Category Archives: Morocco

Morocco – The Final Chapter

For this weeks ‘What’s The Story?’ Instead of sharing the story behind one photo, I thought I would share the last of the photos from our Morocco Adventure along with the lessons we learned while we were there, like lots of little ‘what’s the stories’ if you will.

Boys love to play with sand no matter how old they are, the only difference is that their toys become more expensive!

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Humans are amazingly resilient, whether it’s living in the harshest environment or finding an unconventional mode of transport

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Tuareg Settlement

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Can you see the men riding on the hay? And how can the driver see anything?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Oasis looks just like they do in the movies and camels wander around in the desert.

 

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There is nothing like the scale of mother nature to make human lives seem small.

 

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Sometimes traveling just a few feet can be a terrifying journey.

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And sometimes, when the road ahead looks perilous, you just need to suck it up and go for it.

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There is nothing like the desperation of kids to make you feel like the most privileged person on the whole world

 

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And finally, having young kids doesn’t mean you can’t travel

 

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Morocco Safari – The last Leg

After leaving the Sahara Desert (written about here) we were on the last leg of our Morocco Safari.

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A model of our car made by kids in Zagora

We had a stop in Zagora, where historically the camel trains would leave to travel to Timbuktu.  Luckily it was a hotel stop, which gave us a very welcome time to wash the Sahara sand out of our undies! Kids hang around outside the hotel, which was a regular stop for off-roaders like us leaving the desert and they asked if we would buy a model of our car the following day before we left. This is what we bought and you can’t help but admire the ingenuity of the kids, willing to use any old rubbish and turn it into a money making scheme.

 

Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge

After a ride through the spectacular Todra Gorge and a close encounter with a sand devil we entered the cedar forest.

 

Sand Devil

Sand Devil

Cedar Forest

Cedar Forest

It was really weird after the dry, hot, dusty desert to see such huge green trees.  We were climbing in altitude which meant falling temperatures especially at night.

 

Lak Tislit

Lac Tislit

Our stop on the shores of lake Tislit, the only body of water we had seen in 12 days, saw temperatures close to zero at night that had us all shivering in our tents.

Our roof tent

Our roof tent

 

When we left there we were back into a hot, dry atmosphere that lead us back to Tangier and eventually the ferry back to Spain.

In next week’s final chapter I will share some more of the photo’s from our amazing journey.

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Morocco Safari Day 6-9 – Into the Sahara

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Following on from last weeks instalment about our adventures in September 2004, this weeks sees us entering the Sahara Desert

After 6 days we had finally settled into a routine, over breakfast in our wild camp in the morning we would have a quick briefing of our journey for the day.  Our leader would give us a series of map co-ordinates ending in a rendezvous point in the evening, it was up to us to decide when we left and how long we took.

 

There was one occasion when he made me highlight one particular co-ordinate and told me he couldn’t guarantee our safety if we missed this turn off from the track, the village beyond it was basically dangerous and we should not be going through it.  At that very moment my navigation skills went from adequate to expert.

 

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crumbling road ahead

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The ‘roads’, if you could call them that, were at times barely passable and were literally crumbling as we drove across them.  We learned to drive dead slow through the tiny villages as kids would run alongside the road calling for pens or sweets and would throw stones if we drove to fast.

If you drove too slowly though you ran the risk of getting an uninvited hitchhiker jumping on the roof to catch a ride or check out what you had in the boxes on the roof rack! Everything, even our water tap, had a padlock on it.

Entering the Sahara at the end of day 6 was an experience that will stay with me forever it was so hot (50C) and so dry that it literally zapped every drop of moisture out of you, but it was breathtakingly stunning to look at and we needed to have one of those ‘pinch me’ moments when we start to doubt the reality of what we saw.  We spent two full days playing in the sands of the desert, learning off-roading skills getting stuck on the top of huge sand dunes and really putting our car through it’s paces.

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Camping in the dunes

Those few days in the Sahara was a once in a lifetime experience that will stay with me forever.

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Morocco Safari Day 5

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Our boys, our car and the High Atlas Mountains

Our Moroccan adventure continues this week when we leave the hotel in Ait Ourir and  civilisation behind us as we head off road into the high Atlas Mountains and our first wild camp of the trip.

