2.9 Intriguing Sea
The sea has always intrigued Brigitte and me. Whenever we were allowed to live by the sea on our professional journey, we were even happier. The thought of the sea always brings back fond memories, such as those we had in Guam, the Philippines or Dubai. So today we are really keen to go to the sea again. Of course, we imagine that it would be simply fantastic to be able to stand directly on a lonely beach somewhere with the FRAME and our tiny house. Until then, however, there are still a few kilometers that we want to cover in the next two days. In addition, now once again real food shopping is announced. There are no more foreign grocery stores here south of the Atlas Mountains, but in cities like Tata or Guelmim we will hopefully once again find more than just the usual five vegetables and three types of fruit. We are having a bit of a hard time with the canned food that is common in this region.
At the end of the off-road southern route, our tire rubber once again meets asphalt. Whether the Unimog likes it as much as we do, we dare to doubt. But we are now happy to be able to drive a little more relaxed and less jerky, not least to get closer to our goal, the sea, faster.
In Tissint, we quickly stop right in front of a small grocery store on the left side of the road. When I come back to the car with two lovely warm breads as usual for barely 40 centimes, I am lamentingly "greeted" by a policeman. He scolds at me because I parked on the left side of the street. It is just like that, one accepts the local customs quite fast, if they are convenient for oneself. Parking on the left, however, we now consider to be a little less bad than running red lights, overtaking in a blind curve or driving with tires with no tread, all of which is commonplace in this country. The policeman, as usual in immaculate uniform, reminds me a little of Louis de Funes in his mannerisms. Of course, I don't find his tone and accusations funny at all. Even my apologies are not accepted by him. He takes all my papers and demands that I follow him. I am literally hauled away because of my inexcusable offense: parking on the left side of the road in Tissint!
Somehow we are shocked. After more than two weeks in the lap of nature and away from civilization, reality has quickly caught up with us here. We disapprovingly follow the gendarme and do not know what to make of it. Up to now, all our contacts with the locals have always been extremely courteous and friendly. But this policeman is not to be messed with. At the end of the main road at a traffic circle he finally stops next to other police vehicles, which are set up here for the usual road control. He makes us again urgently aware of our offense. I am already expecting the maximum penalty, probably life imprisonment, when he takes my hand and tells me that he will refrain from a fine. WOW, what a relief! How can this be? Does he perhaps expect a small gift for the employees' kitty, I think to myself. No, no, he replies, but in the center he had to make an example, because his citizens are watching him closely. He simply cannot tolerate such left side parking. But it is no problem, he apologizes and wishes us a nice stay in his country. It is a huge load off our minds and we are not only happy to get away with it, but also that we don't have to revise our opinion about the friendliness of the Moroccans.
Leaving Tissint, which lies between striking mountain ranges, we are amazed by a large canyon that is bursting with palm trees and fertility. We briefly consider whether we should perhaps seek out here for a night's camp, so well do we like it after this funny incident with the Moroccan version of Louis de Funes.
above: At Tissint Canyon
below: "Small" car in the big terrain
Actually, we wanted to get to Tata today. There we have located a garage, which should remove our piece of sand board from the diesel tank. Since tomorrow is already Sunday and thus general rest day, we want to drop by there definitely still today. And so we continue our journey. Seventy kilometers further on, however, the garage turns out to be unsuitable to lay hands on our Unimog. The matter seems to be too delicate for me to let a stranger from the backyard touch the guts of my baby. A short time later, south of Tata, we put ourselves in sufficient distance from the main road under a rock and cook ourselves a delicious dinner. As so often, curious children from the neighborhood come to visit us in the evening. Where exactly they come from, we cannot find out. Children seem to have a much larger playground than we are used to at home. Even the smallest ones move miles away from home. First, two little boys arrive, earning some school stationery and sweets with their friendly welcomes. Later, one of them comes back again. Now with a barely four year old girl. He proudly introduces me to his little sister Maha. We communicate in French and I manage to explain the magic of soap bubbles to both of them with the help of our brought along children's toys. I am almost sure that they have never made soap bubbles themselves, because they are completely thrilled by the lightness of the colored balls dancing in front of their big eyes. They thank me warmly and are gone again as quickly as they came.
