So…. we have been robbed.
The unfortunate loss of camera with all pictures, iPod, money and notebook came after a run in with the police following a fire show at Sidi Ifni, southern Morocco. Until recently a Spanish outpost and still a hotbed of instability.
The journey to get us this far started in Tangier 4 weeks ago…..
An international border is usually an organised affair with carefully designed layouts and buildings with well-trained, honourable officials. Arrival by ferry to Tangier is a free for all! First off the boat and fastest to the customs, wins. A ten euro ‘oiling of the cogs’ gets our vehicle authorised for entry with minimal fuss save for one over zealous customs officer who was convinced we were carrying arms. Perhaps due to the conflict in Mali. Fortunately our lubricated official ushered him and his inquisitions away.
Our SatNav guided us through the busy streets of Tangier where our interpretation of the chaotic yet curiously ordered rules of the road go something like ‘whoever has their nose in front has the right of way, regardless of speed of travel’. This applies equally to horses, goats, donkeys, bikes, and the blind.
The road south along the coast is a good one. Although it is a toll road we enjoyed making good miles driving through the rich and advanced farming land with miles of poly tunnels. The pipe irrigated fields and well-organised crops like ribs of an old washing board are part of Morocco’s powerful drive into development.
So far Morocco is barely discernible from parts of Europe. Indeed in these urban areas women are as likely to be unveiled as veiled. Commonly they wear tight clothes with skin showing – something less common in other Arabic countries I have visited. Amusingly we passed 3 girls all in matching tracksuits and big gold earrings who wouldn’t have looked out of place in the UK. Continuing south we see ever increasing numbers of new build developments. Although these appear to be tourist developments I am reliably informed that these are mostly for the growing Moroccan middle class seeking a place outside of the city. This development is not without its rewards.
Taking the advice of a 20-year-old surf book handed down to me by good Aussie friends we turned off the roads and tracks (to SatNav’s dismay) in the direction of Imsouane. A small fishing village with at least 2 very good surf waves. After a few days of wild camping we were happy to pull into a campsite overlooking the beach and the best surf spot. Former windsurfing pro Jamie owns the camp.
Despite a successful campsite with friendly alternative living guests Jamie has diversified inadvertently into glamping. Based on a principle of taking a small space and making it warm and comfy, attractive and inhabitable, Jamie has converted a small fishing boat. By raising the sides and adding a roof along with a glass door and a very romantic bed inside he has created the most successful plot on his site. The view in the morning from bed through glass doors towards the sea is well worth leaving the tent in the bag. Unfortunately our photos are in the hands of a mischievous Sidi Ifni resident!
Friends of a friend live in Taghazout, a few hours south, just north of Agadir. Another surf village with multiple good surf beaches in the heart of Argan oil country.
Argan oil is a very precious oil made by hand from the nuts of the tree that only grows in this small part of the world (also in some areas of Mexico). The oil is used to nourish skin and hair. It is an organic and ancient tradition made exclusively by women. I am helping a friend set up his argan business with which he is selling the finest quality hand made organic argan oil made by the local women from the surrounding argan trees. He sells
at the best prices too! In the region of £10 per 50ml and £100 per litre. The edible version of the oil is commonly eaten here with bread for a delicious breakfast.
Continuing further south we take another break form wild camping and stay in a villa courtesy of our friends at sister company Quality Villas. Dan and the team have kindly offered us a stay and have bent over backwards to set it up for us. We arrive after dark to this palatial seaside villa, but the true magnificence only becomes apparent in the morning. The miles of Aglou Plage beach are on our doorstep (or pool step to be more precise). The owners who we invited over for dinner were also incredible and all in all a great break from the dusty road. See http://www.qualityvillas.com/agadir/agadir/villa-fatima
An old friend from New Zealand and his partner join us in the villa as well as Edu and Camile, professional musicians and performers of Cuban, Colombian and other Latino music. Edu recounted on one occasion stories of some of the 30 or so friends he has lost to war in Colombia – in the eyes of beautiful people who might be sitting alongside you now will be tales so vastly different from your own it is hard to refute the concept that there are 6-7 billion worlds on this planet. We hang out discussing P.P.R. – philosophy, politics and reggae – surely a Degree subject of the future!
