The was hot before it even started, I had breakfast then began to pack up, Rob was up early again I could see him preparing the morning drink, a nod and a wave is all I can muster at this hour, Im not as bad as Matt but I admit at home Im not usually a morning person though for some strange reason when camping Im happy to be up at the crack of dawn. I was folding down the bed and chairs and packing them down, the sleeping bag was thrown over the truck to air off. Other were beginning to stir now and began their morning chores. Within the hour I had everything packed away the tent had been dropped folded and was now secured on the roof of the roof, I was leaning against the truck mopping the usual run of sweat from my face, It’s like going to the gym for half an hour every morning fukc it was hot! Around 09.30 we hit the road as a group and head towards Fez.
The road to Fez…mind the donkeys!
The roads were pretty empty and we got a move on, Mouldsy soon left us in his dust as he put his foot down quickly followed by Rob in the black Defender, well he did admit he doesn’t like to hang around! A junction with cops doing a check on vehicles and a slow bus meant Steve, Deane, Chris and me played catch up heading in the direction of Fez. The villages came alive as everyday developed into market day. People goats and sheep massed in every village and small town, we slowed down to negotiate dozens of mopeds, carts barrows piles of melon, mini herds of sheep and goat and trucks with twice the safe UK load on board I could see now why the roads were very wide, it was always very busy and going with the flow in the villages is the only way forward, it would serve no purpose to sit blasting the horn or trying to push your way through. It least at 2mph one could reach for the water and take a gulp, personally I had one of those “camle back” things that sporty people carriedwhilst ding sporty outdoor stuff in the hot part of the day. it was a bladder in a bag on your back with a pipe ands small tap to ones mouth. In my case it hung behind mer on a bolt, the pile sat over my shoulder. I filled mine daily with a small sachet of minerals, I have to say it tasted awful!
Trying to overtake a moving multi story truck was a tad difficult!
We cleared one village easy enough but then had to pass dozens of trucks for the next hour it was very slow progress, they were mostly laden with huge bales of straw hay or grass sometimes it was chucked on loose and had a tarp secured across the top with one strap or a yellow nylon rope! The roads had mile upon mile of straight bits to overtake on but getting around them was a difficult. Just about every other nation in the world drives on the other side of the road from us in England. When overtaking on a motorbike, it’s not a problem but in a vehicle its more difficult as the driver is sat on the “wrong side.” Three of our trucks had passengers so they could spot if the road was clear, but for us “singly’s” we had to do it differently, if close enough one could swing out in tandem and pass as one. The other way was to hang back a bit lean right across to the passenger seat pull over for a sneaky peak then gun it! Most of the trucks though are grossly overloaded and peeking down the side was easier said than done! This being the first day of driving together we were learning how each other drove, and picked up helpful tips from each other especially in the art of overtaking. I started to help the “singley” behind me when pulling out I would stay out for as long as I could indicate, the guy behind soon realised I was saying “Pass with me its clear ahead” In no time we were all doing it for each other. This is something I used to do in my Honda Goldwing riding days with my old pal Barry. By the end of the day we were all in the zone and overtook with more confidence.
Suffice to say it was an interesting afternoons drive, not quite up to Death Race 2ooo standards but a bit mad all the same! The high-light was the oncoming two Merc’s racing towards us side by side, everyone was way ahead at this point so it was just Steve and me who faced this dilemma We could see them but do nothing, our choice was either dive into a deep ditch to our side and crash into thick-set trees or into the two Merc’s bearing down on us we could do nothing, one guy had his hand out of the window waving at God only knows what! When as quick as a flash they were gone, the one in the middle of the road had braked and got back onto his side of the road and they flew by us at many miles per hour!
