Day 17 (22 October)
Border crossing day… But this time it is the first one where we need to get our passports. We were taking the boat to Morocco! We didn’t get a ticket in advance and thought we would try to find one at the harbor. But of course we checked first the internet to see what the prices would be, with the cheapest ferry going for 145 euros one way. Once at the port the hassling guys came over and one actually took us to a ticket office, but who knew we came out of the office with a ticket costing only 105 euros, hope it would sail us to Morocco… The “friendly” guy also informed us that we should hurry because the ferry would leave in 30 minutes… It ended up 2 hours and 30 minutes before we could board the ferry… The slow ferry…
We made it to Tanger, we think… We got our visum stamp (no charge) on the boat and customs already so customs looked really easy, but that was just the first check, and the second check… But the third check point, I guess for the car import or so, was what you can call typical African. From one office to the other… The guy with the hat and the moustache on almost jelling “I’m not the police! I’m not the police! Police is over there!” No idea why I had to go to the police for but it’s probably the routine… Coming back from the police (which turned out to be a guy in another booth) I was ordered by the guy with the hat and the moustache to wait in the car… After about 20 minutes he asked “anything to declare?” The usual answer of course is “No”, after which he replied “OK, you can go”…
We are in Morocco and the African adventure starts! And we don’t have to wait long… We decided to divert the toll as we always did and found out what the thin white roads on the map are; potholes or no tarmac at all! Luckily it only took one hour or so and we found our way back to the normal roads towards a campsite in Chefchaouen. In the evening we walked down into the medina for what became our finest Moroccan cuisine! At least what Martin ordered, I had tagine with chicken and they put some extra liver in it to please the persons who like chicken liver… Not me…
Day 18 (23 October)
The campsite was located high on the hill and had a spectacular view in the morning, if you look beyond the construction work next to the campsite… OK, after a cup of coffee and some bread with cheese (the usual morning consumptions) we headed back into town.
The medina of Chefchaouen is famous for the blue painted walls of the houses making it a very picturesque place. We could snap a photo from more or less every angle on every corner to make a perfect photo. It’s a wonderful place with not too much hassle.
Walked around all day, tried to get lost in the medina (did not succeed), had some tea, walked some more, had lunch and headed back to the tents. All while making one after the other photo.
In the evening we had some tea at the campsite and the friendly girls turned on the WiFi for us. After helping them to open a can of Spam, they politely offered me a complete meal that I was not allowed to refuse. Although we already had a huge late lunch, I got some fries, cheese, Spam, some other stuff which wasn’t too bad and 2 boiled eggs. The bread I kindly saved for the tomorrow morning… As if this wasn’t enough they came back and brought me dessert: sweet juicy melon and some grapes!
Day 19 (24 October)
We drove to Fes in the morning and found a campsite 6 km out of town. We took the petit taxi, that luckily dropped someone else at the campsite (they normally don’t come this far out of town), to the medina.
Walked around all day, tried to get lost in the medina (succeeded this time!!! All those little streets, corners and bends…), had some tea, walked some more, had lunch and headed back to the tents.
Martin and I enjoyed a nice glass of Bacardi with Cola in the evening, which together with the barking dogs and the loud music of the next door disco bar resulted in no sleep all night…
Day 20 (25 October)
We finally had to check Martins Blackberry to confirm it was Monday. I had to go to Rabat to get my Mauritania and Mali visas. So, another long drive to Rabat. But this time we decided to catch up time by taking the toll highway. The first half hour only six cars passed by and I manage to pass another car. After that it became a bit boring to continue the counting but it describes perfectly that there was no traffic jam what so ever! Until you come to down town Rabat…
We first tried to find the campsite, according to Tracks4Africa would be in Sale just North of Rabat. There is major houses and apartments construction going on and, I guess, the campsite was moved to somewhere else (or it was just the empty grassy strip along the beach). Plan B: park in the city and find a cheap hotel… We drove around to find some place to park nearby the hotel from the Lonely Planet. Found a spot next to a mosque and headed to Hotel Central. Our first pick was a very decent place, 2 cleanish beds, shower, shared cleanish toilet and very reasonable priced (Dh 200 for 2 persons per night, equals a bit less 18 euros)!
