Morocco and the drama begins

Monday, May 2
Today was a national holiday in Spain and other shops were open, probably really a little bit like our Labor Day, except it's May Day!

We drove to the meeting point for the tour and on the way we passed what can only be described as a wind farm, there was a massive amount of wind turbines for as far as the eye could see, I could not describe them as an eyesore simply an interesting piece of technology.

Were the first ones to arrive at the parking area and getting closer to the meeting time of 3:30 PM three other vans turned up, two from England and one with a Dutch number plate which contained two Aussies, and they had their motorhome plastered with kangaroos and Australian flags because even though one was born in Holland they did not want to be mistaken for Dutch, however apparently most of the time taken to be Americans.

The organisers of the tour turned up in during the rest of the afternoon and evening we had a briefing, and that is being kind, the organiser Ray Smith who took many pains to tell us how long he'd been doing this tour of Morocco and how he knew everything about the country, and proceeded to tell us many, many items that he felt were necessary for us to know.

Later in the evening they gave us a Roadbook with a lot of the information in and then we went to dinner and so to bed with the knowledge we had a 7:30 AM start.

We received documentation that we needed and had a good meal in the restaurant that was attached to the parking area, the parking area contained lots of trucks, and it was part of a parking area with access from the motorway was also a fuel station.

We thought at first it might be a noisy night, but we slept well.

Speedo reading 66868km

Tuesday, May 3
Was 7:30 AM start to get to the wharf for the ferry to Ceuta a Spanish town on a peninsula of Morocco, was about a 40 minute crossing and totally uneventful, as it should be, the driver was first off the boat and it's interesting to note that during a 40 minute crossing we discussed with him where Luda could take the best photos from and then he commented I'm going to get a cup of coffee, and we he did not speak to us again. He and his boss made the assumption that we would remember everything that had been told to us the night before, and if we didn't somehow we would read the book in our spare time so we would know exactly what to do when we arrived in the strange country we have never been to before.

So the driver took off at high speed, waved to us as he went around the roundabout, which we followed, then he disappeared into the wild blue yonder, and we were not to see him again for at least one hour.

So we drove on the road with signposts leading us to Morocco, with the Aussies behind us, and the two English motorhomes nowhere to be seen, all the time expecting to find the driver waiting for us on the side of the road, and eventually we got to the border, and even there we expected to find him waiting for us, so we pulled up where we were told to and look around for our guide and all we could find were Moroccans wanting to help us for some money.

Evidently the last  two motorhomes had difficulty getting off the ferry and so he managed to flag them down,

So we proceeded to go through the border formalities, fortunately we filled in all of the forms and was totally uneventful, nothing like going into Russia or the Ukraine, so if anyone's got any concerns about travelling to Morocco, do not let the border crossing be one of the concerns.

Whilst were having a passport is sorted out the Aussie got a phone call from the guide, trying to find out where we were, he evidently was at a petrol station and he waved at us as we drove past, neither of us saw him, I wonder why he did not think the telephone us and ask us to stop!

So we carried on through having the vehicle import into Morocco, the two touts that thought they were helping us, were giving us instructions what to do, I kept on telling them were waiting for our tour guide, so after the formalities were completed, we drove on and parked beside the taxi rank waiting for the others to catch us up.

Catches up they did, so we followed them on down the road about 11 km stop in a car park, many of which we have seen, all devoid of cars, so there was plenty of room for the four motorhomes and the tour van. After about 30 minutes we headed towards a petrol station where we filled up with diesel (400DN) and probably half the price of the mainland.

It was then on to the campsite for the night, it was called camping Alboustane which appears to be, from the illustration, a desert walled town. The GPS location is N 35° 57.726“, W005°12.606” in a town called Martil, Avenue Moulay Rachid.. incidentally if any of you want to stay at this campsite be aware there is a mosque very close, and they have the latest high-powered amplifier, so the call to prayer is very loud many times a day, starting at somewhat like 5 AM in the morning. Perhaps the choice of this campsite was to introduce us to Morocco, an introduction we could have well done without at 5 AM.

There were a lot of solo travellers in Motorhomes parked there I guess at least 30, they were from France, Holland, Germany, Italy, USA were just some of the number plates I saw.

