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Morocco

21/01/2009

Start Mileage - 4519

84 Miles

Algeciras - Ceuta - Chefchouen

 

 

07:30 and up for breakfast, then pack the bike up ready for the jump over into Morocco. We are venturing into pastures new and the anticipation is a bit overwhelming, for me at least and I think for Lorraine as we have never been outside of Europe on the bike before. Still, too late now, we have the tickets.

10:15 and we leave the hotel for the 5 minute ride to the ferry terminal and the 11:00 sailing to Ceuta. After entering the port through the unmanned gates and following the directions to the ferry through almost all of the port, we eventually arrive at the ferry which is just opposite the gate we came in!! Like queuing at Disney  World ….  We go through the ticket inspection and join a queue of  about 6 camper vans and a Land Rover, within 10 minutes we are loaded on the fast cat to Morocco. The boat left on time and 45 minutes later we are called to the car deck and ushered off ..

The adventure begins.

We leave the port and pull over into a supermarket car park to get our bearings and have a quick smoke, then we are on our way. After driving around Ceuta for a while we find the road out to the border. As we approach the border we get our first glimpse of Morocco proper .. not a great sight, hordes of people, mostly women carrying massive packs on their backs and lots of shouting going on. I thought it might not be a good idea to get the camera out and the helmet cam was stashed as we didn’t know how the border officials would react to it , so you will have to use your imagination to picture the scene. We were waived through the Spanish post no problem straight into the mass of people coming back across. There were people fighting, Moroccan police doing most of it and mainly beating up the women! and thousands of people everywhere…… we managed to get to the Moroccan entry point unscathed, although we were nearly knocked over by one of the women and her huge pack who obviously needed to be where I was more than I did and tried to push us out of the way! At the customs post we were met by a guy in a suit with a badge around his neck passing paperwork to me and guiding me to which office I needed. I had read in the forums to ignore anyone without a gun or not wearing a blue uniform, easier said than done when you are thrown into that situation. Anyway, we get all the correct paperwork stamped then he asks for money .. “sorry no Dirhams”, “ok I’ll take Euro’s” he says, “sorry, no Euro’s either, we need to go to a bank” .. He seems to accept this and goes away, but a couple of minutes later he’s back and we play out the scenario again, so I just ignored him, got on the bike and rode off to the next point a few feet away to get all the paperwork we had just sorted checked again. I see him in my mirror as we pull of again, another couple of feet for all the paperwork to be checked again!!! He must have given up on us or found someone else to try and tap so we got through with his help and free of charge ..

One nil to us.

Next we need insurance for the bike, the police at the border had said to go to the AXA office in the next town, which we found easily enough, except they don’t do insurance for foreigners, we have to go to the next town, Tetouan, another 40km’s away. At least we’re away from the border and it’s a nice ride along the coast.

We find Tetouan and follow the Centre Ville signs when a guy on a CBR 600 pulls alongside and starts chatting, asking where we’re from and how long we will be in Morocco. When I mention we are looking for the place to get insurance he says he’ll show us the way, so we follow. He tells us that because the office is near the Kings Palace we will have to park up and walk. He is taking us through some rough looking back streets and we eventually arrive at a dark underground parking area in a dodgy back street with a lot of people he seems to know …. Not got a good feeling about this so I tell him we won’t be leaving the bike there. After realizing he’s not going to persuade us we move on and park 100 yards from the office in a busy market area and he takes me to the insurance agent to arrange it. We had thought about staying in Morocco for 3 weeks but the insurance is only valid for 5. 10 or 30 days. 10 days will cost MAD 675 (£65) or 30 days MAD 1,000 (£97), we decided to cut our time down and went for the 10 days, if we need to get more we’ll get it later. Next problem, the agent won’t take plastic so I need to find a bank but first I have to get rid of this guy who I thought was just a biker helping a fellow biker out, but it just seems that everyone only wants to help you for money so I  told him I wasn’t going to pay him which seemed to upset him a bit … tough. By now I had left Lorraine on her own with the bike for about 30 minutes and she was getting a bit scared. I rolled back up with insurance in hand and she said that she had just been caught in the middle of a mass fight, luckily the guy selling shoes from a rickety old stall we had parked next to kept them away from her and the bike. So it was helmets on and get the hell out of there.

