Agadir – Marrakesh (169 Miles)
Neither of us slept very well, it wasn’t the usual ‘night noises’, we had got used to them now, no it was back to the night before ‘Moving On Day’ restlessness and both wondering whether we were doing the right thing leaving lovely sunshine and warmth, but we had made our decision. The previous evening the ‘French’ chap had brought around two folding chairs and a folding Camping table to ‘stake his claim’ to our pitch, he had leaned these up against a tree at the back of the pitch out of the way, which we had agreed to. Now I don’t know what it is about us, maybe we just have that look that says “We can take advantage of these English idiots” !! When I opened the night blinds on ‘Big Momma’ at 8:00am, this is what I saw…………………………
God only knows what time the ‘French‘ chap had arrived outside our van, but he had laid his external matting and placed the Camping table on it, with a tablecloth, one chair unfolded and placed at the table the other still unfolded but placed on top of the table. Then he had brought around a plastic step, folding shelf unit, a motorbike and ordinary bicycle, he had even unfurled his EHU cable and ran it from the side of our van to the EHU point !! What’s more, he had moved off whatever pitch he had been occupying and parked his Motorhome a couple of metres away on the side of the road. I am just surprised that he hadn’t gone the whole hog and sat outside our van at the table with his wife eating breakfast !! Talk about taking liberties or what, I was so livid that I suggested that we tell him that we were ‘not moving today‘ !! Not only did I find his behaviour extremely rude but it felt as if we were being ‘hurried‘ off our pitch. Where he had so inconveniently placed ‘his’ belongings was in the space I needed to manoeuver ‘Big Momma’ to reverse off the pitch, there was a Motorhome, parked behind and sideways on, across the road from us, this prevented us from doing a straightforward reverse, therefore, I needed to reverse a little, then move forwards again but moving over to one side which would then give me enough room to reverse back and turn into the site exit road. The thought did cross my mind to just drive over his ‘stuff‘ but it was more the damage I would do to ‘Big Momma’ that prevented me from doing so. I looked down towards where his van was parked and saw him skulking around outside, I beckoned him to come over, when he arrived he did that typical ‘French’ thing, he shrugged his shoulders with that ‘Is there a problem‘ sort of expression on his face. Unfortunately, for him, Arlette appeared from her van and was as gobsmacked as I had been when she saw the set-up outside our van, I asked her to translate, in no uncertain terms I told him how rude he had been to come onto ‘our‘ pitch whilst we were still asleep and set up all his belongings, which was much more than what we had agreed to. Furthermore, I told him that he had now obstructed me from getting off ‘my‘ pitch and that I had a good mind to stay here for a few days longer. I ‘told‘, rather than ‘asked‘, him to remove his possessions so that I could get off of my pitch. Now I know that you may think my attitude might have been a little abrupt and over the top, but remembering that it wasn’t so long ago that we had felt that our good nature had been ‘abused’ by another person, and now this !! We were in no hurry to leave, we had all day to get to Marrakesh, so we deliberately prolonged our departure and said farewells to both our immediate neighbours, as you do, it would have been so rude not to. Then of course there were just a ‘few’ other ‘residents’ we really had to say goodbye to, people that we had met in the thirty-eight days we had been on the site.
It was a lovely sunny 17 degree(c) day and we finally pulled off the site at 10:00am. It was quite easy getting out of Agadir from the site, straight onto the Ring Road and straight to the Motorway. The last time we had re-fuelled ‘Big Momma’ was on 14th December, when we left ‘El Jadida’ so she was due a drink. Fortunately there was a ‘TOTAL’ service station, which was just before the Motorway ‘Toll Booths’, and it had good access for large vehicles. For those who like to do fuel cost comparisons, especially now as fuel prices are falling all over Europe, the Diesel cost us 8.18 Dirham per litre (€0.77 or £0.63).
When we had travelled South on this motorway it was in very different weather conditions, grey, low cloud and wet !! This time it was brilliant sunshine, blue sky and dry, however, there was one hell of a crosswind which really buffeted the van, but the scenery was spectacular, there was also more than a noticeable drop in the temperature as we once again ascended up and through part of the Atlas Mountain range, when I say a noticeable drop it went very quickly from the 17 degrees(c) down to 6 degrees(c), fortunately ‘Big Mommas’ heating was up to the job so we only noticed the drop in temperature because I could see the temperature display on my dashboard instrumentation. Now I know that I included a lot of scenic photographs on the Southward journey but I do feel the need to just include these…….
