|MARRAKECH AGAIN, GORGES, MORE DESERT AND OUT OF AFRICA
29 November Saturday
There was an ominous silence on the
campsite as we woke and instantly knew the little Suzuki van was no
longer here. Another chapter closed. Alan and Dana are on their way
back to Portugal to meet some friends and eat some humungous Kebabs
and Steaks at some hostelry or other called Sweaty Eric’s or similar.
We made our way to the Airport to see
if we could find any good value flights for potential visitors in January.
As we should have expected , this being Morocco, airline desks were
shut and we were redirected to downtown Marrakech.
Alan and Dana rang to confirm that they
were boarding the ferry in Tangiers at 4pm, and would likely be in Sweaty
Erics that night. I could smell a large steak sizzling.
30 November Sunday
Went into downtown to Royal Air Maroc
office to see if there were any deals. Even more expensive than British
Airways. Cheapest flights are to Casablanca but that’s a bit of a trek
from here and anyone visiting just for one week would lose too much
We were intrigued by the differences
between old and new Marrakech. Very chic expensive shops abound in the
new town way beyond the reach of the average Moroccan. Even a McDonalds
burger is a luxury item, but not in our eyes. Having grimaced at McDonalds
advertising back home I expected to see The Big Yash Mac as the Burger
of choice !
1 December Monday
Lisa, Heather’s daughter, rang to say
she was coming for Heather’s 50 birthday on Wednesday. (Plotting has
been going on secretly for weeks). Heather is in a panic of excitement
with a fixed grin. Lisa had flights on hold until 6pm but the flights
were via Paris with an 8 hour wait and cross town transfer. Went to
find Internet café to see if we could find better. No joy, but its worth
a few words on Internet cafes.
Moroccan Internet cafes are readily
available and very cheap, 35p – 50p an hour. However they are also kitted
out with old, slow machines and sub capacity modems. Checking your e-mails
can be a painful and frustrating experience which nearly ends in PC
rage. Every step in logging on or reading, deleting, sending or replying
to e-mails or moving from Contacts to Inbox or other section can take
5 minutes or more. The result is that stereotypical, highly agitated,
male, Euro Travellers, are tapping their feet, looking daggers at non
reacting computer screens, and trying to pretend that they are cool
and can remain chilled, through this minor inconvenience. In the meantime
their female Euro Travellers take great delight in winding them up even
more by telling them how wound up they are. In the meantime Moroccans
of all ages happily lap up this new technology on Chat Lines or Browsing
without an apparent care in the world.
2 December Tuesday
The pre big 50 birthday tension is setting
in. Heather is excited about the impending arrival. Richard is desperately
trying to produce a disrespectful Birthday card. This includes all of
Heather’s worst photos during the past three months of travelling. Heather
is busy cleaning the outside of the Camper while Richard is inside on
computer. Heather wants to come back in out of the cold and Richard
intent on finishing card, without being found out, demands some space
without constant interruptions. The inevitable consequence is a brief
A trip into the Medina and Jemma Fnaa is the antidote. Guess who has
come to see us again ? King Mohammed VI is back in town and the streets
are lined with police and soldiers. There are crowds of women ready
to ululate and cardboard cut out mannequins dressed in finery. We are
confused as to the significance of the mannequins or is it to make the
speeding King think that the crowds are bigger than they really are
3 December Wednesday
Lisa arrives at the airport and we try
to speed off to the Hotel Sherezade, the cosy little Riadh hotel that
we have booked into just off the main square. We are held up again by
yet another cavalcade of cars as Colin Powell heads off back to the
airport following top level discussions with King Mohammed about African
problems. We lounge about in the sun on the hotel terrace for the afternoon,
sort out the suitcase of clothes and toys, that Lisa has brought to
give away and then off to a restaurant overlooking the square for Heather’s
50 Birthday meal.
4 December Thursday
A bit of site seeing. The Bahia palace,
again and more contemplation on my part of the benefits of having 28
concubines. Into the Souk, where Lisa proves to be a natural at extricating
bargain prices out of the bazaaristes and soon has acquired all her
Xmas pressies for friends back home. We eat in the square again at No
1, our appointed open air food stall and back to the Hotel for a good
nights rest before setting off to show Lisa more of Morocco.
