lorrywaydown

Where have all the PLUGS gone ? (Living in a box No 2)

After 6 weeks “on the road” washing has become a little easier and most clothes dry in a day, so long as we can find a tree to attach our washing line to. Still amazing how France,Spain,Portugal & Morocco DO NOT HAVE PLUGS-is there a world shortage ? I’ve never really thought about Plugs so much. Something we take for granted, as our sinks & baths in UK generally come with one attached.We have searched local super markets  & local souks hoping for a glimpse of one of these rare objects.Even drawing an elaborate picture for one young boy manning “The Plumbing Kiosk” in Meknes Medina, as we didn’t at the time know the French name for Plug. Now I understand its called Bouchon. The sinks in some Moroccan campsites come with a sink of various depths ( I nearly fell into one it was so big) and definitely not ergonomically designed as a major stretch is generally required from the hips, causing havoc on the back .These sinks have a wash board type feature, generally at the front for scrubbing your clothes- but No B—— Plug ! I have actually resulted in asking our good friends Rich & Jocie to bring one with them from the UK. Oh and thats another thing, the plug holes are various sizes, so hopefully it will fit most of the sinks. Currently using a sock to plug the hole !

Ive also noted that other fellow campers use scrubbing brushes on their clothes & some even boil kettles for hot water ( we don’t have a kettle ). So when we went to a Moroccan Supermarket I had to buy a Barbie Pink laundry set, in the hope that it may help me get a few of Vinnie’s Skiddies out ! Nice pink bucket to soak a few clothes in hot water over night, a pink scrubbing brush and a soap container with 2 rotating brushes. 

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Having just put our first bucket load in for soaking I asked Vinnie to agitate the bucket for me- He hasn’t stopped giving the bucket abuse since ! Oh and we purchased a nice nylon washing line in yellow- they didn’t have pink !

When out exploring Medina’s I’m getting used to paying for a small piece of toilet paper to accompany me into “The Ladies” and then hoping my balancing skills are top notch and the placement of the 2 feet are deposited in the correct position, lined up to hover over the tiny hole in the floor and escape without wet feet or wet knickers ! Oh and remembering to put the paper Ive paid for in a bin & not down the hole ! Its a lucky day if you find a toilet facility with toilet paper !

As Morocco doesn’t seem to have any recycling, its amazing how much rubbish the two of us generate. Im not sure what provision there is for rubbish disposal , but I think it may be drop it as you’ve used it. The one thing about this lovely country that really lets it down is the amount of rubbish that lies pretty much everywhere.

We now also have some new soft furnishings for “Col K”. We noticed most fellow campers had some form of fly blind for their doors. We have fly screens for all our windows & were going to fit a fly screen to our door before leaving the UK, but it was too complicated. After a stroll around a Souk, we came across our nice new handmade tassle drop curtain, to hopefully discourage the little blighters from entering our living space. The problem we had was how to fix the curtain up. The nice man who sold the curtain kindly included the bent aluminium  curtain track for us. So off we went looking for an alternative. We were sent to a plumbers kiosk ( yet again ) and he didn’t have what we wanted, but he did have broom handles, so after an exchange of -” that goes with this brush” we managed to get away with just the pole and 4 screws ! Vinnie cut it to size with his hacksaw.

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We arrived at a Moroccan beach resort and went for a stroll. The difference in a beach resort from Europe was amazing. The whole beach was full of men and boys playing football for miles. There were hardly any women around, which to me seemed weird and those that were there , were fully clothed. So it was a bit of a cultural shock and one I’m getting more used to the longer we are here. It makes you feel self conscious and think twice about how you are dressed. We spent a day on a beach pretty much fully clothed as anything else on my part would have been frowned upon. We were interviewed as well by 5 young Moroccan girls for a college project, which they filmed on their phones.

We are getting used to using our diesel hob for cooking, so that we save our gas and its pretty efficient and takes 2 pans. We haven’t as yet had a BBQ, but I am sure we will have opportunity further South. We tried a Moroccan “Fast Food” restaurant, that wasn’t very fast, but have decided not to bother again and stick to tangine, cous-cous or skewers in future. The bread here is generally flat round loaves, which are pretty tasty and make a good sandwich. There is generally a wide range of good fruit and veg, olives, dates, spices etc for sale and of course Argan oil, for cooking or cosmetic purposes  that is grown in the region of Essaouira and north east of Agadir. Goats climb into these trees to graze.

One thing that is difficult is not speaking French & I really wish I had gone to those lessons in the UK. We are getting by however with the “petit” amount that is coming back from my school days and using my French dictionary and nodding appropriately  & saying no thank you. Whilst out walking today we came across a very remote rural village and had a quick French lesson from some arabic children. Today I have learned to ask to wash my sheets in a washing machine. We will see tomorrow how that works out ! Given that we are heading to Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, we had better speed up on our French ,Arabic and drawing skills. But after Vinnie tried to learn the Arabic alphabet, I think we will stick to French. 

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Vinnie also found use for the offcuts from the broom handle and made 2 washing line holders

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We have also had our awning out for the first time and learnt a little trick from fellow campers, using filled water bottles to hold it in place. Oh and yes it did open after Vinnie’s little miss adventure with a Portuguese wall ! ( a few more dents & scratches).

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We have also found oversized alcoholic butterflies !

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J

The Coast Road, heading South

We left Meknes early in the morning with the intention of stopping in Casablanca on the West coast. I think most western people have the romantic image of the city after the old black and white film using the same name. As we got closer to the city (about 40km still showing on the sat nav), we realised that the place is huge, and looking very industrialised. The separate town of Mohammedia further north, is almost joined to Casablanca, and as we drove around the vast City, we soon decided to change our plans and not worry about going to Casablanca. So we pulled over, and googled for any suitable campsites further down the coast, we didn’t want to go too far South as we had already done 300km, and it was quite late in the afternoon. There was a link to an old posting on Horizons Unlimited, showing a Campsite at Dar-Bouazza, about 30km further down the coast. It was called Camping Hawaii, so it sounds lovely and very close to the beach. That’ll do for a couple of nights then.

