March 2006

2 Feb - 12 Feb 2006

El Jadida to Tan Tan Plagé


Weather vane, Essaouria

From El Jadida, we headed down along the coast (for the most part) to Essaouira (Ounara), another very scenic town (also used by Orson Wells for the movie Othello). It is also apparently the windsurf capital of Northern Africa. As there were no decent campgrounds there, we stayed in Ounara which is 18km east of the coast. This turned out to be really great as the campground was very nice and not as overrun with campervans as the one in Essaouira itself. This is also the place were we first started to notice how many camper vans there were in Morocco. Later further south we were left in awe of the thousands (not kidding), of white mobil homes parked everywhere, both in campgrounds, and along the roads along the coast (as far down as Tarfaya). Something, I will probably mention more than once in this journal..

The campground also had a restaurant and we decided to try it. It turned out to be the best food we had in Morocco! The first night we had the Royal Tajine, which is basically, lamb stewed with prunes, olives and almonds, eaten with the hands and some bread for the sauce, awesome. The following night we tried the Pullet aux Citron, and that turned out to be even better. A whole chicken stewed with lemon preserve, and olives. We are definitely not loosing any weight on this trip (was there ever a danger of that?)

Coast near Essaouira

South of El Jadida, we started noticing that the country side was getting sparser, less green and more rocks and sand everywhere. Not drastic yet, as there were still places along the coast where there were some very nice green farm land. In particular one noticed the Argan trees, a type of olive, from which they also make an oil. Apparently the new olive oil! How it is made is probably a better story: Apparently, the fruit is fed to goats and then nuts collected from the droppings (cleaned, I hope) and then pressed to make this oil. It is sold all along the road or in shops. According to the literature it is very work intensive and therefore commands a respectable price!

Countryside near Ounara

Another first, is that although the other towns, El Jadida, Meknes, Chafchaouen were also "tourist" towns, this was the first time where we really ran into a lot of tourist. Another first, it was warm, almost put my shorts on..

The town itself was of course suitably prepared for the tourists, with the usual knick knacks found just about everyware, shoes, bags, paintings, trinkets to warm any heart. One of the nicest things here were the little workshops where artists worked wood, which they carved into all sorts of nice things.
Artist row, Essaouira
Lamps Essaouira Thank God we are on motorcycles and have no room for knick knacks, there was a nice little wooden chess set I really had my eye on, and Cecilia was eying some lamps very keenly.
All in all, as far as visually appeal is concerned, Essaouira has it all (see pictures), and add to that an excellent bay suitable for all sort of water sports (even in the middle of winter). Surfing, kite surfing, body surfing, and wind surfing all year round (apparently). It is a pre-programmed resort destination for everyone, locals as well as foreigners.
Essaouira Bay

Agadir, Sidi Ifni, Tan Tan Plage

We had decided that we were going to go as far as Tan Tan, before turning inland, so we continued south. First stop was Agadir, where we really hit the white brigade (camper vans). It was really incredible, there are 4 big campgrounds in the neighborhood, all were full. The one were we were held over 1000 of these things. Apparently, in the last three years, the French, Spanish, English, and Italians have all "found" Morocco. Which with its excellent roads and warm weather, not to mention the cheap prices, make it an ideal destination for cost conscious seniors. Although to be hones they were starting to get on our nerves, no matter where we went, there they were, and never alone, always in pairs at least. As we usually got to the campsites fairly early, we enjoyed watching the show, when these guys came rolling in 3, 4, 5, 6, strong. By the time they all got set up, an hour or more had gone by. Then it was time to take the dogs for a walk! Next came, emptying the used water / sewage containers. Oh, what fun. Can't wait until it is our turn to get one, although rumor has it, that we will NEVER get one.