5 December Friday
It is very difficult in six days to
show the essence of Morocco, however our first venture is to cross the
Tichka pass again to Ouzarzate. At the top of the pass we give a lift
to a fossil and rock vendor down to his home village. Lisa gave this
mountain man some clothes for his children and received some jewellery
and crystals plus the inevitable invite for Couscous in his house if
we were passing by again.
6 December Saturday
What's got ten legs …..
Another visit to Ait Ben Haddou, but
as Ouzazarte is the Moroccan Hollywood we were held up by filming on
the main road. Naturally they were not keen to star our truck in some
religious epic, unlike the wind surfer who appears according to Billy
Connolly in a seaside scene of Mrs Brown.
Ait Ben Haddou negotiated, donkeys ridden,
we met up with a backpacking British couple and gave them a lift back
to Marrakech. Unfortunately they left us with Desert cough acquired
in Erg Chebbi. We continued to Oukeimeden so Lisa can see skiing Moroccan
7 December Sunday
You can do it mother !!
A gloriously sunny day, ideal for a
donkey ride to the slopes. Lisa taught Heather to snowboard and on returning
to the truck we were inundated by vendors wanting to exchange products
for clothing. All items were quickly distributed, with demand much greater
than supply. Mid afternoon we set off back to the Marrakech campsite
to leave the truck for Lisa’s last day. Negotiating the way round Marrakech
can be quite tricky as strategic road signs peter out once “faux guide”
territory is reached. We ward off several people eager to escort us
and Lisa’s navigational skills help us find our way successfully round
the Medina wall.
take me to the snow
8 December Monday
Back into Marrakech centre for a final
wander around the Souk and its narrow streets. Desert cough has now
seriously set in, but it did not stop us enjoying a final meal on the
edge of the square, where we all ate and drank very well for just £3.50.
9 December Tuesday
After a long relaxing breakfast in the
sun on the terrace at the Sherezade hotel our official Marrakech residence
we took Lisa to the airport to await her flight. After a while Heather
and Lisa spot a women across the departure lounge. We think we know
her they both said in unison. Go and see if it is her. It’s daft question
time again, something at which I have become an expert over the years.
“Do you live in Clapham, North Yorks ?”, I ventured. She was gob-smacked
to be recognised but intrigued about our travels and we had a good natter
for half an hour. The last time we had seen her was on the receiving
end of copious cups of tea and wedges of home made cake in her café
in Clapham, Café Anne. Well worth a trip if walking in the Dales.
Say a tearful goodbye to Lisa ,Heather
stands and waits till shes sure the plane has taken off without exploding,
and then we set off to find a launderette, and found it in the back-streets
of a suburb of Marrakech. It was shut. We spent time waiting for it
to open in slower than normal Internet café. Nice to catch up with people
Heather has now made contact with girl
at Launderette, who has had an instant rapport with her and on hearing
of Heather’s past life as fitness instructor has whisked her into the
back room to offer advice on her very Moroccan bottom. “I no like, but
my husband does.” Sounds familiar. This girl, Raja, learned English
at school but until now has never spoken it to an English person. She
The copy market in Morocco is rife and
we thought that we had tracked down some English language DVDs, to wile
away the odd night but unfortunately they never materialised. Watching
a DVD on the laptop from time to time is a real luxury.
10 December Wednesday
Yet another rainy day in Marrakech.
