Today took us north through the town of Layaune where we stopped to do a bit of grocery shopping and to eat lunch at a really good seafood restaurant. We also took advantage of a free wifi connection that we had found in November so that we could update our journal and take care of necessary internet business.
All along the drive we spotted wildflowers blooming along the roadside and in most any depression nearby. Obviously there must have been some rain during the past few weeks for the flowers to sprout, although looking at the starkness of the Western Sahara desert it is hard to believe. We even passed by several “dry” lakebeds that were definitely not dry. They looked like good places to camp, but there were no roads to the lakeshore so we kept on driving.
|We ended up at a bush camp on the beach north of Tarfaya. This time of year (winter in Europe) drives lots of Europeans into Morocco where it is warmer. We’ve started seeing tons of campervans with French, Dutch, German, etc. license plates. We’ve heard that out of the Western Sahara that there are some beaches with up to a thousand campervans parked. The beach we chose had about a dozen campers already there, but there was lots of room for us among the Moroccan fish camps.|
Feb 15 - 16, 2009
The wind was so strong during the night that our Fuso was covered in salt spray blown up from the surf where the water pounded into the rocky coastline.
We didn’t drive very far today, getting only as far as a spot that we had marked on our GPS on our drive south back in November. Just before arriving at Oued Mafatma we passed the northern-most fuel station where we could still obtain cheap fuel. To encourage travel and living in the Western Sahara, the Moroccan government provides subsidized fuel at a price about 40 percent cheaper than in the rest of the country. So we took advantage of this “offer” to fill our fuel tank as well as our extra fuel containers.
The camping area at the Oued (which is a river wash) is located on a cliff overlooking the mouth of the river where it flows into the ocean. When we explored the parking area, we found that the very last spot, the one right on the cliff’s edge was empty, so we took it. The view out the window was fabulous. We also happened to park next to another overland vehicle that was heading south into Africa. The German couple whose truck it was didn’t speak any English so unfortunately we couldn't share any of our information with them. They were driving a custom, three axle vehicle that made our truck look like a toy.
It was a popular spot for surf fishermen, although they weren’t fishing through
the surf but rather fishing off of the cliffs. It was interesting to watch, but
apparently not very successful as we didn’t spot one fisherman who had caught
We, on the other hand, spotted a set of rocks exposed at low tide to explore. What we found were tons of mussels growing, so once again we conducted a harvest for our lunch. When the other campers heard what we had found, there was a mass exodus from the campers to the rocks as everyone else joined in the harvest of mussels.
Feb 17 - 18, 2009
Today we left Western Sahara and entered Morocco proper. We decided to celebrate our departure from the Atlantic Coastline by getting our Fuso washed! Most large fuel stations have wash bays, so for only about 10 US dollars, we got our baby washed, cleaning off the salt spray as well as the Saharan dust and sand. Even after nearly four and a half years on the road, when the Fuso gets washed it looks so nice and new.
We continued driving north until we reached the small town of Bou Izakarn where we found a sign for a campground at about the same time we decided that we were tired. The campground was so peaceful and the town so quiet that we decided to take a break from the road. As a bonus, so we thought, the campground even had a washing machine so we did a load of laundry. Oops, after the machine was washing for half an hour, the camp host restarted the machine and then it stopped working in the middle of our wash. So our simple wash ended up taking nearly three hours to complete. Another reason to take a day off, just for our clothes to dry.
But the town was nice and compact, and easy to walk around. We found the market area, bought some nice veggies, found a butcher and bought a chicken and some eggs, and even found a welder who would be able to repair a safety bracket designed to catch our driveshaft, should the u-joints ever break and the shaft fall off. Unlikely, but for a three dollar repair, why take the chance. We ended our day with a glass of sugary, mint tea at one of the many cafes overlooking Main Street.
Feb 19 - 20, 2009
Another long day of driving, this one taking us all of about two hours down the road and into the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Our destination was the end of the road, a village called Amtoudi where we could hike into the hills to explore a couple of agadirs. An agadir is basically a fortified storage area. What is spectacular is that they are built high on the mountains above town on rocky outcroppings, and when viewed from below look like old medieval castles (if you can spot them, they blend in so well.)
