Tanger Med – Moulay Bousselham (101 miles)
It was a very noisy night and neither of us slept well. Other than the noise I had ‘other’ anxieties, obviously the main one being, ‘would Big Momma’ start in the morning !! However, being so close to travelling to Morocco the ‘Dark Forces’ had returned to haunt me with a vengeance !! We had been told lots of stories about travelling in Morocco, primarily all bad, first there was the ‘Beaurocracy’ of actually getting in to the country to start with, how whilst we were queuing to get through all of the check points, Immigration and temporary Importation of vehicle and Customs, that we would be approached by ‘people’ telling us that they could help us with our papers, for a ‘fee’, of course and that having paid the requested ‘fee’ they would disappear with our ‘papers’, returning a”short while later with said papers handed to us ‘crumpled’ up, as if they had been processed, only to discover that nothing had actually been done, apart from being relieved of some cash !! Then the stories of how it could take 2-3 hours to get through all of the ‘Beaurocracy’ before we even started our travels. Once ‘on the road’, how our vehicle may be ‘stoned’ by kids as we passed through towns and villages and then of course all the stories about being robbed of our possessions !! Why on earth are we even considering going to this ‘Beaurocratic’ and obviously ‘Lawless’ country when we were perfectly happy in Portugal and Spain ?
We had once again set the alarm on the clock and again, we didn’t need it ! It had been another chilly night but with no EHU and not wanting to use valuable LPG, we only briefly turned the water heater on, sufficient enough to have hot water to wash in, then we were up and dressed and had a coffee. Then the moment of truth, we were both nervous but I could sense that Shazza was more nervous than me. I had already made my contingency plan, if ‘Big Momma’ did not start then the day would be taken waiting for the ‘Assistancia’ to arrive and then getting the van fixed, which may have involved a tow truck and being taken to a garage ‘somewhere’, whilst we waited until they had ‘sucked their teeth and scratched their heads’. Then, repaired, it would have been staying in Spain and exploring the South Eastern Coastline, which, for me at least, would not have been a disaster but for Shazza it would have been a huge disappointment. Ignition key inserted, check to ensure that we were in ‘neutral’ and then, with bated breath, the all important turn of the key and………………..’Big Momma’ burst into life, no problem !! Sometimes it is worth letting those ‘Dark Forces’ play on your mind. I kept the engine idling over so that the engine would warm up and we could use the van heater to take the chill off, but one thing was for certain, we were catching the ferry to Morocco.
The green arrow over our boarding lane lit up and we pulled off the parking area and took our place in the queue, that’s a laugh, we were the second in a line of just two vehicles, us and a transit van !! A check of our passports and tickets and we were waved forward, no waiting in a second holding area like at the numerous other ferry ports we have used over the years, this was straight onto the ferry. Should we have been really worried that there didn’t appear to be any other Motorhomes boarding ? I think the relief of actually being on board and starting our journey was the biggest thing on our minds. There were only a handful of passengers on board as we set sail, it was like having a very large boat all to ourselves. The sun was up, it was pleasantly warm and the sea was a flat calm. We purchased a coffee and toasted cheese and ham baguette, breakfast, and then settled in front of the large panoramic windows to enjoy the Ninety minute crossing.
When we were called down to our vehicles I was a little relieved when I saw two other Motorhomes parked behind us, both French !! Was that story about the French being told not to travel just ‘another’ Motorhome Aire story, or had these ‘Rebels’ just chosen to ignore the warning ? We and they would soon find out !! Now to face the ‘Beaurocracy’ and the 2-3 hour hanging around to be processed ! We were not approached by any willing ‘helpers’, we were not relieved of any cash, and we were processed and on our way within Thirty-minutes and that included stopping at the bank on the port to stock up our coffers with a few more ‘Dirham’, which we obtained at a rate of €1 = 10.72dh, so ‘Carlos’s’ rate wasn’t that bad at 10.5.
The port at Tanger Med is not actually in Tangier, it is approximately 20-25 miles North of the city. There is a Motorway (Toll) that runs virtually from the Port all the way down to Agadir, however, we had ‘been told’ stories of how people walk along these roads, often crossing in front of you and that the drivers are maniacs, I was still a little nervous, although we hadn’t been ‘stoned’ leaving the Port neither had we passed through any towns or villages yet !!