The grotty state of the campsite here, muddy puddles, unfinished, dirty
loos, cold showers etc. has finally got to both of us. We decide to
fetch our washing from Launderette and move on, finish off the interesting
bits of Morocco we haven’t yet seen and get back to France to bring
in the New Year on the Ski slopes. The girl at the Launderette, Raja,
is as ecstatic as ever to see her new buddy Heather and we cannot escape
without promising to revisit in the future. Heather brought the remaining
toys and books to see if Raja has friends with kids who would enjoy
them. A gorgeous little 7 year old gave us spontaneous hugs and kisses
all round in exchange for a cute Beanie doll, sent across by Lisa’s
friend Lee. Mind you we first had to prise it out of the hands of Raja
who is desperate for a baby and would have been happy with the doll
as a temporary surrogate.
DADES AND TODGHA GORGES
11 December Thursday
We intended to leave early to head across
the Tichka pass yet again en route to the Dades Valley. Mid morning
however we encountered the delightful Mumma family and ended up talking
about Life the Universe and everything until well into the afternoon.
Mus(tapha) Mumma is an Algerian originally, one of nineteen kids, mothered
by one woman, all of whom have made good. His mum cannot read or write
but made sure they all did their homework or at least had books open
, even though she had no idea what they were. The whole Mumma family,
including Irish wife and their two young enthusiastic daughters live
a muslim life. This was the first time the kids had been allowed a McDonalds
because the burgers here are Halal. They prefer Mums’ so won’t miss
them on their return. We were so pleased that this Arabic speaking North
African from Tottenham also was severely troubled by Moroccans trying
to make a fast buck at his expense. Can you have a cockney arab accent
Finally drove to Ouzazarte, reaching
the top of the Tichka pass in darkness. It is one way to avoid roadside
vendors. They are trusting though. Most of them leave their pots and
fossils outside overnight with no-one to guard them
12 December Friday
Weather lovely so decided to have a
day to chill out in Ouzazarte. We have been here two or three times
before but only passing through and feel that there is more to the place
than we have seen so far. First stop the local carpet co-operative.
Run by the state so there is a free guide to show us around. The first
room we went in had 10 carpet weaving frames set up with up to four
women working on each frame. Most were working on commissions copying
smaller rugs bought on previous trips by mainly English tourists. The
patterns they worked from were 6 inch x 4 inch colour photos of the
originals. These women have very dextrous fingers and even nimbler minds
to work out the complex combinations of colour to get the finished result.
The raison d’etre of the co-op is to get women back into work making
traditional carpets by hand and train up other young artisans to work
in wood, alabaster, silver and metal, making a range of tourist items
but of good quality. Not the sort of work European women or youths would
be queuing up for if they only got Moroccan wages. For the first time
we got a guide to pricing carpets as illustrated in the table below.
If we were planning to see our apartment in the near future we might
have been tempted.
Knots per sq. metre
Price per sq. metre
Cost per knot ££££
750 derhams (£52.50)
700 derhams (£49)
550 derhams (£38.50)
As the Internet shop was heaving we
went in search of a new battery and watch strap for my watch. The shop
we bought them in was an electronics/ music shop selling both original
and imitation equipment. There were both original and imitation products
on the shelves. I can picture the scene in the Chinese factory when
it was box ordering time and the manufacturer spoke to the packaging
company. Apologies to our Chinese friends because I am about to be politically
“Rhat you rant on box ??”………..“Pioneer”……….”OK
Pie on ear”. The resultant box and original have been snapped by yours
truly for your delectation. The biggest difficulty was explaining to
the guy in the shop why it was funny. He could not grasp why anyone
should want a pastilla (a large Moroccan Samosa) on the side of their
head whilst listening to music.
on ear ?
On our inevitable wander round the souk,
we came across an attempt to get us into a shop we hadn’t come across
before. Ouzarzate is not normally tourist’s first port of call, they
have normally travelled first. “Hello my friend, remember me from Essouira
?”, shouted one guy and nearly caught us until the guy next door added
“Oy, remember me from the desert !!!” Nice try boys ! We must produce
a list of Moroccan blagues as we think we know most now.
