Return to Morocco…2016…Part 1

The land of Morocco had worked its magic lured me back for a second visit and this time I would be taking Julie. I went with some friends in 2014 and was so blown away by the land that I quite fancied returning some day to show Julie, but she doesn’t do the hot weather too well and is not a great fan of Morocco from what she has heard and seen so far, Brown.. dusty.. and dirty, so perhaps it wasnt to be….Until one evening on a campsite in Copenhagen when Pete and Jo popped round, bringing with them a box of wine and a promise of a good time in Morocco.

A year later and there we were driving up the ramp into the black bowels of the Brittany Ferries ship at Portsmouth on the start of the adventure to Morocco with “Atlas Overland 4×4 Adventure Tours” Standing at the stern we spotted Pete & Jo and their new truck we waved and two white hands waved back from the cab. Most of the group we met this afternoon, except for Ian’s wife who was meeting at Gibraltar, at the ferry to Tangier we would also meet the guys with the old Disco. Were officially the tour would begin, the trip down through Spain was independent as would be the trip back. It was going to take 4 days to get to Morocco from our house! We had approx 900 miles driving to do through the UK and Spain (excluding sea miles) before reaching Morocco!


Waiting for the ferry ahead of the mobile tin cans…Happy to be in front and not stuck behind them!


03                      1982 Falklands vet HMS Bristol now a training ship


04   RN warships in for various refits..In the foreground is HMS RICHMOND

The bow door closed as the last of the vehicles were shovelled in, the mooring  lines were cast off and we turned around before making our way past the RN warships to the open sea. RN Portsmouth is a huge garage for the fleet, there is always some ship or other moored up with scaffold erections holding white tarps shrouding sensitive kit, usually. in 2019 the garage will be extremely busy upgrading all the engines on the new breed of Type 45 Daring class of destroyer as the original engines cannot generate enough power to keep the damn lights on! Just google it, it makes for heartbreaking news and all thanks to Cameron and the grey suits from Whitehall trying to save money, they should all be strung up by the fookin yard-arm!

Anyhow on with the tale, The crossing across the Bay of Biscay was uneventful and flat calm, the crossing is even quicker now as I saw several dolphins as they torpedoed they way towards our port side, if your quick enough you can dash across to the starboard side to see them as the come up! The crossing is even quicker now as they use smaller vessels which allows passage through the islands just off the French coastline at Brest shaving many hours and miles of the trip. So with just 20 hrs on board we now disembark onto Spanish soil at Santander and begin our run south . The sun has been with us since Portsmouth and is still with us as we pull over for afternoon tea halfway through The Picos Mountains, It’s still March and so a tad chilly as the snowy tops high above remind us. Salamanca and Camping Regio was our target for today on the edge of the city. We were travelling together for this part, and happy to be getting to know a bit about each other. We were the only couple to be actually camping with a ground tent, so we would always be busy for the first half an hour erecting it and the beds and getting sorted and always striving to get the job done before darkness comes. Ian and Marie in the Defender 110 had one of those crank up roof tents that looked like a posh coffin. Atlas boss Pete and wife Jo had the inside of their truck specially converted by a bolshi German down Bavaria way, they would be living in it on and off from March to September so it had to be special. Ian had purchased Pete’s old Troopi so was living inside the spacious rear too. Carrick came with a brand new Disco and would also be sleeping in the back, he had tons of room and had one of those specially made mattress things that roll up, Carrick is Pete’s right hand man of many trips and quite a character for 70 yrs old he knows a lot of stuff which he is keen to impart on you how interesting depends on the individual! However he is very keen to be of help and actually a nice old boy. That made up the team as we made camp at Salamanca.


Julie wrapped up against the wind, I always drive with the window open..its a 90 after all!..This results in a cold blast around Julie which she combats with her fave fleece and her Arnie style prescription glasses.


 Tent up in Salamanca and about to join the others over on the left for drinks.

Morning for us came at 0630 and hot coffee as soon as. It was a cold night for us and it caught us both out forgetting it was still only March and we were pretty high up, still once we got moving around it wasnt so bad, we had brought thicker clothes for the few days in the High Atlas mountains but we needed them sooner that I thought! The photo above was taken around 7 in the morning. People began to rise as we had breakfast Id brought plenty of bacon and so did us something warm. zips moved and door handles opened as folk got on with waking up. Come 0930 and e were rolling again. Ian and Marie went off first taking their own way south.  We’d had a chat about what folk were going to do.  It was Easter Sunday today and the city would be busy with celebrations but to be honest we just wanted to go south so we too would go as soon as we were ready too.  Pete and Carrick also changed their plan and so we three went down the motorway a short while before taking in some scenic back roads through the small town of Canaveral. Ian had gone early making his way to Gib to collect his wife as she took the easy option on the plane, time of work being an issue.


 On the motorway south behind Pete with the snowy Sierra Gredos to our front



A typical spacious uncluttered motorway garage, not all had eating facilities but they all had attended pumps, they dont take too kindly to DIY fuelling unless they are really really busy



Lunch time on the grassy slopes overlooking the lakes.

