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Week 6 in Morocco

Week 6 in Morocco

by Ruth Murdoch |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents

MAP

Week 6 had us driving 297kms from Mirleft beach, through Tiznit (we didn’t stop here this time) to Tafroute then on to Taraoudant, an area called the Anti-Atlas mountains of Morocco.  Click to enlarge map.

This week we tour through the anti-atlas mountains of Morocco, we visit our first souk accompanied by a local and learn how to exchange the Moroccan way.

Spectacular Souk

Day 36: Mirleft; Monday 4th March

We’re in for a special treat today. Our friendly Moroccan kidnapper, Mo, whisks us away to the Mirleft souk (weekly market) where we come across the unexpected…

For a small town Mirleft packs a punch when it comes to their souk, selling outstandingly fresh fruit and vegetables. You would have thought that after 36 days of travelling through this wonderful country we would have properly experienced a souk before, but we have either missed them by one day or turned up too late in the afternoon when most of the sellers had left. This was one of those occasions where the early bird catches the worm, or at least the freshest vegetables, fruit and herbs.

We are told that if the sellers arrive and set up, and the expected crowds don’t appear, they simply pack up and go back home. Luckily today, the buyers are out in force so the stall holders stayed put.

Set up in a dry dusty paddock, that is empty six out of seven days a week, is today’s home for this market. Only a fortunate few have makeshift tables to display their wares, the others just spread out a tarpaulin for their merchandise on top of the dirt.

Goodies Piled On Top Of Cloths For Sale In Souk

It’s mainly men who are the sellers here and the souk appears to be an opportunity to catch up with friends.  The men greet each other; they chat, laugh, drink tea, and eat while watching out for their next sale.  The Moroccan people are always smiling and seem genuinely happy which makes hanging out here a real pleasure.

Men Hanging Around Mirleft Souk Sharing Secrets

Date Seller Asks To Have His Picture Taken

The quality of fruit and vegetables was the best we have seen in Morocco, bar none.  The cauliflowers must have just been picked this morning, as they still looked vibrant and alive.  But the real treat today was finding some much-longed for green spinach, again freshly picked this morning.  What a treat!  Now I can, once again, have green smoothies for breakfast.

It’s not just seasonal local groceries that can be bought here, another special treat was finding pineapples (imported from the Canary Islands) and fresh ginger.  I paid three dirhams (€.30 or NZ$0.46) for the ginger and handed over a five dirham coin.  Instead of money I asked for the change to be given in fresh soft delicious dates.  The vendor laughed at me saying ‘that’s the Moroccan way’ and Mo commented that we’ve been in Morocco long enough now to think like a Moroccan and that we should be applying for our residency status.

The souks don’t just sell fruit and vegetables.  There is also fresh honey from cactus, clothing, tea pots, tools, car parts, jewellery, belts, leather items, household items like plastic buckets, couscous pots, electronics (used and old), fabrics, melhafa (the traditional daywear of the ladies), sweet roasted nuts, dried legumes and more.  We saw an old xbox and a Dell computer that must have been twenty or thirty years old. Goodness knows how long the vendor has been carrying this stuff around and who he expects will buy it (apart from a museum curator).

TIP:  If you’re in the market, buy a Berber necklace early in your travels and wear it.  That way you will not only have a great souvenir, but you will please the locals, have a conversation starter and a valid excuse to politely decline to buy another.  Everywhere you go, you will find people selling ‘genuine’ Berber jewellery and artefacts and they are clever and relentless in their efforts to sell to you.

TIP:  Be careful eating the honey from cactus on its own, as it’s very strong and burns in your throat.  The bees know you’ve eaten it and they follow you around which isn’t good when allergic to bee stings!

In 2018, just two days before the clocks were due to be turned back one hour at the end of daylight savings, the Morocco Government decreed that they were going to stay permanently on daylight savings time (GMT plus 1 hour).  This caused mass confusion because the announcement was ‘totally out of the blue’ and even mobile phones automatically reverted to the old standard time as they were programmed to do.  Appointments and flights were missed – chaos!

Mo told us that many of the people have not accepted this new time zone and still use the old system, which is currently one hour behind the official time used by the Government and Government departments, schools, hospitals, airports and the like.

Ah, that explains why our iPhones and computers showed one time and our GPS a different time.

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Carpenter Day

Day 37:  Mirleft; Tuesday 5th March

There’s excitement in the air today as we patiently waited for our local carpenter to turn up with the two new shelves we’d ordered.  These were installed under our bed where our Truma gas heater system is installed.  The vulnerable pipes, valves and hoses are now protected.

The carpenter made an excellent job and if you are wanting any work on your motorhome while travelling in Morocco you can expect craftsmanship quality.

Our Ikea wooden chopping board has been modified to securely sit over the sink, thus increasing our usable bench space.  There’s never enough bench space in a motorhome when one likes to cook and bake.

From the land of cheap labour, all this work costs us just 250 dirhams (€23 or NZ$38) including a 20 dirham tip.

Food, Wine & Great Company

We had new neighbours park beside us today.  Roger and his wife Andy are a friendly retired couple from Germany.  Roger was an interpreter for a submarine manufacturer and speaks fluent English, Spanish and Norwegian as well as his native tongue.  They had so many stories to tell from their interesting life, which included 12 years full-time on a yacht in the Caribbean.

Tonight as a special treat I made my “Australian Chicken and Date Tagine” with Couscous as a treat and thank you to Mo.  This dish is one of my all-time favourites and I was proud to be trying it out on a real Moroccan to check how it stacks up against the local dishes.  

You know how sometimes it’s those unexpected, impromptu events that turn out to be a real treat?   The dinner was washed down with Roger’s Sardinian wine (water for Mo) and the food receiving a standing ovation.  Indeed a night to remember.

Goats Eating Their Favourite Food – Argan Nuts

Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco  and Goats in Argan Trees

Day 38:  Tafraoute; Wednesday 6th March

We went from being kidnapped by a friendly Moroccan/Canadian for six days last week to being shown the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco and favourite haunts of our German friends, Roger and Andy for the next ten days. 

One of the touristy ‘must sees’ in Morocco is none other than the goats in argan trees.  We are lucky enough to see this sight in the anti-atlas mountains of Morocco.  The nutritious argan nuts and freshest leaves are out of their reach from ground level but the clever little beasts have learned how to climb the trees for a tasty snack.  Normally these are seen around Essaouira where enterprising locals have trained their goats to scale the branches and pose for photos in return for tourist’s coins.

Driving to Tafraoute we came across some self-taught goats in paddocks strewn with argan trees.  Unfortunately, by the time we found somewhere to park and walked back across the field, the shepherd called the goats away so our photos were a little average.  However, be sure to check in next week to see argan trees seemingly growing goats on their branches as they munch their way through the delicious argan nuts.

Stunning Scenery Photos in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco

Stunning Scenery Photos

Stunning Scenery Photos

The camper parking at Tafraoute (GPS coordinates 29.72197, -8.98352) is as picturesque as anything we’ve seen in our travels.  High mountains are all around us, lighting up red when the late setting sun kisses the rocks.   There must have been 200 motorhomes here, many of which are set up to stay for what looks like most of the winter. 

This camper parking area is quite unusual for Morocco, where proper campgrounds are the norm.  There can be up to 500 motorhomes here at the busy times, and this seems to support a lot of the local economy.  The cost to park is just 15 dirhams (€1.30 or NZ$2.28).  For such a handsome sum you can park anywhere you fancy, dump your rubbish and dispose of black water. 

