Day 113-114 Morocco, Merzouga – Tinghir

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RouteMerzouga – Tinghir, Morocco
Route Details
Overnight stopLa Mabrouk
31.53017, -5.546185
Overnight CostsMAD60
(EHU, free washing machine,
WATCH out for additional charges)
Diesel / litre MAD9.64 (£0.79)
Exchange rate 12.47
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Day 113

Moving day today as we make our way back along the road from Merzouga to Errachidia for a bit of a shop at Marjane to stock up on (mostly) dry goods and long life milk.  Although we did also manage to slip in some fruit & veggies and a chicken for a future shared meal.  Although shopping at Marjane is very convenient and we can get most of what we need, the quality of fruit & veggies is not fantastic and we find them a great deal better when shopping for them in the souks.

After a quick stop in the car park for some lunch and a top up for Kaya and Boris as well, we set off for Tinghir. 

We’ll be stopping here for a day or so to have a break and a mooch around Tinghir before we set off for the Todra Gorge.  We’d read a lot about this drive, and that of the Dades Gorge and the much photographed switch backs.  But before the gorges, we arrive at a highly rated stop at La Moubrak – a family run restaurant and stop with electric hookup included.  More importantly, free access to a washing machine – now becoming a bit of a necessity as our laundry bag is creaking on it’s straps and dirty laundry spilling out onto the floor!

We are met by Hamid, the brother in charge of the camping.  We are welcomed warmly with a pot of tea and a chat and look around, a little surprised, at the variety of animals, pets really, very unusually, lying around.  Pets are a bit of an anomaly in Morocco as even dogs and cats have a task to fulfil.  But we are told that they are rescued animals that they have adopted: several cats, a little puppy, a couple of tortoises in a box (so they don’t run away!), a rabbit, a baby donkey, a mule and 2 camels – Jimi Hendrix and Babe Ruth.  As it had been a fairly long day, we decided to order a supper for later that evening of warm salad and brochette – we didn’t really feel like cooking so MAD70 each to provide a break for the evening was a good price to pay.

Whilst we were sitting under a leafy vine and checking in, brother no.2 appeared.  Said, who would cooking our meal that evening.  Now otherwise known as Africa.  Once he heard we were originally from South Africa, every time he saw us he shout (shriek!) AFRICA!!!  It was all very friendly but just getting a litttttttle bit weird.

I met brother no.3, Abdullah, when I wandered out of the campsite, through the metal door, with my camera to see what the drums and music was all about coming from the Berber tents from across the road about 250m away.  He was dressed in bright coloured clothes and turban and leading the baby donkey, looking a little wobbly on its legs, back to the campsite.  I asked if I could take some photos, “no problem, no problem!”, Abdullah boomed, face split into a wonderfully wide smile, white teeth gleaming in the sun.  We walked together with the baby donkey back to the campsite, and I called the gorgeous Mr T, Andrea & Paul (Paul decided to stay behind for a rest) to join us to go and see the camels and mule in the enclosure below our motorhomes.

At this stage, I was clicking away and the next minute Abdullah swept Andrea off her feet and onto the back of the mule!!!  Lots of laughter and a few wide eyes as Abdullah is rather “hands on”!!!!  Dankey (it’s an accent thing!), actually a mule, was encouraged back up outside the campsite in front of the view of the kasbah across the valley – a fabulous backdrop for photographs – and the next minute we were all wrapped and draped in Berber fabrics.  We got some amazing photographs.  It was loads of fun as Andrea was slipped off the “dankey” and I was hauled up, protesting laughingly that I was far too heavy to lift, but Abdullah persevered and there I was on top of the mule!  More photos and lots of laughs as Paul came out to join us all and Abdullah clasped jewellery around our necks and wrists.

Ok, this was going to cost some money, I realised as the penny started to drop……. we did want to keep the fabrics as keepsakes and we had had some amazing photos and a great time, so I was happy to pay something.  “Money is not important,” from Abdullah meant that actually it was and was going to smart!  MAD250 he finally told me.  “MAD200?” I tried but, of course, I had been out-smarted and out-witted and for our time I dished out MAD250. Abdullah had seen me coming, for sure!

That’s the thing about travelling in a 3rd world country and I’ve mentioned this before, you are definitely seen as the rich tourists and at times targetted for as much as can be wrung out of you. At times you pay it willingly, at others you allow yourself to be manipulated, by guilt, gullibility or just a better salesman. But, make no mistake, no matter how worldly-wise or travel-wise you are, no matter how many times you travel in poor countries, you will get caught.  It’s a fact of life. Even if it’s just forgetting to ask the price of a coffee and then having to pay over the odds for it.  I end up kicking myself for a while when it happens, but then I just have to accept it and move on from it and try not to let it sour my view of everyone.  Just to try and keep my head screwed on and recognise and weed out the greedy whilst still trying to help those around us that need it. There are some genuinely good people who won’t want to screw you but you need to keep a very beady eye out for those that do!!  It can get a little exhausting at times.

