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Friday, 1 January 2016

Nightmare adventure to Morocco in our Motorhome

Tuesday 10th April
Motorhome packed Scoobie at Peer's Palace so we started on our journey to Morocco. First destination Algeciras to get the ferry. Went to the ticket office and they said that we could get on the ferry today at 6 pm instead of waiting for tomorrow to get the one that we had booked, so we did which gave us an extra day in Morocco.

The crossing took 2 hours and we met a Belgian lady who had family in Fez who she was going to stay with for a holiday. Arrived at customs with forms stamped and ready, driving in they told us to park up but nothing else, so we stood around for ages then asked at the office what was happening. They gave us another form that we had to fill out to enable us to import the motorhome. The policeman had to give us a number on our passports which we took back to the office. Customs looked at our motorhome and asked us if we had any guns?. Then we tried to get some dirhams from the ATM and found that it did not work so we had to go to another office to get the dirhams so that we could get insurance for the trip (not possible to do this before). Finally, we got on the road to Tetouan by which time it was dark and we had difficulty finding the road out of the port. The first road we took was full of lorries and must have been heading for a quarry, so we turned around and went back to the ferry port. Decided to go straight to Martil on a road with lots of bends (not good for motorhome or the driver), we were getting a bit worried but eventually arrived in Martil and found the campsite called Camping Caravaning Al Boustane where we managed to get a plot for the night. Entry into Morocco was more stressful than we had anticipated.

Wednesday 11th April
Got woken up at 5 am by the singing from the mosque not good, hope that this is not going to happen every day. Had breakfast and took the local bus into Tetouan. We got off the bus but could not find the street on the map. Wandered round for an hour or so and had a coffee and managed to find the bus stop to get back to the campsite. Had lunch and did a tour of Martil which consisted mostly of a walk along the beach. Didn't see anyone in a bathing suits on the beach but we did see a couple of camels being walked up and down.

Not sure what he is selling?
A bit of a chaotic market!
Moroccan donkey derby

Thursday 12th April
Bought some bread from the campsite shop had breakfast then drove to Chefchaouen. The journey was very pretty going into the Rif mountains. The campsite was at the top of the village and difficult to find. It started to rain today, so we did not do much, went for a walk back down to the village. It was a mixture of Spanish and Moroccan with lots of blue buildings. Stopped for a coffee in the old section of the village, still raining. Eventually made it back to motorhome where we played scrabble drank wine and had dinner in the evening. Motorhome window leaked and the bed got wet. Happy days.
Chefchaouen
Blue houses

FRIDAY 13TH!!!!!!!!
Hope it's not bad luck today on Friday 13th? Tried to drive out of Chefchaouen but got lost in the village as there were no road signs, luckily a boy on a moped indicated that we should follow him which we did and we managed to find the main road. Think this must happen a lot and the boy worked for the town hall as he just waved goodbye to us and went back up into the village. We headed towards Sale on the coast and the road soon went into the countryside, but there were lots of people standing around with sheep, cows and goats on the side of the road. Went through Ouezzane driving was a lot harder than we thought it would be and the roads were not very good. Went through Kenitra and got petrol on the Plage Mehdiya found campsite quite run down but very big with not many people on it (since we were there I think that it has been either closed or modernised into Surfcamp Mehdia). There was a big dog with 7 puppies on the campsite and I think that the French lady in the motorhome next to us was feeding them. Went for a walk along the beach.

Saturday 14th
The fun begins - drove towards Sale stopped off at Jardins Exotiques 13 kilometres north of Rabat. Eighteen dirhams to get in but very nice and quite big with a small museum and a snake house. Went for a coffee in the cafe in the gardens which had very nice seating with a fountain in the middle of the room, no one else was in there.






More camels

Drove to Sale and got totally lost trying to find the campsite eventually got to the place where the campsite should have been and it was not there. Drove into Rabat and followed the lane markings on the road and we were pulled over by the police for driving the wrong way down a one-way street and he wanted us to pay him 700 dirhams we told him that we only had 400 so he took that and put it in his pocket. Later in the holiday people on campsites said that it had happened to them too, so next time we will avoid driving through Rabat altogether. Could not find the campsite in Rabat either so drove to Casablanca where the campsite was supposed to be was now a block of flats. We gave up and booked into the Ibis Hotel which was not as cheap as we thought it was going to be 800 dirhams for a room and breakfast. The hotel did not have a car park so we had to park the motorhome on waste ground in front of the hotel and the next day we had to pay 20 dirhams for parking there. Had a big salad from the buffet and a beer, not very good really. Had a bottle of wine in our nice comfortable room.

