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The Diary

Chefchaouen - 12 nov 2007

We get to this lovely place at around 4 p.m. and we head straight to the campsite: Camping Azilan
GPS: N35°10’ 34” W005°16’02”. A nice place, clean and well looked after. A quick and cheap internet point and a bar-restaurant are available. We pay 7 euros (70 Dirhams) for a night (1 euro=11 Dirhams). We unload the car and get ready for dinner.

Technical notes:
The rear differential is still leaking. I have tried using some Teflon tape. I screw it as tight as I can, but it feels like it isn’t tight enough. Let’s see…

TECHNICAL NOTES: I notice that the rear differential has a leak. It’s the oil level cap. It’s already well screwed on…I screw it on even tighter...we’ll see tomorrow.

Ross e Heidi - 12 nov 2007

In the campsite there are other overlanders. There is a French couple with a new Land Rover: they approach us with many questions and we get to know that they’re on the way back home after a one-month trip.

We also meet Ross and Heidi Lloyd, who are here with Duzi2, a white Land Rover bought on e-bay and prepared in London, where they lived for many years. They’re originally from South Africa and are returning there after being on a journey very similar to ours. They are a charming and friendly couple and they tell us that they didn’t have any previous experience on these type of trips. Like us, they didn’t have the opportunity to try the vehicle before departure. We decide to travel with them for a while. Their website is www.wildsightings.com.

Chefchaouen - 13 nov 2007

This place is widely known for “Kifs”, the equivalent of spliffs: this is mentioned even in the guides. The further presence of many visiting Rastafarians on the campsite would further confirm this. Come midnight the party would begin with the playing of drums and dancing with balls of fire. Even though we were well informed, the repeated invitations to go to the city centre with them amazed us.
It is common knowledge that on these mountains one of the best Moroccan marijuana is grown. But, just as in Italy, “smoking” here is illegal: therefore, we move on.
The medina buildings are splendid, white on top and blue at the bottom. The roads are also blue and indigo and so are the majolica tiles that decorate doors, windows and the most luxurious palaces.
A tangled web of alleyways, courtyards and lanes spread down the hills towards the houses, a characteristic of the Northern African planes. It gives us an harmonious and relaxing feeling, in total contrast with the bright and colourful fabric and materials found in the local tradesmans shops.

It’s so lovely being immersed in this atmosphere, surrounded by the sent of mint and cumine. You want to spend a bit longer, enjoy a nice meal in a terrace restaurant. Or just relax, reading under the shade of the trees or at the local coffee bar, sipping a delicious mint tea. Or maybe try the bedrooms of that colourful boarding house. Lose yourself amongst the merchandise and snoop about the odds and ends of that shop… After spending such little time in wonderful Morocco, we already regret not to have allocated more time…..we need to be in Senegal to meet up with the “Maratone d’Afrique” runners. So, we leave Chefchaouen and on to Senegal to collect medicines from the runners to take to our first mission that awaits us after the event: the sacrifice will be well worth it.
After the appointment in Senegal, we’ll be free to choose how much time we spend and where.

Volubilis – 13 nov 2007

Volubilis, a Roman archaeological site which is less than one hour’s journey from Meknes.

Meknes – 13 nov 2007

It’s night time when we finally get here. Although we used the GPS, it was hard work - if not impossible - to find the campsite. No lights, no sign posts and no indications. If you look for it, bear in mind that it’s located near the royal palace. Close to very high walls and near the Academy of the Royal Guard. Good luck!!
The camping is called Camping Caravaning International N33°52’47” W005°33’21” and it costs 54 Dirhams.
This imperial city is majestic and very striking, especially at night. These enormous bulwars look like the stage of a movie!!
After dinner we take a long walk towards the vivacious El Hedim square. The biggest Moroccan door is found here: Bab El-Mansour, the main entrance to the city in XXVII century. From here you can access the medina which takes you to “The Arabian Nights” where we eat a tipical local dish called “Pastilla”, accompanied by mint tea: chicken, bread, almonds, sugar and honey, a delicate sweet and sour taste.
We could spend days in this beautiful city, but we need to head towards Casablanca very early tomorrow to go to the Consulate for the Visa to enter Mauritania.