If parking here for a while take note at the direction those who are well set up are facing and do likewise.  The wind can come in at night and you will want shelter from the sun’s daytime heat. 

Fresh bread and pastries are delivered fresh every morning around 7.30am by a man yelling ‘baguettes, pan(bread), patisseries’ at the top of his voice.  If you don’t want to get up, you can leave your money in a bag tied to your door handle.  The colour of the bag tied to the door handle indicates the order from the previous evening.  In our case yellow was for one loaf of bread.  Unfortunately, the loaf was half the size we were used to for our 2 dirhams. 

A water truck comes here daily and for 2.5 dirhams he will fill your water tank and every empty water containers you can find.  Or if you miss him, there are young boys collecting and returning 5-litre bottles of water.

Local women come around offering laundry services.

Local men offer to paint murals on your motorhome or make side covers for your awning.

A significant, low cost, motorhome repair and refitting industry has established itself in Tafraoute and a lot of motorhomers take advantage of this.

Tafraoute Camper Parking Area

Sunrise at Tafraoute Camper Parking Area

About Argan Oil 

Mo arrived later in the day to deliver us a very special bottle of argan oil.  He had ordered this for us a few days earlier, putting the local ladies to work on our order and then collected it from a friend living in a small village inland from Tiznit.  This precious ‘hand-pressed to order’ liquid, in a re-used one litre plastic bottle, had travelled many kilometres just to reach us and for 220 dirham (€20.25 or NZ$33.50) was a very reasonable price.  As a comparison this oil for consumption sells on Amazon for US$119.96 per litre!  

TIP:  Not all argan oil is equal and we are told that some dodgy people sell a blend of argan oil mixed with ‘other’ oil, instead of pure argan.  Buying from someone knocking on your motorhome door is considered particularly risky.  If you want the real stuff then ask a local for a recommendation and expect to wait for a day or two, or even three, for it to be specially made.

What does argan oil taste like?

As best I can describe it, this oil has a toasty, roasted nutty scent and flavour, much like sesame seed oil but not as strong and without the bitter after taste.  From experimenting it’s best added to dishes, both savoury and sweet.

How do you eat it?

Hmmm, we had to look it up.

One way is to blend it with ground almonds, honey and salt to make something called ‘Amlou’ which is like a dip or paste that you then spread on fresh Moroccan bread (khobuz).

You can also dip bread straight into the oil itself, although I found that a bit strong in flavour.

Apparently, it is awesome when added to tagines or other savory dishes but we haven’t tried that yet.

I have made date and walnut balls using argan oil and it was particularly delicious.

Why eat argan oil? 

It is believed to have anti-aging properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated and smooth.  The celebrities in American are said to be keeping the prices high with their demand for such products. 

Cosmetic Uses

I’ve also seen it being used as a conditioner in hair and have tried this twice without success.  My hair looks and feels greasy, so it doesn’t last long before I use regular conditioner for cleaner feeling hair.  I do however use it on my skin (face and hands) more successfully.  


Tandilt – A Town Built Under Suspended Rocks

Day 39:  Tafraoute; Thursday 7th March

Despite the offer of a water tanker, Roger had other plans for us.  Having been here before and stayed in the neighbouring camping ground, he made friends with the manager and used that very good relationship to gain free water for us all (with permission of course).  So, loaded up with every water container we could find, we jumped on our bikes and headed next door to fill up.

Some of the French motorhomers camped in the campground seemed to think that we were stealing water and looked concerned or upset.  One lady even approached me wagging her finger.  She spoke no English but understood the word ‘permission’ and sulked back into her home muttering (insert French accent here) permission.  The French seem particularly interested in other people’s business and are never slow to show their displeasure at something they are unhappy with.

We cycled into the neighbouring town of Tandilt today to see the famous imposing rock, called Napoleon’s Hat, a bunch of huge red rocks precariously perched overlooking the homes and buildings of this town.   One small earthquake, shock wave, or decent storm and it appears that this baby would come crashing down pretty quickly.

Can You Imagine Building A Town Under These Rocks?

On our way out to Tandilt we first stopped off to have a bite to eat from a local cafe called Espace Harbaz.  I ordered a beef taco which was regrettable as the meat was mainly gristle and later that night it came back up again.  We are told green tea or sage tea is good for ‘Moroccan belly’. 

When we arrived at the Cafe, Espace Harbaz, the lovely Anita, Gavin, Judy and Henry from the UK were there just finishing their meal.  We’d connected with Anita through the Motorhome Adventures Facebook page and realised we were all going to be in the same spot, so it was a good opportunity to meet up in person.   We also met Tim Rust and his wife Ali.  It’s so nice to put faces to names that are seen on Facebook, it makes the connection extra special.  

TIP: Social media is a great tool for meeting other people when you are travelling.  If you want that sort of contact then join some relevant Facebook groups or forums and start reading and posting.  You will often find people at the same spot as you and are happy to have a chat over a wine or three.

The footpaths here make me laugh, who decided it was a good idea to plant trees right in the middle?  Take a look at the photo below and tell me how would you walk on this footpath, let alone push a pram or wheelchair?  It’s no wonder that pedestrians mainly walk on the roads over here!

Tafraoute has some very cute shops and is apparently ‘the place’ to purchase babouche shoes.  ‘Babouche’ are brightly coloured traditional Berber handmade goat or sheep-leather shoes which are traditionally worn during certain ceremonies such as holy days or at weddings.  The yellow colour is worn by men and the red colour reserved for women. 

Babouche (Shoes) Anyone?

TIP:  Fillet steak in Morocco is far cheaper than in most other countries but you won’t often find it in the butcher’s display.  The price ranges around 120 – 150 dirhams per kilo (€11-13.75, NZD$18.20-22.80) so it is too valuable for most butchers to stock. However, many butchers will order it in for you to pick up the next day – provided you buy the whole fillet.

Roger and Andy keep their freezer filled with fillet steak to take back home as at €50 per kilo they feel it is virtually unaffordable in Germany.

Fresh Beef Eye Fillet

What to See and Do In Tafraoute

Day 40:  Tafraoute; Friday 8th March

I was laid low today recovering from my dose of Morocco belly, so I spent some time researching about the local area.

Tafraoute is a town in Tiznit Province, Souss-Massa region, Morocco, in the central part of the Anti-Atlas mountains. It had a population of 4,931 at the 2004 census, some fifteen years ago, and judging by what we saw the population has grown significantly.

For more information about this area, here is a great summary blog I found in my research which includes where to eat, which day the souk is on, and things to see and do in the region.  This is so well written that there’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel.


Is BYO Wine Okay In Morocco?

Day 41:  Taroudant; Saturday 9th March

Sadly it was time to leave Tafroute and keep heading inland towards the town of Taroudant that we’ve heard so much about.  The trip took 5¾ hours due to the distance, the windy roads, and a number of photo stops.  Ah, travelling with a keen amateur photographer can be slow going but oh the rewards are so worth it.  Check these out…

The Road Between Tafroute and Taroudant

The Scenery Between Tafroute and Taroudant

The reward for Betsy at the end of our day was a wash at the local Total Service Station carwash where for just 30 dirhams (€2.76 or NZ$4.57) plus ten dirham tip each, two men hand washed Betsy (and our bikes) from tip to tail and she was sparkling white again.

