This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
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31 October Friday

Foul weather, strong winds and rain. Decided to buy one way ticket to Morocco and buy insurance once there. Queued up on dock for ferry. All going well until announced ferry cancelled due to weather. Took in other Brit family including two kids (12 and 15) Tim, Dee, Carla and Nick Shaw on two year tour of West Africa, Turkey, Iran, India, Australasia . in a Landrover and South African Safari Tent. Tim wants you all to know that if anyone comes across a thin bloke in long wheelbase Land Rover, just feed him and give him beer. Good luck to them. After 4 hour wait wind dropped and caught smart ferry. Arrived in Morrocco. Discovered intricacies of crossing Moroccan border. They do not tell you how to do this in the guide books. Fill in form to get passports stamped. Buy Insurance (1750 derhams not 1000) for 3 months. Tim our friendly Brit, cost him 84 derhams for one month. Then to Vehicle pass office with Insurance, Green form, self filled unless helped by Moroccan “guide” , at small cost. Officer on desk, after several tots of alcoholic liquid refused to accept my vehicle license documentation from DVLC. Two numbers missing from chassis number !!! You obviously cannot get the staff in Swansea. After various delves under bonnet viewing of any other documents regarding purchase of truck and shrugging of shoulders allowed through with stamped green form. Put documents away changed some money. Travelled 20 metres, needed documents again. Then into Morocco by about 8.15pm.

The dual carriageway road swamped with water, kept losing carriageways under construction and many strange looking people crossing road and knackered looking cars (none with a full set of lights). Drove on until about 12 midnight through wild, hilly countryside. Arrived on autoroute and parked just passed peage station on Laroche turnoff. Played cards, had bacon and eggs and chess. Slept well.


1 November Saturday

The Campsite

The Campsite

Drove down autoroute to Rabat. Fascinating landscape, people offering live chickens and chestnuts on side of road. Went to supermarket and bought cheap tomatoes etc. (Coriander and other herbs 5p a bunch.) Bought new sim card for phone. Didn’t work. Took back and spent most of afternoon in Phone shop until it worked. H texted UK everything working again. Went onto Camping site at Sale. Very pleasantly met by boy on reception. Went into medina and found bike shop. 250 derhams ie £17.50 for full back wheel and gear cogs to replace Hs stolen wheel. Didn’t haggle, so I could have got cheaper.

The Spice Boys       

The Spice Boys                                                  The Juice is loose

We have arrived in Ramadam. No food can pass between their lips from sunrise to sunset. Several times a day the Mullah calls them to prayer from the minarets of the mosques (it is actually a tape transmitted by loudspeaker) and at sunset about 5.30pm a cannon is fired , the Mullah calls out the all clear or “Everyone down the Chip Shop” and people beetle off home ravenous to eat and then come out again at about 7.30pm to go to the Souk to shop. Went into Sale medina hoping that they have all come out again and were fascinated by the hum of activity and shops. A typical shop or workshop is five feet wide by about 8-10  feet deep, piled high with products. Each shop specialising in a single product or skill from bright yellow pointed slippers, or sieves, or fire bellows or spices or plumbing or satellite TV or fried fish or snails etc. Bought 100 grams each of fresh ground Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, mixed spice for Tagine, Ginger for 16 derhams (10 to the euro). Went into a juice bar run by a bright and cheeky Berber youth and his bigger but shy friend and had two glasses of freshly squeezed apple juice with orange for 3 derhams. Had a great time in medina and beginning to feel that we are discovering that special something that Morocco has to offer. Heather already threatening me with a visit to one of the barber shops that look like a 1930s dentists to be shaved with a cut throat razor. Revenge for the tooth incident ! Pork a la crème and rice.


2 November Sunday

Took bike into be fixed. Shop not open. The area marked Park, (on the useful map of Sale and Rabat I was given at the campsite) opposite the bike shop looks like a battleground in Beirut but with orange trees, buffalo horns and fish heads. Realised that my watch is an hour out. I thought that I had arrived at 10 o’clock. It was actually 9. Handed over bike to owner of shop in full suit and white shirt. He arrived in Peugeot 505 saloon, which would never pass an MOT test, with rotten sills, few working lights and dints and bumps but he carefully closed electric windows and central locking. Obviously a proud possession. Printed out pics of spice shop and juice bar from last night to give to kids behind the counter.

All aboard the skylark        Fellow passengers on the gondola

                                                               All aboard the skylark                                Fellow passengers on the gondola

