Ahh, Morocco, I hear you murmur - land of camels, souks, hashish, leather and tagines! Yes, it is all of those and so much more - more plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic containers and generally a huge rubbish tip! Having said that, the people are friendly, the weather is very pleasant for January in the Northern hemisphere and there are a few new birds to identify.
We have good travelling companions in the form of David, Janice, Morag and Kit. We share the adventures, the meals and the road stories each day and sometimes we go our own way for a while. The campgrounds are a mixed lot, some are barely recognisable and the facilities are diabolical and some are 5 star (by Moroccon standards which means they have clean toilets and showers with hot water). Some are in fantastic ocean side locations, some are in walled compounds, some are just a car park but all have "gardiens" who will get the Dirham from you one way or another, and friends who will sell you fish, bread and other staples; some will even offer to buy your bikes which in the case of Kit and Morag, proved to be a
lucrative deal. They sold their two rusty mountain bikes for 500Dh (about 50 Euro) plus the man came back that night with a lovely orange cake made by his wife!
For Brian and I it has been a little frustrating with his knee taking a while to get better and restricting his sightseeing considerably. It has also meant I have been the driver for most of the trip which may be a blessing in disguise as we are driving on the right side of the road so the passenger gets to stare in horror at the cars, taxis, buses and trucks with their wheels over on our side of the road - amazingly the only damage sustained was David's wing mirror on a roundabout and our rear bumper (self inflicted when the handbrake was left off after parking up on boards in a campground and rolling back off).
What else can I say about Morocco? We arrived by ferry from Algeciras to Tanger Med on a fine sunny day and for the next month we only had rain on a couple of occasions. Travelling down the coast we drove through Rabat which is a bustling, fairly modern city
but with little to hold your attention. There were numerous small towns and villages, mostly with half finished buildings, roads in need of repair and rubish in need of removal. People live off the land and the sea, and many seem to do nothing. Wherever you go there are people sitting or standing around doing nothing and whilst there are lots of cafes and restaurants the only people in them are men drinking mint tea, coffee and smoking. We also learned early on that we should eat out at lunchtime because the locals do so you are more likely to get a decent meal then. We tasted some good tagines, some inedible tagines and some indifferent tagines. Food highlights included olives in a myriad different marinades piled high in markets and shops; fresh dates; mandarins and avocados; Moroccan wine (very French in style and not half bad) whenever we could find it (being a muslin country they don't drink so every meal out was teetotal) and Ras el Hanout, which is a local spice blend that you buy in bulk from one of the many market stalls in every town.
Shopping for groceries was a highlight as every town,
village and hamlet has its market day and you see some sights along the way including butcher shops miles from anywhere strung along a lonely desert road with one haunch of meat hanging in the opening above each counter; live chickens weighed, killed and prepped for you whilst you wait; people offering you a taste of their produce from grubby fingers; and roadside vegetable sellers competing with each other for your business and endless mules toiling with huge loads.
Campsites offered a mixed bag of delights. We have been welcomed with mint tea; fresh bread delivered to our door in the morning; tagines delivered as an appetiser; and rugs laid at front of our door on arrival. Some sites are packed with French and German over-winterers in massive motorhomes towing trailers with either a dune buggy or motorbike; some sites were almost empty and almost all sites were cheap - we paid the equivalent of 6-7 Euros for most sites. Mind you we mostly used our on board shower and toilet!
Some of the highlights for us include: Kasbah Myriem where we bought a small hand woven Berber rug and some embroidery. It was started by Franciscan nuns
to help Berber women learn old skills of sewing and weaving and to pass them on to each generation. They produce fabulous quality work and all the proceeds go to the women involved. We also were invited to camp the night next to the monastery. The Todra Gorge is amazing with 300mt sheer sides and some good walking trails. The middle and high Atlas mountains have huge valleys, massive plateaus and a desolate beauty (but wherever you stop there is always someone who will appear). Fez proved to be an enjoyable city with a labyrinthine souk and some interesting museums (we skipped Marakesh as Brian's knee was not up to it at that stage). The area around Tafraoute and the Ait Mansour Valley were spectacular with massive pink granite rock formations, deep ravines cut through by tiny rivers and palm oasis.
Tot: 0.167s; Tpl: 0.013s; cc: 6; qc: 44; dbt: 0.0366s; 44; m:apollo w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 4;
; mem: 6.5mb