20 October, 2012
A great part of long term cruising is the ability to get off ones boat and travel inland. The disadvantage is that if you spend a night in a hotel you are in fact paying double – once for your boat and once for yourself. In Morocco the cost of marinas is quite inexpensive and the cost of reasonable hotels about the same so land travel doesn't break the bank.
Malua arrived in Morocco at the port of Rabat and I had a full itinerary of where I would like to visit after spending some time here in the mid '70. The place has not changed in more than 40 years - in fact more than centuries. Malua teamed up with Sundancer and we arranged aa tour from Marrakech over the high Atlas Mountains into the desert then a long way back to Marrakech, two nights and three long days.
We took the train from Rabat to Marrakech – choosing first class and a compartment to our selves for most of the way. On arrival we were accosted by the taxi drivers all wanting to take us to their favourite hotel. After a while when the crowed had dispersed we sought out a fellow and negotiated a price. We piled in and I directed with the use of my smart phone to the large square in the Medina then down the few lanes right to the door of our chosen Riad. It was a lovely house with a court yard onto which the rooms faced. Unfortunately my room had a window onto the alley next to the Riad. It was quite noise during the day but went quit towards midnight only to come alive when the street sweepers and garbage collectors started soon after dawn.
On the evening of our first night I went out into souks adjacent to the square Diemaa el Fna to look around then returned later to the many eating places or Djemaa offering a range of foods. I has sampled some spicy sausages earlier in the evening from one place but luckily for our group there were no seats available so we chose another. We had kebabs and Helen had her usual tagine of chicken, lemon and olives. It was a great meal.
That night I woke with a very bad case of jippo belly. It lasted the whole night and in the morning I was totally cleaned out. No one in our party suffered any ill effect so it must have been the spicy sausage I had eaten. By noon I was reduced to flat coke only to bring that up in front of everybody when they visited me in the room. By nightfall I was well again just in time to move on.
Our Sahara Services tour operator collected us at the Riad and we set off in a landcruiser, after paying the boss-man in euros and dirhams. An interesting transaction in the middle of the busy square.
We headed south along the main road N9 towards Ouarzazate which is after the twisty, windy pass through the Atlas Mountains. I remember these well from Denny and I previous visit in our VW combi. We had travelled up into the mountains all day to be faced with on where to stay so we pulled off the main road and took a side road up into the mountains. Stopping at the end of the single track. We closed the curtains, made some supper and went to sleep. The following morning I opened the door to find that it had snowed and we where completely snowed in. The track down the mountain was not visible. By afternoon the sun had melted the snow sufficiently for us to see the track and we carefully navigated our way back to the main tarred road.
We were not alone on this occasion as we followed other land cruisers south into the desert. We stopped at a purpose built Sahara Services hotel near the town of Mohammedia. A great dinner – which by this time I was staving and a good nights sleep capped off a great day.
The next morning I was up early to walk in the desert and hopefully get some pictures but no-one was up that early so returned to the hotel for breakfast and to be kitted up for a ride on a camel in the Sahara. Ian and Helen had ridden camels while in Sudan and Egypt so they where less enthusiastic. After and hour and a half easy stroll through a flat flood plain we dismounted anticipating to be sour for the rest of the day but that was not to be. The landcruiser met us and we were off, first through a stony desert then a sand desert with moderately high sand dunes. We arrived well after noon at a prepared camp-site with sleeping tents with en suite and a larger dining tent. The food for lunch and dinner was good, more than adequate but rather ordinary.
First light saw the full party up with cameras ready for a shot of the sun over the sand dunes but the low cloud spoilt that opportunity. We all climbed into the cruiser, taking turn in the front and middle seat as the driver chose the best route either between the boulders or over the loose sand. It was a long drive towards Marrakech not helped by the many large lorries grinding their way up and round the sharp curves of the Atlas mountains in the heavy rain and dark. We were all relieved to arrive back at Marrakech. We then had to find our way to the new Riad down the unmarked lanes of the souks.
It was at this point Pete spat the dummy and stomped off to his own room. The full rush of blood to the head would come when we arrived back at Malua when he did a runner not settling his outstanding kitty account for the boat. The bottom line was I paid him about $20 per day to sail with me from Spain to Portugal, Madeira and Morocco. The result however is that Malua is now a safer boat without him because his seamanship was dangerous and erratic.