Morocco 2014 – Week One

30/12/2013 – 75528 – 19:00

We left home on the 30th for our long drive to the bottom of Spain to catch our ferry to Morocco.

We stopped at friends near Barcelona for a couple of days to see the New Year in with them, had a great time then onward to Beniccasim to meet other Motorhome friends on to Benidorm to meet others

05/01/2014 – 76380 – 07:30
Left Albi near Benidorm for a very long drive  to  Algeceras and drove nearly non stop on non toll roads all day arriving at Viajes Normandie at 16:30 nine hours 648km then queued for two hours to buy our tickets for the Ferry. A few last things in Carrefore then dinner and early bed for an early start for the first Ferry.
Monday – 06/01/2014 – 77028 km – 06:15
Left parking outside Lidl to drive the 15 minutes to the Port to wait as will be normal from now on. Arrived at the port and, joined the line for check in, as usual the Moroccans in charge managed to turn an orderly situation into chaos but eventually we were checked in and to the que for loading. Sailing time of 8am came and went and we were finally loaded by about 08:30 and the ferry sailed at about 09:00.
We joined the que to see the policeman to check and stamp our passports and got chatting with a French couple who came from Anger in the west of France near the factory that built our Motorhome. 
The lady pointed out that the seats and especially the headrests in the salon were absolutely filthy so  we made our way up to the cafe where the seats were cleaner and the French couple joined us and we had a pleasant voyage in conversation with them which was great for our French because she spoke a little English so between us we could work out what we wanted to say.
The ferry docked at about 10:15 and after waiting for a poor Frenchman with a trailer behind his Motorhome to reverse off and up the ramp, we were at the immigration area by about  10:30.
With just a little bit of waiting and a few questions like, have you got any pistols? We were on our way by 11:00, amazing, it just gets better every year, what an improvement  the new Tanger Med port is compared with our first time with the Motorhome going into Tanger city when there was absolute chaos and touts everywhere.
Now just one more policeman to check that we had the rubber stamps on our forms and we were off. There is a fairly strict procedure to follow for entry into Morocco which has changed in the last couple of years so I will be producing an article on our website soon as a form of reference for ourselves and others if it will be helpful to them. There are quite a few on the web I have found which are now out of date so it won’t hurt to provide an updated version.
When we left the Tanger Med Port this time we turned left heading along the Med coast rather than right which is the way most people go. Because we have become bored with the Atlantic coast and hundreds of Motorhomes with inevitably full camp sites. We intended to experience the Mediteranian coast and Riff mountains but understand that at this time of year (January) there can be snow making the mountains impassable. So intend to follow a figure of eight route possibly ending with a tour of the Mediteranian coast and Riff mountains. But as we are looking for a more leisurely time this trip, that may not happen.
So we trundled along the coast road past the many holiday hotels, finally  sweeping inland to Tetouan where we stumbled on a Marjan supermarket, these only exist in the large cities in Morocco so worth a stop to get anything we might have forgotten. The first discovery was a Maroc Telecom shop where we bought a new sym for the 3G dongle we bought last year so as to get internet on the move. It was a bit more than the whole thing cost last year 200 dirham about €18 or £15 which includes a month of relatively unlimited use, but we did buy it in a Souk (market) with our Moroccan friends help last year.
After buying some large bath towels to put on our chairs which we had forgotten to bring and the essential large bottles of drinking water, we continued our days journey towards Chefchaouen. We had bought a Moroccan Map for TomTom this time to make things easier but before we realised it had taken us what it thought was the quickest route, but not with a Motorhome nearly three meters wide at the mirrors. However time is not important and it turned out to be a beautiful detour into the edge of the Riff mountains, quite slow because of the rough roads and many steep hills and switch back turns but really worth the extra time. The cab camera we bought for our Italy tour should be great on this trip because it will quietly take pictures of the locals, the ladies especially usually turn their heads away when they see Judy with the camera their colourful costumes and interesting faces really make superbe photos.
We finally reached our camp site high above the pretty town of Chefchaouen where many of the buildings are painted in beautiful shades of blue and lilac. The road up to the camp site has some really challenging steep hairpin bends which are quite difficult to negotiate with our Sprintshift Auto gearbox. Arrived about 17:00 – 77200 so just 172 km today.
Stayed the next day at our campsite and took a walk down a very steep path into the old part of the town which is absolutely beautiful as most of the houses are painted various shades of blue, you can see some of our photos at:- http://tinyurl.com/OAT-Morocco  drop back occasionally to see the new one as we add them.
Wednesday 08/01/2014 – 77200km – 09:00
Left Chefchaouen to drive to Azru, we intended to stop at Meknes for a bit of sightseeing but it was so busy and smelly with traffic that we decided to just keep going. TomTom again decided to take us the pretty route which became piste (dirt road) in places and quite slow going because of the holes in the Tarmac but was pretty and interesting. We will have to be a bit more vigilant on the route he takes us from here on though because the minor roads can just run out and get very bad the further south we get.
Just before Azru we saw a very nice petrol station advertising that they took credit cards, which is very different to our previous visits when the only place to take cards was the Marjan Supermarkets. It really is amazing how quickly Morocco is progressing. Even at €0.87 per litre fuel is a major expense and can quickly get through cash so buying on a credit card is a bonus. We pulled in and Steve checked first and they did really take cards so we filled up.
Our French database of camping spots from www.CampingCar-Infos.com had given strange mixed opinions of our intended nights stop a bit more confusing because it had been translated by Google Translate. Words like Disney Land, slippery slates, and impossible to reach the terrace left us full of wonder. 
TomTom took us to the door and it was indeed a Disney Casbar with a very impressive gate house which did indeed have glass smooth tiles to drive on. But past the guard on the gate they had obviously changed all the smooth tiles on the road for special grip ones which led very steeply to a large terrace about 30 meters above the road and fairy tale looking buildings which were the hotel. Unfortunately it was getting dark to take photographs so must remember tomorrow. So the faults in the design reported by previous French visitors had been rectified and produced a beautiful site as a result and only 60dh about £4.60 a night plus 20dh if electricity was needed. Unfortunately our charger has misteriously stopped working so electricity is of little use other than for the fridge, so we are relying on our solar panels and motoring to charge our domestic batteries until we hopefully get a reply to an email to the manufacturers to see if there is a re-setting procedure that may bring it to life again.
We had a fairly quiet night  and a late start so ignored a knock on the door at 08:30 with a guy outside holding bread. But when we checked out he said here is your loaf you were asleep when I called this morning, when Judy asked he said it was free, what a nice gesture, ok only about 1.5dh but still a nice gesture. A really good site, the staff were very respectful and helpful as we filled with water and emptied down and the facilities were impeccable. Euro Camping Center, Azrou, Ifran GPS: N 33.44471, W 5.1918 well worth a visit more than one night.j
Remembering to take some photos on our way down from the terrace we got on our way.

