Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200101 England France Spain Morocco

Monday 1 January 2001  Spend the night at Paul & Elaine’s then wake to a much warmer morning with the snow rapidly disappearing.  Walk back to Pete & Carol’s to collect the van and by 9.30am we are heading towards Bristol. There is little traffic on the road and before lunch we are at our friends Karen & John in Bitton.  Our green card for Morocco has arrived there so we are now approaching the final hurdles for our departure and can start to relax.  Get stuck into the wine with lunch which carries on through the afternoon, the evening meal and beyond. 
Tuesday 2 January  Make an early start leaving at 8.00am heading to Poole to get a solar panel fitted.  Notice a lot of flooding especially in Dorset.  Whilst the panel is being fitted we catch a bus into Bournemouth to buy a duplicate Vehicle Registration document (3.00) as ours has not come back with the change of address and we can’t leave the country without it.  Return to Poole and depart at 3.00pm with our 75 watt solar panel, regulator and digital display panel on board and 549.00 overboard.  Next stop Gold Motor Services at Alton to investigate our fridge malfunction problems and to buy a few more things.  Run out of time so when they close at 6.00pm we stay in the car park hooked up to their power.
Wednesday 3 January  After purchasing the flyscreen mesh, hob grommets and a fuel filter and ordering the rest of our parts we leave for Newhaven.  Notice some terrific floods en route with fields looking like lakes and bridges appearing in the middle of them.  Dorset seems especially bad.  Take the coast road for the last stretch as neither of us have been to Brighton which we are pleasantly surprised by.  Quickly locate Moore Supplies and emerge a further 80.00 lighter but with a 300 watt inverter which will enable us to transfer the extra power generated by the solar panel from the 12v battery into 240v.  En route at 3.00pm and with the aid of the mobile phone we book our ferry crossing with Sea France for 142.00 return leaving at 5.30pm and returning on 30th April.  Reach Dover in plenty of time and having put our watches forward 1 hour we roll off in Calais FRANCE at 8.00pm.  Reckon we must have rolled off as we have been running with the fuel tank empty for a good few miles.  Head straight round to Bleriot Plage where a special area is allocated for motorhomes to park overnight.      
Thursday 4 January  As soon as it gets light at 8.30am we drive round to Auchan hypermarket to buy fuel.  Diesel is 5.06FF litre so with around 10.50FF to the pound it’s much cheaper than England but we still spend over 1000FF (100.00) to fill up.  Notice severe flooding with some of the narrow straight roads now looking like canals.  For the first time ever we negotiate Rouen without problems helped by new sign boards.  Continue through Le Mans but find it dark by the time we reach Tours.  Overshoot on the ring road and end up on the toll A10 and have to pay 5FF (50p) to get off and join the N10. We see some excellent Christmas decorations and in particular an abundance of Santa figures climbing all over buildings. Make it to the official motorhome rest area in Ste Maure de Touraine by 6.30pm.
[To get round Rouen follow green signs to Le Mans and Caen and Caen if nothing else]
[Tours ring road heading South try exit at green sign to Vierzon then pick up Poitiers sign]
Friday 5 January  As soon as it is light at 8.30am we continue south.  The intermittent but heavy rain stops in Bordeaux where at 1.30pm the temperature is 14C.  By the time we reach Biarritz at 4.00pm it’s 20C and much more to our liking.  My optimum operating temperature is 25C – 30C with a tolerance of 5C which rules out the English winter.  Start looking for parking in St Jean De Luz but it’s away from the coast which necessitates winding hilly roads only to find height barriers on the car parks.  It’s getting dark and we are nearing the Spanish boarder so settle for the car park at Le Clerc supermarket in Urugne.  At 10.30pm as we are getting ready to settle down the trolley attendant knocks on the window and asks us to move but fortunately only to another area of the car park near the 24 hour petrol pumps.  Heavy rain masks the noisy pumps for most of the night.
Saturday 6 January  Oversleep and it’s already light when we wake just before 9.00am.  Purchase the obligatory baguette then head into SPAIN crossing the border at Hendaye at 9.25am.  About 260 pesetas = 1 pound with diesel around 120 ptas (47p) a litre which makes it about the same as Bordeaux area where it was under 5FF. Hope to find it cheaper as we head South. Its Epiphany today which is the Spanish child’s Christmas.  Youngsters leave their shoes on the doorstep to be filled with gifts by the three wise men, or Three Kings.  For us this means little traffic and very few trucks on the road. At San Sebastian we turn into the mountains on a new and excellent motorway the A15.  Notice the excellent Spanish system of numbering road junctions by the distance in kilometres from Madrid which is where the motorway ends.  The scenery is very like the Austrian alps with snow on the peaks.  Turning South from Burgos I take over the driving after lunch as it’s a quiet stretch of dual carriageway and I’ve not driven for well over a year.  Just my luck that the road starts to get busy, we reach the high mountain crossing with snow and then I have to drive through a long narrow tunnel.  Steve must have confidence in me as he snoozes – or maybe he is too scared to watch.  Pull off exactly 50km North of Madrid where I have spotted the lake "E De Pedrezuela" close to the dual carriageway.  The lake is muddy but it’s a pretty spot surrounded by snow capped mountains and good for overnight.
