I can’t believe we’re in another month, slow down time! But this month it’s Keith’s birthday and our wedding anniversary and I wonder where we’ll be and how we will be celebrating but we will of course invite you to come along and enjoy whatever we decide to do!
Thursday 1st February
10.40am and we’re doing our slot on BBC Radio Guernsey with Jenny Kendall-Tobias. I think we do much better this time around and Jenny is so enthusiastic she’s travelled Morocco so it makes things nice and easy. We’re booked in to do another one next week sometime, if we’ve been anywhere or done anything interesting.
We spend the morning cleaning inside Eugene he is absolutely filthy sand and dust everywhere along with a mound of dead swatted flies. Get some hand washing done and Keith gets round to fixing the puncture on my bike. We exchange telephone numbers and emails addresses with Guido and Guli who are heading back down south for the warmer weather.
We take a long walk into town and grab some lunch and a coffee. We stop by the supermarket and grab a few bits and pieces and note they have a Victoria drinks store along the street, we give into temptation and walk past without going in.
The kids in Morocco entertain themselves (once they’ve stopped harassing you for things), no iPads or mobile phones hooked in front of their faces. On every street or flat piece of waste ground football games are being played. Young kids playing with sticks or throwing stones at piles of bottles to see who can knock them down first. These kids don’t have a lot but always seem happy and occupied doing something. On the way back to the campsite we pass a football match which is taking place on the main road with cars swerving around the rocks set out for the goals and there is a small crowd gathered to watch.
We head back to the campsite, not sure why but they are chopping down all the trees and there is the noise of chainsaws for the rest of the afternoon.
Friday 2nd February
We leave Ouarzazate and head towards Ait Ben H’addou which is 32km from Ouarzazate an hours drive and we’re heading towards the snow covered mountains again.
We find the campsite which is next to the river at the rear of an Auberge, Auberge La Defat which is only 80dhm for the night with electricity. The entrance to the property is via an archway which is low and tight, Keith has me on lookout, we just about fit with 3 inches in height to spare, phew. We’re the only ones here and it’s nice and quiet. The toilet and shower are in one of the guest rooms across the garden, it’s lovely.
The wind has really picked up and its getting cold. It’s too windy to cycle so decide to walk the 2 miles to the Ksar which we passed on the way in. It was an easy walk through the village and along the main road.
The Ksar of Ait Benhaddou sits on top of a hill and is a fortified city made up of six kasbahs and 50 smaller ksour. The Ksar consists of buildings built entirely of mud, straw, organic matter from the animals and stones the overall effect is a rich red mud plaster. This to has been the scene in many films including Lawrence of Arabia.
We cross the river using stepping stones made from cement bags. When we get to the entrance there’s no one around to take our money, it costs 10dhm a person (£8), so we walk in anyway. There’s quite a few tourist here mostly Japanese and we hear a few English voices in between the chatter. Inside the Ksar vendors are selling the usual tourist tat that we’ve seen everywhere and they do their best to get us into their shops, but we’re having none of it today. We walk through the many streets and up to the top of the Ksar. At the top the view is amazing you can see for miles in all directions. The town below looks great with the mix of colours from the mud plaster, the snow on the mountains behind and the river flowing below, gorgeous. We spend an hour walking round the Ksar. The Ksar has also been the set of many films including The Gladiator.
We get some lunch and head back to the campsite. The wind has really picked up now and its bitterly cold and we’re really glad we didn’t cycle. The wind again is relentless all night, but we don’t hear any dogs or the call to prayer, so it’s a good night in all.
Saturday 2nd February
We leave Ait Ben H’addou to head to Marrakech. We drive through the N9 and over the Tizi n Tichka Pass which is a direct route between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. We have heard that the Tizi n Tichka pass has been closed for the past couple of days due to the snow fall, but we can’t find any information that’s it’s open again so we’ll have to see when we get there.
We stopped along the way at a small village to get some bread and some eggs. Keith gets out with the egg box and goes to the shop. There’s a little bit of confusion and Keith comes back to the van with the lad that owns the shop. With my little improved French I tell him we want to buy 12 eggs and 2 pieces of bread, Keith swears he told him that lol. He understands what we want, but he only sells sweets but if we give him 20dhm (£1.80) and our egg box he’ll get what we want and will be back in 5 minutes. Off he goes, across the street and up the alleyway out of sight leaving his shop unattended. Sure enough he returns 5 minutes later with the eggs, bread and 5dhm change, you’d be hard pressed to get that type of service anywhere else in the world. The Moroccans really can’t do enough to be helpful. We get to the gates for the pass and it’s open so we carry on.
I know I keep saying it but this drive was absolutely stunning. We headed up into the mountains taking in the many switch backs until we were at the top, it felt like we were at the top of the world. We stopped to have our lunch at the parking area at the top of the mountain where loads of families had got out their cars to have a quick play in the snow (which had turned to hard ice) most of them not really dressed for the weather, but their having fun. I got out for a few minutes and nearly slipped so got back in the van.