Casablanca - Trouble begins– 14 Nov 2007

We get up early and at the break of dawn we’re on the road to Casablanca. We’re slow and we need to hurry up to get to the Mauritanian Consulate in time. We need to apply for the Visa so that we can collect it the very next day. It is important to arrive early, as the offices are closed in the afternoon and the week-end is just around the corner. Delaying a day would mean remaining here until Monday, 4 days!! And this city, apart from the glamour that Bogart and Allen have portraited in their two movies, hasn’t got anything interesting to offer.
We get at the Consulate at 11:20, just in time….to find out that the Consulate closed down last week!!! Instead of clerks, papers and stamps, we find decorators, paint brushes and paint cans.
The office “est fermè monsieur. Fermé”. Rabat Rabat…
All overlanders and information gathered before leaving Italy told us to come here…Nobody has ever mentioned the Embassy in the chaotic city of Rabat….we need to head back north…100 km of chaotic traffic. We’ll probably get there past one o’clock..will the office be open? Is it open in the afternoon?
We can’t find any details on the Embassy. To find it, we need to use a taxi. As we’re travelling along the noisy junctions in search of the road, we read about Rabat campsite. We go there, but it’ s not very nice, dirty and too far from the centre. We really don’t fancy spending three or four days here! What shall we do? Without a Visa we won’t be able to go any further. Up until a few months ago, Mauritania was a strightforward place: you could enter it without problems with a Visa issued at the border at a very reasonable price. Now, at the frontier, you can only get a 3-day Visa to a forced-visit to the capital to apply for an extention. A bother, as it hampers your route. What should we do? Waste a few days at Rabat but leaving with a guaranteed Visa or applying for the Visa at the frontier (what if we don’t get it?) and spend a few days in Mauritania? We’re travelling in the car and at 250 mt there’s a junction…Straight on is Rabat, on the right Marrakesh, heading South. 250 mt to make a decision…250 mt away to choose the destiny of this journey…we have to make a decision: indicator on the right, Marrakesh will host us tonight…We’ll save some days now and we’ll make the most of them in the south. We’re tired and cold… Heading towards big spaces…..Towards the desert… Towards the sun…..Only time will tell what this choice will bring us.

Marrakesh -15 Nov 2007

I could only describe this as “the miracle square”….a wonderful place full of restaurants and cafes with beautiful terraces overlooking the square where life is buzzing: musicians, market stalls, fortune tellers, acrobats and magicians with their games and tricks,.....the air is filled with the aroma of meat cooking with spices, its white smoke mingles and swirls around carrying the spicy essence so typical of the place. The bogus poor beg alongside the bona fide for coins and your leftovers. The local tourist and the foreigner……Pretentious requests and courteous glances. Those who give and those who take…and go home with a full belly….like the viola musician…

The viola musician - 15 Nov 2007

He has a gentle glance, the only part of his face that’s left to the unknown eyes …………
He’s sitting in a less crowded corner of the square……the rest is in the book “There will be trouble”

Minor mod-job

I realise that the front tyres have rubbed against the suspension Oh, oh!….Perhaps the front springs are too soft…or we’re overloaded. Anyway…I decide to saw off the offending bit so as to help prevent further rubbing and if it does rub some more it will be against a smoother surface

Walter - 15 Nov 2007

We certainly did not expect to find a Land Rover Defender 90 with a Valle d’Aosta number plate at the campsite in Marrakesh!!! His name is Walter Pagliarini and he’s an expert on North Africa. He is on his journey back home after visiting Mauritania. We have a chat and share a mint tea. He informs us that the Casablanca campsite is closed. We report the news that the same is true for the Mauritanian Consulate!! We continue our chin-wag a little longer and then go our separate ways; we head South and he heads North.

Essaouira – The market city

Situated on the seaside, Essaouira is a developing city. Long beaches, many restaurants and a few graphic art labs on wood and fabrics, simple but very interesting. High city walls and cannons are the boundaries to small houses and alleyways. Shops are everywhere, many just for the locals. Authentic atmosphere.
We dine at a restaurant which we recommend “Dal Al Houma” next to Chefchaouni square.

Essaouira - Theft at the campsite

The 2 km-from-the-centre campsite is full and crowded with European campervans. GPS N31°29'29" W009°45'49" The campsite is comfortable and clean. Small advice: do not leave your vanity-case unattended on the sink if you need to use the toilet…you’ll probably not find it again, as happened to Laura… The campsite is full of Europeans…..

Essaouira – Roberto from Riolunato

Next to our space a campervan has just arrived. A guy called Roberto Buselli from Riolunato, a skiing resort on the Modenese Appennine…he’s travelling towards Mauritania...another Modenese travelling around West Africa.