[Few rest areas between San Sebastian and Vitoria then lots]
Sunday 7 January   Early start into Madrid but we miss our proposed exit off the M30 and have to cut into the city from the SE.  Get a bit lost in the centre and on asking a policeman where to park we come up trumps.  We are just by a market which has an underground car park for delivery trucks.  The policeman explains our parking problem and they agree to let us stay there for the day.  It’s a short walk from Calle de Toledo to Playa Mayor an enormous square with lots of stalls.  Unfortunately our planned tour of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is off as it is closed today.  Continue on an extensive walking tour taking in some nice statues and buildings with the Post Office in Piaza de la Cibeles being a highlight.  The temperature struggles to climb above 7C but Parque del Retiro is still bustling with people, stalls, fortune tellers and all manor of side shows.  The central lake photographs well with a grand statue and people boating on it and the final point of interest is the Crystal Palace.  Steve wants to see some of Salvador Dali’s work and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is free today instead of 500 ptas (2.00) so we have a quick peak at his unusual paintings and a few famous Picasso’s.  Coming out we are handed a leaflet which side tracks us to Diamantino cafe in Plaza Anton Martin where for 1100 ptas (4.40) there is an excellent all you can eat buffet which includes paella and prawns.  Complete our circular walk with a stroll along Paseo Prado then back through Peurta del Sol where all distances in Spain are measured from.  Back at the van by 2.30pm and pay 250 ptas (1.00) an hour for the very convenient and secure parking.  There is much more traffic on the road now and we slowly but easily make our way out onto the motorway to Toledo.  Pull off just North of Toledo and find a rest area with a park, picnic tables and sports courts.
Monday 8 January  It’s been a cold night and we wake to a frosty morning.  Once again we park easily in Paseo De Ricaredo, Toledo where a volunteer keeps an eye on the vehicles.  It’s still only 3C so we wrap up well.  Toledo is a wonderful old walled city perched on a hill surrounded by a deep gorge and the River Tages forming almost a circle around it.  The streets are narrow, twisted, cobbled, busy with cars and with no regular pattern.  We try to follow a plan but it is easy to get lost and end up exploring interesting side streets before we eventually find the magnificent gothic cathedral and then the imposing Alcazar with superb views down to one of the Roman bridges.  Most entrances through the wall have outstanding arched gates and overall we feel more impressed with Toledo than Madrid.  Leave at lunch time noticing a more respectable temperature of 19C as we head towards Granada on the excellent E5.  Stop 30km west of Granada and notice a bit of a problem.  At one point I popped back to make some squash and left the pump on with the bathroom sink tap trickling.  The worst part is that the sink empties into the same tank as the toilet which is now full and overflowing.  Fortunately we are at a service area where we can empty the tank and fill up the fresh water before beginning the horrible task of mopping up the sewage.  Get chance to notice a super sunset with the sky turning bright pink then red making the snowy mountains look lovely.
Tuesday 9 January    At 11.00am we meet Cyril & Margaret in Plaza de la Paz, Torre Del Mar.  They are friends of Keith & Diana from Australia and after phoning them last night they arrange a meeting.  We get on very well and after a coffee follow them back to their house in the mountain village of Puente Don Manuel.  Lunch lasts from 3.00pm until 6.00pm and we then end up sleeping in their house as the van is un-level.
Wednesday 10 January  Drop Margaret in Velez Malaga for her Spanish lesson then Cyril takes us down to Camping Almanat where we seek out our friends John & Maureen from Yorkshire.  There’s too much to talk about so we agree to return tomorrow with the motorhome  Pick up Margaret then stop for a tapas lunch.  We have 8 dishes, bread, 2 coffees, 2 beers and a wine and the total bill is only 1200 ptas (4.80).  Steve feels rather ill in the afternoon and retires to bed part way through the evening meal.  He can’t get warm and may be coming down with a cold. 
Thursday 11 January  Steve is still unwell so he stays in the van whilst I shop at Lidl.  Get a 10% winter discount at Camping Almanat but it still costs 2666 ptas (10.20) a night.  We have a bit list of jobs to do once we are on site and it’s not very warm I can set about cleaning the bathroom carpet and other things.   Maybe the thought of all the jobs has brought on Steve’s lethargy.  I chat to an elderly couple John & Peggy who have been going to Morocco for 16 years and love it, no doubt we shall see them there.
