147 995 km
October 1. 2006
We entered Morocco trough Tanger with ferry from Tarifa. Clearing customs and getting all the red tapes correct created a lot of confusion as we were all new to this as “rookies” and eventually took us about one hour. Anyway we thought an hour was quick as we had prepared for much more. Obviously some secret handshakes with some money involved could have saved us for much hazel, but what the hell, we got plenty of time, so we did things by the book.
A couple of months ago we were on a day trip to Tangier, therefore we decided to visit one of the shopkeepers, Mohammed, who we previously had promised some photos. It was a nice reunion, and he once again managed to talk us into buying some items from his shop. This time some local clothes, a jellaba with turban. We will of course probably never use it but… who knows the Sahara might do tings to us. It will surely create some good laughs later. After a couple of hours in Tangier we were on our way towards Ashila, a picturesque little village on the Atlantic coast. Once inside the medina of Ashila, the first one we meet asked Knut if he were Scandinavian – in Norwegian! It turned out to be a Norwegian/Moroccan named Najib living in Oslo coming from Asilha. He had driven his car (with plates from Arendal) all the way from Oslo as well. We spent the evening with him and his friends witch was a nice way to get an introduction to the country and to the Islamic traditions. For the time being it is Ramadan, which makes it forbidden for Muslims to eat at daytime.
October 2. 2006
After waking up we drove out to a nice beach just outside Asilah to have breakfast, and then continued across the Rif Mountains to Chefchaouen. The place is known as the Kif (marijuana) capitol of Morocco attracting young European dreadlocks and other hipsters to spend some days with lazy eyes in the high. The town is also famous for its blue walls inside the medina, making the town also attractive for people more concerned about architecture and buildings. We are not sure witch category we belong in... We had a nice Arabic night walking the narrow streets in the medina watching as it came to life after the sun went down (because of Ramadan).
October 3. 2006
Chefchaouen-Some place in the mountains were we camped in a olive field
Heading towards Fes we passed Ketama on our way up in the Rif Mountains. We decides to take a detour on a small country road to take a closer look at the mountains were most of the marijuana coming to Europe are grown. According to the guidebooks whole mountain sides are covered with the plants, but not on our road. We didn’t see a single plant. Though, they got to be there somewhere as we passed a hundred young men waving with balls of hashish at us as we were passing. After Ketama we took a small mountain road towards Fes. It was obvious that we took a road not visited that frequently by tourists as everyone cheered, waived and smiled at us. Tonight we camped in the free in an olive tree plantation, hearing sounds of a nearby mosque’s prayers.
October 4. 2006
From somewhere in the mountain - Fes
Getting up at around 7 we were on the road by 0830 and drove early in to Fes, one of the imperial cities of Morocco, and very famous for its huge medina, handicrafts and leather tanneries. After using about an hour to find the camping site we got in a taxi and headed for the medina. This is the place to go medieval! Everything is like it has been the last hundreds of years. Here everything is made by hand and not machines. The transport goes with donkeys. The skins are being treated with pigeon poo before being coloured by hand and feet in the big, stinking tanneries pools. Sounds from the craftsmen hammering copper bowls, smells from the butcheries, and people pushing their way between other people and donkeys with big burdens is making this place to a total chaos of new experiences and impressions. We spent 6-7 hours walking around this gigantic medina, getting lost after about 30 minutes. It is impossible not to get lost, which also make some of the charm of the medina. We had to get one of the many kids to show us the famous tanneries, which was fabulous! We walked around until early night when we eventually could get some food because of Ramadan. After some dwelling we picked out a nice looking restaurant with a roof terrace overlooking the medina and had a nice 3 course set menu (it later turned out that this wasn’t such a nice restaurant after all!!!)