There is a brand-new camping ground, Grand Camping de Taroudant – 80 dirhams per night (€7.35 or NZ$12.15) plus 30 more for electricity built beside the Total Service Station (GPS coordinates 30.49734, -8.81879).  It was here that we stopped for the night.  The showers and toilets were shiny and new with hot water, ah bliss.

There is a restaurant adjoining the Station, which was welcome after such a long drive today.  We took our bottle of wine and ordered two pizzas.  I usually have very low expectations of restaurant purchased food but I have to say the pizzas here were great with lots of topping and large enough for two.  They were so good in fact that they had been scoffed before I thought about taking a photo!  Before the pizza arrived, we tucked into a Moroccan salad comprised of red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, green peppers and parsley.  Yummy.

TIP:  Ask permission before taking your own alcohol into a restaurant; some welcome you with your wine, some tolerate it and as we found out tonight some forbid it.  Or is this a case of asking for forgiveness rather than permission?  If your like this couple and fancy a wee drop with your dinner take it along and see if anyone says anything?

Roger, Yachty & Andy

Terrific Taroudant

Day 42: Taroudant; Sunday 10th March

We had just a short journey today into Taroudant where we parked literally just outside one of the gates of the old town. The camping ground was almost full, primarily with French vans that were once again set up for a long stay. And why wouldn’t you? This town has everything you need, including heat. It’s reportedly the warmest place in Morocco in the winter and I can tell you that it is bliss waking up on a winter’s morning to warm weather and sun.

The souk is vibrant, with people everywhere. The traffic is chaotic, the footpaths non-existent for the most part, and street vendors have set up anywhere they can. “But it’s only Sunday.” Roger tells us. “Just wait until you come in here tomorrow when the real traffic arrives.”

Roger and Andy have stayed in Taroudant many times and have established a routine for their visits. First, they make a beeline for the fresh juice man who sends a big wave and smile from about fifty metres away as he recognised his foreign friends. By the time we are seated on the bench behind him, he is already well on the way to freshly squeezing their grapefruit juice. We had orange juice and the following day tried a half and half mixture, which I can recommend. At 3 dirhams (€0.28, NZ$0.46) for a large glass of the freshest juice this has to be the best value drink around.

Then it was off to the tourist medina, followed by the Berber medina.

As soon as we stepped inside the medina we were greeted by a very well spoken Moroccan man who welcomed us to his country and enquired as to where we were all from. Roger has this down pat, “we are from Germany and have been here for nearly six months and this couple are from New Zealand, they’ve been travelling for 21 months and have visited 25 countries”, he says enthusiastically. He is always well received and a dialogue often ensues. Roger is very good at conversing with others, most understand him, others just nod and go on their way.

The town is very interesting; the mechanics workshops are small and dark, jammed packed to the ceiling with all manner of spare parts that may be needed one day. How they find anything is anyone’s guess.

Bab Lakhmiss Gate Into Taroudant

                                      Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice in Taroudant

Crowded And Cluttered Shops In The Medina

European Looking Butcher Shop in Tarodaunt

Our tourist guide, Roger, takes us to a European looking butcher, complete with red and white coloured tiles on the floor and a glass cabinet where the meat is chilled and beautifully displayed.  Inside this shop I’ve been teleported anywhere in the world, except Morocco!  Everything looks so inviting and I couldn’t resist purchasing some pre-spiced turkey mincemeat that was so scrummy I went back the following day for more.

The fruit and vegetables here are superb, very fresh and they even sold pawpaw, brussel sprouts, raspberries, pineapples, tiny lady finger type bananas (that are small and sweet) and other more exotic fruit.  The locally grown produce is very cheap but the imported products are still well priced. 

Roger and Andy have a small poodle-maltese mix dog called “Yatchty” who they call their ambassador.  People are constantly stopping and hoping to pat her which makes for slow walking through the town but we don’t mind because it gives us time to look at everything. 

There are terracotta sellers, musical instrument shops, second hand (or maybe third or fourth hand) furniture dealers, leather goods, and shoe salesmen.  Apart from the tourist souk, most of these shops are there for the locals not the tourists so walking around Taroudant doesn’t feel like a tourist destination.  The odd tourist sticks out like a sore thumb, as I am sure we do.

You’ve no doubt heard the term ‘it’s an assault on your senses’? Well Taroudant is that place!  Everywhere we look there’s so much for our eyes to see and brain to process. 

Our nose is filled with delicious smells coming from the herbs and spices, the roadside street food, and the incense sellers. 

Our ears take in the sounds of the horses clip-clopping along the cobblestone streets, the tooting of vehicles horns, the ringing of bicycle bells, the happy chatter from the children being released from school at lunchtime and the yelling from street vendors advertising their wares and low prices.  It’s all rather exciting and a little overwhelming at the same time. 

I feel like a kid in a candy shop, not sure where to look first and wanting to drink in every last bit, while dodging the traffic that could and does appear from any direction at anytime.

 

TIP:  If you’re going in to this old town, be sure to take a photo of the gate you enter because like most souks you can easily get lost.  You can then show this to  someone to get directions to direct a taxi.  Another idea is to save a pin in Google maps so you can find your back way out again, if Google maps plays the game.

The next part of the today’s routine is to find somewhere in the shade, out of the sun, and have a cup of Moroccan (typically mint) tea.  There is a square with cafes facing inwards where groups of men (where are the women?) are sitting around listening to storytellers.  The Berber language is largely unwritten and it’s at these events that I imagine the old men pass down the traditional stories of their ancestors.  

There are buskers who entertain for a few dirhams thrown their way and the busker of the day had to be the owner of a trained white dove sitting atop his turban while playing an instrument resembling a guitar.  Check out the look on the Berber’s face, it is priceless.

Busker With His Well-Trained Pet Dove

By now it was getting late in the day and our weary legs needed a rest so Roger thumbed the nearest horse and carriage which, for a negotiated twenty dirhams (€1.83 or NZ$3) took us on a fifteen minute ride to the camping ground.

We returned back to Betsy buzzing from all the sensory stimulation the old town of Taroudant provided us with and we know that we will be back here on future visits to Morocco.

Tired And Weary But Back In One Piece

Costs for Weeks 1 – 6

A low cost week, apart from groceries as we were cooking for three while hanging out with Mo most days.  We also indulged Roger’s love of eye fillet steak and splashed out on some for ourselves.  

Our running average cost of living for a week in Morocco is €220.50 (NZ$365 or £188).

We love to see comments on our blog as it keeps us motivated to keep writing.  Please say hi or leave a quick one line comment below, thanks.

Tune in next week for a pictorial blog as we drive through the High Atlas Mountains, stopping every few kilometres to take some of the best scenic photos of our trip so far!

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Fantastic Fes

Week 4

Week 1

Week 5

Week 2

Week 3

Week 5 in Morocco

Week 5 in Morocco

by Alan Gow  |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents

MAP

Week 5 had us driving from Guelmim, through to Sidi Ifni then on to Mirleft Beach. Click to enlarge map.

This week, we are kidnapped by a friendly local and not allowed to leave until we had seen all the unforgettable sights around Mirleft.

Day 29: Sidi Ifni;  Monday 25 Feb 

We left the traditional town of Guelmim today after spending three nights parked up on vacant wasteland outside the Marjane supermarket  (GPS 28.96757, -10.03258).  The fuel station on site has reasonable prices and accepts credits cards so we replenished Betsy’s depleted diesel tank before heading west.