Thursday 09/01/2014 – 77473km – 10: 00
Left the beautiful site at Azru for a fairly short drive to Midelt but we intended to stop at a lake formed by a flooded extinct volcano our guide book said was worth a  visit.
Just outside Azru we were driving throu the Cedar forest and came upon the road full of wild Barbary apes similar the the ones that inhabit the rock of Gibralter. Steve had read about them but had forgotten, so we pulled off the road for a few photos then ten minutes later came across quite a few holding a sit-in right across the road but they slowly but reluctantly moved aside as we slowly edged forward.
We came across the lake about lunch-time so drove the kilometer off road to park by it. We had visited the same spot about five years ago on a previous visit but it was covered in snow then and we had to keep the heating on all night to keep warm and that was the beginning of March then so it is much warmer this year as there was no snow at all and we had a nice lunch stop. A Maroccan guy appeared in his car and Steve chatted to him for a bit and he said he was waiting for a tourist bus as he was going to take them into the old French lead mines to show them where he hunted for fossils. He showed Steve a couple of beautiful examples he just happened to have with him and finished with the inevitable sales pitch but it was a very good natured pitch.
Moving on we arrived at Midelt about 15:00 being very high it was quite cold so we decided to push on across the High Atlas Mountains to the oasis of Source Bleu at Meski which we had visited before and had a nice drive over the mountains apart from being pushed over a bit by a truck and hitting a large pothole with a very loud bang, we stopped as soon as we could for a check and there appeared to be no damage apart from a few things jumping out of cupboards, hopefully the tyre will be ok, there is no apparent damage.
We arrived at Meski at about 16:30 but remembering that there was no 3G reception at the oasis which was in a gorge about 10 metres below the surrounding ground level down a steep slope so we stopped at the top to pick up emails in case leVoyageur the Motorhome manufacturers had replied with a solution to the charger problem, unfortunately not. 
Just gone 17:00 we headed for the site to be stopped by a smartly dressed Maroccan gentleman trying to get us to go to his camp site. We declined as it was getting dark and the entry to the oasis was very tight and we didn’t want to hit any of the many palm trees we knew we had to steer between.
The camp site had deteriation quite a bit fromlast year and the traders with shops there seemed to think that it was our duty to buy something at their shop and had to be told quite firmly, NO.
Steve then wished we had taken the time to check out the other camping.

Friday 10/01/2014 – 77755 – 08:50
We paid our 50dh for the night and decided we would check out the other place and there at the top of the slope out was the same guy so we went with him just 50mtr along the road to his resteraunt where he had parking for four Motorhomes in the front and another area for four more across the road.
He insisted on showing Steve every part of his establishment including the kitchen and the panoramic view across the gorge to the old abandoned village which we didn’t know about. With promises to stop on our way back north Steve finally extricated himself with card in hand. Certainly worth remembering.
We had a fairly easy drive to Mazouga ahead of us but it started raining sorn after we started and all the way down to the edge of the Sahara, oh dear.
A Dutchman last year had told us to turn off a little bit before Mazouga which we did and found a really nice Auberge Camping called Ocean Dunes in a village called Adrouine  which is 50dh per night with free Electricity and WiFi so will be our home for a week or so if we like it. So arrived at our first long stop about midday after just 112km drive today.
We got ourselves set up then had a stroll around the village which was actually quite large with quite a few small grocers shops for supplies.
Unfortunately it started raining again and continued for the rest of the night so an evening of reading.
Saturday 11/01/2014
Morning turned out fine but cloudy and cool, one of the lads from the site knocked at 08:30 with a loaf of bread 2dh so after breakfast and a few chores we set out for a walk to Mazouga for a bit of excercise after nearly a week sitting. It was a long walk about 5 miles and the route we took ended up in soft desert sand which was very hard going but quite safe because we could see the villages all the time on our right and the gigantic sand dunes about 2km to our left.
After a little walk around Mazouga which had improved quite a bit from last year in that the main road with shops in it which was just sand last year was now Tarmac with a nice shaded area with seats in the middle.
The walk back was a bit easier along the new wide gravel road which had been built between the villages.
Arrived back after about four hours walking a bit stiff but feeling good so an afternoon and evening reading.
Sunday 12/01/2014
Awoke to bright sunshine,  so after a light stroll around the village and finding a little shop with quite a few veggies we settled down for a quiet day in the sun.
So a week of travelling and we are now settled in a nice site, we are the only English because all the others are French but a good chance to improve our conversation. The French come here because it is one of the few French speaking places they can easily visit.
So we are unlikely to post any more until we move on or something exciting happens because it is difficult to write about lazy days in the sun.
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