Tuesday 19th December
We get ready to leave Asilah when we notice that our waste water (sink and shower water) has poured out onto the ground which it shouldn’t be doing. Keith gets underneath the van to see that the waste outlet pipe and plate has been bent and twisted and broken the bottom of the tank, most probably from our 4WD on the first day. Luckily this is something that can easily be fixed and isn’t a big issue. Keith makes a patch repair and we set off on our way.
We head off towards Moulay Busselham which is about an hour south on the toll road. We gasp at the amount of people bumbling along a major road that has no hard shoulder with 2 rows of vehicles doing speeds of 120kmh. We’re following a bus doing nearly 100kmh when it quickly pulls to the side of the road stops and picks up a passenger. Lorries, vans, cars and tractors are loaded so high it’s a miracle they actually move at all. We were following a tractor loaded with hay it was all over the road trying to keep the thing in a straight line with the amount of weight it was carrying it looked like the whole frame was about to collapse. The strangest thing we saw was a bus on the grass verge on our side of the road facing us, where the hell it had come from we haven’t a clue.
We find the campsite nice and easy, it’s at the end of the town. There’s loads of vans here the most we’ve seen so far. The campsite is called Camping Atlantic Gate, it’s 80dhm (£6) with hot showers and all the facilities we need. We pick a spot and take a wonder around the site to make sure we don’t want to go anywhere else, when we come back there are sheep graze on the grass around our camper, the shepherd sees us and hastily ushers the sheep further up the site.
The laid-back fishing village of Moulay Bousselham is very popular with Moroccans in summer, but is all but empty in the winter. It’s made up of little more than a single street with cafés and souvenir shops. The lagoon and beach are breathtaking meeting with sandbanks in between. Moulay Bousselham is one of northern Morocco’s prime bird-watching locations, with boat trips organised to see thousands of birds including pink flamingos.
The harbour is busy with loads of people on the shore, fishermen bringing in their catch and displaying it to the many customers haggling for the best price. We’re approached by a few men offering to take us out on their boats to see the flamingos and view the estuary. We make a mental note of their offers and wave them on, we understand that when the tide is low you can’t get through the estuary to the flamingos. We take a walk through the back streets, every street has someone selling something. A couple of hours later the tide has turned and the sandbanks have disappeared, we choose our fisherman and set off in his boat, he brings with him his binoculars and a bird book for us use. The estuary is huge and you can see for miles, we head off to the flamingos which is about 25 minutes from the shore but even with high tide the water is not deep enough for the boat so we can only see them with the binoculars. We were on the water for about an hour and half for 100dhm (about £8), well worth it. We head back to the campsite, traders have now appeared on site, a guy on his motorbike selling raspberries, strawberries and avocado, next a lady with a plastic bottle full of cockles and a guy non a pushbike selling radish and potatoes, they seem to be doing well with the other campers, but our French is not up to scratch and we’re not any good at bartering so I buy a punnet of raspberries for 20dhm £1.60, which is expensive!
We’re awake early, we can hear the dogs barking. Since we’ve been in Morocco we’ve noticed the huge amount of dogs there are here. We must be one of the few people who own a mobile home who doesn’t have a dog, some people have 2 or 3 dogs, how they find the room for them in their vans I don’t know. We’ve also seen huge packs of wild dogs whilst we’ve driving along the motorways, today there must have been at least 30 dogs running across a field. In the towns we’ve only seen a few, mostly sleeping during the day but during the evening we can hear them constantly barking, fighting. At the moment it’s the dogs that are preventing us from venturing out after dark.
We’ve decided to give Casablanca a miss and head to El Jadida a 4 hour drive on the toll roads. It’s a long boring drive and cost us 180dhm (£13). We arrive at the campsite, Camping International El Jadida it doesn’t have good reviews but it’s the only campsite in the city. We find our spot and head out for a walk along the promenade and to the supermarket, the town is uninviting we don’t stay out long and head back before it gets dark. I take a peek at the toilet and showers, this has to be the most expensive site since we’ve got here, 93.50dhm (£7.20) I couldn’t even push myself to go through the door to take a photo, it was utter filth, some of the others campers were actually using the facilities, we certainly won’t. We have a quite night.
