Saturday, 14 May 2011

Days 9, 10 & 11 May 9th 51 miles Foum Tillich - Meski

Mick found his biggest fan, Robin finally located his dongle, and someone had a birthday in the desert.

We awoke to sun, peace and quiet. Some of us slept in the house, whilst Patrick and I hammocked.
Please note that when night falls, Moroccans allow their dogs to roam, no doubt protecting them from the fierce wildlife (meerkats?). Dogs locked up all day celebrate their freedom in dog-like ways, ensuring a 120db all-night chorus. Who let the dogs out....

Nevertheless, here is Mike enjoying the early rays. The reason he looks awake is he'd probably been up since 4am photographing.

Our day journey was only a short distance, but we started late after an informative and emotional guided tour of our new friends' farm. Their very own water mill has three speeds, and seemed to work more efficiently than some of our vehicles.

The lovely old Kasbah near the river witnessed a surge of 15 metres of water two years ago, destroying 80% of the orchard on which their livelihood depends.


It must have been devastating for the families who rely upon their crops and to see their lovely building washed away. John also had fond memories of past visits.

The river which did the damage was back to its life-giving tranquil self, the cool mountain water so refreshing.
Susan took William for a taster.

Given their bravery, I felt duty-bound to plodge...
Oh, and any questions over my headgear should be addressed to:
Sir Ensure Youhaveasunhaton
c/o/ Lawrence of Leeds

After a later morning routine packing the vehicles, it was sadly time to leave. The girls were lovely, just look at these smiles.

After fond farewells, we were back on the road, where Paul, who had driven so many speedy miles to catch up,  promptly succumbed to a micro-sleep, but ended safely on the gravel roadside.
On entering a tunnel, we met two rock legionnaires who allegedly protect Morocco from all-comers.
Mick's fan had been stripped and examined, and sadly condemned. After a short trip into town, he emerged triumphantly with a 'new' one.
Robin required a dongle, this request usually resulting in shrugged shoulders. Happily, a Moroccan opened his telecom shop just for Robin and Susan during siesta and they got the required article, yet the packet bore no name for this electronic tool.
We experienced some epic scenery today.
Big skies, seemingly endless space
Brilliant green ribbons and silky, life-giving water
Said water no more required than by shepherds. This 'biblical' scene was fairly common, and demonstrated the timelessness of this wondrous land. Please note the recent water pipe capping, thanks to the king. More of that later.
Mysterious kasbahs

Reaching the Meski oasis, camp was set up in the now familiar routine, creative construction amongst fellow adventurers ensuring convivial wagon-train sharing. Mum & Dad Outhwaite suggested William have a bath, so a logical bathing area would not be the natural springs of Meski (a Moroccan version of our spa), but in the blue washing container!

This container was believed first used in anger on the original 'First Overland' in 1953, whereupon washing, water and powder were placed in a sealed container and strapped down to the Landrover. During the day, especially off-road, the washing would be bounced around enough to simulate a machine. Ours were purchased by the ever-resourceful Robin. Originally used to house honey / chutney etc, these are steam-sprayed clean and sold on, efficiently recycled. Personal note - when using, place a 'lid' at the bottom ensuring clothes don't end up there, as during the wash the 'sediment' of the wash ends up. My sand-coloured shirt never recovered from the ordeal, and stills displays its 'badge' of honour.

Meski natural springs.

Our meal atmosphere was enhanced with Mr Ben (our injured firepit) being lit for the first time.
Yours truly was honoured by everyone singing happy birthday, and William assisted by helping to blow out the candles and eat some cake that my wonderful grandson Jake had got me.
The balloons were great too. Missed my loved ones today.

 DAY 10 MAY 10TH

Feeling all of a year older, day 10 held some surprises 'in store' as we headed south (as always!) towards a night in the desert. Shopping was not really a chore, give us this day, our daily bread. Said flat bread cake was usually 1 dirham, about seven pence. A westerner can rightly assume it is very 'cheap' to live out here. The average income in Morocco, however, is around 3,000 euros (£2,600). Or £50 a week. Bearing in mind this is average and there are a number of dirham billionaires, I would guess that many more than 50% poor souls are literally on the breadline (no pun intended).

On the road again, two types of horsepower were evident.

Offroad into the desert, all vehicles behaved well and coped admirably with the conditions.

Lunch stop in the desert; Mick & Louise speedily convert their dormobile into a 'cafe'. Years of practice. Linking the tarp up to the rear frame of Patrick's carawagon was but one of many configurations deployed to eat, sleep and shelter.

William took everything in his stride, always smiling for the camera. It could be asked whether he resembles his father at all?

Back in the desert, we passed wonderful Bedouin encampments and a kasbah '4x4 hotel' in the middle of nowhere.

