Moving on, shipping out

So, after 4 months and 12 days, we decided enough is enough and we finally left Morocco.

We had tried to work with a fixer to get us over the Mauritanian border but it wasnt to be and so shipping the truck was our only option.

The reason is, the Moroccon/Mauritanian border is closed over a dispute regarding the sovereignty of Western Sahara- a large area of no mans land between Morocco and Mauritania and a large troop presence has meant the borders closure.

As a result, we will ship to Senegal and, drive north to Mauritania and then head south again from there. Just a slight inconvenience and an additional several hundred miles to drive.

I have attached a small map to demonstrate this.

On our arrival to Casablanca, we checked into an apartment and the truck went to the port.

The customs guys went to town on our beautiful truck and we had 2 sniffer dog inspections, an X-Ray inspection and a physical check. I am glad to say nothing found so we got away with stashing our Drone, as drones are illegal in Morocco. (We hadn’t used it whilst there, but have it for future ventures).

So, as I write this, we are now parted from our truck for the first time in almost a year.

We spent 4 nights in a swanky apartment in Casablanca before flying to Dakar, Senegal where we are now in a not so swanky apartment, awaiting the ship whilst imagining all sorts of tragedies that might blight her arrival.

We call our truck, ‘her’ and we have not followed the tradition amongst other Overlander's who tend to give their vehicles names. We prefer to call our’s home.

The adventure in Senegal and beyond is yet to unfold and will be subject to future Blogs and instead, this is all about a round up of our amazing time in Morocco.

For me, our time in Casablanca allowed my mind to wander back to the days of black and white films and of course Humphrey Bogart “Of all the Gin joints in all of the world” (ask your mum). But, it is nothing like that. Instead, it’s a modern working city and very affluent to boot.

Casa - Blanca, that could be a good pub quiz question couldn’t it? Anyway, the city is actually modern and vibrant with many of the buildings still painted white, I like to think, in honour of the city’s name.

We arrived in Casablanca over a week before we were due to leave Morocco to ensure we had all our Ducks in a line. We couldn’t afford any issues with the truck going one way by boat and us flying another!

Our stay in the truck before we parted company was super easy, as we found a large car park on the sea front and made a deal with the unofficially appointed guard to make this our place of residence and so we could go about our business and prepare for our departure whilst looking out onto palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean without any issues.

Living in a car park isn’t glamorous but it worked on this occasion. Keen to ensure the process happened in a timely manner we even did several trial runs to the airport and the docks as we didn’t want any issues on the day.

The preparations included getting our air tickets, organising the shipping for our truck, getting permission to enter Senegal from the Senegalese Embassy as well as the now obligatory PCN test we have had so many times but we still hate the cotton bud stuck up your nose as you try and act all normal whilst it feels like half of your nose is being remove.

Any way, about Casablanca. It is as I said, athriving city full of contrasts of old and new where slums built from old bits of wood, plastic sheeting and corrugated sheets rub up against newly built, glass clad mega structures and designer shops are everywhere. Horse and carts still ply some of the lesser streets along with the selection of mega cars flying up and down.

It did seem a little strange seeing all this wealth after spending time in the desert and the poverty that runs throughout the country and then we paid for our shipping and it all fell into place - Ouch!

Our stay coincided with the start of Ramadan when eating, drinking, smoking and a ban on any sexual activity during daylight hours is forbidden, for Muslims at least.

The effects of Ramadan became most clear when we went to the airport to fly to Senegal and cleared security in record time and when I asked why it was so simple, the guard explained they needed to close the airport to break their Fast for the evening and as we filed out of the immigration hall, all the guards sat around a table and ate together. That doesn’t happen at Heathrow!

I am guessing it wasn’t Ramadan when Ingrid Bergman walked into Humphrey Bogarts Gin joint in 1941, it wouldn’t quite have the same ring to it, would it?

“Of all the Milk shake parlours in all of the world”

Ramadan also means shortened working hours, shortened tempers, and people even blacking out whilst driving we are told.

Day one we saw at least 7 minor car accidents, people shouting at each other in the street and scuffles breaking out for no apparent reason.Tempers are certainly shortened during this time.

Another incident we encountered whilst doing a beach walk, we were passed by a couple of guys on Quad bikes who passed us before diverting off the walking path and stopped near to a major Coast guard station. As the guys got off their bikes for a stretch of the legs and as we approached we heard a couple of uniformed coast guards shout to the guys in Arabic. The guys shouted back (I don’t think they were saying hello). And then in a flash, the cost guard raised their rifles and we heard them cock their guns ready for shooting. We retreated quickly as did the quad bike guys.