The next morning we see the little boy again when we reach the asphalt road, as he stands with a teenage girl at the bus stop. A few meters further we routinely stop again, there he runs immediately to us. This is now his big sister, he explains to us with a beaming smile. We also have something for her in our gift box, which pleases the young girl very much. She is dressed completely in pink and is therefore presented by us with a matching pink scarf. Her eyes sparkle and we know that this piece of clothing, which has been decommissioned for us, will now also bring a lot of joy once again.
Our route takes us in a southwesterly direction from Tata via Akka and Icht to Guelmim. Here we want to spend the night once again in a camp to fill up with water. There is no hurry yet, but better too early than too late. On the way we fill up again with diesel into the still damaged, but definitely not leaking big diesel tank. We drive as so often through constantly changing landscapes and every now and then through lush oasis villages with palm trees. We are just before the intended camp and barely 30 kilometers before Guelmim, when rolling hills in the glittering backlight catch our eye. You can literally feel the force with which these ridges were pushed up millions of years ago. The place once again exudes the magic in which we love to spend the night. The destination is unceremoniously moved forward, as we see a path that can lead us away from the road and towards the rolling mountains. We see all sorts of things in these rock formations. A wet crocodile ridge probably comes closest to the description. Thick tracks on the ground make us wonder if tanks might have passed through here recently? This would possibly indicate a military zone and thus be contrary to the desired quiet night. The more we walk through this exciting landscape, the more unanswered questions arise. When was the last time water flowed through here? How did the fascinating stone formations of so many different colors and shapes of stones come about? How and when do you think the crocodile hills were formed? This area arouses curiosity, but it also inspires our imagination.
The night becomes quiet, completely without tanks and crocodiles in our dreams. So, the following day, after more than six weeks of mountain and desert adventures, we drive once again to a city with more than a hundred thousand inhabitants. The last one was probably Beni Mellal just before Christmas and before crossing the High Atlas. Not even properly arrived at the outskirts of the city we see on the right side a large Marjanas, a supermarket, the probably largest Moroccan food chain, with numerous campers on the parking lot presented. Immediately a Unimog Overlander catches our eye, of course we go there immediately. It is this the Monstro Mog, of two young-at-heart French full-time travelers, with whom we have exchanged ourselves coincidentally in the last days intensively over Instagram, whose exact location we did not know however. We exchange our stories and also go shopping together right away. The offer is extremely pleasing and of course more diverse than the street markets of recent weeks. Organic food or alcohol, as available in the Carrefours, is not to be found in Marjanas. So we get the tip from our nice Unimog buddies that one can ask in the Alibaba Cafe, in the center of Guelmim, for the urban sin temple, speak liquor store. Alibaba as a place to go for beer and wine drinkers. That sounds kind of exciting. So we make our way to Alibaba and leave our truck on the right side of the road for lack of suitable parking. Mind you, the RIGHT side. From the left hand parking, we are cured since Tissint. To be sure, I ask a policeman standing next to me if I can leave my car here for five minutes. "No problem" he replies. That it will rather turn out to be a Moroccan five minutes, I did not know at this point of time, of course. So I steal myself into the Alibaba Cafe and look for a suitable contact person here. The man at the bar seems to be the right one. Now, how do I tell the good man that I'm looking for the frowned-upon alcohol? I don't have a code word and a carnation in my buttonhole doesn't seem to make much sense here either. So, looking at the ceiling and in a low voice, I simply tell him a story about an acquaintance who whispered to me that this pub was the key to beer and wine. The barman looks at the opposite ceiling and says in an equally quiet voice that I should just walk straight ahead into the market and that the place I'm looking for is probably to be found somehow there in the alleys. His explanation seems much too vague to me and I ask him to please show me the place on my Google Map. Either the good man has never seen a map or he is not really ready to give me better information, so I march times in the described direction in the middle of the market of Guelmim. But the search soon becomes hopeless and I dare to ask a young vegetable seller for my destination. Oh, what a mistake! The devout Muslim scolds me and my unbelieving clan of luxury food consumers that I soon take flight back to Alibaba. At the second attempt and much observation, where the men probably most likely heavily packed stride out of an inconspicuous door, it finally works out. But this backyard garage is amazing. Shelves packed to the ceiling with spirits, wine, beer or even champagne. Probably at extraordinarily expensive prices, but everything available, what the sinful connoisseur wishes. We also fill our bag with Casablanca beer, because we still have some wine left in our traveling wine cellar. The five minutes have now turned into thirty, but the gendarme lets us clear the road with a wink. We are fully packed, equipped, we are ready to hit the road to the sea!