The terrain, although spectacular was completely different from anything I had ever seen.  Dry, hot, rocky and harsh and the little plant life that could survive were covered in thorns.  It is hard to imagine day-to-day survival in such a hostile environment.

We travel through the High Atlas and had a brief stop in Talouine to get fuel and water before heading into the Anti Atlas for a wild camp that was actually a dry riverbed and provided the most spectacular back drop for our nights stay.

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We thought the medical dramas were behind us but little did we know we had one more to face…

As we left the city of Talouine we noticed one of the other cars in our group pulled over at the side of the road with the male driver standing a few feet to the side of it swaying precariously, his wife (who had mobility issues) sat seemingly oblivious in the front seat as he fell backwards in a dead faint.  Hubbie sped towards them and skidded our car to a halt behind them and without waiting for it to come to a full stop I threw open the door, jumped out and ran towards him, dropped to my knees to check his heart and noticed he wasn’t breathing. His tongue had slipped back across his airways and he was choking on it.  With every ounce of strength I could muster I rolled him onto his side to put him in the recovery position and it was a huge relief when he took a gasping breathe and came to almost immediately. After throwing water all over him to cool him off and sitting him in the shade for a while he recovered.  Only to have him tell me off because I had rolled him onto a bush of huge prickles and he was picking them out of his skin for the next couple of days! But hey, at least he was breathing!

The huge lesson I learned that day was that I am one of those people that runs towards a crisis, however much it shocks me now to think like that.  I didn’t hesitate to think for a second about what I should do, instinct took control and even to this day I am surprised at how I reacted. I honestly didn’t know I had it in me.

Coming next week… we are finally heading into the Sahara Dessert itself.

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Morocco Safari Day 4

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What dangers lurk in the car park…?

 

The first few days into our Moroccan Adventure proved to be a steep learning curve and none more important than the lesson we learned during our first hotel stop.

Hubbie and I were quite smug in the knowledge that we had the only vehicle with air conditioning  but what we thought was a blessing turned out to be a curse. While the rest of our party slowly acclimatized to the heat that intensified every day, we didn’t.  Consequently I was the first casualty of the holiday when I fainted at dinner that night suffering the effects of heat exhaustion. My ‘mum instinct’ made me overly cautious of the amount of water the boys were drinking but, like you do, I forgot about me. A stern talking to on the importance of hydration for all of us, absolutely NO air con and some rehydration salts courtesy of our group leader and within a few hours I was on the mend, lesson learned.

However, later that night I was woken by hubbie writhing around in pain and recognized his symptoms immediately, they were the same as mine.  The trouble was our rehydration salts were in the car at the other end of the hotel, which was basically a walled enclosure in the middle of nowhere.  So I grabbed my keys and headed outside into the pitch-black night to try to find the car and our first aid kit.  I was absolutely terrified and physically shaking I began to imagine the headlines “Dumb English girl goes missing after wandering around Moroccan dessert alone”.  So I poked my keys through my fingers like a knuckle-duster and preparing myself for a fight I carried on.  After what seemed like an age the cars came into view and still shaking with fear I began to frantically press the key fob to try and unlock the doors and turn the car lights on so I could see.

Eventually I was close enough and as the lights flashed the silhouette of a man standing at the back of my car came into sharp relief, as I began to scream I realized he was screaming too.  “Madame! Guardian! Guardian!” he yelled at me in broken French and suddenly realization dawned on me, far from being a serial killer he was in fact a parking guardian employed by the hotel to keep our vehicles safe during our stay.  Although relieved I couldn’t stop shaking as I grabbed the first aid kit and ran back to our room and with trembling fingers locked the door behind me, Phew!

The talk at breakfast the following morning was filled with the story of how someone gave the poor old parking guardian the fright of his life in the middle of the night!

More next week 😀

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Morocco Safari Day 1-3

Cascades D'Ouzoud

Cascades D’Ouzoud

 

After spending the summer of 2004 preparing ourselves and our vehicle for our trip by Mid September we were ready to go.

We left our home with our fully equipped car, all the water we could carry and our three week supply of food and made our way to Southampton to catch the overnight ferry to France.  It took us three days to drive through France, cross over into Spain by the Pyrennes and finally met up with the rest of our group in Estepona in southern Spain to enjoy a final night of luxury in a European standard hotel.