Next door was also a parking garage and asked in my best French (which is improving by the day) the guard if I could park my car there. He replied it was possible for Dh 100 for 2 nights and something with 18.00 hours… After confirming that they did not close at any time, nor they would leave the premises, we decided to pick up the car it was 17h). Apparently the guard was very clear that only after 18h there would be space available in the garage to park the car… I guess I should have paid more attention during the never-ending French classes at school…
Anyway, we parked the car on the streets again, had some lunch in a park and picked up the car again and… It appeared that at 18h spot on everybody with a car in the center was trying to go places and we got stuck in rush hour. It was the biggest chaos I encountered so far on this trip, but knowing how Julia drove in Damascus (back in 2008) I could easily manage to change lanes and drive to the parking in one go! (although it does give a bit of a headache)
Day 21 (26 October)
It is bureaucracy day, those are the worst… A quarter before nine in the morning I was at the embassy of Mauri (which I think should be short for Mauritania) trying to fill in the excessive visa application form… Luckily I had the help of a Spanish guy (sorry forgot your name already) to translate the question in French ‘Name all of the countries you have visited in the last 10 years’!!! Are they nuts? How could one do that correctly? And on just one short line… So I answered nicely ‘France, Spain, uhhh Turkey, Kenya, uhhh, and Jordan.’
All things went fine, handed in the form, had to wait till 3pm, had some coffee with some Spanish travelers, went back in town and visited the Mausoleum of the late king Mohamed V; a building made out of marble.
At 2.45h I was back at the embassy waiting in line for my passport and at 3pm sharp they started handing out the passports. My turn… I got my passport and surprisingly all was fine! I rushed to embassy of Mali, they would close at 3.30pm and perhaps I could be done in one day only. But Africa is polle polle and the person in charge of the Stamp had already gone home… Tomorrow 10am was my best next try.
Day 22 (27 October)
Day 2 for getting the visas. We checked out of the hotel with all confidence I would get my Mali visa in the early afternoon. We drove in the Landy to the embassy of Mali (which is just a bit further down the street from the Mauri embassy) around 9.45h and saw already the queue for Mauri and… A red Land Rover, what a coincidence… With a blue bag on its roofrack, that cannot be a coincidence… Dutch license plates, it were Julia, Stanley and the kids!
A nice surprise and early get together! After meet & greets, I went quickly to the Mali embassy to check on my visa status. I could have known, the Stamping guy was still not there. I was told (or at least I understood in my best French, which I have to say is improving day by day) to come back later perhaps. I asked “in 30 minutes, 1 hours?” and got some kind of an answer back… Things are not so clear I guess for them either…
In the meantime we all went for coffee and could catch up with some of the others adventures. It was really nice to come across earlier than the anticipated 4 November.
Coming back at the embassy, there was a guy holding a stamp! Got the visa!
Martin and I choose to head on into the Atlas mountains instead of (possibly) spending another night in Rabat with Stanley and Julia, otherwise we would not be able to reach the Sahara dessert within Martin’s holiday. Stanley and Julia would come after us if they do manage to get the visas done in one day…
Before you get to the Atlas mountains the countryside is just a bit hilly but then the Middle Atlas starts abruptly. Impressive views! During sunset we reached a campsite in the start of the mountains, closed, so we drove on out of the small town of El Ksiba of the road on a small area where we could put up the tents. We first would have dinner (the earlier bought grilled chicken) and see what would happen with the locals. Not long afterwards a car parked nearby (but still off of the road behind some trees) and speaking sounds of a man and woman could be heard. Martin and I came to the conclusion that although it is nothing like a brothel, this place would serve the same purpose! A quick 20 minutes and the car left again… you draw your own conclusions…
All quiet again and we could strip the chicken further of nice parts of meat, before more car lights came off the road towards us… Who would be visiting us this time?
The car was a white van and stopped next to us. Three guys stepped out and greeted us in Arabic and French: “Bon soir?” “Salaam alakum,” “La bes?” “B’ger.” One of the guys started saying he had some beer, and one of the others opened the back door of the van. A woman was sitting in the back and this kinda relaxed the mood (with me at least). They kindly asked if they were disturbing us and we said a confident No not at all! We were done with the chicken, but still quite a bit was left, and shared it with the 3 guys and the woman. Soon after they shared Moroccan wine and beer with us and we put our bottle of Bacardi in the middle; a party has started! It was a very strange experience how it turned out so fast into a pleasant atmosphere among friends.
