After spending two days in the extreme heat of the desert and having two sleepless nights, we decided it was time to get back to the coastline. We were hoping that if we spent a few days in the tourist resort of Essaouira we would be able to get our locking wheel nut sent out, therefore giving us the means and confidence to travel long distances offroad again. In the end, this didn’t happen and as such and due to lack of a spare we decided to rush the mega drive from the far East of the country back to the West, which we did in one epic eighteen hour drive (in a hot, sweaty, un-airconditioned car).
The only thing I would mention that struck me on this drive was the amount of litter once you got anywhere near a dump, the landscape looked like this and the smell was unimaginable:
We slept that night in a car park, with other campervans, after paying a homeless man who arrived in the morning pretending to be a parking official, we set off to find a campsite that we could call home for the next week. We found a friendly campsite and made the Land Rover as homely as it has ever been (Caranex set up, awning out). We met an interesting English couple who were travelling in a converted military truck, from their home in Mali through Mauritania, Western Sahara and were now waiting in Morocco for the next month waiting for their paperwork for the dog they decided to buy in Mali.
Alcohol being few and far between and Essaouira being one of the more touristy places in Morocco we decided to go and find some beach front bars to have a well deserved cold one. While we also inquired about water-sports to pass the time that week. Had a lovely afternoon, a couple of drinks and booked a kitesurfing lesson for the following afternoon.
Over the next few days we had a lovely time, but upon finding out that it would take at least two weeks we decided to carry on without it, and stick to good solid tracks, where the chances of losing another tyre was minimal.
Being touristy, our time in Essaouira was rather unadventurous, and for the most part we just took part in the cliched tourist attractions (camel ride on the beach):
We set off from Essaouira with the sole intent of following the rugged coastline for as long and as much as possible. this was a brilliant decision and gave way to some of the best experiences/photographs/sites of the trip.
After Agadir the coastline is very sparsely inhabited and beach-side camping spots are plentiful. On our first day following the coast we simply followed the tracks that are marked on our road maps (therefore we knew they’d be of decent quality), we found a nice secluded spot to camp surrounded only by rugged cliff and the odd fishermans hut and it was here that we saw one of the most spectacular sunset that we ever had. We also thoroughly enjoyed meeting the local fishermen and watching them work.
We carried on down the coast toward Sidi Ifni, another beautiful drive. We only made a couple of stops and one was by a building called “Pont de Deparquement”, the translation of which is relatively ambiguous; “bridge to departure”, but judging by the men surrounding it, we have chosen to believe it was a halfway house. I’d originally only pulled in nearby to syphon the snake, and, as I was, I heard the click of the door lock and the window winding up. I turned to see a very scared looking dee locking herself in the safety of the car, and a colourful character between me and the same safety. The guy had some form of rubber tourniquet around one arm, and the business end of a broom handle under the other. He stood in his ragged shorts staring somewhere between at me and past me, and all of a sudden, just as I was planning my best Jackie Chan style moves for when he swung his handle at me and burst out laughing. My first instinct was to “keep smiling and move slowly towards the car” but when I moved he stopped laughing and stared again. There was still a good few meters between us, and worse case scenario, I reckon I could have taken him, but still, to quote the SAS book where I have learned my so called “moves”, “the best form of self defence is avoidance”. Either way, I thought I’d try to work out what he was after, so I offered him a cig, which he readily took, and a light and all the while he still laughed. The situation seemed to be going nowhere, the guy was clearly mental, so I thought I’d use the opportunity of him lighting up to make the final move to the car. As I drove away, I saw him standing there laughing until I was out of sight. To this day, I wish I knew what was so funny, or what he was on so I could have some.
The following day we carried on along the same coastal roads as well as spectacular tracks on the coastline. Until early on we came to a perfect stretch of golden beach with not a soul around, apart from flamingo’s that recently migrated to the small lake by the beach. So we decided to stay and spend the afternoon relaxing, I was hell bent on catching a fish that we could cook over the fire that night. At around my fourth hour of entirely unsuccessful fishing, a local fisherman came over for a chat. We spoke for a while about the best types of bait to use and swapped concise life stories. I bid him farewell and he told me he would ‘see us later’. That night, parked up on the beach sitting next to our camp-fire (cooking some form of bean chilli, not fish, I was very unsuccessful), my friend the fisherman appeared from the darkness, he sat with us and at first due to how isolated the area was we felt a tad nervous, it wasn’t long before we realised we were wrong to feel this way, he was actually one of the most friendly people we have met on our travels thus far. He ate and drank with us for hours, we were awoken in the morning with him having brought us his mothers home made bread and eggs for our breakfast.
The drive that day was by far the most worried I have been. We set off from our lovely spot with about a third of a tank, enough to comfortably take the landy about 140 miles on normal terrain, but I both massively misjudged the distance, and how much fuel you burn driving long distances on deep sand. Our map had a clearly marked track, which it stated “may be impractical for certain vehicles in certain conditions”. We set off down a brilliantly challenging track and before long we were on Plage blanche, a 45 km stretch of beach, which you can drive down. Driving down the beach was great, but my fuel light came on about half way down, adding a large element of fear to the fun. We got to the end of the beach and the fun certainly ended, there were about a hundred different tyre tracks going in every direction, but no discernable track. Knowing that best case scenario, it was still 50 km to the nearest town, which would have been a push with how much fuel we had left, and also knowing that there was nothing but wasteland between where we were and where we needed to be, we were a little scared.
Unfortunately, we did not have much choice in the matter, so we set off in the direction we thought best and whilst following pretty challenging riverbed tracks, ran through the scenario in our minds. By some miracle, the landy actually ran on fumes for well over 120 km, and delivered us safely to TanTan and the best looking fuel station I have ever seen.
TanTan itself is the last outpost in Morocco before one reaches the disputed Western Sahara, and as such the military and police presence was pretty intimidating. As well as this, there was not much too see. We pulled into a campsite where we met several other overlanders whom we had seen in various campsites throughout the country, the consensus was the same all around, turn around and head north again. We had actually been lucky, they had all been fined £80 on the way in by dodgy police for failing to stop at a roundabout (pointing out the lack of stop sign got them nowhere), a problem we avoided by taking the less beaten track.