Author: Marion Morgan

Generator Blues

Fellow travellers, Eva and Karl were 500 miles south of us

Before travelling further south into Western Sahara, we planned to return to Sidi Ifni to apply for Prolongation. Our visas expired at the end of January and, as Morocco’s borders remained stubbornly closed, we could not avoid overstaying our ninety day allowance. There had been a couple of repatriation ferries from Morocco to France but ticket prices were extortionate and we weren’t desperate to leave the country – yet!

Problem with the generator

Whilst on the road between Agadir and Tiznit our generator breaker began tripping out, indicating a problem with that essential piece of equipment. Unless we were staying at a camp site and plugged into the mains electricity, we relied on our generator to supplement the power created by the truck engine and our solar panels. We would normally run the generator for up to an hour each morning to top up our batteries. We were very concerned and returned to the camp site at Tiznet in order to investigate. There were no Dometic dealers in Morocco but Tony had long consultations with Lee at Fischer Panda in Southampton.

Then we got Covid . . . .

At least we assumed it was Covid – a chesty cough, a runny nose and a bit of a headache. At first we thought it was a reaction of our Pfizer vaccination but we both had similar symptoms and for a couple of days we felt just slightly off. Fortunately, due to our vaccinations, we were not seriously affected and were able to carry on doing day to day stuff whilst keeping ourselves isolated. The chesty cough persisted for almost a week but gradually got less and less. In the past I have certainly felt more poorly with a seasonal cold and when I had a bout of influenza many years ago I was bed ridden for four days and felt quite ready to die. This illness was lightweight by comparison. If only the generator could bounce back to health after a couple of days rest!

Guelmim

Aain Nakhla campsite entrance

We had heard that tourists could get Covid vaccinations in Morocco; a German couple messaged us to say they had got the Pfizer vaccine in the nearby town of Guelmim. We felt it might be wise to get ourselves a booster jab in case we were exposed to Covid when travelling back through Europe to the UK – there was still little evidence of the virus in Morocco outside the cities.

Tea with Salah

We stopped at a camp site five miles outside Guelmim and explained to the owner, Salah, about our booster jabs. He made a couple of phone calls and then offered to drive us into town the following day. We were accompanied by a friend of Salah’s who would be our guide and interpreter. His name was Boujemaa but everyone called him Bushman. He was a nomad from a tribe in the south and worked as an environmental ecologist at a nature reserve. Bushman took us to the Provincial Department where we had our passport details entered on their vaccination database and the next day we went to the nearby vaccination centre for the jab. Everything went smoothly and after a wait of around 40 minutes we were done. Bushman explained we would be able to download our vaccination certificate the following day. He also offered a hundred camels for any one of our daughters!

Bushman liked our Nespresso coffee

Salah’s family had chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and rabbits as well as a couple of cats and a young German Shepherd dog. One morning he brought us some eggs which he described as baladi eggs. We had never heard of such a thing but Mr Google informed us that in Arabic countries baladí chickens were considered far superior to the western (Roma) chickens and were more tasty and nutritious. We couldn’t really detect a difference but they were very good.

It was interesting travelling into Guelmim in Salah’s old Mercedes. He chatted animatedly to Bushman only pausing when interrupted by his phone, whilst skilfully dodging traffic and pedestrians coming from all directions. After our jabs we left Bushman in town and rushed back so Salah could collect his children from school (Hajar 8 and Suliman 5), offering a lift to his sister-in-law en route. Half a dozen of Hajar’s school friends came with her to the car and greeted Salah with a kiss on the cheek. I asked him if he was their uncle but no, they were friends of Hajar’s. The little girls weren’t called over to make the greeting, it was such a warm and uncontrived gesture that made us realise how close knit the community was. Hajar and Suliman happily squashed in with sister-in-law and me in the back – no car seats required! The children were not the least bit shy, Hajar was soon happily playing a game on my phone whilst Suliman was fiddling with my watch and almost sent a WhatsApp to our German friends!

twoinatruck.co.uk

I get reports from WordPress, who host this blog, about the number of “views” each posting receives but I have no way of knowing who you are. The blogs were originally written to keep our four daughters up to date with our travels but I am pretty sure none of them ever bother to read them these days. So, if you are reading this would you please send me a WhatsApp on 07739212610 just stating your name. I won’t do anything with the information – it would just be interesting to know! Thanks. Marion.

Tan-Tan Plage

The Promenade at Tan-Tan Plage

We spent a few days at El Ouatia, also known as Tan-Tan Plage. The seaside resort was on the Atlantic coast with the Canary Islands a hundred miles or so offshore. The town boasted a wide promenade and a long sandy beach. It was out of season and the weather was warm but very windy with just a few hardy souls enjoying the sight of the Atlantic rollers crashing onto the sand. The large fishing port was several miles away from the town but we were able to buy the freshest seafood from a fish seller who called regularly at the camp site.