After finding the small town of Dar-Bouazza, and having the GPS co-ordinates entered into the Garmin, we just had to follow our trusty Garmin, nicknamed Margret. Well Margret took us to the entrance to a very narrow dirt track (with a very old camping sign), so we turned in there, and ducked under some low power cables, got a few guys to kindly move their cars, dodged a few donkeys and after 1km, we came to a very closed campsite Hawaii.

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As you can see from the photo, it doesn’t really remind you of a Pacific Island Paradise! Anyway the noisy arrival of Colonel K, driving up the dirt track (definitely not suitable for a normal motorhome), was enough to have someone opening the gates! “Are you open?” we politely enquired, “of course we are” was the obvious reply in Arabic! After the Daf refusing to fit through one open gate, the owner demanded that his men open the other gate too (he didn’t want to lose a valuable customer). Im sure that second gate hadn’t been opened in a long time, and still wouldn’t open fully. Anyway we drove in, then agreed, and shook hands on the price of 60DH (just over £4.00) for a night. At this point we had decided that the campsite was not open, there were no facilities (no water, toilet disposal etc), but even though the place was very isolated, and indeed quite strange, it is a testament to how safe Morocco makes you feel, that we were more than happy to spend a night here. Anyway at least its near a nice lovely sandy beach eh.

So after managing to get out of the campsite (no easy task with those huge rusty gates), we thought we would walk the short distance to the beach, which was through some shrubby waste ground. First impressions weren’t great……..

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For as far as the eye can see, (and trust me its a lot worse than this photo shows), the sand dunes had been covered by old building waste such as hardcore, steel bars, and tonnes of rubbish, obviously the actual beach wasn’t as bad as the tide/current has cleaned it up, but what a waste of a beautiful coastal environment. We genuinely love Morocco and its people, but they can’t seem to grasp that they need to look after their fantastic country and its environment.

Next morning, we followed the R320 coast road down to the ancient town of El-Jadida, it was only about 80Km, so arrived at a very large campsite on the edge of town at about 11.00am. After a quick bit of plumbing (the small plastic filter by the water pump had worked loose), we decided to walk into town. The walk is approx 40 minutes and follows the beach, some of which is “pedestrianised”, apart from scooters and chicken chasers, so you still have to have your wits about you. The beautiful sandy beach runs from the Harbour of El-Jadida for as far as the eye can see, the beach was busy, but barely a soul was sunbathing, it was full of football pitches, the whole beach for miles had been levelled and scraped to leave perfectly flat (but slightly sloping) areas with which to play on.

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It was like a whole league was playing on the same day, and in the same place. There were even 5 a side pitches set up with tiny goals. Males of all ages and abilities were playing, and generally the standard was quite high, even the kids were taking it very seriously. Some teams even had either their own full kit or tabards. It was great to sit on the beach cafe terrace and watch the footie, even Jac was getting into it!

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Eventually I managed to tear Jac away from all the sweaty football players, and we carried on into the town, the walk past the fishing harbour was “interesting”, with bags of rotting fish guts and heads just laying there with the swarms of fly’s in the afternoon sun.

Next past the Harbour is the old Portuguese Fort.

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The Citadel was built by the Portuguese from 1513, was completed in 1541, and it was an important Settlement on the African coast. The original lighthouse was converted into the Grand Mosque. Underneath the buildings shown above is the “Cistern”, this was originally used to store Munitions, then in 1541 onwards it was used to store fresh water for times of shortages. There is just one centre, circular opening in the ceiling, which throws a shaft of light into the Cistern, this coupled with the very shallow covering of water over the flagstones, produces a fantastic atmosphere.

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Amazingly we were the only people down there, and although we had read about the place in our guide book, there was no signs for it, we just stumbled upon it as we were walking round the very narrow streets within the fort walls (this is full of people living here and going about their lives). If you are ever in the area, it is well worth a visit.

Whilst on the campsite at El-Jadida, we met a lovely Dutch couple with an impressive Iveco based Overland truck, Johan and his wife, The truck is German ex-miltary, originally built in 1988, and has an air-cooled Maguri engine (its even thirstier than Colonel K).

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They had just come up from the Southern area of Morocco, and gave us some valuable advise. It would be great if we manage to meet up with them on our return trip, as they are planning to come further South next year.

There was also the following Unimog on the site, but we didn’t manage to meet with the owners (not even sure where it came from).

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We stayed at El-Jadida for 2 nights, before moving further South towards Essaouira (where we have arranged to meet our good friends Richard and Jocie in a weeks time), this time looking to stay in the coastal town of Oualidia. We had found the co-ordinates of a campsite that doubles up as carpark, but when entering them into the Garmin, it confusingly showed a different town, however the distance and direction seemed about right, it turn out it was correct but Garmin have decided to rename the town!

On the way the coastal road goes through mainly poor farming areas, and some small scale salt processing plants (dug out pits in the fields). We also stopped to top up with diesel, and pulled into a brand new filling station. Amazingly, a young woman appeared to use the pump for us (this is quite unusual for a woman to do this in Morocco, its a mans job), anyway I instructed her to fill the tank to the bottom of the filler neck (in my best “Arabic”/french), as she started filling I noticed that the price per litre was 9.2DH, we had never paid more than 8.8DH, so hastily changed my mind and told her just to put 800DH in (I thought I’m not paying for this new smart filling station, no wonder no one else was here). Afterwards, I thought more about this “massive” price difference, it equates to instead of paying 61p a litre, it was 63p a litre!!!! Morocco does get to you after a while!

Oualidia is a very different place to anywhere we’ve see in Morocco before, its very very smart, with the “well heeled” from the cities using it as a holiday resort. The cars are not your usual beaten up Mercs or Renaults, (well they are still here but not so many), instead it is full of Range Rovers, Audi’s, VW’s etc, all new. The people are dressed in a more western style, including a lot of the women.

There is a most amazing lagoon here, this is what attracts the people as it ensures safe swimming and bathing, apart from the dozen or so small boats ferrying people out the the island into the centre of the the lagoon, with their outboard engines carefully dodging the swimmers etc.

