Okay, I just want to say the camera does make you look like you gained weight!
Our appearance on the Channel 5 program, Million-pound motorhomes was a great bit of fun but am I really that fat?
Anyway, back to our Journey.
We are now into month 4 in Morocco and recently we were able to extend our Moroccan visa’s by a further 3 months as we await news of the border crossing to Mauritania opening.
Apparently, the issue is political rather than Covid related. Mr Trump added to the military standoff between Morocco and Mauritania by siding with Morocco over the sovereignty of Western Sahara and this caused an escalation of the military action in the area and the government of Morocco is fearful for the safety of anyone wanting to cross the border.
So we wait and 3 months in and many places visited throughout Morocco, we are becoming well versed in the routine of shopping daily for fruit, vegetables and bread.
The shopping experience is so different here in that most shops are open-fronted affairs with no real structure and often no counter even. Just a selection of goods piled up ready for purchase and almost should be called stalls rather than shops.
Red meat is usually hung outside the Shop (stall) on hooks as a Carcass, with no refrigeration and no screen against flies!
Chicken’s are kept in cages alive in the shop and the customer selects the given creature they want and the obvious act is done there and then in front of the customer.
Now, this being a Muslim country, that is quite barbaric to watch although I make no judgment on this, it's not my place to do that but, you sometimes can’t avoid seeing it.
The costs are interesting, Red meat is around £9.00 a Kilo (really just for special occasions for most Moroccans). Fish around £5.00 and Chicken around £3.00 a Kilo. Fruit and veg so cheap, it’s almost free.
For comparison, an entry-level job pays around £120.00 a month.
In the cities, there are more western options for shopping and I have to admit to using some of these when available.
One of the best options are the Carrefour French hypermarket chain, where all the meat and veg is wrapped in styrofoam trays as we all know, but I am sure is similarly as brutally dealt with before being nicely presented for sale. An option we pay a high premium for happily.
The Carrefour’s are also useful for another commodity that’s hard to buy, (openly at least) in Morocco.
When we arrived in Morocco, we went to the Carrefour in Tangier as I had researched they sold this much-revered commodity.
I trawled the shelves looking, but couldn’t find it anywhere? I eventually asked a store employee who explained I had to go out of the store and around the back to the loading bay. Alcohol was there.
I'm not sure the intent was there but, the asking made me feel as though I was asking for something I shouldn’t be asking for?
I left the immaculately clean and well-stocked store and made my way to the loading bay and to a much more shady part of town altogether. The entrance to the Alcohol store was through a dirty unmarked door which led into a seedy room that was poorly lit and was certainly not welcoming.
It reminded me of a sex shop in Soho, not that I have ever been to a sex shop in Soho mind.
I was visualizing old men in long macs with thick glasses looking at magazines.
It wasn’t a nice experience at all, but one we are now well versed with.
All this cloak and dagger stuff and yet, as we drive around the country we see endless beer bottles by the roadsides. They can’t all be from Tourists, can they?
Although we openly indulge in the alcohol guilty pleasure, we have evaded another locally produced commodity and that’s Cannabis. In the north, it's grown on an epic scale and Morocco is the biggest producer in the world I believe.
We saw people with huge bushes of the stuff strapped to the backs of Donkeys happily plodding down the road taking their newly harvested stash back home.
It was so available and offered so openly throughout the northern part of Morocco.
Another aspect of our daily lives here in a Muslim country is that we have become accustomed is the call to prayer.
5 times a day, the call can be heard in all residential areas with multiple Mosques trying to outshout each other to gain some sort of advantage we presume. This can become quite comical at times as the droll sounds of the Imam’s keep going up an octave over the usually tinny P.A. system’s as they try to attract worshippers to their particular mosque.
As we are not Muslim, we don’t join in the proceedings, but we do often raise our glass when the call to prayer coincides with our sun downer’s, trying to keep our end up as you do.
Our journey through Morocco has given us many opportunities and we have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people.
