Morocco Campervan Holiday
Monday 21st November
Our first view of Morocco from the Tarifa ferry gave me butterflies in my stomach. Dark and brooding, it conjured within, excitement and trepidation. We know as we cross the Detroit de Gibraltar that up to 4000 people a year die in this water trying to swim from the African continent to escape, illegally to Spain. Its been a long time since I travelled in a “3rd world” country and with Africa, I really do not know what to expect. I imagine a moving feast of colourful, aromatic mayhem; goats up trees, dark eyed, mysterious men, markets to get lost in full of mounds of spice!
When we boarded the ferry I noticed a queue. I thought perhaps there was something about needing the toilet or the kiosk for a cup of tea. About half way across, curious about the slow moving queue, I asked an English speaking staff member who advised me that that is where we needed to be to have our passport stamped and receive our visa to Morocco. We joined the queue! Whilst slow going it was painless, and formality completed, we sat to wait for the next step. Moroccan customs point!
This was more interesting!!
Arriving at the Tangier port, two “unofficials’ ushered us into a park, speaking English and smiling in a charming, or perhaps, disarming way. Requesting passports and car ownership papers one leads Tony away to the registration area. They could be officials but we suspect not. Probably the “unofficial officials”, allowed by the police to conduct a helpful service to “fresh off the boat” tourists. A service thats not too short of begging.
I sat in cubby observed the organised mayhem around me. I tried to look calm and experienced and smiled if anyone approached “Cubby” …….. after clicking the internal locking system that is!
The Moroccans there were male and a blend of colours, from beige to very black. I tried to sneak a photo of a man offering a car to car service of mint tea, served in glasses on a tray. As I poised my camera, the other “unofficial” warns me. No! This is forbidden!
I noticed the locals unloading their cars and piling the goods for inspection. I am relieved this does not extend to tourist vehicles. I did not relish unpacking 11 months travel of worldly goods, nor the 160 euro of groceries we just stocked up on in Lidl. As if reading a low grade criminal/espionage novel I look at peoples faces. Is it anger, angst or maybe something else. Fear?? To me there was tension in the air.
We had been advised to pay the “unofficials” about 5 euro. Tony only had 10 and offered this. They wanted more and he refuses. Still smiling they kept trying to negotiate. Tony insists not and waits for the official in a uniform. At some point our smiling assistants disappeared into thin air. Shift over. Waiting for the next ferry at 10 pm.
Finally, after 45 minutes or so, we have the coveted green card and are free to leave. Contrary to common advice, what we needed for the green card was proof of vehicle ownership and our passports. We have not have to prove we have insurance and insurance has not been offered – ie we have paid nothing, therefore, as our European insurance policy does not cover Morocco, we do not have insurance. Driving out through the barred gates we see the office of the advised insurance company mentioned in the Lonely Planet – Assurance Frontier. It’s closed. Growing dark and with nowhere to go, we decided to pull up stumps, cook our dinner and take our chances parking overnight in the Tangier Port carpark. It appears free except for the lingering “car park attendants.” Tony gave one a couple of euro and he seemed to be content. It was not frightening so far, just daunting. Everyone seems to be on the take and we don’t know the rules.
Other than the wind, we pass a peaceful night. No one disturbs us, until we are woken by the 5 am call to prayer! It’s Morocco!
GPS N 35 78 91 W 5 80 53
Ferry 250 euro inc campervan and two people RETURN.
Visa, also free, stamped on the ferry. It does not really say but we think it is for 3 months. A date on our “green card” says 16/5/12, so we assume this is the car visa until then! We met some Swiss who only had 3 months on the car and had to return to Cueta to get an extention.
Tuesday 22nd November
Tanger to Chefchaouen
A smiling young woman welcomed us into the Assurance Frontier office. Her English seemed to be common in these parts…….. Selective! When quizzed if we had full insurance or just enough to pay for the other car in case of accident, she happily agreed to both! The policy is in French which might make for an interesting translation exercise if I get bored. We needed 5 weeks insurance so had to take two months and were then given an extra month free!!!!! A quick (uninsured!) drive to the nearest handybank for cash and 189 euro (1950 dh) later we are insured.