Lunchtime was a quick break by the road, Mouldsy indicated and pulled off onto some stale ground then set up his awning by a stinking man-made waterway feeding a stinking square pool, two or three kids quickly grew into ten or twenty as they played and showed off in the stinking water. As Mouldsy and co got stuck into some lunch the rest of us parked up and ate from the back of ours. I stayed on the track with my truck facing the road. There was a village a hundred yards away just around the corner of the old bridge and I could see more and more kids arrive. They began to mis-behave and got closer and braver in their actions, I even saw a couple of picking stones up. For some reason they didn’t seem very happy with us. Waiting for Moulds and co to get packed up seemed to take forever. Finally we drove off, the yelling kids ran with us one of them even kicked the side of the truck, the sandle print was there for days, another threw a fruit which splattered against the rear window of mine. I don’t think stopping would have been a good idea so I just floored the gas and got back onto the road. I wouldn’t be stopping here again for lunch! I guess lawless kids are the same in every country, put them in a pack and anything can happen. I assume it wouldn’t have gone the way it did had some adults been around. At least the rabble didn’t throw a flip-flop at me, that’s the ultimate insult isn’t it? I have to say my impression of the Moroccan people and their stinking country at this point didn’t amount to very much. The Algerians could march right in throwing flip-flops in all directions as far as I was concerned right now!
Dave makes a move on the horsebox / people carrier
Fez was the next stop it was still a couple of hours away and so we settled down into our version of Death Race 2000. We lost Mouldy again at some point andcarried on without him with Rob taking the lead. Rob had paused to check his directions with a local on a moped whom I thinktook the lead taking us to the part of Fez we were aiming for at least he seemed to be in front of us for a while and I assumed he was leading us.
Fez (or Fes) was the old capital of Morocco until 1925 and is the third largest city with a population of a million people and god knows how many goats and sheep, I saw a small herd or two on the outer ring road. It had been arranged to stop and have a look around for a short while so we found a car park, or should I say a place to leave the trucks under the watchful eye of a keeper, it was more like a giant sinkhole with houses and tall building all around the edge. In the middle was a pile of junk and car parts, the same derelict car parts made up the keepers shelter from here he had a great view of all the cars in the hole..I mean car park! I really didn’t fancy wandering into the old parts of the city today.Iin fact the city has two Medina’s one of which is listed by Unesco as a world heritage site but I wasnt interested in it today. I stayed with the old guy in his shack and kept watch, he was happy to have my company and we chatted about religion and stuff, we talked without offering opinions which was nice for a change Allah or God, Tomato or Tamato its just a faith. Quite frankly its all the same to me.
Finally I met a decent guy and a real car park attendant!
It was growing hotter by the minute as midday arrived, the metal on the vehicles became way too hot to the touch. His shack was furnished with a couple of rear seat from a ? The table was long and low we placed the mint tea on it and carried on chatting This was a proper boys secret den and from just 10 feet away you wouldn’t know we were in it. Twice the old boy spotted some youths messing around and went after them.
I think the guy in the middle owes a few pennies in car park fee’s
My red Defender and Deane’s silver Range Rover
I suppose we sat there an hour or two before everyone came back. We paid the man about a pound each, I thanked him for the tea and wished him well.He wished us well too adding Insha’ Allah.
The sunken car park was surrounded by high rise buildings
Everyone seemed to use this phrase, it’s used in both greeting and departing. I was told its Arabic and it means “Til the next time god willing” According to the reference books it’s a loose translation and has been greatly altered over the years It has become a public display of piety and fashion, a symbol of faith and the times. Inshallah has become a reflex, a bit of a linguistic tic that has attached itself to nearly every moment, every question, like the word “like” in English. But it is a powerful reference, intended or not. Whatever it really means I did start to use it! it’s the only Arabic I know…there is no use over here for the equivalent phrase “One beer please”…which I know in several tongues.
We left Deane and Steve as they had an important conference call with one of their companies early in the morning so needed the use of a hotel with internet connection, we would meet up again the following day somewhere on the road, and with that they were gone, heading towards the airport and a night in a plush westernized hotel!
We left the city behind and head towards the Atlas mountain ranges and in particular the Cedar Forest. This region is huge and spreads across the upper middle of the country, Cedar trees are the most common tree here hence the name. The forests are not so thick with tree like here in England or the Black Forest in Germany,it wasnt wall to wall forest either, large areas almost plains like as we would find out tomorrow. Meanwhile on sandy tracks we made our way to a point on the map to the oldest tree in Morocco, surrounding it was the usual tat shop selling rubbish…and tat. Locasl had horses available for horse rides, it was a popular place with Moroccans and we saw quite a few families enjoying picnics in the clearings.
