Once we had left Oualidia (previous post), we headed South towards Essaouira, travelling through the busy industrial town of Safi (the smell from the sardine canning plants was horrendous), and had previously seen a campsite on the beach in the small town of Souiria Kedima. Once we got there it was very strange, although the Garmin (Margret) got us to a small area with a sign showing “camping”, the whole area (all tarmac’d) was deeply covered with sand blown in from the lovely beach, and it was deserted, all the houses were closed up, no shops or cafes, very weird.
Just as we were leaving we spotted a tent further down the very wide promenade, so we thought we’d go and check it out see if we can fathom what is going on, as we got to it a Dutch couple with their daughter arrived at the same time, it was a night club….. the place just gets stranger. They a coffee machine, so in we all went. We had a great chat with Mike, Dany and Alise, and they very kindly bought our coffees, thanks guys.
We decided that its probably a holiday destination that isn’t really open yet, so moved on.
Further down the coast we could see way off in the distance a village with a fishing port, called Moulay-Bouzerktoun, so before we drove all the way down , we got the binoculars out and had a quick reccy, it looked like there was a newish hotel in the centre of the village, and as we were looking for somewhere to have a spot of lunch, it might be perfect, so we drove down the steep narrow winding lane to the village. Once we got there, it became apparent that it wasn’t a hotel but actually some sort of Government building, so we drove past it and parked up to check out the large fleet of very small traditional fishing boats, some at moorings, but mostly on the beach.
A local guy came up to us, and told us that the government now provides, a type of co-operative for the fishermen to sell their fish, and the new buildings that we had passed were rooms for the fisherman to sleep in. The only downside to this, is that the very tiny original village has not been kept as well as it would have, though obviously the Mosque is still in use.
We decided to drive down to Essaouira, a few days before meeting our friends , and stay in an out of town campsite. We found the perfect place in the “forest” about 4km off the main Marrakech road. The dodgy sounding Camping Nature Esprit, is a French run campsite that is in a different league to most Moroccan campsites, immaculate showers, and toilets, clean swimming pool, and beautiful surroundings. We were there for 3 nights, and we were virtually the only guests (apart from a biker in a tent, and a camper van). It really deserves to do well. The down side (for most campers I guess), is the price, its nearly double most sites, but that still only makes it about £7.80 a night!!! It was well worth the extra money.
Whilst here, we went for a couple of fairly long walks, one taking us through the forest and eventually arriving at a local village, where a few children decided that we need to learn a bit more french.
We have also noticed that the further South we go, more camels are appearing.
We also spotted this little fella, protecting her baby, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch the little one before it disappeared down a hole.
After a few days Chilling in the forest, it was time to head into town, and find a campsite so we could walk in to meet Rich, Jocie, and Kate on the following day. We found a scruffy campsite close to the beach, and about 30 min walk into the Medina. Only trouble was, yup you guessed it more cute puppies. This one we named Ed, after Ed Miliband, as he had just quit as labour leader (and he wasn’t the brightest pup!).
Jac even bought Ed a box of Markies (dog treats), and he quite liked my smoked meat!
The next few days we spent with Rich, Jocie, and their niece Kate, and it was great to hear about the news back home, and chat to familiar faces.
They very kindly brought us out some provisions that we couldn’t get here, and we left Jocie with two rucksack of washing that she kindly put through the machine at their apartment, cheers Jocie x. We had some great meals over the next couple of days, but one in particular, was very special, it was on the roof terrace at a place called Taros, which is just inside the Medina in the old town. There was a fantastic live band playing on a mezzanine floor, with a real fusion of different sounds. A very nice place. As it was on the coast, and while we were there it was quite breezy, it was quite chilly once the sun went down, and I have to thank Kate for lending me her shawl (lovely colour that matched my eyes), to stop me shivering.
We had a couple of meals in the beach cafe nearest to both of us called Beach & Friends, where the food was good, alcohol wasn’t an issue, and service was very friendly. Kate decided that she would like to see Colonel K before they left, so we all walked back to the campsite (with 2 rucksacks of clean and dried washing), and had a quick cheeky beer round our table. They also kindly left us half a bottle of whiskey and gin. Once again guys thanks so much for coming out to see us.
From Essaouira, we decided to have a long days dive to Ouarzazate, about 420km, the journey would take us via Marrakech so we thought a break there to stock up in a super market would be a good idea, as its about half way . On the way we saw a terrible road accident, with a woman lying (probably dead) in the middle of the road. It brought to mind how dangerous the roads can be here.
After filling up the fridges on board, and the diesel tank, we headed South East towards the Atlas Mountains, over the Tichka Pass. This was a very long climb, taking us to 2260m (over 7400 feet). It is a beautiful place, and is so high that there is still snow on the peaks, even in mid May, and in this heat.
The road was very narrow , and in a few places had been badly damaged by landslides, and these were being repaired as we drove up them. Very hair raising in a 10 tonne truck!
Check out Colonel K making a panic call in the bottom of the photo.
And then the health and safety aspect, at least this guy was awake with his red flag! Flip flops not shown.
Yup we really were doing only 31km per hour
Eventually we got to the summit
After a quick coffee break on the way back down, and some stunning views , we continued on to our campsite in Ouarzazate. We found this eventually after following a dirt track for a couple of kilometres. When we got there, I took one look at the archway into the site and thought “no bloody way”. So we walked in to find a very nice manager that insisted that he has Overland trucks in here all the time and that it would fit. So slowly I started edging in though the arch, very slowly, Jac was not looking convinced in front of me, but the manager just kept beckoning me forward……… Crunch! yup the protection rails had got stuck against the side of the arch supports!!!. Only thing to do was to take out the tyre valves, and deflate them until it was low enough to drive though.The overhead ornamental lamp also got stuck onto the air conditioning cage & I had to climb up on the rooftop to ensure its release (a few sparks !).