Heather’s french language is coming
on by leaps and bounds. However, we spotted a typical Moroccan moggie
on Ouzazarte main street which summed up all the french with which Heather
came away from school. “Le chat est sur le mur.” Now, she is able to
ask it where it was born, whether it was married, where it lived, how
many kids it has got, their ages and what they all did for a living.
chat est sur le mur
As we are now hardened shoppers, that
hard we suspect even those giving a good deal, we went in search of
a local shop for locals to buy some precious things, mainly of the smelly
variety, if at the right price. We found identical Argane, Rose and
Almond creams for a quarter of the price we had been offered in Marrakech
and which we had thought was good value, but luckily did not buy. Made
up for it this time.
Had a brief trip into the Taourirt Kasbah,
followed by a last coffee in our hostelry of choice in Ouarzazate overlooking
said monument. This café is a warren of terraces, shaded areas and little
bars on a variety of levels. It would have made a fabulous house or
place for a party. We imagined the banter and fun of a bunch of our
pals from back home (if we have still got any) and how much they would
enjoy a visit here.
We set off down the road towards the
Dades Gorge, stopping briefly at Skoura to buy a few provisions. These
little provincial towns are not inundated by tourists and are really
friendly. We were soon at the Dades Gorge turnoff and set off up what
is rightly named the worst tourist road in Morocco. After 10kms of potholes
we started to ascend up tortuous hairpin bends to a magnificent viewpoint
over the vertical limestone cliffs of the gorge, the base of which were
some 200 metres below. We carried on for another 4kms, giving a lift
to a local lad who had failed to interest us in “tourist products” at
the viewpoint, and who was threatened on pain of death not to even contemplate
trying to lure us to a shop !! We squeezed the camper through fallen
rocks from the recent rains and the overhanging rockface at the narrowest
point of the gorge. In the right vehicle we would have carried on for
another 15 kms of piste, after the ashphalt ran out, and then crossed
to the Todgha gorge by a rough track and col 2800 metres above sea level.
Next time, we are definitely coming back in a 4x4 demountable. There
is a whole different world lurking out of reach, mind you we haven’t
done so bad in our time here in a camper.
We turned round at what might might
have been our stop for the night but it was totally in the shade, well
it would be by 3pm with 600 ft cliffs all around wouldn’t it. Our campsite
guide book implied that most of the sites locally are good so we are
eagerly awaiting a good shower in a clean block. We soon circumnavigated
the potholes on the descent and hit the main road. Darkness had fallen
as it always does here, very quickly, and we soon gently climbed 5 km
up the road in search of our well-recommended stop. Mind you the road
seemed never ending and when we had given up hope, around a long left
hand bend appeared “Camping Soleil”, like a mirage in the night sky
. We were lead to a pitch, shown the unusually clean shower block and
left to sleep.,
As we are having such an exhausting
life, we felt that we needed to spend a day to recuperate and chill
out in the sunshine. We managed to do this all day, and to inspect all
of the further developments on the site, which is being expanded to
cope with peak time capacity of Jan, Feb. and March. We also learned
about the Swiss couple who are currently in residence in a little “cottage”
overlooking the building site, who have bought a mule and a donkey and
go off on treks into the mountains for 7 or 10 days at a time. It sounds
fascinating, but I am not sure how good I am with 4 legged beasts of
burden. My last encounter was shortly after my 17th birthday, in a gypsy
caravan in Southern Ireland, with 2 schoolmates, one of whom, Dave Fish,
received a nasty bite to the belly, the scar of which he still has,
from our belligerent steed, whilst we tried to harness it.
Our waiter, Mohammed, turned out to
be a frustrated showman, capable of jokes and tricks in several languages.
We spent the evening with Heather teaching him aerobic moves, him showing
us a range of tricks and us offering rock music and a slide show of
our journey on the computer. It has been decided that Heather has “very
sportive legs”. After one of his jokes, I’ll just keep an eye on him
so he does not try to buy her flowers !! A Berber woman would put them
in a vase, a European woman, apparently feels obliged to offer sexual
gratification., The versatility and talent of these Moroccans, especially
the Berbers, is humbling at times. Mohammed is a vulture for knowledge.
