We finally left Agadir and headed towards Dakhla. Within a few hours, we had left behind any resemblance of greenery and we were now in the dry and sandy part of Southern Morocco. It took a day of driving and we were in the Western Sahara area. I have been in a few deserts and dry environments in other parts the world and this is not too different except for one thing. Trash, garbage, rubbish, litter, call it whatever you want, this place has little of anything other. We drove for 100kms or so out of Agadir and for a while, we enjoyed the scenery of the desert and it sparse beauty until it was once again blotted with trash as we came closer to the next town. We soon realised that the prevailing wind is southerly so as we headed south out of towns we were accompanied by a field of trash that was proportionate in size of the town we had just left. It’s a bit sad as it would be almost impossible to clean it up from the sand and stones, and I think it would take a few generations for any change in attitude to litter to be normalized. I have to say we also found Portugal and Spain to be much the same, except with an organized collection. It is normal to just discard litter in the street. I remember the ‘be a tidy kiwi’ campaign in the 70s and I am happy that people police others socially regarding litter in New Zealand. It’s everyone’s problem really, and I wondered if the litter problem I see here is just too big to even feel like you’re making a difference by putting your trash in the bin, so why bother?
It was great to get on the road for even a few days in a row. We have enjoyed every second in Morocco but we sure are itching to get underway and gone. The package we are waiting on now is a road atlas for all of Africa and a battery charger. Both of which we could have found locally I agree but.. the road atlas would have been in French or Portuguese and I can say there’s nothing quite like actually reading things.. and I just had an itching for just the right battery charger for the 100ah/hr battery that keeps the drinks cool. We are needing it when we sit in one place for more than 2 days and I couldn’t find it anywhere after looking for a couple of weeks. So thanks to Amazon, it’s not only the postage we pay it’s the hotels while we wait. None of that really matters because we have our very own kitty to keep us entertained!
So, yup. We are in another hotel. Fine way to be spending a car tent camping trip..? Well, we were intending to camp for a few days then a few days in the hotel that’s receiving our package but there’s a good reason we are in the hotel early. It’s windy. No, I mean IT’S WINDY… We spent 2 nights camping at roadside campgrounds as we headed to Dakhla and we were able to have camp right up close to a wall and were sheltered from the wind but at the campground in Dakhla we had nowhere to escape the wind and didn’t want to sit for 2 days in the dust and salt spray. The decision was made easier by the fact it was the only campground in town and it was a complete and total utter shit hole. So we moved to a much better shit hole.
As I mentioned in my last post, this is an occupied territory and while the groups are at a cease fire, they still don’t agree with each other. Morocco has forged ahead with the occupation and built towns with grand infrastructure all the way down the coast. We drive hours through nothing then arrive at grand gates and a 6 lane highway that’s empty. Streets all laid out with lighting and power, but no houses. A lone completed house in acres of half constructed houses and empty lots. It looks bleak, its dusty, hot and windy. In Dakhla which is the largest city in the territory, we see no international companies advertising. No name brand or international hotels operate here. No internationally recognized oil companies sell fuel here. The reason is that the UN do not recognize Morocco’s claim over this area, in fact no one does. I guess international originations don’t do business in these areas? What I think is that if they weren’t fighting over the place, no one would live here at all. The kite surfers would have it to themselves and it would go back to being a small wind blown fishing village. I’m sure half the population is police or army/navy anyway and they are sort of being paid to be here but otherwise…
The car is going along well and problem free. When we were at Atlantic Parc campground I removed the tow bar. It was a heavy duty high rated Toyota supplied Thule tow bar and it would have cost £1500 at least. I thought long and hard about it but it limited our ground clearance to pretty much the same as a road car and we plan on heading into the desert as soon as we cross into Mauritania and it weighed around 75kg too so for overall fuel consumption for the entire trip, we are better off without it. The tow bar also made up the bumper mounts and I still needed a towing point at the back so I had to get the local mechanic to turn up with his grinder and we cut it up right there in the campground, in our spot, in the middle of the day. Sure was interesting to have a grinder screaming away and sparks showering everywhere (no safety equipment…). Fortunately, the sparks weren’t landing on our car and it was all over pretty fast. Now I have no tow bar and 2 excellent rear tow points either side bolted to the chassis and the sort of clearance Toyota intended from the start. We don’t even carry 75kg of food and water so shedding that much weight in one go was great and the rear now sits around 5mm higher. They have an upholstery shop at the same place and we got a shade for the windscreen and some pockets made for the back seat to help with storage. Here in Dakhla we have had the windows tinted to help the air conditioner keep up and a new bracket for the big battery so it is now secure. We are not getting the fuel consumption we were hoping for but we are pushing a lot of air with the tent and the front roof rack is now loaded with winter things and the tramping gear, so maybe to be expected. The next major service will be in South Africa so I will take it to a Toyota dealer and they can check the injectors and replace them under warranty if needed… haha we will see!
Morocco has been a great place to dip our toes into Africa as we had quite a few things to do (as we discovered) and this has been a good place to do what we need to. We really do feel we are ready for the rest of Africa now. It’s been both good and bad to have to do all the prep work on the other side of the world and I envy the people who can start a trip like the one we are on from their front door. The good bit is we really do only have what we need and no more. I think we could have taken a load more ‘things’ and justified each one but I am glad we don’t have them. Chances are we will collect stuff along the way and we might have to have a purge every now and then but I wouldn’t change a thing so far.