Friday 12 January  Torrential rain throughout the night and we wake to floods and a fresh coating of snow on the Sierra Nevada.  Leave mid day and head into Malaga to buy LPG.  Have great trouble finding the depot and then can’t buy any as we don’t have the correct adapter.  This could mean we have to turn the fridge/freezer off soon as we only have half a tank of gas and for cooking this would last months but only 2 weeks with the fridge on.  Onwards dicing with death on the "Carretera del Muerte" to Camping La Rosaleda at Fuengirola.  We meet up with fellow motorhomer Pete whom we are planning on going to Morocco with in a few days.
Saturday 13 January  Hooray we wake to blue skies and sunshine.  Hurl Steve out of bed so I can get the bedding into the washing machine 400 ptas (1.60).  Stroll down to town and find we are actually in Los Boliches which adjoins Fuengirola a little further west.  Promenade along the sea front then succumb to a coffee when we see a packed cafe offering drinks at 100 ptas (40p). Know we are in a tourist area when we find the menu in English with English food and the staff are also English. No sooner have we sat down than Steve glances up and recognises the people at the next table.  It’s Kevin & Anne Southall who have a grocers shop just down the road from where our Post Office was in Keighley.  Continue our walk into Fuengirola with every other person talking English.  Call into "Internet Cabins" and take a 1/2 hour session for 300 ptas (1.20).  Meandering down side streets on the way back we come upon "Bernies" pie shop and lunch becomes a large and tasty steak and kidney pie for Steve and cheese and onion for me 225 ptas (85p) each – boy do we know how to live it up!  Back on site we start to tackle some of the jobs for which we need fine weather.  Inspection of a leaking roof problem reveals a large area where rain has seeped in and soaked the wood. Begin by drying the area with the hairdryer and end by us pondering the proper long term solution.  Pete calls round in the evening and invites us out for a meal along with his Norwegian friend Eva.  The sea front is very quiet when we arrive around 10.00pm with us being the only customers at the Pizzeria.
Sunday 14 January  Another nice day or in reality a day more like it should be here at this time of year.  They have already had enough rain to fill the reservoirs and last them at least 2 years.  On with more jobs but no sooner do we fix one than we find another, this time the TV is on the blink but we do manage a good laugh watching "East to East" on video even if it is either all blue or all green. Brings a whole new meaning to watching blue movies.
Monday 15 January  Settle the campsite bill which should be 2500 ptas (10.00) night but with "Pete’s friends" discount we pay 2000 ptas (8.00).  Pete isn’t coming with us to Morocco at this stage as a friend from England has decided to visit him this week.  Head off along the Costa Del Sol now also known as the Costa Del Golf.  It takes a long time to pass by overdeveloped Marbella or more aptly in our opinion they have marred something that was Bella.  Stop for a major shop at Lidl on the outskirts of Algeciras where we escape with literally just a few pesetas. Alcohol and imported goods are expensive in Morocco so we have to stock up for 3 months.  Find the port easily and book onto the 1.00pm fast ferry to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Africa.  Single EuroFerrys fares are 2670 ptas (10.50) for vehicle passengers and 16405 (64.00) for motorhomes.  You save 10% booking an open ended return and our total bill is 39,130 ptas (155.00).  Drive straight through and onto the fast ferry – well almost.  Nobody asked the height of our vehicle and we won’t fit on and have to back off down the ramp.  Fortunately the same company run a slow ferry but the 1.15pm is full so we must wait for the 4.00pm crossing which leaves us "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay".   Along with lots of trucks and 3 other high motorhomes we board the ferry backing up the ramp – no drive on drive off on this one.  It’s a lovely crossing sailing out past the magnificent rock of Gibraltar.  As we reach the coast of AFRICA we look back and can still see it’s outline in the distance.  Dock at 5.40pm and find disembarking is fun as we have to time our descent down the ramp to coincide with the swell of the sea.  Drive along the seafront to the ferry departure area where a secure car park has been recommended to us and a few other motorhomers.  Take a walk into town which looks very Mediterranean with palms along the sea front and yachts in the harbour.  The area of the old moat if most attractive but we turn back quickly when we continue and find ourselves in an area of high rises with less than desirable people lurking around and it’s getting dark.  There are lots of duty free shops in the area so after a final shop we return to the van. Later on we are playing cards and feel something nudge the van.  Steve hops outside and the French man in the motorcaravan behind comes out with a torch and indicates to Steve to look under our van.  He sees a pair of trainers and realises someone is underneath.  He shouts for them to get out and a youth aged about 17 emerges and quickly runs off.  Call the security guard and explains as best we can in Spanish.  He points to a camera opposite and appears to tell us that this is the most secure area that there is.  After a thorough inspection under the van we find nothing and settle back inside but with the curtains open.  Was the youth depositing drugs thinking we were going to Spain in the morning?  Shortly after we spot another two youths sculling around inside the perimeter of the car park and then four more climb over the fence.  A local has also seen them and called the police who take information from us and then proceed to patrol the area.  Welcome to Africa.
