Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200102 Morocco

Thursday 1 February 2001  It’s a scorcher of a day.  Steve resolves the inverter problem by removing all the connections to the battery and giving them a good clean up.  I do some washing then paint our doorstep after removing the rust.  By the time we have done this and had lunch we are called to join the afternoon boules session on the beach. We draw lots and I end up in a team with Saul, John & Barbara. Steve’s with Norman, Joyce and Jim.  Our team "the woodentops" beat Steve’s the "blue pegs" 2 games to 1.  Steve has a dip in the sea then we retire for a late afternoon drink and to reflect on how this place is growing on us.  We camp for free with a nice view over the ocean, most things we could need are delivered to our door, the neighbours are nice and very helpful with problems, we’re near enough to 3 villages to walk,  everything is cheap and the weather is excellent.  Can understand why most people here tour in their first year and then on future visits just settle here for the duration.  Watch a video in the evening plugged into the inverter, and it works which means we can partake in the video swapping circle.
Friday 2 February  Our first purchase of the day is 2 john dory fish for 15 DH (£1.00).  We eat them for lunch fried in a sauce made of garlic and tomatoes and they are delicious.  At afternoon boules we split into boys and girls and we lose 2 – 1.  A man comes round trying to sell spider crabs and Steve negotiates the price to 2 cans of beer which cost us a total of 56 pesetas (22p).  Once cooked Steve passes a pleasant half hour devouring every piece and thoroughly enjoys it. 
Saturday 3 February  It’s a cloudy start to the day so I start work on the computer.  So often we are getting asked for advice and information about motorhome exchanges that I figure I might as well get it down as an article and see if any of the magazines will publish it.  Steve walks to the campsite and phones Pete to find he is still in Spain waylaid with dental problems, shame he couldn’t have got here first as the dental fees here are cheaper than the rest of Europe.  People come here just to have orthodontic work done.  By the time Steve returns the sun is out and we fall into the routine of sunbathing, lunch, boules, afternoon sunset drink then evening meal.
Sunday 4 February  An even hotter day.  Steve is borrowing Bill Bryson’s book "Down Under" and as we plan to leave tomorrow he is desperate to finish it.  No chance as the minute you sit out people appear and chat.  They say that if you need help working on your van you just open the bonnet then make yourself visible with spanner in hand and crowds will gather to offer advice.  Just as we are all watching a particularly good sunset a trio of Moroccans meander between the vans two playing instruments and one dancing. Perfect timing.
Monday 5 February  Leave just after 9.00am and call into the gas depot to get our bottled refilled.  Wait over 1 hour to find they can’t do our particular type.  Filling the van with diesel produces a problem as we need about 150 litres but the machine cuts out after 20 litres.  The diesel is foaming up and even putting it in slowly we can only get another 15 litres in so give up.  Steve returns to the dentist to get his filling polished whilst I hit the Internet cafe and find the machines extremely slow.  Leaving Agadir on the by pass we try another petrol station but only take 13 litres before having the same problem.  Call into Makro where they will admit tourists without a trade card.  Stock up on a few things but there is a limit to what we can buy by the case but I do submit to Mars Bars.  Head south through Tiznit then out towards the coast.  Notice that the salmon colour used for most buildings has now been replaced by a sandy colour and guess this is all done to blend in with the terrain as we approach the Sahara desert.  Aglou Plage campsite is very basic and with an enormous hole in the middle where many years ago they started to build a swimming pool.  It’s cheap enough at 17 DH (£1.15) a night plus 12 DH (80p) electric.  Park then set out to explore the area as our first impressions do not live up to the Rough Guide’s description.  Notice a hotel just before the beach with motorhomes on the car park.  Discover that you can park there for 15 DH (£1.00) and use the hotels facilities. The hotel is lovely inside and very clean so we will probably move tomorrow.  The beach is mainly rocky and it’s a fair walk to the troglodyte fishermen’s caves in the north so we return for a BBQ planning further exploration.
Tuesday 6 February   Spend an hour catching up with our back log of washing.  Handwashing bedding is back breaking work especially when you are not used to it but we get stuck in together.  Re-locate to Hotel Aglou Beach where the manager is extremely helpful and offers us use of the washing lines on the roof.  Walk north along the beach and discover that close up the
troglodyte caves look more like rough partly built shacks usually with the roof and some walls missing.  There is a sign in many languages warning how dangerous the sea is and that swimming is forbidden.  For us this place hasn’t got a lot going for it but at least there is plenty of water available in the hotel car park so I clean the outside of the van.  The inside also gets very dusty and I now have to spend well over 5 minutes doing housework each day to keep up. I have a lovely hot shower in the hotel for 10 DH (70p) it’s powerfull and the water’s piping hot.  Reckon the hotel is the best part about Aglou Plage and certainly up to European standards all round.  In the evening a group of 12 German motorhomes play follow the leader to park up on the flat area below the hotel.  They have paid DM 5000 (£1700.00) per couple for the privilege of being escorted for a 10 day tour in their own motorhomes and the price only includes the ferry crossing and the occasional campsite.
