Tuesday 9th January
We left Sidi Ifni and needed to stock up on essentials, beer, vodka, crisps and cheese before we started our track into the middle of the country. Big supermarkets are few and far between and the closest supermarket being in Guelmim about an hours drive south-east from where we are. We headed along the N12 which took us through the Anti-Atlas Mountain range. The scenery was stunning the huge hills seemed to be never ending. We arrived in Guelmim but only went straight to the supermarket, to find out they don’t stock alcohol anymore. Never mind Keith I’ve still got 6 litres of wine and 2 litres of gin, happy me. We stocked up on things we’d need including a kilo of mince beef, Keith’s favourite which we’ve split into bags for the freezer. Lunch in the carpark and off we head to Tiznit.
We continued along Anti-Atlas Mountains the drive took us from the bottom of the mountains where small concrete bridges were partly submerged by the recent rain to the top where the rain had pulled down parts of the earth banks spilling wet mud over the roads. As we started a 6km stretch of mountain road a sign indicated it was a windy road and extreme care was needed the road was described as dangerous. We soon found ourselves at the start of a convoy of impatient Moroccan drivers, hooting and edging out to get past us, which they eventually did on a blind corners with sheer drops on one side, parts of the safety railing or walls battered, bent or missing from previous encounters with these inconsiderate drivers. Half way up we found ourselves behind a large lorry inching its way up the mountain with lorries and cars convoying behind us again, still not being brave enough to overtake we stayed behind and off they went first the lorry that could just about get enough speed to overtake us but tugged along to overtake the bigger lorry with a car following behind, on a bind corner, mad they are f*&king mad. Not sure what the accident statistics are but we’re guessing they must be high.
In all it was a good drive and we managed to arrive in Tiznit safely.
The campsite was easy to find, Camping International it’s right on the entrance to the walled city. The place is packed out, all the good spaces taken up by the usual French long term campers. The pitches are not marked out very well and we might as well be parked in a carpark for how close everyone is. We found a space but had to move because the electricity boxes are few and far between and our lead even with an extension wouldn’t reach, our pitch in the middle of a mudbath but there was nowhere else to go.
It was still early afternoon so we walked into town, out the campsite and turned right and walked through the back streets following the wall, it was quiet with the odd vendor sat outside their shops.
Tiznit city which despite its solid circuit of walls was only founded in 1882 by Sultan Moulay Hassan (Hassan I). Entering along the main road and through the Bab (Gate) Ouled Jarrar we could see the Great Mosque which has an unusual minaret, the walls of the minaret on all sides have a series of tree branches which stick out all the way up on all corners. These are said to aid the dead climbing to paradise and you can only guess that souls are weightless, given the rotten nature of the wooden perches, what will happen if they are weighed down by sin?
We found the main square where we found the Source Bleue a natural well which has been built into a tourist attraction. It’s a peaceful area with people sitting out on the steps and benches listening to the water and watching the world go by with a few resident geese spoiling the peace and quiet.
We continued along the streets to arrive at the main street full of cafes, shops, stalls selling the usual fruit and veg, meat, live chickens and anything and everything else. The anything and everything section is an eye-opener, if you could transport Steptoe & Son’s entire stock from 1960 and display it here, most of it would be newer and in better nick than the stuff displayed here for sale, where do they find this stuff and who wants it?
For the past 2 weeks or so we’ve gone to bed listening to the sea, tonight it’s back to the dogs and 6am the call to prayer, 8am the clicking of the fridge starts, the electricity has gone off. We soon discover the whole area has lost power and it’s not back on until 10am. This is the busiest campsite we’ve been on, by 8.30am everyone is up, emptying toilets, filling up water tanks, standing around chatting it’s a hive of activity, by mid morning we watched as they moved around the campsite with their chairs, glasses and wine to sit with friends in their groups and enjoy the sun.