Our experiences are too many to mention, but some highlights include being invited to a Berber wedding and were able to witness the women pre-wedding, sat in a circle preparing food and occasionally all in unison, start a kind of warbling that was almost trance-like, followed by a deep-hearted belly laugh from them all before they continued with the food preparation.
Many locals invite us to their homes for tea including the lovely Sara from Taroudant who invited us into her home, introduced us to her aunty where we enjoyed the home cooking they provided for us so willingly. And all from a chance meeting in a shop. That's the way they roll here in Morocco. Maybe we could learn something from them?
The people of Morocco are extremely kind and warm. A good test if this for me is how they treat their animals and the street dogs and cats are fed endlessly by everyone, no matter of ownership.
One of the towns we spent a few weeks in was Tiznit. About 50 km south of Agadir. This is a town with little if any tourism and not speaking French is defiantly a disadvantage for us.
This was where we extended our visa’s which involved carrying out several duties we would do at home without thinking, but in a foreign country, getting our bank statements, passports and other documents, verified at the council offices and then attending the police station to get everything authorised was a challenging but interesting experience.
Tiznit is a regular small work-a-day town and it wasn’t long before we gained some level of recognition in the local shops being virtually the only white faces in town.
It has become the norm to see men dressed in Arabic robes and the women in there brightly coloured Abaya’s whilst they are completely understanding of us in our western clothes and we are careful to be modest in our dress so as not to offend anyone.
Another aspect of our new life is spending many of our days in the small lorry cab and we share duties of driving and navigating.
Charlotte drives the wide-open roads and I drive in the towns and on the single track and unmade roads that are many here were driving a large vehicle is challenging.
I am assured this is a fair distribution of our duties?
One great job I enjoy about navigating that the person not driving undertakes though is marking the paper map with a highlight pen. It's really satisfying to watch our journey progress across this enormous and ever-changing country and watching the pink line of the highlight pen extend as we go. Maybe that’s a man thing?
This week we moved south into disputed Western Sahara.
We left Agadir and headed south and watched the people and the towns disappear and the sand become more prominent.
This part of Morocco is a huge expanse of desert with very little of anything other than sand and camels for hundreds of miles.
Very quickly we were alone in this desert environment and having ensured we had filled our truck with freshwater, Fuel and food we drove for 4 days on a journey of over1000 kilometres. Stopping only to eat and sleep.
Progress is slow as the roads are often little more than dirt tracks that means driving at not much above walking pace and sand storms are commonplace adding further to the issues to be overcome.
Sleeping in the desert with zero light pollution was an amazingly empowering experience. The feeling of there being no other humankind was the best.
We are now in the most southerly and almost only town in Western Sahara before the Mauritania borders which is still an incredible 500km away still. The distances are huge here and its all sand and the wind is brutal blowing off the Atlantic, the sand gets into everything despite keeping windows and doors tightly shut.
We are parked now on the beach looking at the Atlantic awaiting any news about a potential border opening to Mauritania, or do we double back and drive to Casablanca and ship the truck to Senegal if the borders don’t open?
That's a huge drive and a lot of work as we would have to ship the truck and then find flights for Charlotte and I. Not an option we will take lightly.
We are happy for now, walking in the desert and looking at the Ocean and as we contemplate our future, I leave you with a few facts about our truck.
We carry -
400 liters of Freshwater for showering and cooking.
Can hold 400 liters of grey water (shower and washing up etc).
The fuel tank holds 280 liters of Gas Oil (Diesel) and we can cover around 600 miles (1000km) between fills.
We average around 10 miles to the gallon or 2.2km per liter.
We have a tail lift to carry our motorbike with two hydraulic rams capable of lifting 10 tonnes.
We weigh 13.6 tones fully loaded.
We are left-hand drive as this is more useful for the countries we hope to visit.
But the most important fact is that Charlotte and I are in love with our truck and grow more attached to her every day and we look forward to many years of emerging our selves in our travels.
Please send us your thoughts/questions. We would be delighted to hear from you.