Ok, so this is the bit where I update you all on the new addition to the team. I trust you have all gone to the new page on ourepictrip.com to see the team and read Luxy’s bio. She is doing fine and seems to be getting used to the travel very well. She is still trying to work out why the world is moving so fast when we are driving and prefers to just lay in her basket but she doesn’t really sleep we think. She is still no problem when it comes time to get in the car and will settle down within a minute or two while we are packing up the tent. She absolutely loves the outdoors and gets quite distressed when she has to be inside at hotel stays.
Although she used to live at a campground by the beach, we are pretty sure she had never been in the sand before. We stayed at a campground, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, that was slowly being eaten alive by sand. It was everywhere and they weren’t making moves to get rid of it, losing battle maybe? Luxy loved every second of being at that place and went totally crazy rolling around and digging in the sand. She would run and dive on piles of it. Great fun and although I tried to get some good video of her, I didn’t… When we arrive at a normal looking campground, she is in her element and will be off exploring straight away. When we are at a deserted campground or are wild camping, she will stay very close to the car and tent. As long as she is between us and the car, she is comfortable. Fights, she has had a few. No worse for wear. She has stepped on something (litter grrr) and maybe still has something in her foot but we are monitoring it and treating it as needed. She is very much our cat now and will follow us around the campground when it’s dark and she usually gains a following with campers soon after we arrive anywhere. We can leave her alone at the campsite all day and she will stay close and snooze in the tent (we think...) and she has no problem laying in the car while we have lunch and buy food.
So it’s looking good so far but time will tell. You cannot convince a cat to do anything...
Gidday mate..It seems like a long time since I’ve said that. These days its bonjour or a nod of your head as you walk past. When I do say my usual greeting, I get a blank stare as if I have spoken some strange dialect or a long lost foreign language. Thing is, this part of the world used to belong to either the French or the Portuguese and along with Arabic they are the languages spoken by pretty much everyone. The further south we go in Morocco the more French people we see and fewer of them seem to speak English. Sometimes it actually quite funny. We often meet French people who don’t (or won’t) speak English. Sometimes they will just carry on talking and talking even though we are indicating we don’t understand at all. It usually works out for them and they often walk away looking satisfied with themselves having had a good chat with the Englishman. Yes, the Englishman and his English wife…
We have been campsite hopping, moving from place to place staying at campgrounds. We have just left a mega campsite with 100’s of campers. It was 90% full even though it’s the off season and 90% of the campers are French and 99% are in RVs. We were the 1% outside under canvas. Just like clockwork every night at 6:30pm the RV dwellers all head indoors and the entire place falls silent. All that is left is the glow of the flat screen TVs tuned into the array of satellite dishes that are on every roof. We on the other hand remained outside and have the place to ourselves. Luxy starts to play on the roadway and between the campers and we are able to chat to the security guards. It’s not like any campground I have stayed in. It felt like we were living in a French retirement village. We did however meet some nice people at the mega site and thanks to Stuart and Boo for a wonderful afternoon tea. We also spent some more time with our friends from Estonia, Ivar and Kairi. We are looking forward to seeing more of them and their lovley dog on the way back! A storm meant we had to move but (the silly thing is) for 5 Euros more a night, we have a lovely apartment in a resort up behind the campground.
The reason for the long stay in Morocco is because we are waiting for some credit cards to come from New Zealand, Germany and the USA. It’s actually been harder than we ever imagined to bring them all together and to us. Having an address and being able to wait there or sending things in advance to a hotel and hope it will still be there when we arrive. With the credit cards, we didn’t want to take any chances so we are getting them sent by DHL. But other items are being sent in advance of us arriving. It has meant an extra 2 + weeks here before we can head south. We sure didn’t want to risk having something this important to the trip getting lost again and Morocco is a much better place to ‘hang around’ in. It has meant that we have spent a lot of idle days though. When you travel by car and set up camp using the car, to move sites in the camp or use the car means an entire pack up. The weather has been nice for the last few weeks and lazing in the sun doing lots of nothing has been a nice break. A massive thanks to Nicola and David for allowing us to use their address for this job and to Nicola for the running around to make it all happen.
So, I have looked through both our cameras and phones for photos to remind me of what we have been up to so I can write some more in this edition and guess what? They are just photos of Luxy and campgrounds so rather than drone on about nothing much or fill a couple more pages with cat news, I will leave it here so I can get this finished. Today we leave Agadir and the resort accommodation we have been in for the last 4 nights and head for The Western Sahara. Our next town stop will be Dakhla. We will follow the coast all the way and we expect it will take us 4 days, about 400kms a day. When we reach Dakhla we will have to wait for the last package before we cross into Mauritania. The next few days will be more interesting driving as we cross the disputed territory. The Moroccans are technically still at war with the Polisario people and a cease fire has been in effect since 1991. The Moroccans occupied the territory after the Spanish left in 1975 starting the war and although there has been no fighting for decades, still our first war zone!! We expect that in the next 1600 kms we will be stopped up to 50 times at police and military check points so maybe I will have a bit more to talk about next time.
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it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!