We head back into town and go straight to the main street to find a local cafe to sit and watch the world go by for the next hour. Right opposite us on the road are guys selling fruit from carts about 6 of them, they seem to be doing a roaring trade, then all of a sudden they hurriedly pack away their umbrellas and wheel off their carts 50metres up the road, it was as if the police were coming we don’t know why they moved but it was all very strange and done with urgency. On the other side of the road were the butchers, carcasses hanging by hooks nothing covered up from the flies.
We do a bit of shopping 5 pomegranates for 2dhm (30p) and half a kilo of lovely small oranges for 3dhm (35p), freshly baked bread straight out the oven, which we ate before getting back to camp.
Wednesday 10th January
Can’t believe it’s a month since we set off on the delayed Condor ferries to St Malo to start our trip, it feels like we’ve been away for ages, which is a good thing.
We set off along the 104 to Tafraoute through the Anti-Atlas Mountains. We knew this drive was going to picturesque, but we weren’t quite prepared for how absolutely stunning this country is. I took over 1000 photos, I wanted Keith to stop along the way so I could take photos without them being through the windscreen, but on the mountain roads there is absolutely nowhere to stop and pull over. Luckily for us the road wasn’t busy and we didn’t attract the convoy of cars and lorries as we had a few days before which made for a great drive. The small towns tucked in the bottom of the valleys and the odd building built high into the mountain side look so remote it’s hard to believe that people actually live in them. We see a couple of ground squirrels but they are far to fast for me to catch a glimpse of them with the camera.
We arrive in Tafraoute and decide we’re not going to stay in any of the campsites, they are all small with high walls around and really don’t look appealing so we’re going to wild camp on land just outside the town. This area of land is known in the motorhome community as ‘The Valley of the Vans’ it’s set in a stunning location with 360 degrees view of the mountains, it’s just stunning. We find our place and head into town, it’s market day although this market is off the road so we don’t encounter the circus we’ve met in the other towns. We find a cafe and have a coffee watching the world go by, it’s not as busy as some of the other places we’ve been but just as entertaining.
There’s no services here at the campsite and when we get back to camp all the vendors turn up. There are plenty of offers from the many vendors to do something for you anything and everything. There is nowhere to empty the toilet cassette, some campers are tipping raw sewage over the wall it’s disgusting and we certainly won’t be following that trend, we are told the campsite opposite will let you empty the cassette for a few dirhams, less than a £1, or a lady will carry it to her house and empty it for you for 20dhm, we have a second cassette so if necessary we’ll use that and just have to carry around a cassette full of shit in the garage for a few days, lol. Anyway a lady comes round, home cooked tagine, pizza, cake, she’ll take the washing for 40dhm (£3.20), for now we decline the offer, next would you believe it the hairdresser we also decline that, the water man fill up the tank for 30 dhm, next the mechanic, we don’t need anything today but they will all be back tomorrow.
Next Hassan Oujil arrives, he can take us to the ‘Painted Rocks’ through the mountains to Ait Mansour and lunch pick up at 9am return at 3pm all for 500dhm (£44). These are places we do want to go so after some discussion about how many people he will take in the car we agree for tomorrow. He asks for 100dhm deposit and gets quite offended when I suggest to him, ‘if I give you 100dhm how do I know you will turn up tomorrow’ his reply ‘madam this isn’t Marrakech’ so I ask for a receipt showing our deposit on his business card which he provides, so we’ll see if he does turn up.
It’s getting dark and cold so we head inside, put the lights on 30 minutes later we’re in darkness, Keith has a look the 2 leisure batteries we have are almost flat what the f@#k we’ve driven for almost 2 hours and had wall to wall sunshine on the solar panel for the past 3 weeks and been on hook up everyday we should be able to stay without hooking up to the electricity for at least 5 days. Nothing we can do about it now it will have to wait until tomorrow we are now hoping that Hassan doesn’t turn up.
Thursday 11th January
8.50am the next morning Hassan is outside waiting for us in his 4WD with another camper Ellen who is Dutch sat in the front seat. Ellen introduces herself phew she speaks English. Ellen was an interesting lady, she’s travelled extensively around the world on her own, which she explains at times can be a little challenging especially when she was in Marrakech. We explain the issues with the leisure batteries, Ellen had used a mechanic who had visited the campsite only a few days before and could recommend him, Hassan says he would take us to the garage on the way back later today.