Tuesday 16 January  Just as we are getting ready to leave Steve comes up with the unlikely theory that maybe the youth was putting a bomb under the van.  He suggests I stand clear whilst he starts the engine but I decide that if we are going to go out with a bang it will be together – we don’t.  Pick up the recommended Michelin map of Morocco 1000 ptas (4.00) at the petrol station and tank up on duty free diesel 76.5 ptas (30p) litre. I’ve already noticed that there are numerous spellings for the same place in Morocco and many places which change names so for simplicity I shall refer to everything by the name on my map.   8.30am and we set off to the border 3km away.  There are lots of people walking, heavily laden donkeys and even more heavily laden women.  It’s mayhem approaching the border as we pick our way carefully through hoards of people amidst a cacophony of horns.  Once through the Spanish departure point things quieten down as we are segregated from those on foot.  There’s quite a lot of paperwork to complete but the border has only just opened and there is only one vehicle in front of us so no queues at the different desks.  Amazingly we are cleared through in 20 minutes and emerge in MOROCCO at 8.15am having put our clocks back 1 hour to GMT.  The currency is dirhams with 15.DIRHAMS 386 CENTIMES to the pound.  Moroccan Arabic is the main language but French is widely spoken and signs are in both.  Culture shock kicks in straight away as we reach the first town with dusty streets, hoards of people and obvious signs of poverty.  Within the first 1 km we pass 4 police road blocks but get waved through them all.  Just a few years ago tourists were hassled and children would stone foreign vehicles. The government have now realised how good tourism is for the country and the King has appeared on television asking everyone to be nice to the tourists to encourage them and others to visit.  The first major town we reach is Tetouan where a motor cyclist tries to grab our attention on the ring road.  He keeps driving at the side of us and waving and shouting that he knows England and has been to Piccadilly.  Think he wants to show us around Tetouan but we smile and wave and keep going until he gives up.  Heading up into the Atlas mountains we feel like we have arrived on a Star Wars set as the Berbers in their long brown wool coats look like OB1 Kanobe.  Just before Larache we pick up the new toll motorway which even has "Aires de Repose" just like in France.  It’s a pleasant journey down the Atlantic coast and we leave the motorway at Kenitra after paying the rather hefty toll of 57dr (3.70) to travel 106km.  Kenitra is quite a big busy town and we plough our way straight through the centre.  Frequently stop to ask policemen directions and are always greeted with a salute and given directions in either French or English.  Reach Sale at 1.30pm and check into "Camping de la Plage" which charges 75dir (4.90) for a powered site in a walled compound.  There are a couple of other British motorhomes but most are French or German.  The toilets are stand up jobs that don’t flush but they are clean and there are plenty of cold showers.  Sale is on the opposite bank of the estuary to Rabat the capital of Morocco and tomorrow we intend to take the ferry over to sight see.  Relax for the afternoon in the hot sun and gleen more information from fellow campers.
[After Kenitra toll exit at signs Fes and Kenitra North.  Continue to Kenitra and keep going straight on ignoring signs to Rabat with a motorway symbol.  At the very far end of town the road veers left and is signposted Rabat]
Wednesday 17 January   Nice hot sunny day.  Set out at 8.30am along the beach to catch the ferry across the Oued (river) Bou Regreg "Father of Reflection". The ferry is a small wooden rowing boat and you pay 1 DH (6p) each to be taken across.  Our first port of call is the Kasbah (palace centre and/or fortress of an Arab town) Des Oudaia site of the original ribat and a citadel.  Enter by the somewhat impressive Bab (gate or door) Oudaia then wonder through the streets to the platforme for a fine view.  Exit via the palace and gardens then head straight through the middle of the main Medina (original Arab part of the town).  Can’t believe that we are not hassled to buy things as carpet sellers and other stall holders are plentiful.  Most women are wearing a version of the djellaba coats as dresses and I suggest that maybe I should get one to blend in but Steve is not impressed with their sack like appearance.  Emerge completely unscathed and without making a purchase.  Head to the main commercial area to find an ATM.  The first bank does not accept our card but the next one displays the Mastercard symbol and we have no trouble withdrawing cash. Much further up the same street a man stops Steve and asks the time but he doesn’t wear a watch.  Today unusually I am and show it to him.  He starts chatting when he realises we are English and proceeds to fill us in on a long story of how he works for the Forestry commission in Marrakech with an Englishman and they teach each other the different languages.  He had an accident in his car yesterday and eventually shows us a telegram he is trying to send to get some money for repairs.  The catch is that he doesn’t have the 60 DH (3.90)to send it and asks us to "lend" it to him.  Now we haven’t been in the country long and although we both smell a rat we agree to give it to him and he says he will return it to us on the campsite tomorrow.  