With nothing left to do, we bundle ourselves together, settle back, and hang on for dear life. Antonio does a brilliant job of negotiating the city traffic where “push in” and “toot” seems to be par for the course. It does not matter if you are a bicycle, a truck or any other form of contraption in between. And there are plenty of those.
Our direction is East, destination Chefchaouen. We read it’s a beautiful and good sized city in which to accustom ourselves to the customs in Morocco. The drive is an adventure in itself. A dual carriageway in pretty good condition all the way to Tetouan, virtually one straight road, so little chance of getting lost! Tom Tom Roger is still our shining light even though he does give us a warning message ” the planned route passes through an area where there is limited map information. Some information may be missing or incorrect “
It’s the “theatre” on either side of the carriageway that’s most interesting. An incredible amount of people, mainly men, walking or standing on the sides of roads. In lieu of owning a car, people here remember they have feet – and busses- although I have read you may wait a whole day for the bus to arrive to find you just have to wander home again and return the next day.
People watching is an exotic activity and I long to huddle somewhere and observe, unobserved. Men wear pointy capped long to the ground “hoodies ” and I wonder what they represent. Women are invariably dressed in a range of vibrant colors, including head coverings of course. Young men steer mixed herds of sheep goats and cattle, children flash wide, warm smiles and one young boy runs up to the car pointing at and asking for the bright orange persimmon Tony has ripening on the dash. There are people everywhere. People and donkeys!
I have decided if we return to live in Morocco, donkey breeding is the business to be in. Almost everyone seems to have one or two donkeys, or a mule. A pair of mules, I think a very rich Moroccan. They are used to plough and to carry, everything from hay to timber to water, to anything you can imagine really. These little beasts of burden are clearly hardy, strong, co-operative creatures. God bless them! Some of them are in excellent condition, some not so good. With the numbers around and the strain of work they are required to do, the turn over must be high.
We joined a scattering of about 5 other campers at our first camp ground Camping Azilan and settle in. The good news is we have power. The bad news, no hot water! Apparently the recent rain has caused damage and hopefully it will be repaired tomorrow.
There is a narrow, stone, steep track that makes a walk into the old medina only 5 minutes. Chefchaouen is the ideal place to gather our Arab legs. Entwined bright, blue streets are colourful enough to cause a continuous gasp in awe but small enough to not worry about getting completely lost.
Visiting both days, we are amazed by the twists and turns of the bright blue streets, the colourful array of goods on sale, the continuous use of donkeys, and the business of people milling around. To sit and people watch is a wonderful thing. The pressure from street vendors to enter their shops is mild to what we expect in Fez and Marrakech but it’s good practice “no SHUKRON” with a smile.
Camping Azilan – Chefchaouen
N 35 17 55 W 05 26 64
200 dh for two nights.
Diesel fuel approx 80 euro cents a litre
Thursday 24th November
Chefchaouen to Fez
It’s an easy decision to not take Ain-Aicha route to Fes on this cool sunny day, perfect for travelling and only 12 degrees. Fellow travellers in the camp ground have warned us. They experienced being forced into stopping by young men on motor cycles and quad bikes to try to sell them marijuana. We believe it. Even on the street in Chefchaouen, Antonio was twice approached and asked if he wanted to buy hashish. We have read in the Lonely Planet guide that Morocco is the second largest producer of marijuana. The Rif mountains could read “Kif” mountains.
Heading south then, via Ouazzane the road condition is mostly very good except for the unexpected appearance of some of the worlds largest potholes! Motor cyclists be ware! The other road hazard are “overtakers!” I am sure Moroccans value life, but they are certainly willing to take some risks overtaking on these single lane, winding roads. Especially today, the trucks. We cannot believe as we watch one truck passing another after another! Still we keep well behind, at a safe speed, mind our own business and make it to Fes in about 4 hours including some stops for lunch and a coffee. (The coffee here is often excellent!)
The drive is again mesmerising and thrilling. The country side is superb and around Ain-Defali the hills flatten out to agricultural land as far as the eye can see. Mind you, there is an unusual smell and I don’t think I want to know what might be being used for fertilisation.