 

TIP: A lot of petrol stations do not take cards so if you are expecting to pay for diesel or petrol with a credit card then ask the attendant if they will accept that for payment.  If you are not sure that they understand you or are not sure they are answering you correctly then keep asking until you are sure.  Maybe ask to see the actual payment terminal before allowing them to fill you up.

 

Something interesting that we noted in Guelmim was a number of what you could call unofficial petrol stations because they appeared to be normal shops until you looked more closely.  We parked outside one by mistake one afternoon while checking our directions and witnessed a succession of cars and motorscooters pulling up and being served using funnels and five litre plastic water bottles which had been filled with fuel from the large grey jerry cans.  We found out later that this fuel comes from the Western Sahara region which has little or no VAT so it sells for about 10% – 20% less than the usual price.  The downside is that it tends to be lower quality and can be dirty so it isn’t an option for Betsy’s delicate modern engine.

A Roadside Petrol Station in Guelmim Selling Cheap Untaxed Fuel

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After four weeks in the Moroccan interior, the siren call of the sea was beckoning to us and we had to heed that call.  So, our next destination was Sidi Ifni, a seaside town not far from Guelmim.

We usually cross check our Garmin 760 LDT camper GPS (Emily) directions with Google Maps especially here in Morocco where both forms of electronic maps have had their issues with accuracy and being up to date.  Emily suggested taking the N12 with a drive of about an hour while Google Maps told us to drive about 88km for two hours via the minor P1305 road.  From experience, we knew the “P” roads might be barely one lane wide and the fact that Google said it would take two hours for a relatively short stretch wasn’t encouraging.  We chose to take Emily’s recommendation, which was the right one today.  There were a lot of road works, with some horribly rough short diversions, however long stretches of the road had been rebuilt and resealed and I reckon within 6 months or so this road should be excellent.  There was a short stretch where the N12 was blocked off, with a diversion via a small local road.  I believe that Google knew about the road closure, but not the diversion, which was why it wanted to take us on the torturous minor roads.  Emily, on the other hand was blithely unaware of any roadworks and just took us by the most direct route. It could have gone wrong for us but in this case, we won and found the diversion around the road closure.

Roadworks on the N12 – From our Dashcam

Having a good tyre pressure monitor is great for your safety and peace of mind when driving on these roads.  We have met many motorhomers who have experienced tyres blowing out, which are often the end result of small punctures not being noticed in time.  Our TPMS from TyrePal wasn’t the cheapest on the market but is one of the only ones rated for the high pressures that motorhome tyres run at, and constantly displays the actual pressure and temperature for each tyre.  An alert about possible leaks means that you can reinflate or repair the tyre, or change the wheel before the tyre becomes damaged or blows out on a tight steep Moroccan hairpin bend.

Our Tyre Pressure Monitor shows the real-time tyre pressures and temperatures

Once again the Moroccan terrain changed.  The countryside flattened out with somewhat smaller mountain ranges to what we have become accustomed to and the new obvious visual features are the frequent argan nut trees and the proliferation of prickly pear cactus bushes.  These appeared to have been deliberately planted, probably to harvest the fruit although prickly pear oil production (for cosmetics), is a growing industry which could be driving the mass planting.

As we pulled into Sid Ifni, there was a heavy but dry mist in the air, no doubt originating from the angry Atlantic Ocean breakers pounding the sandy beach beside the Sidi Ifni Camping  (GPS 29.38466, -10.17324).

Jumping out of Betsy, we tasted and smelt the sea in the air and immediately felt relaxed and at home.

Sidi Ifni is one of the last parts of Morocco to be given independence from Spain and remained a colony until 1969 – thirteen years behind the rest of the country. Many of the buildings show a strong Spanish influence and the pace of life is slow here with an economy built around fishing and tourism.  Visitors flock here to enjoy the mild climate, the paragliding and the surfing.  We missed the Sunday souk unfortunately which is apparently well worth planning your visit around.

Sidi Ifni Camping is one of several camp grounds in the town and 80 dirhams per night includes power, hot showers and a reasonably good WiFi signal (we were parked close to the office though).  The showers were nice and hot in the early evening but not so good late at night. Looking around, it appeared that most of our fellow campers are settled in here for weeks, if not months.  Most are from France who are down here for the whole winter – and who would blame them when you compare the weather here to anywhere in France!

Although you are given a three month entry permit when arriving in Morocco, it is apparently relatively easy to get this extended to six months, which is what most people seem to do, or alternatively you can get a new entry permit by taking the ferry back to Spain, then returning straight back to Morocco again.  There seems to be some conflicting information about how to get the original permit extended however for people from visa exempt countries, which includes EU, NZ, Australia, USA and Canada, this should be relatively easy and visiting a local police station would be the starting point.

In the afternoon we cycled up the steep hill to the shops to buy that wonderful round fluffy Moroccan white bread called khobuz for 2 dirham (€0.18 or NZ$0.31.  “Deux pain s’il vous plait” normally gets the desired result but for those non-French speakers just say “der pan seal voo play” and you should be right.  That evening we cooked our first goat tagine using some fresh goat meat bought from a roadside stall.  We are really getting the hang of these tagine things and the wonderful Ras el Hanout we found in Erg Chebbi gives a totally authentic flavour.  We don’t have a tagine pot to cook in but a large saucepan does the trick well enough.

Days 30: Sidi Ifni;  Tuesday 26 Feb & Day 31: Sidi Ifni; Wednesday 27 Feb

Morocco is a great place to save up those little jobs that can be expensive in mainland Europe.  We had some pillowcases that needed cutting and hemming and my trusty High Sierra backpack, which has served me well for over twenty years needed some stitching reinforced.  We were directed to a ‘taileur’ who for the paltry sum of 30 dirham (€2.77, NZ$4.60) did everything we needed on his old but sturdy sewing machine. 

Sidi Ifni Tailer

Back in New Zealand, a great easy meal is a roast chicken scoffed down with fresh bread and a salad. Along the strips of shops and restaurants in most towns here we can usually find at least one café selling freshly spit roasted chickens.  The going price in Morocco seems to be around 85 dirhams (€7.90, NZ$13) for a whole chicken or 45dh for ‘un demi poulet’ (a half chicken).  The succulent fragrant roast chook, fresh tomato, lettuce, home made beetroot and mayonnaise, encased in still warm Moroccan bread, khobuz, makes an awesome lunch.

As we wandered the shops we spotted a butcher specialising in dromadrie, or camel meat.  Huge haunches of camel hung from hooks.  A camel hump split down the middle, which is almost entirely fat, looked very unappetising but the meat being cut up by the butcher was lean and looked very fresh.  Camel meat is reportedly cholesterol free with no fat running through it.

Camel is mainly eaten in the southern Saharan regions of Morocco and in keeping with our plans to sample local foods, we had planned on trying this at a café or restaurant while we were in the area.  However, the meat looked so good that we bought some to cook up for a camel tagine.  It was funny to us that the butcher would not sell us just the meat – if it was going in a tagine then we had to have a separate chunk of camel fat also.

Camel Meat in the Butcher Stall

Day 32: Mirleft;  Thursday 28 Feb 

As we headed north up the R109 and passed through the small town of Mirleft, little did we know that this was to become our home for the next week due to being kidnapped and kept in Mirleft by our local friend.  As we passed Mirleft Beach, we spotted a group of motorhomes parked near the sea and turned off to investigate.  The great thing about being in a motorhome is being able to take advantage of a nice-looking parking area so we decided to stay the night and found a small possie facing the beach.