We retired back to our motorhomes to wash up and get ready for supper where we met up with our Spanish neighbours who had arrived – they now on their way back to Spain – as we all gathered in the restaurant for supper. As supper dishes were cleared, Hamid, his brothers and wives brought out the drums and got everyone up dancing, really getting everyone involved in the animations. Whilst the Spanish went through the same ritual that we had, dressed in draped fabrics, urged to dance and drum and be “Berbers”. And whether they were all taken in by it, at the time I had no idea, but reading their reviews of the site, they were….to the tune of MAD400! Ultimately though we had all had a load of fun and their hospitality, as exuberant and exhausting as it is, can’t be really be faulted……or can it?

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Day114

The little donkey died this morning. It had been on its last legs last night when I had seen it and it was just too weak to survive the overnight cold.

A little later as we got ourselves ready for our foray into Tinghir, I took on the duty of having to dissuade Hamid from “accompanying” us on his bike ….and potentially charging us for the “tour” through the abandoned Kasbah across the valley. We finally slipped away from the campsite whilst Hamid was pre-occupied and made our way into town, stopped for a nous-nous at a local restaurant opposite the souk …..and who should rock up but Hamid making sure to say hello to us so that we would know he was there!  The gorgeous Mr T managed to fit in a khilea omelette whilst we were having a coffee!

A visit into the souk brought us veggies and groceries for the cheapest price we had paid in our time in Morocco. For the first time we were not treated as tourist and paid the same price as locals and it was ridiculously cheap – in fact we felt guilty at paying so little!!! My word, it’s just a constant loop of paying too little then paying too much….

We had spoken to Hamid about a shop that we had read selling liquour as the gorgeous one wanted to buy some red wine.  We set off for the only liquor store in town after our souk visit but  when we got there discovered that it was closed till 3pm.  Oh well, I guess that means that we need to stop for lunch.  That task fell to me to set my sights on a good place. Several rejected and finally we stopped at what looked like a tourist cafe. But we ended up having some really tasty and a very cheap lunch there whilst we whiled away an hour and a half.

Finally it was 3pm and we set off for the liquor store ….and for 2 bottles of very expensive wine – MAD60 for absolute plonk but when needs must. The gorgeous Mr T had been helping Paul to get to the bottom of his stock of wine and it was reaching the bottom and needed some replenishment.

On the way back to the campsite, we decided to make a detour to the abandoned Glaoui Kasbah that we could see across the valley from the campsite.  Again, it was not quite as abandoned as we thought as some of the houses had been re-occupied and it was rather difficult to see which were empty!  So after a bit of an explore we set off back to the campsite.  Up hill and down dale and finally after a very full day, we made it back to camp.

It wasn’t going to be a quiet ending though because this is when we met brother no.4, Jamil, asking the gorgeous Mr T for a ride on his electric bike as he had never been on one before. The gorgeous one, being open hearted and generous, complied and handed over his bike.  Oh dear god, the stress of it all as he flew down the road on the bike, djellaba flowing out from behind him like some magical character appearing right out of Harry Potter!! It was a very stressful 25 minute wait, pacing up and down, while Jamil returned, all the while being reassured by the rest of the brothers and a bit sharply by Hamid that we would come back, no problem. Well, he did finally return. What was the stress about? He had just bumped into a friend and got talking to him, just there down the road, just out of view!!!  I’m far too wound up to be Moroccan!

We all felt in need a break from all of this. The Berber tents were still up and pumping out drums and music as they had been the previous evening. Was that the Birdie Song????? Hamida had persuaded us that there was nothing of interest, just a local couscous fair. Turns out not to be just that. The entire fair was a co-operative of women raising money for battered women in Morocco and trying to raise awareness of their plight. Nothing of interest? Hamid! Plenty of interest. We wandered around for a while admiring carpets, local products and henna tattooing.  Women were peeping out from behind their veils at us, the Birdie Song (again!) blasting out of the speakers making it impossible to talk to anyone, plates now scraped clean of their couscous being washed in a bucket of water, massive kettles steaming away over fires, silver tea pots of Berber tea being dispensed and finally Paul found his bellows to use with his braai that he had been waiting to buy since Rissani. Result!

And we finally dragged ourselves back to the campsite for a very calm, quiet dinner in Boris, away from the noise and rambunctious, smiling energy of the Mabrouk family.

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