This was possibly, the morning that will stay in the mind the longest..
Ok, so we knew the Satnav was crap over here. But we didn’t know quite how bad.
We were heading for Ouarzzarte, our final destination in Morocco, the edge of the Sahara! So far so good, we are making a few turns, getting closer to the ring road on the outskirts of the city. Then this little intersection was a bit of an omen.
And then the Satnav said turn left, towards the entrance to the Medina.
So I obeyed her.
We got stuck halfway through the entrance.. like actually stuck. There were kids on the footpath pressing their bodies up against the wall as I tried to reverse out and I had to make them stand on their toes so I didn’t run over their feet. There are no photos or videos of this event because this was a very stressful time for the driver..
We spent the morning in the same medina in Rabat looking for a knife. Wasn’t the easiest thing to communicate, or find, but eventually we found a nifty little set of knives in a filthy packet but couldn’t have been happier. The plan was to make sandwiches using whatever bread and cheese we could find and salami from Spain. We found out later cheese doesn’t really exist in Morocco.
We headed to Marrakech to find the boutique apartments we had booked, but the trouble started when we hit the town. The Satnav kept pointing us in random directions. A couple of young guys on a moped saw us looking confused at a roundabout and offered to show us the way. Was awesome. Right up to when we realised this was a thing. And they weren’t budging unless they got a big tip for them and everyone else apparently who helped in the way-finding/parking exercise.
The rooms were pretty nice, and it really was relaxing to have a rooftop area. We just went with the whole tout thing and let some other kid take us to the best ever Marrakech authentic restaurant – and while it was all just a bit over the top for tourists – the food was absolutely incredible. They do really, really good salads.
Other than the never ending drama of finding a park, let alone a hotel without access to the internet, Rabat was the pick of the trip.
It is the capital city of Morocco, but the old town and Medina aren’t really tourism spots, and so it was like stepping into a normal Friday night with street food, fresh fish, olives and of course sunglasses and phone cases.
We were definitely being noticed as different here, but not in a touristy way, more like in a what the hell are you doing in here, way.
It is a beautiful town though, the cemetery by the sea was amazing.
I can’t really describe the feeling of being on ferry sailing to Africa. It is just thrilling really. It’s only going to be a fraction of Africa, baby steps before a proper expedition. But, for me anyway, a big day.
The logistics of getting to and on ferries is becoming more normal now, as it is a pretty well oiled system here. Perhaps with the exception of clearing customs in Morocco. I followed this guy’s guide to planning the trip and it was really helpful.
Having the D16 printed and ready to go along with all the other paperwork meant it only took 3 hours to get through 🙂 . The officials pretty much let everyone through and then look at the European plated cars, take a bit of a nap, and then wave you on.
A lot of the bigger service stations here all have really good food, we got a tagine just out of Tangier all cooked outside in front of us.
We headed for Rabat for the first stop. Bit of a mission as Google Maps or Booking.com isn’t really an option unless you want to spend $100 a second. And the Satnav actually gets a bit shit in some of these towns.
But eventually, through a dirty windscreen, we arrived in Homeland.
Malaga is the place we decided to base before heading to the ferry for Africa. I arrived on Easter Saturday to find pretty much most of the city shut down and roads closed. This is all for the parades which are huge.
After a bit of drama finding a park (I got the roof stuck in a carpark.. apparently 1.9M Height Limit doesn’t include lights and sprinklers), a few fluorescent lights and an angry parking attendant later, who made me pay the 30 cents to get out, I got to the hotel.
The receptionist said not to bother going outside that night as it would be really busy, just outside the hotel door. This is what was going on outside.
And it just got better as the night went on.
This was just one part of town, it went all the way through to a main centre with seats installed like for a football match, which you have no hope of getting near, where all the people and floats gather together for the final ceremony.
I’m pretty pleased I went outside!
Who knew Don Quixote was a delusional 50 year old man on a journey through Spain on some kind of quest..
This is Tembleque where I stopped for a horrid quiche thing and coffee for breakfast, and then saw all these Don Quixote statues. Turns out it is one of the sites mentioned in the book and nearby is where he tried to fight a windmill.
It also has this incredible “Plaza de Toros” which opened in 1653 to be both a traditional bull fighting ring and a town square.
Everywhere I stopped while driving through Spain I saw these floats. They are for the parades throughout Spain over Easter. They are either inside the local church, or under shelters in the town square. Each town has this amazing collection of floats, all with uniquely crafted depictions of the Crucifixtion, Mary, Jesus and saints.
Having a Catholic upbringing makes travelling through Spain really enjoyable, as each town church or cathedral is unique but all based on the same system of statues, stations of the cross, stained glass, etc. So, it is like going home in every single place you stop, where you can admire the different depictions of the same people and the same stories that you have seen throughout your life.
Oh, and of course, have a bit of a pray.. there needs to be a patron saint of Landrovers..
This is an oven tray I bought from a supermarket on the outskirts of Madrid. It is actually part of a nice set, but I took this one out in the shop and pretended I didn’t know that.
The pretty patterns are made by petrol leaking out of the petrol tank. I am trying to measure if the leaking is slowing down or not.
I was made aware of the petrol leak at a service station by an attendant the other side of Madrid, on Good Friday evening with the prospect of no mechanics being available for the next three days. It was actually gushing out from under the truck after I had filled it up. So I was…a little worried..
These photos are of a Defender petrol tank from Google images. Apparently with Defenders the gasket can go, and so when the tank is filled above where the pipe enters, it pours out until the petrol is below the gasket line. Then it is fine to drive.
Lesson Two: Google is your friend when you know nothing about trucks
One of the most amazing places I saw in Spain was this valley. It is just out of Santander, which is a beautiful little port town with great accommodation, great food and tapas bars.
This is the site of a Neanderthal settlement. I wanted to go into the caves but the queue was huge with schoolkids. So I just went for a walk up to the top of the hill that overlooks the valley.
You can see why it would have been such a perfect place to live. The rivers converge and everything is sheltered. This hill provides a lookout for trouble, and also it must have been so inspiring for them to stand up here and look the other way out towards the ocean, knowing that if they wanted to they could just keep following it around the coast, a journey that would be safe with a clear route home.
I’ve always been astonished by the drive to keep moving, and keep discovering. Why did some of these people, way before our ancestors homo sapiens, keep walking out of Africa?
When you see these places and stand where they stood – imagine them looking at where they came from in the distance, their beautiful home beneath them, where most of them stayed for tens of thousands of years, and then the ocean horizon further North– someone stood here on this spot and made some big decisions.
The idea was to take the truck on a bit of a drive to Africa, to see how it is to do some big miles, and what I need to prep for if I want to do a more adventurous trip next year.
This plan is to leave from England, drive through Spain, across to Morocco and then as far as possible towards the Sahara – and then back. I only have a few weeks so there is going to be a lot of driving.
This me looking happy because I made it to the ferry in Portsmouth and got the truck on it.
What this photo belies is the six days it took to get the WOF for the bloody thing in Peterborough (Do not listen to ordinary mechanics when they tell you about Landrovers). But with the help of my mates who store it, and the Landrover guys at Marshall Motors, I got here on time. The alternative was three days driving down France.
However, it also doesn’t show the next 24 hrs which I spent on my back on the ferry trying not to vomit. I had somehow forgotten I get quite seasick.
Lesson One: Next time just drive through France.