Thursday, 6 March 2014

AGADIR TO MEKNES

05.03.2014
The repairs completed and all agreed that a very fine job has been done and well worth the price. Terrific meal at the auberge...I had beignets aux legumes followed by skate wings in butter & capers with new potatoes and veg followed by an excellent tarte aux fraise. Everybody else had the cous cous aux trois viandes with varying degrees of satisfaction from excellent to OK. There was an enormous portion so it was difficult for most to finish. Meal worked out at £8 ph  so not expensive but no alcohol.
Into Agadir on Saturday, another squashed taxi but a very pleasant day.
The plan was always to move on Sunday to Essaouira but Malc dropped a minor bombshell and suggested that we 4 go on ahead and then visit Meknes, Fes  and Chefchaouen which we ought to see but which they had seen, didn't want to go again, and the weather and campsite at Agadir were excellent enough to stay a few more days.
This was rather disconcerting but gave us an opportunity to see more of Morocco other than retrace our route back up the coast which we were not exactly looking forward to with relish. On the down side, we did not have a satnav or a campsite book but we set to and planned a route and photographed relevant pages with directions from the book onto tablets......one problem is the lack of road numbering on the ground and the poor signposting in general but hey, this could be an adventure.
So waving goodbye and hoping to meet  at Tangier on the 10th. we set off on Sunday morning for Essaouira. Before leaving the site an amber engine warning light came on. Oh dear.. Check engine flashing on the screen. How? Need  diagnostic machine for that. Nothing for it but to cross fingers and press on.
Terrific scenic drive up coastal road and then through Argan  nut  groves, bottles of oil for sale all along the road.
At first coffee stop the water pump starts to play up, seeming to require priming before use indicating a faulty diaphragm or non return valve. Life looking grim.
But then we see 4 sets of tree climbing goats to make our day. No place to stop and photograph but an enduring image
which is seen in many paintings.
Find the campsite at Essaouira but it's full. However there is an aire( no facilities) close by, separated from the beach by a sand dune for 30d (£2.25)  a night so we park there.
Walk along the beach to the town which is very interesting and well worth the detour.  A large fishing port with dozens of open air stalls that have trestle tables to eat at after choosing your fish from the beautiful displays.
Back at the van, investigate the pump and find a loose connection on the inlet pipe, undoubtedly shaken loose by the appalling road, and letting air into the system. Problem cured.
Decide we have exhausted the pleasures of ESS. especially as the wind ( famous for) picks up and we are sandblasted so leave Mon morning for Mohammedia, just north of Casablanca. We stayed there on the way down so know we can find it, and it is then on the way to Meknes.
Road deteriorates badly so journey much longer than expected. Stop at Total garage to refuel after stopping at many that won't take a visa card, only to find that they can't make the machine work and we end up paying cash anyway.
( diesel is 68p  litre)
The bonus is that on restarting, the engine warning light disappears. The last fuel in was at a Moroccan Afriquia station (against my better judgement) and I think the 2 things are related.
The towns we pass through are what the wild west must have been like. The main streets are thronged with people, donkeys, donkey carts, horses, cows,sheep,goats,bikes,mopeds,scooters,cars,vans,lorries all moving in different directions with no order whatsoever.
It's mayhem and murder threading a motorhome through it but great fun.
The roads to and from theses towns are full of donkeys, either ridden or pulling a cart with a family and livestock, and people on foot but there is never any habitation close by so they must travel long distances. Have never seen so many donkeys. Nor so many Toyota pickups with 4 cows in the back, or a horse, or a flock of goats.
Overnight at Ocean Blue then onto Meknes.
This was always going to be a hard campsite to find, in the centre of town, and we gave it our best shot. Eventually gave up after police outside the royal palace said it didn't exist.
We thought it might have closed, and a German we spoke to at the supermarket outside town ( where we replenished our beer and wine supplies at last) said it had but that there was now an aire there at 40d a night. The policeman said not and as we had traversed a berserk city once we had had enough and headed up the road where we were assured there was a site near Moulay Idriss. No problem .  And it appears that the town site closed 5 years ago but still appears in every camping book.

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