We spent three nights in Chefchaouen. Afternoon temperatures were in excess of 30° but our campsite was high up and there was always a cooling breeze and plenty of shady spots to relax after a morning’s exploration.
Chefchaouen Was The Blue Dot
On the third day we set off south towards Fez, 160 miles away. The roads were narrow and the road surface quite uneven so we kept our speed down and regularly pulled over to allow more impatient drivers to pass. We left the Rif Mountains and drove through fertile hills where it was harvest time. We once saw a mechanical harvester but the upland fields were harvested by hand (women using a sickle). The straw bales were bundled by hand and stored in stacks, resembling Nissan huts.
As we drove on we passed olive groves and olive processing plants. We travelled by orchards and fields of melon. Every town had colourful stalls displaying local produce. We stopped and bought two large fragrant melons for £1 . . . . and we found these delicious green figs.
Green Figs – Ripe And Delicious
Haystacks Shaped Like Nissan Huts
As we approached Fez the roads leading to the city were lined with Moroccan flags and there were soldiers and police stationed along the roadside and at every junction. We knew the signs – the King was in town! We were politely waved / saluted through each junction – although other motorists were being pulled up. Morocco needed tourists and everyone went out of their way to make foreign visitors welcome . . . usually.
As we were driving along the dual carriageway, a man on a motor scooter drove alongside and offered to guide us to the campsite. He waited for nearly an hour whilst we did a shop at Marjane, the local supermarket which was extremely overcrowded on that Saturday afternoon. Shopping completed the motorcyclist led us expertly through the busy streets to the campsite, 8 km away. We didn’t really need his guidance as we had been to Fez before and had our destination plumbed into the sat nav but, hey, he was so willing and friendly that we were happy to accept his help and it was easy to follow him through the complicated traffic systems. He delivered us proudly to the campsite reception and, of course, Tony rewarded him for his trouble and arranged for his “brother” to take us on a city tour the next morning. He did well out of us and he deserved it!
International Campsite At Fez
The second stage is now underway as our recently purchased fire truck is now on its way to Poland on a low loader having been collected from Preston on Monday morning it should arrive in Poznan on Friday. After a lot of searching we found an UK company to organise this with a Polish contractor although it could have been driven there it would have meant registering it as an HGV in the UK which would mean an MOT and a few other regulations and as we don’t intend to use it as an HGV we will bring it back when completed and it can then be registered as a Motorhome and have a less strenuous MOT.
The Blue City
We walked down the steep path from our campsite to Chefchaouen, passing through the narrow streets of the old town, doors slightly ajar granting a glimpse of the tiled entrances to the houses. There were little shops with their dark interiors, merchandise spilling out onto the streets. There were market stalls selling fresh produce and local crafts along the narrow streets as well as filling the wide squares.
We passed a row of butcher shops, some selling chickens which were kept alive in pens at the rear of the shop. As I peered into the dark interior of one such shop, a loudly clucking chicken was being dumped unceremoniously on the weighing scales. Seconds later the poor creature was tossed across the shop to another man, who seeing me watching, beckoned me over to watch. I hastily retreated from the doorway as the chicken’s panicking squawks ceased abruptly . . . .
Strong Knees Are Needed In Chefchaouen
Clouds Rolling Down The Hills At Malaga
We spent three restful days at Mathilde’s camp site in Santaella before driving south to Algeciras to catch the ferry to Morocco. We bought return ferry tickets to Tanger Med for €200 and spent the night prior to our departure near the ferry terminal at a lorry park adjacent to restaurant Casa Bernardo where I was able to use the lorry drivers’ shower at a cost of €3. It smelled strongly of cigarettes and aftershave. We belatedly remembered that the kitchen didn’t even start serving dinner until 8.30 pm – nearly our bedtime!
Overnight Stop At Casa Banardo
We slept well despite having eaten so late and arrived the next morning in good time for our 10 am sailing. We joined the queue to have our tickets, passports and vehicle documents checked and rechecked. The process took so long that we didn’t board the ferry until 11.30 am.
The crossing took 90 minutes and during the voyage our passports were checked and stamped by the Moroccan police. On arrival in Tanger Med each disembarking vehicle was passport-checked by just one policeman, others were standing idly by, smoking and chatting. Afterwards we presented our documents to Customs and received another stamp on our passports and our vehicle import document was stamped. Over an hour later we were finally waved through and arrived at the exit to the port where a policeman checked our papers once more before we were finally free to leave and be on our way to Chefchouan, high in the Rif Mountains. Almost five hours of officialdom!
