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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.