we went back to the police station. We were there 10 mins when the chief bought us a typed accident report and said we were all finished! That was it, no charges for recovering the bike or storage, no charges for the ambulance or any of the medical treatment we had received. We were stunned, but didn’t hang around for them to change their minds. Ant retrieved the bike and pushed it round to where the van was parked. In the daylight we could see how badly it was damaged.
Every town and village in Morocco has 3 or 4 mechanics workshops except for the town we decided to crash in, so there was no chance we could get it fixed in Sidi Akhfennir. A call to our friends on the internet earlier had determined that getting new parts posted to Morocco from the UK or anywhere in Europe was going to be hideously expensive, so we decided if we could get back to the campsite at El Ouatia Ant could at least do a tour of the workshops there and see if he could get any parts. After lunch at Boujmaa’s he arranged for the fish man to take the bike to El Ouatia in the back of his pick-up truck, we paid our hotel bill, said many thank yous to Lila, threw our gear in the back of the van and were on our way.
We got back to the campsite in El Ouatia and Ant and I hired one of the bungalows to stay in so we didn’t have to crawl in and out of the tent in our damaged state. We only had to share it with one family of cockroaches and they mostly kept to the bathroom! We unloaded the bike from the fish wagon and went to bed thankful we had managed to get out of Sidi Akhfennir.
The next few days were spent between eating painkillers, resting on the sofa in our bungalow and working on the bike. Once Ant had stripped it down the damage was; very bent handle bars, 2 very bent pannier racks, a dented front wheel, a bent rear sub frame, 2 snapped shock absorbers and a completely shredded top box.
Mulloud the campsite manager had every mechanic in town out to look at the bike and Ant managed to get the handlebars straightened, the worst of the dents out of the front wheel, the pannier racks semi straightened, a few bits of welding here and there and some replacement shock absorbers that would fit. They were off a much smaller bike though so I would have to travel in the van with our gear for the time being.
While fixing the bike Ant met Ron and Linda who were in this Morris Minor with a very groovy roof tent. They were on their way to a Morris Minor rally in South Africa. If you want to follow their exploits their website is here www.rondouglas.co.uk.
Everyone we spoke to in El Ouatia said we would need to go to Tiznit for better parts. After some internet research we found there was a BMW dealer in Casablanca, but after exchanging emails they would need to order replacement parts from BMW in Germany and they were closed until the 8th Jan for Christmas. So we finished the week with a sort of mended bike and slowly recovering sore bits, considering what to do next.
Week 8 - El Ouatia in Morocco to Tiznit in Morocco
On Monday Ant tried the bike out and concluded it rode well enough to get somewhere else. After much discussion we decided to go to Tan-Tan on Tuesday and see if there are any better shock absorbers to be had there.
Tuesday morning we emerged from the bungalow to find Mom and Dad had been robbed in the night. Unfortunately it was a circumstances thing. Mom and Dad were getting ready for bed before locking up for the night and someone opened the van door and pinched Mom’s handbag. Dad found it a few minutes later left by the front of the van. Just £160 in cash taken so could have been worse. More trips to another Moroccan police station meant we didn’t get to Tan-Tan.
Understandably Mom and Dad didn’t want to stay in El Ouatia any more so Wednesday we packed up and headed off for Tiznit.
I figured I’d use the time in the back of the van to catch up on the blog and read, but it was so bouncy I ended up lying down with my eyes closed trying not to throw up. Ant had a very bouncy ride too with the not entirely up for the job shock absorbers so we were both very grateful to reach camping international at Tiznit.
Thursday Ant scoured every bike shop, car shop, bicycle shop and mechanic in Tiznit. No shocks, everyone said go to Agadir. Worried in case everyone in Agadir says go to Casablanca and we’ll be back in Spain before we find any shocks!
I stayed with the Mom and Dad support van and Ant went off to Agadir on his own. He phoned later to say he had only been run off the road twice and he’d found a man with shocks, but couldn’t get them till tomorrow. He found a cheap hotel for the night, this gave me the opportunity to go into town and do a bit of Christmas present shopping. Only had newspaper and plastic bags, but even so I did a reasonable job of wrapping. I also made a few decorations for the van. Unfortunately making them out of newspaper resulted in one of the Christmas trees having Michael Gorbachov’s head on it, but they make the van more festive.
Saturday was Christmas eve, Ant returned from Agadir with new shocks and the bike was handling much better what a relief.
There was an advert in the campsite for the Hotel Mauritania who were doing a Christmas eve dinner so we went to see if they had any tables left. Our luck was in and we had a really nice dinner, loads of courses and the main being a really nice roast Lamb. All the other revellers were French people from the campsite and one had bought his accordion so we had music and dancing into the night.