As we walk off we are sure we have fallen for a tale but console ourselves that for 4.00 it was a good line and has taught us a lesson.  All will be revealed tomorrow.  Call into the British Council where they have English newspapers in the library.  Pass lots of embassies and the Moroccan royal palace en route to the Chellah Necropolis 10 DH (65p) a beautiful ruin uninhabited since 1154.  Interesting roman remains and a mosque with royal tombs are the highlights.  We are also impressed with the tranquillity whilst walking through the gardens broken only by the calls of the many storks nesting on the minarets and trees. Feel we are doing our walking tour the right way round as so far we have avoided any steep climbs and each thing we have seen has been better than the last.  This continues as we end up at the Hassan Mosque and Mohammed V Mausoleum.  The mosque is enormous but in ruins following the 1755 earthquake.  The mausoleum was started in 1961 following the sultan’s death and inaugurated 6 years later.  It’s an exceptional building with costumed royal guards watching over.  We’re allowed in and see the carved white onyx tomb below a fantastic gold fancy dome.  We’ve surprised how much we have both enjoyed our visit to Rabat having found it easily walkable, stress free and with quite a few interesting things to see.  Arrive back on site at 1.30pm.  By 4.00pm we have got our second wind and head into Sale where the Medina is small and easy to get around.  In the alleyways we peer into lots of tiny grubby shops selling everything but the kitchen sink then suddenly find ourselves in a smart corridor with shops selling very expensive looking gold. Again no one pesters us to look at or buy anything which is most surprising and very pleasant.  For us the only real downside to the area is that although the campsite is behind the beach we can’t see it because of the high wall, the beach is covered in rubbish, they appear to be dumping sewage in the water and the price of the site is high considering the rough state of it and lack of facilities but it is very handy for visiting Rabat and Sale.       
Thursday 18 January  No show of the man with our money by the time we leave at 10.00am , what a surprise.  The only thing I’m annoyed about is that we didn’t have the presence of mind to offer to go with him to the Post Office and pay for the telegram there and then – hindsight what a wonderful thing.  Anyway we leave Rabat intending taking the motorway all the way to Casablanca but miss a turning and end up on the coast road which turns out to be rather scenic with low cliffs and pounding surf.  The landscape is very green and not the least like our preconceived idea of Morocco, more like rural England.  Pass a few resorts set up mainly to cater for the French.  There are lots of roadside stalls first with buckets of fruit and then selling cups of tea but strangely they all come in clusters of the same type.  The road deteriorates from good to OK after Bouznika and we finally join the motorway just North of Casablanca and pay the 12 DH (78p) toll having inadvertently saved ourselves the additional 28 DH (1.80) charge from Rabat.  Although associated with the film of the same name nothing was ever shot in Casablanca and the Rough Guide book doesn’t make it sound at all interesting so we press on along the busy motorway avoiding numerous people either crossing it or picking things in the central reservation.  Reach El Jadida mid afternoon to check onto Camping International 70.40 DH (4.60)  with electric.  It’s marginally better than the last site but still nothing to write home about and again we are in a compound behind high walls which cuts off from a view of the sea.  Rain in the evening highlights the fact that the temporary roof repair isn’t working.
Friday 19 January  It’s a half hour walk to the Cite Portuguese (old part of town) where the Portuguese Cistern is recommended viewing at 10 DH (65p).  I guess if you have never seen a cistern before it might be impressive but compared to the one we saw in Istanbul it doesn’t rate and Steve emerges with a smug ‘I told you so" expression.  It’s an interesting walk down Avenue Mohammed V where street traders put Del Boy (Fools & Horses) to shame with the speed they pack up their wares and move on when the Police appear.  They are equally as quick in setting up stall again their stalls being sheets of tarpaulin laid on the ground.  It’s a very busy street with shops being grouped together by the type of stock they sell.  Manage to buy some screws to replace the rusted ones from the shower roof dome and fork out 20 DH (1.30) for 36 screws and some woodfiller.  From the bakery we buy a French stick for 1Dh 10 centimes (7p) then Steve is tempted by a barrow stall deep frying fish and buys a whole small freshly cooked one for 5 DH (32p).  Our final purchase is 1 kilo of tomatoes 3 DH (19p).  No complaints about food prices although I am sure we paid too much for the screws.  We see no other tourists and comment that Morocco so far seems like a cross between the far East and Turkey.  The Turkish element is not surprising as they are both Muslim countries. Almost everyone is clothed to cover their legs and arms and mosques abound which means we are woken at daybreak with the calling to prayer.  Luckily it’s a hot sunny afternoon but although Steve presses on with the roof repair he is not happy as he knows the products he is using are not quite the right thing and won’t last but "Inshallah" we shan’t encounter any more rain. 