Anything to do with alternative medicine, magic, tricks, jokes or dance
fuel his ambition to become an entertainer with a one man show. It is
the same commitment as shown when they move into “bloody annoying salesman”
We spent the afternoon walking through
the palmyrie and up to the Todgha gorge. Once more, we were touched,
by the friendliness and inquisitiveness of the natives. One pink fluffy
pyjama clad young maiden, in a group of garrulous girls was convinced
that the tall handsome Englishman was going to take her home to England
to make babies, as his current wife was obviously dried up and past
it !!! Dream on !
The evening was spent letting our Campsite
staff watch a DVD, Something about Mary, with english language and subtitles.
Some bits became tricky to describe, so Heather made a hasty exit to
bed, before the reason for Ted’s organic earring had to be explained
in Richard’s by know far from perfect French. His French is now less
grammatically correct but twice as fast as it used to be, and probably
even more unintelligible..
We planned an early departure at 0930
hrs but were arm-twisted into lunch with the boss of the campsite, back
from work in France to oversee the latest developments. Not that we
didn’t want, just that we had now decided on a course of action that
meant we intended to leave Morocco just before Xmas and we still had
a lot to do. Lunch was a delicious prune, almond and goat tagine. The
boss had heard that I was thinking of writing a campsite guide in English
for the growing number of Campervanners venturing into Morocco and wanted
us to be aware of their excellent cuisine..
We finally escaped in the early afternoon
and pulled into Tinerhir. As I tried to get some cash out of the nearest
guichet Heather had met a “moroccan who worked in Paris but was home
for a holiday, who knew of a cottage industry we should visit. He insisted
that he wasn’t a faux guide”. Against our better judgement he lead us
into the medina and to a berber carpet weaving shop, where we were enthusiastically
received, whilst he disappeared supposedly to the loo because of his
diarrhoea. The only diarrhoea he had was verbal and if I catch up with
him a certain amount of it would hit the fan !!!
THE DUNES OF ERG CHEBBI
We stood our ground and got out carpetless
and went off to the supermarket. The supermarket was useless and beer
was twice the price of Marjane. Understandable really as it was the
last source of alcohol before the desert. A little shop further along
the road provided us with a variety of essential groceries, including
Schweppes tonic, for a modest number of dirhams.
We drove in darkness cross country through
half lit but lively little towns to Rissini, from where we anticipated
taking the last tarmac road out to Erg Chebbi, the area of high sand
dunes near to Merzouga. On entering Rissini a Touareg on a moped tried
to engage us in conversation about a campsite. I had already decided
where to go so ignored him and sped on. At the next T junction he had
caught us up and was tapping on the window. Even after me being pretty
rude he did not give up persuading us that his offer of accommodation,
even though not mentioned in our guide book was the best option, being
right under the highest sand dune, with all amenities and options for
trips to see the sunrise. If we did not like it when we got there we
were free to go somewhere else. He abandoned his moped and got in the
camper to direct us.
He was really very sweet and full of
good intentions and info. He was a nomad and loved the desert. He put
me right on my misconception that Touaregs were a tribe of nomads. Touareg
means traveller. We are Touaregs. I am quite pleased about that really
and will now wear my blue turban with renewed enthusiasm. In fact blue
clothing has always been my favourite colour just like a nomadic Touareg,
with their robes dyed with natural indigo from the desert flower. The
nomadic tribe I now understand are the Amazirs.
The journey to Erg Chebbi ,which is
glibly described in the guide books with a passing mention, ended up
with a 14 km leg of desert pistes in the dark of night. We had not a
clue where we were going, so it was just as well we had been kidnapped.
In retrospect we also think we took several diversions to avoid coming
close to any civilisation until his chosen place. The camper stood up
well, but pots and pans rattled and clanked and all the contents of
cupboards and drawers moved from their allotted spots. This area of
the desert is also often used in films, Mummy II being the latest and
our guide had been an extra in every one made there in the last 10 years.