October 5. 2006
Waking up both Jens and Helene were feeling sick and it soon turned out that our nice restaurant from yesterday didn’t have very nice food… They both had to run back and forth to the toilet… After doing this a couple of times we decided to go to look at the Imperial palace before driving of to Meknes. After driving for about 5 minutes Knut realised he had left the laptop charging on the ground behind the car! Fortunately it was still there when we returned. On our way to Meknes/Volubilis we had a few toilet stops, but without any “accidents”. Walking around the mighty ruins from the Roman Empire was quite stunning and it’s an astonishing feeling knowing that people laid mosaics and lived on these grounds over 2000 years ago! Some of the mosaics are incredible! We toured the area for several hours, with Jens and Helene working hard to be able to walk around. Arriving Meknes later on that evening we went directly to the camp site and staid there for obvious reasons.
October 6. 2006
The day Jens and Helene would like to forget. Both were feeling sick as hell and were up all night vomiting and running for the baths and this continued all day. It is good that we didn’t bring a gun, because it would have been very tempting to put a quick end to our sufferings… Knut walked around Meknes, got lost and trying to cope with the heat. It’s strange, really, how extraordinary warm during the day and freezing at night it is. When Knut came back he was not feeling well either, having a severe head ache. Three piteous persons and one car.
October 7. 2006
No breakfast this morning. After some hours of doing nothing, except of course some low position at the toilet, we decided to head for Rabat and get our visas for Mali, Helene still being sick. Knut and Jens getting better, although we had to stop at every second gas station checking their facilities. Once in Rabat we discovered it is Saturday, the embassy not opening before Monday. Casablanca sounded a better choice; therefore we took the extra hour in the car, leaving us to fix the visas in Senegal.
October 8. 2006
Not completely well yet, but everyone felt better so we went to visit the third largest mosque in the world and one of the few open for non-Muslims, the Hassan II Mosque, also called the Grande Mosque. Built in only 6 years, by more than 6000 of the county’s best workers working day and night, and costing more than 800 million $ (donated by the king and the people), the mosque can take 25 000 people. The main praying room can supposedly fit the Notre dame or St.Peters church and has a sliding roof made of seeder tree weighing more than 1000 tons, making it possible to see the sun from within. Except for this sight we didn’t think there was much to see in Casablanca. Considering the camping wasn’t great and Knut and Helene not feeling too good, we once again got into the car, this time making our way towards Essaouira. As we left late we knew we had to camp some where on the way and had picked out at little place called Oualidia, which is a favourite weekend retreat for middle class Moroccans from Casablanca.
October 9-11. 2006
A necessary stop over as we left Casablanca late, Oualidia had the worst camping we have seen so far making our stay short and our cleanliness equally bad. Leaving this place we all decided that Essaouira would be our first hotel experience on the trip! Essaouira is an Old Portuguese bastion on the Atlantic coast, but nowadays very popular with French tourist and settlers. Hence - higher standards, prices and lots of nice restaurants and galleries. This is the place also referred to as the windy town of Africa, giving Jens high expectations of some windsurfing. However after tree days of waiting, we haven’t yet felt any wind. Arrrghhh!!! No sign of any waves, therefore no surf either, which also usually is possible in this town. Helene has done some shopping and otherwise we have strolled around this small pleasant place soaking in the atmosphere and regaining some strength, as we prepare to climb the highest mountain in northern Africa – Jebel Toubkal (4167m).
October 11. 2006
Finally a day with some wind, so Jens got of to the beach and a couple of hours windsurfing. Helene once again headed for the streets to make some bargains, while Knut kept struggling with his Coca Cola addiction…Setting out on the trip, Knut were determined to try and quit drinking Cola. This turns out to be tougher than hi thought, as hi claims to get a headache when he doesn’t get it. After a stroll along the beach watching Jens trying to surf, we left Essaouira late, knowing we would have to bush camp somewhere along the road. Taking a small piste towards Imelil, camping turned out easy and we once again ended up in an olive field.
October 12. 2006
Getting up early we arrived Imelil at 10.30, immediately being hijacked by Lahcen Bouredda to his hotel “Auberge Lepiney” and his mountain climbing guide. After a quick lunch we headed towards the mountains, the Toubkal Refuge at 3200 meters being our goal for the day. It was hot, but the walk went pretty easy and we came to the camp around five o’clock, after 5 and a half hours walk putting behind us 1 467 height meters. Nothing happened at that place, so we went to bed before nine, having in mind that we were going to be wakened at 05.00 to walk to the peak.