Wednesday, May 4
This morning I decided to accept Ray Smith’s offer of a refund if I left the tour at this point, and I e-mailed him of my decision. See the story

We left the campsite close to the loud mosque and when in convoy to a large shopping centre (GPS location is N 35° 36.169“, W005°20.117” ) that had a grocery come everything shop, and more important for us a bank. It's quite a procedure changing money in Morocco, first you need your passport and all the money has to be clean with no tears, of course £50 are totally unacceptable, but £20 is acceptable, and they will change €100 and €50 notes and again of course they have to be clean. The length of time and the amount of paperwork required for this obviously keeps several people in employment and each bank throughout the country. I changed £ &  € and got 2540DN

I repaid the tour guide his loan of 400DN (local currency), and then after everybody on the tour except us had a leisurely coffee, then the tour guide decided was time we were on our way. We then went in convoy about 82 to 100 km through a winding road up into the Atlas Mountains to a city called Chefchaouene which is famous for a small portion of the town being painted blue. The campground is close to the city and is at a height of 700 m. We went through some interesting towns but of course were unable to stop because we are in convoy, it turns out that the Garmin GPS maps of Morocco are out of date and we found ourselves travelling over roads that did not exist.

When we got to the campsite and settled in, our tour guide and obviously received a phone call from Ray Smith, who obviously did not take kindly to somebody and accepting his offer of a refund, and he expelled us from the tour with a nebulous comment about the refund. We'll have to see how that progresses. 

These were his words… I refer you to our Terms and Condition under the heading of "Cancellation" and have to inform you that from the date and time of this email we have formally withdrawn you from the current tour.
Any refund you may feel you are entitled to can be negotiated via email or telephone should you so wish. So much for the open offer of a refund!

We went for a walk into the city, entered through the city wall and wandered around the old blue painted buildings that had a few people wandering about, there are a lot of little shops and stalls, and all sorts of things hang on the walls of the buildings that we walked past, it was built on the side of the hill so all of the steps were leading down and eventually we arrived in the town square where there are more shops and more things of interest to locals and possibly tourists.

We then decided to look for a taxi, however could not find one, asked at a shop and they explained that the taxis were not working today as they were all at a meeting, sounded a little bit strange, but it is a strange country, and after seeing no taxi anywhere, we decided to walk up this massive hill back to the camp, and 45 minutes later we were relaxing in the motorhome with the good stiff vodka and Coke, well I was anyway!

The group is at this motor camp two days and evidently the thought is that the second day they can have another look at the town to see the things they missed on the first day, to us it seems like padding, and whilst our sacking from the group does not take effect until Friday morning will probably wander on tomorrow.

It's been an interesting experience with this group run by desert tours and I will list the events as they happened separately, and will only comment that if I had blamed my customers for something that we had done wrong I would not have had, many, no make that any, customers left!

The GPS cordinance for the campground at Chefchaouene are N 35°10.567 W 5°15.994 with a word of warning on the Garmin GPS the road is totally different so you'll need to use that cordinance as a direction to head.

Thursday, May 5
We said goodbye to the tour leader and the remaining three motorhomes and headed on our way towards Al Hoceïma about 220 km away through the Atlas Mountains, we climbed up to 1600 m and stayed round that height for the rest of the travel, it was relaxing travelling by ourselves, travelling at our speed, stopping when we wanted to stop, and not necessarily having a destination we had to get to.

But one thing that became obvious very quickly was the number of road signs in English so one can almost go anywhere in Morocco, that we have travelled to date without worrying about getting lost.

We went through several market towns that was the case of wall to wall cars, people wandering where ever they felt like, buses turning round in the middle of the road, double parked vehicles everywhere, shop merchandise touching our rear vision mirrors and potholes of a size that would hold the Titanic, but I guess just an everyday road in Morocco.

We did notice that they are extremely security conscious throughout Morocco with almost all of the houses with strong bars on the windows at all levels.

After driving these roads today I'm beginning to have second thoughts as to why I cannot take this vehicle to China so that is the thought in progress!

We came to one part of the road that rivalled the road from Murmansk, but still think the Murmansk road has its edge.

The Garmin GPS does not like being in the sunshine because it stops working when it gets too hot so it goes to sleep for a while but eventually it will wake up again, not something to be recommended. The roads in Morocco that are on the special card seemed to be the main roads and where we had a differential it looked like it was a new road which is the same almost on any machine, but I do believe the tom-tom Morocco map is better and does have the campings included on the maps.

The majority of cars we've seen on the road today are old large Mercedes cars like in Albania . A lot of these old Mercedes are used as taxis and I think the largest number we have seen in one of the taxis has been eight people, know that is not a minibus but just a normal Mercedes. We did discover inside the cities they had the small four seater Japanese type cars as taxis and they were limited to 3 passengers, which in those cars is all you would need, but evidently there is a law on this.