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Once you leave to beach area, and walk up the hill into the old town, you realise that this is indeed a town of two half’s. Once again its lots of market stalls selling fruit and veg, butchers with whole carcasses hanging up, and street cafes selling skewers of meat, tangine’s and chicken, all smoking away on top of the grill. We went in one ‘shop’ near one of these grilles, and it was completely full of smoke, no one batted an eye!

We are looking forward to seeing Richard and Jocie in Essaouira (on the coast due west of Marrakech), who have kindly offered to bring out a few items for us in their hand luggage, a spare camera battery, a Garmin SD card for Southern Africa, some extra tooth floss sticks (to keep my Dentist happy), and a milk frother for Jac’s (yup a milk frother!).

V

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

   

 

   

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

Colonel K hits Morocco

After a very early start (from our Supermarket carpark), we headed off in the dark to Algeciras Port to catch the ferry to Tangier in Morocco. I had forgotten how rubbish the headlights were on our 20 year old Daf Truck, but under the cover of darkness we soon remembered. According to the “agent” with whom we booked our ferry tickets with it was only 10 minutes drive to the terminal. That was very optimistic. Anyway we found it ok and were so early that we were first in the queue to drive through the booth for our ferry operator, which wasn’t actually open at that time.

Eventually we went through and were told to go through to gate 4, (this was actually the same gate we went through last year on our bikes) it was chaos, we were the only non commercial vehicle there, and it was full of trucks and trailers parked in all directions, we were in with the “big boys”. The ferry was due to depart at 8.00am and it was quickly evident that that was never going to happen, at about 8.30ish we were asked to drive forward but we would have to reverse onto the ferry so we could drive straight off! This was interesting to say the least, reversing into a black hole, and not being able to see a thing.
Once on the ferry, we learnt last year that we needed to sort out our immigration papers with the police on the boat, so with Jac having already filled out the forms the night before we headed straight for the desk, expecting to be one of the first in the queue, what we didn’t realise was there was quite a large number of foot passengers on board from coaches. So we had a little wait. Once all the formalities were taken care of, we went up on deck to wave goodbye to Europe, and the little bit of Britain known as Gibraltar.

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Once we had docked at Tangier Med Port we expected the chaos to resume (especially after the stress of last years trip), we couldn’t have been more wrong, we reported to the Customs to sort out the documents for the truck, he then told me to go find a Policeman to check my passport first (the policeman I found was in jeans and tee shirt), that done it was back to the customs and documents stamped, and after a very brief check inside The Colonel, we were waved past the carnage that was all the local vehicles being completely stripped of the contents of their heavily laden cars and vans. It definitely paid to get the earlier ferry, as we were the only western tourists going through the checkpoint. 
After that we moved away from the police area, and found a place to buy 3rd party insurance for Colonel K, there was a very helpful man in the booth who quoted us 95.00euros for 30 days, or 170.00euros for 90 days, so we opted for the 90 days as this will cover us right down to the Mauritanian border. I learnt a harsh lesson not to ask if it also covers Western Sahara. I was told in no uncertain terms that Moroccans do not believe it is a disputed territory, and that it is part of Morocco!!!

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After finding a ATM and withdrawing some Moroccan Dirhams, we left the nicely organised port behind us. We were through all the various checks at the port in less than 30 minutes.
The night before, we loaded up our Garmin with Morocco maps, as we (Vince) had foolishly left our card from last year at home (probably in the KTM), and it was a god send on that first day. 
We had decided to spend the first few days in the town of Chefchaouen, which is a small town set on a hillside in the Rif Mountains. We stayed in a small hotel here last year, but didn’t really get chance to see the town as we arrived in the dark and left early the next morning. We were glad that we did as its a beautiful place, and very relaxed.
The drive to the campsite, which is set way up above the town was made all the more difficult as the Garmin took us through the town below, at one point we got pulled in by Police at a checkpoint and when I said the were heading for Camping Azilan, he just pointed up!! The climb was mostly 2nd gear in the truck, for about 8km. I honestly thought there’s no way there’s a campsite for motorhomes up there, but eventually we got there and was greeted by a friendly face who opened the gates for us. 
After asking the guy at the campsite the easiest way into the medina, he told us to cross the road, walk round the back of the football pitch and go down the steps, its easy….
He was right, it was easy going down, and straight away you are into the usual very narrow alley ways, still walking down hill, turn after turn after turn. The majority of the buildings in the old city are painted various shades of pale blue, and are stunning in a rustic sort of way.

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Eventually we came out in the main square with the Kasbah, and the largest Mosque in the town, in this area there are lots of Cafe’s, and a few tourist type shops. 
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After a quick drink, and deciding it was not a great idea to have to walk back to the campsite in the dark, we left to find the steps back up. That was easier said than done. It was very hot, and we took quite a few wrong turns (all up the wrong hills), until we eventually recognised a place that we had passed on the way down. It was then a long, long slog back up the hill.
We visited the town on a few occasions, and the climb up that hill to the campsite never got any easier. Though we did spot this woman of the Rif herding her goats on that steep hillside