It had turned really foggy whilst we were eating so it was a strange and quiet walk back to the campsite. Sort of a white Christmas, but not exactly like snow.
Christmas morning and Santa had managed to deliver our presents to the right place even though we were in Morocco!
Ant bought me a lovely silver necklace, we all had lots of sweets chocolate and fruit and Dad had 2 new plastic buckets. Who says you don’t get exciting presents when you’re a grown up! Mom and I had bought a piece of turkey for dinner which I roasted in the oven in the van. It took ages to cook, but came out really nice with roast potatoes and home made stuffing. Yummy!
Week 9 - Tiznit in Morocco to Taghazoute in Morocco
With the new shocks on the bike it was time to try it 2 up and to see if I could manage to get on and off with my bad ankle. Set off for a pootle round Tiznit and met Alesh and Noamy at the paint spray shop. They were very excited as they had been parked up for nearly 2 weeks having work done to their van, but it was almost ready for its new paint job.
We whiled away the afternoon chatting and playing with their dog Chappie. They invited us to meet them in town that evening as they had found a shop that did really good donuts. Never one to pass up the opportunity for donuts we dashed back to the van for a quick tea and then walked into town. They were right about the donuts they were fantastic and Alesh and Noamy proceeded to give us a tour of all the places they had discovered in Tiznit over the last 2 weeks.
The following day we paid for our good time. My ankle was swollen and painful from all the walking and the “new” shock absorbers had turned out to be not so new and weren’t up for the job of carrying the two of us let alone all the gear as well.
Wednesday Ant was ready to throw the bike in the sea and go home, so we decided to ignore our transport problems and go and see if any progress had been made on Alesh and Noamy’s van. They were getting very close, but had to wait for the paint sprayer to have lunch before the painting could start. As we were chatting a BMW pulled up with English number plates. The driver came to say hello and it turned out he was a Moroccan gentleman called Aziz, who lives 6 months of the year in Stourbridge and works in our local casino in Walsall. It’s a small world! Aziz has a friend who owns a scrap yard in Agadir and he agreed to go with Ant the following day to see if he could get any better shock absorbers.
Thursday Ant was up early and off to Agadir again with Aziz. He returned after dark with more new shocks, this time from a big trials bike, welded to the original eyes and a straightened front wheel. The bike looked loads better, but it was even nicer to see Ant smiling again.
Friday we went to say goodbye to Alesh and Noamy. Their van was finished and they had had enough of camping outside the garage.
We decided it was time for us to move on too and head off towards Marrakesh, so Saturday we were up early and packed the bike.
Tried to leave the campsite, but there was no one to pay! Had to wait till 12.30 until the owner got back from lunch, so it was a good job we had decided only to go as far as Agadir.
Good to be back on the road although I felt really nervous about every bend and bump. I’m sure I’ll get over that in a few days. Tried a couple of campsites in Agadir, but they were all full so we ended up back in Atlantic Park in Taghazoute, where we had stayed on our way South. Had tea and went for a wander to see if there were any New Year’s festivities, but both the restaurants on the campsite were full of reserved tables. This being Morocco there was no bar you could sidle up to and join in the fun, so we walked down to the beach. Nothing going on. The beach was deserted so we retired back to the van and saw in the New Year with the London fireworks on the telly.
We all decided to stay an extra day in Taghazoute and we started 2012 as we mean to go on by having a lie in. Ant went for a wander and managed to rustle us up 2 pizzas which we gleefully devoured. It’s been a while and we love pizza. Ant ordered and took delivery of a new waterproof bag to replace the right hand front box we had lost in the accident. Sewn to his exact measurements by the man outside the campsite who makes awnings. After a shower and doing some washing we are all ready to start the trip to Marrakesh tomorrow.
Week 10 - Taghazoute in Morocco to Fes in Morocco
Monday we got up early for a long ride to Marrakesh. The Mom and Dad support wagon said they would catch us up so we set off on our own. Back down the coast to Agadir and then turned north for the road to Marrakesh. We started climbing into the Atlas mountains almost immediately and the scenery was lovely.
The Mom and Dad support wagon caught us up so we stopped in Imi-n-Tanoute for some lunch.
Got into Marrakesh late afternoon and wiggled around looking for a campsite whilst trying not to ride into the centre of Marrakesh in rush hour. Found Camping le Relais de Marrakesh and there was grass! We hadn’t seen grass for weeks. They also had a bar and free welcome cocktails; you could tell the site was run by a French couple. We had our welcome cocktails and then a few more drinks, then dinner in the restaurant and then a few more drinks until the staff politely started turning off the lights and we got the hint it was time for bed.