The landscape and people, are a photographers dream and there must have been at least 20 times I wished we could have made a quick stop, safely, to capture a sight. The colors of the soil from chocolate browns to reds,gold and mustard. Women walking with the tools of their trade; a tarpaulin mat for catching olives and a 20 foot bamboo stick to thwack them from the trees. It’s a land that demands an immediate return. If we see orange trees, we then see vendors on the side of the road with bowls of oranges. The same goes for olives trees, a small olive press in action and jars of marinated olives ready to buy.
Tom Tom Roger takes us stress freely towards the Camping International campsite in Fes. He makes no mistakes but he cannot prevent us from being badgered by a small man on a motor cycle determined to stop us and have a conversation. Even showing and pointing to Roger does not distill his enthusiasm so Antonio eventually winds down the window. He is going to Camping International. He will show us the way! Good Way. He works there! It’s ok!!! He is not a Hustler! – he says!
He puts himself infront of us and as we follow “Roger”, it happens we also follow him. Still, no harm is done and if his service costs us more at the campground, we don’t notice. He also happens to speak perfect Italian which is always a warmer with Antonio, and we elect to allow him to help us book a taxi guide to take us to Fes for dinner and again to the Medina the next day. All for an almost unbelievable price of 200 dh. Even though we have been taught to impress on him, “no shopping” in our tour, we know for that price, a Fes guide, Berber or Arab, will not able to resist – perhaps just one visit, for one moment, to see the artists with the loom, the artists with the leather, perhaps the artists with the copper!
Rachid is charming as he arrives, spot on time, in his black Mercedes Benz. He speaks perfect English and we are in his hands.
Dinner in the old Medina, on his recommendation, is very good. A starter of about 12 plates of vegetables and legumes, chickpeas and lentils. With bread, it’s really all we need. BUT we have the next course, Tagine of lamb, prunes and almonds for Antonio, Cous Cous, vegetable and chicken for me. A cleansing fruit platter of pomegranate and other fruits, finished with home cooked coconut cookies and sweetened mint tea. A meal fit for a king and queen and we are ushered back out through the medina in a satisfied haze. 200 dh each (20 euro)
The next day we immerse ourselves in the Medina with Rachid for almost 5 hours. It’s an incredible place. Dirty and ramshackle in parts, vibrant and enlightening in others. Life in all its glory! It is thought at least 1,000,000 people live within the Median walls, although the “official” statistic is one million in all of Fes. Rachid says this is a political ploy to detract the figures from the high level of unemployment.
Rachid took us to the famous Fes sights; the Medersa Bou Inania, a 14th century primary school, now mosque, the Kairaouine Mosque and University, claimed to be the oldest university in the world, to the tomb of the founder of Fes, Moulay Idriss II and finally the infamous Fes tannery – the oldest and largest working tannery in Morocco. I had been warned about the smell and we were given fresh mint to hold as we entered. The smell was not too bad. We were not here in the heat of summer. Another blessing for traveling off season. And, yes, we did see one or two “artists” but a firm resolve not to make too many purchases at this early stage of our trip kept us in good stead and we managed to move on without too much angst.
Camping International – Only 3 other campers here.
Fes (about a 20 minute taxi ride to old Medina)
N 33°59’56” W 04 58 7
110 dh per night
Friday November 25
Fez to Azrou
Wanting to continue making progress towards our deadline of Zagora on the 1st of December, we decide to drive away from Fes after returning from the Medina. A short, very pleasant, 1 1/4 hr drive via Ifrane, found us on the outskirts of Azrou at the delightful, autumn treed camp ground of Camping Amazigh. We were the only campers that night.
Azrou (about 5 ams from centre of Azrou on Ifran side)
N 33 26 96 W 05 10 22
100 dh per night
Saturday 26th November
Azrou – Source Bleue de Meski via El Rachidda
After our peaceful night in Azrou we planned to take the route via Midelt and El Rachidda and camp at Source Bleue de Meski. It was a journey of about 260 kms and one that Rashid had not recommended. Only due to boredom he said!!! He would rather take the Fwy to Marrakech and make his way to Zagora that way.
We are not keen on Fwy travel so headed on the lesser road, and we are so glad we did.