The Road To Chefchaoun
Our (Tony’s) new project, changing our Laika motor home for a heavy goods vehicle converted into an expedition truck, was gathering momentum. The 2003 ex Fire Brigade tender we purchased from a dealer in Preston was being shipped to Poland in May 2017 and we reckoned the conversion would take six months or more to complete.
John Sharples’ Yard At Stockton
Meanwhile we planned to drive to Morocco, our fourth visit since 2012. We left the UK by Eurotunnel in the middle of May 2017 and stopped overnight at Montbazon where the evening temperature was a balmy 20° and we were able to enjoy an evening meal sitting outside beside the river Indre.
Supper By River At Montbazon
We stopped briefly to have our wheels balanced in Poitiers before travelling on to Monségur to say hello to Caro and Charles in their sunny spot near Bordeaux.
The Lamb Residence at Monségur
Our next stop was at Navarrenx, an ancient fortified town in the foothills of the Pyrenees. We had just managed a brief walk through the beautiful old town when the rain started and it continued raining for the next 36 hours, making our crossing of the Pyrenees much less spectacular and spoiling our overnight stop by a lake near Zaragoza. That evening it was 13° and we were glad of a burning log fire in the local café where we had a glass of wine and shared a pizza.
By the next evening it has stopped raining and we were able to enjoy a meal outside by the river Tagus at Aranjuez, south of Madrid before driving on to Córdoba where we stopped for three nights at Santaella, a site we have visited many times in the past.
La Campina, Santaella
We have decided to spend more time travelling so are downsizing our home and building an expedition truck to enable us to travel further afield spending more time off grid. The last few months have been immersed in various books to compile a list of all the requirements to make this project come to life. To buy new, secondhand or have a bespoke build was where we had to begin and it soon became apparent that new or secondhand were either too expensive or too much of a compromise so we looked around for someone who could build what we wanted at a reasonable price, enter Gekkotruck in the guise of Graeme and Ania who have their living boxes built in Poland and are based in Germany, after many emails a trip to Poland was decided upon as we wanted to see the the build facility and look at a few ex Polish army Star trucks that were recommended by Graeme.
Star trucks were bought by MAN in the late 1990s and the few examples we saw were completely refurbished and looked “as new”, they were priced at around Euro 25k so represented good value for money, however they were 6×6 which we felt was overkill and had already decided 4×4 was adequate.
The living box build facility in Poznan were converting a number of vans and the standard of workmanship was good although we were unable to view any larger projects that we were looking to undertake. Graeme & Ania had their Unimog on site which had a 3.8 metre living box attached and it was remarkable what they had managed to pack into it in the way of accommodation and storage.
After a lovely few days in Poznan we decided to head home and on reaching The Netherlands we arranged to visit BlissMobil in Breda, WOW, what an operation as they were building up to 30 living boxes annually at a very high standard but were outside our budget, we can but dream.
We were at this stage still searching for the right base truck and whilst travelling home we found on the internet an ex Fire Tender which had carried some 3 kilometres of flat hose to deal with forest fires for the Dorset fire brigade. It turned out to be a 2003 MAN LE 18.280 4×4 with an auto gearbox which had only done 11000 miles and was in excellent condition and the only compromise was the 6 man crew cab as we had felt we needed the slightly smaller sleeper cab which would allow a larger living box as we were trying to keep the overall length under 8 metres.
We visited the village of John O’Groats, the most northern inhabited part of the United Kingdom. The harbour area was a dreary collection of souvenir shops and cafés, although the local hotel had been refurbished in a colourful manner and was being used as a natural retreat complete with strange looking accommodation pods set on the hill above the harbour. It was chilly and there were few visitors; didn’t linger long.
We drove south along the coast towards Inverness, passing Wick, Brora and Invergordon. The rain had hardly stopped all day and driving was tiring. We stayed overnight near Banff at a secluded site in Gamrie Bay, 15 minutes outside the town.
The owner was the local prawn fisherman and his wife, Linda. She came to say a friendly hello and stayed chatting with us for half an hour, telling us she had been born and brought up in the area. She was so enthusiastic about her local village of Gardenstown, she said that most of the villagers had the surname Watts or West (she was married to a Watt). She had a girlfriend whose surname was West-Watts until she married a West! She laughed and said she supposed they were all related. A lady happy in her own skin, she was a joy to meet.
Blue spot – Gamrie Bay