He demonstrated his acting knowledge with an enthusiastic flourish of
“Action, cameras roll, move !”
We arrived at Camping Lamhada, a mud
walled compound which surrounded several buildings comprising the auberge
and a number of nomad tents. We unsuccessfully hooked up to electric
we had been promised, which went off anyway when the generator was switched
off. We were relieved to see a converted Slough Borough Council Social
Services bus laden with bikes and all manner of paraphernalia on its
roof parked up next to us. We wondered how they had fared over the potholes.
We then investigated inside the auberge.
It was lit by candles and a group of
lads were enthusiastically drumming. We were lead off to a table for
a welcome drink of tea and a sales pitch for a camel ride to see the
sunrise followed by breakfast with nomads, a trip taking just over 3
hours . We declined the price of 1000 dirhams (£70) offering just 300
dirhams, pointing out that we had had 3 days in the desert in a 4x4
for only £400 for four of us with all food and a guide. The explanation
for the high price was that camels need feeding all year and there weren’t
trips everyday, whereas you only put diesel into a 4x4 ! (no thought
of the capital and maintenance costs. I bet the maintenance cost of
a camel is somewhat limited.) A contribution was also given to the nomads.
When it was obvious that we were not prepared to pay their last price
of 420 dirhams per person, an alternative was offered of a ride into
the black desert, or the flat boring bit. It would be much cheaper for
the same amount of time. It went very quiet for several seconds when
I quizzed whether camels ate less in the black desert hence the price
reduction until they all burst into spontaneous laughter, high fives
all round and they knew the argument was lost. Tea was followed by the
arrival of a 2 ft high bong loaded with an apple mixture which was very
smooth and pleasant and not at all narcotic. Terry from Todmorden and
partner Julie, (owners of the converted bus) joined us as did a Senegalese
drummer and Spanish wife and banter abounded. In the early hours after
much bong and bonhomie Terry and Julie came back for a brew and we knew
that another friendship was forged. We had decided to get up early and
walk to the top of the dunes, (which we had not seen yet but we hoped
were nearby). As we said our goodnights we all stared up at the blazing
firmament of galaxies, made even more impressive by the moon just appearing
over the horizon at 1.45 am and by a fiery shooting star. No light pollution
Alarm at 6.00 am. Its only 30 minutes
by camel to the dunes, we were told, so we allow 45 to walk. Not enough
time, sunrise has been by the time we get to the top. At least we get
to the top under our own steam, unlike the ancient but enthusiastic
bunch of American biddies dragged up with a virile young blue clad nomad
on each arm. The insomniac Terry had been up there for hours, having
dug himself into a sandhole on top of the dune and still remained frozen.
I was impressed, I have to say, by one young lad’s attempt to sell me
some fossils and jewellery at 7.00am. I can’t focus never mind purchase
at that time of day. The game old biddies were then dragged feet first
down the steepest part of the dunes, “bum surfing” , by rapidly back-peddling
Amazirs. Quite a site.
We descended back to the auberge for
breakfast, where a group of Japanese were “drummed into submission”
and whizzed off on a camel into the desert. Outside we spotted a motley
selection of knackered skis against the auberge wall. “Desert skis”,
someone said. “They’re not proper desert skis”, I retorted, dragging
out my top of the range Salomon Crossmax decorated with camels and kasbahs.
“Now they’re desert skis”. An expectant hush came over the auberge.
I knew some skiing had to be done. There was no way that I was going
to ruin my skis on the dunes and their skis were useless. My cunning
plan was to raise the street cred of Kharma, Terry and Julies, oldest
and bored 12 year old, by letting him snow-blade down the dunes. Heather’s
equipment not mine. The plan was set for early afternoon.