It was a perfect day for driving and being warm in the car!!! Driving through Midelt was 2 degrees and stunning with the white capped mountains surrounding us. Climbing to Rich, an altitude of 1907 mtrs, we were denied some of the best views due to heavy fog. After Rich, the fog cleared and the scenery is amazing. Lonely Planet decribes it as “jurassic”!! I recommend finding a vantage point close to Rich and stopping for a photograph. I missed a couple of the best pictures thinking there would be more ahead.
Along the route we see our first oasis, narrow bands of fertile soil along the edges of the River Ziz. Crops, palm trees and Berber villages become a part of the landscape. Villages of flat roofed mud brick homes, barely distinguishable from the ground they rise up from or the mountains that provide their backdrop. Man and nature, merged.
We ended our day at the campground, Source Bleue de Meski. It felt quite odd there and a bit eerie out of season with very few campers but lots of little shops trying really hard to sell us something. It was quite a nice stay except for this hassling. Leaving here we noticed an impressive new camp ground, also in an oasis – Euro Camping. Maybe it would be tout free!!!
Another option I read about later was the Lonely Planet recommendation of camp ground Camp Tissart near to Aoufouss. Just to avoid the pressure from the touts!!
Source Bleue de Meski Camp
N 31 85 69 W 4 28 34
40 dh, 4 euro a night.
Sunday 27th November
Bleue de Meski to Nekob
Our destination today was Nekob, about 260 kms from Bleue de Meski. We had read that it was the village of 45 mudbrick castles and that sounded interesting.
The drive exposed a wide red expanse of desert, sometimes with unusual rock formations or lined far away with mountains – and was beautiful. We were always amazed to see a motor bike or truck appear, as if from nowhere in this vast expanse. At times the roads freckled with the usual vendors – olive trees announced olives for sale, orange trees – oranges!
Getting closer to Nekob the villages became more numerous. We picked up our first hitchhikers – two women, not speaking English, but able to communicate they were going to the Souk in the next village. We were happy to oblige.
The driving today was pleasant and stress free. We wondered if its because its Sunday, but there were no trucks on the road.
We drove into Nekob without knowing where to camp but noticed signs for a number of options. We chose Camping de la Montagne on the main road not far past the main drag. It was excellent. We were so impressed with the cleanliness of the facilities we decided to eat in their restaurant and had a lovely meal – Tagine and Cous Cous of course!! The weather was so beautiful I was also able to hand wash and dry a load of washing. Always a good thing!
Camping de la Montagne
N 30 86 28 W 05 88 28
Saturday 28th November
Nekob – Zagora
Another lovely, easy drive where we picked up another young man who placed in Antonios hands his own turban as he left, in appreciation!
At Hwy No 9, a right turn will take you to the heart of Morocco and Marrakech. Left, direction, the end of the earth or Mhmid!!! Our destination is Zagora where we will spend a couple of nights before meeting our Italian guide for a 6 day (turned into 9 day!) Camel Safari.
Zagora is a vibrant desert outpost!!! used to being an important stop over for the desert caravans traversing the area, it is still host to a large trading market twice a week (Wednesday and Sunday). Its a pretty good town to spend a few days just looking at the shops, going to the market, or taking a stroll over to the adjacent/adjoining village of Amezrou. (We actually bought our first carpet in Amezrou. We saw it on the wall, liked it, offered a very low price, 300 euro and secured it about 20 minutes later for 380 euro. Its quite large and just what we wanted.)
We randomly picked camping at Les Jardins de Zagora and were very happy we did. The “Jardin” was a rework in progress but quite lovely, facilities pretty clean and a very short walk to the main street. A bonus for us was secure parking for our camper as we departed on our Camel Safari.
Les Jardins de Zagora
N 30 32 84 W 05 83 39
PS: We were charged “what ever we wanted” for the parking for 9 days. Antonio paid him 200 dh and he was happy with that.
Camel trip 9 days!!!
Tamegroute to Mhamid following the Draa River in the Draa Valley
01/12/11 – 9/12/11
It was an experience. The full story is in the Morocco section of the Blog! If you are interested in a Moroccan Safari by camel or 4WD, our contact Alii Bennane would be happy to help you. He was born and lives in M’hamid. His father lived the life of a nomad. Alii also speaks English very well and understands our expectations!! His email address is email@example.com Here’s some pics to give you a taste.
