Domestic Matters

As a rule we use the campsite toilets for calls of nature but the loo in our camper is an essential, especially at night and whilst driving. The toilet has a cassette that takes a dose of chemical solution, rendering everything virtually free of smell – usually. On one occasion the cassette flap had stuck open (my fault as it was due it loo paper). It was not long before there was a serious odour emanating the the toilet cubicle. Tony soon found and solved the problem but there was a bit of mopping up to do – which Tony manfully undertook. Job done, he reported that everything was now fine and he had used the white cloth in the cubicle to do the final wiping up. I am so glad he told me as that was my face cloth!

We stayed three nights at Camping des Oliviers, each evening our meal arrived at our camper, the last evening we had Tagine Royal with beef, prunes and almonds. The cost of our stay was £37 for food and £21 for the site, including use of the swimming pool, electricity, hot showers and so on. A pity the town outside the campsite was not so attractive.

Piscine At Oliviers

Piscine At Oliviers

Dish and Clothes Washing Area

Dish and Clothes Washing Area

Outdoor Restaurant

Outdoor Restaurant

Camping Des Oliviers, Ounara

We left Agadir and drove north towards Essaouira using the coast road, a distance of 117 miles but it seemed longer because of all the twists and turns in the road. On a rare straight bit of road Tony put his accelerator foot down. An armed policeman waved him down and he was charged 300D (about £20) for speeding. Our paperwork was checked, forms filled in, fine paid and Tony and policeman shook hands and we were on our way . . . . ten minutes later on another rare straight bit of road Tony put his accelerator foot down – out popped another policeman and he was charged a second 300D for speeding! Again, passports and vehicle paperwork were checked, forms completed and the fine paid. Tony and policeman shook hands and we were on our way . . . . driving very, very slowly.

First Speed Trap

First Speed Trap

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We called into Essaouira to see if we could find some garden chairs to replace our stolen ones. We had been to this seaside town on a previous trip but were not stopping on this occasion because their camp site was not very good. Then we had enjoyed a lovely fish lunch in the town square where they barbecue their fresh catch in open air restaurants. However, on his occasion the wind was blowing so strongly that the air was thick with swirling sand. We rushed into a shop with our eyes half shut against the stinging wind, made a quick purchase of a couple if chairs and drove on to Ounara where we found a lovely site called Camping Des Oliviers where we spent a pleasant time on a grassy pitch, surrounded by trees, giving us enough shade to sit out in the 30° heat. The camp restaurant appeared to be a stall with tables and chairs under the trees.
Camping Des Oliviers

Camping Des Oliviers


We ordered our food and prepared to wait, sitting at one of their tables but they explained they would deliver the food to our camper. Sure enough, half an hour later a young man brought over a bowl of bread, a Moroccan salad (peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and chopped up into tiny pieces) and a big oval platter of beef brochettes and kefta (spicy meatballs) with chips.

In the morning we walked to a nearby grocery shop that sold everything, including bread and we bought two baguettes, still warm from the oven. The town was typical of many we had driven through whilst travelling in Morocco. Not a tourist place at all. Although the principle street was the main road and metalled, all the side streets were dusty alleys. Small booth-like shops lined the streets, some sold groceries, others mobile phones, second hand televisions or hardware. There were workshops spilling out onto the highway, making wooden furniture or mending bikes or blacksmiths making gates and metal doors. Donkeys were the principle form of transport. Rubbish was everywhere but no-one appeared to notice. It made our campsite on the outskirts of town seem all the more pleasant and well cared for.

A General Store

A General Store

Side Street

Side Street

Alleyway

Alleyway

Taghazoute and Agadir

We took the motorway from Marrakech to Agadir on the Atlantic coast and then turned north to the surfing centre of Taghazoute. We had been recommended a camp site at Terre d’Ocean, just north of the town and we spent two nights there enjoying its charming facilities. It was not sophisticated but there was a lovely swimming pool overlooking the ocean and a restaurant. The weather was fine and sunny with the wind getting up in the afternoon. We ate both nights in the restaurant – with a bottle of wine each night and the total cost of our stay was less than 500D = £37.

Terre D'Océan

Terre D’Océan

The Piscine

The Piscine


We both needed a haircut; most Moroccan women had long hair so hairdressers were not found on every street corner. We were told that the nearest hairdresser was in Agadir.