Foolishly I decided I needed to get my hair cut. In every Moroccan town there were many barber shops along the main street but, because most women had long hair and needed little help from a hair cutter, a hairdressing salon took some finding. Eventually an appointment was made at a salon tucked away at the end of the town. The shop was closed when I arrived but after a telephone call and a fifteen minute wait, a sullen young lady appeared and opened up the shop. We had no common language but I showed her photographs of what was required. It turned out she had no scissor skills and after ten minutes or so of amateur fumbling I had to stop her. By that time I resembled a doll that had had its hair mutilated by a child with a pair of unsupervised scissors! Every time I caught sight of myself in the mirror I got quite a shock but I was comforted by the fact that the hair would eventually grow. When I sent photos to the family at home they advised me to embrace my new choppy style with a large dollop of hair gel!

Prawns for sale . .
… soon became a tasty supper

Rubbish!

When we arrived in Morocco In November 2021 we felt, or hoped, that the problem of rubbish littering the countryside had improved since our last visit – we even spotted the occasional litter pickers out an about in the towns.

Look more closely at this secluded beach and you will see . . .
. . . detritus

However the longer we stayed in Morocco the more we realised that their concept of litter disposal was very different from Europe’s. The Moroccan method of waste disposal was the gravity method – rubbish would be cast over a cliff, down an embankment, into a quarry or well or any available hole in the ground. Even the trees lining the city streets had rubbish in the space at the bottom of the trunk and, if you looked upwards whilst walking along the beach, you would very likely spot a colourful cascade of rubbish thrown from the town above.

We were saddened to see so much detritus at La Plage Blanche and shocked at the amount of plastic waste lying in the shallows of the flamingo lagoon. Whilst out walking on the beach we passed a spot where earlier we had noticed a visitor on the beach. The man had gone but at the spot where he had been sitting was an empty cigarette packet, several cigarette stubs and an empty carton of juice.

On the other hand, in Morocco you rarely saw any abandoned cars, bicycles or white goods. These items were too valuable and we often passed busy workshops full of old machines being repaired.

On The Beach

View of the lagoon at sundown taken from our truck

We had heard that you could park overnight at a secluded spot on the coast, known as La Plage Blanche where the dunes of the Sahara Desert met the Atlantic Ocean. We followed the lat / long coordinations on the satnav and found ourselves at the coast but in a place that didn’t look at all promising. The area resembled a wasteland and we saw gangs of construction workers and earth moving vehicles. There were a few buildings that looked like either military or police establishments and the area was dotted with communication antennas.

The road suddenly ended with a series of barriers blocking the route ahead. Intending to go back we looked for somewhere to turn round and drove into what appeared to be a large building site. At the far end we saw a gap ahead where we could rejoin the road which then dipped sharply downhill leading into an empty car park below. As if by magic we found ourselves beside a beautiful sandy beach next to a quiet lagoon where, looking through our binoculars, we could see flamingos feeding in the shallows.

La Plage Blanche stretched 40 km to the north and was surrounded by 250 square kilometres of nature reserve. There was a group of fishermen’s shacks on the far side of the lagoon and one or two people were walking on the beach. It was warm (21°) and windy when we took a walk down to the sea. Later on, a group of camels (actually dromedaries) wandered by, feeding off the beach vegetation. Once it was dark we were alone and the only lights we could see were the stars above and the only noise we could hear was the breaking of the rollers. Heaven!

Camels have two humps – these were dromedaries with one hump

We later discovered that the excavation works were due to plans to build a hotel complex above the beach – goodbye heaven!

Fort Bou-Jerif

We stopped in the town of Guelmim to stock up at the Marjane supermarket (no alcohol available) before driving to an isolated camp site in the middle of the desert – but just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Access was a dirt road 9 km long. It took us over half an hour to slowly bump along the track and we laughed at the thought of going all that way only to find the camp site was closed! But all was well – we had checked.

Fort Bou-Jerif where the desert met the Atlantic

We were the only campers there although there were a few guests staying in tented accommodation nearby. It was New Years Eve and we were promptly signed up for dinner in the restaurant at 8pm. It was an excellent evening. We were made comfortable in the bar area and had a few drinks accompanied by an enormous selection of hors d’oeuvres. An hour or so later we were shown to our table and were served a glass of sparkling wine before a first course of pastilla (a Moroccan specialty pie made with filo type pastry) followed by a whole roast lamb, carved and distributed to each table. We could barely look at the dessert! We wobbled back to the camper just after 11 pm – which was ridiculously late for these two old fogies.