We soon drive away from the main road into hilly terrain in the direction of Sidi Ifni. After a little over an hour, we finally catch sight of the roaring Atlantic. For the time being, however, our route takes us to a campsite, where we can finally wash our desert clothes and fill up on fresh water. We stay for two days and meet Jacqueline and Dirk with their gigantic Mercedes truck. We know the two Frankfurters from a short encounter before the start of our southern route adventure. Dirk, a handsome two meters plus guy, has had his living unit built appropriately high and spacious, which makes our vehicle next to his, look like a small dinghy to the main ship.
above: First encounter of the sea north of Sidi Ifni
Our common goal is a preferably undisturbed, unseen beach site, where we want to enjoy the next days. Many people we met and also some comments in the internet affirm that free standing at the sea is a thing of the past in Morocco. The police or even the military seems to hunt the wild campers downright from one place to the next. Always with the pretext of insecurity, but presumably also to give some business to the campsites of the region. Morocco's tourism strategy is unique in this respect. All countries tend to downplay their criminality and often assure false security in order not to discourage tourism. Morocco seems to act totally contrary. They drive wild campers up and down the coast to proactively avoid any problems with tourists. Are they really succeeding in this? The problem of potential criminality is certainly not solved in this way, but only shifted. I am of the opinion that the authorities are actually helping potential burglars. Because who has ever heard of a burglary in a wild camper van, which stood lonely and alone somewhere at the sea, in the forest or in the desert? After all, the burglars are far too comfortable to go looking for such wild campers in the first place. They go where there is enough supply, where the police round them all up, somewhere in supposedly safe places, rest stops or village centers. And if you think that overlanders or other wild campers are more likely to go to a campsite as a result, you're wrong yet again. Who would buy climbing equipment only to take the cable car up the mountain? Besides the nationwide pollution by plastic and garbage, this hunt for tourists seems to me to be the only real problem in this otherwise so wonderful and extremely friendly country.
So we are forewarned and in some respects already experienced, since our midnightly forced displacement by the Royal Gendarmerie shortly before Christmas. Our attention is therefore focused on a place which, on the one hand, cannot be seen from the through road and, ideally, cannot be reached at all by a (civil servant) vehicle that is not suitable for extreme off-road driving. With the help of our topographic maps, we find such a place somewhere between Mirleft and Aglou. In the first attempt our friends still have some concerns to drive this stony road with their expedition vehicle. But after a night at a not so optimal place we agree to entrust this way to our vehicles. And so we are now standing about thirty meters above the sea, in front of us a huge, kilometer-long sandy beach in both directions, north and south. A first week passes in no time with observations of nature and extended walks on the beach. At low tide, a surreal landscape emerges. A few meters of polished gray rock, right next to it covered with thick lush green moss and behind it again a new formation in bright red. We are once again amazed at the beauty and diversity of nature, scouring this landscape several times and always discovering something new. Soon the tide app becomes our most viewed app to be ready for the next low tide. Also the fishermen, crab and squid collectors come of course mainly during low tide. Often they also come in the late evening or early morning and do their work without any daylight at all. Of course we are not that ambitious. We prefer to spend the evenings playing cards with our friends or reading an exciting book. Also the processing of our photo and video material hardly takes an end and occupies us continuously.
above: Drive to the lonely beach
below left: good on the 1st day
below right: perfect as of the 2nd day
The weather moods here by the sea are just as fascinating and varied as the sea itself. No two evening moods are alike and especially what you would call rather bad weather is particularly exciting at this location. Rainbows, storm clouds, backlit sea spray, our nature cinema is ten times more exciting than any TV program in winter at home.