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We decided to buy a local prepaid SIM card for one of our phones while in town on the second day, this was made more confusing as we don’t speak Arabic at all and French only a little, but we managed it somehow. For about £8.50 the new SIM card included 60 minutes of calls, 300 text messages and 1GB of data, its easy to see how so many people have mobile phones here.
We also had a lovely 3 course lunch, and drinks for about £3.80 each. There was absolutely no rush to get us through the food and drink and we spent about 2.5hours just sitting there watching the world go by, including the Berber wise men, who seemed to have the full respect of the younger men.
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 We stayed at Camping Azilan for 3 nights, the total cost was 300DH, which is about £21.00, as usual we met some great people here, including a Kiwi called Mark who was camping in a tent and was riding a BMW 650. Mark is planning to ride a Honda XR400 back from the UK to New Zealand, best of luck Mark and keep in touch (and thanks for drinking my beer lol). Mark passed on a few campsites to us, that a German guy had in turn given him. Also on the site was a German couple, with a fantastic 30 year old Toyota Landcruiser. Apparently this Overland Vehicle has an amazing history from a woman previous owner that had travelled the middle east, including Iran.
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Leaving the campsite, we were relived to see that the Garmin was not taking us back through the town, the trouble was it decided to take us a different way through town….. through streets that the truck wouldn’t fit! After a very tight U turn we decided to ignore the Garmin and follow our noses. This worked and eventually we got down the long steep hill back to the main road. The next 5 hours was spent going up and down and up and….. the Rif mountains, towards Meknes.
On route, we topped Colonel K up with diesel, I put in 1,200 Dirhams worth, which got me 135.5 litres, this works out at approx. 64p per litre, now the Colonels 12mpg doesn’t seem so bad.
The scenery between these two North Moroccan towns is breathtaking in places, ranging from very mountainous to more rolling hills, but where ever you are in Morocco, you can’t take the road conditions of granted!!!! In places its not too bad, then all of a sudden the tarmac has all broken up, or your diverted around the tarmac onto dirt, and of course on every bend theres a dog, donkey, or a car on the wrong side of the road. Its an amazing country.
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 We found a lovely campsite, about 15km north of Meknes, near the Pilgrimage town of Moulay Idriss (again build on a steep hill). It is also close (about 12km) to the ruined Roman city of Volubilis. Camping Zerhoune Belle Vue is a nice smallish site, with all the areas having some shade from the numerous trees.
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 This is the view of Moulay Idriss from the Roman City of Volubilis.
 
We managed to work out that a number 8 or 15 bus from the bottom of the road would take us to Moulay Idriss, but we would have to walk the further 3 or 4 km to Volobilis. So next morning we set off and waited for the bus, hoping we were right. The bus driver took our fare (about 40p each), and off we went, until we got to the bottom of the hill below the town, we got off the bus and set off up the road in search of Volubilis. Sure enough after about a 40 minute walk, there was a small turning off to the left. It was obvious as we got closer, we had under estimated the scale of the place, its huge.
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Luckily we had our Footprint guide book (16 years old) with us, which had a fantastic section on the place, describing what each building was used for and from what age it was from. Considering that the place is nearly 2000 years old, and had been plundered for building materials over the ages, its amazing that it it in such good condition.
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 Everything is completely open to the elements, and the mosaics on the floors are in such amazing condition, I’m sure if this place was in Britain it would be completey enclosed in a building, and it would be swarming with tourists.
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The main road into the original Volubilis, ran through the main gateway, and right down to The Triumphal Arch, both of which are still standing, and the original road stones are still in place.
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After eating a quick lunch (pre-made by Jac), in some welcome shade, and a quick drink in the “cafe’ “ we set off in the early afternoon heat along the road to hopefully find a bus to take us back. After a much harder walk back (in the heat), we managed to stop a bus near where we were dropped off, it was a bit different this time, packed with sweaty bodies, mmmmm nice.
A great day out, and the total spent, (including a fresh baguette delivered to the campsite) was 44 Dirhams, or about £3.80 for the two of us!
On an early evening walk out up the road, we spotted this guy, ploughing between his Olive trees, with nothing more than an Ass drawn plough, its amazing that these practices haven’t changed for centuries, even so close to a major city such as Meknes.
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Check out the Egrets following the plough.
 
The next day we caught the bus in the opposite direction, into the sprawling City of Meknes, this is one of Morocco’s original Imperial Cities, and for a time was its Capital, there are many old buildings in the city, but many of them are in a poor state of repair, and though are still there, are surrounded by “newer” buildings. The city really is a place of two halves, there is the old city, and then a separate new city as built by the French during colonial times. The old city is the interesting part, and consists of the old Medina, together with the very narrow alleys of the souqs. We spent a fair amount of time exploring the souqs of Nejjarin, and Sebbat, most of the shops/stalls are for clothes or bags etc, but every so often you come across the distinct smell of spices, or olives (in chilli, or herbs or just about anything imaginable).
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We bought some olives in chilli, and trust me they are hot!
At one point we got the overpowering smell of fish wafting towards us, but couldn’t see any, so we followed our noses until we came out into a small fish market, the variety of fish and shellfish was amazing, the piles of heads and guts wasn’t….(not shown)
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Next stop was the meat market, beef etc down stairs, and by the sounds coming from upstairs, poultry on the 1st floor, the camera didn’t come out here, and after nearly tripping over two cows heads (horns and all), we decided to leave and definitely not venture up to the 1st floor!
Meknes is a very relaxed place, and definitely does not have the irritating hard sell of Marrakech (apart from walking past every Cafe’).
We had lunch in the main square called Place el Hedim, where a couple of cheeky young lads, possibly brothers, managed to sell us a packet of tissues and then a prayer book in Arabic! 
As you leave the square you are faced with the Monumental Gate, called Bab Mansur, it was completed in 1732, and is named after one of the Sultans Christian slaves, Mansur the Infidel. It is right on top of the hill and as such dominates the Old City and Medina.
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Check out the “immaculate” Mercedes Taxi in the foreground. 
After leaving the Old City, we walked across town (a couple of koilometres) into the new vibrant town, with all the banks, insurance buildings, and of course the cafe’s. Whilst walking to catch the bus back, a young lad came running up to me all excited, and wanting to “high five” me, it was the young lad that sold me the prayer book in the morning, he couldn’t believe seeing us again.
Whilst in the new town, we eventually managed to top up our local SIM card at a Maroc Telecom main store, (the staff were very helpful), this was not a usual thing to be done in the store as its usually done on the phone or online, trouble is, our french is limited, and arabic nonexistent. So in the end a security man took us down the road into another place and the guy there did it for us. It was a data only top up, with 16GB for about £14.30! Thats a lot of data.
We caught a packed bus back to the campsite, and chilled in the late afternoon heat, (its about 28c here). 
 
Tomorrow we are heading to Casablanca on the Atlantic coast.
 