This road has probably came close to being one of the worst roads we’ve been on. The G-sensor on the dash camera must have gone off at least 6 times and I think we’re lucky the airbags didn’t dispatch. There are numerous parts of the road which are being repaired and in some cases rerouted around or through the fallen cliffs, but it’s being done the Moroccan way, start one bit and leave it in a worse condition than before they started and move on to the next bit. The road looks like bombs have exploded along the tarmac with deep potholes and most of the time we’re on the other side of the road to get past or fearing the car coming towards us hasn’t got enough road to move out of our way. This is also one of the busiest roads we’ve been on, we were constantly being tailed to move over or being overtaken by the convoy behind us, obviously snow and ice on the roads don’t deter the Moroccan drivers.
The drive was about 4 hours with our lunch stop and we must have seen every colour of the rainbow in the ever changing landscapes, from barren brown, golden sand, red, green and white mountains, it was just stunning. Some of the trees have blossom of white and pink and the silver bark of the almond trees makes everything look amazing, I just can’t find enough words to describe it, hopefully the photos will give you a glimpse of how beautiful this country really is.
We’re staying at a campsite 10km north of Marrakech, Camping Le Relais De Marrakesh which we find easy enough. It a nice site with a swimming pool and not so cheap licensed bar which doesn’t tempt us, of course it’s full of the French as usual.
We are still undecided if we want to venture into Marrakech, I’ve not felt at all well over the last 3 days so we decide if I’m no better in the morning we will move on. I’ve had pain in my ear and face again and it feels like I might be getting a cold, I think my speech is a little more slurred and my face is more crooked, Keith however disagrees with me and says things are improving. I’ve been taking ibuprofen for the past couple of days in the hope that things will improve.
Sunday 4 February
I had a good nights sleep Keith on the other hand says he heard the motorbikes tearing up the street until god know what time, the police sirens all night, the dogs barking, the cockerels calling at the crack of dawn and 2 calls to prayer so I guess he didn’t get any sleep then!
I’m feeling much better this morning but still feeling tired. We decide going to Marrakech might not be the best thing for me and Keith really didn’t want to go. So we’re heading east to Ouzoud.
The drive was great the roads were good and the snow topped mountains disappeared. We’re staying at Camping Zebra in Ouzoud with the hosts being a Dutch couple. It’s only a small site and we manage to get one of the last remaining places. The electricity is only 6amp but we take it anyway. The campsite is stunning over looking the valley below. The site itself has to be the best site we’ve been to, it has a restaurant which has a great feel to it, a seating area under the pergola which traditional Berber carpets as the side panels. The toilets have toilet paper and showers are huge and nicely decorated.
Ouzoud is famous for the Cascades De Ouzoud one of the tallest and most spectacular waterfalls in the country and it’s only 15 minutes walk from the campsite.
We get a machine and put one load of washing in 60 dhm (£5) one of the dearest washes, we really need to do our bedding but it won’t dry in time so we’ll leave that for tomorrow. The washing takes an hour so we take a walk down the hill towards the small town. Apart from Agadir this is one of the most touristy places we’ve been. The roads and pavements are great and look fairly new, the cafes are clean and bright but the coffee is twice the price than anywhere else we’ve been, but we sit and have a coffee for an hour or so anyway. We head back to the campsite because the clouds have got really dark and it looks like it might rain, but we manage to get the washing on the line for an hour before the rain starts. We get the heating on because the temperature has dropped to 3 degrees. The rain is relentless all night, but we do get a good nights sleep.
Monday 5 February
We’re woken just before 7am by the familiar sound of snow falling off the trees onto the roof of Eugene. I look out the window and everything is covered in snow, what happened to coming to Morocco to find the winter sun? The electricity at the campsite has been knocked off so our heating has gone off and it’s freezing.
Keith gets dressed and fills our big bucket with snow, Eugene needs a blady good wash and we’re not allowed to use the water so melted snow will have to do. The weather clears and it looks like it might be okay for us to go to the falls after all. The shower at the campsite was amazing, hot water neither of us wanted to get out, but the sign on the door reminds us that water is a precious commodity here and should be used wisely, errrr we’ve had rain nearly every day for the past 2 weeks!
Anyway we get dressed for winter and head down the road to the falls. We had expected to be accosted by the many tour guides we’ve read about, but we’re left to our own devices and head off along the path. Initially the path is paved although slippery because it’s wet then the paving stops and it muddy. It’s started to snow again but we’re not turning back. We walk for about 15 minutes when a local tells us the falls are down the path and he’ll show us, thank you but we’ll go ourselves. We head off down the muddy path which gets steeper and steeper and muddier. With my eye patched up and the slippery mud underfoot anyone would think I was 70 years old with small steps at a time and Keith holding on tight to my hand. The path then goes 3 ways we’ll go this way, big mistake we end up like mountain goats clinging onto the side of a very steep slippery muddy mountain side. We manage to get down to the water but it’s clear we’re not where any tourist should be and scramble over rocks and mud for about about an hour until we find the cafes which are all deserted obviously closed up for the winter with not a sole about, but we can still hear the water and follow, we’re not going back the way we’ve just come. We eventually find a cafe that’s open and the vendor is pleased to see us. The cafe overlooks the falls and cascades so we sit and order mint tea at an inflated price and sit and take it all in.