TIP: The Atlantic ocean along here may look inviting on a warm winter day but it is actually damn cold and pretty rough.  As I found out.  Enter at your own risk!

When we heard some voices speaking English outside our motorhome I popped out to investigate because down here, you just don’t get to talk with many people who speak English well.  So you look for opportunities whenever they arise.  Mostafa (Mo), a Moroccan born Canadian, who has a house in Mirleft, was kindly offering to take a German/Chinese couple, Toby and Alice (travelling on bicycles, into town) to do some shopping.   A few minutes later and we were both invited to join them. 

“Have you ever seen bread cooked on stones? It’s called Tafranot”, asked Mo. Well we have now.  Mo directed us into an old bakery to peer into an ancient bread oven containing embers on the left and a base of small pebbles. The soft flat, round bread dough was pushed onto the bed of stones with some fresh twigs, and less than 10 minutes later we were scoffing warm bread. The bread was still quite thin, almost burnt in places and with several stones still stuck on one side. The baker picked off the stones, wrapped it in paper and handed it to us in return for 3.5 dirhams (€0.32 or NZ$0.53) – well worth the money just to watch the process.  The bread was delicious, very crusty and with the taste of the wood smoke. ‘Best eaten warm with olive oil, or honey’ said Mostafa.

Tafranot Bread in the Oven

Tafranot Bread, Complete with Stones

Along in the market square, the fish were on display for sale.  “The fishermen have been coming in with their catch. They fish all day then sell their harvest at the market in the evening”, explains Mo. 

It all looked very fresh and for a few dirhams you can have it cleaned and cooked by one of the restaurants around the square.

Mo showed us Mirleft’s other two beaches and his house which he has been renovating so he and his Canadian wife can live six months in Morocco and six months in Canada.  Right now, it is about minus 14C where Mo lives in Canada so we can understand why he would rather be in Morocco.

Mo was very interested in how we were able to buy a French registered motorhome in Europe without being EU residents and we explained how this was possible using the organisation that we used.  There were a lot of advantages in buying a French registered vehicle and we explain everything in this article.

We invited Mo to join us for some supper while he gave us an impromptu Moroccan history lesson. 

Morocco was a French/Spanish protectorate (colony) from 1912 – 1956 and the border between the two zones ran through Mirleft.  The French border fort is still visible above the hills and we agreed to visit this with him another day.  It was already looking as if our stay in Mirleft was going to be longer than we anticipated but we have learned to go with the flow and having a local willing to show us around his home turf was an opportunity not to be missed. 

Mo was a font of knowledge including the origin of the name Gibraltar, which comes from Jabal Ṭāriq (literally ‘Mount Tarik’) named after the Berber general Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād, who captured the peninsular in 711, heralding the start of an astonishing 700 year occupation of much of Spain by the Moors.  Ṭāriq didn’t get to enjoy his successes for long though as he was recalled in 714 allegedly for misappropriation of funds and died in obscurity in 720.  We also learned how Moroccans were introduced to chocolate by American soldiers who landed near here close to Agadir during the second world war before helping to push the Rommel’s German army out of the Middle East.

Day 33: Mirleft;  Friday 1 Mar

Our one night stop is turning into another night, and then another as our friendly captor, Mo had more he wanted to show us.  Luckily we aren’t in any hurry. 

After bringing us fresh Moroccan pancakes for breakfast, then taking us for the best cous cous in town, we were in for another treat..Astonished that we’d missed it, Mo drove us to Legzira Beach, 30km back towards Sidi Ifni.  It’s great to meet a local who is so passionate about his surroundings and we went with the flow.

Legzira Beach is famous for the arches eroded into the spurs of rock reaching into the sea.  Unfortunately, the most picturesque of these collapsed a couple of years ago and the sea is rapidly reclaiming the fallen material.  There is a theory that the collapse was initiated by the heavy equipment and loud sounds associated with an airline commercial being made here, as it fell just ten days later.  The remaining arch is still spectacular though and reminded us of Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel region of NZ.  The high cliffs and strong thermal updrafts make this a popular destination for paragliders and a constant progression of aerialists landed on the beach around us.

The Famous Legzira Arch

The  Remaining Arch Photographed from the Collapsed Arch

After a great wander up the beach and under the arch, we returned to the inevitable collection of cafes and tourist traps for some genuine Moroccan tea at Mo’s friend’s cafe.  Mo demonstrated the rather complex, almost ceremonial process of tea making.  Nothing in Morocco is rushed, and tea making is no exception.  The green tea leaves are first steeped in a small amount of water, which is then poured out (and may be discarded as this draws out the bitterness).  More water is then added with a few sprigs of fresh mint and the tea is then poured back and forth from the tea pot held high, to the glass and back again until a froth develops on the surface. Some sugar may or may not be added according to taste and some of the bitter first tea may also be returned to the mix.

Mo Makes us Tea

Legzira Aerialists

One of the attractions here is a tame juvenile hawk that was electrocuted and after being nursed back to health he couldn’t fly.  He happily sits on it’s perch, eating only chicken, watches the tourists go by and will step onto an arm (protected by clothing) pressed up to his legs.  

Friendly Local Hawk

Day 34: Mirleft;  Saturday 2 Mar

The road leading down to Mirleft Beach passes alongside a dry riverbed with cultivated fields spread out alongside the narrow flood plain.  Prickly pear bushes form a picturesque foreground to the spire of the mosque minaret. The fields are mostly used for cultivating animal feed and several groups of locals were either turning over the earth or harvesting the crop using a sharp sickle to slice the plants off very close to the ground. 

The farmers were happy to stop for a break while I attempted to converse with them in my pidgin French and we had a good laugh trying to make ourselves understood.  

Berber Farmer Posing with his Donkey

View up to the Mosque

Today we are still held captive by the lovely Mo who as promised drove us to visit the old French Upper Fort overlooking Mirleft.

The atrociously bumpy dirt and clay road up to the site is not signposted and certainly not suitable for a motorhome.  Completed by the French military in 1935, the fort is now decaying but with the aid of a local guide Youssef, another friend of Mo’s, we are able to get a great insight into how the fort was laid out and how military life must have been like in this far outpost of French influence.  The fort originally had a guard/watch tower at each corner and was divided into areas for the horses, the common soldiers, the officers and the commander.  The size and quality of the rooms increasing with each level of rank. Up to two hundred men once manned the fort which now supports just a population of inquisitive desert squirrels.

French “Upper Fort” at Mirleft

Panoramic View Through the Ruined Walls of the Fort

After our time at the Upper Fort, we indulged in a couples massage at the local Haman (bathes) and Spa.  ‘Le Jardin d’Orient’ is modern, clean and very reasonably priced.  We enjoyed a 60 minute massage for just 200 dirhams (€20) each.  This was a very rare treat for us.

Day 35: Mirleft;  Sunday 3 Mar

After seeing the main sights of Mirleft, it was time for a quiet day with the highlight being a visit from a local carpenter (another of Mo’s friends), who agreed that for 230 dirhams (€21.30, NZ$35) he would build two lightweight shelves under our bed and modify our chopping board so it could sit over the sink.   Another good job to get ticked off in this low-cost country.

It would have been so easy to drive right past this area without being aware of its unique history and charm.  We will always be grateful to Mo, who kindly held us captive, while sharing his home, his knowledge, and his passion for Mirleft and its surrounding areas.