Another incident during Ramadan was after a full day out organising the shipping. We returned to our truck and started to prepare our food when one of the guys, who had spent his day washing cars in the car park for a few dirhams, came over to us and gestured us over to join him and his colleagues for a hearty dinner of Fried Fish and bread served on a rickety table covered by a piece of cardboard of questionable appearance? But we didn’t want to appear rude and so ate the delicious food offered and accepted the hospitality with gratitude.

Isn’t it often the way that those with the least, give the most?

We are told it’s good to experience a Fast as it helps develop your mind apparently and spiritual being, but seeing how it appears to affect the locals, we are out to lunch on that one … so to speak.

Just one strange observation, we passed a drive through McDonalds in Casablanca city and it was open and the cue of traffic was enormous?

All other restaurants and coffee shops are closed during the month of Ramadan.

Our final destination before arriving in Casablanca was the Western Sahara where we encountered 2 sand storms in 3 days. During the start of one of the sand storms we had taken refuge at a camp site for our safety and when the winds started we were the only people on the camp site and we soon had visitors. The local cats came visitingand spent the hours of the storm hunkering down with us until the storm passed.

The cats left with full bellies!

Animals have become a big part of our trip and we always make a habit of feeding anything we come across and we are becoming adept at Tick removal from the dogs and Ear Mite treatments for Cats.

I am pleased to say no food goes to waste (unless it has Chilli on it) and we now have a stock of Cat and Dog food to boot that we restock regularly.

The sand storm experience was quite surreal with high winds blowing the truck in all directions and a total black out (or actually an Orange out). Apparently some of the sand ended up in the UK? Although we were never scared, we did wonder what was going to happen to us.Both storms where quite an experience.

Trying to sum up our time in Morocco is challenging as it has involved so many places people and the most striking landscapes that have changed so drastically on a regular basis.

Green fields followed by the barren landscapes of the Sahara and everything in between. Climbing up through the High Atlas mountains and the snow covered tops, the baking heat in the Sahara and the occasional downpour, which gives the country the much needed rain.

Another striking part of our trip has been the people who always feature heavily in any visit but the kindness of these folk has been legendary. We have waved and smiled at almost everyone we have passed whilst driving. It almost becomes a job, but a nice job.

We have watched farmers plough their fields using Donkeys and a tractor is a rare beast and non-existent almost in the barren south.

Poverty is commonplace and yet not once have we heard anyone complain or question the cards they have been dealt. They just seem happy to be alive and living life no matter how hard it is and these people will always have time to chat or communicate whether they speak Berber, Arabic, French or English and many seek all those languages.

The locals would always smile and often offer us tea or food. That’s a hard one because we don’t want to appear rude or elitist by refusing but we don’t want to take from them when they have so little?

It’s a problem we will wrestle with throughout our journey I am sure.

When to give and to whom is always a dilemma and always has been on our previous travels. When so many need so much, you can only help so far. It does make me at least question the values of the Western world but that’s another question for another day.

As much as we are looking forward to Senegal and the rest of the western African countries, the country we are most looking forward to is our visit to Nigeria and our intended meet with the kind Gentleman that contacted us to tell us we had won the Nigerian lottery.

We can’t believe our luck!

He was so accommodating and so honest to make such a contact with us (he could have claimed the money and kept it himself) and best of all, he only charged us $2000 to act as our agents and we have a fortune to collect!

How good is that!

We hear others may have won similar gains to collect from Nigeria and we are now considering offering a broker service for anyone who needs it to claim their fortunes.

We will charge a similar $2000 fee and our bank details are below if you wish us to act on your behalf?

Did you look …. Really?

As we reflect on our 4+ months in Morocco we are now moving on to what we consider to be a much more edgy part of the continent. A part that offers many more challenges than Morocco and as our time in Dakar, the capital of Senegal starts, it feels like someone turned up the volume. Chaos and colour rule here. We can feel the increased heat, the hustle and bustle, the intense smells (not all good), the vibrant markets, touts shouting about their wares, the look in the eye of the locals much more intense and altogether a lot less organised and we have to be more aware of our personal surroundings although it still feels safe.

This is western Africa at its rawest and we are itching to get going and see what it has to offer