We filled up with Diesel again, I am making it a policy of when the tank gets to half empty it is time to fill up cost 247DM.

There are also lots of Mercedes vans the 2100 or 3100 series, or that is what is printed on their side. They seem to be used as minibuses, and we saw one stop and a woman with a sheep got out so I guess they'll carry anything.

We also passed a pickup that had a cow tied, standing up, on its back, in the old days you have walked home leading the cow that now she rides on the pickup.

We see a lot of people riding on a donkey, as interesting to see how everybody sits sort of sidesaddle with both feet on one side, and we've also seen this on motorbikes, I guess they start riding a donkey, and when they get on a motorbike that is the only way they know how to sit!

There's a beautiful drive through the mountains with a little villages spotted here and there and we're starting to see signs of cultivation with the hills being Terraced for gardens. Our average speed today has probably been about 40 KPH.

We found plenty of location where we could fill up with water today, the locals were filling up their own plastic bottles.

All day today have seen groups of men walking along the road, sitting beside the road, sitting in coffee bars or whatever, have all been busy talking and discussing the world economy. The woman on the other hand, who probably are not capable of this level of discussion, have been carrying loads of various products, working in the fields, and doing other non-technical work. So ladies, on the off chance that is reincarnation, and Morocco is your destination, make sure you come back as a man! Incidentally we noted that the boys get trained at a very early age to stand by the roadside doing nothing. Just in case you're possibly thinking this is only in villages, no is out on the open road that is apparently miles from any possible destination you'll find a male, standing there doing nothing, and trying to get a cigarette from passing motorists, of course that is work!.

All that having been said, everybody is extremely friendly, and they go out of their way to wave to you and to smile.

We eventually got to Al Hoceïma, and are reprogrammed the GPS to take us to the sea where the map showed there was a campground and just as we had arrived at its possible location we saw a large parking area that led to the beach with a large four-wheel-drive motorhome parked there so we decided that this would do for the night.

The serious motorhome is owned by French couple who speak more English than I do French, by a whisker, it seems that he has built the motorhome and it is a wonderful professional looking job. I been unable to find out how old it is or how long have been on the road but that's not important.

Evidently the campground that is shown on the map is closed, we understand from the French couple.

The GPS cordinance are N35° 12.040 W 3°51.885 near the city of Al Hoceïma .

Friday, May 6
We left the parking spot, said goodbye to the French, and drove along the N 16 Highway that ran along beside the Mediterranean, a beautiful road with very little traffic and fantastic views all the way to Nador about 120 km.  Found a Marjane shopping centre at GPS location is N 35° 07.365“, W002°55.604”

We passed through magnificent mountains, but unfortunately a lot of the mountains or hills which may be a fairer word, are suffering from erosion in a large way, in fact one of the rivers close to its mouth all one could see was topsoil.

We found plenty of location where we could fill up with water today, the locals were filling up their plastic bottles.

It's very strange seeing a pristine piece of coastline like this and seeing absolutely no tourists whatsoever, no tourist accommodation, no nothing. We did see one or two large billboards advertising resorts and apartments, somewhere, but they obviously weren't on our route.

When we arrived at Nador we started looking for a campground, and this is one country that you need to be up to speak French to go to get around, but we found out that the closest campground was at Saidia right on the Algerian border, a fact did not seem to concern our movements at all, and back we stopped at two police posts to ask for camping directions and are very happy to talk to us and give us directions in broken English or strong French.

There is a strong police presence throughout the area were travelled, normally at the entrance and exit of most towns, each time so far we have just been waved through so it will be interesting to find the area that the tour guide told us, that with out him we may have problems at the police posts.

We found two campgrounds in this town, one closed and one open, the girl from the shop beside the campground comes in rings the bell and somebody eventually appears.

The GPS cordinance are N35° 05.016 W 2°13.133 Saidia,  cost 70DM  

Yes there is a mosque close and yes, the call to prayer it is loud and clear!

Frig when switched to Elec is making a strange sound, the voltage measures 244v, works OK on Gas!

Saturday, May 7
The call to prayer at 4:45 AM was a loud and clear, however we did stay in bed, and skipped the prayers. In Saidia we did not get any telephone reception so we could receive no bad news!

We were quite fascinated that there were no signs about the Algerian border anywhere that we drove, perhaps we weren't close enough to the border.

We left at 8 AM heading towards Berkane to travel on the Zegzel Gorge, one of the most scenic routes in Morocco, you find it at the junction of N2 and Highway P6012 well signposted.

