Morocco - Part 1

Actually we wanted to leave for Asia at the end of March, but the German winter was too long and too cold for us and so we decided to spend 2-3 months in Morocco before we set off for the big tour. 

Over the Brenner it goes briskly to Tramin where we make a first overnight stop and treat ourselves to a South Tyrolean snack in one of the many wine bars. At Lake Garda there is not much going on yet and it is very pleasant to enjoy the beautiful area once without the tourist hype. Driving with MOMO is not very easy here, because practically everywhere a 7.5 ton limit is signposted. It only helps to ignore them and hope for the best. Has worked in any case. In Lazise we park in front of a closed camping site and in Sirmeone we unpack the bicycles and make a nice afternoon round along the lake. 

From Genoa we take a ferry that brings us to Tangier in 2 days. Unbelievable how the cars, which wait here for the ferry, are loaded. So far we did not know that the roof load of a passenger car can be so strained that the fender practically rests on the wheel. And miraculously, you can even drive the car. On the crossing we get to know the Swiss-Italian Mario who has already been to Morocco 20 times. From him we get some good tips for the entrance. Yes, and then comes the unloading process. Five rows of vehicles have to unite into one to get out of the belly of the ship and therefore every centimetre is wrested bitterly. Thank God we can watch the wrangling from a height of 2 meters and just shake our heads. The same game then repeats itself at customs. Some vehicles are waved out to be searched, but then stop so elegantly that nobody can get through. But after about an hour this is also done and with Mario we drive a few kilometres to a nice place by the sea for our first night in Morocco. 

In the morning we part ways. Mario drives to his girlfriend at the sea and we first go to Martil on a campground. There we are immediately adopted by a Slovenian troop, which is on its way with 14 camper vans, and supplied with much wine and Slivowitz. So the day is already over. 

 

Martil is a pure holiday resort with a sandy beach and a promenade that stretches for kilometres along the coast. Now, in the middle of February, everything is still closed here and we take a taxi to Tetouan, a few kilometres away. The city has almost half a million inhabitants and the old town (Medina) with the picturesque white houses was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. As soon as we have left the taxi we are addressed by tugboats who want to show us the city and only very difficult to get rid of. We have to get used to it first. One is so stubborn and accompanies us until he practically belongs to us and we cannot send him away without a bad certain. We stroll with him through the narrow streets for a good two hours and let everything have an effect on us, of course including the unavoidable carpet business. But as soon as we have paid him and said goodbye, the next one already speaks to us and so forth. It's Friday and there's traditionally couscous day. The richer families then cook more and bring it to the mosque where needy families are fed. We try the traditional dish in a restaurant, but are not very fond of it. The MOMO cuisine is much better. After a coffee, which we enjoy in one of the many street cafés in the warm spring sun, we take a taxi back to the campsite. Unfortunately we catch a Kamikaze driver who sounds us with Arabic music and drives as if he still wants to see Allah today. But we survived unscathed. We will soon be able to write a book about our worldwide taxi experiences. 

Then it goes on to Chefchaouen. The city was founded in 1471 and is very worth seeing because of its picturesque white and blue houses. From the campsite just above the town we can reach the old town in a few minutes on foot. In the centre there is a large square with numerous cafes where you can relax and watch the colourful hustle and bustle at a Cafe au lait. Afterwards we stroll through the narrow alleys and are glad that digital photography is available in view of the countless and beautiful motifs. 

We drive many kilometers across country with bad roads and many potholes. The area is beautiful and reminiscent of Tuscany with countless olive trees and agricultural crops with the difference that mostly the women work in the fields, wearing headscarves or veiled. The men, on the other hand, wear hooded capes which, apart from the colouring, remind us of Santa Claus. We stop in a small town and shop at the market. A whole bag full of vegetables for about one Euro. At the roadside we buy the juiciest oranges we have eaten for a long time and in an oil mill we stock up with the finest olive oil. 

After a rest day we visit the excavations of Volubilis, the largest Roman excavation site in Morocco. The site is very well preserved and famous for its beautiful mosaics. On one of the columns a pair of storkes has set themselves photogenic in scene to our joy. Afterwards we walk through Moulay Idriss, the oldest city in Morocco, founded in 788, a few km away. 