Day 23 (28 October)
The next morning we still confirmed from the rubble that the area would normally be used for more than just drinking alcohol… Better to quickly pack up and move on, to forget the place by daylight… Before heading on the into the mountains we satisfied our caffeine addiction in downtown El Ksiba, which had only one place where you could sit down...
Today we drove through the Middle Atlas into the High Atlas. It was a very narrow road with steep canyons on one side and high mountains on the other. But the views are impressive! And once in the Atlas Mountains the golden autumn colors of the tree leaves against the bright green fields, deep blue skies and warm red mountains, is a feast for the eyes! This route can be marked as one of the most beautiful roads to drive on, especially this time of year.
After a bit more than 100km and slightly more than 2½ hours from the “meeting point for locals” we reached the town of Imichil. If Stanley and Julia are driving the same route they might catch up on us if we have some lunch here. The restaurant works without a menu and could serve only 2 tagines that were already on the stove. So we thought long and hard and ordered 2 tagines. Lovely vegitables and tender meat.
Still no sigh of a red Landy and we had to move more South… We told some people in town that a red Land Rover might pass through, tell them we headed on. Who knows, maybe they got the message…
Driving south bound on this magnificent route led us over a pass at nearly 2700 meters! In the sun the temperature is perfect but the wind is freezing colt… Also with walking short distances you could really feel you are in the mountains. We ended our day at 2000 meters high at a small campsite with a gorgeous view of the setting sun behind the mountain range. Compared to anything, especially the surprise party last night, this place is peaceful. At night, millions of stars appear, every now and then a shooting star, and if you are quiet you could hear… Nothing… Complete silence! But it’s just freezing cold…
Day 24 (29 October)
We woke up with a spectacular view! After coffee we (read Niels) cleaned the windows and packed everything up. But just before we were ready to get a move on, there was some disturbing sounds, something was polluting the silence: honking the horn, tuut, tuuut… tuut tuuut… We looked up and there was a red Landy that almost drove passed us! Julia, Stanley, Eowyn and Senna managed to catch up on us! After the exchange of sorties of last night we realized that Martin and I just left El Ksiba after our morning coffee and they arrived only minutes later (we guessed 30 minutes).
Over coffee we decided to head on further into the mountains all together and start using the book of Chris Scott, Morocco overland, more in depth. The book describes many off road routes through the Atlas, Sahara dessert and Western Sahara (the latter is the Southern part of Morocco, although a dispute is still ongoing to what country it actually belongs) and has detailed info, gps waypoints and graded the routes.
We drove a magnificent drive through canyons and over mountain passes, but there was still tarmac… Finally in the small town of Tenerhir the tarmac road took a left turn and we headed on straight! After lunch we had our first drive off road. It started out easily, we had the coordinates put in the GPS and the cars were doing fine, but who knows what is still to come…
In the evening we made camp in the mountains far between any visible houses, but this would not keep the local children away. As soon as we pitched up the tents three appeared more or less from nowhere! Eowyn gave some ladybug-chocolates to them and it looked like the news spread fast. Within minutes there were more coming from all directions! And just before our dinner (theoretically we had nasi but you could say it was just rice with boemboe/herbs) was ready, they ran off into the mountains while the night was pitch black! (we already had troubles with just walking…)
I still had a bottle of port from Porto, a Late Bottled Vintage of Taylors 2004, and because we had to celebrate the upcoming birthdays of Theo and Kimberly and the fact that we were all together for dinner for the first time and the fact that we had to finish all the alcohol we were carrying before we go into Mauritania (alcohol is there illegal), but mainly because we just needed some alcohol (…), we opened up the bottle and start poring! The port was amazingly nice, and it common sense we had to fill the glasses for a second round… The rest we would safe for later, because from our “friends” from El Ksiba we got a bottle of Moroccan wine as a gift. To our surprise the wine was very nice and the alcohol was poring again!