It's a very scenic drive winding your way through this beautiful gorge passing kilometres of fruit trees, and currently all the trees laden with fruit. We've only been up to find out the Arabian name so will need to find out the name at a later date sometime.

The road was in quite good condition considering it was a very minor road, two cars could pass on most places and was well worth the drive, and some other mountain scenery was absolutely spectacular.

The GPS map for this part of the journey was more of an indication of where it would like you to go rather than a guide. The road and the location of our vehicle was possibly 100 meters apart but at least it gave us an indication as of where we should be travelling.

All through the day was seen people with 5 L bottles of petrol for sale on the side of the road I'm not quite sure who their customers are or what the profit ratio is, as just another fascinating thing of Morocco.

Today we got onto more of the main thoroughfare and we saw many more trucks that we have seen on the scenic routes that we were on, and the dominant brand of truck we have been seeing is the Mitsubishi both the Canter and the Fighter, of course there were the large MAN and a Volva trucks and of course the dominant Mercedes vans carrying every sort of product, from people to sheep and goats packed in really tight, with the sliding door open so they could get a little bit of air.

Again we noted as we were driving through the countryside that it was very clean and no bits of paper and plastic lying around, has to be one of the cleanest third world countries have been driving through. We changed our mind about the cleanest of the countryside later in the tour.

The closer we got to the Algerian border the more the women had to cover their faces, until it got to a stage where thou wearing a black veil over their face with just a gap for the eyes.

Again the roadsigns were very good and we really didn't need the GPS to travel through the country!

Again we topped up with diesel as we are down to half a tank and the price of the diesel was 7.46DM, so 40.2 L came to 300DM.

Eventually we reached the end of the drive through the gorge and we ended up on the R607 and we stayed on that until we reached El-Aioun on the N6 and we stayed on that basically for the rest of the day passing through possibly 20 police checkpoints, each time we arrived at a major town which show them our printed card which had camping in English and I assume the same word in Arabic, and each time we were told no there was no camping in town.

We knew there was camping in Fes so we just carried on the road until we arrived there, again flashing our card to the police who directed us right to the campground. Whilst we were talking to this particular policeman we asked him about wild camping, and assuming he understood what we were talking about, he said there's no problems and no restrictions, so I guess very thing to do is to try it out and keep one's fingers crossed.

Arriving at the campground the gentleman that was either the manager or the owner greeted us and road with us to the location that he chose for us, he was most fascinated that we were no longer with the group and made the comment that we were better by ourselves rather than being herded around the country like a flock of sheep.

He arranged a guide with a vehicle to guide us around Fes starting at 9 AM in the morning, the cost is €50, for better or for worse, but at least we should get a good view of this ancient town.

The GPS cordinance for this campground is N 33° 59.933 W 4° 58.159, this is near the sports stadium at Fez

 Sunday, May 8.

There was evidently a wedding party going on possibly in the restaurant of this motor camp or perhaps somewhere that is close, so we had music all night only stopping at 6 AM this morning.

I'm afraid I took the coward's way out and I had a sleeping pill, poor Luda counted every sheep in New Zealand, then moved onto Australia, tried sticking fingers in her ears, but of course that did not last and all the time I was snoring away getting a good sleep.

At 9 AM, as promised, we were at the gate to meet our guide, he had an old Mercedes car and looked to be about 50 or 60 years of age dressed in a blue pinstriped suit so at least he looked the part of €50.

He gave us a talk on the background of Fez, told us of the three cities, One a 20 century city, the older one from the 14th century and the earliest one from the eighth century, give or take a few hundred years!

We went to high spot to take a photograph of the old city along with two tour buses and all the people associated with those buses.

Then it was onto a pottery factory, on arrival walking in to the factory, an Alsatian dog, that was not tied up, came running at Luda and snapped at her, did not draw blood, but gave her one hell of a fright, and a large bruise on her hand, the local people, were not at all concerned, they simply said is a difficult dog and nobody can catch the dog, well if they had told Luda, perhaps she could have used her hand as bait and caught the dog for them

That excitement over, we had the opportunity of buying a wide range of pottery or ceramics, a six piece dinner set was going to cost about €600 plus at least 200 for freight to New Zealand, so we photographed the interesting pieces and told them, don't ring us, we'll ring you!

The guide was a fraction concerned, as I assume all of the places he took us to, he receives a commission! Well as far as we're concerned that is no problem!

The next thing on the list was a parking spot outside the old city and then we wandered into the old city, into the Labyrinth of passages, but I guide had obviously been there many times because he took us correctly to the location of the old school in the old town, then to another very old building with elaborate carving and a lot of the history of the woodwork of the city, incidentally in Fez there is about 1 million people.

