Zagan the motorhome is once again beneath the shade of palm trees, this time at Camping Auberge Oasis Palmier in Zagora (N30.323868, W5.826472), a town we have visited in the past, but it seems so very different this time around.
Back in Foum Zguid, we chilled out for a couple of days as the mercury touched 34°C. Charlie kept his cool under a wet towel and we hardly moved out from under the shade of the awning during the day. Jay ventured out on his bicycle early in the mornings or the heat of late afternoon, to stop him from going stir crazy. Exploring the surrounding hamada (stony desert), he found the finishing podium, for the Marathon de Sables, the toughest foot race on earth, sat quiet, ready and waiting for the brave souls who will be setting off in 23 days to cover the 156 miles across the dunes.
Even though the evenings don’t really cool down until around 10pm, our de-mountable neighbours from Germany, Nori and Erica, got a fire going. We joined them by the flickering flames, which would turn to an inferno when you added a dried palm leaf, along with Olivier and his wife from France. We had a great evening drinking wine and talking about life, the universe and everything (except Brexit, which never crept up). We were having such a good time we forgot we hadn’t eaten. So our plans to depart the following day were put on hold while we battled hangovers in the heat.
Jay headed off into town to face a fear he has had for a long time – buying a chicken in Morocco. It’s not like buying them at home, they don’t come as various-shaped bits of pale meat pre-wrapped on a plastic tray. Here you have to look them in the eye as they are pulled, squawking from a tiny cage and, if you are lucky, taken around the back to be dispatched, plucked and who knows what else. The end result is that a few minutes later you are presented with something still warm in a thin see-through plastic bag.
After an aborted attempt the previous day, when the chicken stares got too much for him, he pulled himself together and marched up to one of the small windows beside a crudely-drawn chicken sign. The owners were in deep discussion, so he moved to the next window where a chap smiled and greeted him. After explaining that he was looking to buy a chicken the man headed off around the back of the building and came back with one ready plucked and bagged. He plopped it on the counter in front of a much-relieved Jay, who was most surprised that it was fridge cold when he finally had to pick it up. Looks like Sunday is a good day to buy chickens in Foum Zguid, and he’ll just have to face his fear another day.
Fully recovered on Monday we made tracks early to avoid the worst of the heat. Plotting in our destination into Maps.me (the app we are using to navigate) it cautiously informed us that the 137 kilometre trip would take 3 hours and 49 minutes – it seems it is learning what the roads are like in Morocco. The road ahead of us cut straight through the hamada, so before we left town we thought it best to top up on fuel. Arriving at the petrol station there was already a hay-laden lorry and a motorbike at the pumps. We pulled in to a free one and Jay got out and opened the fuel cap, then we waited, and waited. I check the clock and it was coming up to 9am, so we waited a bit more. The attendant eventually arrived on his moped around ten past nine and it struck us both that it hadn’t occurred to us that the petrol stations wouldn’t be open 24 hours like they are in Europe.
With a full tank of fuel, we headed out across the landscape. Our road ran along a vast plain between two sets of mountains, their stony faces seeming to melt at the bottom to reach down to the plain. Dotted across the plain were fields of crops surrounded by palm leaf fences. These incongruous bright green squares, set amidst the brown, stony plain could have been modern art, if you didn’t know the colourful dots inside were women working the land. The scenery wasn’t breathtaking; in fact it could have almost been a boring drive but for the fact that it is in Morocco.
The various road signs kept us entertained, while crossing a desert gives you plenty of time to ponder things. Are there any wild camels or are they all being followed by a shepherd somewhere? Where are these people walking to? How long have they been walking? Is there really no other way to transport that stuff? Morocco really does make me realise how fortunate I am to be me. I live a privileged life, never hungry, never thirsty, never having to carry heavy loads huge distances or wash my clothes in a river (I only wash them by hand when in the van and we’re running low on pants!).
Arriving at Zagora we drove into the town and parked up so I could grab a bit of shopping. The campsite is a couple of kilometres out of the town, so I thought it best to stock up before we parked up. We were at the opposite end of town from last time we were here, and either it has changed a lot in five years (which we think it has as neither of us remember the huge administrative buildings that are here now) or we just didn’t experience the tat shop gauntlet. Jay waited in the van with Charlie while I became deaf to chorus of ‘Bon Jour Madame’ and ‘Hello, Wie Gehts?’ that followed me down the street.
I found the small market and filled up with fruit and vegetables, the ones in the shops in Foum Zguid had looked very withered and sorry for themselves. Then I stopped at a shop no bigger than Zagan, but packed to its high rafters with every kind of thing you would get in a supermarket. The shop keeper opened up the counter for me so I could just grab what I wanted, rather than trying to ask for everything. We laughed and joked about how much stuff there was, he tried his English and I did my best Arabic (all five words) and two carrier bags later I staggered back to Zagan with enough soft drinks to see us through the heatwave.
The campsite was busy when we arrived and after an attempt to get us onto a pitch that was smaller than Zagan, we moved to the back of the site and found ourselves parked next to Nori and Erica again – we’ve been neighbours for the past three campsites. We’ve both explored the town on our bikes and Jay got up as the sun rose this morning to climb up the jbel (mountain or hill) next to us – the views from military base at the top looked amazing.
The heatwave has finally broken and the days are now an easier to manage 24°C. After the trouble we had getting beer in Zagora last time we were here, I manged to get a couple of locals brews from the campsite reception – a chap arriving on a moped with ‘the goods’ covered up in a box like a present. It wasn’t cheap, bordering on Norway supermarket prices, but we are in the desert in a virtually dry country and it’s my treat for Jay, seeing as I didn’t buy anything on my shopping trip into town today.
Tonight we are off out for a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant, tomorrow… who knows, but I bet it will be sunny and interesting.
Finally – as if you haven’t had enough photos, here are a couple of the loads birds for all your twitchers.