The Motorways over here are much like Spain, pretty empty, and so it was quite a relaxed and easy drive. Shazza had made us a sandwich and I had made a flask of coffee, as well as staving off hunger it also gave us something to do to stave off bouts of boredom in between our conversations. I am not sure about ‘other‘ Fulltimers but we now, pretty much, apart from the obvious private moments, spend all of our time together and we converse about pretty much everything, things that we never discussed or exchanged opinions about in our ‘former‘ lives. There is always something to chat about, the obvious being ‘Where should we go next‘ or ‘How long should we stay‘ and even ‘What shall we do today or tomorrow‘, the normal everyday sort of stuff. But now we find that we even discuss what’s in the news, at home and abroad, we never had, or made the time, to do this before. It’s funny, but before we commenced this lifestyle change we were both a bit concerned on how we would find being in each other’s company in such a relatively small and confined space and would we get irritated and under each other’s feet. We did actually openly discuss these concerns although at the time we obviously didn’t know the answers, however, after being Fulltimers now for sixteen months, and already confident in the belief that we already had a solid relationship, I can safely say now, that this experience has brought us even closer together than either of us could have imagined possible. It will be interesting of course to see if this harmony remains the same after the next sixteen months !!
Shazzas pre-planning on our route had been as precise as ever, we had also made good time, completing our One Hundred and Sixty Nine mile journey in three and a half hours. Although classed as a Campsite in Moroccan terms, this was again what we would call an ‘Aire’. However, a very nice Aire, and although it had no individually marked pitches, it had gravel Hardstanding, Electric, all the standard Motorhome Services, Showers, Toilets and ‘free’ WiFi and all for 74 Dirham per night (€6.97 or £5.68). When we arrived there were only four other vans parked up but before sunset there were at least twenty vans and it could easily have accommodated another twenty, however, after our last campsite experience this certainly didn’t feel like being in a sardine can, best of all, we were not surrounded by hotels or nightclubs !!
It wasn’t long before we were visited by one of the locals, complete in traditional ‘Berber’ hooded cloak. His first question, “Dutch, German, French ?” I responded with “English“, he smiled and said “I speak very good English, Welcome to Morocco“. I remember thinking, your linguistic skills may be very good my friend but your observation skills not quite so good otherwise you would have noted the ‘GB’ on my registration plate. His gambit was that he offered a personal shuttle bus service to and from the City, we had selected this stopover for that very reason when we noted it in the Camping guide-book. He could either take us in to the ‘Medina’ then collect us again at a pre-arranged time, this would cost, for the return trip, for two people, 100 Dirham (€9.42 or £7.68) or we could have an English Speaking Guide, who would take us, in the shuttle bus, to six different places of interest, monuments, gardens and the large Mosque, giving us time to look around each place, before then taking us to the main Plaza. Now Shazza wanted to do the sights in Marrakesh and to see the Plaza at night when it was all lit up and vibrant, we had planned on taking the shuttle bus in, taking the City tour Bus and then doing the Plaza on our way out. But this sounded just about what she wanted but with the added bonus of someone who knew their way around the city, our own personalised transport and an English-speaking guide. We enquired as to the cost and we were informed that this trip would cost a total of 500 Dirham (€47.12 or £38.40) and we did not pay until we were returned to the site. We agreed that we would do the City Tour with a guide, it would mean a ‘full on day‘ but hey, when in Morocco, don’t drink the tap water and wear comfy shoes !!
Neither of us slept at all well, we may not have had the nightclub music but the site is located on the North side of Marrakesh, right next to the ‘N9’ which is the main road from the Motorway into the City and it was busy with traffic all night and right through the early hours !! I don’t know about a full day in Marrakesh, we both needed a full day in bed to catch up on some sleep !! We awoke to a chilly morning, certainly no morning coffee and kick starting of the lungs sat in my sun chair outside the van here, this was a return to reality, turn on the heating and drink one’s coffee in bed under the nice warm duvet until the van had warmed up enough to get washed and dressed !!