Costs for Weeks 1 – 5

 We had a bit of a blow out in costs this week (by Morocco standards) as we needed some parts for Betsy and indulged in a massage.  Without these extras, our costs for a fantastic week would have been just  €155.   

We love to see comments on our blog as it keeps us motivated to keep writing.  Please say hi or leave a quick one line comment below, thanks.

Next week we visit a local souk and stay in what has to be one of the most spectacular motorhome stopping places you can imagine. 

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Week 4

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Eight Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Visit Morocco

Eight Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Visit Morocco

by Ruth Murdoch  |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

When planning our travels to Morocco here’s a list of things we were told:

You don’t want to go there?
It’s dangerous
Didn’t you hear about those murders?
The people are African!
It is a third world country
Is it safe going there?
The roads and drivers are bad
Your life could be in danger

I could go on and on about all the reasons why others told us why we shouldn’t visit Morocco and here are my reasons why I believe you shouldn’t visit Morocco.

1. You enjoy the bitterly cold, often snowy, climate of Europe in winter

2. You don’t like stunning scenery

3. Understanding a new culture is not a biggie for you

4. It’s not like home and you will be taken out of your comfort zone

5. They eat different food there and you can’t find fish and chips

6. Learning about history is boring
7. Meeting friendly interesting people doesn’t appeal to you

8. You like spending your hard earned money in overpriced countries!

 

So for all those reasons, I think you should not visit Morocco!

After just five weeks we’ve fallen in love with this new country. 

Yes Morocco is in Africa, yes the roads are bad in places, yes some of the drivers are bad (unlike in our country, right?) and no we haven’t been able to find fish and chips.  And Yes we were taken hostage by a local Moroccan man for six days!

Here’s our highlights in picture form so far…

#1 The Sahara Desert

#2 The Inland Gorges

#3 The Variations In Scenery

#4 The Interesting Medinas

#5 The friendly people 

For more information to convince you why you should visit Morocco have a read of these related posts below.

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Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 4 in Morocco

Week 4 in Morocco

by Ruth Murdoch  |  February 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents

MAP

Week 4 had us driving from Foum Zguid, through Tata, to Icht and finally arriving in Guelmim, a distance of 424 kms.  Click to enlarge map.

This week, discover the roads less travelled through some of Morocco’s back country and check out the unforgettable scenery as it changes regularly throughout our journey.

 

Day 22: Foum Zguid; Monday 18th Feb

We ventured out today along a ‘local’ Moroccan road with some trepidation.  A recently purchased English map book of Morocco gives us some clues about what the roads ahead might be like.  The options are yellow roads (motorways), red roads (national highways), green roads (regional highways), light yellow (local) roads or white tracks and paths.  Having already experienced tracks in Erg Chebbi I think we’ll give those a miss wherever we can.  Unfortunately, the map doesn’t go into enough detail to tell you whether the minor roads are sealed or a piste  (unsealed) road so you really just have to make the best guess you can.

The stretch of local road between Tazenakht and Foum Zquid was the first long section of local road that we have set out upon.

TIP: Make sure you purchase a recent map as a backup to electronic options such as your GPS or Maps.me.  The recommended map is the Michelin Morocco National Map 742 and you can find the most recent version on Amazon using this link.  https://amzn.to/2C181i5.
We didn’t buy one before we arrived then had trouble finding anything worth having that was current.  We eventually found a 2015 edition of a Road Guide to Morocco that was a lot more expensive and not as good as the Michelin Map.   We also bought the latest electronic maps for our Garmin 760 LDT.  These weren’t cheap at nearly 75 pounds however we much prefer ease and convenience of navigating with the Garmin compared with maps.me or Google Maps and when the cost was spread out over all of the days you may spend in Morocco, it really is insignificant.  A micro SD card you can plug into your Garmin can be found on Amazon here (https://amzn.to/2Uf40xv)

The almost complete lack of any other cars is somewhat of a give away that we are no longer on the usual tourist route.  We almost hold our breath as we turn off from the red R108 to the yellow R111.  The road surpassed our expectations and while still being disconcertingly narrow in places and exhibiting a number of potholes and crumbling verges, it was surprisingly kind to us and the traffic non-existent.  We passed through uneventfully and unscathed, phew!

We rolled into the Foum Zguid ‘Camping La Palmeraie” camping ground (GPS coordinates 30.0870 -6.8828) at about 3pm, eager to experience the family hospitality that reviewers on the “Park 4 Night” App raved about.  We weren’t disappointed and before long Rashid, the owner, arrived greeting Alan with a handshake and me with a double hug (both sides).  Rashid wanted to make us his special chicken tagine for dinner but we already had dinner sorted, and suggested that we will try one tomorrow perhaps.  He has a garden, where the vegetables that go into his cooking are grown and offered for us to help ourselves.  I just didn’t feel it was right to do so, as the locals have very little.  Vegetables are so in-expensive here that we can buy what we need from virtually any local town we pass through.

A word of caution, do not drink the water from the camping ground as with a lot of the tap water around here, it may be ‘potable’, which means safe to drink, but it certainly didn’t taste good.

Alan had a rare treat of being allowed into Rashid’s kitchen to watch him prepare chicken tagines for the other campers this evening.  The hygiene standards leave a lot to be desired but at least we know everything will be cooking for quite a while so any bugs will be well done along with the meat.

Cooking Facilities In Camping Ground

Day 23: Foum Zguid; Tuesday 19th Feb

Today was spring cleaning day for Betsy; after being in Morocco for a few weeks, and especially out in the desert, there’s dust and sand in every nook and cranny and a fine layer on every surface.  After several hours of hard slog, the inside looks shiny and new again, and while it will need to be cleaned again this might help to keep my asthma at bay.

Rashid was very friendly and brought all of the campers two small loaves of hot Moroccan bread every morning which is a lovely treat.

Have we mentioned before that virtually every other motorhome you see in Morocco is French and that very few French speak English?  Well, this certainly is the case so we were happy to see a German motorhome pull up with a young couple, Anna and Miko.  We were grateful for the opportunity to converse with other people willing and able to speak English.

Tonight we tucked into Rashid’s special goat tagine at 150 dirhams (€15 or $NZD23) and I was rather impressed with the taste of goat.  We will definitely have that again but next time, we will be cooking it ourselves.

Yummy Goat Tagine

When in Morocco be prepared to be asked for all manner of things.  So far we’ve been asked for aspirin, tissues, t-shirts, shoes, pants, bonbons (sweets), money and wine.  I wonder what will be next?  (Spoiler for next week, beer!)

Tip: Consider bringing along some low-cost wine that you don’t mind giving away.  Although you can always say ‘no’ you do sometimes form a sort of relationship with the locals when you spend time with them and having a ‘gift’ bottle or two on board can help preserve your limited stocks of your favourite tipple and make you out to be the good guys.  

Day 24: Tata; Wednesday 20th Feb

The N2 National Highway to Tata was very quiet.  We had just one car pass us on the whole 140km stretch.  It’s strange that while the landscape on one hand appears bleak and barren, it is also beautiful and constantly changing as we travel through it.  Alan just had to pull over a few times and take some more photos of rocks, sand, and mountains.

Stunning Desert Landscapes

A Berber Home In The Middle of Nowhere

Camping Hyatt, Tata (GPS coordinates 29.73861, -7.97786) has a picturesque location beside a river, and is an easy bike ride or walk into the town.  Alternatively, there is a municipal camping ground right in town which looked adequate but we preferred the extra space, tranquility, and water views of Camping Hyatt.

