Day 76: Spain, Algeciras – Morocco, Asillah (Border Crossing Day)

Sit back and relax, readers, this is gonna be a bumpy ride!

We have woken up to a really grey and windy day, so plans have changed… again! We’re leaving Gibraltar for a visit another time and crossing over to Morocco today.

While we’re in bed sipping our morning coffee, we shake hands and kiss and promise each other to stay calm…..it’s our Border Crossing Day ritual along with a good meal to stop any “hangry” reactions! Borders, at the best of times, can be stressful, crossing an African land border kind of amps that up just a bit (and sometimes a lot!!!). At least this time we don’t have to change money on the black market as well. We’ve wasted far too long doing that when we drove down Africa in 2009/2010 although it was a necessary evil.

So we prepared all our documents:

Passports x 2
Ferry Ticket
V5C original
Insurance Schedule
Green Cards

Last night when we bought our ferry ticket from Viajes Normandie, our passports each got a new cover plastic cover with Viajes logos on. We decided to leave these on JIC it made any difference to smoothing the way with the Border guards.

There was a bit of a funny story last night with these . About 2 hours after we had bought our tickets and we were back in Kaya now getting ready for bed, I suddenly realised that I hadn’t seen our passports being handed back to us when we were in Viajes offices. We checked the ferry ticket folder, saw 2 booklets and assumed these were “special offer” type books (no!!! they were our passports in their new covers!!). The gorgeous Mr T went charging back to the office. It was all locked up but a guard called Carlos down from upstairs. Turns out the “booklets” were our passports (bugger, that was embarrassing! ) but, on the up side, the gorgeous one met the elusive Carlos that everyone on t’internet still associates with Viajes. So he hasn’t left or sold the business, he still very much owns it and lives above it. He just doesn’t work there in the office on a day to day basis. PS: as an update, it turns out Carlos is very used to this sort of reaction as we weren’t the first people to come rushing back looking for passports!

How we laughed and laughed…….huh……. although it is becoming a bit funnier now.

We had woken up a bit late this morning with the idea that we were going to have a mooch around Gib but with the crappy weather, we’d decided rather late in the morning instead to cross to Morocco. We’d missed the 10am sailing so our next opportunity would be 2pm. We had another leisurely, relaxing shower and sat down to our first sort-of English breakfast (no, it wasn’t a Full English so we still haven’t cracked yet) of a BLT wrap with fried bacon and slices of fresh tomato with rocket leaves and mayo ….weeellll, it did have bacon so it was sort of English!

Then popped into the Carrefour for a last cortado and where we learned about machado coffee (small amount of coffee & lots of milk all simmered together yum!). Damn, just too late, so we’ll leave it for next visit. But this visit was also to allow the gorgeous Mr T to gaze one last time at some pork loveliness that we wouldn’t be seeing again for a while.

As it was now nearly noon, our late breakfast and coffee would last us until after we’d crossed to Morocco. *Don’t bank on it, luvvie!!! LOL

Straight after breakfast we left for the port (along with a dozen or so other French reg motorhomes) from the aire and we’re in the queue ready for the ferry at 12:20pm.

At 2pm (sailing time) we were now sitting dock side but still waiting whilst the trucks and cars from Tanger Med disgorged from the back of the ferry.

But by 2:15pm we had started to load. Motorhomes are directed on to the upper deck up a fairly steep and narrow ramp covered in ridges (for grip) and reached by some rather tight turns for 7.65m vehicle with bikes on the back. The motorhome 2 ahead of us can’t get up onto the ramp as the front wheels screech & slip on the ramp and the back wheels are stuck on the deck. It must have been an issue with loading (too much!) on the back axle, an inexperienced driver and/or under powered engine for the size of motorhome because, although it was a bit hairy, we made it up fairly easily…..well, apart from me wanting to instantly puke as the motorhome rattled over the ridges and shook my middle ear into action AND apart from the handbrake turn at the top to stop from rocketing into the sea. Only joking…..about the handbrake turn!!!!!! We locked Kaya up, secured her and set about orientating ourselves on board.

3pm came and went but finally at 3:15pm we were on our way.

We had decided to stand in the immigration queue at the Information Counter immediately as this is where you are stamped in and the visa entered into your passport. And by 3:45pm we had cleared Passport Control. Now what to do? 2 coffees each later (hooray, we were able to order machados!) we decided that we probably need something to eat as we didn’t know how long the rest of the process of off-loading and Customs was going to take and by now we were running on a bit of an overdose of caffeine. So we had a salad and a plate (menu del dia) on board for the princely sum of €7.50 to share and spent the rest of the time reading and walking around on deck – not much of this as it was lashing with rain outside. A good thing really as it kept the sea really flat and the crossing was lovely and calm.

We finally docked at 5:30pm – now only 1.5 hours late and sat on board for another 30 minutes for some unknown reason. TIA, This Is Africa! Sometimes this happens and you just have to roll with it. Thank goodness we had decided to eat on board because now the 1 hour drive to Asillah, our first stop, was looking to take a bit longer in the rain and the now the fast approaching darkness.

Finally we were out on dry land only 2 hours late, and our first problem needed addressing …. and rather fast. Google Maps that we use now as our regular mapping GPS tool just doesn’t work (we have full comms on the gorgeous one’s mobile switched on for this evening’s trip and 4G+ signal ,so that’s not the problem). No, turns out, Google Maps doesn’t work in Morocco. Period. Go figure! Ooops, look there’s Customs, so phones away whilst we navigate through this quagmire. And as surprises go, this was a great one. Mr Frenchman ahead of us is giving the Customs Officer some lip, so he turns his back on him and comes over to us asking for the vehicle papers.

