The second instalment of our Moroccan adventure. In case you missed it, part 1 can be found here.
Day 4: 9/10/18
Location: Martil (Camping Al Boustane)
We made it to Morocco! And, even better, we made it to Morocco without breaking down! The ferry ride from Algeciras to Tangier was exceptionally speedy in comparison to our Santander ferry – we spent longer queuing to get on than actually on the ferry. Whilst waiting, we well and truly lived up to the British stereotype and had a lovely breakfast picnic in the queue.
On arrival it was time for Natalie’s first non-EU border crossing. Knowing that we have a lot of border crossings planned in the future, I imagine this will probably be one of the quickest and least stressful that we will experience. The perk of it is that it makes for great people watching. It was highly entertaining to see the random assortments coming out of people’s cars. We were also impressed and surprised to see that once the cars had been inspected, the border officers helped them to repack everything! An hour after we arrived, I was told by a very friendly border man “Welcome to the kingdom of Morocco Mr James Saul!” – clearly they had not inspected our passport photos very well!
A quick drive along the coast, and we arrived at Camping Al Boustane, a little campsite on the edge of the seaside town, Martil. We set up camp, and had a relaxed evening, only interrupted by the stray cats (Mackerel and Halloumi) that took a liking to Kath, and a trip to the pharmacy to find something to fix the conjunctivitis that I had developed over the day.
Day 7: 12/10/18
Location: Somewhere near to Talsint (32.47385, -3.42086)
Our first wild camping night. It took us quite a while to find a suitable spot, but eventually we found somewhere that was pretty perfect. We spotted a little track off of a bridge, followed it through some dry river beds, and about 1km in, found a perfect flat spot for us to camp in.
As it got dark, the stars came out in their full glory, and we spent the evening looking up at shooting stars and what we think (to our very untrained eyes) was Mars. We were completely alone, with the exception of a rather large spider that made its way through our camp. The best thing about our spot was the absolute silence that fell overnight. Throughout, not a single car, call to prayer, or donkey was heard, and we all slept like logs.
Day 9: 14/10/18
Location: Merzouga (campsite next to Hotel Mahouyut)
Today we broke rule number 1 of over-landing: don’t drive in the dark. We decided to do parts of two different ‘half day’ off-road routes (ME2, MS11), which, with hindsight, was a bit too ambitious.
It is difficult to describe the landscape – it appears endless, and you well and truly feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. It is impossible to get your bearings as there are no landmarks other than the hills and bushes that are everywhere and all look the same. No matter which direction you look in, everything looks the same. And yet, over every brow of a hill, the landscape completely changes, and turns into something new. The further into nowhere we got, we started to spot some Nomad camps, as well as little stalls of fossils, stones carved into camels and handmade purses for sale.
The second part of our journey led us towards the Algerian border – the one place that our parents had instructed us not to go near, oops. We drove across even more varied terrains, including a gorgeous oasis where we stopped to get some photos.
At the meeting point of the two tracks, there was a white tent. The guide book suggested that there might be a tea tent around this point, so we presumed this to be the case. The tent’s resident, Ali, came out to greet us, and seemed happy enough to make us some Moroccan tea (or as they call it, “whiskey Moroccan”). We went into his tent and realised that this was not a tea tent, it was Ali’s lodgings. We squashed up onto his bed and burnt our tongues on the boiling hot, but deliciously sweet tea.
Making conversation with our very broken French and the help of google translate, he did not seem to understand what we meant when we asked him his job, despite us asking in several different ways. He had very expensive looking binoculars and torch which did not leave his side – a bit strange for a nomadic farmer we thought. We then spotted his satellite phone which said ‘border guard’ (that he told us he uses to speak to his friends), and we had a feeling that he may have been intentionally not understanding our questions about his job. He showed us his bedroom, which was underground, and extremely cool considering the scorching hot day. In turn, we showed him out bedrooms – the roof tents – which he loved.
After getting lost, spending time with Ali, having lunch, and the mini photo-shoot, we were a bit behind schedule, and it was dark before we got to the Saharan sand dunes. After a long day, we treated ourselves to dinner at the campsite, which was located in the back yard of a 4 star hotel. For £8.30 each we got an unlimited buffet of salad, all you can eat chicken and lime tagine, and our nights stay. The food was delicious.
Day 10: 15/10/18
Location: Auberge Erg Ouzina (30.75403, -4.18977)
After arriving at our campsite in the dark, it was a pleasant surprise to wake up to views of sand dunes right on our doorstep (tentstep?). We did some food shopping, which is always an interesting event when in far off lands, and then headed back onto the tracks (MS6) to find our next campsite. On arrival, we were offered more delicious Moroccan tea (accompanied by a sweet pastry), and chatted to our hosts for the evening. The campsite was ran by four brothers (Youssef, Ali, Hassan, and Zaid) who took it in turns to work here and in Merzouga. Prior to doing this, they had been a nomadic family. Youssef had pretty good English, which he told us he had learned by speaking to tourists. He insisted we had a“little bittle”more tea, which went down a treat.