Oh yeah and Jac is still befriending the local canine population.
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 This is ‘Tick ear’, and ‘Pale face’, apparently they like crackers, smoked meat, hard boiled eggs, and bread! Worryingly they are getting names now.
V

Return to Spain

We left Aljezur with a lovely empty laundry basket, and once again headed towards the West coast, this time to Praia De Borderia. The beach here is unbelievably wide, with huge sand dunes. The problem was it was just a bit too windy to sit out on the beach here. We bumped into another English couple (that had lived in a couple of African countries that we are looking to head through), they suggested that we try a place just down the coast that was a bit more secluded and had less motor homes parked up there. They weren’t sure exactly where it was on the map but luckily they had the GPS coordinates, so next morning we packed up, entered the coordinates into our trusty Garmin, it was less than 4km away!

Another fantastic beach, though much smaller, and not really any less motorhomes (the Algarve is very popular with French Campers). Another big surfing beach.

As we headed further South towards the busier Algarve, we thought we would seek out one last quiet free camp on the west coast, so we headed for Boca De Rio, as recommended by Russ and Kirsty, my god, what a mess!!

It was overrun with a permanent Traveller set. There were kids, dogs, rubbish and unknown things lurking in the scrubbery!!! Such a shame as it looks a fantastic spot, but there are new width restrictors in place to stop all but the smallest cars, Ive got a feeling that there will be no more free camping here once that lot have been moved on!

After that disaster, (thanks Russ ha), we headed straight for the Resort of Alvor. This really was a culture shock after the very peaceful North/South Coastal route. So busy, and full of holidaying Brits. As it was fairly late in the day and as we needed to top up with water we decided to stop at a campsite about 50m from the beach. This was a huge square area of land completely devoid of trees, and I’m sure at the height of summer would be packed with hundreds of motorhomes. But at only 4.50Euros a night, it really was worth it just to fill up, and empty out the nasty tank (again!).

This was the first beach in Portugal that didn’t have Surfers out playing, this time they were replaced with Kite Surfers.

Before leaving the camp site, quite a few English campers made them selves known to us, it was quite nice to have a chat with these guys, and if you are reading this, I hope you enjoyed the beers! A fellow Chippie amongst them too !

Once we had seen the Algarve in all its glory, we decided to crack on out of there! So decided to head straight for the border and back into Spain and into the City of Seville (or Sevilla). We have always talked out a city break to Seville, so this was the ideal, and cheap option to do this. Jac found a campsite located right in the city centre so we headed for that. After about 300km, we entered a very busy City. We followed the Garmin, only to find that at about 2km away the road was closed with a police road block, no diversion signs, nothing! So we went round again (about 5km), only to find the same again. This time we followed our noses to try coming in from the other side, same thing! It appeared that there was a huge fairground set up in the city centre and no traffic was getting near it, it was chaos!

Another quick look and Jac found another campsite about 15km outside the city in a suburb called Dos Hermanas, so we headed there. This was the tightest campsite we have ever parked in. 

We decided to eat out that night so headed over to have a chat with the campsite owner, he recommended a tapas bar that all the locals go to in the local town, so after a 35min walk, we found the bar, again it was mental, very very busy (it was a Monday night). You just basically shouted out your order of food and drink at the bar and then went outside and waited, no table numbers, no names, but it worked! Fantastic food and wine, all for about £12.50 for both of us.

It turns out that there is The Spring Festival in Sevilla this week, thats why roads are closed and everywhere is busy. So after a 40 minute bus ride into the city, we did some sight seeing.

There was the Plage de Espana

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This is an amazing place, with so many stunning details everywhere, from the hand painted bridges, to coats of arms etc

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Next it was the Old City and Cathedral

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There are also shades of Modern in the Old City

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After all this sight seeing we decided to head for the Spring Festival (on our original Campsite).

As we got closer we started seeing more and more women in traditional dresses and men is very smart suits.

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Once you enter the Festival, every thing goes crazy, there are horses everywhere, carriges, dancing, traditional music, and lots of alcohol being consumed.

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We saw one poor woman, completely trampled under a horse, which then proceeded to trample her again, one bloke completely collapsed unconscious outside a bar with a very fed up looking Policeman standing over him (it was very hot, 29c degrees at 19.00 hrs).

It really was a riot of colour and noise.

Next morning we head off from Sevilla, and headed to the Port of Algeciras, near the Gibraltar.

On the way there we came across this sign on the motorway, I think it is asking all bikers to start practicing their stoppies! Only in Spain eh

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The plan was to head for the Port to book a ferry for tomorrow to Tangier Med in Morocco, but we found out that there is a guy in the nearby town of Los Barrios, who sells tickets from an agency for all 4 of the ferry companies that run this, or similar routes across the Med.

The guy sorted our Tickets for 2 adults and our 10 tonne camper for £130.00, and then presented us with a bottle of wine and a cake for our custom! Its an open ticket for any sailing tomorrow, he even preprinted our vehicle importation documents and gave us our blank immigration forms, very efficient.

We are having a slap-up McDonalds for tea, one last ditch of Europe (oh and a free WiFi).

So tomorrow we are off to North Africa finally…….

It’s Wash Out day….

It’s not raining, it’s a wash out day, but I’ll come to that in a bit……

We are slowly edging down the coast of Portugal towards the Algarve. The place is absolutely beautiful at the moment, with wild flowers everywhere, of all different colours and sizes, in shrubs, trees, on the cliffs,and in the sand dunes.

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We stumbled across a fantastic “secluded” wild camp spot on top of the cliffs behind the Lighthouse in the National Park. The only trouble was we were beaten to the spot by a German couple that had a fantastic Overland vehicle build on a pre-turbo Toyota Landcruiser.

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They had some fantastic tales to tell, having done some extensive travelling including a 36 month trip from to Southern most tip of South America to Alaska. It was interesting to meet them, and compare vehicles, I’ve got a feeling that there’s going to be a lot of that going on once we get to Africa.

It was beautiful evening, and once we had dinner we set out for a walk along the cliffs, this is part of the Rota Vicentina long distance walk that follows the coast from Santiago down to the Southern most tip at Sagres. I think the total walk is about 350km, we have done various sections both on foot and on mountain bikes, (some sections can only be walked).

During the evening as it was getting dark we could hear the jangling go bells, gradually getting closer and closer, but still not close enough to see what was causing it. Eventually a herd of goats came into view, each of the adults with a bell round its neck.