Decided to go across to Rabat. The map says boat to Rabat, from near the fried fish stands, sounds interesting. Fried fish stands shut of course because of Ramadan, but fresh fish stands heaving with a melee of people haggling and bartering over a motley selection of sardines, ling, mullet, crabs, bream, gurnard, conger, octopus and various unmentionable looking specimens. People are selling, gutting, descaling, mending nets, unloading boats, pushing barrows all at the same time and in the same very smelly and confined space, which seems ludicrous when there is loads of room to spread out. Moroccans are people people and like to be in amongst it. Fought our way through and on to one of the multicoloured rowing boats about 10 ft long which crosses from one river bank to the other from Sale to Rabat. When I say river bank, that is what I mean. From wherever they can pull ashore with leaping in and out of water, much shouting and waving and making passengers move to the back of the boat so that the prow can be beached and waving of primitive paddles made of a 3 ft plank and 6 ft pole nailed, screwed, roped, cable tied and bonded together with any vaguely useful bit of plastic, leather, metal or string. The rollocks (Yes I know it’s a load of rollocks) are a loop of baling twine on the paddle and a wooden peg protruding from the side of the boat. These boats are rowed gondola style, standing up. I promised Heather a trip in gondola one day when we were in Venice. I have just saved myself about £50. This gondola trip cost us 3 derhams (21p) for the pair of us. The river and Venetian canals are equally filthy. The banks are full of people sitting fishing, not catching much apart from the odd bin liner and plastic bottle. Everyone in Morocco is trying to make the odd buck, whether from digging bait ( enough nasty looking worms for 35p to let you fish for a month) or girls with henna pens or guiding tourists round the Casbah. Heather got hennaed on the entrance to the Casbah and for 50 derhams Nebile, the very smooth multilingual devout Muslim, immaculately dressed in chinos, shiny shoes and western linen monogrammed shirt escorted us, giving us historical detail about buildings, circumcision clippers, fingers of fatima and Muslim beliefs and significances. “Pay me what you think I am worth after. Nothing if you prefer but I want to talk English”. If staying longer we would have paid Nebile to take us into the Souk and Medina to eat and learn how to barter. Have decided that we will pay a guide in somewhere like Marrakesh to avoid being ripped off.

Back to camp and halfway through cooking mega curry with new spices when we find that our West African Safari family have turned up in camp. Invited to share a wine with them Drunk again. Curry left until tomorrow.


3 November Monday

Picked up bike and dropped into Patisserie for baguette for breakfast. Baguettes off until the afternoon. Ramadan again. Ramadan is a discipline, where Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset to experience what it is like not to have food or drink and to understand what it is like to be poor. We are not following all Ramadan principles but not eating between breakfast and evening meal after sunset. So for breakfast today I bought excellent flaky pastry pasties filled with sausage and cheese, fish paste and olives, honey and almond “samosas” and Moroccan crumpets. Wonderful toasted with butter and honey.

Rabat from Sale Beach

Rabat from Sale Beach

Risked life and limb and boated across river again to see Mausoleum of previous king in impressive park and building, and into the new part of Rabat. Found supermarket and post office, with ticket system like Asda deli counter, and bemoaned the loss of café culture due to Ramadan. Could have murdered a mint tea I think, cos I haven’t had one yet. Bought a couple of Moroccan music CDs,(35 derhams (£2.30) Top of the Pops volume 4 Moroccan style and a World music festival in Essouira a hip seaside town I am looking forward to seeing. Bought fresh squeezed orange juice and headed into Souk. All shades of existence are visible in the Souk from downright filthy shanty town to well healed respectable merchants. H wanted to buy proper leather Morrocan sandals but she has men’s feet and no time to have some made. He wanted 50 derhams (£3.50) we would have got them for 35(£2.30).

The Casbah

The Casbah

Got back to find new tyre flat. Took back to shop. Fabrication fault. Much bowing and scraping as new tube fitted. Fight outside shop. Tempers can flare when hungry. (An hour before chip shop time.) Exception taken by one devout Muslim to stoned bearded wizard. He had to have broken Ramadan to be stoned, it had to pass his lips. Now when I say wizard, it is because Morocco is a bit like Harry Potter land. There are Muggles and witches and wizards all walking the streets together. The Muggles are dressed in ordinary western clothes and the witches and wizards are wearing backless pointed yellow slippers (babouches) and hooded monk like cloaks which hang to the floor (djellabas). Normally bearded faces peer eerily from within the hoods. There are also some mugbloods wearing a strange combination of the two. For example a djellaba wearer with Nike trainers and trousers tucked into pringle patterned socks poking out the bottom.

Went to Internet Café, very slow but very cheap. Loads of messages and first part of web site up. Great job done by web master Dave, spurred on to get more to him. Decide to spend Tuesday updating journal text to e-mail to Dave and to prepare images to post while in civilisation.

Birianied curry prepared from last nights preparation. Scrummy cakes from patisserie and Brandy.


4 November Tuesday

Went to buy water, (tap water not safe to drink) and picked up crumpets for breakfast. Patisserie doesn’t open until 10.30 am so sat for an hour on wall watching the world. Men walking by holding a couple of chickens by the feet hanging forlornly on their last journey. Barrow loads of fruit heading for market, people riding all manner of bike and motorised transport usually bashed, battered and too small for the rider perched on it.

On computer for hours writing journal before visit to Internet café and phone calls to sort out admin. problems back in UK caused by typical British bureaucracy.

Run out of beer. Not sure whether easy to replace. They do make wine and beer here but not seen it for sale yet. In supermarket in centre of Rabat , the booze was in a separate room with no apparently easy access. Fried Fish, Potato wedges and Salad for tea.



[Loire/Ile De Re] [Dordogne and Gorges] [Summer Alps] [Italy] [Slovenia] [Croatia] [On The Road To Morrocco] [Monte Carlo or Bust] [Spain, Benidorm and Gibraltar] [Rabat And All That] [El Jadida, Ounara, Essouria] [More meanderings & out of Africa] [Snowmads] [Snowmads 2] [Richard -  The BIG 50 !!!] [Eastern Europe] [Eastern Europe (cont)]


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