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

Ferry To Morocco

It was an easy run from Cáceres to Algeciras.  The weather was warm and sunny and the roads were not busy.   By mid afternoon we had purchased a ferry ticket to Tanger Med, Morocco, (€200 return) leaving the following morning.
We stocked up on groceries in Carrefours before retiring for the evening to Casa Bernardo’s where we parked for the night and enjoyed a late supper in the restaurant.  Most of our fellow diners were lorry drivers enjoying  football on the television whilst eating their dinner.

Supper at Casa Bernardo’s

Some vehicles were severely overloaded

Moroccan time was behind Europe so we gained an hour when we disembarked..  The Moroccan immigration procedure went as swiftly as could be expected.  We watched one unfortunate traveller having to remove everything from his overloaded van for inspection.

Our passports were checked on four separate occasions, our vehicle documents were scrutinised and an armed officer even searched the inside of the van – in the friendliest possible way.  He was very jovial and said, “Ah, you have beer”. “Is this good coffee?”  “Do you have any guns?”  “Ha ha, what no Kalashnikovs?”.  We gave the appropriate answers and were soon on our way.

We stopped at a fuel station and had our van washed whilst we had lunch.  The wash cost £8, which the washing man explained would go to the garage owner so we gave him another £4 for himself.   Sometimes they ask you to “Pay with your heart” which can be even more expensive.

After lunch we set off for the Rif Mountains and the town of Chefchaouen, 70 miles south.  We drove through several modern seaside resorts along the Mediterranean coast, complete with marina, apartment blocks, water park and miles of paved promenades with fancy street lighting and neatly planted with hundreds of palm trees.  The cosmetic effect was rather spoiled by the waste land on the far side of the road being festooned with rubbish.  Eventually we left the manicured beach area and the roads narrowed as we began to climb into the mountain.

Azilan Campsite, Chefchaouén

October 2017 – France, Spain and Morocco

We planned to leave the UK in mid October via Eurotunnel and travel south, hoping to get to Morocco and to be back in time for Issey and Ame’s baby, expected in mid November.

We spent our first night at Le Mans where there was some kind of gymkhana event going on.  There were several very fancy horse boxes travelling with us on Eurotunnel and I assumed we were mistaken for one of the horsey folk because the man in the check-in booth politely enquired whether we had any horses on board.  “No, just the wife!” quipped Tony.  Hilarious, huh?  Tony thought so.

As we travelled south, the day time temperature was getting quite warm (20°+) so we decided to spend a couple of days on the Ile de Ré near La Rochelle.  It had rained all night but the sun shone during the day and we enjoyed cycling around the island, sitting outside in the sunshine and having some delicious oysters for lunch.

St Martin, Ile de Ré

We continued driving south as the weather broke on the west coast of France and it was still raining as we passed Bordeaux and on into Spain.  We stopped over night at Orio and strolled into town about half past seven, hoping to get some supper in one of the excellent restaurants – but we were far too early, restaurants in those parts didn’t get going until 9 pm.  We were hungry as we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast so we retraced our steps and grabbed a quick meal in the café next to the campsite.  It turned out to be an excellent meal and cost €25, including a couple of glasses of rosé wine.

One reason things happened so much later in Europe was that it was an hour ahead of the UK – GMT+2 meaning that in October the sun actually didn’t rise until almost 9 am and set soon after 7.30 pm.  The clocks were due to move back the following weekend, which would make it a little easier to synchronise our British body clocks with European time.

Camp Site at Orio

Our next stop was Tordesillas and, again, we walked into town in the early evening just to stretch our legs.  We had a beer in the central square enjoying the evening sunshine before returning to the campsite to cook supper.  Overnight the wind changed and blew from the north and when we woke up the temperature was only 4°.

Tordesillas

The River Duero at Tordesillas

 

As we drove south the thermometer had climbed to 27°.  We settled in a sunny pitch at the camp site in Cáceres.  It was a lovely site, each pitch had its own shower and toilet BUT . . . it was full of Brits and we could not but help overhearing everyone else’s conversations.

We cycled into Cáceres (sounded like Cather-ez) for a cultural tour which consisted of a swift view of two churches, a beer in the sunshine and a climb up a tower.  By this time we were ready to retire to a restaurant for lunch.

One Of Many Beautiful Churches In Cáceres

Homeward Bound

The journey home was hampered by the heavy rain which turned the busy Autobahn into a river of spray.  The volume of traffic, roadworks and accidents added almost an hour onto our journey each day.  We were used to travelling in short daily hops so it was not really a problem and we were able to find somewhere to stay by mid afternoon – first near Berlin, then Hannover and our final stop before Calais was in Belgium.  The rain eventually stopped and we were able to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening sunshine.

Bad Pyrmont, Lower Saxony

Poznań

Lake Malta in Poznań

We drove east from Brandenburg for several hours and reached Poland in the early afternoon.  Our camp site in Poznań was beside a man-made recreational lake, constructed in 1952 by damming the local river.  Lake Malta was just over 2k long and 500m wide and was used tor rowing events.  The lake was surrounded by a promenade, cycle tracks, cafés, a hotel and an amusement park.  There was an artificial ski slope and thermal baths and the whole area was surrounded by grassland and mature trees.

The campsite was almost full on our arrival and the weather was warm and sunny.  The next day it was raining so we spent some time enjoying the thermal baths.  There were connecting pools inside and out and we emerged two happy hours later very, very clean.

Malta Camping, Poznań

A narrow gauge steam train puffed past our site with irritating regularity.

There were dedicated cycle paths everywhere and we cycled into the old city centre where there was a large market square with shops and pavement cafés, dominated by the Renaissance style town hall, now a museum. 

The Market Square, Poznań

Renaissance Town Hall

 

The final attraction on our tourist itinerary was a visit to see our expedition truck, which was being prepared to have the chassis sandblasted ready for spray painting.

Bad Kissingen

Blue dot was Bad Kissingen

Bad Kissingen was a spa town in Bavaria.  It had beautiful parks well served with cycle tracks and you could cycle for miles through the parks and along the river banks.  Splendid hotels and apartments overlooked the central rose garden and there were also lots of medical clinics; we noticed a high proportion of elderly folk out and about with walking aids.  We spent a happy afternoon in the local spa, swimming in warm mineral water.  You could swim through barriers and enjoy the sunshine outside.

It was time for a hair cut and we found a luxurious looking establishment on the main street where you just walked in and waited for the next available stylist.  Although it appeared busy I didn’t have to wait long and very soon I emerged, washed, cut and finished for €33. 

Most European camp sites displayed signs and notices in English as well as in their native language; our site only had signs in German – it was true the majority of campers were German but there were also Italian, Swedish and Dutch and it made it difficult to obey the rules of the camp.  We had to used Google Translate a lot, with some bizarre results.  An elderly Swedish couple at the next table in the camp site restaurant explained that East Germans historically had no love for the British.  I hoped they were wrong – think so as they were playing Rod Stewart type piped music in the toilet block, so things British couldn’t be all bad.

“Goodbye and safe journey” but you could be forgiven for mis-translating.