Zagora – El-Kelaa M’Gouna (enroute to Todra Gorge)
Getting back to Zagora after our Camel safari we immediately upgraded Zagora to a pretty sophisticated town and our “Cubby” to 6 star accommodation. It was good to be home!!
We headed for the Todra Gorge via Adgz and Ouarzazate. The scenery again striking and dramatic. Stopping for coffee at Adgz I was impressed by a cosmopolitan, almost urban feel to the city. Best to fill up here though. There is very little life between it and Quarzazate. Once again a climbing, winding, excellent road through prehistoric type geography. No where else in our 12 months travel have we seen landscape that so clearly speaks of the age old tensions of earths plates and surface. The unimaginably slow scraping and carving of rock against rock creating cavernous depths of gorges and peaking land masses of unusual shapes and hue.
We briefly stopped at Ouarzazate for the novelty of visiting a European type supermarket we read about in the Lonely Planet. It was hard to find, albeit on the main street, as it was smaller than we had expected. And yes, plenty of European product ………. at European prices!!! No where in Morocco had we spent so much in one shop.
Continuing on to the Todra, passing snow capped mountains to our left, we once again collected a hitchhiker. A teenage boy who needed to travel about 80 kms. His destination became ours for the day as the sun began to set when we drove into El-kelaa M’Gouna! We decided to pull over on the main road into what looked like a truck stop or just a large verge really. Setting up camp and starting to cook there was a knock at the door and the young boy was presenting us with a large bag of bananas in appreciation of the lift! We passed a quiet, uneventful night except perhaps for the large cheering of some group of men watching – probably a soccer match featuring Morocco! Ear plugs also helped for traffic noise which completely disappeared at some time during the night.
Sunday 11 December
El-Kelaa M’Gouna – Tamtattouchte
From Tinerhir the road gets pretty hairy. It is sealed, but only one lane with rough edges, sometimes corroding away. Tedious but safe enough as most places in Morocco, everybody else seems to respect the driving conditions and are always on the alert for on coming traffic. Fortunately it was not that busy.
The Gorge itself is stunning where massive rock sides seem to join and almost pinch each other above the road that spears through the middle. But that does not last long and in some ways was a bit of an anti climax.
There are plenty of camp spots to stop at but we decided to travel as far as the recommended road and turn around for accommodation if we needed it. We didn’t. Tamtattouchte is the home of the long established campground Riad, Augerge Baddou. The facilities are brilliant and clean and we availed ourselves of the 3 course dinner on offer. I have never seen such a clean kitchen. The meal was tasty and dinner for us both, camping and a full load of washing set us back only 25 euro for the night.
Monday 12 December
Tamtattouchte – Beni-Mellal
Thinking we would head back south the way we came, around to the N9 to Marrakech we asked our host if the passes were open. He suggested we should continue north to the N8 to Marrakech on the recently paved road via Agoudal, Imilchil and El Kisba. The Lonely Planet was saying 4 wheel drive only past this point but he was convinced we could do it. Preferring not to back track we decided to take the chance. It was great.
Certainly the road less travelled and if we had known ahead we would have scheduled another stay at a wonderful, thriving, Moroccan hill village – Agoudal. It was a good sized village fairly free of tourists. A riad did also sell a few carpets and have a restaurant but mostly its a village living a natural life of subsistence. The river provided fertile ground for agriculture and there was a lot of evidence of produce and crops, as well as good grazing for animals.
We had some pens and pads we have avoided giving kids on the streets as we wanted to donate them to a school and encourage their attendance. Agoudal seemed ideal, fewer tourists, and we were told, most families here had on average 6 children. 300 children attend the school in morning and afternoon shifts with 9 teachers to attend to them all.