The falls and cascades are pretty spectacular, there’s a lot of water flowing but the pools are brown and muddy. We head further along the path eventually find ourselves at the foot of the falls. There are boats that will take you behind the falls if you want, one look at the boats (seats screwed to a wooden base tied to two large silver canisters with a guy rowing it) we decide against it. We cross the river using the concrete bagged stepping stones and a bridge that looks like it’s made of all the rubbish that’s collected from the water, plastic bottles, twigs, small planks and pieces of wood.
We head back up the side of the cliff this time using the paved pathway, which is 400 steps. We take our time because Keith hasn’t bought his inhaler, again! We stop at the various points to take photos and Keith spots the Barbery Apes in some trees further down the cliff side. Unfortunately or not they don’t venture out of the trees to try and get food from us thankfully.
We head back to the camp just before the rain sets in for the rest of the afternoon, it rains and it rains.
Tuesday 6 February
It has rained heavily all night and there doesn’t look like there’s any end to the masses of black clouds in the sky. The souk (market) is on this morning at a village 1.7km away, we need to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables so get dressed in our winter coats and umbrella and head off. Unfortunately we get there to find it’s cancelled because of the amount of rain that has fallen over the past few days, we get back to Eugene to dry off as best we can. After lunch there’s a break in the clouds so we head off out again, there’s a co-operative market in the town near the falls that is open today so we head down there. The co-operative market is in a dark dingy building, there’s fruit, vegetables and meat. The carcasses of the animals are hanging up with the head of the cow sitting on the counter. We just can’t get used to seeing this, Keith manages to get a sneaky photo with the GoPro. We head back down the path to the falls to see if we can get a better view of the Barbary Apes, but the weather has obviously got them hiding somewhere dry. We decide to sit and have a coffee along the pathway, but whilst we’re there the heavens open again, torrential rain sees everyone running for cover, so we have another coffee.
Wednesday 7 February
It’s stopped raining and the sun is shinning. We decide to leave and head to Azrou, it’s a long drive just over 4 hours.
We head off down the town and along the mountain road when we’re stopped by locals coming the other way who tell us the road is closed because of the snow so we’ll have to turn round and take another route.
We find another road which will eventually get us onto the main road. Initially the road is clear but as we climb further up the mountain over the next 2 hours the snow starts to appear, but the road is clear so that’s good. The scenery is stunning, there I go again, but it is. As we start to climb back down the snow disappears and it’s lush green, we pass the lake and it looks incredible. As we pass through each of the snow gates along the passes there’re all open, great. But we realise that we’re climbing again and the snow is getting thicker along the side of the road and now there’s ice on the road. Initially the ice wasn’t a problem we could drive round those parts. We came to a town and as usual every man and his donkey were walking in the middle of the road, we were coming to traffics lights which were green, no problem, but in front of us it was ice right across the street to the traffics lights. There was no way we were going to be able to stop and as we slowed down we could feel Eugene starting to slip and the wheels spinning. How we got through I don’t know because I had my eyes closed.
We eventually got to Azrou without any incidents which quite frankly was a blady miracle because at one time I did think we were skidding off the side of the mountain, I was literally shitting my self. As we drove the outskirts of the town our hearts sank when we saw how much snow there was up here, at least 3 feet in places. Roundabouts were just big circles of snow with the road outlined around.
Most of the road surface was clear but because of the snow in some parts it was only one lane for traffics coming both ways. It was now nearly 4pm and the ice was starting to appear and we were driving at least than 15 MP! But this didn’t stop the Moroccan drivers overtaking us. A snow plough pulled out in front of us, be our guest and it pushed the snow up onto the bank and scraped off the ice from the road.
We got to the campsite to find it that the driveway was under 3 feet of snow and it was closed, we frantically searched our camper app for another site which was just up the road only to find there was absolutely no way we could get the entrance even if it was open. There was no where to pull over because everyone’s driveway was under snow, the same for the Auberge’s. It was getting dark and Keith was getting more anxious the temperature had dropped to -3 the roads were now just ice. We had no option but to follow the road which neither of us wanted to do, but we couldn’t stop, we couldn’t turn around so we had to carry on. Eventually we came to the garage and the forecourt was clear so we pulled in to see if we could sleep on the forecourt for the night, but it was an absolute no from the owner. By this time I was almost in tears. We followed the road which again wound itself up the mountain we were now in the dark at -3 on icy roads and we didn’t have a clue where we were, where we were going and we were both ready to scream.
We eventually came to Ifrane and saw cars parked at the side of the road so we pulled in. The guardian came and said we could sleep here for 5dhm (40p), what a relief. Normally we would never sleep at the side of a busy road but on this occasion we have no other option. Keith’s only concern is that someone might skid along the road and sideswipe us, but luckily this didn’t happen.
We slept reasonably well considering the day we’d had.
Morocco is not giving us the winter sun that we had thought we’d be having. We naively thought we’d be sitting in the sun on the beach for 3 months, in reality we’ve sat on the beach for about 5 days lol.
a la perchoine
Shirena & Keith