On the Friday night at around 10pm we heard fireworks going off in the town. Although it was November 6th, we assumed their display was nothing to do with Guy Fawkes.
We slept badly on Saturday night, the wind had increased and our awning was rattling noisily. I got up about 3.30 am to bring in our towels, thinking they might blow away. It was still dark outside but it was surprisingly warm; I checked the temperature and saw it was registering 27°, ten degrees warmer than the normal night time temperature. It was hot for the next twenty four hours, reaching 32° and then it returned to normal, 18° at night and 26° daytime maximum. We needed regular dips in the sea to keep comfortable. Sidi Ifni is on the same latitude as the Canary Islands, several hundred miles to the west.
We had a late Sunday lunch at the café next to the campsite, overlooking the beach. When we arrived we were ushered into the kitchen and shown two tagines keeping hot on the stove, one with a whole fish and the other with chicken pieces. We paid less than £10 for a beautiful salad each, then the fragrant tagine of chicken and fresh vegetables, followed by a plate of fresh fruit, plus bottled water and loads lovely fresh bread.
The leading out of town supermarket in Morocco was Marjane and we passed lots of these huge retail outlets as we drove south but, as far as we could tell, there were no supermarkets in Sidi Ifni. Apart from the fresh food market, we wondered where all the other shops were until we got accustomed to what they looked like. Most were small dark shacks with goods piled up outside or they were just kiosks. It was difficult to see what each shop sold but, as it turned out, even the smallest shop sold absolutely everything. Bottled water? The owner would reach down and produce a variety of sizes. Eggs? A bowl full of fresh eggs would be magicked up from the gloom. Beach towels? Choice of several sizes and colours.
Our Corner Shop
In Chefchaouen and Marrakech it had been chilly in the evenings once th sun went down. In Sidi Ifni the temperature reached 25° in the afternoon and didn’t drop below 17° at night so we were able to sit outside after sunset and enjoy a glass of wine listening to the sounds of the ocean. In the late afternoons when the heat was beginning to fade, we walked down to the beach for a swim. Actually swimming was not really possible because of the big Atlantic waves rolling in. The sandy beach was shallow and we were able to stand knee deep in the water and jump the waves as they crashed in. If you were caught unawares, the rollers would punch you in the belly and knock you off your feet, tossing you like a pair of socks in a washing machine. It was most refreshing and exhilarating.
The Speck In The Red Trunks Is Tony
Mid morning we would cycle up the hill to the town and visit the market to pick up fresh supplies. Fishing was the main industry in the town and there was an open air fish market (with no ice or refrigeration) as well as stalls that sold meat and others selling fruit and vegetables. The meat stalls had butchered carcasses hanging at the front together with tasteful displays of the animal heads. We saw goats’ heads complete with their little horns and, the worst still, the head of a camel, looking as grumpy as they do in life. We didn’t buy meat or fish but the vegetables seemed inexpensive. I paid less than £1 for 4 oranges, 2 lemons, 2 pomegranates and 2 large beef tomatoes – and I suspect I was overcharged. We stopped for a glass of mint tea before peddling back to our beach side camp.
I took a bag of washing to a lovely lady who had an ancient twin tub washing machine and who charged less than £2 to wash a 10kg load. She filled the machine with a hose pipe and had a box of Daz washing powder. An hour later the damp washing was neatly folded and ready to hang out to dry. The washing dried more quickly in the sun that ever it could in a tumble drier at home.
We left Marrakech two days later and drove south on the motorway, through the High Atlas Mountains, past Agadir and along the coast road to Sidi Ifni, a seaside town in south west Morocco on the Atlantic, just north of the Sahara desert. The combination of desert and seaside made this a popular stop for travellers, especially surfers. This would be the furthest south we would travel and was approximately two thousand miles from home.
We had lunch in a restaurant called Nomad, who advertised themselves as being NoMad, NoBad, NoFat – two courses for less than £20 with more than enough to eat. I had octopus and cuttlefish cooked in an olive sauce with rice, Tony had a sort of chicken pie, made sweet with dried fruits and almonds.