Day 25 (30 October)
In the morning we were woken up by this friendly voice of a sweet, little boy softly saying: “Bon jour, bon jour.” Two of the kids were back… Julia gave the two boys some chocolate milk and soon all there friends started to arrive also… News indeed spreads fast! We packed up and headed on again.
The drive was amazing! You could stop at every corner to make an impressive photo and knowing that we drove through mountain passes there were many, many, many corners and photos taken! Just an amazing tour on a dirt road.
In the afternoon we ended up in the town of Alnif where we ended our Atlas off road path. We took another route from the book ‘Overland Morocco’ that would lead us into the dessert along the border with Algeria. After driving south over a well maintained dirt road, somewhere between Bou-Dib and Fezzou (I think, the towns here are not really that significant in size, they are more like a bundle of mud buildings together) we saw a nice small sand dune towards the east: could make a perfect camping spot! We took a left turn and over huge rocks drove straight to the dunes! It was a marvelous spot.
We pitched up our tents and still no locals around! The sand was so soft that we all ran down the hill and made crazy jumps for the photo. Sunset in the dessert, like in Sudan near the pyramids in 2008, is always a fascinating moment. The sun bright yellow/reddish with so many photos that will turn our perfect!
The rest of the evening was quiet, no locals at all, and the stars are so bright with once in a while a shooting star. What a place…
Day 26 (31 October)
Happy birthday Theo! Enjoy the day! Thanks for all the hard work on the cars, they both drive perfect!
Today we headed on further into the Sahara along the border with Algeria. It is a stony and hot dessert and thus a bumpy ride. But every now and then the surface softens and the drive was enjoyable smooth, but still hot, hot, hot…
We ended up somewhere pasted Agoult and pitched up the tents behind a small rocky hill. This evening Martin and I were making dinner: Pasta with sauce, onion and garlic… Like the nasi it tasted great, but was nothing more than just pasta with a little reddish color…
Day 27 (1 November)
We counted the days left for Martin and realized that time was short. Things to see on the itinerary were the sand dunes near M’hamid (Erg Chegaga), Vallée du Drâa, Ouarzazate, and the beach in Agadir; meaning over 700km still to drive, of which ~ 100km is off road!
It ended up to be a long day driving and we wanted to reach Ouarzazate by nightfall. But first we had to do the 100km off road through the stony dessert, where we were driving in for the last 2 days. It is beautiful but distances are far!
Around midday we manage to arrive in M’hamid, but a dessert sand storm started last night to come up and this blocked any view towards the sand dunes… If they were near M’hamid, because we started to read in the Lonely Planet that it would take another 2½ to 3 hours driving to the sand dunes and 7 all the way up to Ouarzazate… Wherever Erg Chegaga might be we spend the night at, although small, a very nice sand dune!
Time to go North, nothing to see in the sand storm anyway… We drove through the Draa Vally full of palm trees and dates! We bought a small box, about 0.5 kg, and the first price was Dh100 (equal to ~ 9 euros). Too expensive by far! The second shop started at Dh20, a much better offer! They were delicious! But finished all too soon…
It ended up to be a very long day with just some short stops along the way. Just after sunset we arrived in Ouarzazate (pronounced as ‘Waar ze zat’ (translated in English ‘Where she sat’), whomever she might be) and I still remember the place from 10 years ago when I was cycling through Morocco with Martijn. The campsite hasn’t changed much except the new hot shower! We didn’t have a shower since Rabat, 5 days ago or so…
Ouarzazate is a nice small touristic town, where many Hollywood movies were filmed (like part of Star Wars, many others), but alcohol remained nowhere to be found…
Day 28 (2 November)
Happy birthday Kimberly! I hope your surprise party was awesome (or am I telling too much now?). I wished I could be there too, but here it’s also nice!
Martin and I were going further to Agadir, Martin had to catch a plane the next day, while Julia and crew took a day off in Ouarzazate. We would meet up later either in Marrakech or Agadir, if I don’t hear anything I will just relax in Agadir.
It was a drive of 350 km from Ouarzazate to Agadir but tarmac all the way! We stopped for lunch at a town where they grew Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world (we found out from the lonely planet later only…), and the omelet tasted great!