Although Tata is a reasonably sized town, if you expected to find a decent sized supermarket, you would be sorely disappointed.  Instead, there are lots of small shops which seems to have their own niche items. We went to four different shops to buy typical grocery items that we’d expect to pick up from just one supermarket.  Not in Tata, but all part of the experience and the fun with plenty of time on our hands.

Alan Completing His Supermarket Shopping

Purchasing fresh vegetables in Morocco is an education in itself.  You collect a bucket, walk around and place the goodies in your bucket, then take it to the greengrocer for him to price.  He takes out anything that has its own higher pricing, in our case strawberries and avocado, then weighs everything else which shares the one price.

A great find was a small specialist spice shop.  Our ground coriander stocks were down to zero and we hadn’t been able to find it anywhere, except now, here in Tata.  We were also out of ground nutmeg (I know, a complete disaster for any motorhomer) and we were disappointed to see that he only had whole nutmegs. Our disappointment turned in amazement as he whizzed up the nutmegs in his industrial looking grinder in no time at all.  We ended up with rather more spices than we expected to buy but happy to have had another new Moroccan experience.

Morocco is the original home of spices.  Leave yours behind when you visit here as there is everything you’ll need, and more.  Make sure you purchase some Ras El Hanout, which is a blend of anywhere between 5 and 45 different spices!  Everyone has their own recipe and you won’t be disappointed as they are all delicious.  My favourite is a 44 spice mix we purchased in Erg Chebbi.

Bulk Bins House Dried Fruit, Grains, & Spices

Day 25: Tata; Thursday 21 Feb

Today was a lazy day, chatting with Peter and Carmel, our English camping neighbours and fellow intrepid Morocco adventurers.  Swapping stories and experiences is always entertaining and this took most of the day.  They had come from the west coast where we are headed, and they were going to where we had been so we could exchange information about what to see, and where to go and stay.

We were soon blessed with lovely German neighbours on the other side of us and Helga speaks good English.  We shared stories and discovered we are likely to be visiting Poland at the same time later this year so make plans to stay in touch.

To the right of the camping ground was an old, almost abandoned looking settlement built on top of a hill which looked interesting.   We took off on bikes to explore however after cycling up a rough track and through the walls, we soon realised that there were people living here and it wasn’t really appropriate for tourists to be wandering around wielding their cameras.  As is typical of many old towns, the vacant buildings are left to decay into ruins while newer ones sprout up on any spare land.  It is often hard to tell what is abandoned and what is occupied!  The people still greeted us with warm smiles and a polite bonjour but we didn’t want to intrude further and left soon after.

We always like to taste the local food and had to try what looked, and tasted like donuts being deep fried by a street vendor in a huge wok of smoking oil.  In fact, I’d call them donuts for lack of another name, except they’re called Sfenj.  I came across a recipe (below) if you’d like to try to make them for yourself.  Sfenj is an unsweetened, airy and fluffy donut.  It is chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  It has an interesting yeasty and delicate taste and is unsweetened so can be eaten with savoury or sweets. There is usually a big bowl of sugar beside the frying wok so those with a sweet tooth can dip them in for extra sugar hit.

Try These For An Occasional Treat Or Come To Morocco And Buy One From This Chap


Day 26: Icht;  Friday 22 Feb

Driving from Tata to Icht the roads were empty of any traffic to speak of and the landscape stoney, harsh, dry, and brown.  Grass just doesn’t exist in such barren countryside and nothing on legs seems able to survive except the odd donkey picking away at withered up weeds and thorns.  The few towns or villages we came across had only a handful of people wandering around.  As usual, some school children gave us big smiles and energetic waves and got excited when we gave them a big two-handed wave back.

The mountains here have changed appearance from those nearer the Sahara. They are devoid of any vegetation or trees.  The only thing we see is rocks and more rocks in different shades of browns with a spattering of hardy straggly trees and bushes.  Occasionally we spot an oasis where the groundwater has ventured close enough to the surface to be exploited by a patch of green palm trees, possibly date palms but it’s hard to tell because apparently we’re out of season for dates (try October).

The camping ground that welcomed us this evening was Camping Borj Biramane, Icht (GPS Coordinates 29.05974, -8.85385).  It’s one of the better camping grounds we have been at, due to actually having toilet paper, soap and even a hand towel to dry hands!  This is the FIRST time in Morocco to come across all three in the one location, ah bliss.  Plus their showers are hot with a hanging shower rose, double bliss!

Alan cycled into the small township of Icht with his camera to capture some of the local images then rose early the next morning to catch the desert scene at first light.  Once again, Morocco delights with it own particular brand of simple beauty.

TIP: Bring with you a good quality lip moisturiser and a skin moisturiser because the dry air can play havoc with your skin.

TOP TIP: Make sure you wear footwear at all times as picking up a thorn in your foot can hurt for days, as I can testify to!

We were told (and I’ve since verified it as being true) that you can get rabies from cats, (albeit this is very uncommon) and given I like to feed and pat them, I am devastated to learn this. It was reported to us that an English lady died of rabies caught from a cat and this could result from a scratch, bite or even a lick! Cats are now sadly off limits to us. :-(
. It is recommended to have a rabies vaccination before coming to Morocco but even with that in your system, you still need to have at least two additional injections if you think you have been exposed to the disease.

Not To Be Trusted (sadly)

A friendly local guide knocked on our door to offer a two and a half hour walking tour, for 30 dirhams (€3 or NZ$4.60), to visit the local village, the mosque and museum and see the caves where the villages would hide out in times of war.  We declined this time but have penciled it in for when we return to Morocco.

Day 27: Guelmim;  Saturday 23 Feb & Day 28: Sunday 24 Feb

The first part of the N12 road from Icht to Guelmim hardly qualifies as a National Highway and is a narrow one-lane tar sealed road with no shoulder to speak of. The tarseal is oftentimes broken away at the side, with some nasty looking drop-offs.  The traffic here was heavier and really required both passing cars to plonk one tyre off the road and into the loose stones.  The local drivers appeared to play chicken with foreign vehicles expecting they will be the first to cave in and move over to protect their vehicle. And they’re right. Betsy is our home and sustaining any damage would be a significant blow to our travels.  We’re just grateful that Betsy has new tyres that can cope okay with the rough sides and our tyre pressure warning gauge gives us some reassurances.

We had been advised to keep our wing mirror folded in on narrow, windy roads to protect it from being damaged by on-coming traffic.  This was the first time we heeded that advice as we didn’t want to lose our wing mirror as happened to some friends of ours the week before (thanks to a truck not keeping to his side of the road).

This road would have to be one of the least impressive that we’ve traveled on, however it’s still passable and can be navigated at a reasonable pace, so don’t avoid it.  I don’t think there are many alternatives anyway, lol.

To be fair to Morocco the majority of roads we’ve encountered have been better than expected.  Roadworks are everywhere and it’s easy to see they are trying their best to improve the state of the roads Morocco wide.

Our free stopping point tonight in Guelmim was outside the Marjane Supermarket (GPS coordinates 28.96757, -10.03258). The actual parking area is nothing more than gravel and wasteland but has the benefit of being near a fairly new shopping centre which mainly houses a large supermarket jammed packed with everything one has been dreaming about but couldn’t previously find, e.g. ice creams.