We got up a bit late on Tuesday and booked a taxi to take the 4 of us from the campsite into Marrakesh. The taxi ride was only moderately scary so we booked him to bring us back too! We walked into the main square, but there wasn’t much there so we had a coffee and decided to explore the souk. It was amazing. A warren of covered streets sometimes on 3 levels stuffed with everything you could ever want to buy from spices to antiques and clothes to medicines.
It was split into areas so all the spices were in one place and the leather goods in another. We looked around a couple of the medicine stalls and one of the owners gave me a baby chameleon to hold. It was one of the most brilliant things ever, but also a bit sad as there were lots of them all in a little cage. They had lots of food though and they didn’t look distressed, although I’m not sure I would know what a distressed chameleon looks like!
It was pretty warm walking around so we stopped for a drink and watched a couple of enterprising young chaps doing acrobatic tricks for the crowd and a couple of Dirhams. We eventually found our way back to the main square just as it was getting dark and the place was coming alive with food stalls, music, dancing, magic shows, snake charmers and men selling teeth! Yes teeth, it looked like you picked the ones you fancied and the stall holder made them into a set of false teeth for you. Unfortunately he wasn’t too keen on having his picture taken so you’ll have to take my word for it. There was also the Moroccan equivalent of the hook a duck stall, where you tried to get a little rubber tyre over a bottle of pop. We stood there for ages and no one managed it, so I recon it’s impossible.
We stopped for kebabs at one of the food stalls and got the taxi back to the campsite very pleased with our day out in Marrakesh.
The next few days we spent lazing by the pool reading and planning where to go next. Ant and I decided a trip to the Cascades of Ouzoud sounded like a good plan, but Mom and Dad wanted to stay in Marrakesh and make the most of the sunshine, so on Friday it was time to say goodbye again. We set off on the main road to Fes and turned off towards the cascades. The scenery was fantastic again snow topped mountains in the distance, but the road surface was pretty rubbish in places.
We rode along the road by the cascades and it was tourist central there were people everywhere practically throwing themselves in front of the bike. “Park here” “Come to my hotel” “My campsite has the best view” etc. etc. Rode through them all and found the hotel and campsite De France. There was a noticeable drop in the temperature as we climbed up through the hills so we plumped for a hotel room out of the cold rather than camping.
The restaurant in the Hotel De France did the best Tagines we had in Morocco. They were hot and spicy with just the right amount of oil in and ever so slightly burned on the bottom. Mmmmm. We had tea with Ishmael one of the chaps who worked in the hotel. After numerous refusals to share some of his hashish he settled for a chat about the nature in the area, his ambitions to travel and how he would show us the best path to the cascades tomorrow. We rolled into bed with very full tummies looking forward to tomorrow’s trip.
Saturday we were up early and Ishmael took us across to the cascades, via a stop to try and sell us some argan oil. We had explained to Ishmael that I couldn’t walk too well with my ankle and he had assured us the path was easy and flat. It wasn’t! We walked across a dry river bed, tree roots and boulders before we got to the cascades which were amazing.
Unfortunately although there was a lot more of the path to explore I could hardly walk by this point so no choice but to hobble back to the hotel.
It was still early so we packed up and hit the road heading towards Fes, we knew we wouldn’t make it in one day, but plumped for Kenitra as a stopping point as Ishmael had told us there was a campsite there. More mountains and we passed through a snow barrier which thankfully was still open. We dropped down to a beautiful lake
and then we came out of the other side of the mountains. The view was incredible it was like all of Morocco was spread out before us.
The road got really twisty and full of overloaded lorries. It was nearly dark by the time we got Kenitra and we were filthy and wheezing from the diesel fumes. We rode round and round but no sign of a campsite and only 1 hotel. It’s was overpriced, but they did have a tortoise in the lobby and they let us park the bike in the restaurant!
Sunday morning we left Kenitra and carried on up the N8 to Fes. The road was pretty rubbish so not a very comfortable ride. More mountains and open snow barriers until we came to Ifrane. It’s a ski resort and looks like an Alpine town which in contrast to the rest of Morocco made it feel like we were riding through a parallel universe!
We got to Fes early afternoon and had decided to try and find a cheap hotel in the centre to be in the bustle and explore. The Fes experience was similar to arriving in the cascades, but this time people chased us on scooters. Every set of traffic lights someone would chase us and engage us in a shouted conversation about their hotel, whilst Ant was trying to negotiate the city traffic. After the 5th time this happened our nerves were wearing a bit thin so we tried a different road into town. We found a hotel eventually and had an early night to be ready for exploring Fes the next day.