Two nil to us.

We are heading for Chefchouan where we plan to park up for the night, travelling along some great roads with some amazing scenery. We stop at a café for a coffee and enter the co-ordinates I had got from the web for a camp site near Chefchouen into the Garmin, but it was directing us 140 miles back up the road towards Ceuta.. So time to look for a Hotel again. It’s still cold and the temperature drops quite bad at night .. not ideal for camping anyway. We pass a sign for a Hotel in the Medina at Chefchouen but decide to run on a bit more as it is still light. 10 miles further down the road it looks like we are heading into Bandit Country (Ketama where all the dope growing happens, a lawless and unruly area by all accounts, and to be missed at all costs). As we pull over to check the map a local pulls up and tells us about the Hotel back up the road in Chefchouen and also offering us a place at his house which we declined. After getting confirmation that the Hotels are open from a local cop (Cops are everywhere throughout Morocco, at the start and finish of villages, on roundabouts and every couple of hundred yards in towns) we head back to town and pull into the first Hotel we come across. Up the hill towards town. As we pulled in I was directed into a small parking area, on a slope, uneven and either thick mud or shingle which nearly burnt out the clutch. The rooms were clean and tidy and it wasn’t overly expensive, MAD 140. but it was freezing cold, and they kept all the doors open which didn’t help.

 

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22/01/2009

Start Mileage - 4603

167 Miles

Chefchouen - Rabat

 

A cold start again, so after a quick coffee the bike is packed and we’re on our way by 09:30 heading for Rabat to go to the Mauritanian Embassy to see if we can get our Visa’s at the Senegal/Mauritania border or if not, to organize them here in Rabat. It’s a slow comfortable ride, again along some mostly good roads and it’s warming up again now we are clear of the mountains. Staying off the motorway is costing us time though, with all the police about around the villages and towns everybody sticks to the speed limits. The roads are also not that good in places, lots of roadworks between towns where they dig up the whole road at once and the towns and villages have a lot of pot holes. We’re also starting to get a bit hungry, and the café’s we have passed don’t look that inviting so we jump onto the motorway at Kenitra and pull into the first service station we come across. Fed and watered, it’s time to get going again. Another 40km’s or so and we are on the outskirts of Rabat and another two hour hunt for a Hotel starts!! We finally find one near the center, cheap but a bit dingy with secure parking but no lift, so we have to hump all the gear up 5 flights of stairs although the door boy helped and never asked for any money!!!

After a walk around town we find a McDonalds but it has no Wi-Fi. It’s proving difficult to get internet access so far unless we stop at a 5 star Hotel. Internet café’s are expensive and won’t let you use your own laptop so updating the site might be very sporadic. But on the plus side, the people are a lot more friendly which is the opposite to what I would have expected in a large town which I guess proves that first judgements don’t always stand up.

 

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23/01/2009

Start Mileage - 4770

104 Miles

Rabat - Casablanca

 

