Saturday, 21 March 2015

Out of Africa

Hola dear Family and friends, yes we have left our beloved Morocco and her wonderful people, but we will return one day as there is so much more to enjoy, and now of course, friends to visit. On the upside, I have waited 3 months to use this title for our post!

When last we blogged we were nestled in the mountains in Tafraoute. We made our way east across the mountains again to a town called Tata which sits on the edge of the Sahara. On the way in we bumped into an old friend, Paul, who was just on his way out of town. Paul’s van used to be a mobile dentists van which went around schools teaching children how to brush their teeth (the people in the van, not the van itself). He has now converted it and has 4 massive batteries connected to a bank of solar panels to run his sound deck, so essentially he is driving around in a mini power station! Paul is a musician, singer, song writer, poet, artist and all round charmer; you can have a listen to his music at the website...... and then look for Toysfornoise

Tata is a fairly non-descript town, however, we happened to be there on market day which always brings any town to life.

Wash Day for the local women

Washing is left to dry on the rocks

Chicks by the dozen

Oh yes mate they come as a pair.....feel the quality of the wool on this baby..
Everything for sale including the kitchen sink

Oh oranges......very nice

I just love shopping in the markets

When you ask for an orange around here you get an ORANGE!

We discovered that we could order Tagine, which would be delivered to our van.....ooh so yummy!

And then off further east to Foum-Zguid, a desert town, just for an overnight stop. Next morning we headed further east, again to Zagora, (are you all following this on your maps?)

Now here’s a thing......we are trundling along, happily minding our own business on a country road, when from out of nowhere up pops the Moroccan Bill waving for me to pull in. A nice young man in a very smart uniform, beautifully pressed with creases in all the right places, (take note British Bobby), wanders over with......yes you guessed it *^&$£”! a speed gun in his hand.

Between his broken English, my broken French and Fang’s version of a melding of the two languages with a bit of Spanish thrown in for good luck, we agreed that the ruddy device did indeed indicate that I have been speeding.

 Now in my defence, I had thought I was in an 80 kph zone, but it turns out that I missed the speed limit drop to 60**^^&&%%$$$ so I am 20 kph over the limit.....which is why he was standing there? Anyway, I gave a shrug of the shoulders as the universal acceptance of ‘you got me bang to rights Ociffer’, and his response was to shrug his shoulders in the universal acceptance of ‘I know that mate!’ He explained that for 20 kph over the limit there is a 500dh fine, in cash, on the spot!

Fang lets out a squeak, slides off her seat into the foot well, and under the dashboard......Officer Rashid and I look at each other and shrug universally.

Ignoring the continuing squeaks coming from under the dashboard, Officer Rashid asks for my licence, passport, van docs, Insurance and tells me to pull further off the road and go, with my 500dh, to see his mate who is sitting in the police 4x4

Handing over my 500dh to Officer Moosad
Officer Moosad in the car is a very pleasant chap, he takes my 500dh, puts it on the central console and goes through the explanation of the grading of speeding fines.....we go through the universal shrugs again and both smile. He then starts chatting, asking me if this is our first time in Morocco, how long we have been here, are we having a good time, all the time he still has all my documentation on his I am beginning to wonder what I am supposed to do I just stand around waiting, do I ask for a receipt, do I offer him a tip!

We stand in silence for a while and he is obviously coming to some sort of decision.......which he eventually does.....he hands me back my documents......and then reaches over, picks up my 500dh and hands it back to me! I kid you not.....he gave me back the fine I had already paid......I LOVE this country.
The walk of shame back to the van!
So off I trot back to the van. Fang has stopped squeaking but is still under the dashboard curled up in a foetal who am I to interfere in a person’s personal misery........I managed to keep up the appearance of utter shame for the next 10 miles, but then got fed up with Fang telling me that she had told me time and time again that my speeding would get me into trouble........I gave her the 500dh back......the next few minutes are unprintable but very funny!

Zagora is a proper one street desert town with sand constantly blowing in your eyes. But, yet again, as luck would have it the market had come to town.

Oh yes it's a nice sheep alright, but you wont get it in that bag mate
'Nice coat Claude'....'Thanks Barry, you're looking pucker yourself'

Ever wonder where that remote went?

'Well she was wearing jeans and a tea shirt and she's about this tall when she stands on a chair,
We had also been told that this was a good place to get your van serviced.....which we did. Full service for around £60......equivalent service in the UK for a motorhome, about £200! Every time the young lads in the garage looked at me they said ...’lovely jubbly!’... do I look like Del Boy? Must do to the Moroccans!

While we were in town Fang did a bit of bartering with one of the local shop keepers, or should I say a bit of battering......because that’s how they feel after she’s finished with them! I just wish I could video one of these occasions; it’s a delight to witness and she never fails to bring them in to her price! They always end up offering me  herds of animals for her, which I have so far declined......but day there is going to be an offer I can’t refuse and I will end up with a herd of goats 47 camels and a decent looking milking cow with big brown eyes.......