Stopping at Erfoud for food, we weaved down many alleyways of the huge souk, to happen upon a meat vendor. Paul's haggling skills brought us virtually a whole lamb. I believe Louise requested the removal of it's unfortunate head, before being weighed and bagged, ready for tonight's meal in the desert.

Hey Mick, is that one of your Mora Clipper knives our friend is using?

The Dunes de Sable at Erg Chebbi were too touristy for our liking, so we shunned the crowds and sought out a remote campsite in the desert. John's expertise with language and making instant positive relationships never failed to impress, with 40 invaluable years' experience working in 55 countries. As in here, when a farmer appeared (with more friendly children to play with William) to advise we moved a tad, due to a danger of flash floods and us being washed away.  Taking this local knowledge seriously, campsite was thus set up.
A familiar sight was that of Susan taking in the stunning scenery and atmosphere.

Whilst Robin and I went in search of a dune high enough to blog from. By this time a tragedy was unfolding the reader is unaware of. A tale of woe some may find witheringly distressing. We were running out of beer. However, our hero Robin located a can of Guinness at the bottom of his fridge, which he shared as we happily blogged.  For me, it tasted so ice-cold good, we could be in 'Alex'! Cheers.

It is worthy of mention our group dynamic. As it develops in this mostly unfamiliar situation, people's talents become strikingly evident. Like Paul's expertise with food, and the amazing speed he works to produce fine dishes. The lamb was brought out, along with all our cooking paraphernalia.

Lance too was thriving. Coming away for such an unusual adventure with your brother for such a long time posed challenges, and Lance worked hard to 'keep his end up'. Shades of success, looking cool.
The lamb was excellent, so much so that other creatures demanded a share.

Another opportunity to rig a sleep-out under the stars for Patrick and myself. Heaven!


We awoke to a panoramic view. Hasta la vista!
Small hills, no problem. Photographic opportunity.

We had not seen many camels thus far, and were rewarded by some slowly plodding along.
These mountains are rich in fossils, so we took the opportunity to bag some bargains, in the hope that they would not disintegrate before we reached Blighty.

Like everywhere in the world, some local Sunderland supporters were off to the match, indentified by their shirts behind the windscreen. I didn't have the heart to tell them how far they had to go to the Stadium of Light.
More stunning views were ours as we headed towards Todra Gorge.
The locals seemed surpisingly knowledgable about Land Rovers. Here a local young shepherdess admires our carawagon.
We were convinced this was a Ford, but locals reliably informed us this is a 2A carawagon.
And here we believe this lady was heard remarking 'Wow, a Series 2A Dormobile. I'm off to ring Mark Saville and demand a six-pager in the September LRO comic, if it's the last thing I do'. Thank you ma'am.
(Or maybe she just wanted an ice-cream?)

Today seemed a time for frivolity, so some of us entered the 'native' world, experimenting with the ubiquitous but very useful headgear. I'll leave it to the reader to determine relative success in these fashionable matters.

At last Todra Gorge appeared up ahead, the massive cliff walls suddenly closing in, taking away the sun's caress and making our Land Rover group seem tiny.
Our place for the night was a beautiful auberge, merging seamlessly into the cliff face.
Here too was the first trickle of the gorge spring, people being forbidden to bathe here.

Owned by three brothers, friends of John, we basked in the auberege's comparative luxury, as opposed to last night's hammockian desert wilderness. Indeed a land of contrasts.

It was time for our party to increase by one. John had taken into our employ the services of a local Berber guide by the name of Yahya (pronounced Ya-here) who arrived in time for our evening meal.

He came as recommended (and required), to help us navigate through the southern mountains and desert. He was to prove his mettle and more.
However, the nagging issue of 'no beer' remained, as the auberge was officially 'dry'. Nevertheless, a local in the know, looking round suspiciously like an actor in Allo Allo, whispered a nearby location to purchase some much-needed supplies.
Armed with this knowledge and a vague order from our 'clients', Robin and I headed off into the night. We parked at the unassuming 'supermarket', which looked closed. Upon entering, we gave the aisles a quick search, finding no booze whatsoever. Undeterred, we approached the gruff troll behind the counter, and I asked in my best French if there was any remote chance of  'biere'. He looked round suspiciously like an actor in Allo Allo, and told us to follow him. We disappeared through a back door into a long dark corridor, and after a few turns we entered a large room stacked from floor to ceiling. And we thought Aladdin's cave was elsewhere, what do we know?
In the time it took us to decide which (expensive!) alcohol to buy, a constant stream of locals came and went, all looking furtively around (like actors in Allo Allo) and flashing notes to the man, who clipped the cash into an open till with the speed of David Nixon (if you are under the age of 55, David Nixon was the magician of his day, alright?).
Suitably relieved of our cash, we were equally relieved when we had our large boxes safely stashed in the carawagon, and comforted to know our next desert jaunt would be a suitably wet one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

No comments:

Post a Comment