Packing up the bike in the morning, we ask the receptionist in the hotel if they knew where the Mauritanian Embassy was but they weren’t much help, nothing in the Yellow Pages either apparently.  We got directions to a Police Poste and was told to ask them so off we go, after driving around for longer than we intended, and asking at 3 or 4 Police Postes we finally find the Embassy at 10:00am. 15 minutes later Lorraine comes out of the Embassy, according to the staff there, we cannot get the Visa’s at the border or in Casablanca .. and we have 10 minutes before they close to get photographs, the cash for the Visa’s because they won’t take plastic (MAD 340) and to fill in the paperwork, then we can pick them up on Monday. It’s not going to happen so we decide to run on to Casablanca to see if we can get the bike serviced and come back up on Monday to get the Visa’s, but that means another three days hanging around. As we are contemplating what to do a young lad on a bicycle asks if we managed to get our Visa’s, I feel another scam coming on, but it wasn’t. he was just interested in what we were doing and told us he was getting a lift from some friends to Senegal then going to cycle around Mauritania for about a month. He also told us that what we had been told by the Embassy about not getting Visa’s at the border was wrong as he has some European friends that have just done it with no problems, I’ve also read a few posts that say the same so we are going to chance it and try at the border … it is also about MAD 100 cheaper.

I got the GPS co-ordinates for BMW Casablanca before we left home, so I put them in the Garmin and set off for them first before finding a Hotel to make sure we can get the bike booked in. no problem finding it following the GPS, but we did ask a guy in a shiny Beemer if we were going the right way, he pointed round the corner and there it was … they had just closed, but no problem as they were open again in two hours. Time to find a Hotel. We had already seen an IBIS in town, but it was MAD 620 a night, we knew there was another IBIS just out of town so we asked one of the mechanics from the garage next to BMW and he gave us directions which got us straight there. Still a bit pricey but cheaper than the one in town at MAD 520 a night, and I didn’t want to riding round town for another two hours looking for another cheap Hotel that might be as noisy as the one in Rabat, especially as we were probably going to be staying the weekend. Time to go back to BMW so I put the Garmin on and it says it is just up the road, less than 5 minutes on the bike compared to the 30 minutes it took following the mechanics directions!!!!!

We managed to get the bike booked in with no trouble for first thing Monday morning and possibly have got tyres sorted too, but we will have to wait till Monday to find out. So we are having the weekend in Casablanca.

After checking in to the Hotel and getting all the gear to the room, there was a lift this time., we went looking for a local café and ended up in one just over the road from the Hotel .. Very reasonable and good food as well, MAD 25 each for an Ml9ila kafta (not sure if that’s how it was spelt on the menu?) and a basket of bread and coffee. The waitress said it was an omelette with meat, but not what I would call an omelette. It was a spiced meatball dish in a tomato sauce with beaten egg poured over the top and cooked in the oven … very nice and filling too.

After being fed and watered we came back to the Hotel for a beer and some kip..

 

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24/01/2009

Casablanca

We went for a walk around town which proved to be a bit of a marathon as we are quite a way out of the centre. We got our bearings and made plans for where to go tomorrow for a proper sightseeing day out seeing as we are staying here the weekend. We also managed to get some passport photo’s done for the upcoming visa’s, as we had left the ones we were going to bring at home. We got directions to a shop that would do the pics for us, a professional photographers studio not just your “Photo me Quick” booth in Tesco. The cost wasn’t professional though, MAD 30 each for 8 pictures, and the photographer spent quite a bit of time doctoring them up, especially Lorraines …. Ouch!!

I tried the laptop to see if we could get on the net and got it first time, but reception says they only have the business station with internet, so either they haven’t bothered to protect it or I’m logged on to someone else's connection, a quick check of the emails and update the site and it’s time for some food. It’s a bit late to go wandering around town and we didn’t fancy eating the same again as last night so we ate in the Hotel. Good Moroccan food again but expensive for the size of the portions, we’ll be back over the road tomorrow.

25/01/2009

Well, our planned sightseeing day has been washed out, it is raining cats and dogs and it stays that way for most of the day so a good bit of research is done checking embassy locations and changing our route around a bit as we have realized that we will just have to plan our route without so much of the sightseeing, it’s difficult to sightsee when you have to leave the bike fully loaded to go anywhere.

I went out to check the mileage and one of the guys guarding the parking came over waiving a ticket book at me, I guessed it wasn’t raffle tickets for the local boy scouts but probably for the parking so I told him I didn’t understand and waved for him to follow me to reception to get someone to translate hoping he was just trying to scam me for cash and that he would leave it…. He didn’t. he followed me and the Hotel manager told me that I must pay for parking, it wasn’t free .. A**e!! So I had to give him MAD 40 for two nights.