Sunday 15th
Had a shower and ate as much as we could at the breakfast buffet to get our monies worth. Drove straight out of town as there was nowhere to park the motorhome. What a waste as we didn't see any of the city, we will have come back for the weekend without the motorhome. Drove onto paying motorway which was a lot easier than using the smaller roads. We headed for Meknes, came off the motorway, no signs to campsite drove around for a bit and eventually found it but it was closed, are we ever going to find another campsite that is open? Parked in front of the locked gates and had coffee and lunch and a discussion as to what we would do next. Decided to go to Fez, this was not working out as we had planned with the lack of campsites. Got into Fez and did our usual driving around looking for the campsite as there were no signposts or even street names. At last we found the campsite and it was OPEN hurrah, it even had a swimming pool but it was raining so we didn't go in. The man on the campsite tried to book us a guide to take us round FEZ the next day, but we said that we preferred to do our own thing, at which point he shook his head a lot.

Monday 16th
The campsite was ok although it was a bit muddy due to the rain and we got woken up by the 5 am prayers. Walked to Fez el Jedid (new town). Again the lack of street signs made navigation very difficult, eventually, we found the tourist information office and Cafe Renaissance where we had a panache - a blend of orange, apple and banana juice. Realised this was not the Cafe Renaissance that was in the guidebook when we passed the right one later in the day. Walked to the Dar el Makhzen Royal Palace which was not open to the public, and had big brass doors with lemon trees either side. Walked a little further into a group of houses with open balconies which were owned by jews in the old days. Decided not to go into the old part of town as it was getting late. We headed back to the campsite stopping off for coffee on route. Then we stopped off for lunch at restaurant Zagora where we had couscous with vegetables which was very nice, a big plate full for 70 dirhams including bread and olives. Stopped for a cup of mint tea in Cafe Andalucia but forgot to say no sugar so it was really too sweet for us. Didn't bother with any more food that day just had wine and crisps and watched a film back at the campsite.

Tuesday 17th
Had breakfast and walked towards Fez Ville Nouvelle, on leaving the site a different guy on reception tried to get us to pay 150 dirhams for a guide to take us round the old part of Fez. Ignored this advice as we had our great Lonely Planet Guide to follow. We needed more cash so we found a bank the ATM had a menu in English and French but it would not work in English so we managed to do it in French. Stopped for mint tea before taking a taxi the rest of the way to the Medina. The guide book said to use Petite Taxis and it should cost 20 dirhams for the journey but to check the price with the driver before getting in, which we did and all was fine.

Gateway to the Medina at Fez

View of the Tanning factory 

Shoes anyone?


We were starting our walk of the Medina at a gate called Bab Bou Jeloud, luckily the taxi driver was good and we arrived safely at the right place. Got hassled by people wanting to guide us around the Medina. Said that we spoke Spanish but one of the guys said that he did too so that didn't work. Escaped into the Medina following a walk from our guidebook, narrow alleyways containing loads of shops and stalls selling everything, pots and pans, live chickens, cheese, sweets, leather good etcetera. Eventually found the tanning area where they were preparing leather on the route we were given some mint and did not understand why until we reached the tannery and realised how bad the smell was. Each time we hesitated we were hassled by a guide. When we had seen enough we cut the walk short and headed back to the gate. When we got out we stopped for a coffee and decided to walk back to the campsite. Stopped on the way back outside a McDonalds to see if we could get WIFI for Kindle but it would not work, what's new!!
Decided to have the local delicacy for lunch bessara, it is a green bean and garlic soup. Sat at the roadside bar with loads of locals and they gave us mint tea (mint still in the cup) and a bowl of soup in a tin bowl with loads of bread. The bill came to 1 euro 20 centimos the best menu del dia in the world (sorry Romero brothers, that is our local in Spain). We took our own spoons for lunch because in the guidebook it recommended you did as spoons were not washed from the previous customers, but when the soup arrived the spoon was already in it so we decided to risk it using their spoons. Walked back through some nice gardens. Made our way back to the campsite after a lovely day out, who needs a guide, saved 150 dirhams.