October 13. 2006
Due to some language confusion wake up call came a little bit late so we hurried down to breakfast hearing the wind scream around the corners of the refuge and for a brief moment we were given the impression that it would be impossible to climb the Jbel Toubkal. Fortunately it was only our guide Mohammed that was playing us some practical joke! Setting of as soon as we had swallowed our last bit of breakfast, we started fresh and happy. It soon turned out that this was not going to be an easy walk in the park. The thin air and our lack of energy due to our bad food experience in Fes turned the climb into a long and strenuous challenge, at the same time Mohammed seemed to want the new record for reaching the top. We went from 3200m to 4167m in two and a half hour. Finally reaching the top it felt like a nice victory and a well worth achievement.
October 14. 2006
A slow morning and thereafter we pointed our noses at Marrakesh. We got a quite shabby room at hotel C.T.M, though its location is unbeatable – overlooking place Djemaa el Fna. This is the square the whole city spins around, packed with tourists, medicine men, locals, snake charmers, quake doctors and also rooming one of the world’s biggest outdoor restaurants. In fact it is more than 150 of them placed side by side, offering more or less the same: sishkebabs, Moroccan salads, grilled lamb head, lamb brain or just simple hard boiled eggs.
Speaking of food, the Moroccan food is not very varied or interesting in our opinion, contrary to the guide books… In three days you can more or less cover their repertoire: Day one: sishkebab. Day two: Tagine, Day three: Harira soup and more Tagine.
Tagine is a stew/ cooking pot of clay with a lid, that they put all kinds of vegetables and/or meat into. A little tired of these courses we spent some nights in Marrakech’s international restaurants. Some of them very good ones. We also tried one of the many food stalls at the square without being too impressed, Helene was especially disappointed as she was about to leave us the same evening heading for Tangier with the night train and then home to Gauccin.
October 15. 2006
A day just strolling around Marrakesh absorbing the sights, sounds and smells in, and around the Djemaa el Fna. Djemaa El Fna is the heart in the medina, and may at first sight be seem a bit intimidating and chaotic. With time, a clear system emerge, - the snake charmers and their rather tame snakes lounge under green parasols, the orange juice sellers are located to the middle and story tellers and henna ladies draw the attention of both locals and tourists from the sides. After almost a day on our own, Vibeke and Andreas joined us in the evening. Their stuff was imminently stacking in our rather seedy hotel, - no time to sit around in a hotel. More importantly, we are all due for a date. Well, Jens had planned for a date with one of the French girls that we met in Imlil and the rest of us wouldn’t miss this for the world, so we all came. Poor girl! Let’s say that Sandie (the French girl) looked rather surprised to see us all. However, the night turned out to a big laugh and the food was magnificent at Foundouk.
October 16. 2006
Another day of strolling the streets and cafes of Marrakesh, the city Churchill called “the best place in the world” and also a favourite of persons like Yves Saint Laurent and Keith Richards. As Vibeke has spent 10 days here earlier and Andreas was eager to get out and around we decided to leave town.
October 17. 2006
Heading out of Marrakesh we went towards the great mountains of the Atlas. For the first time on this trip we had planned the route in advance and actually had some defined goals for the next few days. The mountains are incredible and most of the day we were driving between 1600 and 2000 metres above sea-level. We also crossed one of the highest passes of the Atlas at 2 123 metres. Finally getting down to a reasonable height and temperature we once again decided to set camp in an olive field along the road. Even before the tent was up, a young man, Kabahl, and his herd came walking along. In poor French he gave us permission to camp before he walked of. Within a minute or two he was back, obviously changed his mind we thought, but instead he invited us home to his family’s house instead. An offer we couldn’t resist!!. At the house we were welcomed by his family consisting of mother, father, sister and three brothers. In addition there were some friends of the family there and more to come as the world spread about the visitors from Norway.. We were treated extremely nice and shared dinner with them, one of the meals being a Tagine with rabbit and vegetables. Jens was offered the rabbit’s brain, not a very tasteful or tempting peace of food (according to him), but hard to refuse, while Knut got the tongue (a delicious snack). We had a very nice evening together with the family, and a big success was the Photo booth on Andreas’ Mac, twisting and turning pictures of the family into unrecognisable aliens which they just loved, creating a lot of good laughs and fun. In the end of the night we were offered our own room with mattresses for the night. (KDS)
October 18. 2006
Waking up early, we were served breakfast and coffee before we once again got into Odd. Before setting off, we copied all the pictures of the family onto a CDR disc and took a Polaroid picture of the whole family so they’ll have something to remember us by. The time we spent with Kamal’s family will certainly be one of the greatest memories from Morocco.