Wednesday 7 February  It’s a pleasant run down the coast road towards Sidi Ifni which is also dissapointing.  It’s hilly, the campsite is overflowing with motorhomes parked on the dusty car park outside and as for the exceptional Art Deco buildings highlighted by the guide book well Art Deco my arse!  Abandon our plans for staying and after a drive around we head out towards Guelmim.  It’s a good road and the section in the mountains reminds us of Crete, dusty orange earth, scrubby green bushes and small gorges. The salmon coloured buildings are back and now with bright blue doors and window shutters.  Well that’s the ones that are finished as so many buildings here are incomplete and it’s difficult to tell if they are coming or going.  Speak too soon about the road as it deteriorates first to very narrow single track and then to road works which leave us driving a considerable distance on rubble before returning to a completed section.  We’re still getting lots of children racing down from the fields to stand by the roadside waving and hoping for bon bons.  Steve reckons that in 8 years time they will be in the Olympics as they are putting in great training for the sprints and also the hurdles when they jump over the fences.  Turn off to Abeino which sounds interesting.  The single track road in is sided by red dusty earth with the occasional bush and we are now reminded of similar roads in the Northern Territory of Australia.  Camping Abeino 25DH (£1.70) is small as is the village.  Nearby hot springs are channelled into two bath enclosures the ladies being 28C and the men’s 38C.  Having realised the potential as a tourist attraction they are working on the mens to modernise it and adding a hammam.  Once complete they will start to charge for admission.  For now they are offering mixed bathing in the ladies after 7pm with no charge.  Setting out to explore we have a pleasant walk strolling through the shady palmery where a canal channels water to the individual allotment type fields. The ladies hot baths leave a bit to be desired.  Enclosed by high walls steps lead a long way down to a large tiled pool with stepped sides.  The mineral water itself is warm and clean but in many areas green algae is starting to build up on the tiles.   Return after 7.00pm guided by the full moon.  I wear a T-shirt over my costume so as not to embarrass the Muslims but it also serves a purpose of stopping me feeling the slime if I lean back against the tiles.  Soon relax and realise that once you find a clean patch of tiles the whole experience of bathing under the starts is most pleasant – until a man arrives and starts washing his pots in the pool then another to wash clothes.  Time to exit before someone comes and empties their toilet as well   
Thursday 8 February  Back track and head towards Guelmim then turn off for another detour this time to Camping Fort Bou Jerif.  The single track road is well surfaced but at the last junction a notice says that to Bou Jerif  the final 6 km is piste.  The place is highly recommended so we press on and enjoy lovely scenery first through gorges to then emerge along a river with pretty terraces. There’s a causeway over the river and then the surfaced road peters out and we are onto very rough rocky terrain.  Within minutes Steve is cursing having had more than his fair share of driving this type of road in Australia.  We are please to see two modern motorhomes coming towards us confirming that the track is passable.  The 6km turns out to be 4 1/2 miles and takes well over 30 minutes to cover with an equal number of curses from Steve. Suddenly we spot a Disney like structure in the middle of nowhere and heave a sigh of relief.  Fort Bou Jerif is owned by a young French couple and in addition to the camping 50DH (£3.50) they have motel rooms, a newly built small hotel and a restaurant.  Everything is very nicely decorated including murals in the toilet block.  There’s electricity for a few hours in the evening and hot solar heated showers.  Tour groups come here but further enquiries reveal them to be 4WD tours and not the coach variety.  There are lots of low Berber tents around the grounds with floor mats and tables inside and camels stroll around to complete the "Lawrence of Arabia" image. It’s blowing a gale and no good for sunbathing so we set out on a walk to explore.  Further along the track is the real Fort Bou Jerif from the French Foreign Legion.  It’s enormous and we wonder around the ruins and find a small area turned into someone’s home.  Continue to the river and walk by the side then back over the dunes to the campsite.  In the restaurant we share a camel tajine 90DH (£5.60) of which there is plenty for 2 with lots of tender meat. 
