THE START LINE
Essaouira 20th March 2016
After an early start out of Luton, we arrive in a somewhat warmer climate than we left. I say we… I’ve a confession, I’ve sneaked along a cycling partner for the start of this journey, namely, Jude! Yes, female, but she tells me she’s tough and akin to a machine… we’ll see.
The journey/adventure started before we even got through the terminal. Nearly two hours just to get to the car park.
First, passports had to be checked by all in sundry on the apron, and then asked, where had we come from!
Then to top the welcome committee, a young green horn immigration officer felt he needed to impress someone, so he duly got himself a knife, and tucked into opening my box, come bag! His explanation… I’d brought it into the country to sell. It all halted once a female senior officer saw his shenanigans and then verbally tore strips off him. Only because she wanted to go home.
Eventually we passed through the big-glass-doors to arrivals… no one else around. The place was empty.
Next, find a taxi. After many a discussion, both bicycles were unceremoniously bundled into the boot of a dilapidated Mercedes taxi. The bikes were then left half hanging out the boot. Shame… I was too tired at this stage to take a photo. I’d lost the will to argue. And I hadn’t even got on my bike.
The taxi driver said he knew the address we had given him.
The fun didn’t stop there, he didn’t know where the address was… FFS!
We called into shops, butchers (nice!) and stopped anyone that didn’t run away, but by luck we passed the complex and the agents (OK, owners friends) were waving outside. The two forlorn passengers obviously gave us away. One English and one Aussie!
The accommodation was fine, if not a bit grubby. The area did have the blighted plastic bag problem that plagues parts of Morocco. We were 10kms out of Essaouira, so not part of the cleaner tourist entrapment. One can’t have it all.
The next few days were spent gathering food and checking out the area. Except for the town, not much else to see.
My biggest struggle was finding cooking fuel. Methylated spirits as is in the UK, but it’s called many other things, in other lands. It took me days to track some down.
So, I bought three bottles just in case I never found some again. I was then to find out, that once you know what to ask for, it’s not so hard. So I set off with 2 kgs of unnecessary weight (2 litres). D’OH!
I also purchased an INWI SIM card for about US$12 (£10) with 10GB of data. Bargain I thought. It worked in Essaouira, but then nowhere else … ! It worked brill in the shop!
The tea was always good though and you could be guaranteed of some tat on the TV!
Off the start line by mid morning.
Not quite sure how far we went, but I/we soon came across a camp site. Best get our camp admin together while in the easy surroundings of a camp site I say! As they say in Swahili… Pole Pole (Slowly Slowly).
First stop out of camp was to stock up on a few more things. For me, sugar. Jude, sweets!
You can’t stop without someone wanting something off you. I took a photo of this shabby donkey, then the custodian of the shabby donkey wanted his royalties. Two Dirham out of me. Last time I photograph a shabby donkey!
I got a kilo of sugar ingots though. Considering the shop proprietor wanted to sell me a 5kg bag, I did well. I did point out that I was on a bicycle… made not a bit of difference to him!
Jude trying to stay in a straight line, as much as one can with a pink bunny on on board!
No sooner had we covered a huge 12kms I thought it was best to make our first wild camp spot early. The site was near perfect with a good vista and easy access.
As with any wild camp spot, it’s always good to practice basher building. Why, I don’t know!
Never one to rush, we stayed two nights. Pole Pole!
The full day we had a visit from two goat herders. A young girl with her goats, then what seemed like her brother… with his goats. Goats will become a theme in Morocco!
That evening about 2000hrs, their father decided to rock up and investigate too. First, I thought it was the Police. He produced quickly and returned to his pocket just as quickly, some kind of ID card. Could’ve been his video-rental-card for all I knew!
He spoke no English, so that was me out of the frame. He spoke no French, so that was Jude out of the frame. But he did speak fluent Arabic!
He proceeded to phone someone and hand the phone to the adjutant of our camp… me. The person on the other end spoke some French, so showing adjutant authority I handed the phone to my 2IC (second-in-command)… namely Jude!
After sometime and a lot of gibberish, we were told, we couldn’t stay here, outside, as it was dangerous. We should follow her father down to their settlement. My initial calm reaction was… like f#@$ we are!
So I informed my 2IC that we (I) was staying. After some more gibberish, the father departed.
That night was spent listening to every damn vehicles (not many fortunately in the middle of nowhere) engine signature as it passed. Was it stopping, did anyone get out, was that a door I hear? I was prepared, at all costs, to throw my 2IC out in trouble. That’s leading from the front!
We were happy to be moving the next day, after a night in hostile territory!
The first appointment was a good climb out of the valley. Jude would get fitter in time!
With just the occasional passing camel!
Generally water sources were good …
… but then, you’d see this everywhere by the road. Disposable nappies. And they were everywhere. Bin liners (refuse/trash sacks) of them just strewn out of what I’d imagine to be passing vehicles.
The meaning of Disposable Nappies is taken literally… there’re disposable, so why not. Water courses, hanging from hedges, everywhere. You couldn’t do 1km without seeing nappies.
I’ll add, in case you’re thinking, well This Is Africa (TIA). I was raised in Ghana, traveled extensively in South Africa, worked in Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania, but I’ve never seen the total disregard for human waste as this. I WAS SHOCKED.
After more shocks of passing through one village that had more dirt than you could image and men sitting drinking tea in it, we found a peaceful spot by the river. Old stealth camping adage, let no one see you go in.
Tents up, while the heavens opened up too. Only because we had given up waiting for it to stop raining!
Just as much water inside, as out. Jude did far better than me on the water collection front, she had an indoor Lido. I did my best to help a drowning Aussie… I laughed my socks off!
Not disturbed through the night, except for what is becoming the norm… barking dogs!
The dogs kick-off at sunset and carry on barking till sunrise. Then the minarets start the first pray of the day at 0550 hrs… sunrise!
The next day was pretty uneventful. Must have been, as I don’t recall anything!
We cycled, we had lunch, we found a wild camping spot, we ate, we slept. Listening to barking dogs though!
Bouabout 23rd March 2016
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