Our next stop is Meknes, one of the four royal sites in Morocco. We can spend the night on a parking lot near the city and during a first walk we get lost in the alleys of the royal city, followed by a constantly growing horde of children who want to show us the way. Unfortunately the mausoleum and the museum are closed until the end of March due to renovation and we wander around a bit lost. In the evening we want to treat ourselves and decide for the restaurant with the sonorous name 1001 nights. Actually it is the living room of a Moroccan family and you have to book in advance. The surroundings were quite nice, but we were the only guests and the food more than lean. This was already the second time that we wanted to eat one of the famous and highly praised tajines and somehow didn't get what we imagined. But we are still here for a while. The next morning we stroll through the narrow streets of the souks and through the market hall, but we are too early and almost all shops are still closed. So it's not really fun and so we drive on. 

We'll leave the town of Fes to the left for now. We feel more like loneliness and there should be plenty of it in the south. We make a stop on a beautiful camping site and admire the many storks that have built their nests on almost every house and prepare for the rearing of the offspring. Nearby is the Ifrane National Park where in the cedar forest a lot of barbary monkeys gymnast around in the trees and are fed by the tourists with bananas. 

Further south the landscape changes slowly but steadily and reminds us of the hot and dry stone deserts and deep gorges in Arizona and Nevada, but here interrupted by small green oases with palm forests. On the way we see again and again nomads who lead a very poor life and their few sheep and goats in the barren landscape and live in very simple dwellings.  

In Goulmima starts a trip through the Three Gorges which we want to do in the next days. The largely asphalted road leads first into the Gheris Gorge through a fantastic landscape with many small clay villages that partly look like glued to the rocks, up to Amellago. From there we continue on a plateau in 1800m and there we find a nice place in solitude for the night. At least we thought so, but it wasn't so lonely, because in the evening a moped driver comes by and introduces himself as the person responsible for the area. For safety reasons we should drive nevertheless please into the a few kilometers distant place and spend the night there. After a longer Palaver we may stop then however, and spend a wonderfully calm night.  

In Agoudal a 4*4 offroad track starts which leads to the Dades Gorge and has it all.  Just a few kilometres behind the village we are standing in front of a narrow place which I drive through quite courageously in quite a sloping position and which brings Karin to the edge of a heart attack. For hours we then bump over hill and dale and screw up to the pass summit at 2900m only to then drive down again from there in very narrow serpentines, in which I have to manoeuvre partly. Once we have that behind us, we look for a place in the dry riverbed and feel how we are only when we get out. The next morning we continue a bit more relaxed and after a few kilometres we have asphalt under our bikes again and drive through the Dades Gorge. The road winds down in narrow serpentines and we almost feel like in the Grand Canyon. From the tour there is also a  video available here

After another overnight stop we leave the Dades Gorge and drive in Boulmane to a campground where we meet our Swiss travel friends Elisabeth & Kurt. The two are also on the road since 2013 and since then we have been crossing each other again and again. The last time we met was in Canada in 2017. We spend two nice days together and then arrange a desert tour in a few days. 

To finish our three gorges tour we drive into the Todrah gorge. On the way we make a stop in Tinghir. Actually, we only wanted to buy some vegetables on the market, but a nice Moroccan speaks to us and takes us on a tour through the old Kasbah.  Inevitably the whole then ends again with a Berber who has so many carpets that he must sell them, but everything is completely unobtrusive and after a tea and extensive explanations of the carpet production we leave the business without a carpet and then go to the market where we originally wanted to go.  Here everything is still very authentic and we like it very much.  This changes suddenly when we enter the Todrah Gorge.  Here everything is very touristy and one coach after the other crowds in the narrow valley.  We have a short look at the whole thing and then go to a camping site a few kilometres before the beginning of the gorge, and before the mass rush.  Here the world is still fine and we get our first really good tajine in a nice restaurant with a palm garden.  

Now we have to have a washing day before we continue into the desert. But we'll tell you about it in the next blog. Until then have fun reading and looking at pictures.

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