below: sun, rain, storm. The weather situation changes almost hourly
As in the mountains and in the desert, we also get here at the sea regular visit of a local. Dibe. a.k.a. "The Wolf" is an extremely friendly fisherman without any reservations about us foreigners. Almost every day he stops by before or after his work is done to make sure that everything is okay with us. The family man in his mid-forties surprises us several times with a homemade tagine or the couscous that Moroccans usually prepare on Fridays. He also brings us sweet mint tea and literally floods us with his wine-red prickly pears. That's Moroccan hospitality. Exuberant and warm. Dibe not only catches fish, but often pokes around during low tide for the squid hiding in the rocks. Over the days he tells us a lot about the sea, the tides and his daily life. It is always extremely exciting to listen to his explanations and often amusing, because just like the young shepherd in the High Atlas, Dibe always snaps when he agrees with me. "ça marche" appears almost at the end of every sentence and indeed, in his nature-loving life by the sea, many things seem to be going very well.
Dibe at one of his daily works: Here the squid search
As our fresh produce runs low after a few days, Dirk and I saddle up the bike and ride to Aglou, about 13 kilometers away. At the north end of the village, we find a small general store that supplies us with the essentials. Getting fresh vegetables or fruit is rather a matter of luck here. Often the goods have been on the shelves for far too long. The return trip I dare then over the beach. In the meantime, it's almost low tide and I reckon I have the best chance of covering the entire distance along the seashore. E-Fati makes it possible. My fat tires run perfectly over the wet sand even with standard road pressure. Only at the very beginning I have to swerve again briefly over the cliffs, the rest of the route has been cleared by the low tide in the meantime. Simply marvelous! A spectacle between seagulls, sand and waves. I drive myself almost in trance in the glitter of the midday sun. By the way, I'll do this route twice more in the coming days and the route in the other direction to the bakery eight kilometers away in the south of our location will also become part of my fitness program.
How the salt and sand will affect my wheel hubs, I don't know yet. However, rust inhibitors, steel wool cloths and protective oil will be among my weapons against the forces of nature from today on. The fight is hereby opened!
After about ten days and a very restless stormy night Jacqueline and Dirk decide to look for wind protection inland. The weather forecast for the next three days doesn't look very rosy and they don't have as much time as we do. The nightly thunderstorm did not affect us that much. On the contrary, we enjoy the light rocking and the tapping of the raindrops in combination with the sound of the waves and actually feel quite comfortable in this natural sound therapy. For us, however, it's time to leave to refill our 300 liter water tank and hopefully spend another ten carefree days in this dreamlike place. It is hard to believe, but in the afternoon of the same day we are already sitting in front of our vehicle again and enjoy the sun, without wind and rain and now unfortunately without Jacqueline and Dirk ;-(
above: We enjoy the best hours in great company with Jacqueline and Dirk.
below: Intriguing sea
The days go by in a flash. While our loved ones in Switzerland have to fight without snow but with a lot of cold, we enjoy the sun and the sea here in the south of Morocco. Since the water refueling the pump gives us some trouble, pulls air without end and makes terrible noises, so we do not know how long we can really stay here. Because without water it will be impossible even at the sea. Fortunately, we get the technical problem under control again after a few days, even without installing the spare pump, which we carry with us anyway for refueling from rivers or lakes.
After another ten entertaining days at our beloved sea, we finally move on. We still want to visit Marrakech and Rabat and on the way we also want to explore the hippie town of Essaouira. After two nights in the camp at Tifnit for the compulsory laundry and a side trip to the Carrefour of Agadir, we feel now definitely back in the world of consumption. Never before have we been so excited about a grocery store. We seem to be really starved. Especially the organic products Brigitte has missed in the last two months. Here they are again.
But it's still quite a way to Essaouira, always following the coast in a northerly direction. The sea will not get rid of us so quickly. At Ras Sim, north of Kaouki Beach, we find another great place where the surfers swim all day in their wetsuits in the water and wait for that one big wave. At the very back of this beach, just before the sand dunes begin, we find our lonely cliff. Except quad and motocross bikers nobody comes here. We are already addicted to the fascination of the sea again and count up our remaining days according to the visa. If we hurry a little bit on our way north, we will have another three days here. And that's exactly how we do it!
below: Impressions Ras Sim
Next Blog: 2.10 Essaouira, Marrakech, Rabat