From the woodwork museum we went to the carpet factory, now that is not a surprise as we're in the, what I would call “the carpet triangle”, can you go on a guided tour and not be taken to a carpet factory. The first part of the carpet to was to climb to the top of the building to see a loom where they made the carpets, but today being Sunday the girl was not working so we had to imagine how it was done.

It was then downstairs into the serious room with a salesman and he introduced us to all of the different types of carpet or floor coverings that are made by the 1000 odd people in the corporative that the shop represents. I told them we were well serviced by carpets in New Zealand, and we can buy one there, for about the same price as in his shop plus for freight, and when he told me the price in his shop of the carpet I was looking at are expected to buy it for less in New Zealand.

It was back downstairs to collect our guide, was not having much luck in the commission department, and the next step was to look at the leather tannery, and again will lead to the very top of the building, but this time we could look down on a hive of activity where they prepared the skins that arrived, the skins of camels, goats, sheep and I'm not sure what else. The first step is to get the skin clean and they do this through a series of chemical baths, I think he said that natural chemicals, and then into a large washing machine, and the next step into the dye department where there are people putting the skins in and out of these large vats, treading on them and all the time moving the skins about, I can't think of a more unpleasant job, but I guess if I sat down long enough come up with something.

Then it was time for the salesman again he told us the difference in all of the leathers, used the old cigarette lighter flame against the leather trick to show it is the general article, took us through to the ladies section, and fortunately Luda could not find the thing that was fashionable enough, then it was on to the men's section, and quite frankly the last thing I need is another leather jacket, I went along with the ride, found one that would have been suitable if I wanted one, then he told me the price of €500, I scoffed at him and told him the last leather jacket I bought was in Pakistan and it only cost me $100, so I said this jacket would be too expensive at $200. He says what tell me the maximum price you would pay, I told him $US150, he made a sound similar to having his throat cut, and I said, remember you asked me to tell you the price, so I did, I then told him I do not haggle, I'm from New Zealand, he said I'm from Morocco and we do.

So several more times he asked me for my top price and I told him $150, he indicated that was way too low, and as I really didn't want another jacket, I was quite happy to walk away, so we wandered onto the next item on our tour list which was the natural chemical pharmacy, we were introduced to all of the natural chemicals of Morocco, which can make your skin good, and make you smell nice!    Well the distance was a little bit too great, to wander back to the shop for a refill, so we decided to stick with what we could buy in New Zealand and went to leave the shop.

The woman that had been doing all the talking told us to take all the photographs we wished, Luda wanted to photograph one portion, she was told to wait until the woman’s assistant came back, which she did, then took the photo, then the woman said pay the lady some money by having her photo taken, that point Luda could not speak English!

While all this excitement was going on I was busy talking to a tour guide, he said the leather coat man has been on the telephone, they're having a dreadful time with no tourists, and he really wants to sell me the coat and for me to tell him of my best price!   

Well I repeated my well worn phrase of $150, and a guide made a slicing movement with his finger across his throat indicating I assume, it was very, very low. Again I said no problems, so we left the natural chemistry Department and went back onto the narrow pathways, and low and behold, he was leading us back to the leather coat man, because he met us on the road with the coat in a plastic bag and his handout for the money.

I said half a second, I need to look at this carefully, because I was not going to buy this, so back to the shop we went, I examined the coat carefully, tried it on, everything looked good, it seemed to be made from the best deliver they had, so I said all my money is back at the motorhome, he said no problems, what do you want to pay in, I said euros, he said €110, give it to your guide and he'll pass it along to me. It was at this point I realised what a good buy I had so the secret is if you don't want something they will make it impossible for you to refuse! I guess he still made 100% profit!

Then it was time for lunch so they took us to a Moroccan restaurant where we sat down to a three course meal, first was a variety of salads, which I indicated I was not interested in, so Luda had a real good taste of Moroccan salads and she looked pleased with the tastes.

The main course we chose was chicken and I had one cooked in Almond and Luda had one cooked in some other flavour, we both felt the meal was pleasant, but I told Luda I like the way she cooks the chicken better.

We then had a plate of fruit which was Apple's bananas and oranges all chopped up, and this was followed by Mint tea that was extremely hot.

After this, it was back in to the packed Labyrinth with all sorts of things being carried on the backs of donkeys, and they don't stop or pause for a moment, you just get out of their way!