We managed the drive from Tamtattouchte to Beni-Mellal on the N8 but it was the longest and most tedious drive we did in Morocco. The road was paved for 99.9% of the time but narrow and winding with quite a lot of traffic at certain points. The scenery was beautiful and we once again managed to find some people needing a lift! Unfortunately our lack of language saw 3 of our guests helping us get them to their destination, which was not the direction we needed for our destination. A bit of tension ensued until we sorted our where we were and where we needed to be, but we were relieved to get off the back road and onto the N8. If we had stopped at Agoudal it would have helped to make the days drive a bit shorter and next time, thats what we would do.
Stopping for petrol we expected a problem finding out, after we filled up, that they did not take credit card and we did not have cash. Fortune favoured us as the manager had lived in Milan some years and spoke Italian and actually allowed us to leave and drive into town to go to a cash point. Antonio had offered to leave me as ransom, but he did not require that! I tried not to take that personally!!!! When questioned, he agreed it would be ok for us to park in the service station overnight, and suggested we park in the Car Wash bay and he would advice the guard who would introduce himself to us and we would give him some coins – of course…. 20 dh No problem. Ate a fair dinner in the station restaurant and had a good nights sleep as well as a car wash! Service station on the left before arriving into Beni-Mellal and included a pizzeria and car wash!
13 December, 2011
Beni-Mellal – Marrakech
Another good easy drive, the road lined with incredibly rich, dark, blood red, fertile soil which produced more agricultural crops than we had seen anywhere else in Morocco. Defiantly a Moroccan Hwy, the N8 even had a donkey and cart lane either side of the road!!
Arriving in Marrakech, we asked Tom Tom Roger to find us a McDonalds as we wanted to get some wifi and check email. He did and they didn’t – have wifi. The manager, a girl, directed us to the next McDonalds at a large Marjon supermarket. No wifi there either but all the other services we needed to buy some. We recharged our inwi and bought a Meditel microchip for the Ipad!
A man in the car park was selling stickers of camels and handing out brochures
for a French run camp ground. It sounded ok and the brochure offered gps co-ordinates so we headed there. Not sure why but it made our Tom Tom Roger very confused and he got lost!!! Eventually through Google maps on our ipad, the map on the brochure, a few phone calls and a dose of common sense we eventually found Camping de Le Relais which was excellent. A beautiful swimming pool, restaurant and massage service, only a 6 euro taxi ride from the heart of the Marrakech medina.
This is where we did learn that the iphone GPS has a different reading from the GPS points that Tom Tom roger has! Go figure.
For us, 3 nights in Marrakech was plenty. We did a day visit and a night visit. I found it all a little disappointing.
Camping de le Relais
N 31 42 408 W 007 59 407
17 December, 2011
Marrakech – Essaouira
We knew our most challenging driving was now out of the way and the 2 hourish mosey along the Hwy to Essaouira was a walk in the park. Good flat road and a dry rocky landscape. Uniquely, part of the area is a protected Unesco Bioshere area for the Argan tree, the only part of the world that this tree can grow. As you will probably know, the argan oil is a favourite son of Morocco and is apparently distilled from grinding the pips of the argan fruit, after it has passed through the intestine of the goat who ate it. And we saw goats in trees!!! – conveniently placed in branches by the “shepherds” nearby!!! Who could resist the photo opportunity and the few dh we had to pay for it.
It was lovely to drive into Essaouira and great to see the coast. Parking was no problem here. As we were staying in a Riad, we were not sleeping in our van and parked in the main car park directly outside the Bab Marrakech (main gate to the Medina) for 3 euro a day. Directly on our left there was a roped off section where overnight camp parking was allowed. Very easy access to Essaouira. There is also a campground a short distance away but we did not need to find it.
We had a family Christmas here and it really was an ideal city for our purpose. (See story – Christmas at Essaouira.
28 December, 2011
Essaouira – Sale
Once we are ready to go, not much stops us and our destination was the ferry to Italy, even though we had 3 days to get there the first day we drove approzimately 500 kms. It looks a really long way on the map but due to excellent roads, to El Jadida and then Auto strada to Sale, we made excellent time in a very stress free manner. The stress began as we entered Rabat. A big metropolis with incredibly badly congested traffic. We are not sure if we were just in peak hour or if there were road works but it took us almost an hour to travel the very short distance over the bridge into Sale, which really seems just a suburb of Rabat. We had heard there was good camping in Sale with easy access into the capital, but lack of signs, internet information and traffic congestion drove us out, hopefully to find a better place to camp.