Luxury villa over its time to get back on the road. Mirleft is our next destination; a small unvisited town in steppe country. The very friendly people remember with great fondness the hippy movements through the ages and welcome such kind souls with open arms. The ‘Dirty Hippy’ Americanism of the Vietnam war era never succeeded in brain washing the people here. Wild (ish) camping next to Europeans from Denmark throws us into days of delicious Moroccan food courtesy of Hannan – think couscous and tagine.
After days of surf far too large, I finally have a chance to get in again. There are strong rips that I use to help get me out back. No one else is in and as the first set waves roll in I can see why – they are HUGE! The first set wave breaks right on top of me, never a comfortable place to be. I duck dive underneath only to get tumbled. Surfacing to the unpleasant sight of an ever bigger wave breaking ahead of me I dive under again.
This time I was tumbled with that ferocity only Mother Nature effortlessly produces. My efforts are now far more concerted and I’m clinging onto my board for buoyancy, which duly bounces off my head and face! Relieved to come to the surface there is a break in the waves. I catch my breath long enough to notice I have drifted disconcertingly close to a lobster pot line I definitely don’t want to get caught in. More Set Waves. Surfacing I see I am now uncomfortably close to a large rock outcrop in the middle of the sea which may be beautiful in the eyes of those on the beach, but less so from out here! My heart thumping I decide my survival depends on getting back to the beach. I could have kissed the sand when I made it back. Despite scaring myself I am thankful for putting myself outside of my comfort zone, for whatever reason or mistake I made in getting out there, for my body mind and energy learnt from the experience. It will make future experiences easier.
Edu, Camille, Rene Mike Sarah and I decide its time to travel south to Sidi Ifni for Souk (market) day.
We will take the opportunity to do an evening performance with music dancing and fire show – filmmakers Mike and Rene will document the experience. Sidi Ifni is arguably the entrance to the Sahara. Formerly a strategically important fort it still has a frontier town feel. We set up at the market and wait dusk to perform in front of Mike and Rene’s truck. Edu and Camile light the musical flame with Latino tunes as Sarah makes rings of hula-hoop fire – a beautiful spectacle. A fire breathing part finishes my rope dart and fire juggling part. Unable to find Paraffin we use a substitute somewhere between paraffin and white spirit in constitution and heat of flame – a decision instantly regretted as I put it in my mouth with the immediate sensation that my mouth was being dissolved. I think I will be in trouble with the dentist. Not recommended. 100 or so blank faced Moroccans observe tentatively. They seem to really enjoy the show despite the impressionless faces!
As we pack up and chat to the inquisitive audience an unmarked car pulls up and out jumps a portly balding man who charges at us like a goaded bull. Instantly demanding passports and evidence of our authorisation for making ‘spectacular’ – nice of him to say so. Cautiously hesitant to hand over passports to this angry plain clothed person who might or might not be police we delay giving original passports opting sensibly instead for copies of our passports – serving as a red rag! With the arrival of the very pleasant uniformed police – who by the way have been excellent throughout Morocco – ID is given, we are cautioned, told not to stay here and sent on our way towards the fateful beach.
This too-good-to-be-true park up right on the beach inevitably is. On our first night there, whilst sleeping above the vehicle, our locks are picked and backpacks removed. Despite the loss of possessions and subsequent time at the police station, our love for the Moroccan people and country is unwavered. By far, more safe than otherwise. Whilst some possessions have gone our happiness has not. We return to Mirleft and prepare for the next stage in the Moroccan adventure; The Sahara!
Next time; Stuck in the sand and the desert man.