Having no Sat Nav to guide us, as ‘Snoopy’s’ mapping didn’t cover Africa, she could take a holiday for a while and Shazza became the one and only Navigator using a ‘Marcos Polo’ road map she had purchased in advance. She was also the ‘itinerary’ plotter and she was nervous that if she took me to a ‘not so good’ location for our first stop that this would not bode well for the rest of the trip. Actually, I was quite ‘chilled’, all of my initial ‘demons’ having already been ‘exorcised’, I was well relaxed and quite excited about touring Morocco in our Motorhome, perhaps I had over done the reluctance bit, a bit too much !! Our first stop was around 100 miles away so time to check out these death-defying Moroccan roads !!
Now I am not saying that ‘any’ of the stories that we have heard, or been told, are untrue. They may well have happened to some unlucky individuals on their visit here at some point and let’s face it, this is only day one for us so I will remain vigilant. However, those ‘Dark Forces’ have obviously decided to lull us into a false sense of security and are just waiting for us to relax and let our guard down. Well they better hurry up because I am already so relaxed and layed-back that I am almost horizontal !!
We had travelled the majority of the way on the Motorway, a little under a hundred miles and when we pulled off and payed at the ‘manned’ toll booth we were charged 100 dirham (€9.42 or £7.68), I wonder how much it would have cost us for the same distance on a French Motorway ? Shazza was now getting a little nervous, it’s one thing just reading Motorway signage and counting down the miles but now she had to guide us to the campsite.
Shazza had once again done her homework and noted the landmarks from the guide-book, over three speed humps, past a Post Office and turn left down a lane just before the bank, noting that we shouldn’t take any notice of the first ‘campsite’ sign and fortunately we got through unscathed, the locals didn’t ‘stone’ us on the way in, in fact they waved and smiled, a bit unnerving really, we actually felt welcome here. Now when I say campsite signs, these were not your modern, neatly painted signs with the campsite name, no, these were bits of wood with the word ‘campsite’ hand painted on them. We knew that we were not going to get nicely manicured ‘Caravan Club’ standard sites or even the same standards as some of the ‘All Service’ Aires we had used, Morocco style camping would be more ‘rustic’. The friendly ‘Guardien’ opened the barrier, smiled and said in perfect English, ‘Hello and Welcome’, obviously an observant fellow noting the UK registration or perhaps the fact that our steering wheel was on the wrong side. He told us the layout of the site, where all the facilities were located, including the on-site Restaurant and then asked if we needed him to help us find a pitch or were we happy to park ourselves. We opted for the latter and he asked us to return to what passed for the ‘office’ once we had parked and got settled. There were proper marked out pitches, all on grass, however, with the recent long spell of rain, the reason we had delayed our arrival, nobody was parked on the now muddy and still drying out pitches. There were already a few vans on site, mainly Dutch and Germans and one French van, fortunately, we managed to find a place immediately facing the lagoon. I don’t think there is such a thing as Health and Safety out here, plugging in to what passed for EHU was a ‘shocking’ experience, no really ! What passed for plug sockets were connections, some with bare wires, broken and in a poor state of repair, I managed to connect amid a few minor ‘crackles’ but at least I now had a 10 amp Electric supply !! I only hope it doesn’t rain anymore whilst we are here !! The site restaurant offered WiFi and so with the purchase of a ‘Coke’ I had the password. Although it was a very slow connection speed I was fortunate enough to be parked close enough to be able to pick it up on my iPad in the van. The site had a Motorhome Service Point, Showers and Toilets and ‘potable’ water, although we still had plenty of ‘Spanish’ water in our tank. The sun was shining, it was hot and we had everything we needed, well done Shazza, this will do very nicely thank you.
I think that it was a combination of the poor nights sleep along with our ‘other’ anxieties but we both suddenly felt extremely tired. I got out the sun chairs, with a view of the lagoon and the hot sun it wasn’t long before the both of us were enjoying some individual periods of ‘Personal Contemplation’ !! Soon enough it was nearing the end of the day and I enjoyed watching another glorious sunset, but our first ‘Under a Moroccan Sky’ .