Earlier in the day when we were exploring the town we were approached by a man who said he was a nomad who lived in a tent in the desert but he was holding an art exhibition just down the road – would we like to see it? We knew it would be a selling opportunity but we went along as we had time to kill. Sure enough, we were taken to a shop and were shown Berber jewellery, leatherwork and various craft items made from camel bones. There was a skill involved in the work but nothing that we wanted to buy. We finally bought a large wooden spoon for about £8 before we made our escape. Worth it to have a cup of tea with two likeable rogues!
We were heading south and had the choice of stopping at Agadir or Marrakech. We loved Agadir, which was a cosmopolitan seaside town an attractive promenade and interesting restaurants. Unfortunately, the camp site, although within walking distance of the town, was one of the worst we had ever visited. We had had our stuff stolen from outside our van when we stayed there and when we complained to the manager of the site he seemed to find it very amusing.
So we decided to head towards Marrakech where we had heard of a site that was supposed to be be the best in Morocco. As we approached Marrakech we could see the snow capped High Atlas Mountains in the distance; the temperature in the city was 25°.
The site was lovely, clean and tidy with grassy areas, lemon trees and other flowering shrubs, a swimming pool – and a washing machine. We stayed there two days but chose not to go into Marrakech as the weather was too warm for sight seeing.
We stopped overnight at a typical Moroccan walled camp site. There were stylish electrical points placed at regular intervals along the pitches topped with ornamental lights but when we tried to connect the electricity not one of them worked. The guardian came over and tried various sockets and then went away and returned with his boss who also kept trying socket after socket. Finally they gave up but assured us if there was anything at all we wanted, all we had to do was to ask. An electric hook up would have been top of our wish list.
And then we come to the toilet block which looked quite hopeful with mats at the door and a basket of cleaning materials sitting in the entrance. One of the showers had “Chaud” scribbled on the door and I did have a warm shower but the whole place was dirty and needed a good scrub. Most of the pedestal toilets wobbled dangerously, few had attached seats or lids, there was no loo paper and usually the inside of the bowl was disgustingly soiled. I kept a pack of antibacterial wipes in my wash bag to sanitise the toilet seat and to use on the flush handle, when available.
We had to keep the fly screen on the door closed to prevent cats and dogs coming in to the van. Some French people were having lunch outside their van and a cat jumped onto the table and snatched a piece of food from the plate. They shouted and threw a shoe at it but it got away and we next saw it sitting in the sun licking its lips.
Rain was forecast for the following day so we decided to come down from the mountains and head west towards the coast where the weather would be better. Driving in rural Morocco, once you accustomed yourself to the bizarre road conditions, was an enjoyable experience. People by the road side would often wave as you drove by, especially the young children who would run along beside you calling out greetings and waving cheerfully.
Police road blocks were common, usually near major road junctions and approaches to towns. The police were armed and had ugly looking stingers by the side of the road ready to deploy. We saw many motorists being stopped but we had no idea what the police were checking. We, I assumed because we were tourists, were always waved on through with a smile and often a salute.
We made good progress once we reached the three lane toll motorway although heavy rain made driving conditions challenging. The poor standard of driving was alarming. Cars straddled lanes and regularly changed lanes without indicating. Undertaking was common practice but sometimes it was the only way you could get past a slow moving vehicle hogging the centre lane. We saw groups of pedestrians, often laden with heavy bags, crossing the motorway and there were sellers of wares lined up on the slip roads.
The dual carriageways were just as hazardous and once, in the pouring rain with poor visibility, we encountered a donkey and cart coming towards against the flow of fast moving traffic. At a busy three lane junction approaching a roundabout we saw a family with young children weaving amongst the moving cars selling their wares.
It was 22° when we arrived at the campsite high above Chefchaouen and we were soon relaxing in the afternoon sunshine, catching up on our pre dawn start that morning. Towards the end of the day when it was cooler we strolled down the steep hill to the town, wandering through the maze of ancient cobbled steps of the old city with its blue painted walls. We had a meal at a fish restaurant that served us with freshly baked bread, a super fresh salad followed by a plate of grilled fishes and calamari with rice and chips on the side – all washed down with a delicious chilled bottle of . . . . . . mineral water. We paid less than £8 for everything.