We were in luck and following our noses north and then down to the beach, through the newly built infrastructure of a major apartment development, sealed roads and gutters, to the Plage des Nations. A perfect flat park on concrete beside the beach suited us down to the ground. It was a long time since we had slept with the sound of the ocean. The hotel “guardian” was happy to double as our “guardian” for 20 dh.
We left at dawn the next morning and it was amazing to see men arriving by the hundreds, push bike, motor bike, mostly on foot they made their way to the jobs that were clearly available on the massive building site.
Free Camping – Plage des Nations N 34 05 58 W 06 43 58
29 December, 2011
Sale – Martil
Made our way directly from the beach just north of Sale to Martil, a drive of approx 300 kms. An easy drive. We decided against visiting Larache (which I believe is really pretty) as we decided, if we could, we would change our ferry ticket and leave 2 days earlier……… in any case, I wanted to scope out Tanger Med as it was not on my map and I feel more comfortable when I know exactly where places are. Tom Tom Roger had Tangier Mediterranean Port listed in the “Place of Interest”, approx 29 km from Tanger, so he was able to lead us there without any problems. Our Ferry line, Grand Navi Velociti did not have any sailings until Saturday so we decided to make our way around to the coastal town of Martil. Lonely planet advised us there was a campground there, by the beach. There was and it was very good. Filled with English just arriving from the ferry at Ceuta and catching their breath, many first time Morocco travellers. I certainly remember my first encounter and understand, I think, where they are at.
A 10 minute taxi drive took us into Tetouan for our last taste of Moroccan Median and Souk. Quite a charming city with the souk feeling more “substantial”, or just for locals, than Souks in other cities.
The North East coast of Morocco is not like the Morocco we had just spent 6 weeks in and it’s really strange after so much of “the other” Morocco, to see streets lined with nature strips, grass and street lamps, new high rise Spanish style apartment building after apartment building, lining the whole drive from Ceuta to Martil. Certainly new arrivals making it along this track would be wondering what all the fuss is about travelling in Morocco. It may be a Moroccan trick allowing the tourists to slowly become accustomed! Immersion by degrees!
Tom Tom N 35 62 88 W 05 27 71
IPhone Compass N 35 35 46 W 05 20 35
Martil – Tangier Med
Tangier Med, another pleasant 2 hr drive north got us back to Tangier Med and we underwent the process of leaving the country. Tickets and passports checked was easy but cost us 10 euro for the assistance of the “guest relations!!” man who got us in the back door of the ticket office – service rapido! The time was taken from there. We were plenty early to get on the ferry and just as well. There was a slow queue getting passports checked again, and then we entered a Motor Vehicle Xray machine that could only line up about 5 vehicles at a time. You really need to be a couple of hours early to catch the ferry and we are not in a busy tourist period. Mind you, we then had to wait and about an hour after the scheduled we boarded the ferry to Italy!!! Ah Italia! Two days and two nights later we exited ferry in Genoa.
Without doubt, Morocco has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. I observed with great interest the differences in culture, in people, in color, in food. It is visually a beautiful country from city to outback! A photographers dream. The people, towards us were always friendly and by far, mostly respectful to both of us. We NEVER once felt threatened, unsafe or concerned about burglary or break in.
Travel by Campervan is absolutely ideal. For the most part the roads are excellent and other drivers considerate and experienced at stopping and slowing as required. In some parts of Morocco you will see more donkeys and carts than cars or trucks. And with plentiful camping grounds, large distances and stunning landscapes, we recommend the Camper. You can also cook in it and when we saw behind the scenes in some restaurants we wanted to be cooking our own food.
The litter and hygiene and being unable to drink the water is the downside of travel in Morocco – this we believe was far outweighed by the simple joys.
I have compiled this journal of our travel to help others who may have reservations about travelling in Morocco and to reassure and encourage you to go. It’s a wonderful, safe and colourful adventure. I know I had my trepidations before travelling there and sought out as much of others experiences as I could find. We hope our experience helps you. Happy Travels & Inshallah!