The sun was up the sky was blue and the snow topped mountains as we are in Spain I should really call them the Sierra’s shouldn’t I? It all looked familiar the lovely twisting tarmac road and the sunken lakes, beautiful biking road it was..right got it! Id come this way in 1998 on the bike with 90 others on our way to Faro in Portugal for a brilliant but sleepless biker weekend! Puling over for lunch we took in the views and listened at the  motorbikes as they enjoyed Sunday. We drove on into the normally boiling region of Extremadura and the town of Merida before hopping back onto the motorway. At a service station we saw Ian and Marie briefly before continuing the drive, we would all meet up that evening in Sevilla at the next camp.


We were busy with the camera whilst on the move, I was pointing out stuff for Julie to capture with the smaller camera. Here we now began to see hundreds of black tipped Cranes and their high nesting places, all the way now to the southern coast we spotted the giant long legged birds, and the smaller white rubber necked Egrets.

Dos Hermanos was the region we looked for just south of Sevilla and our next campsite, we pulled up to reception as Marie popped up on the radio to say they were already here, we checked in before pulling into our hedge lined bay and set up camp. It was quite warm here which was welcomed and not so surprising as we were now only about a hundred or so miles from the south coast.


                                                              Camp Sevilla

This site was one used by Pete a while ago and not in the plan for the trip down, but hey that’s what adventuring is about right? A good night was had here with another of Pete’s world famoooos stories, this one was about a lady from the UK who hadn’t rehydrated at all on the journey down, it was told in a funny way but actually was a good training chat as to why one should rehydrate, we had been and would be doing so all the way the water being diluted with salt tablets. In the morning we did a last shop at one of the huge supermarkets, cramming our fridge full of goodness then went our own way to the next camp on the south coast. we left the motorway really early to go a different way, Pete and Jo were going to Cadiz to get our ferry tickets from the agent we would see them in the evening… Imshalla. This part of the journey was along the quaintest of little roads that picked its way around the hills and towns, it was a really enjoyable journey. Inner Spain has been one of my favourite place of mine to travel in since the 1990’s and since meeting Julie its been one of hers too, there is more to Spain than its coast and its fab beaches folks!

The camp site was on the south coast just about 10 miles short of the ferry port and town of Algeciras, and just up the road a few miles further is the more famous Gibraltar. We pulled into the camp site at Rio Jara which is in the “Parque Natural del Estecho” Its a wonderful place I have to say with the most amazing long windy beach, so much so that wind surfing and the modern take on it goes off here big time. We set up camp then went down onto the beach pausing fora shot of the famous AFRICA post. There is so much action to watch at the water’s edge in the stiff breeze, a breeze that’s here most of the year and makes the place what it is, its a fantastic splurge of different and lurid colours to capture.


Nearly there Julie!


                                Shadows play at our feet, sails dance in the sky


               Looking up or down the beach, the sight was just the same

025                              I could have sat here all afternoon taking photos!

We spent quite a while here before returning to the truck to start the evening meal and greet the rest of the group. The beach I felt was just spectacular and good for the soul, the sun was shining, the wind was blowy but not cold and the beach was full of happy souls.


022 Proper made up with the exact right feelings, had the trip ended here I would have been quite happy


028Pete arrives fromthe ticket agent in Cadiz with  a folder full of tickets and information to be absorbed before the morning ferry.

029                                                 Carrick and his new motor


030Ian’s been about a bit but he still doesnt know how to blend in does he?


                                                    Marie soaking up some rays

It was here that Id send my last update on FaceBook for a few days along with Maria and the others. The evening meeting was packed so full of information about the tickets and paperwork, it was double the load really because the vehicle entry and exit paperwork was as important as just showing our passport, its was different from the last time too because we were sailing to Tangier Med therefore straight into Morocco and not across to the small Spanish enclave. There was so much to take in, thankfully we were not all that thick and we had the radio’s to double-check. Hence we were up early packed and on the road by 08.30 the following morning, the port area was empty so our transit through the checks was that bit easier. The ferry was roomy and empty too so the second part of the paperwork was completed with no drama’s too. Landing in Morocco at Tangier Med was a beautiful experience compared to the previous landing at the other dreadful place in 2014 AND I didn’t have to do business with “Tommy Cooper”  a six-foot Moroccan shyster who demanded money for doing naff all. Hence we were through the double checks within half an hour and had time for Ian to try to fix his broken roof rack.

035                                      Ian pulls and tugs at the griddle on the roof


034              Not exactly what he meant Ian when Pete asked for a hand…

Basically the grill part of the roof rack broke away from the weld and was now rubbing  on the roof of the troopi, it was becoming a problem, It had to be lifted enough to insert a piece of rubber between it and the roof as a tempo fix. Meanwhile a Moroccan family was looking at our vehicles, Dad was explaining what was what to his teenage kids, he was at mine now and speaking about the double poppy’s his wife thought otherwise he and the kids turned to me and I explained about the poppy’s and what it meant I had on my wide-brimmed sun hat, Dad thanked me for explaining to his family I smile broadly and said “no worries mate it’s a pleasure” To which his daughter asked if I was Australian! Wow that’s good for a young Moroccan lass I thought “No flower Im from Yorkshire in England!”