Friday 9 February  No wind at all and a hot start to the day.  We had a problem with the cassette eject button yesterday and with the help of a couple of other Brits we manage to remove the button to now be able to operate it with a pencil.  By the time we leave it’s 10.15am and we are pushing it to reach our destination.  Guelmim is difficult to negotiate with either no road signs or ones just in Arabic.  North of Guelmim it’still a desert landscape with a long straight stretch of road.  Arrive in Tiznit just before 2.00pm and have to wait for the gas depot to open but the wait is worthwhile as they fill our bottle for 10 DH (70p).  Check onto the campsite which is overflowing onto a dusty area at the back which looks like a building site.  With little other choice we pull up and sunbathe until late afternoon before walking to explore the town.  Coach loads of tourist come here and this is reflected in the increased amount of hassle we get but see as practise for Marrakech.  Arrive back at the site just before 6.00pm but the office is still not open for registration.  Fall asleep just after 9.00pm to be woken by knocking just before 10.00pm.  The guardian starts to talk in appaling English about "fish".  Steve immediately understands that he wants us to go to the office to register but first plays silly and says we don’t want to buy fish and certainly not this late.  The man says we must go fish "maintenant" and Steve pretends to missunderstand and offer to go in the "matin".  Eventually Steve gives in and storms up to the office with the obligatory passport.  The office youth understands English to about the same extent we speak French but he and Steve are playing the same game.  Steve comes back fuming that the man wants both passports which has not been necessary before. He eventually returns in a foul mood as the man would not believe on the registration form that we are retired or that we don’t live in England, they nearly came to blows which I can well imagine when Steve gets uptight.  Reckon that as good customer relations they really should have left the registration until tomorrow as we are locked in the camp by a barrier and also if they want English visitors they should at least learn the basics of our language.
Saturday 10 February  Steve sends me into the office to pay the billl which is 36 DH (£2.35) the same as if we had been parked on the proper tidy site.  I set out intent on being polite but the man is obnoxious and even the guardian agrees with us.  He seems proud to have knocked 4 motorhomers up last night but we will certainly tell other people our version.  Anyway by 9.30am we are heading on the scenic loop to Tafraoute winding our way through attractive oasis like villages.  Good views from Col Du Kerdous at 1100 metres then after the drop down the other side we emerge to an area with a surprising number of big expensive looking mansions.  It’s a single track road after Jemma Ida Oussemial so we slow down and enjoy the scenery enhanced by blossom on the many almond trees.  Aguard Oudad is dominated by huge granite boulders often given names of the shapes they look like.  Many houses are built right onto the rocks which makes it look very attractive.  Tafraoute is a small pleasant town with Camping Les Trois Palmiers full but the overspill is in the valley amongst palm trees and nicer than inside the compound.  Sunbathe but get forced inside at times as it is so hot.  Late afternoon we do our usual town reccy and again receive some hassle in the form of people politely welcoming us to Morocco which leads to where you are from then ends in come and look at my shop.  We have time to spare and having made it clear that we don’t wish to buy we follow an old Berber man to his shop.  He shows us lots of rugs and cloths which his wife has hand made but they don’t appeal to us and after he finds out Steve was once a salesman he allows us to leave.  The campsite charge us 25 DH (£1.70) which is a reduced rate for being outside.  I pay an extra 6 DH (42p) to scrub up under a hot shower.  Steve chats to Kiwi’s Jack & Terri who join us for the evening.
Sunday 11 February  Beginning the long and winding road back towards Agadir.  Pass through the Ameln Valley with villages built against the rocks before beginning the long hilly descent.  It feels like "Groundhog Day" as we seem to keep repeating bends which look the same.  It’s an extremely tedious journey made worse by being single track road.  We feel that the things we are seeing in Morocco are no better than what we have seen elsewhere and not really worth the journey.  Tioulit fortified Kasbah-village seems to be the only thing different on this run.  Explore the southern part of Agadir where all the tourist hotels are situated.  Lots of new 4 and 5 starts hotels are still being built.  Park near the beach and feel tempted to join the Germans sunbathing at the hotel but there is no guardian in the car park and we don’t want to leave the van.  Park for the night in the French Square and agree an overnight price of 10 DH (70p) with the guardian.  Walk to Place Lahcen Tamri where the restaurant "Mille et Une Nuits" has been recommended by many people.  Steve chooses from the 35 DH (£2.35) set menu and I from the 40 DH (£2.80) one.  Steve’s traditional Moroccan "harira" spicy bean based soup is lovely and my omelette comes with salad.  Bread is served with a chilli dip, a yoghurt and onion one plus butter.  Steve has liver for main course and I enjoy a steak with green peppercorn sauce both served with savoury rice, veg and chips.  For desert we have Fruit Salad and Creme Caramel (no prizes for guessing who had which) followed by melon.  With a litre of fizzy mineral water at 10 DH (70p) it all represents excellent value.  Meander around the area and notice quite a number of tourists eating even though it is a fair walk from the hotels although with the hotel advertising a basic salad at 40 DH (£2.80) it’s understandable.