We drove through the new town, which was just like any other city in the world, with a little bit of Moroccan flavour, and then back to our campground, with a driver told us he would wait for me to get the money for the jacket, and I can also use this opportunity for any  gift that I wanted to give him!

We found out from the guide that the bottom of the pay scale is about €300 a month, but he hastened to tell us how cheap absolutely everything was, so that in actual fact, in Morocco was quite good money. So I figured that the amount I paid him was about five days work for the amateur Moroccan so I had already given him a gift!

Monday, May 9
We left the campground at Fez and drove straight to the Marjane supermarket at cordinance N 33° 59.183    W 5° 00.023.

We replaced our supplies and I purchased a dongle which allowed me to connect to the Internet for the first time since we left the group, I bought it for seven days, which in reflection was a bad move because I could have got two months for less than doubled the price, but I thought I don't need two months!

We set the GPS for the town of Sefrou about 24 km away, we parked briefly outside its wall and read about the Labyrinth of passageways in the old city, and it is always enjoyable to experience the Labyrinth on one day but to experience it every day starts losing its appeal.

The Garmin GPS was not working very well today, or I should say the maps were not generally good, often there was no roads, or the path the vehicle was taking was 100 to 200 m normally to the left of the map. However again the signposts were very good and whilst following the signposts don't always get you there on the shortest route it does get you there and again the GPS showed us what direction the roads went, if the roads with there!

We eventually got to the city of Ifrane even though we possibly drove twice the distance we should have, and then it was a matter of finding the right to sign post to go towards Azrou, the GPS is said we should take one road and the signpost pointed to another. We followed the signpost and found that the GPS was correct as its road was the one we ended up on!

As we are coming into the city of Azrou we saw about five different campsites with large signs up at the entrance of the town, we decided not to go into the town and there may be many more campsites inside the town and on the other edge.

Most of the day were being travelling through the winter ski fields of Morocco and we have been at a altitude of between 1600 m and 2000+ metres. Some of the area we went through had the appearance of being volcanic so we would not be surprised to find as a volcano close by.

The donkey is definitely the beast of burden here in Morocco, and today we're been passing quite large herds of donkeys, most than grazing in idyllic situations, ideally to us, not sure what the donkeys think!

The predominant animals that are being farmed are sheep, and to a New Zealander the sheep look mighty strange, a most unusual breed, either Brown or dirty I'm not sure which, and they all need a good dagging!

Most of the small towns we go through have a small driving range, no not a golf course, but a area in which learner drivers can practice with areas of backing, turning and all the other things one needs to do to get a drivers license, most of which I have forgotten!

Instead we headed towards Timahdite and stopped briefly in that city to change some Euros into the local currency, fill up the fuel tank with diesel and then carried on South towards a very picturesque lake mentioned in the guidebook.

We camped overnight near a beautiful freshwater lake at an altitude of over 2200 m, evidently it is full of fish the cordinance N 33° 04.482    W 5° 00.281.  

Tuesday, May 10
We had a very windy night, not windy enough to rock the motorhome but fortunately the nose was pointing into the wind so that lessened its effect considerably.

We wound our way back to the main road along the one lane tar sealed track passing through Midelt on the N13 which we followed all the way south to Erfoud with the GPS showing us a road that bore no relationship to the road we were on.

We passed lots of camping grounds, they are almost everywhere along the N13 but we had a card that we were given by the French couple in the serious motorhome that we parked beside three of four days ago, it advertised it had Internet, and electricity, so as it was in the direction we were going and close to the city of Rissani we headed for that, passing all of the others on the way.

When we got here we found the electricity was on from 6 PM till 10 PM, and the telephone wire did not go past the entrance yet, so they don't have the Internet connection. However they could arrange a four-wheel-drive tour of the dunes at what seemed to be European prices so that question is still on the boil.

The assistant manager that served us is going into town and you will buy me a Morocco Telecom dongle priced at 150DM which evidently will give a better reception throughout the country than my last purchase which was a HDM dongle.

We stayed quite a long time at a height above 1600 m passing through magnificent mountains and wonderful rock formations, and of course all of the villages with houses made out of Adobe (mud bricks) and there are a lot of old buildings are slowly crumbling back into the landscape, I assume that once the roof falls in nature reclaims the rest!

It seems that we are following the tour, or they are following us, as again we saw them on the road today but they are camped somewhere in a oasis and for the next few days will be camped in the desert amongst the dunes. On reflection three days in amongst the dunes would be probably more than I could handle, I remember I visited the dunes in Dunghang in China, got some fabulous photos, I think I was there for three hours which was adequate.

