Palms, Camels, Sand and Dust, Tata to Foum Zguid, Morocco

Ah. We came across a herd of about 20 or 30 camels, all being tended by a small boy who seemed a little out of his depth, chasing his lumbering steeds down the road
Ah. We came across a herd of about 20 or 30 camels, all being tended by a small boy who seemed a little out of his depth, chasing his lumbering steeds down the road

Zagan the motorhome’s shading me from the desert sun. It’s 33 in the shade and we’re parked on hard mud under four tall, faded-green palm trees in Camping Khayma Park, Foum Zguid, Morocco (N30.080244, W6.871981). This campsite is one of two in Foum Zguid, and I’ve seen ’em both on a cycle around the town. ‘String town’ is how we’ve come to describe places like this – as they feel like mile-long towns which are strung out, having the road as their focus rather than a square or some other point. This one’s an oasis, nothing particularly special (not around here anyway) in itself, dominated by a vast sculptured landscape of palms, rock, dust and sand.

Camping Khayma Park. Yes, we have a pool. No, we have no water. The site could use some tender loving care.
Camping Khayma Park. Yes, we have a pool. No, we have no water. The site could use some tender loving care.

OK, I’ve given up trying to see the screen in the glare of the sun, and am sat inside the van now. The heat’s cutting straight through the blinds behind me, and my skin’s glistening. Yes, I could wait for it to cool down until later on, but I’m a muppet.

I liked Tata and didn’t much want to leave. We didn’t need to leave, and we had a great spot by the river. Days started to settle into a rhythm: the minarets cranked up their loudspeakers even before the dawn call to prayer, lifting us from sleep. With sunrise about 8am I’d leap from bed and deploy the awning, as low as I could but not low enough, and the sun cresting the palms opposite started the day’s Zagan baking. The bike cover would be pulled around the side to shade the fridge, and we’d take the blue blocks from the freezer and pop them in the fridge to help keep the milk cold.

We’d breakfast outside, after checking on how the previous night’s video uploads were doing. Then we’d gear up to face the onslaught of the sun, by resting up like three geckos. Daytime entertainment came in the form of frog choruses, a man chasing a donkey, young locals doing backflips, colourful ladies crossing the river, the various calls to prayer one after the other down the valley, and a thousand and one other small and unusual things, all viewed from the shade of our awning. One of us would make a foray out for supplies or for a look around, while the other stayed with Charlie to keep him cool and safe outside our oven of a van. Come evening we’d gaze at the stars, watch satellites glide overhead, read, watch TV, browse Facebook and look through photos. Life in Tata was good, but maybe too good, we were vegetating.

Irrigation in the Tata oasis
Irrigation in the Tata oasis
Earth and stone buildings in Tata
Earth and stone buildings in Tata
Many of the old buildings are collapsing in Tata. Folks still live in them in the town and surrounding villages, but modern materials look to be increasingly used
Many of the old buildings are collapsing in Tata. Folks still live in them in the old town and surrounding villages, but modern materials look to be increasingly used
Looking south-west down the Oued Tata
Looking south-west down the Oued Tata
Ladies in colourful local dress crossing the river in Tata
Ladies in colourful local dress crossing the river in Tata

Yesterday we got talking to Nori, a very helpful German chap and his wife Erica who had a demountable camper parked up behind us. These are made up of a camper shell which sits on the back of a 4×4 pickup. Legs can be dropped from the camper part, allowing the 4×4 to drive off and just be used as a truck. I’m pondering getting something like this for more extensive trips outside Europe and North Africa, where paved roads are less common. Nori showed Ju and I around. The use of space is genius, allowing you to stand up and walk around, sit up to 6 in a U-shaped lounge, use a dedicated toilet, sink and shower room, cook on a two ring hob and sleep in a fixed bed above the cab. After our demo we came back to Zagan and pondered, looking around on eBay and mobile.de to get an idea of prices (but there are few available second hand, so we’re still not much the wiser). Zagan’s days are far from numbered, we’ve still places to go and see in him, but it’s exciting to start thinking about other options for the future.

Nori's Demountable in Tata
Nori’s Demountable in Tata

This morning we completed Operation Uproot, threw the seats and table in the lockers under the van, rolled up the plastic carpet, paid up and blasted off at minuscule speed through Tata and out into the wild blue yonder. Roughly two and a half hours of N12 later, having managed to avoid running into camels or goats, and having stared in wonder at the desert landscape rolling smoothly past us, we arrived here. The road was in great condition, two lanes all the way, a bit rumble-inducing but the fords were oddly even smoother than the rest of the road. Traffic was, in the main, absent. A few folks appeared alongside the tar at times, sometimes ladies bent under huge loads, apparently walking to the end of the Earth under a scorching sun; respect is due, I wouldn’t be able carry that much from the door of B&Q, to my van in the car park.

Warning: camels. Yeah, yeah.
Warning sign on the N12 in Morocco: camels. Yeah, yeah. Note the numbers by the way: Arabic-speaking countries don’t use ‘our’ numbers, they invented them, the Western world runs on Arabic numbers.
Ah. We came across a herd of about 20 or 30 camels, all being tended by a small boy who seemed a little out of his depth, chasing his lumbering steeds down the road
Ah. We came across a herd of about 20 or 30 camels, all being tended by a small boy who seemed a little out of his depth, chasing his lumbering beasts down the road. There were a few herd of goats too, but we’re partial to a bit of camel photography we are.

