Wednesday 14th January 2009 Rabat to Marrakesh

I think we are both glad to leave Rabat. We head to Marrakesh and take a more scenic route than some might think of. I want to take in the Cascades d’Ouzoud and so we head South through Rommani, Oued-Zem, Fhik-Ben-Salah, and then when we get ont main road left before taking a right up through the hills past the stunning Gorges de l’Oued-Abid to the Cascades then through Demnate to Marrakesh.

The journey took us through many different landscapes and regions and I asked Stephanie to make a few notes. Hopefully I will get this to her so she can expand on them. Fhik-Ben-Salah, school’s out and it’s market day. It is chaos with many bikes, horses & carts and even animals transported on roofracks. On leaving and heading towards Ben Moussa the area of tarmac on the road becomes narrower and reduces to a single track main road with dirt run-offs which you have to use at speed when there are two vehicles. It is now much warmer and we see the sun. We cross the beautiful Middle Atlas plain. In the hills there are olive groves and I think cedars. The colours of the earth change between grey and deep red. Spectacular scenery.

The falls were beautiful but slightly disappointing in that as soon as we arrived we were latched onto by a prospective tour guide. All we had wanted was a nice romantic setting but got it ruined instead. Leaving the falls we headed down the hills until we reached a very boring last 40 km to Marrakesh. We arrived at the Camping Ferdous and fortunately it met with Stephanie’s approval. It was equipped with a shop selling the essentials such as bread and eggs and also had a shuttle taxi available for trips to the city Not today.

Thursday 15th January 09 Marrakesh

After croissants from the shop we took advantage of the shuttle service into the main square and bravely ventured into the souks hoping to return with some money. Stephanie had some presents to get and so dived in to the task of haggling. Much too much money later she had her presents which were still not an outrageous price and so she was happy as they were interesting hats. I had a couple of shopping tasks as my belt was not doing too well. I picked up a nice leather one for £7.50 and also got myself a watch. I wanted something plain and hopefully almost genuine and got a Casio for £4.50 which almost seems genuine. Time will tell. We had mint tea looking at the square and later had our lunch of tagines for around £5 each. All the time I must think of money as I have a budget to run to. We were finished much earlier than expected and the evening stalls didn’t have much appeal to Stephanie’s stomach. Unfortunately we weren’t getting our lift till 9pm so we had a January ice cream by a fountain. Then it was back to the campsite.

Friday 16th January 09 Marrakesh to Agadir

This was the day it became my solo trip. Stephanie flies home today and we manage a brave farewell at the airport. I am now alone in Africa. It has been pouring down all night and I had decided to move on so Stephanie had helped me pack the tent away. I head off thinking of getting to Agadir. I pass a couple of horrid accidents and remind myself to expect reckless drivers. Up into the hills and lo and behold we have snow. There is quite a bit of it and it catches a few out. I do my first good deed by pulling out a couple of gents in their Mercedes. I am happy to do it but they insist on the gift of a box ox tissues. There is much rapidly changing scenery and then I come out of the hills to glorious sunshine and the metropolis of Agadir. The campsite is full and there are motorhomes parked round the block so I take a tip off a waiting Brit and head 15km North finding a place where a few are camped up. They had been moved on a couple of nights before so I think it prudent to give my alternative sleeping layout a go. A sand ladder comes down and lays on the passenger and rear seats with a mat over the top. It is passable. An early night.

Saturday 17th January 09 Agadir to Tiznit and Guelmim

I have had a disturbing noise which I believe to be a propshaft UJ for a week now and so I decide not to chance my arm any further and look for a mechanic. It all seems too much bother in Agadir and I also cannot wait to get away from the place. I head off to Tiznet and find a mechanic on his way to lunch He diagnoses a rear prop joint and then goes for lunch. I wait. On his return the job is done although it takes a while and he charges a bit steeply (at least I now know how to do the job) and then I am on my way. The campsite here is full again and I head further South feeling much more confident now the noises have gone. I find a site just before Guelmim which appears to be the place outside town where youngsters come for a smoke of whatever. The site has few facilities and I am glad to be staying just the one night.

Sunday 18th January 09 Guelmim to Tan Tan Plage.

I get up around 8 and have a leisurely breakfast. Just as well as the proprietors don’t get up till I wake them wanting to get out at 10. It is now off to the South and a gradual attempt to acclimatise on the way. I have started my anti-malarials and am starting to lose layers of clothing. (No thermals). This is the last days run before getting to the safe but disputed region of Western Sahara. I have an enjoyable drive and find myself a campsite at Tan Tan Plage which is 50DH but has hot showers. The toilet (singular) is western but gross but I take the chance of a spruce up and then work on rearranging my packing system. It works and after much messing around have an almost accessible set of equipment. I cook tea, have a shower and head to bed in the windy Atlantic region. Today’s drive showed none of the motorhomes waving back when flashed but I had some joy in Anglo French relations. I have been trying to find fuel for my Tilley lamp and have had no joy as Paraffin appears not to be a French word. One of the French gents at the campsite has a look, sniffs the fuel I have left and says petrole. So their petrol is called essence and there lamp fuel petrole. Okay got it.

Monday 19th January 09 Tan Tan Plage to Camping le Roi Bedouibe

4.5km down a piste (signposted off the road) some enterprising people have set up a quiet campsite in the middle of the desert. I love it. Met a Swiss bloke who was leaving and he had spent 4 nights in the dunes and one at the campsite. Earlier today I met 5 guys heading for the surf in a Nissan Patrol and an old post office LDV. They seem like good fun and it was fun to speak whole sentences in English. Didn’t catch all their names but one of them was from Jersey and apparently his Dad runs the Jersey Jazz Festival. Small world again.

I have to gauge this part of my journey so I don’t miss anything and also don’t get on to Mali too early. I think I will look at this desert bit making sure people know where I am. Not so fond of the campsite now as it appears to be popular. A group just rolled up. They have Bedhouin tents for rent here at about 90 Dhr (I think for one person and there is the per person cost for extra people.) They have a tent restaurant but my budget dictates that I have a few cheap days and apart from fuel I have spent 28 Dirhams.

Tuesday 20th January 09 Western Sahara

I have got a set of GPS points from the campsite owner and am heading off into the dunes. He says don’t drive them or you will get stuck but you can navigate round them with just a few spots where you have to drive over some softish sand. I have to say that it is just spectacular. A real sense of freedom. I think it is one of the most liberating experiences so far. I got as far as the beach and about 10 km along before it became obvious I wouldn’t beat the tide across a certain section and so I headed back making much better ground now I had 2 sets of data in the GPS.

I returned to the same campsite and settled in for the night.

Wednesday 21st January 09 South to Dakhla.

I originally set out today to get to Layounne but it is only 38km and once I arrive I see it as a garrison town and decide to head on. I pull into a supermarket on the way out of town to see if I can pick up a few things but they don’t really have what I want especially as I’m not in the market for a piano, yes you heard right, they have all sorts including Leyland Bus spares and a piano. I head off. Later I get my first request for cadeau (gift) from a policeman. The ‘fiche’ I have been handing out (a type of form where you list all the details they tend to ask for so they don’t have to spend a lot of time writing them in their ledger) has been working till now. I tell him I don’t have any gifts and he is fine with that. This is in Boujdour. I plough on to Dakhla and about 5km before the town is a campsite. There are a group from the Plymouth to Banjul rally, a charity event, and I have a bit of a natter with them before bed. They are crossing to Mauritania tomorrow so I think I will give it a miss.