The next morning we moved to the municipal site at Agadir. The camp site was a dump by European standards but it was within walking distance of the town centre.

Camp Site at Agadir

Camp Site at Agadir

Camp Site At Agadir

Camp Site At Agadir


Agadir had been flattened by an earthquake in 1960, killing 15,000 of its inhabitants. The town had been totally rebuilt and, although it now lacked any historical attractions, it had a huge beach, wide paved promenade and modern shops, hotels and restaurants. All buildings on the sea front were low rise and the whole sea front area was very pleasant and cosmopolitan.
Tony  at the Beauty Parlour

Tony at the Beauty Parlour


We walked along the promenade and happened upon a hairdressing salon. It looked fairly busy but we were quickly ushered inside. My hair was washed and conditioned with hot towels before the hairdresser appeared with her scissors. Tony had his hair clippered and his nose and ear hair attended to as well as his eyebrows. We both had a pedicure, including hot wax bath. We found ourselves surrounded by a team white uniformed beauticians, one working on each foot whilst a third did the hair cuts. Less than an hour later we were back on the promenade looking very spruce. The cost for both of us was 800D = £60.
Agadir Promenade

Agadir Promenade

In the evening we returned to the sea front in the evening and had a very good meal at a Cuban restaurant with a live band. It was an expensive meal but beautifully presented costing 1,200D = £80. We had cocktails followed by octopus, scallops, sole and lotte, dessert, a bottle of wine, liqueurs and coffee all beautifully presented.

The following morning Tony discovered that our table, sun loungers and footstools had disappeared. They had been stolen during the night by someone who had broken through the perimeter fence. The site staff investigated and eventually retrieved everything from the other side of the fence – but our sun loungers were still missing, the only expensive piece of equipment they took. It left us feeling very angry; in all the time we have been in Morocco, nothing had ever been stolen from us. We had been able to leave our camper unattended, if in a town often paying a guardian a few dirhams to keep an eye on it. We have never had to lock our stuff away at night or when the van was unattended. At first we blamed the site staff as they were paid to ensure our possessions were safe but finally we felt it was probably beyond their control but we would have been slightly happier had they warned us not to leave anything outside at night. We left the camp site as soon as we could.

The Cascades Of Ouzoud

After leaving Marrakech we drove eastwards to the foot of the Middle Atlas Mountains where we visited a natural bridge at Demnate. We had a guide who helped us down the steep steps to the gorge, we had to climb over some huge boulders to cross the river bed and then walked along the opposite bank. From there we could admire what they called a natural bridge where, thousands of years ago, the water plunging through the gorge had created a huge cave, the roof spanning the river high above us. Hundreds of years ago the gorge and the cave had been populated by pygmies who had dug out caves and pathways in the rock face high above us. We recrossed the river and climbed up the other side, a climb of about 400 feet.

Scrambling Over Boulders To Natural Cave

Scrambling Over Boulders To Natural Bridge

We continued our drive for another couple of hours until we came to the Cascades of Ouzoud. Our campsite was 1k away from the falls. The following morning we were taken by a guide on a walk to the falls. We walked through a village and on to the slopes where there were olive, juniper, carob and almond trees. The walk took almost two hours, following a steep, winding path down to the bottom of the gorge. We crossed the river over a some rickety wooden bridges, following a series of pools formed along the river bed. On the banks of the river on both sides were a number of camps and outdoor restaurants, set in the shade of the trees, lined with colourful carpets and divan beds where you could stay overnight. It was populated by youngsters who were enjoying swimming in the cool mountain water and following a hippy existence. By hippy I really mean they were selling Bob Marley T shirts and Rasta type hats.

We followed the steep river bank all the way to the falls where the hot air was cooled by the spray from the waterfall. We took a “boat” – a raft on eight oil drums, rowed by a child no more than ten years old. He took us out into the pool below the falls, we stopped him taking us too near the cascade, and he then deposited us on the other side of the river. Here steps took us up to the top of the gorge – a lot of steps. All along the sides of the steps were open air restaurants set into the rock on terraces. There were traders’ stalls too. We watched a donkey coming down the steps at a trot, carrying bags of cement. When the bags were unloaded and the donkey was released, he walked calmly through the restaurant and out the other side and up some steps to the level above.

We were very tired by the time we reached the top so we took a taxi the short distance back to our camp site.