Fort built in 1936 – being reclaimed by the desert

The next morning we felt a bit muzzy and cleared our heads by walking to the ruins of the fort, built by the French Foreign Legion.

The weather was hot and windy. The forecast said 14° at night and 26° in the day but in the sunshine it was over 30°. My sheets dried on the line within ten minutes of being pegged out. They had a small swimming pool which helped keep us cool in the afternoon.

The access track to camp site

Moroccan Borders Closed!

In November 2021 Morocco closed its borders to protect the country from European COVID. There was a lot of speculation amongst us travellers concerning our ninety day visitors’ visas. We were due to leave Morocco by the end of January 2022 but, should the ferries not be running, we would be guilty of overstaying our visa and, possibly, be subjected to a fine.

We understood that we could extend our visa by reporting to the local Police Station with multiple copies of various documents and be granted a “Prolongation de Sejour Exceptionelle”. It all seemed a bit of a faff and we decided to watch and wait for the time being.

Drinks on the roof terrace in Sidi Ifni
Carol, Tony and Eberhardt

We were, for us, having an unusually sociable time in Sidi Ifni. We had been invited to sundowners and nibbles by Carol and Ian who were staying on the site for the winter. Whilst there we recognised fellow guests, a German couple whom we had met on one of our previous visits to Sidi Ifni. Our social diary was quite empty and we readily accepted an invitation to their home – a little house of four rooms on four floors connected by a series of steep staircases – each room could not have measured more than six metres square. Maria and Eberhardt were not in the first flush of youth it was amazing how well they coped with the challenging layout. They even had a jacuzzi on the roof terrace which they purchased in Germany and had lifted into the house using their pulley system attached to the roof.

Christmas At Sidi Ifni

Preparing the Christmas Barbecue

During our travels in December we were occasionally asked by fellow travellers what we planned to do for Christmas. We had spent Christmas in Sidi Ifni a few years ago, it had an excellent climate, beautiful beaches and you could get most things you needed in the busy little town. The area had been Catholic until fifty years ago so the Muslim locals knew what Christmas was about.

Gary, our chef

It turned out there was quite an influx of guests into the camp site on Christmas Eve: a Welsh couple on their honeymoon travelling in a converted van, a New Zealander and his German girlfriend on their motor bikes, a retired German couple in a Mercedes 4×4 van and a Swedish man on his way south to Dakhla for the water sports. Gary, the New Zealander was a chef and he had offered to cook Christmas dinner on the barbecue.

On Christmas morning we bought millefeuille pastries from the boulangerie and delivered these delicious little cakes to everyone staying on the site. Our pile of firewood was being added to with driftwood collected by walkers on the beach and later that afternoon we lit the fire. As it began to get dark guests wandered over with their chairs, a drink and something to cook on the fire. It was a beautiful evening, warm and still – Christmassy songs emanated from a Bluetooth speaker into the balmy air. We were an eclectic group of strangers in a Muslim country joining together to celebrate the birth of Christ. It was well after 2 am when the last of the diners finally left.

Who could resist?

PS Gary and Chrissie had spotted a tiny, flee ridden puppy cowering in the hedge. The creature was filthy, barely weaned and starving. They took it to a vet who cleaned it up and gave it food and water. The puppy was tiny, but healthy – thinking it was male Gary had named it Charlie but it turned out to be a bitch. The vet gave it the first of a series of injections and Gary was committed! Charlie happily travelled in the pannier of Gary’s bike to Sidi Ifni.

Sidi Ifni

Steep steps rose from the beach up to the town of Sidi Ifni

We planned to spend Christmas in Sidi Ifni, a Spanish town on the Atlantic coast that had been handed back to Morocco in 1969 but still retained its Spanish colonial atmosphere. During COVID the town had suffered from lack of visitors; Moroccans traditionally spent just the two summer months at the coast but for the remainder of the year the people of Sidi Ifni relied on foreign visitors. When we arrived there were a few wet-suited surfers enjoying the waves and some European youngsters milling around one or two of the hotels in town. One of the three camp sites was open and there were just five other vehicles staying on the site.

The temperature at Sidi Ifni was 22° during the day and it stayed warm overnight so the evenings were balmy. The sea temperature was a magnificent 18°.

We settled into a pleasant sunny corner of the camp site, only to have to turn the truck around as it became too hot facing the afternoon sunshine. Most afternoons a mist blew in from the sea and then it became too cold!

Coffee machine being dismantled by Tony

Staying in one place for a few days meant we could explore the area and complete a few household chores. Our coffee machine was leaking and, according to Mr Google, the fault could be corrected by dismantling and cleaning the machine – the instructions were simple enough and it took Tony a mere fifteen minutes to take the machine apart. More than two hours later all the components were cleaned and put back together and, with a sigh of relief, we were assured of our morning coffee.

A sea mist rolls in