In the meantime we had fun with Kharma
and Chi (or slug as I called him. All kids with a spark are called slug
by me, it’s a sort of inverse onomatopoeia.) We took some great photos
on the roof of the auberge. Inside the auberge compound, Terry had his
Yamaha 125 serviced by a be-turbaned mechanic, setting off into the
desert on a road test. Kharma then took it out for a spin. Where else
can 12 year old kids play on motorbikes ? During this time Freia, (Terry
and Julie’s 18 month little girl,) wandered all over the site peering
down holes, into buildings, and being kissed, cuddled and greeted by
“macho desert men”. Moroccans love kids.
Kharma proved a natural on blades. He
wasn’t however quite as good getting back up the dunes to go again.
It’s an adolescent thing I think.
We were invited for tea in the bus,
a lovely experience. The interior twinkling with candles, great vegetarian
food and followed by everyone swapping tricks and jokes. The best thing
about this trip for me has been understanding and discerning the difference
between real and artificial values. Sod the material things. Lets focus
on what really matters !
Poor Heather was struck down with Desert
trots and sickness. Hadn’t felt well at the meal but hadn't liked to
make a fuss. Any way all those veg helped to keep her regular. About
every five minutes !!!!
Breakfast of bread, jam and coffee,
shared with anyone who wanted it (definitely not Heather). Slug has
been renamed Spike , as Julie has finally caught up with him, given
him a shower and a haircut. Didn’t actually catch him on film with his
new image but his indomitable spirit remains. We talked for several
hours with other travellers, with whom we would liked to have spent
more time whilst awaiting the return of the Japanese to follow their
tourist vanette out to the main road across the black desert, and back
to Rissini. The return journey was easier than we thought in the daylight.
Of Burden In The Rif Mountains
We stopped in Rissini at the first Shell
station to have an oil change. It cost 225 dirhams,( £15.50) was done
immediately, the oil cost 210 dirhams, and 15 dirhams (£1) for labour.
On paying the bill there was much banter over yet another several cups
of tea and it was explained that now as a valued regular customer, the
next time I needed an oil change there would be free labour. In order
to save 15 dirhams (£1) after the next 5000 kms I have decided to come
back to Morocco for my free oil change. This decision once more was
received with much chortling and hand slapping.
It is difficult to explain how nice
it is to talk to Moroccans not on the make, but just wanting to interact.
We imparted our observations on how to attract British tourists to Ali,
yet another bright young lad, who worked in a tourist shop in the season.
We wait to see if he has listened..
En route to El Rachida we bought two
Tagines (at the right price) from a roadside vendor to offer a different
meal to our friends, on a prearranged rendezvous in the Alps.
We travelled, almost without noticing
through the spectacular Ziz valley, the fossil and mineral town of Midelt
until we parked up, not far from Fez at Azrou.
What a day of contrasts. We started
off through the Valley of Cedars, apparently stuffed full of monkeys
(much like Barbary Apes) although we only saw one, who was very accommodating
for photographs until two bus loads of squaddies arrived and he shot
up a tree.
Half an hour later we were at the Ski
resort of Mischliffen. There was not a lot of snow, so the two lifts
were not working as we know them. A Morrocan ski lift comprises people
walking under the Poma steel ropes to the top of the piste to ski down.
Apparently the lifts do open when there are enough people to make it
worthwhile. A Dutch guy had built a jump to try 360s. We suggested that
one rather prominent rock should be moved. The suggestion was ignored
and the first aerial artist hit it, but luckily without serious damage.
Following that after one phenomenally, phenemonilly, phennomminally,
phenomminally, oh bugger it flat out breakneck speed toboggan descent
for a couple of locals resulting in a minor crash at the bottom of the
bowl. The next ended in a disastrous broken leg only metres from the
top. We helped where we could but the ambulance soon arrived. We beat
a hasty retreat, as the remaining skiers tried to ski as close as possible
to the damaged sledger without hitting him. We now really understand
the meaning of Inshallah. It does not mean “God willing” but “Sod it,
if I hit him its not my fault really, it’s fate !!!!”