The site was run by a Dutch couple and was more European than most of the sites where we had stayed in Morocco.

The lack of maintenance in most sites was a constant source of irritation to us – you would go for a shower and find a reasonable shower cubicle, reasonably clean but the shower head would be broken or missing or just taped up so the water sprayed everywhere but where it was needed – and we were taken to the best sites. Same with the loos, most of them were the traditional standing toilets but, in an effort to attract the tourist trade, a lot of establishments offered the European “throne” toilet. However, as often as not the water lying in the toilet was discoloured, not dirty but just needed a good dose of bleach; rarely was there loo paper and often the plastic toilet seat was also absent. But this was Africa.

Marrakech

Founded on 1062, Marrakech lay on a fertile plain forty miles from the foot of the High Atlas; it was the market place for the riches of the south – walnuts, oranges, grain, hides, spices, dates and precious metals. The city had changed very little in its thousand year existence until the 1920s.

Although partially westernised in the 20th century, Marrakech still remained an African city and was the greatest tourist attraction of North Africa. It was our second visit and we found it busy, smelly, exciting and full of tourists.  One day in the city was enough for us.  We revisited the Government Shop and had a delicious Indian meal at our favourite restaurant that evening. Our campsite was 5K outside the city and we were taken into the centre by minibus.  We went in in the morning, coming back at lunchtime; we returned that evening to eat and the bus took us back to the campsite at the end of the evening.  The driver also collected our purchases from the shop so that we didn’t have to carry them round.  The cost was 160D for the two of us – about £11.

Tiz-ñ-Test

Tiz-n-Test was a mountain pass in the High Atlas that rose to over 6000 feet and stood between us our next destination, Marrakech. The route was the main supply road to the south and had been completed in 1932. A contemporary description of the road was as follows: “The path had giddy descents where the track clung to the edge of the precipices with thousands of feet of sheer fall below”. Tony was not keen on heights so the writer didn’t share this knowledge with him before our journey.

We set off for the mountains at 8am and as we climbed higher we were soon engulfed in low cloud making visibility very poor. This had the advantage that we were unable to see the huge drop at the side of the road; it was as if we were driving in a marshmallow of cloud. However it was very hard following the track and negotiating the tight bends, always aware that a lorry could be hurtling towards us as we rounded the bend. Roadworks restricted some stretches of the road and we had to share the narrow track with lorries and heavy plant. At one point there was a rock overhang with a sign warning that the clearance was 3 metres. I nervously asked Tony how high the van was. He replied, “Three metres”. Gulp!

Up In The Clouds

Up In The Clouds

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Clouds Clearing

Clouds Clearing

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At Last We Were Above The Clouds

At Last We Were Above The Clouds

We Could See Where We Had Been

We Could See Where We Had Been

As we reached the summit we found ourselves above the cloud; the view was stunning – blue sky, mountains and, beneath us, white fluffy clouds, rapidly dissipating in the heat of the morning sun. Photographs did not do it justice but we had a dashcam on our windscreen that recorded our whole journey. We watched the video later that evening and were amazed how terrifying the drive actually was!

After three hours of intensive concentration the road began to widen and become less steep as we travelled on down through the shrub slopes of juniper and myrtle and on across the red earthed plain where the argan trees grew. We stopped for a breather at an 800 year old mosque that had been “decommissioned” which meant we (non-Muslims / women) were allowed to look inside – it was very beautiful and tranquil. The mosque had fallen out of use because it was too large, accommodating one thousand worshippers. During a regime change between warring tribal leaders, the conquering ruler had destroyed the town and its inhabitants and the community was violently reduced. As the population slowly recovered they found that their mosque was too big, so they built a smaller house of worship closer to their existing community.

Inside A Mosque

A  Quiet And Peaceful Atmosphere

A Quiet And Peaceful Atmosphere


We drove on towards Marrakech, stopping at a fuel station where we filled up diesel at 70p a litre and then we had a “lavage”. Our camper was washed outside and the interior was also cleaned, the whole process took almost two hours and cost 40D (£3.20).

We bought some argon oil products at a women’s co-operative where we saw how they produced the oil from the dried fruit of the argon tree. They had a range of beauty products for sale and had excellent English and took our payment by credit card. Good on them! We arrived at our Marrakech campsite in the late afternoon, hours after the remainder of our party.