Wednesday 18th
Woke up to a glorious sunny morning but it went sharply downhill from there. We had breakfast and packed the motorhome, ready to leave okay so far. Tried to start the motorhome and the battery was dead, so we borrowed some jump cables and started her up, paid the bill and left the site and called in the nearest supermarket to get provisions and some jump cables, we left the engine running just in case. Then we got petrol and turned off the engine which started okay so we thought we would be good as the battery would charge as we went on our journey. We carried on with our journey to Moulay Yacoub where there were thermal baths. Arrived there and paid to park at the side of the road, hundreds of people there, think it was market day. Could not find the thermal baths so we decided to continue to Moulay Bousselham. The motorhome started okay, so eventually we pulled off to the side of the road and had some lunch close to a stall selling olive oil and beans. Had lunch and there was a little boy from the stall watching us all the time. Guess what the motorhome would not start, so we waved down the first passing car and they kindly gave off a jump start with our new jump cables and we continued on our way. After about half an hour one of the vents on the roof of the motorhome started flapping and had come out of it's brackets. We pulled over at the next small village and tried to borrow a ladder to get onto the roof to secure the vent, managed to get one from the shopkeeper and secured the vent with some tape, leaving the engine running all the time. Carried on again to Moulay Bousselham which involved driving west to a coastal town then back 40 kilometres south, but we saw a signpost pointing us to Moulay Bousselham so we took it thinking it would be a shortcut and save some time, big mistake. After a few minutes, the road surface deteriorated drastically to a dirt track. We carried on which turned out the be worst track that we had ever driven on. We kept asking people along the way if we were going in the right direction. Had to use a compass to made sure we were heading in the right direction as it was now just forest tracks. Arrived okay and the shortcut saved us about 5 kilometres but probably ruined the shock absorbers on the motorhome. Not too sure that this small place would have a campsite but we found one straight away. Went into reception to book in and then the motorhome would not start so the owner went to get his tractor and towed us onto our plot. We then collapsed after our epic day on the road.

Thursday 19th
Woke up had shower and breakfast then spoke to the site staff about getting a mechanic to have a look at the battery. Whilst waiting for the mechanic to arrive we talked to the guy on the site about football, Chelsea beating Barcelona and Bayern Munich beating Real Madrid in the Champions League but with the second legs to come next week who knew the outcome? The mechanic arrived and checked the battery and it was dead and went off in search of a new one, he returned with two to choose from and we chose the biggest of the two and he completed the job for €150 not bad value for money. Now we could relax knowing that we were back in action. Went for a walk round village not impressed had to avoid cows roaming free in the streets. Stopped off for coffee and water (24 dirhams the most we had paid all holiday). Played scrabble and drank our last bottle of wine and watched the end of a film.

Friday 20th
Got up the motorhome started okay. Showered and had breakfast. No road signs had difficulty getting out of village eventually found the motorway. Arrived in Assilah with no problems the first campsite was closed but the one next door was open but we were the only people on it but we didn't mind as they had 24-hour security man who lived in a little shed at the site entrance!! The only problem was that we were woken early by lots of chickens running around. Walked into town which had a very nice Medina, very Spanish looking, found the Hammam (baths) but decided not to go in as they had different times for men and women.




Bought a painting from a street artist who was living in the Medina for €7 which was painted on the back of a cement bag, good for the environment. Bought some pain aux raisin from the cake shop. Very disappointed when we ate them (you can't better the French ones). Walked back to the campsite to get ready to go out for a meal later that night. Went for a meal had prawn salad for starter, vegetable couscous for main and a pot of mint tea. Very nice meal but though the salad was overpriced at €12 as we pay €5 at home. When we came to pay they would not take debit/credit cards so we had to go to the bank to get some cash. We tried 3 banks and they all rejected our cards so we could not get any cash. Went back to the restaurant and he said that he would take dirhams and euros so we managed to pay the bill. That little episode ruined the night for us and we decided that we had had enough of Morocco and we would head back to Tangier the next day to try to get a ferry back home to Spain.

Saturday 21st
So short of cash we headed back up to Tangier Med to get a ferry. We got onto the motorway and only just had enough cash to pay the tolls. Arrived at the port with just 2 dirhams. Managed to change our ferry booking for no extra cash and a guy who took us into the office wanted €5 but we had to say sorry but we have no cash, so he said ok and wished us a good trip home. After going through customs to have all our paperwork checked, we then had to take the motorhome through what looked like a big MRI scan probably checking for drugs, weapons and illegal immigrants. We were then directed to a lane to wait a couple of hours before we had to board the ferry. We had breakfast and eventually the ferry arrived, when we tried to board it we found that it was going to Majorca, they told us we were in the correct lane and that our ferry was the next one in. When the next ferry came in it moored next to lane 7 and we were still in lane 6, so we checked again and they said that we should have been in lane 7. We ended up getting on last but there were only about 6 cars so we were okay. The trip back was uneventful and we arrived at Algeciras without any more drama. We did have the motorhome checked for drugs by a sniffer dog at the Spanish customs.

Gibraltar from the ferry

At Algeciras we decided to go into Gibraltar to do some shopping, we drove there and were in a queue of traffic waiting to cross the border into Gibraltar we had a look at the guidebook which pointed out that the shops shut at 1 pm on Saturdays and it was 3 pm by then. We did a u-turn and decided to continue home. We changed our minds when we got to Malaga and went to stay the night at Torremolinos, another bad decision as about 11 pm they started a rave which went on through the night. So the next morning we drove back home for a rest after a very stressful holiday.
    

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