However, the sun was shining and with fleeces and rain jackets on, we were warm enough. We did make the 10:00am pre-arranged shuttle bus and we were introduced to our driver and English-speaking guide for the day. Mohamed was of slight build, probably in his late fifties, but as promised he spoke excellent English, we were the only couple utilising his services as City tour guide, however, there was a German couple and a French couple who had booked to be dropped off in the City and then collected again later in the day. Once Mohamed had dropped them at the designated place and confirmed the time for the return pick-up we then had him all to ourselves. He ran through his ‘proposed’ itinerary and asked us if that was okay, we just told him that we were in his hands. As it turned out, he wasn’t so much a ‘Escorted Tour Guide’ but more of a personal ‘chauffeur’, a very knowledgable one at that. On route to all our sightseeing locations he would tell us about them, not in a pre-scripted sort of way, and he would also tell us more general everyday sort of things, like today the ‘King’ was in the City, he was a good King, well liked by the people because he looked after the people and the Country, he even pointed out things like a very large ‘Specialist’ market that sold only second-hand Motorcycles and Mopeds and other such ‘matter of fact’ trivia. Once we had arrived at each location, Mohamed would tell us if there was an entry fee and how much to pay, there were however, only three locations where we needed to pay an entry fee, but these were not very expensive and well worth the few shackles we paid. Mohamed didn’t come around with us, he let us wander around at our leisure and he just waited for us to return before moving on to the next location. Unusually for tours such as this, there were no unscheduled stops at his ‘brothers’ carpet shop or a pre-arranged stop at a restaurant for lunch where he got a ‘free’ meal for taking us there, nothing like what I had imagined was going to happen. Taking this more personalised tour option, as opposed to just taking the shuttle bus in, and then using the official ‘City Tour Bus’ to get around and see the sights, had been a good decision as the big double-decker they used would have never have got in and around many of the very narrow streets where the majority of the attractions were located, we on the other hand got delivered right to the front door of each and every one of them ! Mohamed had taken us to the six main sightseeing locations, but he had also driven us around ‘other’ parts of the City, not on the normal ‘Tourist Route‘ and had given us his local knowledge about each place, stuff that you certainly won’t find in any of the guide books. Our final port of call was of course the famous ‘Central Square’, this is where the very large ‘Souk’ was to be found with its maze of alleyways all packed with ‘traders’ selling everything imaginable. Our initial plan had been to stay here until after sunset, apparently at night, when it is all lit up, the sights and sounds are supposed to be quite spectacular, however, combined with the sleepless night and the pace of the day, we were already feeling quite tired, and there was still another three hours until sunset !! Mohamed would have collected the others, returned them to the site and then returned to collect us at whatever time we had asked him to. However, we told him that we had a change of plan and that we would return with the others, he said that it was no problem for him to come back and collect us later but we said that we were pretty tired and that we could see what we needed to see in the two or three hours that we had left.
We found our way to the Central Square, by now we were both pretty hungry having not stopped all morning during our sightseeing tour, not even for a coffee ! There were several Restaurants located all around the square and we chose one with a ‘upper terraced’ dining area where we would could ‘people watch’ over lunch. Then it was time to have a wander around and we made our way into the massive ‘Souk’, I could physically see Shazza tense up, her whole body language screamed out “Why am I even thinking about going in here !! ” but she had said that it would be a shame to miss out on the experience. She was actually quite pleasantly surprised, apart from the odd couple of chancers no-one tried to lure us into their shops, they smiled and said hello and even gestured with their hands towards their ‘wares’ for us to look, when we politely declined they smiled and wished us a good day, even I was a bit surprised at this. However, we had one moment of concern, ever vigilant in such places I noticed two characters that had been ‘lurking‘ behind us, I gently ushered Shazza over to one side, she gave me an inquisitive glance and I simply said, “Just pretend to be looking at stuff on this stall, we are being followed“. The two characters passed us by, walked a few yards and then stopped, I saw them glance across at us, they then turned back, walked towards us and then passed us by. We moved in the opposite direction but I glanced over my shoulder and saw them following us again. I looked at them in turn, directly at them one by one, the look that I hope communicated “I have seen you“. They stopped and pretended to talk to each other, or perhaps they were saying to each other, “We have been rumbled“. Whatever it was, we carried on walking, I held Shazza by the arm and turned down a couple of the narrow ‘stall filled’ alleys and every so often glanced back to see if we were still being followed, we weren’t, but we now somehow felt vulnerable in this crowded maze. What was worse, in my effort to evade our ‘shadows‘ I had totally lost my bearings and all we wanted to do was get out into the open again but I could see no obvious exit. We just kept walking, following what we believed was the main route, only because it was a little wider, our hunch proved correct, although when we did finally find daylight again it had been via a different exit to the one we had entered, no problems, we could see the square and we both inwardly gave a sigh of relief . We wandered around the main square watching the performers, the ‘Story Tellers‘ who all attracted large crowds around them, primarily Moroccans but a fair few tourists mingled in with them, I knew from experience that these were the hunting grounds of the ‘pick-pockets‘ so we kept our distance. There were lots of people who had performing animals, apes, birds of prey etc. all of whom would very quickly part you with your money if you so much as pointed a Camera in their direction, but the one thing that I really wanted to see was the snake charmers, especially the ‘Cobras‘, I really hated and have a fear of snakes but I am also strangely fascinated by them. I found one such ‘Serpent Musician‘ and he played his merry tune whilst I snapped away, Shazza even got pulled into part of the act, quite a willing volunteer actually, and she got up close and personal with a snake, not the Cobras but a small thin ‘Water Snake‘, not venomous, so she was told. Then it was my turn !! No bloody chance, I walked away at such a pace my shoes were smoking !!
The afternoon weather had been really kind to us, the sun grew stronger and by mid-afternoon shorts and tee-shirts would have been quite welcome, however, we knew that as soon as the sun started to fall that the chill factor would descend rapidly, and it did. So after finding a nice pavement side Cafe, enjoyed a ‘Nus, Nus’, we made our way back to the shuttle bus pick-up point, rejoined our fellow passengers and returned to the site. Now as you may well imagine, I had been ‘snapping’ away all day with the camera and there are just far too many photographs to include here, however, I trust you will get a flavour of what we experienced from the small selection below…………………..