After a long day that really wasn’t what was needed, but we got in, set up camp and had a couple of days relaxing in the heat.
On the second day, We could hear a lot of banging and hammering, so I went to find out what was going on.
Horse, bolted comes to mind!
Whilst here, we had a long and very hot walk into Ouarzazate, were we bought a rather fetching 3mx2m outdoor rug to use around the entrance to Colonel K to stop so much sand and debris getting walked into the living area, its what the French do! It seems to work, and the cost for this rug? About £8.00!
Jac has used her milk frother to great extent since Jocie bought out her “luxury item”.
So we drove out of the campsite at about 9.00am, with the intention of driving to Zagora that day (about 200km away), but first we had to re-inflate the Michelins. We have 2 methods to inflate the tyres on Colonel K, firstly we can use the on-board air tanks that are mainly used for the air brake system, and is driven by an compressor in the engine bay, but this will only inflate them to about 90psi (approx 6.5 bar), this is fine for the front tyres, but the rears are run at 125psi (approx 8.5 bar). So to top up the pressure we then have to use a portable compressor, with a separate airline (as the fittings are different to our on-board airline). This has proved in the past to be an excellent piece of kit (it should be it cost about £400), but in the heat of Southern Morocco we suffered 3 blown airlines (always near the compressor end), a real pain, and its only going to get hotter in the months to come. We decided after speaking to a really nice guy from Senegal, Pere, that it would be better to get it sorted here rather than in Zagora, so we drove into town and found a garage/tyre shop. After a couple of aborted attempts to sort us out, and lots of running around on his bike for parts, at about 4.30pm we settled for a few adaptions to our on-board air line, so it now also fits the portable compressor. Job done! we hope.
The guys in the shop were very friendly and patient, (it was 40c in the shade) and it must be said that Moroccans will always try to find a way to resolve something, even if it is a “get you out of trouble fix”. We did go off for a bite of lunch, but the delightful Doreen made sure we were happy, and made us Moroccan tea (very sweet mint tea), and a local guy, an older Berber, that just seems to be there to pass the time of day, certainly kept us laughing. He decided that the Mint Tea, was actually “whiskey Maroc”, he was a real character that took a shine to Jac! The grand cost of this work, and all that running about £22.00. Thanks everyone at Ouarzazate Automotive.
We headed off from town, and decided to look for somewhere fairly quickly on the Zagora road, and we spotted a place up above the road, up a short dirt track called Dar Alfourssane. Oh no another bloody low arch!! But this time a normal gateway was alongside the arch, and this was the entrance into the camping area, no one else here, but it looked ok.
In fact we eat dinner in really nice surroundings, and although they don’t serve alcohol you can take your own to the table, the food was good,Chicken tangine with Lemon for Jac, and I had Beef brochettes , we both had fresh fruit cocktail for dessert, again we were the only ones there, but we were treated really well and made most welcome. We were shown around the rooms that they have built , and they are very good. The total for 1 nights camping, inc showers etc, and evening meal in a great place, approx £16.00.
After a very hot night, even with all the windows and blinds fully open, we got up early for the drive to Zagora (the last town before the Sahara dunes in the South), all we needed to do was put a 100 litres or so into the water tank, have breakie and head off, only trouble was we found out we had a stow away!!
This must be the quietest, un-talkative, shyest stow away ever, he just climbed into the back of the truck and sat himself at the table! Jac gave him two huge marshmallows that he promptly stuffed into each cheek, turning him into a hamster type creature. He seemed genuinely upset when we drove out of there.
The drive to Zagora takes you up over the Anti Atlas mountains and again is pretty steep, but a better road, its very fertile land once you get lower down the Draa Valley. The palm trees in places go for miles. Its a really stunning area.
About 20km before Zagora along the Draa Valley we came across this beautiful old Kasbah just off the road, as its a Friday (the main Holy day for Muslims) we decided to keep our distance and not try to enter, but its a stunning example of traditional building methods using local mud and straw. There are lots of these in this area, but many have fallen into dis-repair, but this one appears to be immaculate.
The Draa River used to be one of the longest rivers in North West Africa, nowadays it just soaks way into the sandy desert. The last time it ran its course into the Atlantic Ocean at Tan Tan was in 1989.
On entering Zagora we decided to top up with 800dh of Shells finest diesel, 85 litres for about £56.00 (its a bit more costly in the South), while filling up Jac got chatting to a local that recommended a campsite in the town centre, but before he would take us there he wanted us to take the truck to his garage so he could have a photo of it outside for his collection. So we followed him first to his workshop.
Once we had a guided tour, next stop was the campsite, after a drive across the local football pitch, it was a short steep decent along a narrow passage but sure enough there was a reasonable campsite. He obviously gets a cut for taking us there!
After setting up camp, including getting the awning, and chairs and table out, we decided its too hot to walk into town (its over 40c in the shade), so we opened the Moroccan White Wine that Jocie and Rich had left us with. It was lovely.
Tomorrow we will set off to explore Zagora, as I’m writing this at 8.30 pm its still well over 30c degrees, and not a breath of a breeze, its gonna he a hot hot night in the K!