Monday 12 February   A business morning with one surprising moment.  At the Uni Prix fixed price store
 I spot dozens of cloths just like the one the Berber man showed us which his wife had "hand made"!  She must have been a very busy lady.  No problem filling up with fuel but we refuse to pay a further 20 DH (£1.40) for water when we have just paid 946 DH (£67.00) for 160 litres of diesel.  We’ve been told of free water down by the beach and arrive at a rough looking shanty town area oddly topped off with dozens of satellite dishes.  Filling up using the hose we are mobbed by children and also feel guilty as we are causing a queue of locals who want to fill their water bottles so abandon the job. Return to the Brit camp but the front line is full so we move a bit further up the beach to the "hippie" area for a sea view pitch parked near Steve & Mary whom we’ve met before.  It’s only known as the hippie end as most people here are younger and travel in home converted vans.  One’s a converted mobile bank with bullet proof glass and another still says "mobile library" on the side.   Steve enjoys a swim in the sea and I brave a paddle.
BANANA BEACH (hippie end) – 27 MILES
Tuesday 13 February  Walk to the campsite with Steve & Mary and phone our friend Pete who is now in Morocco but South of us.  Back to the Brit camp for afternoon boules which we follow up by both having a swim in the sea which I find rather cold compared to Steve’s refreshing version.
Wednesday 14 February  Valentines Day and we upgrade from the 30 DH (£2.00) kilo fish to 35 DH (£2.35) kilo prawns and buy 1/2 kilo. Usual day of sunbathing then afternoon boules before returning for our evening meal.  We’ve saved a bottle of "Cote’s de Rhone" and this goes down well with the prawn stir fry and rice, melon filled with strawberries and drenched in Sambucca followed by after dinner mints and coffee.  All the more romantic when eaten at a cosy table for two with a sea view and lovely sun set.
Thursday 15 February  Buy a large tuna fish for 20 DH (£1.40) and half it with Steve & Mary.  There are more vendors than ever in the area and we can now buy almost anything we need.  Having been here for some time they also now understand "no" means "no" and don’t hang around.  If I leave a carrier bag on the door the bread man leaves us a French stick and collects the money later.  I’m still attempting to learn Moroccan Arabic having set out to learn a word or phrase each day but I’m not getting enough opportunity to use it as Moroccans are now being encouraged to speak French.  Notice from out figures that we are averaging 100 DM (£7.00) day expenditure in Morocco so that means we are actually accruing money whilst toughing it out here!  Or to be more realistic we are starting to clear the overdraft from our excessive December expenses.
Friday 16 February   Usual routine including boules.  Enjoying a late afternoon drink with Steve & Mary we spot Pete’s motorhome on the main road and wave to attract his attention.  He parks nearby and hops out with Mollie (his Border Collie) to join us. Over our evening meal he fills us in on his news.
Saturday 17 February  Down to the beach late morning where we play backgammon with Pete and I take a dip.  After boules we all go in Pete’s van to Taghazoute for a drink and a bit of shopping before returning for tea.
Sunday 18 February    Cloudy morning so we sit out with Pete, Steve & Mary chatting.  Phone Claire and receive the good news that Sandra is coming out for a week next month, it will be lovely to share our Moroccan experience with her.  After boules we walk up to Taghazoute with Pete for a meal.  Sitting in the restaurant at the edge of the dusty main road we comment on the similarities to being in the Far East as this village is so much less touristy than Banana Village
Monday 19 February  .Join Pete in ADD105S for a trip to Agadir.  Visit Makro and the town centre then park up by the beach.  It’s a lovely clean stretch of fine white sand backed by a nice promenade.  The tourist hotels spill onto the beach with their own bars and sun loungers in a roped off area – much like many European resorts.  The car park attendant tells us you can stay overnight in a motorhome for 15DH (£1.00), we’ll be back.
Tuesday 20 February  It’s a windy morning but the wind dies down enough by mid afternoon for us to go in the sea for a swim and a bit of body surfing.  Pete joins us for a special chilli pasta then leaves early.  It becomes a wild night with the wind rocking the van and things being blown against it.