Some of the time today the river was winding its way through a gorge and on each bank there was a lush growth of what we associate with an oasis, the lush green amongst the brown looking dirt and rocks were certainly a beautiful contrast.

Travelling down the N 13 took us through the Ziz Gorge which is the heart of the high Atlas range running in an easterly direction and eventually disappears into the Sahara Sands. The guidebook tells us that there is some old French foreign Legion forts along this road, but though not obvious to us. You of course go through the tunnel carved through the limestone rock by the French foreign Legion in 1927 opening the route to the south, a very interesting drive.

We have reached an area of Morocco where a lot of the woman wear black and are totally covered up just showing the eyes. It certainly looks like, if you're a woman, you probably have a freer life, if that's what you want, and a larger city!

The motor camp we are at is call Tifina its GPS cordinance are N 31° 22.900  W 4° 16.300

Wednesday, May 11
We broke the bad news to the campground attendant that were not going to be spending €150 today but were going to drive out to see the Erg Chebbi Dunes which are evidently close to the campground, he was very helpful in giving us follow instructions on how to get there, it was an interesting drive out into the desert, we went quite a way before we saw the sand of the desert with a lot of the ground that led up to the desert being just a stone's and small mountains of stones.

But we found the dunes and got some wonderful photographs at the end of the road through Morzuga with cordinance of N 31° 5.399    W 4° 0 0.238, again the Garmin was not much use for accurate guidance, but it was good for going back on the same road you come in on, particularly turned on the option of leaving a trail of your route, so all we had to do was follow the blue line and ignore the road we were supposed to be on that was sitting 100 m to one side.

If you're worried about finding campground is we saw dozens of campgrounds, all advertising the ability to camp in amongst the sand dunes, and whilst that sounded interesting it wasn't compelling enough for us to stop.

So we drove back the way we came into we got to Erfoud and highway R 702 which took us through to N 10. Nowhere on this road did we see a single police roadblock, it appears they stick to the main roads, so going across this interesting road which was on the edge of the desert we passed through a lot of little villages, the first one had a large market day in progress, with cars parked everywhere, but more interesting people just wandering over the road where ever they felt like it carried all sorts of merchandise, almost all the woman at this marketplace were in black with their faces covered, we had a truck following us close behind, it was beeping every so often, which cleared the road a little bit for us, it was a terribly interesting experience, it was not slightly stressful.

The other little village towns that we pass through had most of the houses built out of Adobe mud, it is after all the cheapest way of building a house because you only have your labour content in the building, and from what we've noted, the population do not seem to be fully employed.

We went through a lot of these villages just as school was giving out and the number of teenagers that we saw leaving the school was quite phenomenal in our eyes, however it does create certain problems for the country with all of these people being educated and possibly not prepared to look after the donkey carrying a load to the market.

These teenagers walking home or cycling home, more or less took over the whole road and only moved over grudgingly as we got quite close, driving on the wrong side of the road.

You've only got stopped for a moment in Morocco almost anywhere, and you'll see children running towards you from all directions, they speak to you in French, indicating that they want money, food, or both. Adults aren't very much better, as the majority of men, indicate they would like a cigarette so my only thought is was all of this hand gestures from the total population, there must be quite successful with the tourists passing through, which is to a degree turning them into a beggar society.

Evidently has a custom amongst some women to paint the palms of their hands with henna, which is evidently to keep evil spirits away, and today a woman that waved to us had such a painting on her hands, now I presume she was waving, she made in holding up the hand to ward off the evil spirits going by on a motorhome!

We are choosing our destinations from the Eyewitness Travel book on Morocco and were finding it very useful in deciding where to go.

Our destination in the next couple of days is Zagora and it would be much faster to have taken the N 12 from our location at the dunes but we decided that the du Todra Gorge looked terribly interesting so we turned onto the R703 and went past some incredibly interesting villages built out of Adobe and that by itself was worth the turning off of the main road but then when we hit the Gorge spectacular rock formations were almost right out of this world, it would have been wonderful to drive through this gorge in the early spring with the riverbed fall of rushing water, instead of the mere trickle that there is now. In the length of the Gorge it falls 400 m so yes the water would rush.

As we travel through the gorge again we passed lots of campgrounds all the way up the gorge and we finally stayed at one of the most distant ones up the gorge, we never use the amenities of campgrounds except for emptying the toilet and the dirty water, and filling up with clean water when we are sure of its source.

We are currently at a elevation of 1815 m and a little campground on the left-hand side of the road on the 703,   N 31° 40.993   W 5° 31.359 

Thursday, May 12
We drove back down the Gorge, with the sun behind us, giving us a totally different view of the Gorge, it was well worth while staying at the top end of the Gorge to get this new view.

