So after 4 hours wait we got our visas into Mauritania! Finally we could escape the city. We first had to endure the taxi ride back.. Which can only be described as hair raising! Morocco has very few laws and regulations regarding the ownership and upkeep of cars and taxis; getting one with functioning seat belts is a bit like playing Russian roulette. However we got back (yes it was fairly safe Mum), stayed one more night in our rather dubious campsite, got up early in the morning and set off for Casablanca.
Casablanca was a real contrast, as we drove through it was modern and quite Western. We stayed on the outskirts in a fairly decent campsite (hot showers included.. Toilet roll not), which was next to the market. We spent a few hours rummaging through stalls of veg (a whole host of veg for Dh7) and attempted to buy some meat.. Rob was convinced it was camel.. However I think it was beef! Meat in comparison to veg is fairly expensive, 1.5kg came to Dh90 which is approximately £6, however most of it was fat! Dinner that night was stew (it was stew the next night also). It was during this campsite that my poor flip flops almost met their maker.. not that they are anything to write home about but they are the only thing I have ever bought in Bicester Village (those who know me know my dislike for the place) - Havianas, and I have had them for 4 years and they are so comfortable. During the night the local dog (named Scroffels by ourselves) was keenly sniffing at them, eyeing them up. I left them over night in the tent however one must have fallen down.. by the morning said flip flop, and the dog, had vanished.. Driving out my flip flop was found in all it glory with the campsite owner telling me the dog had brought it to him last night...
Again we decided to press on and drove the few hours to Marrakech, the drive into the city was amazing. Amazing villas and flats next to tin roofed shops! The scenery reminded me a lot of that scene in Star Wars when Anakin Skywalker competes in the pod racing on Tattooine (yes real Star Wars geek.. And my mum and brother will definitely get this reference!), endless sand and stone, cuboid houses.
Driving up to the campsite (le relaxais de Marrakech) I was thinking if this campsite is like the last one I am going to have a serious diva strop, but turning into it we saw a pool, gym and beer!! For Dh90 it was a dream! Spending a few lazy days by the pool was going to be welcomed!!! Sadly another repeat flip flop incident occurred..they broke irreplaceably. Saturday afternoon we booked a taxi into Marrakech. It was an amazing experience: The winding streets selling stuff carried on for ever.. Jewellery, tagine pots, sweets and Flip flops (a well known brand called Coldsilver.. Like quicksilver.. It was either those or Proxy..) which were a pricey Dh40! We stopped for food and spent a good hour eating and watching the lads try and entice oncoming tourists into the restaurant! Great entertainment! Watching the street performers was good - acrobats, boxing, music! It was a bit like Covent Garden!
Having spent 4 days dopping about in the luxurious campsite it was decided it was time to move on! Heading towards Zygora on a gravel track that took us up through the Atlas Mountains. We drove past the most breath taking scenery, and even saw snow right at the to. Due to the amount of time taken to drive the route when we saw a camping sign we decided to check it out. Once it was established there was a decent toilet (I was in the midst of a stomach bug), we payed our Dh 80 and settled in. The camp site was in the most stunning place, mountains all around, the stars at night were amazing. It made up for the fact it was windy, and quite possibly the coldest night we have had (including in the UK!).
Leaving the camp site and driving to Zagora took us another 6 hours, again amazing scenery- much like the Alps in summer - and then into flat roads that could go on forever. It seems like Morocco has had a lot of investment into its transport system. New roads are springing up everywhere (sat nav tells us it's gravel when in fact it is brand new Tarmac), men working by hand to add in drainage ditches. Up mountains there are new roads and flats in the middle of nowhere are new roads! When in Fes we were told that UNESCO have labelled a lot of places in Morocco world heritage sites so this may have something to do with it.
Driving in Zagora at 5.30pm brought its challenges, Mandy had read that mechanics sit by the road in their defenders flagging you down giving you their cards, "come to us, come to us" they say! As it was getting dark we quickly found a camp site (with a proper loo) and settled in for the night. Walking around the next day we found a mechanics, Ali's workshop, which had reviews online so we decided to get a quote for removing the gear box and the bearings changed (on both cars). The quote seemed acceptable however day 1 Rob's landrover went in and it turned out to be more serious, and more expensive, with the whole gear box needing to be changed. Day 2 and you can guess what happened... the same thing had happened to our car.. around £460 later and fingers crossed it will be fixed we were back in business! Mandy and I, whilst this was happening, spent the 2 days washing and then on the limited wifi researching our next stops (mainly visas and routes!).
On a side note to those who are planning a trip like this, 4 weeks in and we have come across some things we would change (or have changed) given the chance!
1. Charles wishes he had spent a bit more on the inverter so that it didn't draw as much power from the second battery. We are have real issues with charging appliances without draining the battery.
2. We are using tracks4Africa as our navigation system, however having spoken to a few people now they have used Open Street maps. We have managed to get a copy which we are running simultaneously - much better!!
3. Spent a bit more money on binoculars!
4. Bought head torches that didn't explode!!!!