Coast north of Agadir

Agadir itself is a modern town, with all the amenities expected and we didn't really spend any time looking around. A couple of days at the internet cafe, and a day or two in the tent (I was sick one day, not sure of what, just felt miserable, so I stayed in bed). Just north of Agadir the king of Saudi Arabia has a "palace" and someone must have been in residence, since on the second day we were there, the security around was strengthened by a troop of soldiers. Also, on the approach to the residence (from Agadir) they had placed policemen or military every 100 meters on both sides of the road (for 14km)! And a couple of times, we hit convoys of black mercedes limousines or black panel vans (10-15) led by a police escort.

One day an artist came by and was asking the various campers if they wanted some desert scene painted on their campers (for veteran Morocco people this is a must, all their campers have something on them), so I went over and asked him if he could do something for us. Sure enough, and hour later and we had the perfect souvenir from Morocco (same as all the campers).

After Agadir it was time to head south, next stop Sidi Ifni, a little town right on the coast. The road down was not very interesting as it ran inland. As we only stayed for one night there wasn't a chance to see much. The camping where we spent the night was on the beach, below a cliff, on top of which was a park, where the locals spend the early evening watching the goings on in the campground below. The other campgrounds (there are three here), were full, parking lots or worse.

The minute we left Sidi Ifni, we headed into the mountains, for a ride which turned out to be very enjoyable, curvy mountain roads, nearly no traffic, and some excellent scenery. As soon as we got out of town though, there was a very bad accident, one of these Mercedes had been turned into scrap iron by a frontal collision with a truck. Which by the way, isn't that unusual, nearly every day we were on the road we would see one of these accidents, not a real surprise considering the way they drive. After the mountains we hit the desert, well almost, pre-desert as the plains are situated between two rows of mountains there wasn't a lot moisture to go around. Through this valley we headed south.

Countryside north of Tan Tan

Then came Tan Tan, this was the actual destination of this little sojourn. I had seen the name on a map and told Cecilia that we should go there, so went we did. Unfortunately there wasn't any camping in Tan Tan, so we continued a bit further to Tan Tan Plage. I wasn't actually interested in the town, I just wanted a photo of the town name (which incidentally, I didn't take, since a more interesting one presented itself, see pictures). Tan Tan Plage, was a sleepy town, with no real camping spot other than the road next to the beach, and a little "residence", where they let you camp on the grounds. (See Camping Morocco for more info). Since it was Sunday and our weekly call home is today, we went into town looking for a telephone which took prepaid cards. We found one, it didn't work, or was busy. So we went to the next one, this one didn't recognize the card. Ok, next one, no dial tone. Back to the first one, still busy or no signal. This went on for around 30 minutes. Everyone in town watching these two foreigners on a motorcycle, riding back and forth in town, from phone to phone. In the end we ended up using a pay phone in a call center which are ubiquitous to Morocco, every town has at least one little shop, with a number of payphones, which are privately run. The call went through without any problems, and turned out to be very reasonable.

The next day we headed south on a little day trip towards Tarfaya. The idea was to do 100km or so and check out the country. The coastline in the beginning was very similar to that of the great Australian bight, which also has such cliffs.
Coastline south of Tan Tan PlageCoast Road south of Tan Tan Plage
We ended up taking a lot of pictures of the cliffs and the coastline, but it all pretty much looks like the attached pictures, same thing for the road, straight, flat, windy and pretty boring.

The further south we got, the sandier the area became, until we had dunes both along the coast and inland, and the road just cut between sandy flats. Here we were also checked and registered by the police more than once apparently they like to keep track of travelers on bikes coming this way. We didn't see them checking the camper vans which we ran into.

Countryside south of Tan Tan Plage, view North Countryside south of Tan Tan Plage, view South Coastline south of Tan Tan Plage, view East
After a few hours of this we went ahead and turned around. It was interesting, specially, seeing the rain coming down in the desert, and missing us coming and going. That is always nice. By the way did I mention that it is very windy down here (apparently always). With all the sand around the wind pretty much blows it everywhere, and you can literally smell the sand in the air. Of course, with the rain, it had cut down the windblown sand but you can definitely imagine what it would be like.

For more click here (part IV)...





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