Arriving at the campsite, which was strangely not mentioned in the lonely planet but is located in the center of town just a few steps away from the beach, we soon made haste for the beach. We had a stroll along the boulevard and had a beer (read two beers) at one of the many beach clubs.
Agadir was destroyed by an earthquake in 1960 and rebuild as Morocco’s finest beast resort. The beach is great, wide sand, calm sea and a boulevard with marble decorations. But the contradiction between Agadir and inland is just enormous… Agadir is really a place for the rich.
Day 29 (3 November)
Martins last day. We had coffee and breakfast (at noon) at one of the beach clubs and just relaxed on the beach. There are still quite a lot of people here for the time of year and the weather is just perfect: sunny but not too hot with a few clouds in the distance. We estimate it around 26 degrees Celsius! What would the weather be back home? Probably not worth mentioning. I think I had up to now around 5 to 7 bad weather days and the forecast for the next months at least is kind of boring… Sunny, with a little breeze in the afternoon! ;)
At 5pm I took Martin to the airport, not exactly knowing where it was, somewhere to the east… We drove out of town soon to be in a major traffic jam. It took us a half hour to see that on a narrow bridge a truck broke down, literally broke. The complete rear differential (in Dutch achter cardan en aandrijf as) was on the floor! We made it to the (correct) airport in 1 hour, but it took me at least 2 hours to get back to the campsite! The truck’s rear diff was still on the grounds and the traffic was chaotic! It was more like pushing the car in front of others… Fortunately Elise is big and tough looking, makes things easier. Some cars even stopped working and had to be push started in the traffic jam… Just chaos…
I checked my email, no news from Stanley and Julia, so I just stay in Agadir another day and make time to update the blog. It’s nice to hear people enjoy reading the blog, but internet is not always as common and easy as back home (or we are just busy with having a good time…).
Day 30 (4 November) - Agadir
I almost forgot, since Monday I belong officially to the unemployed… Feels kind of the same as being on holiday! ;)
Last night I read in the guestbook the message of Bertje that he, Martijn and Marijn were training weekly for mountain biking next year. This put pressure on me, so as soon as I woke up I got my running gear out and ran for an hour over the beach. This makes sporting actually fun! It was a beautiful morning and the sun (yes indeed, again the sky was blue without any cloud like almost any other day; the Lonely Planet mentions that Agadir has 300 Sundays a year and this was not one of the other 65 days) started to heat the air up.
In the afternoon I did my first laundry in the Tupperware wonderemmer. Afterwards I went to get a beer and used their free WiFi. What else could I order in exchange for WiFi? OK, you are right, I added some garlic bread and another beer to the order…
It seems that the emails between Stanley and me are one day behind and so they are in Marrakech and I am staying in Agadir, the short time is not worth the 600km detour to Marrakech…
Time flies by on the web and so I went for dinner, watched the sunset on the boulevard (which was the first proper sunset in days due to the sandstorm we encountered in M’hamid) and crashed in my palace on top of the car.
Day 31 (5 November) - Agadir
So I decided to stay in Agadir. It was time to give Elise a good wash (if you still don’t know, Elise is the name of my car, read under preparations – Land Rovers – Elise), but first I followed the LP (Lonely Planet) to a restaurant that was THE place for breakfast! It was good, but definitely not the best ever. In any case, it was cheap: 2 coffee and omelet with cheese for about 2.50 euro! That makes the morning great for the unemployed!
It took me all day to clean all the dust from the dessert on the inside of the car and still everything feels dusty. But… I have to mention Elise has never been this clean! Next to the interior, the outside was also something spectacular. One of the camping handyman guys asked if he should was it… It doesn’t take more than a second to think about the answer! All the other men from campers (they are sitting in front of their camper all day it feel like) where looking their eyes out: The Land Rover is BLUE!!!
I had dinner in a restaurant for about 8 euros (3 courses dinner plus olives as an aperitif and 2 Schweppes citron), I didn’t feel like shopping and cooking after the big effort of washing… Had a beer on the beach and already time for bed.
