On the road at last

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
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Trip End Aug 08, 2005


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Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, December 7, 2002

Sorry about the long entries folks, good internet access is hard to find!

On Tuesday 26th November we finally caught the ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta, a small Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Morocco. From there we drove to the official border where all the Moroccans were shouting, cheering and waving at us. We endured at least six separate passport checks and every time one official waved us through, we would drive a couple of metres before another banged on the truck and started the whole process again. One or two half-heartedly attempted to search the interior of the truck and our lockers but took one look at the mess and retreated quickly. A Moroccan guy who had lived for some years in Kent and so spoke perfect English, helped us through the border checks and in return we gave him a free lift to Rabat. En route to Rabat we stopped at a small eatery at the side of the road. There were just a few carcasses hanging up and you chose your cut and he BBQ'd it for you at the side of the road served with bread. We each had two of the smallest lamb chops and learnt Moroccan lesson number one, meat is incredibly expensive here. We arrived at the campsite in Sale (a small town next to Rabat) in the early hours of the morning. The campsite is run by Jan who we met on the CELTA course in Madrid, and her Moroccan boyfriend Rachid. It is next to a not so clean beach and is equipped with hot showers.

We've now been here for just over a week and aside from two days of rain, the sun has been shining. We've taken the opportunity since we've been here to finish many of the bits and pieces on the truck and Paul has employed a local welder with the help of Rachid, to fit some more external lockers onto the truck for holding charcoal, firewood, toolboxes and for attaching the motorbike to the front of the truck. We are now able to do our own cooking and make tea and coffee, a major bonus, especially as it's currently Ramadan and so we wouldn't be able to get food until after sunset. Truck life has its ups and downs, the truck is not yet finished, the kitty does not really leave us any money for food although it's supposed to provide two meals a day and the trip has been extended to nine months without much consultation although this doesn't really matter to us. On the plus side, we are promised an excellent adventure exploring the places tourists don't normally go and the truck is very well equipped as we are trying to cater for as many eventualities we can think of. Most of the people on the truck are easy going and hard working and we are having fun. Cooking for ourselves has had varying success so far, the first night was the turn of Sophie and Tijn who didn't check how much Moroccan 'five spice' to use and so instead of the usual couple of pinches, they used three heaped tablespoons. Needless to say, the heat eased everyone's toilet trips the next day...We cooked the next night with reasonable success (for those who are aware of Sian's ability in the kitchen then don't laugh - oh and it wasn't fajitas Marc), and then it was the turn of Will who must have put the equivalent of three tablespoons of salt in, not to be recommended.

Sale is a world away from Rabat, which is within walking distance across a bridge or by a short, precarious 'ferry' (v. small rowing boat) ride. It is like stepping back in time into an ancient medina with lots of narrow streets and alleyways and tiny shops and stalls selling everything imaginable. It comes alive at night and the streets can be very crowded with street sellers with their wares all over the pavement. The second night we were here, Jan was going to collect a djelleba (a traditional long baggy garment with a hood) and asked us if we wanted to join her so we could see a traditional Moroccan family home. Of course we agreed and after a wander through the maze of streets in the medina we arrived at Rachid's mother's house who would take us to the djellaba lady. Rachid's mother greeted Sian (one kiss on the left cheek and several on the right) and shook Kev's hand. The house is very typical of here with two sitting rooms which double as bedrooms for the children. Each sitting room has a u-shape seating area with a table in the middle. We left to collect Jan's djellaba and after a wander through more dark, narrow streets, and a short taxi ride, we arrived at another house. We removed our shoes and entered into a room filled with about 30 women. Immediately confused, Jan inquired with Rachid's mother if this was the place where the djelleba was. She assured her that it was and so we waited, and waited. The room continued to fill up until there must have been around 60 women (and Kev) looking at us with bemused faces and most especially at Kev. Jan was really confused by now and thought that they couldn't possibly be fitting djellebas for all these women. Lots of Moroccan mint tea (traditional beverage drank by the bucket load and very sweet) and small cakes later, the party began and the reality of the confusion dawned, it was actually a djelleba fashion show and Jan had inadvertently miscommunicated with her 'mother in law'. No wonder they had looked at Kev so strangely, we made a rapid exit at the earliest opportunity.

The call to prayer rings out from the mosques several times a day and as it is Ramadan, a cannon signals the end of the day's fast at sunset - around 5.30 p.m. The night after the djelleba experience, Rachid's mother kindly invited (insisted) that we join her family for the traditional meal to break the day's fast. They break it with a date and milk but instead of plain milk they make fresh milkshakes, one with avocado and sugar which is actually really nice, and another with bananas and sugar. This was followed with Harira, a vegetarian spicy lentil soup usually served during Ramadan and a rice and vegetable salad. It is traditional in Morocco when having guests for something to eat, for the family to eat in one sitting room and for the guests to eat in another. All in all it was a really good insight into traditional family life here.

Other than that we have been generally chilling out and we have spent time with Jan and Rachid. Sian decided that she wanted to buy a djelleba to help to keep her warm in the Atlas mountains. Soon everyone on the truck decided to buy one, Sian's is yellow but Kev insisted on a chocolate brown one - Obi Wan Kenobi style. In fact, Kev has been in his element as he thinks Morocco looks like a scene from Tatooine - the desert planet in Star Wars! We are all planning to wear them on Xmas day in the middle of the Sahara desert.

Kev and Rachid challenge each other at chess and Jan prepares the most delicious dishes. Sian even baked a cake for the truck with the help of Jan and her kitchen. No one here has an oven so you take your cakes, bread or whatever through the medina to a communal oven where the guy cooks it for you in a huge wood burning oven and always manages to cook things perfectly.

We hope to be moving on in the next few days, our next stop is probably Casablanca where we will arrange our visas for Mauritania.
Bye for now, hope everyone is well,
Kev and Sian.
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