Setting off from Tafraoute, we had planned to follow one of Chris Scott’s pistes, from Igherm to Tata, the M2, according to him one of the nicest in Morocco. This would be the first real test of Odd 3rd. A few kilometres after Igherm, we found a dusty road, that seemed to lead into nothing… The piste was as expected bumpy and dusty and our cruising speed was no more that 25 km/h. The landscape of the Anti-Atlas was flatter and drier than the Atlas Mountains. After an hour or so, the so-far picturesque piste turned into a road, a rather new built road. After agreeing that the piste was not (complete!) up to expectations, we carried on another hour or so, until we was stopped abruptly by a Moroccan official, dressed in a suit jacket covered by a jaleba (interesting outfit!) stating that the road was closed for traffic. Thank you!! Next time you decide to close off a road, - please put up a sign instead of telling us after two hours! Hence, a long detour and rapid change of plans, we headed toward the coast on an utterly scenic road with several oasis and dry sand mountains side by side. Camping at Tafroute; containing Morocco’s best and warmest shower so far.
October 19. 2006
After a walk around and a quick coffee in Tafraoute, a lush oasis in the Anti-Atlas, we set off. The goal of the day , was the Ait-Herbil via the Tazougart valley, known for its lovely oasis. Heading out of Tafraoute, we passed a stone formation named Napoleon’s Hat by the local and the “Blue Rocks”. Neither very impressive. Knut was reading maps, but seemed to be more interested in the technology of the GPS system, rather than following the planed route. Hence, we were major detoured (again!) Spending the evening at the lush oasis of Ait-Herbil was long gone and a new route was set. We ended up at the beach a couple of miles before Sidi Ifni with plenty of time to take a walk and a run (Jens) on the nice beach, situated beneath the brown, muddy cliffs. The beach had a really nice surf break, but unfortunately no place to hire boards. We created our own campsite overlooking the beach. Nice place indeed. But the strangest ting happened, it started to rain and it actually poured down for about an hour or so!!!!!
October 20. 2006
Sidi Ifni-El Ouatia
Inspired by Jens workout yesterday, Knut actually felt for a morning running barefoot on the beach which stretched for miles with nice caves and dugout tunnels. While Andreas and Vibeke woke up to a broken tent pole. After a slow breakfast we headed for Tan Tan, the city that marks the start of the desert (and maybe the border to Western Sahara, but that’s a secret…). On the way we stopped at Guelmin and here we got a local welder to weld the tent pole and it was again good as new. Tan Tan city is a quiet town, almost giving us a feeling of being a ghost town. There were not many reminders of the town’s golden age as it earlier was a Spanish harbour of importance. We had a nice dinner at a restaurant ran by a French couple (Villa Ocean). Le Monsieur gave us useful tips and hints for the days to come towards Mauritania. Tan Tan represents our last camping in Morocco as the next days will be spent in Western Sahara. However the vast area named Western Sahara, mainly consisting of nothing but sand, is occupied by Morocco and under Moroccan flag since 1975. The insurgency, named Polisario, however, has not given up hope of independence. The current situation is a cease fire with Morocco having the upper hand and the former country divided by a Berm sand wall built by the Moroccans. Not to mention a slight problem, the mines placed all along it and more or less everywhere. Therefore this is not the place to go off the beaten track. To ensure peace the UN are represented with quite a big observation force.
All in all a great experience with fantastic people and a lot of fun!!