We sped through Ifrane, Morocco’s Little
Switzerland which really is quite cellubrious compared to other parts,
where the king has yet another Royal Palace, and is obviously worth
a more detailed visit. There’s trout fishing in them there hills and
lakes and I did not have time to give it a closer look.
We arrived in Fez in the late afternoon
and were escorted to the camp site by “one of its workers”, no doubt
on a commission and we arranged a guide for the next day, knowing that
Fez has a very complicated medina. Richard went in search of vegetables
in the nearby suburbs not to reappear for several hours with everything
but the carrots we had seen piled high on mopeds on our entrance to
Richard awoke at 3 am desperate for
the loo having for some reason been unable to go for several days. His
desperation was such that he broke his duck with Turkish toilets and
managed quite successfully, without covering his feet in excretia.
Our guide arrived and took us on a tour
of Fez, which encompassed views over city, a trip to a ceramics factory
with artisans cutting intricate mosaic pieces with extremely sharp chisels.
The tannery illustrated once more the lack of Health and Safety in Morocco.
We viewed many of the architectural gems of the city and realise we
need more time to do Fez properly. Our guide had been helpful, we still
needed to escape from the odd shop and we explained how annoying it
was to us to be hassled by vendors all the time. His philosophical view
was that it was important to keep the money moving around. Mainly ours
to do this
After a final visit to Marjane we set
off on our journey to Chefchaouen. Yet another series of mountain passes
through countryside we would have liked to see more of. It was olive
pressing time. There were loads of donkey driven contraptions extracting
virgin oil from freshly collected fruits still working in the darkness
late on into the night. We finally found the campsite perched high above
CHEFCHAOUEN AND OUT OF AFRICA
After having what only can be described
as a slow dribble of a shower in the usual grotty loo shower block we
set off to walk into Chefchaouen, through the outskirts with its inevitable
washing powder shop (Tide or Omo) for those of you old enough to remember
those brands, kids playing in the street, a boy riding a bike much to
small for him with only one tyre, and a group of boys playing football
with a flattened ball. Chefchaouen is an obvious tourist town but not
as pushy as other places, the people far more layed back could be the
fact that the Rif mountains that surround the town are the largest dope
growing areas in Morocco. The town has an obvious hippy feel to it,
the café’s decorated with fairy lights brightly coloured muslin drapes
and cushoins blasting out Bob Marley. on decrepit speakers. We decided
to be decadent and eat lunch out. I had omelette chips and rice, Rich
had a chicken pastilla ,(chicken mixed with herbs, fruits and nuts in
a filo pastry, delicious. A large bottle of fizzy water and a glass
of fresh orange juice the bill came to £3.50, well you have to push
the boat out occasionally. After searching the town for a mattress shop
(we want two roll up mattresses to use in the summer when hopefully
visited by friends) we gave up and did our weekly visit to the internet
café. It was dark when we finally emerged and the centre of town looked
magical with candles lighting up all the pavement cafes, over a coffee
we chatted to a couple of Australian girls who are living in London
and in Morocco for two weeks, Rich gave them advice as to good places
to visit in their time scale, Im useless with names of places all our
trip is described by” that place where they filmed Gladiator or that
place we saw the King or that campsite where the toilets were nice,(
very few are far between).After marching back up the hill, to the campsite
we were ready to eat again, it’s a hard life.
Left Chefchaouen. Drove through beautiful
Rif mountains. Stopped to photograph sheep and cows against mountainous
backdrop. No-one about , but from nowhere someone came to offer to sell
me some dope. He would have accepted 20 derhams (£1.40) for 4 cm x1
cm tube of resin, shaped like a suppository, pre-wrapped in cling film,
presumably to escape customs apart from the most uninvited and vigourous
body searches. Stayed on docks at Ceuta, tax free town, full of cheap
watches and electronics, not really important to us. Did buy some good
value booze though and half a dozen B movies on DVD because H gets really
excited about a night at the pictures.