Driving North To Tanger Med


We Spotted These Friendly Faces Sharing Their Vehicle With Three Horses

As we travelled north towards the Atlantic coast, the scenery softened into fertile plains.  We stopped over night at the seaside resort of Mohammedia, close to Casablanca.  The campsite was perched right on the beach but was being surrounded by rows and rows of newly built apartment blocks overlooking the scruffy beach area.  We presumed the seaside development was for the folk of Casablanca.  A small apartment cost in the region of £30,000 – we were not tempted.

Atlantic Coast Beach At Mohammedia

The next day we drove to the ferry at Tanger Med.  We checked in at the ferry terminal and proceeded through the port’s long winded security procedures.  Ten minutes further on we were told our vehicle was wrongly classified on our boarding pass so we had to turn back, exit the port and drive along the dual carriageway before turning back into the port entrance.  We checked in for the second time and were given reprinted boarding passes.  We reappeared at each security barrier and no-one seemed to notice we had passed that way fifteen minutes earlier.  Fortunately from then on it was easy going and we disembarked in Algeciras two hours later.  Soon after 9pm we were enjoying a late supper at Casa Bernardo’s.

Cascades Of Ouzoud

Zebra Camp, Tanaghmeilt

Zebra Camp in the Middle Atlas Mountains was a popular camping site, owned by a Dutch couple who ran the camp to European standards – so the toilets and showers were modern, clean and in good working order.  I was able to hand over a bag of laundry and when I returned to the camp two hours later my washing was hanging up to dry in the sunshine.  There was a restaurant serving a small selection of freshly cooked local food.  We were charged £80 for three nights’ stay including an evening meal – but no wine – although you could bring your own bottle.  We were sad to learn that the site had just been sold to a Moroccan investor and we wondered whether their high standards would be maintained in the future.
Zebra Camp was adjacent to the Cascades of Ouzoud, spectacular waterfalls 110 metres high.  We had taken a guided tour of the tourist attraction during a previous visit, so we decided that on this occasion we would visit the Cascades and walk around independently.  However, when we walked down to the falls the following morning – well before the tourist coaches arrived from Marrakech (two hours drive away) – we were approached by a Guide who offered us a walking tour, showing us places where most of the tourists would not go.  We reluctantly accepted him as our guide and by the end of the day we realised that we had chosen wisely and it had been well worth the £24 he charged.

Our guide’s name was Mustapha and he proved very knowledgeable and an interesting companion.  He took us along dusty mule tracks down one side of the valley, crossing a series of pools at the bottom of the valley and walking up the other side.  We didn’t need to hurry, we walked slowly and had plenty of opportunity to sit and rest.  At one place we sat in a cool cave and drank glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice.  Further up the track we bought a bag of mixed nuts from a vendor.  When we came across another tourist group heading our way, Mustapha deftly steered us on to a different path where we were able to enjoy the views without interruption.  The weather was a warm 28° but it was cooler in the shade of the trees, surrounded by tumbling water.  The terrain was difficult in places but we really enjoyed seeing the waterfalls and the series of pools below from several different vantage points around the valley.  Our guided walk lasted over two hours and we finished up having a well deserved lunch in a café overlooking the falls.Edit

Ourika Camp, Marrakech

We decided to spend a few days at Ourika Camp, said to be the best site in Morocco.  Ourika was five miles south of Marrakech city centre.  The weather was warm (25°) and sunny and we had been into Marrakech on several occasions so we were content to sit by the pool and enjoy the beautiful gardens.

Traditional buildings in Morocco were usually constructed with adobe-like bricks, made from local earth and dried in the sun so they blended perfectly with their surroundings.

Swimming Pool And Restaurant At Ourika Camp

Ourika Site


The following day the camp site guardian arranged a taxi for us so we could do some shopping.  The taxi collected us from our pitch and the guardian gave the young driver instructions of where we wanted to go.  He drove us to an ATM and then on to a restaurant for lunch.  After lunch our taxi collected us again and took us to a supermarket.  The driver helped us load the shopping into the boot and returned the trolley to the supermarket himself.  When we got back to our pitch the driver unloaded our shopping for us.  The taxi cost £25 including a generous tip.

The next day we drove west across the Marrakech Plain towards the Middle Atlas Mountains.  The roads were straight, but narrow and then the scenery changed dramatically when we began to climb.

The Marrakech Plain

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The Middle Atlas Mountains

The Road To Marrakech

We left Ouarzazate heading north for the Tizn Tichka Pass through the High Atlas mountains to Marrakech.  The road had been constructed by the French in 1936 and reached 2260 metres at the summit.  The scenery was harsh but very beautiful.  It was early November and it was warm and sunny but snow could fall on the pass during the winter months,  The whole journey took about four hours.  

The Road Needed Constant Maintenance

The Marrakech Plain – Journey’s End

Tinerhir To Ouarzazate

The Todra Gorges in the High Atlas Mountains were near the bustling town of Tinerhir and were a spectacular series of limestone river canyons 5,000 ft above sea level.   As soon as we arrived we were greeted by an old friend – the ugliest cat in the land (already recorded in an earlier post).  This cat was wild and prowled about the van, hissing if you came too close but would rub against your legs hoping for food and it actually came into the van once when I left the screen open.