I don’t think any of us slept well that night as we began to get anxious about what the next leg of our journey had in store for us.  Early the next morning we drove down to Tarifa and caught the ferry across to Tangier, Morocco.  The border crossing itself was a bit of a performance but luckily the leader of our group took care of most of it for us. As we left the port we experienced culture shock for the first time as our senses were assaulted with the sights, sounds and smells of a completely difference continent.  The city was chaotic and the strange signs in Arabic and French looked so odd to our British eyes that it was a relief to leave the chaos behind and head out into the countryside.

We drove though dry, dusty, flat landscape for the rest of the day before reaching a ‘campsite’ which was a dusty walled yard that had a toilet that was too disgusting to use, a few stray emaciated dogs and goats, a friendly chameleon and that was it.  Welcome to Morocco!

The following day was a 300km drive to another ‘campsite’ at Cascades D’Ouzoud.  By this time we had been travelling without decent facilites for a couple of days and as we were driving almost due south the temperature was getting hotter and hotter.  On arrival at the site we took a brief stroll to the river upstream of the waterfall and I was so hot and dirty that I lay in the river, fully clothed, to cool off!

The waterfall itself was pretty spectacular and we took a hike to the bottom the following morning, the climb back up however was not so easy and I was offered a ‘herbal remedy’ that looked suspiciously like cannabis by a little old Moroccan lady to help me with the climb, we managed to decline graciously and got the hell out of there!

This was our last designated campsite for the following 12 days which consisted of wild camping with two hotel stops to break it up.  Quite frankly the wild camping would be better than the campsites and a great deal cleaner!

As we left Cascade D’Ouzoud and headed further into the rural parts we reflected on the lessons we had learned so far:

Firstly, Our vehicle and equipment, with the kids DVD player in the back, caused a bit of a stir with Moroccans, we must have looked like aliens to them especially in the rural parts where there main mode of transport was a donkey.

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Secondly, the blonde hair that youngest son and I had attracted attention where ever we went that was so intense we soon decided not to leave the safety of our car while we were in the towns, even when we found a petrol station or somewhere to get water hubbie would lock us in the car when he went to pay.

Thirdly, it was extremely important that we followed the GPS co-ordinates set by our group leader as some areas where known to be extremely dangerous, we rarely had a phone signal and if we got lost help wasn’t coming, we were on our own!

Lastly, that however much we were enjoying ‘roughing it’ we couldn’t wait to get the our first hotel that night to sleep in a bed, wash ourselves and our clothes, use their pool and use a flushing toilet for the first time in 3 days!

As it turned out the night would be quite an adventurous one and it was extremely fortunate that we were in a hotel… with a proper bathroom….

More next week 😀

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What’s The Story? – Preparing for Morocco

 

This is my beloved Land rover Defender on the day we finally finished our preparations for our three week driving tour of Morocco in September 2004.

 

We bought the car in April 2004 and Hubbie immediately started modifying it to take all the off-roading supplies money could buy because 5 months later we were embarking on a road trip that took us through France and Spain and across Morocco to the Atlas Mountains and Sahara dessert.

 

Most of our Family and friends thought we were nuts as were prepared our car and ourselves for the trip.  The boys were just 3 and 10 at the time and we were going to spend 3 weeks driving hundreds of miles in what can only be described as harsh terrain.  Preparation was key to making this trip a success.

 

With less than 20 miles on the clock Hubbie took a drill to the body work to fit a roof rack and ladder (something that made my Dad shudder and exclaim that we were mental!), we fitted an auxiliary battery system and inverter to give us enough power to run a DVD player for the kids and a fridge to keep our food in.  The next thing was the roof tent for us to sleep in and a water tank to give us an emergency supply of water, just in case we had a breakdown.  After all we were going to spend about 3 days in the Sahara Desert itself and taking a chances was not an option.  A CB radio was next, followed by the roof storage boxes to keep a few spare parts.  The road tyres were changed for all terrain tyres and a snorkel was fitted on the side so the air intake was lifted high enough to  keep the air filter free of sand.  We fitted guards to protect sensitive parts of the car and lifted the suspension to give us a greater ground clearance, an awning on the side gave us protection from the harsh sun when we were camping.  Finally a bracket to fit some jerry cans for extra fuel and eventually we were ready to go.  Morocco here we come!

More next week 😀