Saturday 20 January   The campsite offer hot showers at 5 DH (32p) and having paid our money we are given the key to one of their "motel" units which turn out to be simple but clean and with sit down toilets and hot showers.  Have to keep reminding ourselves once on the road that in Morocco they still use the old French system of "Prioritie adroite" on roundabouts and main junctions.  The "ring road" around El Jadida is appalling deteriorating into little more than a muddy stream at times with enormous pot holes.  Once on the coast road things improve and we find ourselves in a farming area with lots of plastic greenhouses over the tomatoes.  We get waves from dozens of children but come across one who threatens to throw a stone and another a stick.  We frown and wag our finger at them and nothing comes of it.  Perhaps they don’t have TV out here and didn’t receive the Kings broadcast.  Oualidia seems a normal bustling town until we turn off right down a hill to the beach and find we have been transferred to a quiet seaside resort.  The footpaths are red tiles, the beach is clean and there are lots of nice restaurants.  Camping Les Sables D’Or 52 DH (3.35) has a clean toilet block and for the first time on a site it has sit down toilets.  It’s pretty windy so after our walk around the resort we sunbathe in a sheltered spot by the van.  We have selected the Restaurant A L"Araigne Gourmande for our evening meal.  It’s a seafood restaurant with menu of the day 85 DH (5.50).  We are met by a roaring log fire in the French style dining room right behind the beach.  Our meal starts with fish soup and croutons.  Next course is a big tray of salad and another of urchins.  We are expecting the main course next but instead receive three more platters with mussels, whitebait and a small shell fish.  By this time Steve is full up and wishing Sandra was with us as she is also a seafood lover.  For our main course Steve has fish whilst I have shish kebabs (beef) and chips. Rounded off by orange tart or crepes we reckon it was good food and excellent value for money. 
Sunday 21 January   It’s difficult to phone England as few call boxes can be used for international calls and the ones that do take a maximum 5DH (32p) coin which they eat up. Manage a quick call to Mum on her birthday and find that it is snowing in England, shame as we are basking in sun.  Continue our journey down the coast noticing an unusual landscape of long narrow fields heading straight to the dunes.  There are lots of children around and we grow weary of smiling and waving and still encounter the occasional child making as if to throw a stone.  This all stems from motorhomers who in the past threw sweets out of the window but this is now discouraged as it encourages the begging mentality amongst children and they suggest you only give to a child if they have done something to deserve it.  The threats still seem a little intimidating.  Get lost in Safi where it is not ideal to take a large motorhome into the narrow busy side streets.  Follow the inland route onwards passing through towns with bustling markets and for miles either side people, donkeys and camels laden with goods.  The campsite at Essaouira has been moved further out of town to make way for a big new hotel to be built.  Site fees are cheaper at 42 DH (2.70) with electricity and the toilet block is tiled and clean.  Yet again we are behind high glass topped walls but we have a sandy plot and can pretend we are on the beach sunbathing in the scorching afternoon sun.  The only other British motorhomers are Dot & Jim who join us for a drink in the evening.
Monday 22 January  Climb over the dunes to walk North along the beach to town.  Almost buried in the sand we spot the ruins of an old fort which was the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix’s song "Castles in the Sand" .  He once spent a long drug-happy summer in the town and often visited this stretch of beach.  Another claim to fame of the town is that Orson Welles filmed much of his Othello here and they have named a square after him.  It’s a pleasant soft sandy beach and we pass the enormous posh looking Sofitel Hotel just before reaching the port.  There’s an Internet cafe which charges 20 DH (1.25) hour or 15 DH (1.00) 1/2 hour.  Take a seat and immediately become confused by the Arabic keyboard which does have English letters but in the wrong places.  Finally get into hotmail but the computer is so slow it severs the connection before it can download or send a message.  Give up as a bad job.  Enter the Medina for a pleasant hassle free stroll then return to the port for lunch.  The area of Fish Grills have stalls of fresh fish which you chose and then wait for them to BBQ it and serve it up with salad, bread and a drink.  Prices are negotiable and by the 3rd stall we have an idea what we want to pay and settle on a total of 70 DH (4.50) for a large John Dory fish for me and a big live crab for Steve.  A leisurely stroll back along the promenade and an afternoon sunbathing.
Tuesday 23 January  Follow a sandy track towards the village of Diabat.  The bridge over the river collapsed long ago so now we have to rock hop along the sandy river bed then over a makeshift bridge of sacks and stones.  This village was once a legendary hippie hangout but has now reverted to a typical Berber village although we notice a German then a French car outside properties which look like they are being renovated.  Explore the primitive village and return past the school then stop at a "cafe" for a couple of drinks and some bread.  Having some idea of prices now we feel we are being overcharged at 13.50 DH (85p) but at least it’s helping a small community.  Drop down to the beach for a spot of sunbathing in the dunes.  We’re surprised to pass a tortoise on the way back early afternoon.  Press on with the seemingly never ending task of cleaning the van.