Those with a nervous disposition look away now.
.   .   .   .  😱

Camp Site At Todra Gorge

We saw that the women still did their washing in the river.  Many of the dwellings in the countryside did not have a direct water supply and we often saw folk collecting water from springs or stand pipes at the roadside.

Women Washing Clothes In The River

The next day we travelled west towards Ouarzazate (sounds like Wha-za-zat), a journey of only a hundred miles but it took us almost three hours as we drove slowly and stopped often to enjoy the vast rugged landscapes stretching to the horizon – my simple camera could not begin to do it justice.  Our drive finally took us along the fertile Dades Valley with its lush palm groves, providing contrast against the russet backdrop of the High Atlas.

The Ouarzazate area was a noted film-making location and featured in those spaghetti westerns set in places like Arizona as well as such films as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” and, more recently, “Game of Thrones”.

The Sahara At Erg Chebbi

We stayed two nights at Meski and were very excited when an impressive expedition truck drove onto the site.  Tony couldn’t wait for the travellers to settle so he could stroll over and find out about their vehicle.  It turned out that they were Nancy and Hans who were experienced long distance travellers and were leading a group of Dutch camper vans on a 75 day tour of Morocco.  Tony  had already been in contact with Nancy via the internet because we planned to join their Silk Road Tour in 2018 so it was a happy coincidence that we were able to put faces to names and to have the opportunity of having a good look over their truck.

Nancy and Hans’ Expedition Vehicle

The following morning we made the short journey south through Erfoud and on to Erg Chebbi at the edge of the Sahara where we stayed in the car park of the Auberge De Sud.  This was normally a quiet billet but on this occasion they were holding an Off Road 4×4 Rally.  The dusty car park was very noisy and the air was laced with petrol fumes- Tony loved it!   We managed to spend a few quiet hours sitting round the pool and, later that evening, we enjoyed dinner at the poolside.  We paid just over £50 for two nights’ stay including dinner and breakfast.

The Sahara was not all sand, most of the desert was flat stony ground.  The dunes of Erg Chebbi spanned an area of 50k and were 150m high in places.  The colour of the sand was vivid in the sunshine but when the sun went down the dunes took on dark, eerie shapes like huge sleeping beasts.  At night the skies were inky black and the stars looked so bright that they appeared to hang overhead just out of reach.

Of course, there was plenty of noise around – sparrows cheeping, pigeons cooing, camels harrumphing and added to this were the noise of people having fun, dune buggies roaring and drums beating out their musical rhythm to entertain the guests.  But the dunes were so peaceful, sitting in perfect silence unaffected by the human activity going on around them.    We loved the Sahara Desert and we felt it a privilege to be able to visit it.

Auberge De Sud, Erg Chebbi

Chefchaouen To Ar-Rachidia

Chefchaouen (the syllable in the middle rhymes with cow – Shef-show-en) was a city the Rif Mountains and our camp site was at the top of the town.  It was a pleasant twenty minute walk down through the narrow cobbled streets of the old town.  To get back to the camp site we would cheat and get a taxi.  The weather was warm, 25° but cooler at night.

We visited Maroc Telecom to buy a card for internet access (£8 For 20 gigs).  The town was teeming with street markets, the pavements covered with things for sale.  In one area we saw piles of dead chickens, feet tied, feathers on – then we saw a head move and we were horrified to realise that the birds were still alive, but only just.

Chefchaouen

Azrou was our next stop, we only stayed one night as we wanted to get further south.  The camp site was beautiful, set in an orchard and we had a warm welcome from the guardian who left a breakfast baguette outside our door the following morning.   The cost of our stay was £6, including a hot shower.  There were ducks and chickens and a parrot on a perch in the tree.  The guardian also had a little fluffy dog that had lost the use of its back legs in an accident.  The dog managed to shuffle around, occasionally barking, reminding me of those battery operated toy dogs that yapped as they moved moved in circles.

View From Camp Site At Azrou

The journey south the next day took us through the Middle Atlas Mountains, the terrain was desert-like until you came to the river valleys.  Here the land was verdant and there were roadside stalls selling their local produce of apples, pomegranates, dried herbs and honey.  We stopped for lunch at a classy looking hotel with tourist buses parked outside.  We paid £24 for a beer, delicious Moroccan salads made with finely chopped tomatoes, onions and herbs, dressed with oil.  Then Tony had pasta and I bravely chose a camel tagine which was extremely tasty.  We finished off the meal with pomegranate and satsumas and coffee.

The Middle Atlas Mountains

We arrived at Ar-Rachidia in the late afternoon and decided to drive a further 20k on to Meski where we regularly stayed en route for the Sahara.  Here we were welcomed like old friends, ushered to our favourite spot on the site and invited to visit the community shops that sold the usual tourist bric a brac.

The Blue Dot – Our Location At Meski