After dinner I could really start feeling the mussel ache from running yesterday…
Day 32 (6 November) - Agadir
Today Julia, Stanley and the kids should arrive in Agadir, but first I went again for a run in the morning. Afterwards I thought I deserved a good breakfast in town, so I went for a cold shower (no warm water available). This reminds me that I have not mentioned anything yet about the campsites facilities… How best to explain the spotless bathrooms and toilets… It is more like one big spot of unknown uncleanliness and vapors of open sewers! The worst ever! I heard that they didn’t let Lonely Planet writers onto the perimeter and that is maybe why it was not in the book… So, you can consider it my new expertise: taking a shower, with the least amount of touching things around you… Balancing on one foot while washing my other, not to touch the wall!!! All this with cold water… I’m not sure if it was getting clean as when you normally would ‘take a shower’ but the deodorant nicely covers it up!
Next to the place as where I had my breakfast (same place as yesterday’s breakfast) there was a pastry shop, and temptation was too strong (and why should you resist?).
A bit after 1pm, I guess it was, Stanley and gang arrived and we headed for the beach. Eowyn even went in the cold ocean water and slowly went down in the water till her neck. Brrr, that water was cold…
For diner we had some chawarma, but nothing compares to what you get in Syria…
Intermezzo – Moroccan pastries
I was thinking it might be nice to tell also something original about the various countries we visit, next to the day to day adventures. So let’s start with the Moroccan pastries of which we already made a intensive investigation. Up in the North in Rabat on the souq (market) we were waiting in line at a pastry shop not really knowing what to get and what we would get. A few women in front of us were discussing in Arabic with the guy behind the counter. The only word we could understand, multiple times, was ‘… kilo … kilo… kilo…’, pointing at various parties… We ordered a mix of Dh30 (Dirham = 3 euros) and got 0.5 kilos of various sweet delicious tasting cookies. The second one was even nice than the one before! They all were sort of similar cookies with almonds (spijs in Dutch) but just slightly different. Delicious and too fast finished.
A second batch of Moroccan pastries we bought more to the South, in Ouarzazate, hoping for a similar delightful experience, they looked the same. But I guess it is because Oarzazate is in the desert and a desert has lots of sand, that this is the reason why these cookies just taste like sand… As soon as you take a bite you end up with a mouth full of sand-like material. It’s impressive how these things stay together in the box and as soon as you bite it, it all falls apart… We were amazed on all the different flavors of sand there was, the chocolate-sand-cookie was the most interesting.
I was a bit hesitative to buy a third batch of Moroccan delight, so far it is a 50/50 chance. In Agadir, out of the desert and along the Atlantic again (as is Rabat) I took my chances and again the pastries look similar… This third batch came out of a good shop and was the most expensive of the three, Dh 130 for a kilo. Delicious, but it doesn’t beat the souq in Rabat! Out of the selection I bought the pooh-cookie was by far the best. The others were more or less a combination of sand and almonds or sesame.
Day 33 (7 November) – Agadir to Souss Massa
From the disgusting bathrooms in Agadir, we went South to the nature reserve Souss Massa to do a bit of birding. It was a short drive and having that in the back of our minds we only left after 10h.
The protected nature reserve, although all the space was used for agriculture or towns, holds some endangered birds. The breeding areas are off limits and we took a guild in the afternoon to show us the best spots for exotic birds. We ended up seeing the Tjif Tjaf, purple Heron, Egrets white bellied Cormorant, Gold finch, Kingfisher, and a few others. It was a nice walk along a river bed but to call it a nature reserve was kind of far fetched. It looked like there was no control on anything, farming villages and tourists (not to forget) are just like outside of the ‘park’.
The campsite in Souss Massa was right on the beach, perfect location but very expensive. It was a new campsite and all the facilities are also new. So new, that most of the showers were not even finished yet! Although, I think that if you come back in a few years it will still be unfinished but then, unfortunately, already in a decaying state…
Day 34 (8 November) – To Guelmime via Legzira
Today’s highlight was Legzira by far. There is a very attractive photo of Legzira in the LP and thus the place was on the list to be visited. It’s a nice stroll over the beach with amazing rock formations and two rock arches. Not sure if I need to explain more, see the photos and decide yourself.