Our first stop was the ‘Painted Rocks’ the painted rocks are in the middle of nowhere and apparently it’s called art. In 1984 Belgian artist Jean Veran was helped by local firemen to spray over 18 tonnes of paint onto the huge orange rock canvas of an area of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Over the years others ‘hippies’ our guide informs us have added to the rock paintings some of it being graffiti, it’s a different tourist attraction and it’s free. We noted there were some campers wild camping here, maybe we’ll give this a go in the next few days.
We head through the mountain roads, some tarmac, dirt roads and we’re not really sure what the rest of it was, but it was somewhere we couldn’t have gone with Eugene for that we were sure. We pass old Berber villages high in the mountains, some caves which the Berber people once lived in, which have been vacated for the new houses lower down the mountain. We travelled to the top where the snow was patchy, we were in shorts and t-shirts, the locals wrapped up like it was minus 30 degrees. The scenery was breathtaking, as we entered each pass with the sun shinning making the rocks look golden or red it was stunning. During the trip I took over 1000 photos, but unfortunately we don’t have a hood for this lens so the sun rays have been caught in most of the photos. A few years ago we went to the Grand Canyon and this scenery is very similar although on a smaller scale.
Hassan stopped the car often to let us walk whilst he waited further down the road. We visited Ait Mansor which is a gorge lined with date palms this is a beautiful place with the steep walls of the gorge in red stone, it was so peaceful the road was littered with dates that had fallen off the trees.
Tafraoute is the largest producer of almonds in Morocco and the town is getting ready for the festival which is celebrated each year in the villages during the harvest time as a way to celebrate the prosperity and new harvest. Unfortunately we’ve arrived about a month too early to see the beauty of the blossoming trees. The area that Hassan has taken us through is full of almond trees and it’s my understanding that the blossom on the trees resemble a rainbow of colour up and down the mountains, hopefully we might still see this if we come back through this area on our return journey to Tanger Med.
We stopped for lunch in the middle of nowhere, Keith had a Berber omelette, eggs baked with tomato and herbs, I had the Chicken Tajine which was amazing, the best so far. With a pistachio yogurt for dessert, water and mint tea it was a great lunch.
We finished the afternoon by driving through the mountain passes, I know I keep saying it but the scenery is absolutely stunning. For what we paid for the trip I think the food was worth that alone, well worth the money. Hassan drops by the garage and explains to one of the guys there what’s happened, someone will pop to the campsite in an hour.
Keith’s established that the batteries are fully charging, but not holding the charge so as soon as something is plugged in they are drained so we definitely need new batteries.
Mohamed turns up looks at the batteries and agrees they need to be changed, he can get some but they need to come from Agadir, his brother is there so he will get him to have a look at the batteries and give us a price later this evening. Okay there’s little we can do but wait. We can manage, the fridge is on gas and we’ll just have to sit in touch light, no big deal. During the day we’ve managed to charge up the laptop, phones and tablets so it’s no problem.
Mohamed turns up again with his brother, they measure the batteries and off they go again, they come back again with a price for special batteries which are for solar panels 600 euros for the two, ouch, Keith has further discussions with Mohamed and his brother, again with our French and their English we think we know what we’re getting, special solar batteries, however Friday is a holiday in Agadir so we won’t get the batteries until Saturday, nothing we can do about that we have to wait. Mohamed wants a deposit of 2000dhm (£180), we’re not really happy about giving the money but I suppose he has to buy them.
Friday 12th January
We pop into town a bit of food shopping coffee and just hang around and back to the campsite for a bit of sunbathing. It’s about 18 degrees the sun is shinning and it’s hot.
Keith is still musing over the batteries so takes them out and looks at them again, sorry Keith but they haven’t repaired themselves. We get taking to two brits who are parked behind us Dennis and Janice, both in their 70s who are attracting the locals with their offers of biscuits, money, water and a good old chat. They are both friendly and Dennis seems to have a good understanding about cars, batteries and solar panels so he and Keith discuss our issues but don’t come up with any solutions.