 

26/01/2009

Start Mileage - 4874

42 Miles

Casablanca - El Jadida

 

Up at 06:30 so we can get packed away early and be at BMW for 08:30. I go to get the bike from the “secure” parking and find a ropey old moped leant up against the offside of the bike, which, as I move it sets off it’s alarm and the “Guardien” comes running over waiving his arms and shouting something in Moroccan. He takes the moped and moves it but then blocks my way asking for more money so I give him another MAD 20 which he wouldn’t have got if I’d checked the bike first as I found a scratch on the tank where the grotty moped had been leant against it. A quick cup of coffee and plenty of moaning after packing and we are set to go. We get to BMW for the allotted time and are directed to sit at a desk with one of the staff and fill out paperwork for the service. Half an hour later and a mechanic comes to take the bike into the workshop .. Great we’ll be on the road before they close at lunchtime …. Wrong again! The chief mechanic tells us that because they are busy the bike won’t be ready till the afternoon .. Not good. Nothing we can do but wait, the office staff are as surprised as us that it is going to take so long, but, seeing the amount of cars coming into the yard it’s easy to see that they are busy and why should we get any priority?? So we wander across the main road to get a coffee, sit and watch the world go by and breathe in more fumes than is healthy. It’s a bit of a trek back to town especially with all our gear on and the stuff we have taken off the bike, and it is the only café we can see, we manage to waste an hour there before we can’t take anymore and go back to BMW to sit on their doorstep. 12:30 comes and the staff leave en-mass for their lunch, leaving us with the security guard and his cats. 14:00 and all the staff come back from their lunch with us still sat there. One of the girls checks to see when the bike will be ready for us .. 17:00 .. aaarrrghhhh!!!

I don’t think my backside can take another 3 hours sat on that step!

16:30 and the bike is brought out .. WooHoo ..  MAD 1470 for the service, a bit cheaper than back home.

We had hoped to get to Agadir today but that is not going to happen now so we are going as far as El Jadida, 65KM away, and trying to get out of Casablanca proved to be not that easy either. It’s now rush hour and the roads are packed, 3 lanes at least 8 cars/trucks/busses abreast, all belching thick diesel fumes and dumping engine oil over the road and not caring if you are where they want to be, they are coming over ready or not, and if that isn’t bad enough there are pot holes that could swallow a bus and did I mention the engine oil?? gallons of it everywhere and in puddles at traffic lights/junctions and roundabouts.

We eventually manage to get out of Casablanca and pick up the signs for El Jadida, for a little while. There is a sign that points off the road we are on but can we find the exit?? Up and down the same stretch of road looking for the turning and not finding it until all of a sudden, there it is, there is a truck and a couple of market stalls right across the entrance, no wonder we couldn’t see it. We are still not clear of the traffic and the roads are not getting any better, we’re crawling along not making much progress at all and the light is fading fast .. I don’t fancy riding these potholed, wet and muddy roads in the dark but we have no option, we are not putting the tent up anywhere along this road, it just doesn’t feel safe. I’m starting to get a bit disillusioned with Morocco at this point and just want to get away from the filth and rubbish piled up alongside the bad roads we are seeing. We see a sign for a motorway going to El Jadida and feel that is the safest option now that it is dark. The road surface is a bit better, it’s just the people wandering across the carriageways and badly lit vehicles we have to watch out for. 30 minutes later and we are pulling into El Jadida, it looks a lot better and we are feeling happier about Morocco. We knew there was an Ibis Hotel here which was the first one we came across, so we just pulled in there for the night rather than go on a hunt for a cheaper Hotel, secure parking as well, so no need to strip the bike, just take in the necessaries.

 

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January 21st - 26th 2009