After the midday break in Legzira we drove to Guelmime (also written as Guelimime), which can be considered as the gateway to the desert in Western Sahara. We stayed at a very nice campsite just South-east of Guelmime, where we were the only guests.
Day 35 (9 November) – To Laâyoune
I’m a bit behind on my blog. At the time of writing (14 November) I cannot recall this day… Let me think…
We left the campsite near Guelmime for 2 days of “hauling ass”. We had to drive nearly 1000 km to Dakhla. The Lonely Planet mentions on this drive that it is boring, boring, boring, through the desert with never changing scenery… Well, as I start to recall, the scenery was not so bad. There were some hills and the ocean view was terrific! It was hot though and oh so far… We made it at the start of the evening to a campsite 35 km before Laâyoune. It was a nice site with desert views.
We did a quick dinner, noodle soup with old, dry bread, for an early drive tomorrow, it was another 560 km to Dakhla…
On the campsite there were also a bunch of motor riders and also two women on quats coming from the South. Word went around the campsite that the two women drove today into Laâyoune, seeing trucks alight and groups of people out on the streets… A riot was going on! What information we further were able to get was that the military police (and perhaps other government police) put a stop to it. It should be okay to cross tomorrow…
On a later note, we found out from the news that actually the Moroccan police entered a refugee camp near Laâyoune and arrested hundreds of people, killing several (numbers differ around the tens) and injuring hundreds… In Spain there where many protests because the Western Sahara used to be part of Spanish Sahara.
Day 36 (10 November) – To Dakhla
We still decided to get up early and try to cross Laâyoune, and so we left camp at 7.30h. With the windows closed, doors locked, driving carefully we crossed the Laâyoune police check point. No mentioning of any riots going on… Entering Laâyoune… Nothing strange at all, everybody just seem to go there own way, walking the streets, shops are opening, no sign of any leftovers of burning vehicles… Only a lot of police and military on the streets. Everything is safe, so we stopped to get fuel.
In order to get more Moroccans settling in Western Sahara, which is still a disputed area, the Moroccan government declared it a tax free zone. This of course also means for us that fuel is a few dirhams cheaper here than up north. A liter of diesel (50ppm sulfur as all over Morocco is the standard) costs here only Dh 5, which comes down to 45 euro cents. Fill it up! Almost 100 liters later, and paying not even 45 euros, we could drive another 1500km!
The rest of the 530km to Dakhla were as the Lonely Planet describes, endless rock desert and far… In the afternoon we finally reached Dakhla. Situated on a peninsula, one side on the ocean and the other a lagoon, it looks like heaven in the endless nothing.
There are two campsites. We first checked out the one near the lagoon, surrounded by a concrete wall showing it is all secure but only a deserted old American school bus on the plot. Not really tempting and so we quickly checked the other, on the ocean side of town. This surfers campsite was also fenced, or you could say marked, very friendly guy running the place, and two surfer guests (I think they are paying guests). This is a place where we could stay a few days…
Day 37 (11 November) – Dakhla
After the four days driving, including the two endless drives, it was time for a rest. Stanley went to work and I went with Julia and the kids to the center of Dakhla for some shopping and checking the place out. Dakhla was said to be a city with a huge number of UN workers, so things must be organized. It appeared to be far from it… There was not really a city center, only huge number of small shops scattered all over town. But after driving around for an hour or so, we did manage to find the market where they sold fresh fish (and they still looked alright), veggies, olives (more delicious Morrocan olives, the better than the best you can imagine!), bread, chicken and eggs and a few butchers with sheep, goat and something bigger (most likely cows but those we haven’t seen for some time).
I didn’t have any sardines yet in Morocco and in my best French I asked the fish-seller: Combine Dirham pour le sardines?” He replied: “Cinq.” Five Dirham for one sardine or a kilo??? We ordered a kilo, he picked out 7 fishes, cleaned and filleted them and we paid Dh 5. After getting some other groceries I didn’t want to risk running short on the grilled sardines tonight and I might as well get another kilo. So, 2 kilo sardines (around 15 sardines) for 90 euro cents! They were nice and worth all the money, but it was a bit too much for 3 persons…
The rest of the day I started reading in my book.