Alive or dead the tallest tree in Morocco
Wise guy Mr Moulds points out the “tourists” and tat stalls
The famous tree was indeed tall but it looked a bit on the dead side to me because it shone a shiny silverish colour that some dead trees have before they rot and drop. Mouldsy had spotted an area to camp for the night just a few miles back, we made our way to the spot leaving the other to buy more stuff and join us later. we picked a flat spot the grass was grazed flat with the cedar forest to our sides and rear.
This was to be our first night of “wild camping” Moudsy and me had set up camp and stood around waiting for the other two trucks to join us. We could hear the engines, we could see the cloud of dust too….as they went straight on by! We were just out of view from the track both Rob and Mouldsy had a different location in site when talking about where we could camp. I drove my truck up to the track 500 yards away and rang Rob on the mobile, (the CB’s have proved to be rubbish with a range of just about 100 yards, it was easier to shout! Clearly something was wrong because when on the motorbike and using the same CB unit I could reach my motorbiking partner Barry on most occasions at well over half a mile! Nobody on the tour knew enough about them to fix the problem. No matter it wasnt the end of the world we had mobile phones and a good signal for them for most of the trip.
The area we chose was really quiet except for when the tourist horsemen rode on by on the way back to their homes, they just waved and said hello thankfully they didn’t stop to ask for 10 dirham for parking! we settled into the evenings routine. I cooked for myself on most nights and had plenty to of food on board to choose from, Id used nearly all the chicken on a big feast that Rob cooked back in Spain. After washing the pots we settled into the chairs to chat and look at the stars in the clear empty sky and drink the drink of course, it wasnt a party atmosphere by any means as we would be driving nearly all the next day as we would be for all the tour, (hence the 5,600 mile in total for the tour)
This is Matt Drysdale and Dave Freeman working on their photos
Mr Chris Freeman….have you noticed how he looks like Moses whereas his son looks like the boy Jesus, Im just waiting for their truck to go through the water, it will be intersting to see if it goes through…..or on it!!
Mr David Moulds…Ill leave the pose to your own interpritation!
…And son Joe who spent the whole trip in the back seat of the white 110
Morning for me started just after 6 again and kicked off with Rob brewing up then me then Chris and the boy Jesus followed by Mould and Co, at some point Matt would stomp out of the tent, grabbing shovel and bog paper on his way to the toilet somewhere is the forest, stomp stomp stomp. One by one we grabbed a shovel and bog paper setting off into the forest to do a “movement” During the night I heard some weird shit like howling and baying for a few minutes and the oddest birdnoise that I have ever heard, it didn’t go “twit twat t-whoo”I presume it was some kind of owl. Nobody else appeared to have heard anything of the sort! The howling must have been a couple of dogs?
The morning gym session began with camp furniture being dropped and folded back into the bags, the tent was next, first it was cleaned with a cloth then dropped before that too was bagged and lifted up onto the truck roof, I climbed up after it and secured it on the rack, the others were at some stage of the same process. From waking up to moving off was normally achieved in two and a bit hours, most didn’t bother with breakfast until mid morning when we stopped somewhere to prepare the second breakfast, personally I made sure I ate something and not just have a hot cup of coffee, a fave of mine is a slice of crusty bread with bread and cheese, I first tasted this in Denmark with wifey No2. I know what your thinking but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! (I mean the food and not wifey No2)
The vertical chrome twig is my arial and appears in a lot of shots, sorry!
We were on the sandy trail only for a short while when the lead truck stopped, they had spotted something in the trees….Monkeys not one but several, slowly they came down to ground level posed for photos them moved a bit closer to the trucks, I guess they were usually thrown food by the previous 4×4 groups? These guys looked expectantly at us but when nothing came they drifted away back up the trees.
Bored monkey waits for tit-bits
We mounted up and carried on through the never-ending forest, it certainly was expansive. Our snaking trail looped its way around for a few miles before ending at a seemingly empty huge wooden hotel and a tarmac road which we joined. I took a quick look left and right then another look at the apparent derelict hotel before pulling onto the road, engaging top gear to crack the pace on to our next trail a fair way down this road. Today was starting off great with lots of different and unusual things to see and not a lot of people to spoil it!