This was before they started negotiations!
The entrance to one of the hotels

So now we turn north and make an overnight stop at Agdz, another desert town. The campsite we stayed in was in a little, very traditional village, just outside the town. That evening we were wandering around the streets for our evening constitutional.

People, especially children, are always very friendly in these villages and we often stop for a chat, particularly with the kids; out come the  bon bons, and if we can, we communicate on some level. Fang stopped to say hello to a group of three little girls.....the first two shook her hand and said in a very grown up and polite way ‘Bonsoir Madam’, the third little girl, who would have been have been no more than about three, took Fang’s hand, kissed it, said ‘Bonsoir Madam’ and walked on.......we both walked away with tears in our eyes ... this is a wonderful country with wonderful people who never fail to enchant you ..  even at three years old!

They still make the traditional mud bricks by hand

Everyone has to pull their weight

This is the entrance to a renovated kasbah that has been converted into a hotel
Next stop further north to Ouarzazate. Now Ouarzazate, (pronounced war-zazat), is an interesting town, right out in the Northern Sahara. It is the film making capital of Morocco. King Mohammed VI is very keen to promote Morocco as a choice for the world’s film makers and many productions including; The Sheltering Sky, Gladiator, Mummy 1 & 2 and The Last Temptation of Christ have all been shot in the area. In 2003 the filming of the historical epic Alexander the Great alone attracted over US$60 million, so this is no fledgling industry. Unfortunately, nothing was being filmed while we were there so we didn’t get any offers of parts in Hollywood blockbusters, however, I did leave a photo and my email address at the local cafe, and Abdul assured me he would pass my details on to any Film Directors who come in.

Fang out enjoying a bike ride

The enormous kasbah that has been renovated by the film companies 

Fang waiting for fame and got dark and I took her home.

We had lunch served at the van....

First he served the starter which was a delicious potato salad

Then came the chicken and vegetable tagines with chips

Then mint tea with little petite threes
It was restaurant service but at your van!
And on to a little village called Ait-Benhaddou, whose only claim to fame is a fantastically preserved Kasbah; and for that alone well worth the visit:

From here we took the Tizi-Tichka, one of the two dramatic and often closed due to snow roads, right over the Atlas Mountains and into Marrakech.

And looking back at the High Atlas Mountains
So we are just approaching the old city gates to Marrakech and TomTom is telling me to go through it, but a sign at the gates is saying No Entry to larger vehicles.

I am just pulled up on the roundabout (this is Morocco and you can do that sort of thing) and we are discussing if we should chance going through the city gates, when a chap pulls up on his moped, signals that we can’t go through in the motorhome, asks if we are looking for somewhere to park, and then beckons us to follow him.

What the heck, we say, and off we go with Moped Mohammed leading us right round the outside of the city. Now we are pretty sure that MM is going to take us to his cousin’s carpet shop or restaurant, but by now we are comfortable in dealing with these situations, so we just keep following and wait to see what eventuates.

Moped Mohammed leads the way!
Well what eventuates is that Moped Mohamed takes us to exactly where we wanted to park up!  Instead of us having to battle our way through the narrow back streets of the old city, he has taken us around the outside and into the city via a much easier route. He is actually a tout for the car park and hangs around the city gates waiting to hijack motorhomers ... but hey .... he saved us a load of hassle and got a tip for his ingenuity! Shukran MM.

Marrakech is just in a league of its own ... Djemaa el-Fna, the enormous main square, is packed full of entertainers, story tellers, snake charmers, fire eaters and jugglers during the day. Unfortunately it is very difficult to get photos in the square in Marrakech because as soon as you point a camera at anyone they have got their hand out for money, so the photos don’t really tell the exuberance and excitement of the place, but take our word for it, it’s electric!......

The Koutuobia Mosque had to be rebuilt as it was not facing Mecca correctly, the stumps are the site of the original mosque

What the......?

Fang snapped off this shot from the hip but when the flash went off he swung round looking for the culprit so he could charge them and was furious when he could't find up for the Fang!

But then in the evening it turns into this massive open air eating place with heaps of restaurants that have been completely set up from scratch with kitchens, tables and chairs between 5pm and 6pm each evening.

We sat and had a Tagine while we watched them set up the restaurants for the evening

Notice they are just fishing for soft drinks!
So we leave Marrakech the next morning and head off to Agadir to meet Brian who is flying in to spend a week travelling with us.

We are going to end this blog here as there are more adventures to share, and we don’t want to over excite you before your bedtime.

 ‘Out of Africa Part 2’ will follow shortly, stay connected. In the meantime, know that we travel with you in our thoughts.....