The majority of motorhomes around us tonight are French.  Did we tell you that they travel in groups or packs of four or five vans?  Safety in numbers I guess but at no time have we feel unsafe.  That being said we are employing the usual safety precautions, the main one being to stay at camping grounds.  When there is an opportunity for wild camping we play it safe and follow our rules.

We sat here for a couple of days catching up on administrative paperwork and emails, so I won’t bore you with the details.

TIP: Make sure you don’t park on the sealed carpark here overnight or you may be asked to move.  Be warned that children come around looking for food or money from the motorhomers but they didn’t show any concerning behaviour.

One of the highlights of the week was the opportunity to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the very traditional feeling Guelmim town centre.  Modern cars jostled for space on the narrow roads with donkeys and carts piled high carrying all types of fruit and veges, or second, third or even fourth hand bits and pieces of every imaginable household items.  Those not fortunate enough to have a donkey had to push their carts around by hand and those without carts just sat on the footpath to sell whatever they had to offer. 

The moving flashes of bright colour were the local women wearing the traditional melhafa outfits which are prevalent in the southern Moroccan and Western Sahara regions.  The gorgeous colours are a refreshing change from the drabber outfits of the eastern and northern areas and it seemed as if every woman was wearing different colours or patterns.  


Costs for Weeks 1 – 4

The costs for week four represent the quiet week we’ve had, but don’t worry as we make up for it in week 5!

We love to see comments on our blog as it keeps us motivated to keep writing.  Please say hi or leave a quick one line comment below, thanks.

Join us next week when we meet a local Moroccan Man who takes us under his wing and shows us another side of Morocco.

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Fantastic Fes

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

How Finland Reduced Our Gas Consumption Part 2

How Finland Reduced Our Gas Consumption Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series LPG

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here How Finland Reduced Our Gas Consumption Part 1.

We limped on through Finland very mindful by now of our dwindling gas levels.  Anything and everything possible is being considered to make this last bottle see out the distance.  We just hope we don’t run out of gas before we run out of country.  Then there’s the looming thought of it’s getting colder and before long we may need heating (another gas guzzler).

One thing that helped to extend our gas consumption was a pre-planned, albeit quick, trip to St Petersburg, Russia for three days.  Betsy, however, still has to use gas to keep the freezer cold (we can’t bring ourselves to spend another €8 per night to be plugged into electricity while we’re away).   This does take some pressure off the gas consumption somewhat and as you will see below, every bit helps.

We leave Helsinki and head north.  The first stop about an hours drive is a place called Hyvinkaa where we located a business called Best Caravans.  Not only do they have caravans, but they also have the best, and I mean the best, free camping spot that we have ever come across, bar none.  Yes they have electricity (phew) and they also provide a washing machine, a dryer (rare to find this), a double shower (nice) and then, wait for it… they offer a sauna!  All this for free (provided you buy something in their shop and/or secure their loyalty card).  So after buying some toilet tabs, which are always needed, we take advantage of these facilities while plugging in to give our fridge a much needed break from sucking on the gas.

Whenever we are plugged in the kettle goes away and the electric jug comes out.  I prefer this as electric is much quicker (especially when in urgent need of a quick cuppa).

We venture further north and planned our route around two more Best Caravan franchises.  Neither, however, as fruitful as the first, but that’s okay because it’s electricity we’re mainly looking for and were incredibly thankful for.

We found a LPG supplier reasonably close to the Finland border in Sweden.  Alan phoned to ensure our information was accurate and that they did, in fact, have LPG.  They did.

So the original plan was to drive from Oulu to Sweden, get the gas, then back into Finland and up to Rovaniemi to see Santa.  That plan changed to driving to Rovaniemi first, then across into Sweden, back into Finland and head north.

In the end we drove to Rovaniemi from Oulu, thankful as we saw the Aurora Borealis for the first time ever (so exciting!), then decided that we could possibly make a run for Norway and drive all the way over to Tromso for LPG.

By now the second tank is oh so low and I’m sure we’re sucking fumes.  We have reduced the number of hot drinks we consume and look for meze type food for dinner.   So cheese on crackers with salami and relish, anything that doesn’t need gas becomes our dinner.  If we do choose to a warm dinner we make sure it’s using one pot that is watched carefully.

We never skip a nightly shower that is until now.  With gas levels at a critically low level, we opt to skip a night due to prioritisation, a cuppa is more important than smelling good.  We reduced our timed water heating to 15 minutes which was ample providing it wasn’t a hair washing night.

The temperature is due to drop like a lead balloon to just two degrees tomorrow night.  I’m keen to drive through to Tromsø in one go, but it’s over six hours.  When we are used to one or two hours at a stretch, a six-hour drive is a far cry for us to consider.  I reluctantly resign to one further night in Finland and think about all the clothes I can wear in bed to stay warm tonight.    Thankfully the heater in Betsy is very good, so it gets turned on in short bursts just to take the chill out of the air and assist with sleeping.

We park tonight at a layby and notice, surprisingly, there are several other motorhomes and some caravans parked here too.  All through northern Finland we seem to have been on our own at overnight stops, but not tonight.  I brave the bone-biting cold wind and knock on the doors of other travelers inviting them to come over later for a drink and chat.  I’m hoping the distraction will get my mind off the lack of gas and more bodies inside Betsy will help to keep the warmth in.

The other motorhomers must have wondered who this was knocking on their door on dusk.  Dressed in all the warm clothes I could find, hat covering the blonde hair, and a scarf wrapped around my neck to fight off that bitter cold, I brave my fear of shyness and knock away.  Most occupants open their doors, and some speak English.  I get some polite no thank you declines, some who don’t speak English soon shut their doors to Mrs Blobby, and those who do engage in conversation are delighted at the invitation and agree to valiantly brave the cold and come across after dinner.

My plan worked, we have a lovely evening meeting new and interesting people and listen to their travel tales.  The night passes quickly and the temperature inside Betsy is cozy (without the need for any gas, whoops, I mean heating).

Once the evening congregation is finished, we say goodbye to our new friends and jump into bed to stay warm.  The heater goes on briefly and we hope we are well insulated from the jaw-dropping thermometer-dropping temperatures outside.  It works.

The next day we make a run to Tromsø and oh boy are we blessed with the most glorious day.  That’s a post for another time, needless to say we arrived safe and sound, filled up with that beautiful and most precious juice, LPG, and were on our way to great food and warmth inside Betsy.

So how long did we stretch bottle number two?  Well, that’s a good question.

Let me step back to the beginning of having two fill tanks of LPG, sourced from Sweden on 7th August.  We crossed into Finland later that day and didn’t fill up again until we were in Norway on 17th September.  So that gives us a staggering 41 days of gas consumption.

The first bottle was empty by the time we left the Awesome Åland Islands on 19th August (so that bottle lasted 12 days).  Therefore we stretched, and I mean stretched thin, the second bottle to a staggering 29 days.  HOW COOL IS THAT???  Just don’t ask me to do that again, especially when the weather starts to turn cold and we are in the north of Scandinavia.

Looking back now I would not, for the life of me, have skipped Finland just due to their lack of LPG.  (I do have to ask, however, Finland why don’t you have LPG?).  Finland offers so much to see and do and it even gave us challenges that looking back now, were fun.

So if you have LPG and have discounted traveling to this part of the world because of a lack of LPG then take a leaf out of our book, put on your big boy/girl pants and grunt up.  Making our gas last for 41 days is epic and if we can do it, then so can you.  I’m throwing down the gauntlet and want you to beat our record.  I dare you….