Cedar Forest region
This for sure is my favorite way of travelling. After a fair while on the road Mouldsy slowed to turn right onto tracks that led to…nowhere in particluar, it was a few tyre tracks on the sandy track that just about led in the same direction, we slowed to an appropriate speed and bashed on.
Not a tree in view….but its still the Cedar Forest, and the road is wherever you want it to be, its as basic as that!
The landscape was free of trees now just a few bushy shrubs and mountains they were so far away they were pink and purple in colour, it was shimmering in the heat but not so dangerous as to see a silent but deadly Clint Eastwood on his oss on the horizon! We pulled over after a few miles of bone jarring track.. remember folks this was a track and not yer normal smooth tarmac! We could see some huge circular holes maybe a hundred yards in diameter, it was like Mother Nature had pulled the plug-in the soil and giants had poured all their marbles down the hole which eventually clogged it up. The round boulders were all dark grey and a bit odd-looking amongst the dusty sandy soil that made up the top soil small shrubs that were bigger than a foot in height stuck to the ground like Hollywood’s cowboy fimset tumbleweed. For sure it all looked pretty unusual to us Yorkshire adventurers, even the grunting grumbling arrival of a 1970’s pink coloured truck seemed surreal!
East is East as is back is to front!! Dave Moulds on the left and Rob Drysdale hone their navigational skills…not!
Remember folks putting your cursor on any of the photographs and double left clicking will make them LARGE.
I thought the holes were very ancient and very unusual, Old Chris was explaining explain to a couple who were listening as he knows a bit about stones. Today though just to be stood looking at them was enough for me. There are enough questions to last a life time about our planet, Im only here for about 80 yrs so would often like to look and ponder and do without scientific reasons as to what and why!
The old truck trundled by kicking up a huge dust cloud which quickly dissipated across the land as we climbed back aboard the trucks and followed on behind it. It turned off onto another track and we turned away. It was fast progress on the soft track in parts but if you got any closer than 50 feet to the truck in front then you saw nothing! Which was bad as one bounded along at 40 mph into the mini dust storm kicked up my matey boy ahead running straight into the deep ruts that cut across ones path giving both truck and ass a good kicking, after the first near miss I slowed right down and steered around these infrequent obstacles.
Driving around the damn sheep and goats was important!
Now and again we saw a herd of sheep of goat, sometimes a mixed herd and a couple of people tending them, they didn’t really take a whole lot of notice of us….all that was to come later. We’d gone for a while over this fairly treeless landscape before turning off the track and onto virgin ground, the two leaders had seen their maps insist turn off, basically we were heading towards the glut of small hills about two miles away and back into forest This was now very slow driving as we picked our way around large boulders trying our best to read the ground ahead, spotting a berm or small ridge ahead meant it was a deep and narrow ditch so swinging the wheel left or right we drove around andtowards the flatter parts it was hot work but good exercise for the arms especially us guys with the larger steering wheels.
31 yr old IONA finds her way across the bumps and grinds
I saw a track converging from my left going roughly in the direction we wanted, I watched as it turned and went parallel to my direction, I decided to get on it I hit it at an angle bouncing up and over onto it, I saw the white 110 do the same ahead, the black 90 ahead also turned in our direction behind me I saw Iona swing hard to bounce onto the track behind me. It smoothed out a bit, letting the seatbelt swing free for a few minutes I adjusted myself and took more water, we had to constantly take water whatever we were doing.
The Cedar trees were numerous and stood to on the valley walls to our left and right, the walls sloped away gently both covered in a blaze of green, it got narrow pretty soon and a bit cooler when the sky above was blotted out by the green canopy, we were driving on one side of the valley now and the drop at the side was quite steep. I saw huge trunks that had been felled and chunks had been cut away, not by hand saw either, it looked like someone was making a living from the wood. The further we went on this track the more felled trees we came across some of them where absolute giants. Eyes were on the GPS as the arrow pointed in another direction and did so since the fork in the forest a mile or so previous we decided to turn around and take the other fork, presently the GPS in Helen’s had calmed down so we were on the correct trail. It can be difficult to plot on these tracks, sometimes the indicators where as basic as a pyramid of stones piled up by the roadside and were splashed with white paint, sometimes they had a number sometimes they didn’t. We pulled over in a clearing up ahead to have lunch and take a closer look at some felled trees.