During the afternoon Gary and Sue who we met in Sidi Wassay came over for a chat, they’d arrived in Tafroute a few days before. They explained the night we left them in Sidi Wassay there was a storm which sent an electrical serge through the campsite, as a result the serge had fried their circuit board and they had lost all their electricity sockets along with a few of their electrical items they had plugged in. Thank god we’d left or else I don’t know what would have happened if we had no electricity and no solar power, coming home I would imagine.
Saturday 13th January
Keith cycles off to the campsite over the road, Camping Granite Rose to empty our toilet cassette, whilst there the guy says we can use the hot shower for 15dhm per person, we haven’t showered since Tuesday so might have to go there. By 2pm there is still no show from Mohamed so Keith cycles off to the garage to see what’s happening. Apparently the bus from Agadir which has the brother and our batteries on it has broken down so we won’t get the batteries until 10am tomorrow morning. We are now getting a little pissed off of this waiting around we should have just driven to Agadir which is 3 hours away ourselves on Thursday.
A lady came round to see if I wanted my washing done for 30dhm (£2.60) absolutely so I give her a bag full, she’ll be back with it washed and dried tomorrow afternoon.
Gary and Sue pop by and invite us out tomorrow night to a new restaurant in town. One of the many vendors who visits the campsite daily owns the restaurant and his wife is the cook. Gary had paid a visit to the restaurant earlier in the day and said it looked lovely. The food has to be preordered, tagines, couscous and a few other Morocco dishes and you can take your own alcohol.
Sunday 14th January
10am Mohamed hasn’t shown, but another guy who has batteries in the back of his van comes round, he has the type of batteries we’re after for half the price that we’re being charged and he wasn’t very complementary about Mohamed and says “he won’t get you want you want, I’ll come back later and you’ll buy my batteries” 11am Mohamed arrives with the batteries and sets about taking our old ones out and putting the new ones in. Keith isn’t happy, these are car batteries and only 80amp and cost about £100 each, we want 110amp duel purpose, no we don’t want them they are not batteries for solar panels. Mohamed argues they are correct and they are for solar panels, so we call Dennis over he agrees they are not the correct batteries, we don’t want them. Mohamed gets on his phone, he can get us what we want from Casablanca on Tuesday, no we’re not waiting around any longer give us our money back and we’ll sort something out ourselves. Mohamed goes off not happy he will come back with his nephew who can speak English and we can get this sorted. An hour later the guy in the van comes back, he’s smug when we tell him Mohamed didn’t get what we wanted. We try his batteries but they won’t fit, but he can get us some on Tuesday. No, no, no we’ve had enough we’ll sort this out ourselves. Mohamed comes back with his nephew we explain they are not the batteries he agreed to get, they are car batteries, we don’t want them and want our money back, Mohamed can take some of the money for his trouble, but we will sort ourselves out. Reluctantly Mohamed gives us half the money back, we’re not going to argue about the amount he’s taken, we take it and that’s the end of it. Dennis has some batteries to sell us, but unfortunately they don’t fit. By now Keith has had enough ready to explode, if he hadn’t drank all his vodka I’m sure he would have been cracking open the bottle.
Seeing we’re going out for dinner tonight we decide to take a walk over to Camping Granite Rose to have a shower the water guy hasn’t been around for 2 days and we don’t have enough water onboard for one shower let alone two. The guy unlocks the shower room “it’s a big shower so you can shower together” he says and leaves us to it. It might be a big shower room but the shower head was tiny and the shower wasn’t very powerful but it was a bit of giggle both of us trying to have a shower without getting cold, and he had the cheek to charge for two people, but we both smell lovely now.
At 5pm we head over to Gary and Sue’s camper for a few drinks before we go out for dinner. Dinner is for 7pm, the restaurant is in the newer part of town behind one of the back streets it’s not signposted and if you didn’t know it was there you would miss it. We arrived and the restaurant was absolutely beautiful, the tables were set out in the small court yard, half of which was covered with a stick roof, a few thin curtains separating the table and there was a wood fire against one of the walls, it was lovely.
