Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rocking through Morocco

Our departure from Motril went relatively smoothly, we found the port in this small town easily enough so decided to find a supermarket to stock up with goodies for the 8h crossing and for the rest of the trip. I had bought a ice box that plugged into the cigarette lighter socket which kept the chocolate and other items magically cool throughout the trip.  Christophe was again behind the wheel, so intent on getting into the small supermarket we found, he turned right into the supermarket before the roundabout, we found ourselves on the pavement with horrified Motril shoppers wondering what chaos we were trying to cause!

Boarding the boat, a new route to Tanger Med port, there were relatively few passengers and it was all incredibly relaxed.  Probably no more than 50 of us on the FRS line ferry, predominantly Spanish, Moroccan and two Algerian gentlemen having to do the dog-leg via Spain to enter Morocco.  The Moroccan crew almost outnumbered the passengers!   Beautiful calm afternoon at sea, we sat back and relaxed with a bottle of red wine, Spanish ham and chorizo for supper out of supermarket bags!

Motril Port

At about 12.30am Moroccan time (01.30am Spanish time) early morning of 20th December 2016, we finally docked in Tanger Med having been stuck outside the port for about an hour waiting for other ferries to leave.  Frustrated and tired, we disembarked and headed through immigration and then customs.  This is where the horror began ... I'm never my best when tired! 

Customs decided that Franki needed scanning along with a lot of other vehicles, mostly heading for Sub-Saharan Africa.  I didn't bother with a carnet, there was no need as Franki was on a one-way trip; however friends from Dragon Balloon who followed a few weeks later had a carnet and weren't scanned; I do still wonder of the logic in this.  We were told to wait by the 'Fat Controller' as I nicknamed him, short, stout guy with bulging belly ... who was infuriating as every 10 minutes or so he would make me move another 20metres to park out of 'his' way.  Finally Christophe found the Inspector who came over and told us to be ready to start the drive to the scanner.  It was the other end of the port!  We were in a civilised convoy of about 12 vehicles, with 2 Senegalese vans behind us.  One of the Senegalese decided it was a racetrack, overtook Franki the wrong side of the roundabout thereby cutting us up and made me see RED!  When we got to the scanner I gave him a piece of my mind, I got a lot of grief in return and one of the Inspector's men came over to see what it was all about, the Senegalese guy continued to be aggressive whilst being told to keep quiet by the others.  The whole event blew over but with the two of us staring daggers!!!  Don't mess with a Toubabu at 0230am Moroccan time!!!

We continued on, aiming to find a service station to collapse in.  Finally on the outskirts of Asilah we pulled into one, I slept on the back four seats whilst Christophe had the front three, it was cold, very cold that night and neither of us got much sleep.  Christophe abandoned me to sleep upright in the cafe.  When I wandered in, it smelt lovely but the tagines were sadly empty, it was far too early.  We had a coffee at about 7am and decided to head off to Larache for breakfast which I'd not visited since 2004 with my Kiwi godson Kurt, I also needed a Moroccan SIM card.

Larache is a lovely seaside town, we found a quiet cafe and ordered breakfast.  In the meantime I ran across the road to organise the phone and get some Moroccan dirhams on the black market as we knew the autoroute tolls would start to add up.  I'd brought 40€ worth with me that I had left over from previous trips.
Appreciated our Moroccan breakfast

Within an hour we were back on the road.  The four seats in the rear part of the cab were incredibly comfortable, we soon got into a system of 2h of driving, 2h of sleep (over the ice box filled with chocolate!).  We were both shattered from the early morning antics at the port.  First stop after Larache was on the edge of Casablanca, another service station with a Burger King; we just wanted more coffee however.

A few hours later in sunshine, we had a great impromtu lunch with wonderful Moroccan bread filled with French cheeses, Spanish ham & chorizo in the cab.  We were up in the hills somewhere outside Marrakech on the autoroute which was incredibly smooth and easier than I remember, the tolls however were similar to French prices!  We thought we might make Agadir region for the night and pressed on!

Autoroute west of Marrakech

We found ourselves in Agadir as dusk was setting in.  Immediately we went off to find another supermarket and stock up on further food, but particularly bottles of water as tomorrow would be the start of the isolated part of the journey.  We knew if we broke down, it could be a long wait, we had both done the route before, which was the wonderful part of this trip; we knew the 'rules' and worked well in tandem!  We found a cash and carry supermarket, not ideal but we managed to get what we needed in small quantities too.  Christophe soon found the addition to it, a bottle shop selling all sorts of alcohol, but a bottle of red wine was all that was wanted!

A double or triple decker for cattle?!  On the edge of Agadir

Downtown Agadir traffic ... taking a wrong turn in rush hour wasn't ideal!
We set off again, to get out of town slightly and find somewhere that would cook a good tajine.  We got caught in the most awful traffic jam, found what looked to be a few restaurants to only find that only omlette or chips were on offer.  However an old guy in his pick-up told us to get out of town to the small town of Sidi Bibi where the tajines were meant to be fantastic.  It was a long slow trek to get out of the metropolis of Agadir but we discovered the tajine restaurant, he was right, an mouthwatering meal!

Sidi Bibi tajine
Sidi Bibi tajine restaurant

Whilst eating, we started searching on IOverlander for somewhere to stay nearby.  A few places including campsites came up but some numbers didn't ring at all, others were a bit hesitant and these were off the main road by a few kilometres ... We weren't prepared to gamble with our tiredness, it had been a very long day and searching for a place to stay in the dark wasn't ideal.  We had both originally agreed not to drive in the dark but one thing and another lead us to this situation.  Whilst heading south, we kept an eye out for somewhere, but nothing was to be found.  Eventually we decided just to head on into Tiznit, another favourite town of mine.  Finding a campsite full of French campervans, probably full of retirees who had headed south for the winter, we made a U-turn and decided to go into town.  We found the appropriately named 'Hotel Mauritanie' in the centre and got a very clean room, but with a cold shower for under 15€ between us!  Franki was safely parked to the side of the hotel behind gates ... finally we could switch off and relax 912km since leaving Tanger Med Port in the early hours!

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