Tiznit - 18 nov 2007

We’re heading towards the desert….The fortified city doesn’t deserve a prolonged visit. But for an evening only, it’s pleasant and charming. The campsite is clean and is crowded with Italian and French campervans that winter there… We’re 15 Km from the sea. Excellent pastry shop outside campsite..

Tiznit - 18 nov 2007

The world is changing….strange things seem to happen. An off duty policeman gently informs us that he’s got very good kif (smoke)…….a Muslim spare part dealer sells us some excellent home-made liqueur…We’re stopped by a couple of Royal Gendarme who want to fine us as we’ve overtaken on a single line. They look at the money we’re holding…they tell us that it’s too much…and they tell us to move on….Women are the bosses of carpentry workers…Ships are now parking….??? Was it that aromatic scent that we smelt next to that fire?

Sidi Ifni - 19 Nov 2007

The boxes are too tight, so we decide to cut them smaller. We stop at a carpenter’s shop and we find out that the boss is a woman, an entrepreneur from a southern Muslim region. Her name is Amal Allaoui and the Morocco King has personally complimented on her achievements. We have everything fixed in a matter of minutes and so continue on our way.

Fort Bou Jerif – 19 Nov. 2007

We’re fed up with the main road, so we take a panoramic track along the sea. It’s a newly asphalted road all the way to the ford. After the ford all disappears and we are faced by a lot of wild nothingness…What a surprise!
Thanks to the GPS we find our bearings… we pass-by a lovely campsite with swimming pool, but we decide not to stop as it’s only 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

Land Rover - Tan Tan - nov 2007

Entering this city we feel like we’ve gone back in time. 109 and 88 Land Rovers everywhere. These are K7 grandmothers…the African queens. The only off-roaders capable of enduring these roads and this climate, before the arrival of the Japanese alternatives. They’re parked everywhere in this square: shiny ones and not so shiny ones…..but all working. By comparison our 20-year-old Landy is quite the young lady…

West Sahara - Dawra - 19 nov 2007

We spend the night in this campsite in the desert, run by Luc and Martine, a Belgian couple. The campsite is charming and very clean. You leave the main road when you see high aerials: GPS N27°26'25" W13°01'23". The road sign is clear from the main road. You continue off road following the signs to the campsite for about 5 km up to GPS N27°27'43" W13°03'06".

Dakhla - 20 nov 2007

We arrive during the night and in the fog. Strong smell of fish and sea. We eat by the sea and we meet Walter and Gioia, who work for Children in the Desert, a Modenese humanitarian organization. They’re there to be cured from the typhoid fever they have contracted in Mauritania.

Camping GPS N23°45'50" W15°54'28"

West Sahara – A point in the desert - 21 nov 2007

Hours and hours of driving in the most…deserted place: the Desert. Fascinating scenery…lorries with enormous loads whizzing along at 100 kph.. At 60 km from the boarder, we stop at a Hotel in the middle of nowhere. An atmosphere reminiscent of “Paris Texas” or “Bagdad Cafè”. This is called the Barbados Hotel GPS N22°03'16" W016°44'50". With 15 euros we get a clean room and a stratospheric hot shower.
We change the rear tyres with two new spare ones, straighten the air conditioning belt protector, readjusted the bonnet and make good the car before entering the border.
Then we have a lovely dinner washed down with a very nice Chateneuf du Pap 1994.
We fall asleep happy….

Moroccan boarder – 22 Nov. 2007

At 10.30 we’re in front of the boarder gates. After 10 mins we’re given application forms to fill-in. Everyone here is polite and quite quick. We can leave the offices while we wait for our Visas. There is a military presence as we are close-by to some unsettled countries such as Mauritania and Algeria, mined fields and conflicts, territories still in contention.
Another queue and the official writes our names on a notepad that probably no one will ever read. The last Moroccan barrier goes up...the asphalt finishes…..we enter no-mans land.

Sign posts and beer

Interesting, both the sign posts and the beer we’ve drunk in this place.

Morocco – Our impressions

Morocco is a beautiful country. Majestic, extremely lively and challenging. Various and very different regions. Clean and tidy, we have found it be without the irritating street-sellers. From the north to the south, the landscape changes in a radical way. A month would be just enough to pay it a quick visit. Police as well as the Royal Guards are polite and, if we keep to the road limits, there’s no problem. Pre- prepared personal details to show at each police check point are very useful and almost essential. In the south police controls are very frequent, whereas in the north are almost non-existent. A place where we’d like to go back to without the rush.
Accompanying us on these roads: Jack London with his extraordinary stories. Various music: Ivano Fossati, Van deer Graf Generator and Pink Floyd.