Wednesday, February 22

Morocco (the quick tour)

Brett: We caught the FRS Ferry from Tarifa to Tangier MED ($150 one way), which we booked online. The ferry is very modern and the Moroccan Visa was issued on the boat (free for UK). Customs on the Tangier side took about an hour and wasn’t too bad – the touts are fairly tame and the officials generally helpful. We had to buy insurance ($80 for 10 days, $120 for 1 month) because our Green Card didn’t cover Morocco. We made a policy decision early on in Morocco, when we realised it was freezing cold, that we would rush through. We had seen quite a lot of it before (Morocco) and we also wanted to focus wanted to be able to spend more time in the countries we haven’t seen yet.

First stop was Rabat to sort out our visas. We stayed at Camping Palmerie ($9pn) for 3 nights, which is run down and about 20km out of town, but is pretty much as close as you can get since Camp Rabat closed down. We drove in to the embassies (driving in the city is a breeze compared to Casablanca), which are all right next to each other. We were a little concerned about getting the Mali Visa ($30pp) with all the recent trouble there, but it was really easy. We dropped our passports off at 9:30am and collected them at 3pm that afternoon – we were the only people applying that day. In between, we set off in search of some food and found a convenient shopping centre near by with a big Marjane supermarket and a McDonalds with free wifi, which we came back to the next day to catch up on emails. The Mauritanian Visa ($40pp) takes a bit more work- by now it was too late to apply so we just picked up the forms and used Google Translate to translate the French (we left the sections where you fill in the details of a local “sponsor” responsible for your application blank). We joined the queue in the street at 8:30am the next day, with out application, passport, 2 photos and photocopy of our passport and finished handing them in by 10am (they close at 11am regardless of whether or not anyone is still in the queue). From there we headed back to McDonalds to use up more of their wifi, before heading back out to the campsite. We met up with some German overlanders Robert and Wolfgang at the campsite and headed off for a tagine at the local restaurant with them. The next day we went back to our office at McDonalds for more wifi – by now we were practically on first name terms with the staff.  At 2pm we headed back to join the queue which was already forming an hour early, but for whatever reason, they only opened at 4:15pm. By this time we had been standing in the hot sun for over two hours fighting queue-jumpers, so we were a bit fed up, but finally we got to the front and collected our passports.

Mary: We set off South that afternoon, reaching El Jadida at sunset. We joined hundreds of motorhomes at the Camping International ($5pn) which was decent and dragged our exhausted selves to the campsite restaurant for some very good brochettes. We were the only tourists in the restaurant, which was full of drunken locals, including one who was taking his game of pool very, very seriously, despite having clearly pissed his pants and missing all his shots.

The next day was long – set off early and took the smaller coastal roads heading for Agadir. We stopped at Camping Parc Atlantic ($12pn), 28km North of Agadir, although you could probably freecamp quite easily along that stretch of coast. The campsite had more motor homes than I have seen in my life and we were the youngest there by at least 30 years, but it had a good vibe and had fantastic facilities, including a boule pitch, hot showers and washing machine. We had now finally gone further South in Morocco than we had been on our previous trip and for the first time since leaving UK we felt warm (It didn’t last though, just a blip in the weather)…

Brett: We headed for Tan Tan Plage and stayed at Camping Sable D’Or ($8pn), which was pretty depressing – just a packed gravel courtyard with really rude staff – you could make out the beach in the distance, but it was quite far away.  We filled our waters having heard that it would be hard to get in Mauritania, but it turned out to be salty so we will just use it for washing up.

We made an early start the next morning as it would be a long way. We crossed the invisible Sahara Line (no trace of any of the borders shown on maps) and into Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony which has long been controversial with Mauritania claiming it is theirs and most of the local population wanting to be an independent country. We didn’t get a feel for the politics just passing through, but the Moroccan government has invested a lot here with tar roads right the way to the Mauritanian border and greatly improved infrastructure making it a popular place for French caravaners to escape winter. Western Sahara felt much like the rest of the Morocco to us, except for a bit more army presence. The road mostly follows the coast with the desert falling dramatically away to the sea by crumbling cliffs. We stopped for a fish tagine in Laayoune, which was pleasant enough, filling up with tax free petrol.  We reached Boujdour in the early afternoon  and stayed at Camping Sahara Line ($8pn) – it was a bit random, but nice enough, and we needed a day off to recover from the long distances we have covered lately. The wind had picked up to about 50km/h heading south, which was great for driving (South) in, but not ideal camping conditions – we resorted to stuffing duvet between the tent poles and canvas to try dampen down the deafening flapping of the tent in the night. On the second afternoon, a lovely old Swiss couple turned up, heading North in their simply kitted out Landy – they were overlanding veterans who had been travelling every year since the 70s when they were refused entry to Vietnam because of the war! Definitely how we want to be when we are old.

We left early again and within 10 minutes were stopped at a checkpoint by our only corrupt police in Morocco – do you have a gift for me? NO. Present? NO. Pounds? NO. Dollars? NO. Dinar? NO? Just 10 Euros? NOOOO… anyway, that went on for about 10 minutes until they got tired and we were on our way. The scenery for the rest of the day was rocky and flat, just like the last 1000km, but became spectacular around Dakhla, a long peninsular with the big waves of the Atlantic on the west and milky blue, flat water in the bay. The wind was still blowing, making the bay perfect for kite surfing – I think this place will become extremely popular within a few years. We had lunch in town and bumped into Mirva who we had met at the Mauritanian embassy. We had planned on staying at the the informal campsite on the main beach, which is beautiful, but Mirva had been there the previous day and had met some Swiss caravaners who had been broken into and beaten up there. We ended up stayed at Camping Moussafir ($8pn), which was ok, but extremely windy –  with the tent flapping madly all night, we hardly slept.

We left early again and crossed the Tropic of Cancer soon after we left. Sometime in the morning, we spotted some British guys trying to tow a car out of the sand. They had been turned back at the Mauritanian border because they didn’t have their visas in advance (they thought they could get them at the border but it isn’t possible anymore). They  were headed back to Rabat, at least 5 days drive away, and on the way back had decided to have some fun with their Subaru, getting stuck in some deep sand. We stopped and chatted to them, connected up our snatch strap and pulled them back onto the road – I could only barely feel the weight of their car and we had them out in seconds. Anyway, they were a nice bunch of guys, and they gave us some beers as a thank you. We stowed them with the rest of our secret stash (as it’s illegal to take alcohol into Mauritania).

It was getting noticeably hotter, and the scenery turned into an alien landscape about 50km before the border, with piles of dark rocks and swirling white sand. We reached the Guerguarat border with Mauritania and filled up at the petrol station a few hundred meters from the border - our last cheap petrol in a while. The process exiting Morocco was pretty easy – collect the departure form from the gate, drive through, stamp passport at the immigration desk, find the customs guy searching the vehicles, get the customs exit stamp and fill in the exit log at the last building. We were asked if we had any souvenirs we wished to give the guy at the last exit boom, but it was just a random question rather than any hassle – “any gifts or souvenirs? no? ok, go on through then…”

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