Wednesday 24 January  Another glorious hot day so we continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the van.  Normally with a hose pipe we can complete the job in a day with us both at it but with limited water and ingrained dirt the job seems never ending – also we do keep stopping to sunbathe.   RAF pilot called JJ is staying on our site and he joins us for a drink in the evening and tells us about the area further south which he has already checked out for surf.  He lends us his "Stormrider" book which highlights all the good surfing beaches and also mentions camping possibilities.
Thursday 25 January   Rain in the early hours and we wake to drizzle – time to press on further south.  It brightens up almost immediately and our journey takes us up into the mountains with some interesting gorges.  Roadside attractions include goats up argan trees and vendors selling argan oil and honey.  It takes the nuts from 30 trees to produce 1 litre of oil which makes it expensive.  If the price isn’t a deterrent we read that they collect the nuts out of the goat dung (after the goats have digested them). Back on the coast we stop at one of the areas mentioned in JJ’s book with about 20 motorhomes parked on the cliff top.  Most are small old campervans with young "surfies".  Steve gets chatting to an elderly British couple Carol & Roy and we swap info.  After lunch I take a stroll around site and chat to another British couple Malcolm & Wendy who have been on the road for 3 years and built their own motorhome in gypsy style complete with dark wood, horse brasses, fireplace and wood burning stove. They have a pet tortoise which they rescued when the lorry in front of them ran over it.  Lots of vendors pass between the vans selling bread, cakes and fresh fish.  Coupled with a supply of spring water here we can understand why so many people stay.  With binoculars we can see further along the beach to Taghazoute where there must be 200 motorhomes huddled together on the beach.  For us it is nice to sit out here with a view over the ocean and entertainment provided by the surfers.  For the first time since our return from Aus we watch the sunset over the ocean.
Friday 26 January  It’s not a great spot where we are so we drive into Taghazoute to check out the campsite and then the free camping area between there and  Tamrhakht universally known as "Banana Village" after the thriving banana grove and roadside stalls.  It’s not surprising then that the beach is called Banana Beach and this is the area with hundreds of motorhomes parked together grouped mainly by nationality but not really our scene.  Continue to Agadir port to try to buy LPG at the gas depots but with no success.  Resign ourselves to turning off the fridge in order to free camp.  Find a spot on the edge of the Banana Beach free camp and settle ourselves in.  Within half an hour we have bought a 6M X 2M plastic carpet to go outside the van.  Negotiation brought the price down from 250 DH (17.00) to 50 DH (3.20) plus an old pair of trainers and a track suit.  I’m now very happy with an area to stretch out and sunbathe and less dust coming into the van.  An afternoon stroll through the camp brings us to the British section which is one of the best areas with a small patch of green separating them from the beach.  We learn that this area is free but where we are parked a self appointed guardian comes round daily and demands 10 DH (65p).  The 10 DH includes security and rubbish disposal.  Security is a man shining his light into all the vans at 10.00pm then going to sleep and rubbish disposal involves them taking your bags and dropping them in the gully.  Two Brit. vans are moving out in the morning and they suggest we drive over and double park ready to take their spot, unbelievably we do.  I say unbelievably as I always said that I didn’t come away to be crammed into a site with a load of Brits and that’s exactly what we are doing but they did make us feel welcome and we should be able to get information about other things we need including a dentist for Steve who has lost a filling.
Saturday 27 January  Move onto our spot then hitch a lift with Malcolm and Wendy who have called down.  They drop us in the nearest village called Imourane.  We want to phone David for his birthday but can’t get him or Claire so speak to Netty.  Walk back along the beach and then meet some of the Brits, Aiden & wife, David & Jean, Jeff & Ethel, Eddy & Sandy, John & Barbara, Les & Yvonne. Set up our stall for a day of relaxation.  David tells us of an excellent dentist in Agadir whom he is visiting on Tuesday so we make plans to go with him.  A tanker comes round with water charging 20 DH (1.35) to fill any size tank.  Vendors hawk rugs and different types of food but we pass on them all.  Walk north along the beach to see Steve & Mary whom we met previously and to watch the famous Rashid at work. painting dessert scenes onto the sides of motorhomes.  Back at the coral Jeff has his radio operator Ethel relaying the football scores to a gathering of men including Steve.  Before we know it the sun is setting and another day is over.  Can see we are going to find our time passing very quickly here.