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The noise was amazing and must drive them nuts! But the best bit was the Goat Herder (a lonely goat herder?) He was a proper man, with an actual goat skin for a cape, he looked as hard as nails!

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The Storks live on the most inaccessible and unlikely spots on the rocks and cliffs, how they don’t have their nest blown off I really don’t know!

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And of course there are the birds of prey in the cliffs too.

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The next day we left our little piece of heaven up on the cliffs and headed for Porto Covo to find somewhere to fill up the water tank and empty the “nasty tank”.

Next stop was a small village called Praia de Odeceixe, which seems to survive on surfers and camper vans. we stayed here for 2 nights in a car park up on the cliffs. The beach bar is a great place with a fantastic Portuguese Gin that had to be sampled, it was served with Fever Tree tonic, orange peel and fresh Rosemary, it was very very nice, but at 8.50 euros each, they are very expensive for a drink here. So it was back to Super Bock beer after that..

Jac is still trying to smuggle a stray aboard Colonel K at every opportunity

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We had a cracking cycle ride while parked here, first down the river, across the bridge and the up the other side to the mouth of the estuary.

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After this we cycled back down to the road, and away from the truck until we saw a dirt track off to the right towards the river. I just happened to have my fishing gear in the rucksack so tried a few spots with some small lures. Twice I had fish follow the lure in the crystal clear water, and once had a take, only to lose the fish after about 10 seconds, Gutted!

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After about an hour, and having a bite of the lunch that Jac had packed up, we moved on down the track, finally finding a much deeper and cloudier section of river, so out came the tackle again (oooooaaaah), after watching loads of ‘Mullet looking type fish’ on the surface and not a bite to be seen, an old local bloke appeared muttering away to us. Plainly we couldn’t understand a thing he was saying, but I sure he meant “stupid idiot, using a lure in this place!”.

We moved on and back to the truck via the beach Bar!

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So, why is today a wash out? Well it’s because its laundry day of course and where do you find washing machines in Portugal? In a surf shop of course! And with a young surf chick to help with our dirty smalls!

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Thanks Roser for all your help and for restoring the electricity when needed! Oh and letting us use the Wi-Fi to post this.

This is a great place and if you are needing laundry doing there are 2 machines and 2 driers in amongst the surf boards.

Total mileage approx 2500miles.

V

Beach Bums

After leaving Estarreja (see last post), we  drove down the Portugese coast to Praia de Mira, we found a nice spot alongside the beach. The trouble is, Colonel K attracts a lot of interest in these parts. There were people stopping and taking photos, wanting to chat etc.

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On the beach were a pair of traditional high brow, narrow fishing boats, and loads of fishing nets strewn along the beach, I couldn’t quite work out what was going on.

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The next morning all became apparent. It’s TRACTOR FISHING of course!!!

The two boats are launched about 500 metres apart each with one end of a very long net attached to it, the net is then dropped off shore about 2 km out from the beach, and a rope from each end is then brought ashore on the boat, it is left overnight, then in the morning about 20 men from the town proceed to attach a huge tractor winch on each rope and haul the net in.

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The number of people that get involved in the operation is incredible, and it is all overseen by a small woman, that suddenly appeared and started barking instructions to the men. it took about 90 mins of winching before the net started to appear on the beach, the tractors started moving together to close the trap. With this amount of people involved we were anticipating a huge haul!

After all that effort and god know how much damage is done to the sea bed, there were about 50-70kg of crabs in the nets, very small crabs, and a few very small fish.

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After leaving Mira, we again headed South, and stopped at another free camp in a place called Foz do Areihe, right outside a bar! Again lots of people stopping and asking about the Daf, and the Blog, same questions ha.

This had some amazing surf (as does much of this stretch of coast), and the quality of the surfers was pretty high.

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At Foz do Areihe, there is a huge lagoon just behind the sandy beach with a channel that feeds it every high tide, the lagoon is a big place for kit surfers, and the tricks that these guys were pulling was amazing.

We left the town the next morning, heading towards Lisbon via the walled city of Obidos. After setting off, it was apparent after about 10km that something was not right with Colonel K. At about 2k rpm (the engine red lines at 2.5krpm), there was a terrific vibration coming from the engine (sited right under us), when the revs dropped it seemed smooth, but the vibes returned again as we hit 2k rpm.

We slowly (even slower than normal), arrived at Obidos, and thought while it was cooling down, we would have a quick walk around the town.

Its a beautiful city, with battlements and lots of very narrow streets filled with cafes and shops.

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Theres no health or safety here! The walk along the battlements with no guard rails is quite unnerving.

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Back to the truck, we tilted the cab and under closer inspection it was obvious that the Viscous Coupling on the fan was shot to pieces, there was a lot of play on the fan blades. A quick call to my big brother back in the UK confirmed that this was almost certainly the cause of the vibrations (and probably the slight over heating a couple of times).

Our first idea was to use the Garmin to find us a garage that might fix it, it was showing one in 4km, perfect. Except the sat nav took us to a place in the middle of no where with no buildings, let alone a garage!

A different tact was needed, we drove to a New Holland tractor dealer who pointed us in the direction of a garage up the road. It was closed. The owner apeared along with a taxi driver, neither could speak any english, and we don’t speak Portuguese (does anyone?). After about 10 mins, he understood what was wrong, and they discussed a suitable garage that might be open, “Pipicar”!

Eventually we set off with no address but a village name about 10km away. We found it, unbelievably and the Daf hadn’t shed its fan into the radiator!

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I’d already found out prior to getting to the garage that the usual supplier of ex military truck spare don’t have any in stock, so I was starting to worry about how long we were going to be stuck here for. The mechanic jumped straight on to stripping the fan out, while the boss was phoning around trying to locate a replacement. No luck. The Daf dealer in Portugal will try to get one from the UK. Another 10 minutes went by, then as I suspected, Daf don’t stock them either in UK or Holland. Bugger.

Then the Top Man appeared carrying a new Viscous Coupling without the fan, It turns out that he got one in for a guy with a Daf 45 truck a couple of years ago, and the bloke decided to scrap the truck. It was a perfect fit, just needed the fan swapped over.