We had starters, main meal, dessert and a large bottle of still water for 279dhm (£23) for the four of us, yes £23 for 4 people. The food was delicious, I had a meat, prune and almond tagine which was beef that was so tender it fell off the bone and Keith had chicken tagine. We had a good night and Gary and Sue were really good company, we left the restaurant after 10pm and walked back to the campsite, we didn’t see a sole or any dogs lol. Because we were sat outside with the fire going we now absolutely stink of smoke we need another shower now and all our clothes and jackets need washing lol. Would absolutely recommend a visit to the restaurant if you find yourselves in Tafroute. Restaurant Nadia, Chez L’habitants, Tafraoute. 0648776473.
Monday 15th January
We’re up early, it’s rained most of the night and Keith has hardly slept, still thinking about the batteries. We decide we’ll drive to Agadir, 3 hours west, not where we really want to be heading, but we can’t trust anyone to get what we want and we are not waiting for days on end. Keith has found a shop on the internet in Agadir which sells loads of batteries so we have to give this a go.
We set off in the rain, the drive is amazing we hardly see any other vehicles on the road which is good because the road is only wide enough for one vehicle in most of the places.
The rain clouds make the valleys and mountains look even more stunning as we climb to the top of the mountain and into the clouds.
There are goats and sheep just roaming along the main road, Keith really has to concentrate on this drive. We have to stop the van along a road because a black cat is sitting in the middle of the road and it just won’t move, hope this is the good luck charm we’ve been looking for.
We pass through remote villages, everyone is so friendly waving as we pass. The cutest thing we’ve seen on this whole trip were two kids, a boy and a girl about 8/9 years old, as we passed through one of the mountain villages they were waving frantically to us at the side of the road with the biggest smiles on their faces, we slowed down and gave them a couple of our sweets, they were screeching with joy and the boy gave the girl a big hug, it just melted our hearts, and it takes a lot to melt my heart for my heart you know lol, it really cheered us up.
We arrive in Agadir at 1pm and find the battery shop, but it’s absolutely nothing like its internet profile, a tiny little shop selling a few batteries all for cars, the guy is trying to be helpful but he speaks no English but he lets Keith search the shop in case there’s something tucked away that might be what we’re looking for, but unfortunately not. We’ve got a leaflet that Gary had given us for Trigano who advertise motorhome repairs and solar panels they are nearby so we’ll try them. On the way we stop at a garage with batteries in the window, the guys in there were so helpful once they understood that we required specialist batteries, I show them the leaflet and they call the company to see if they had what we wanted. Someone from Trigano will come to us to see if they could help. 5 mins later someone turns up and we follow him up the road to their garage. Yes they can help but they don’t have our size battery but can get it in the hour, ok we’ll wait. Trigano is owned by a French National who speaks with us, Keith seeMs to have more faith in this guy. An hour later, sorry no batteries they have some in Casablanca and someone will have to go to Casablanca to collect them and they will be at the garage at 2pm tomorrow. We’ve got no option but to wait until tomorrow, if there’s no batteries tomorrow then we’ll have to manage our time in Morocco with torch light during the evenings when we’re not in campsites with electricity.
We head to Camping International, they are full but say we can park in the road and they will keep an eye on us during the night and charge us. No we’re not doing that, we need to get some water on board, we have a full toilet cassette in the garage which needs emptying so we head into the mountains and find Camping Aourir to stay for the night.
It’s just over 3 weeks since my visit to the hospital, the improvements are very subtle and not really noticeable. I now have eye drops to keep my eye moist and wearing an eyepatch during the day and when I’m sleeping. The worse thing about this is when I’m washing my hair I think my eye is shut when it’s wide open and then it gets full of soap, ouch it’s not nice.
And we might be getting on the fame ladder, BBC radio Guernsey have been in contact and want us to do a regular update on our travels on the Jenny Tobias show, so watch, listen to this space lol.
We’ll update you on the battery saga next time lol
A la perchoine
Shirena and Keith xxxx