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Thursday, 24 May 2012

Morocco, Part 1

Day 1 – 15/5/12

It was with a great feeling of anticipation that we approached the Morocco border – this is supposed to be a place very close to Europe in it manner. The 3 or 4 km of no mans land road is appalling and driven at < 1 km/hr.

We were warmly welcomed by an official and the Gendarme and Police/Immigration formalities were completed quickly. Nice. Then…

We started the customs formalities. The carnet is not recognised, so we needed to complete some additional forms. Then the vehicle needed to go through a giant X-Ray machine. There is only 1 machine for both incoming and exiting vehicles. Then we went back to the customs office to have some more paperwork cone and we also needed to get the form signed off. But wait, the man who does the signing is praying. So, Ray went out to get the vehicle insurance. Euro 275 for 28 days. Ouch – we pay less than that for a year in Oz – seems like a bit of an official racket going on. Then we went back to the customs office to get the forms finally stamped.  3 yes three hours latter we leave the compound. Normally this process takes 5 – 10 minutes (except for the bribe issue at Burkina Faso). And it is very hot!

To make matters worse, we punctured a tube (yes, WE KNOW!!!) in the compound. At the 1st service station we stopped to get the tyre repaired. But first, the repair man had to have lunch. He asked for 10 minutes, 20 minutes later Ray went to the “tea room” to hurry things along. The repair man used a mattock to break the bead on the finely machined, delicately balanced rim. We discovered that the tube was punctured at the wall (yes we know). The repairman indicated that he could repair the original vulcanised patch that was applied in Niamey, then we will not need a tube. Great. The first item on the critical path was to find a patch in the total mess that was being used as a workshop. Now, we swear this is true; he applied the patch to the tyre with glue and then wound down the press to apply the vulcanising heat. Fixed to the end of the screw mechanism was an old fashion iron (yes, the sort you iron clothes with). For the oldies, an iron with the bakerlite plug and electric cord that goes into the rear of the iron. The repairman attached the electric cord and we waited for the temperature to rise and then to fall. The good news is that this seemed to have worked. So after ~ 2.5 hours we were on our way again.

The drive to Dhakla was some times interesting with beautiful sand dunes and coastal cliffs and sometimes boring with flat Sahara endless white plain. We elected to use the a/c as we have heard that fuel is very cheap in the former Western Sahara.

Dhakla is a favourite location for wind surfers.

We camped at the Moussasfir Campground – which is clean and not as dismal as others have reported. Or, at least it seemed to us having come from the south.

There are a lot of police road blocks, but normally we are waved straight through.

 Avril driving. 423 km. N 230 45’ 52.3’’ W 0150 54’ 25.7’’. The observant will have noted we passed through the Tropic of Cancer

Day 2 – 16/5/12

We made a casual start to the day and took breakfast on the foreshore in Dakhla. Very nice. We then went in search of a tyre place to see if we could get another tyre and so have 2 workable spares. Did we mention that the aluminium repair from Niamey started lo leak, but ever so little. But, there was not a correct sized tyre in Dakhla, so we had a tube placed into the Goodrich mud tread tyre (purchased in RSA). This tyre seemed to have rubbed its inside on the rear chassis – but the repair man swears it will be all right with a tube (yes, sigh, we know). Hopefully we will not need to use it.

The drive to transverse the Sahara continued. In places you can see the ocean and it is a brilliant turquoise (bet you thought Ray did not know that colour). Otherwise, it was just a long drive. At Laayoune, one of the last places in Western Sahara, we filled our fuel tanks – 240 l at $ 0.50/l.

We camped at Le Roi Bedouin a nice camp 4 km off the road. Importantly, they have BEER!

Avril driving (Ray’s eyes are still very sore from the drive across the Sahara). 580 km. 6.5 hrs . N 270 27’ 41.9’’ W 0130 03’ 06.1’’

Day 3 – 17/5/12

Again, a very long drive. There was a heavy sea mist extending far in land for a lot of the morning (like in Namibia). Initially the topography was flat, stony and basically without vegetation. At some point we started to drive through some very long north – south valleys. The hills on either side were almost devoid of vegetation and not that high, but there was enough to make the drive a little more interesting (sort of like the hills in Jordan). Then we drove up a reasonably high pass onto another “high” plain. At this point the vegetation seemed to change and we started to see some trees.

A major pain of driving in Morocco are the massive number of road blocks. The number rivals any country we have driven through thus far. And they have the bizarre rule that you must stop at a small road side sign some ~20 m before the police or gendarme presence – the only other place we have seen this is in the Central African Republic. It seems to be a tactic to try and entrap the unwary and then demand some sort of payment. The locals are aware of this and always stop. At our 1st post we drifted up to the police with the intention of reducing their walk in the hot sun. This was a bad mistake – we were given a lecture and the police tried to extract a bribe. We resisted. Note, having been warned we were also aware of the Arabic “stop sign” and hence were not trapped by the notorious Tan Tan policeman.

We arrived at Agadir in the late afternoon and not wanting to look for accommodation, booked into the International Camping ground. We discovered immediately on entry that it is a complete dump; facilities are now so badly run down as to be non –existent, the place is quite grotty etc.  We decided on the spot to only spend one night.

We had a pleasant walk around town and were pleased with the food program on offer!

Avril driving; 593 km; 8 hrs; N 300 25’ 26.6’’ W 0090 36’ 29.4’’

Day 4 – 18/5/12

We spent the morning doing chores and what the kids describe as “faffing”. Avril checked out a hotel opposite the campground and like the facilities and price, so we checked into the Club Al Moggar, sort of 3 star with a breakfast program. Shawarma for lunch.

N 300 25’ 23.3’’ W 0090 36’ 34.7’’

 Day 5 – 19/5/12

A lazy day. We walked along the Agadir foreshore. The foreshore is well set up with paths and facilities so we had a pleasant stroll past shops and restaurants. Lots of fake bags and luggage around. In the evening we watched to Champions league soccer final.

Day 6 – 20/5/12

A lazy day. We took a long walk to the local souk for a look. Ray bough a “Prada” bag to hold our computers. We watched a bit of Italian league soccer on the restaurant TV. Gee, are those blokes (?) soft or what?

Day 7 – 21/5/12

Avril went for some retail therapy, but a lazy day again.

Day 8 – 22/5/12

A very early start to the day. We were flying to the UK for the wedding of Elena Marshall, the daughter of long standing (Zambia days) friend, Steve & Ing. The more alert readers will remember that they had journeyed out from the UK to join us in the initial part of our trip. Our experience with Easyjet was not as poor as we had been led to believe. We had hired a car for our time in the UK, which all worked very well. We got to Steve & Ings place late afternoon with some balmy English weather – and we did not bring any hot weather clothes. A pleasant evening with a few ales and wonderful food cooked by Ing.
Note, that you need to leave your vehicle parked at the airport and the keys with the customs officials there. It is a very simple procedure with very helpful customs staff. It takes around 30 min.

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