It was with a need to pinch ourselves to make sure that we were not still dreaming, that we embarked loudly and excitedly on our second sand dune “ride” that morning; was it really us? Could this really be true? Despite 4 days travelling through ever changing terrain and culture to get to the Sahara, Nuneaton and our normal lives seemed very far away.
It would be difficult to know where to begin with answering the question “which were the most poignant moments?” because naturally these would vary depending upon which member of the family you asked.
On a 4×4 trip such as this, most emphasis might be placed on the vehicle and related issues, but as a young family (well the kids are young!) with very little travel experience there were many other issues for us, for example, who to travel with, what sights to see, the culture, food and navigation and, possibly most importantly, how to cope when “the going gets tough!”- All of these provided many moments of reflection.
For the statisticians amongst you, we covered nearly 4500 Miles in 18 days, travelling via Plymouth, St Malo, Lourdes, Almadrona, Estapona, Tarifa, Tangier, (where we were greeted with Moroccan officialdom and mint tea, no choice about either item!).
Armed with our “Tulip diagrams” which our daughter called “daffodils!” we relied on a blend of G.P.S, road maps (Michelin and TPC’s) and compass…… to enable us to meet up each evening at the same place as our comrades! Needless to say this was the cause of many tales- from those of us who were mislaid by locals, or messed up on navigation basics, or relied on signs which were out of date, or took detours to pick up that all important souvenir from the “bargain basement” of Moroccan “souks”.
Oh! And there were also those who broke down having the experience of bush mechanics. We partook in a variety of Moroccan ways of life during our exploration of this fascinating country. We had 2 designated campsites (not appearing in Camping & Caravanning!”), 4 “wild camps”, 4 hotels and one unscheduled Auberge.
To explain further:-
One campsite was close to the famous Roman ruins of Voulibilis near Moulay Idris, our first overnight stop off the ferry. We were glad to be relatively self-sufficient when we surveyed the facilities, but after all, what more do you need than a shelter off the main thoroughfare? Our daughter and her new travelling friend embarked upon a video diary for camping acquaintances back home, exclaiming at the washrooms “you would say it’s a little different to home” & “you can tell this is a poor country”- good sociological discovery for 7 & 8 year olds!
The next campsite was at the top of the beautiful “Cascades d’Ouzoud”. My lack of literary skills prevents me from describing this in exact detail! Suffice to say it was an experience not to be missed, with a double lullaby of “frog chorus” and “hippy” style travellers serenading us to sleep with songs of peace.
Domestic services had deteriorated from the last site! Suffice to say that the toilets are not British and instead of taking a newspaper, one has to take nose clips and a strong stomach.
Very little imagination was needed to believe that we could be anywhere in the world at this point – rather than just a few hours away from the southern tip of tourist “Costa Spain”; this is what we believe is the real essence of travel.
The cascades were a wonderful sight, still retaining a “local” feel as gentle steps hewn into the side gave you an entrance, whilst one exited through olive groves. Here we sampled our first taste of Moroccan “bartering” as the men paid the locals a complicated fee (which amounted to 50p) for our traverse across the base of the falls in home-made wooden rafts- one named “Titanic!”