In the morning we got an early
start after waiting for the sun to warm things up a bit. The nighttime
temperatures are starting to get lower and last night's temperature was only
hike up the mountain looked like it followed a old goat track, but it turned out
not to be too difficult. When we got to the agadir, the guardian let us in
(after we paid him his “tip”) and then we spent the next couple of hours
wandering around this incredible site, climbing ladders and crawling through low
doorways to view the many different type of storage rooms.
The agadirs were built to protect the villagers’ supply of food, dates, supplies and even weapons. The villagers built rock retaining walls right at the edge of the vertical cliffs, filled in behind the wall to level an area and then built the storage rooms. On the hike down we passed some amazing cactus, and hiked by a second agadir further down in the canyon.
Feb 21, 2009
Today we went in search of petroglyphs, finding our way to several very different sites of varying age. In our quest, we drove down pistes (dirt, rocky roads) through washes, past ancient villages, or ksars, and then bush camped overlooking the Oued Draa, the major wash flowing along the Algerian/Moroccan border finally emptying into the ocean. The petroglyphs show animals from another time, evidence that the Sahara was not always a hot, dry desert. There are carvings of elephants, rhinos, antelope and even a lion.
Feb 22, 2009
Today we retraced part of our drive back out to the town of Foum el-Hassan as we were told that the route we wanted to take to some additional rock art was closed by the military due to its proximity to the Algerian Border.
We then drove to another rock art site outside of Akka at Oum el Aleg, whose art is reputed to be 3,000 years old. We used our GPS to find the site, and then spent a couple of hours enjoying finding the art. That night we bush camped, with a nighttime sky so clear that we could see stars down to the horizon. We also took advantage of the clear skies to view the Comet Lulin with our binoculars. The comet was still very faint and fuzzy, but it was fun to find and view it.
Feb 23, 2009
Today we drove back through Akka once again so that we could follow a loop road down pistes and washes to view some additional ksars and so that we could drive through one of the large palmeries where dates are grown. Just about the time that we were wondering if we had gotten lost, we passed by a rare intersection with signs, however there were so many signs it was hard to choose a direction. As we finally made our way back to the main road, we decided to change our course and drive over the mountains to get a change of scenery. We bush camped in the foothills at over 3500ft where the night temps dropped into the 40’sF.
Feb 24, 2009
|Today we drove over the Anti Atlas, with beautiful views of the High Atlas Mountains covered in snow. We also drove over our highest pass since arriving on the African Continent – 6200 ft.|
We also stopped to look at beautiful wool carpets made by hand by a
Berber woman’s cooperative and camped in the oasis, surrounded by date palms in Agdz.
Feb 25, 2009
Oops, started the day with a major problem. While filling our water tank with “drinking” water, we found little worms were swimming in the water we had just added! Even adding bleach didn’t kill the little buggers. With this development, we decided to go a bit out of our way, heading north to the city of Ouarzazate. There we could do some grocery shopping for packaged goods at a larger market and stay in town at the municipal campground where we could get good city water for our tank.
It was here that we met our first English speaking campers in several weeks in two different groups of Brits. After so long trying to get by in bad, broken French, it was a nice break to be able to have a full conversation. We stayed up late talking and sharing stories. We were also able to pick up quite a bit of information that will come in handy when we visit Portugal in a couple of months.
Feb 26 - March 1, 2009
Time to retrace our steps back south for a bit. We crossed a couple of passes with lots of switchbacks and gorgeous views and then descended back into the Agdz valley. When we got back to Agdz we did a bit of shopping, visiting the poultry butcher and the vegetable market. As we were leaving town, we chanced upon the weekly souk, or market. There were many Berbers among the crowd both buying and selling. We picked up a few more juicy looking, fresh vegetables and then bought lunch from a vendor selling kebab sandwiches. Yum! We could have even picked up a sheep or goat - if we had the room for one.
This valley is the Draa River Valley, the Draa drains this entire side of Morocco with the run off from the Atlas Mountains. It is also one of the most cultivated and prosperous of the desert regions due to the amount of water, and as we drove along the river we were surprised to see the water flowing as a river should. Throughout the valley are old villages, kasbahs and medinas (something like 20 incredible looking mud walled groups) and that was just on the right side of the river.
Arriving in the regional administrative town of Zagora, we
found the camping area recommended by our British friends and found them already
entrenched, while we were able to snag the last available camping place. The
camp is a beautiful and quiet spot located in the Palmery, right in the middle
of the oasis.
We ended up spending three nights there alternating doing chores, relaxing and meeting new overland travelers.