Week 11 - Fes in Morocco to Cap Spartel in Morocco
Woke refreshed from a good nights sleep ready to explore Fes. We walked all through the town and the souk which is built on a really steep hill. We were shown the way to a leather shop where you could go up on the roof and look down over the tannery. It was facinating, it’s been there since the 13 hundreds and they still do all the processes by hand. Unfortunately due to an attack of numptyness I had forgotten the camera, but honestly is was great! We walked along the town walls past the gardens and through the clothes market several people told us the King was in Fes, but we didn’t see any sign of him.
Tuesday we left Fes heading up the N8 back in the direction of Tanger. It must have been the route the King was taking out of town because every 100 yards there was a set of flags and a policeman.
We ran into a huge traffic jam around Ain Kansera. When we got to the front of the queue there was a big party going on to welcome the King on his visit.
We would have stayed to see if we could join the party, but there were so many cars and trucks there was nowhere safe to leave the bike. Once we passed there the traffic thinned out and we started climbing again into the range of mountains known as the Rif. Scenery was amazing again, but the road was terrible and completely washed out in places, not a crash barrier in sight.
Started to get a bit worried when it got to 4 o’clock and we hadn’t got to the town we were expecting. It was really cold up in the mountains and I was imagining having to sleep in our survival bags at the side of the road! Eventually just as it was getting dark we came into a town we found a backstreet hotel above a café. It was just a room with 3 single beds, but it was vaguely warmer than outside although you could still see your breath. We later worked out why it was so cold, there was no roof on the toilets! We also discovered we were in Targuist which was miles away from where we thought we were.
Next day we got out of Targuist and back on to the N2 which was the road we should have been on before. As soon as we hit the main route back to Tanger everyone on the side of the road was trying to get us to pull over and buy their hashish! We were chased through the mountain roads by 2 cars one pulled over, but the other one chased us for miles. Ant pulled over eventually as the bike is too heavy for throwing around mountain roads like that. He asked us if we wanted hashish, a hotel, a restaurant or to go to his house and drink tea!!! We not very politely declined. We stopped for coffee and 4 different people tried to sell us hashish. We later learned that there is a big Marajuana farm on top of the mountain and the area is notorious for it. By this time we were getting a bit fed up so we didn’t stop again and carried on towards Sebta to see if there were any ferries we could get back to Europe.
We pulled up to a gate across the road to Sebta and a chap took us to the side and asked for our passports. We were confused, but it turns out Sebta is Spanish not Moroccan so you have to cross the border to go into the town. We were debating whether to go in when the border chap asked for 20 Euros for “stamping quickly” that made up our minds and we headed back down the coast to try and find somewhere to stay. Found a cheap hotel with internet and, after a bit of riding round the back streets, a garage to park the bike in. 10 mins after we checked in to the hotel their modem packed up. So much for trying to find cheap ferry deals, so we gave up and went to bed.
Thursday we called into an internet café on the way back to the bike. 1st time we had done that, but it was really easy apart from the odd Arabic keyboard. We must have spent 10 mins looking for the full stop key. Got prices for ferry to Italy. It was a bit pricey so decided to see if we could get anything cheaper at the port itself. Dropped down to Tanger Med port through some more spectacular scenery and went to the ticket offices. All the quotes we got were 100 Euro more expensive than the net, so headed off to find somewhere to stay with internet access.
Followed the coast road looking for a hotel or campsite, but there was nothing. The road was beautiful really hilly and twisty, but the wind was incredible and Ant was reduced to tiptoeing the bike round the bends to keep us upright. We passed one point where there were lots of people and some kind of winch. It looks like someone had driven off the road and down the drop. We didn’t hang around for fear of being blown over to join them. Followed the coast all the way and ended up back in Tanger not having passed a single hotel! Decided to cut our losses and head back to the campsite in Cap Spartel. Pitched up and went to McDonalds to use the internet. We had a choice of Saturday or Tuesday for the ferry. Couldn’t decide so we tossed a coin and it came out Tuesday, so we had a couple of days to sort ourselves out and pack the bike.
The next few days were spent repacking the bike so we had easy access to the stuff we would need on the ferry, tootling around Tanger, washing our clothes, tinkering with the bike and shopping. To keep the costs down we would try and cater for ourselves on the ferry so we spent a lot of time in Marjane supermarket trying to figure out what would still be edible after being in our cabin for two days. Whilst shopping we also decided to try, what we think was conger eel for tea. We BBQ’d it and it was lovely. Had the texture of lobster meet with a more fishy taste, unfortunately it was almost inedible due to the bones. By the time you had managed to extracate any meat you could eat it was cold!
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