We were in there less than 2.5 hours! It cost us £300.00 and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Result !

As time was getting on, we decided to head for one of our friends Russell and Kirsty’s wild camps, at Praia de Sao Lourenco. What a spot! We we the only ones there, parked right on the beach. It got busier at the weekend, with other camper vans & a few strange characters !

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Its another surfing hot spot (which pleased Jac!), and an amazing place to catch the sunset

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We ended up staying on the beach for 4 nights, it really is a cracking spot. While here we had a couple of long walks, and a cycle ride which was mostly along an old very bumpy dirt track, heading inland towards the hills. It is a very green place with loads of wild flowers, bamboo along rivers and lots of forested areas.

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The Colonel was parked under the cliffs, and right above us were 2 pairs of Falcons nesting in the many natural holes, it was amazing watching them dive into the grasses, and coming in and out of their nests with food. 

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Eventually, (after a fantastic pizza) we had to carry on heading South, so we are once again wild camping on the coast but this time we are south of Lisbon, just below the busy Port of Sines on a beach called Praia de Sao Torpes, another surfing beach. 

We have wild camped for 8 nights now, since we filled up with water, and we can comfortably do another 3 or 4 before we need to top up the water tank. The dirty washing basket is also getting bigger so we might look for a campsite with washing facilities soon.

Jac is starting to worry me a little, she is starting to befriend lots of stray dogs.

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Even if they are cute, there are no places on this trip for hangers on!

Total Miles done to date, 2034 miles

V

The 1st breakages….

After leaving Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain, we decided to head West towards Portugal, and stop off at the City of Salamanca before the border. This was an all day drive as we tried (sometimes unsuccessfully) to stay off the Spanish Motorways, it was 222 miles. Spain is a big country and it can be quite time consuming to cross it at a maximum 50mph!

We decided to top up the fuel tank en-route, as we were unsure how open Spain would be on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. So we spotted a fuel station just off the main road, perfect, apart from I missed the turning into the forecourt. No problem, there’s a huge piece of waste ground to the side of it, I’ll turn into that and then just drive off road on the petrol station (after all we do have a go anywhere 4×4 Tonka truck). All was going swimmingly until we realised (too late) that there was a huge drop off of the waste ground onto the forecourt. SMASH, from the back…. first thought, beer or wine bottles. Once at the pumps, Jac opened up the back to discover carnage….. One of the overhead lockers had jumped its catch, and the entire contents (which happened to be Tesco’s finest crockery) were in thousands of pieces all over the truck. There were lumps out of the worktop, but amazingly the glass cover over the sink was undamaged, and more importantly the ceramic diesel hob survived. Lesson leant, no crockery (apart from plastic) and all heavy items in the base units.

We visited Salamanca last year while we where away on the KTM, on the way back from Morocco with Clive and Jane. This time we were determined to see more of this beautiful place. As it was Sunday, we assumed it would be very quiet, and everything would be closed. WRONG! It was Easter Sunday in a Cathedral City in a Catholic country. 

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There was the most amazing, colourful, and noisy Easter Festival.

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The Main Cathedral really is quite special, but there are many other churches all with fantastic carved stonework

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One place that is a fantastic spot to chill with a beer, and people watch, is the main square, its a mass of bars, cafe’s and restaurants, with what I assume are very exclusive private apartments above.

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There are Storks nesting in the most unlikely places, including this one right at the top of a church bell tower

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The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we topped up Colonel K’s tanks with water, emptied the toilet tank, and set off for Portugal. It was about 100km to the border, then about another 180km to the coast, after a couple of coffee stops (in fabulously luxurous establishments….not) we have ended up in a small town called Estarresa, near Aveiro (south of Porto). Overnighting in a carpark for the local Park, and very nice cafe’.

I know some people are interested in how the Daf is performing (mostly those from the overlander.org website), well touch wood …… very well! The snorkel that I fitted before we left seems to allow the big Cummins engine to breath a bit better, and after about 1700 miles (since leaving the UK) we are doing about 14-15mpg. As usual it seems to use no oil, and all other fluids are ok. We had one instance while driving up a very steep and long small road in the Pyrenees where the temperature gauge was nudging the red line (but I was in low range gears, and was working the engine very hard). After that Ive decided to take it a bit easier on the engine on long sustained inclines. Hopefully it will be fine when the heat increases in North Africa.

Now that we have some proper sun, we are realising the difference that the window tinting on the cab makes, its an absolute god send! I know its still going to get much hotter, but before we had it done, the drive up to Scotland in April was unbearable, its might be technically illegal, but its making a massive difference (and looks quite cool too). It was done by the very helpful Kylie at http://www.ashfordwindowtints.co.uk 

Tomorrow we will head down the coast towards Lisbon and then the Algarve. It seems that Portugal has a very relaxed attitude towards motorhomes and free camping, we will put this to the test over the next week.

V

Viva Espana

We have now crossed the “border” into Spain, and tonight parked up just outside the town of Vitoria-Gastiez.

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While looking for a suitable spot to spend the night, we made the crazy error of driving right through the city Centre, and its a much bigger and busier place than it looked on the map! Traffic lights every 100metres, and pedestrian crossings that always seemed to have someone waiting to cross. Oh, and of course a 6 tonne weight restriction (but we’ve learned to largely ignore these now, I think they are only advisory anyway, ha).

The pin in the map above is where we stayed with friends, Jamie and Emma, and their 2 delightful children (monster) Jack, aged 4, and Jess, aged 9 months. They have a luxury camping (glamping) set up, just outside the village of Escanecrabe, about an hour from Toulouse. Whilst it was out of season while we were there, and so no tents were put up, they have done an amazing job, with the camping and also their house. The views of the snow covered Pyrenees in the distance across the green fields is stunning.

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We stayed in the Colonel for 3 nights at Jamie’s, and they fed and watered us every night, we are very grateful for the hospitality shown. No wonder their customers love it there in the summer! They also gave us the kindly opportunity to wash 2 weeks worth of stinky clothes & towels.

