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.
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 😀