Trust me Rob says Chris it really IS Cedar wood
No shirt required for 3 weeks!
After an hour we packed up and moved on again the track pointed towards the hills, the forest went sparse again and we kicked up more dust as we moved up a gear whilst at the same time dropping further back from the dusty guy in front.
I presume its straight ahead captain?
Is this the way to Amarillo?
We picked our way over an old crumbling bridge, in the water by the side lay a ne concrete box section of new bridge apparently dumped? A bit of a puzzle to me but probably clear as mud to the locals.
IONA leads the black 90 up through the forest trail
The lead man got the bit between his teeth and powered on up the hill slithering round the corner in rally style. Aha… it was playtime! The track was getting wider as boulder and tree moved further back so I floored it too and skidded round the open corner kicking my dust all over the place, Guns and Roses fought their way out of the quiet stereo, I flicked the volume up high and of we jolly well went! All the corners now were open of obstruction with no limitations on the view so gun it we did for half an hour, I watched and copied the black 90 in front.
Rob picks up the pace!
Power sliding a 12-year-old Land Rover weighing in at two and a half tons doesn’t sound fast but by ‘ell it was great fun good practice and gave me a feel for it. We stopped the charge after a while and got out of the trucks grinning like little boys having done something naughty. The main tarmac road wasnt far away now, It was still hot and the sun was beating down and the clouds were few in number, however the further we looked the more dark blue the horizon seemed. Once on the road we could see wall to wall dark blue to our right….a storm was coming! we drove on the long wide empty road for miles and at the next town along we turned right and went straight towards the angry sky.
Passing one of the few vehicles we saw today, happy as Larry these guys were, they reached across and were given cigarettes! This is probably the first version of the Renault People Carrier
Approaching Midelt and those angry skies
This town called Midelt was busy with people donkeys goats mopeds and battered old vans and small lorries the shops were open and piles of fruit and veg were stacked up by the shops. When I say shops I mean the front was like a garage door and locked back to reveal usually a huge counter, behind that was the owner and everything under the sun was stacked on the shelves from floor to ceiling, you didn’t actually go in and walk around putting stuff in the trolley then paying at the checkout. The shops were generally small dark caves and catered for everything. A modern pepsi drinks fridge was usually at the counter and stacked with flavoured juices and fizzy pop. another counter was at the other side as was (depending on the time of day) filled with bread. mostly the bread was like a large flat breadbun 8 inches in diameter (250 cm) I liked it very much but it would only last about 24 hrs before going hard so we stopped for bread daily the shops were openall day long by the roadside, you could see what they sold from the truck, there was none of this crap about double yellow lines or looking out for the half brained ( the ones I’ve clashed with certainly where and resulted in a full refund every time) parking attendant) People just pulled over the car van or donkey and bought their goods. The roads through these far-flung towns seemed twice the width of normal roads, on the narrow ones one just slowed right down and went with the flow through the throng of people…without blasting the horn, I said hello to more locals from behind the steering wheel they often acknowledged my slow progress with a nod, the front wings of the truck were often rubbed clean by folk squeezing by, soon to get dusted up again with the next hour! We pulled up a few miles outside of town. Steve and Deane were up ahead and booked into another hotel! They made contact on the phone with a weather reportThey had done their video conference and got here just before us, they were under those very blue-black skies and the rain was coming down in buckets! Ok so we had a decision to make bang on down the road to the same hotel or turn here into the campsite, it actually looked well serviced and had more than the usual amenities so we voted to camp here. We were parked and pitched up within the hour, the temp dropped a bit and the winds came, next would be the rain!
Hey we were also finally out of the Cedar Forest region, it had been a long hot transit through the region WE trudged to the shower block for a well earned shower, and a footwash in the bottom of the shower of my shorts, shirt and stuff,Id forgotten some clothes and asked my old mate Rob to bring me some. BIG MISTAKE! he dropped off a clean pair of black womans cami knickers, Oh you bstard I thought, I grinned and pulled them on before striding out from the block in all my glory, Fukc you I thought! There followed hoots of laughter as they were in onthe joke…….I wore them for the next two days.
Me and those bloody Cami Knickers!! Have to say they felt nice to the touch after days of rough denim shorts! Photo taken by Dave Moulds, the closet stalker!