We’re heading to Essaouria which is the next big city it’s about 3 hours drive. After yesterday’s boring drive and the toll costs we decide to take the motorway (the N1), we know the roads are passable and not like we experienced on our first day. The motorway runs right through the towns and villages and it’s far to say that the drive was at times entertaining. We drove through 4 towns, Vehicles, donkeys and cart, pedestrians all coming in all directions at once, stopping because they want to, driving on the wrong side of the road, kids running across the road, you name it they did it. (You can view a clip of this journey on our Facebook page @Guernsey-Donkeys-on-Tour. We had wanted to stop to buy some bread, but couldn’t find anywhere safe (we could have just stopped lol) to stop until the last town which was less frantic. We managed to stop and I jumped out there were 6 guys with wheelbarrows full of bread they were all looking at me wondering what I was doing, I choose one vendor and ordered 2 large round pieces of bread (Portuguese bread, delicious) which were presented to me wrapped up in newspaper.
We arrived in Essaouria and found the campsite Sidi Mogdoul it’s 81dhm (£6.50) this doesn’t have good reviews either but it’s the closest to town 2km. We’re shown our spot by the host it’s not ideal but we only plan on staying one night (we need to empty the toilet and top up with water) tomorrow we’ll stay in the carpark down the road which has a guard for 30dhm (£2.30) it doesn’t have any facilities but we can manage for a few days.
We get out the pushangs and cycle along the promenade. There are camels, horses and quad bikes on the beach and each vendor trying to get our business. We’re not interested and cycle on to the medina.
Essaouira’s medina may be small, but we understand it’s perfect for exploring without fear of getting lost. Small shop lined streets full of colourful blankets and rugs, wooden handicrafts, and delicious food shaded by the tall whitewashed buildings for which this town is known. The smells are amazing if not testing at times, sweet nuts roasting to the over whelming smell of fish! The bustling medina is much easier to navigate than you’d imagine. A series of linked streets forms a central spine leading directly from the northern gate, Bab Doukkala, to the main square of Place Moulay Hassan, by the waterfront. We find somewhere in the sun to have a coffee and mint tea and soak up the sun and the entertainment for half an hour.
As a side line Essaouira has gained modern notoriety for its roll in Game of Thrones, – we’ve not seen the film so it’s wasted on us I’m afraid.
We head back to the campsite before dark excited to explore more tomorrow. Overnight we have problems with the electricity cutting out when we plug in the induction hob the guy plugs us somewhere else only for it to blow again in the morning when we plug in the kettle. We have a good nights sleep and wake at 7.30am when the building site next door starts work. We fill up with water and empty our waste water and head down the road to the carpark. By the time we get here most of the motorhomes we saw here yesterday have gone, we park next to a Spanish couple who have been camping here for 4 days and assured us it was safe.
Were up early and head off towards the town we head to the port first, the fishing boats are back on shore and the place is busy, small stall holders along the jetty setting out their catch ready to sell, crabs, conger eels, swordfish and lots of other things I’ve never seen before, I try and take a photo of a catch, but the fisherman is not happy he wants money for the photo so I walk on pretending I haven’t heard him. The whole place is noisy and it stinks, but it’s also encapsulating, if it wasn’t for the smell we’d stay longer.
We head into the medina, as yesterday the place is buzzing everyone shouting across to encourage you to buy from them or come into their cafe. It’s not oppressive and a shake of the head or hand is understood ‘maybe later’. Everything is set out to entice you to take a further look inside the shops. The colours are amazing, stalls of handmade handbags, shoes, blankets. We walk for over 2 hours down small streets, dead ends and back out to the outer walls. The place is amazing, we’re not looking to buy anything other than some dates and bananas but that doesn’t stop them trying. We decide to have lunch in one of the many cafes, we choose one in a small square opposite the police station. The cafe is quite busy mostly Europeans, the food looks good so we pick a table. We both opt for the chicken tagine, it comes out steaming hot, potatoes, courgettes, green olives and chicken on the bone. It comes with bread and a side of harissa and black olives. We were a little disappointed it was tasteless and need the harissa to give to any flavour. With coffee, large water and tasteless biscuits it was nearly 160dhm (£14).
We carry on walking though the medina before picking a sunny spot at the edge of the square and watch the many performers and people watch for about an hour. It really is a great place for people watching there’s a mix of traditional dress, modern, tourist and some we just can’t make out. Everyone going about their business.
We head back along the seafront and have a few beers and a glass of wine before heading back to the carpark. By about 6.30pm the guys with the camels, horses, donkeys and quad bikes start leaving the beach through the carpark, it’s really bizarre watching the camels slowly making their way past Eugene, the guys galloping through the carpark on the horses.
We spend an hour watching the sunset in the beach cafe next to the carpark they’ve got happy hour, we’ll have some of that. To say we spend the night in the carpark we had a good nights sleep.
Since arriving in Morocco have done:-
Driven 597 kilometres
Spent £171 (getting back on track)
Stayed in 5 campsites and 1 carpark
a la perchoine xxxxx