Day 38 (12 November) – Dakhla
Stanley and I went into town in the morning to find some internet, so he could do some work and I could work a bit on the website (not that it changed much). From yesterday I knew where the Best Western hotel was and that was our first try. It appeared they had a restaurant and Wifi for paying customers. No problem, we ordered 2 tea and started our computers! We ended up there the whole day, not just because they had WiFi or the lunch was terrific but the view was marvelous. The restaurant was outdoors at the water (the lagoon side of the peninsula) and we had a view of the lagoon with the desert behind it. It was the perfect office to do some work!
Day 39 (13 November) – Dakhla
Another day in Dakhla. I decided to do some laundry first before heading off to the office. The office was such a nice place to just sit, relax and do some internetting.
Day 40 (14 November) – Dakhla
Somehow there is another day spend in Dakhla that I just cannot remember… I guess I was at the office, at the market or just relaxing on the beach or the campsite…
Day 41 (15 November) – Dakhla
It was time to buy some groceries for the coming days, tomorrow we want to go to the border. After lunch Stanley and I went for a last check on the car. It came quickly clear that the red Land Rover its right rear suspension was too soft springs. It always looked like it leaned a little to the right and now there were also markings of the tire on the fuel tank…
And thus we had a mission to drive around in Dakhla city center looking for new heavy duty coils. After the Spanish left Western Sahara in 1975, the Spanish left all their Santana Land Rovers. It was said that at that time 1 in 8 persons owned a Land Rover. Probably there is no other place on earth with so many Santana Series II driving around!
Finally, with some help of a local, we found two new coils but of course for tourist prices… Stanley decided to buy them and see if it would increase the height of the suspension, or at least not to hit the fuel tank anymore. While the sky was turning dark, Stanley and I took the old suspension out by brutal force (only to find out afterwards that it can be done very easily with only a little push) and exchanged it for the new one. In the meantime it became too late to get ready for border crossing tomorrow and so we would stay another day in Dakhla.
There are a lot of episodes of Top Gear and 24 on my laptop and so we ended up watching one episode of Top Gear and got hooked on the soap 24 (it is really not our favorite but you just have to see what happens in the next episode…) under a moonlit sky!
Counting in Southern Morocco
I don’t know where this phenomenon started and still I don’t get their math. On a “chicken” market in Dakhla I asked for dix ouefs pointing at the eggs and showing ten fingers. The man behind the counter looked like he was not very sure so I repeated my “French” a few more times. He looked amazed and started to grab chickens that were running around. He picked up one, two, three, … Perhaps he was first helping another customer before me. Once more I repeated my order of 10 eggs. The man continued, four chickens, … the feather-picking machine (how do you call this) was already in the corner… Five chickens,… Than Stanley helped out to make things clear, it took some effort but then he got it: you want eggs?! Ten?! And he released the checking to walk another day! We just saved 10 chickens from being slaughtered due to a communicational error… But the thing is when we wanted to pay for the eggs. The man took his fancy solar powered calculator and started punching in number: 18 times 10 equals 180. He showed us 180 Dirhams, equal to more than 16 euros. Pricy eggs, and even 1/10th would be over-priced. We said “no no no” and took the calculator: 0.90 times 10 equals 9 Dirhams. The man shook his head and showed us again his math on the calculator. Just before we wanted to walk away he took some money from a drawer and showed me the price in money: 9 Dirhams. How does this add up?!?!
I realized this miscommunication happened before, when I did just walk away because it seemed to be way to expensive… But then, apparently for some unknown reason, you have to divide the final price by 20, sometimes… I’m confused.
Day 42 (16 November) – Dakhla
An early start in the morning on removing the other suspension of the red Land Rover, BUT… first we decided to take a look in the Land Rovers workshop manual… You would think one first looks in a manual to read and then try it out. But isn’t it true that whenever you buy something new, like electronics or a car, you first start to push all buttons and see what happens?
Anyway, it turns out that you can easily change the coil by yourself in less than an hour after consulting the manual… And so, after the red Landy was finished the old coils were placed under Elise, the blue Landy, in no time!
But… the right rear wheel had some play (in Dutch speling) and had to be dismounted to check the wheel bearings… It turned out to be another full day of working on the car. They are good cars, the Land Rovers, but you are just never finished fixing it…