On the first day (as the weather was a bit damp) we decided to go off for a walk from their house, we were out for about three and half hours and had a great variety of views and terrain. The next day we dropped the bikes off the back of the truck and cycled to the nearby town of Aurignac (about 25km round trip). Obviously the area is quite hilly and there are a couple of long drags up to the town, but it is a stunning place and well worth a visit if you are in that area.

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There are many buildings that date from the 13th and 15th Centuries, including the stunning gate tower that protects the entrance to the old city

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As you can see the weather was at last kind to us, with clear blue skies, and lovely and warm. We had a light lunch and a cheeky beer, sat outside a small bar watching the rest of France have its usual 2 hour lunch break. By the time we got back to Jamie and Emma’s, it was 6.30 in the evening and little Jack was looking for me!

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There was nothing for it, but to start playing Football, table tennis, and of course, sword fighting pirates, and SMASH! We are missing Monster Jack already!

Our immediate “plan” is to travel West across Spain and into Portugal, then spend a few days chilling (hopefully a crap turn of phase), around a couple of the coastal areas. Then head to the South of Spain to the Port of Algeciras and get that ferry to North Africa.

Total mileage 1270

V & J x

Living in a box !

Our Box is 8ft x 16ft ( 2.4m x 4.8 m) living accommodation.

We haven’t killed each other yet ! You really need to be aware of each other and side step at the appropriate time, otherwise belly barging or botty bouncing becomes the sport of the moment. Stowing effectively is a key requirement, as Vince found out to his detriment, opening a storage locker to make a cuppa & a jar of coffee leapt out at him. We are still clearing up the coffee granules after 3 days !

Warmth has been a bit of an issue, as we mainly packed for a warmer climate and France so far has been as cold as home. We are therefore using our diesel fired ceramic hob for heating  & thankfully I packed my SuperDry bobble hat. Vince also had the bright idea of putting our 12.5 tog quilt into storage and buying a 4.5 tog quilt, so very cold nights. I’m sure this will be the right decision when we are sweltering, sweating and fighting off flies in a few months time.

On the domestic front, washing up after years of using a dishwasher is a bit of a shock, especially when water is to be used sparingly. Something we need to perfect before entering sub saharan Africa. 1 week & half a tank of water used. We are managing to cook ok with our limited kitchen, utensils & have found you don’t need to use that much, if you pop it all in one or two pans. Have actually been eating very well- Filet steak & Trout & loads of veg. We are keeping our vitamin tablets for those days when fresh food may be a little harder to source.

The Power supply of the Col K does not seem compatible with hair straighters, so its the Curly/ natural look or “hair up” look for me now . Vince has grown a beard, as shaving is difficult in a small sink & makes a mess and drains the water supply.We have to keep an eye on the electric consumption daily as each day that we are parked up we use more electricity than is put back in by the solar panels. After 3 days we have used about a quarter of the stored electric.

We decided to store all of our clothes & belongings into plastic boxes ,to keep them cleaner & free from dust ( I have 3 boxes & Vince has 2 – well thats only fare). After spending a longtime storing items in certain places, we are still rearranging & moving items. We are finding things we forgot we packed & items we didn’t pack – vince forgot his walking socks !

As we are restricted to staying inside the Col , due to the cold weather, we are spending our time researching countries ahead of us, listening to French radio, in the hope that something of the language sinks in- we are trying to learn spoken French very quickly & try to translate our conversations- very poorly ! We should have had French lessons ! Vince thinks the French wine will help !!!

Au revoir 

J

Starting to Chill now……

We have come to decide that Normandy is not as motorhome friendly as it first seemed (unless that motorhome is based on a Ford Fiesta!). Everywhere we tried to get at, had either, a 2.0m height restriction, or a 3.5 tonne weight restriction, or both.

Did this stop us naaa. On one occasion whilst trying to get to a nice looking spot on the coast in Granville, we drove down a very very steep and winding narrow road (that was also quite busy), only to get to the bottom to find the dreaded 2.0m height restriction. What followed resulted in virtual carnage as I performed a near perfect 38 point turn in the narrow road!

After leaving Deauville, we followed the coast road west through to Cabourg, then cut inland to Granville.

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Enroute we decided to visit Pegasus Bridge and Memorial Museum there. As I’m sure you are aware this was the scene of a bloody battle on the day of the D Day landings, which saw British soldiers crash landed in gliders next to the German held bridge. Their brief was to take the bridge without the Germans having time to blow it up, and then hold it until the landings had pushing inland that far. Obviously they succeeded but with very heavy losses.

The Museum is an amazing place, with exhibits both inside and out, including a full size replica glider, heavy weapons, and the original bridge (currently being refurbished). Well worth a visit.

After we left the Museum, we met a large group of ex British soldiers, that had received various wounds whilst serving in Afghanistan, they were on a tour of various D Day sites, and were cycling parts of the trip, very humbling.

Obviously Jac’s had to take a photo of Colonel K crossing the Bridge.

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We’ve had a couple of free camps, one in a carpark in Jullouville, and last night in a Swimming Pool Carpark in Les Essarts (Southof Cholet), awwwww the glamour of travelling! To be honest, when we’re moving from one place to the next each day, theres little point of staying on a campsite. Anyway, virtually all the campsites in France are closed at the moment as its still pretty cold at night.

We are now down near Limoges, and have decided to stop on a lovely little site (max 6 campers), run by an English couple, Neil and Nicky. We are the only ones here, and its in a beautiful area near the village of Les Salles Lavauguyon, which is in the Perigord Limousine National Park. The idea is to stop at Camping Chez Rambaud for 3 nights giving us time to explore the area on our bikes and do some walking. The cost is approx £12.00 per night for the 2 of us and the Colonel. We just hope the weather improves.

After this, we will be heading down to the Midi-Pyrenees, to see our old friends from Hastingleigh, Jamie and Emma, and their 2 children. We are looking forward to emptying our Truck Cellar with them.

Both the Daf, and Jac’s seem to be suffering from the same issue……….. thirst!

Diesel for Colonel K, and Gin and wine for Jac’s!

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Total miles done so far 728

V & J

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