“Ou est Monsieur Janet?” (Where is Mr Janet?) looking at the V5C.

“That’s a female name, I’m standing in front of you!!!!!”, is what’s going through my head. But instead, with a sweet smile…..

“C’est moi, monsieur,” pops out from who knows where!!! Seriously , my French is poor, I don’t know where that came from!

His lips twitch (was that a smile????)) and he takes my passport and V5C to the office for processing and comes back to the now simmering Mr Frenchman and proceeds to search his motorhome inside and out.

As he finishes, he collects our papers and brings them back to me. We are standing next to Kaya, hab door open, lights on inside waiting for him to enter for a search. He remains outside and points to the ONLY cupboard I don’t want to open. Oh crap!! That’s our biltong and chillie sticks gone – we’re philosophical about this though and we never argue with Customs Officers, they take what they want from us without argument (unless it’s a blatant bribe)! But the peanuts have slid over the packets and he’s standing outside, so that’s all he clocks.

“Merci, Madame” as he thrusts the paperwork at me, “Au revoir,” and we drive off while we can, Mr Frenchman now frothing at the mouth, still not cleared.

Just beyond the Customs crossing, literally 100m beyond, we stop next to some buildings to catch our breath and secure our documents which now includes a TIP for Kaya – a credit card sized Temporary Import Permit which allows us to temporarily import a vehicle into Morocco.  Lose this and we will then be liable to pay customs & excise duty on the full value of our vehicle and contents!!!!  So I photograph it and store it safely away with the green cards and V5C which we will need to present to any policeman who asks. Just alongside us we spot the ATMs where we can draw money. Hahahahahahah as though it would be that simple! 3 ATMs later we find one that has enough money. Turns out the “Insufficient Funds” notice was for the machine not our bank balances *cancels all online chats with 3 different banks*. And with that cleared up, MAD2000 in our pocket, all our papers and a now working version of GPS mapping using Maps.Me, we set our course for Asillah and decide for our sanity to stick to the toll road to make this journey as simple as possible especially now that it is pitch black outside.

Sorry, did someone say something about simple…..

Border crossing Level 1 stress
Google Maps not working Level 2
Thinking you’ve got no money
& can’t buy anything in an emergency
Level 3
Finding out the ATMs have no money
but finding one that does
Level 2 (phew going down)
Unfamiliar roads Level 3 (going back up again)
It’s raining Level 4
It’s night time and we have a rule
never to drive at night
Level 5
No street lights Level 6
Roadworks on the toll road & down
to 1 lane with little warning
Level 7
All oncoming vehicles believe that it’s
ok not to dip their high beams
Level 8
A wagon jack knifing about 500m
ahead of us
Level 9
I don’t want to go any higher…..and
finally it all starts to settle and we
see the signs for Asillah approaching
and we turn off to find the campsite
Level 6 and dropping
Maps.me takes us to the corniche,
wrong road for Camping As Saada
Level 7
Finally we find the campsite on the
main dual carriageway through Asillah
on Park4Night about 1 minute away
from us but not before 3 men in dark
clothing are standing in the middle of
the road stopping us ….trying to turn
us into the sea front aire.
Sigh, any other night, chaps,
just not tonight, we’re tired …
Level 8
Finally, in the dark (sorry, there are
street lights now so not pitch black)
driving into Camping As Saada to a
friendly greeting, smiling faces
and a warm handshake
Level 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

And now, as we sit inside our motorhome, warm and cozy, sipping our warm cups of tea, listening to the final haunting call to prayer, we can breath aaaaaaaaaaand relax.

We’re in MOROCCO!!!!

Addendum for overlanders

If you’re looking at making the journey overland, here’s a bit more info on the border crossing re: Green Cards:

You might note that there’s no information or discussion about a Green Card. We didn’t bother asking because we are covered and already have them but just check with the Customs Officers and they’ll tell you where to go and what to do. We would assume that you buy it in the buildings to the left of the ATMs. We’ve heard it’s somewhere between €60-90 per month depending on the vehicle, payable in Euros cash but just remember, it’s 3rd party insurance only. Our Green Cards issued by Saga cost nothing and provide fully comprehensive cover. So get these before you leave. You need to apply 30 days before you leave UK and you will be asked to provide date of entry into Morocco and date of departure. This becomes a bit difficult when you’re travelling overland because who knows when this is going to be? But they will issue a 90 day cover, so I guess our best advice would be to provide your best possible guess at dates using that 90 day window. Unless of course, you know exact dates and you can provide these.

In retrospect it was an easy crossing. It would have been made easier leaving on an earlier ferry.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing!!!!

4 Comments

  • Andrea Riley

    26 November , 2019 at 11:06 Reply

    Oh my days….I feel stressed just reading that.

    Note to self: eat plenty before crossing, be patient, get the morning crossing to avoid driving in the dark and breathe deeply.

    It’s all part of the adventures though and would have been a pretty boring article if everything had gone smoothly.

    Hopefully we will catch up with you somewhere before you head back.

    Safe travels

    Andi & Paul xxx

    • JanR

      26 November , 2019 at 11:49 Reply

      Everyday’s a learning day!! Hope all goes well with yours.
      Drive safely when you get on the road.
      Hope to see you at some stage once you’re over
      xxx

  • Jane Reeves

    26 November , 2019 at 17:04 Reply

    Loving your blogs Jan! Especially the one where you two were falling out for no particular reason! That happens to us but usually when we are at home, shouting to each other from different rooms!

    • JanR

      26 November , 2019 at 17:19 Reply

      LOL your comment made me laugh out loud! Got to talk about the bad as well as the good. Would prefer to be shouting from room to room but hey Ho, such is life in a tin can. Jxxxx

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