Back on the main road we turned into the R704 to the other Gorge called du Dades and it came at very poor second, but was still interesting and only paled slightly when compared to the first Gorge.

Again today we passed a lot of women carrying loads, often large bundles of grass, and age did not seem to be a deciding factor as we saw the very young perhaps six years old, and the very old probably in the 80s doing their share. Of course the men were busy with things at a higher level, of course they still had time to try to cadge a cigarette!

At one good viewing spot we found a busload of probably Germans, while they brightened up when they saw our German numberplate, and tried the Deutsche on us, they were being ferried around Morocco, stopping occasionally at pre-selected spots to look or to photograph, and of course there will be the restaurants, the gift stalls, and of course the toilets. Yes I might do one of these tours when 102!

We saw a car just ahead of us pull over to the side of the road, the driver jumped out with a good camera and tripod and proceeded to erect the tripod to get his award-winning photograph, it is just as well Luda does not have to stop for every photograph she wants to take using a tripod as I suspect the tours will become very long.

We then carried on South to Ouarzazate as we arrived in the outskirts of the town we saw a large sign pointing towards camping, and we followed that were fairly large campsite with about two dozen motorhomes at the moment, its GPS location is N 30° 55.372  W 6° 53.207

When we arrived at the campsite there was a guy lying, possibly half asleep on the front entrance and he lifted one arm and waved us on in.

Friday, May 13
Today we decide to travel south to Zagora. Once we were in Zagora we decided to go a little bit further south to look at the dunes that were in our guidebook, and then we decided to travel on South to the Algerian border, but then the scenery became monotonous and just before Tapounte we turned around, after examining the possibility of wild camping on the top of the hill, on a beautiful flat area that was there, but a look at the temperature in that location and seeing 37°C we decided to head back to Zagora to little oasis on the edge of town.

Today as we drove south is interesting to see the beautifully kept villages on the side of the road, these people have almost nothing, but they still wave and smile to us rich people driving past their simple houses. We started seeing more and more people with black skins and I assume that is because of the people that may occupy the edge of the Sahara, but who knows!

Some of the intricate design on some of these adobe houses, some almost palaces, is really interesting particularly when you realise that all starts out as a dirt. We are starting to see evidence of concrete block being now used within the town's so there must be a slightly more affluence happening in these areas.

Today being Friday, and that being the holy day for Muslim people, we saw people going to or coming from a mosque, dressed in what we would say their Sunday best, and where we drove past a mosque with the people inside, we are able to observe all of the shoes outside, and extremely simple shoes they were.

We are still amazed at the number of children we see gather around the schools, and we think the schools have two classes every day, one group of children in the morning and another group of children in the afternoon, but that is just a guess!

The whole 160 km of the drive today was dry barren stony ground, occasionally when there was any sort of water, you get this oasis of green consisting of palm trees and all sorts of other greenery. It makes you realise the difference a little bit of water makes.

There are no campgrounds we could find after Zagora this campground that we are at its GPS location is N 30° 18.890  W 5° 49.806

Saturday, May 14
We set off and drove the 90 km back towards Agdz will return to the left onto R108, heading towards the Atlantic coast and Agadir, we had a nice surprise as it was a beautiful highway that we could do a speed of 100+ without any bumps or whatever. All good things come to an end at a Y junction when the road downgraded to a narrower road with lots of potholes.

The scenery we were driving through was stony desert, but there were wonderful views of mountains in the distance at many different angles as the road wound its way through canyons and then long straight roads through the Moroccan stepps the roads seem to go on almost forever.

We eventually ended up on the N10 and carry on until we reached the village of Taliouine where we found the campsite just off to the left within easy walking distance of the main street. It is a very basic campsite with parking spots marked out with concrete edges, the ablution block looks like it is best viewed from the outside, we do have electricity. The cordinance are N 30° 31.897  W 7° 55.501 and we are at an elevation of 1007 m if that makes a difference!

A walk through the main street is a walk-through village life in Morocco, on the corner there was a large bowl with five goats heads in the raw, in behind the various pieces of meat hanging up for view, please do not embarrass us by asking about refrigeration!

Looking at the content of the shops everything was at a very basic low-cost range of goods, which I guess is to be expected.

Looked at the Western Union office, to change money, is not open today Saturday.

On many occasions on the drive today we had the opportunity of stopping at a large variety of campsites and found quite a few good locations for wild camping.

More to Come ....

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