Wednesday 21 February  A windy and cloudy morning.  We are both pretty lethargic having being kept awake for 2 nights with dogs barking then last night with the wind.  Mope around outside he van.  Buy a kilo of crayfish 25DH (£1.65) but they are very hard work to remove from the shells and we won’t bother again. 
Thursday 22 February  Back to hot sunny weather and clear blue skies.  The only problem now is that the British family moved in yesterday with their 7 and 5 year old girls. He came up to see us yesterday and is a total bore who hovers around.  Even worse we have been warned about the 5 year old who has downs syndrome and is left to wander around.  They were camped further down the beach and the young girl was going into people’s motorhomes with a spanner and hammer and causing havoc.  When they arrived yesterday she started to climb up our ladder and we were are concerned about her safety and what would have happened if we hadn’t spotted her.  Steve & Mary leave first thing and with Pete planning to move later Steve sets out to find us another parking place.  He returns with a spot in mind and no sooner have we sat out for our coffee than the family appear and Kimberly starts trying to dismantle everything in sight whilst her Dad appears not to notice.  She sits on Steve’s knee and smells in need of a good wash which would be consistent with her neglected appearance.  Still we’ve always said that the beauty of a motorhome is that if you don’t like your neighbours it’s easy to move but it is a shame as we rather liked this spot and it’s the parents not the childs fault.  After lunch we pack up to leave.  Steve backs off the ramps and as I gather them up I spot a scorpion on one.  I drop the ramp and manage to shake it off but shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t spotted it before I stored the ramps inside.  Park on the outskirts of the British camp with our name down on the waiting list for a vacancy.  Boules is late afternoon to fit in with the tide but we still don’t have time to complete the usual 3 games.  Norman has a satellite system and picks up British TV so at 8.00am a group of "lads" pile into his van to watch the British football.
Friday 23 February  Get up late then find ourselves rushed to get down to the beach for the rescheduled morning boules.  It’s a glorious day and a swim goes down nicely after our activities.  Steve BBQ’s sardines for his lunch but I opt out.  We’ve been invited to a get together with the boules crowd in the evening.  Yesterday was Aiden and Anita’s 41st wedding anniversary, Monday is Jim and Ellens 46th anniversary and tomorrow Barbara and John area leaving so it’s a collective party.  Anita and Ellen have prepared the food for the 13 of us and we joke about it being like the "Last Supper".  To start there’s salad with chicken, apricot and orange couscous. Main course is a most unexpected and delicious home make steak pie, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy.  Jim lights the bonfire and we sit around it finishing off the meal with dam fine cherry pie and custard. 
Saturday 24 February  Make an early move into Barbara and John’s spot with Jeffrey & Ethel on one side and David & Jean on the other.  It’s a nice tidy flat spot which would not have been empty for long.  John has raked over the area and piled the stones up to define a bit of a garden complete with bird bath. By 9.30am we are back on the beach for boules trying to beat the incoming tide.  Early afternoon it gets very windy and gradually everyone disappears into their vans.  We’ve borrowed some videos and are happy to relax and watch TV.  The wind dies down after 5.00pm giving us a last chance to sit out in the sun.  Make use of the water tanker and for 20 DH (£1.35) get 150 litres for the tank and also fill the bath tub and some bottles.  There is no water supply to the village of Taghazoute so the tanker delivers there and on the way back to the depot the driver detours to sell any remaining water to the motorhomes and pockets the cash. 
Sunday 25 February  Have to rush to get all the washing done before boules.  Shan’t be doing it again though as we learn of a launderette in Taghazoute.  Repeat of the afternoon wind but we hear that we are getting off lightly.  Someone has just come down from Ceuta in the North where it is cold, windy and raining and also raining in Casablanca and Marrakech.  Top this off with the fact that it has been snowing in England and we realise which side our bread is buttered.
Monday 26 February  Make the most of the calm morning to sit out and sunbathe.  Later on Steve and Mary join us for a walk to Taghazoute village where they all have the fish dinner and I enjoy a fish tajine.  Round this off with a good cup of coffee whilst soaking up the view from the Panorama Cafe. 
Tuesday 27 February  Take a walk up into the hills behind the beach and get superb views along the coast.  Count over 170 motorhomes spread out in 4 different clusters. 
Wednesday 28 February  Usual pattern of a calm morning with the wind getting up later.  At least we are getting plenty of solar power to enable us to watch some of the videos we are borrowing.

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