Sunday 28 January   Walk north along the beach to Taghazoute.  Lots of Moroccans are playing football on the beach and we observe that they have very narrow goal posts and players wearing T-shirts from a wide variety of European teams.  It takes us about 3/4 hour to reach the village and for lunch we settle on fish. 15 DH (1.00) gets you a plate of assorted fish including calamary and prawns, a small dish of salad and bread. Arriving back at he van at 2.00pm we have just settled down to sunbathe when a sand storm blow up and we are forced inside.  Set up the video to watch a film using the new inverter only to find it blows the fuse for the cigarette socket connection.  The instructions reveal that for heavy power supply the inverter must be connected directly to the battery – another job to add to the list.  By early evening the van is positively rocking and we are not the culprits.
Monday 29 January  The storm died out late evening and we wake to a hot sunny and just slightly breezy day.  By 9.30 am I have made a number of purchases from the door to door salesmen. 2 DH (13p) for a French stick, 20 DH (1.35) for a 650g gurnard fish which the man cleans and guts for me and a punnet of strawberries for 5 DH (35p).  BBQ the fish for lunch and it is delicious with chips rounded off with strawberries and cream.  Jean next door is a hairdresser and for 75 DH (5.00) does cuts so I invest in a short back and sides.  Steve gets lots of help on connecting the inverter, it seems the minute you appear to be doing a job here the crowds gather round to offer help and advice.  Brilliant for us as we never know what we are doing anyway.     
Tuesday 30 January  Jean & David join us to escort us round Agadir.  The town was rebuilt after the 1960 earthquake so lacks character but makes a good resort for British holidaymakers.  Stop in the area of garages where Steve & Dave stand in one shop whilst boys race around getting cables soldered and collecting the things we need.  Next stop the dentist where very quickly and surprisingly painlessly without anaesthetic Steve gets a filling done for 200 DH (14.00).  Part company with Jean & David and set off on foot to explore Agadir. Wanadoo offer Internet at the incredible price of 7 DH (49p) hour and even have good fast computers.   Uni Prix is a useful large fixed price supermarket selling groceries and souvenirs.  Notice the exchange rate is dropping and now nearer 15 DH and less than that on our credit card.  Manage to find just one petrol station which takes credit card and tank up at 5.89DH (39p) litre.  We’re now getting better mileage per gallon probably because of the slow speeds we are travelling at.
Wednesday 31 January  Market day in Banana Village.  Set off for the long walk but soon hitch a lift with a van of young Brits. as they are passing.  The market is busy and has two sections, household goods and local produce.  Big tarpaulins are put on the ground and huge mounds of  food are then built.  Most vendors sell only 2 or 3 things so you have to visit many stalls and do quite a bit of bargaining.  We pay between 2 DH (13p) and 3 DH (20p) kilo for most things and buy tomatoes, onions, courgettes, aubergines, potatoes, garlic, chillies and mandarins.  Steve sees a stall with different types of olives and settles for a mixed selection at 5 DH (33p) for half a kilo.  I buy 10 DH (65p) of the Moroccan "tajine" mixed spice and receive a considerable amount in a small bag.  Weighted down with our purchases we are glad to see the people we hitched in with and leave the bags with them for us to collected later back on site.  Walking back we select one of the many roadside restaurants for our first tajine meal.  These Moroccan specialities are cooked over a mini BBQ of charcoal in a clay pot.  A clay platters sits on this and this in turn is covered with a cone.  The meat is first fried in hot oil then spices, stock and vegetables are piled on top and left to steam.   Steve chooses mutton and I have chicken served with huge amounts of bread and washed down with coke.  There is a dispute when we come to pay as on inquiring about the price they wrote on a piece of paper 1 mutton +  1 chicken 60 DH (4.00).  They then wrote that 1 litre of coke was 6 DH (40p) and did a sum showing 60 DH + 6 DH = 66 DH which we agreed as the total.  They now want to charge 60 DH each.   We find this type of thing happening a lot in Morocco and although it may be a simple misunderstanding we feel it is more a case of them deliberately misleading us.  Anyway we have 100 DH note which they won’t take as they want more or 65 DH in change.  We are getting nowhere so put the 65 DH on the counter and say if they want to call the police they can.  We walk off and not a thing happens.  Think this indicates that our latter conclusion was correct.  Our steady walk back takes about an hour which just leaves Steve time to complete wiring the inverter into the battery.  Alas he finishes the job quickly but the inverter cuts out.  After shortening the wire connection as much as possible we still can’t get it to work.  Why is it that jobs which should be simple never are for us.  I cook up a mixture of the vegetables we bought and add the tajine spice which is delicious.  Join a large group of people for a musical evening outside someone’s camper.  An old guy is singing and he has CD’s to back him up.  People are gathered round having taken their own chairs and drinks.  Quite a few people get up to shuffle in the sand but we are content to just absorb the setting.

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