Camels on N12 to Foum Zguid

There’s a dream-like quality to these desert drives. Although we’re quite clearly there, driving along broad black-stone plains dotted with trees, gazing across to the low jbel (mountains) rising up around us, it somehow feels that we are not. Cameras help. Looking back at photos later on, it adds a sort of permanence to the experience: we were there, and we did that. The dream is also interrupted with a gnawing doubt about your, or your vehicle’s, stamina to make it across these leaps between civilisation. So far we’ve seen no-one broken down, and we’re far more comfortable this time around that we’d get the mechanical help if we needed it. A van arrived here just after us with some fault or other, and within half an hour the front end of the van had been removed by the garagiste across the road. The front end isn’t back on yet, I hasten to add. Fixing stuff takes time here, it seems, but stuff gets fixed.

The final run into Foum Zguid from the south
The final run into Foum Zguid from the south
Sand's started to appear alongside the N12. Warning signs request you pay attention in case the roads been engulfed by the stuff.
Sand’s started to appear alongside the N12. Warning signs request you pay attention in case the roads been engulfed by the stuff.
It’s humbling to see women carrying huge heavy loads along the side of the roads
Your eyeballs can get a bit crossed on these roads. Oncoming vehicles remind me which side I'm supposed to be on.
Your eyeballs can get a bit crossed on these roads. Oncoming vehicles remind me which side I’m supposed to be on.
Not sand behind the palms but mud. Miles of mud, maybe 15m deep, cut into a maze by a currently-absent flow of water
Not sand behind the palms but mud. Miles of mud, maybe 15m deep, cut into a maze by a currently-absent flow of water
An old town a few km before Tissint, built on the edge of a gorge
An old town a few km before Tissint, built on the edge of a gorge

Here in Foum Zguid, apart from a quick spin on the bike, we’ve mainly waited for it to cool down, and written this blog post. It’s 4pm now, still 32 degrees in here, and time for me to scoot off. I’m keen to sink a cold beer or two, but I only have two beers left (which were kindly given to me by Brian and Doris who we met in Tata). I also know I’m so dehydrated a single beer will hammer my shrunken head in the morning. Decisions, decisions…

Cheers folks, Jay

P.S. We’ve topped up our 3G t’Internet SIM. Another 10GB which costs 100Dh (€10), lasts 30 days so will do us until we leave Morocco. To top it up we bought a tiny scratch card from a Maroc Telecom shop (you should be able to get them from any of thousands of small shops, but the first one we tried didn’t have any), scratched off the back and texted the number revealed, followed by *3, to 555. Within seconds a text message appeared in French to say it had worked.

A Maroc Telecom Top-Up Card
A Maroc Telecom Top-Up Card
Share this post:FacebooktwitterFacebooktwitter

13 Comments

  1. Hi ju and Jay, have you by any chance spoken to the people in the Hymer Exsis (in the picture of the demountable camper, to the right). We are interested because our motorhome is the same, interesting to know how they got about in Morocco! Thanks!

    • Hi Guys
      Sadly we didn’t get chance to speak to them. But there are so many motorhomes here of varying shapes and sizes I suspect you would get on just fine. Ju x

  2. Hi Jay as usual a great post. Sat here Sunday morning reading this looking out of the patio doors at grey and rain in a place not to far from your home base. You fortunate people ! Enjoy !!

    • Thanks Garry! The birds are hammering out some background tunes in the palms. The sky is deep blue and the sun’s gently pushing me into the shade. Off for a ride to the the edge of the town later to look at the desert. We know we’re in somewhere special and are doing our best to soak it all up. Hope the sun makes a break through up there sometime soon. Cheers, Jay

  3. You lucky, lucky (I could easily swear here, but I will control myself) …people. We thought the road from Tata to Zagora was probably the best road, in terms of serenity & scenery we’d been on. Just to your right, a mini-mountain range, then Algeria. Hope the beer went down well, you earned it. Hope you’ve got a drop of ‘box-o-vino’ left to join in with Ju.
    Kindest…Wayne.

    • Haha, you’ve been doing OK yourself recently Wayne! Fantastic, we’re doing the Foum Zguid to Zagora Road tomorrow, full sun and 30 high so getting off early. Had one beer over a camp fire with new friends, saved the other by supping vino! Yeah man, got a few boxes left for me Julie, and Zagora has a dodgy drinking den we can restock at! Cheers mate, Jay

  4. Sorry I am just reading this from ages ago as I have been away in China and Internet is not easy there. Glad to see you enjoyed Morocco again. If you are interested in 4×4 campers the only place to go is Bad Kissingen https://www.abenteuer-allrad.de/?lang=en you will see more 4×4 campers there than anywhere else in the world. If you can’t make that there is always http://www.adventureoverlandshow.net/ in the Uk. If you want to meet up with folk who travel in campers beyond Europe you can always try the Silk route http://www.silkroute.org.uk/index.html. Or their meet in September.
    Hope this is of use.
    Phil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*