New destinations are calling and it’s time to say a warm but a sad goodbye to our new friends, Jalil & Wafae, as we all exchange handshakes and press cheeks warmly together, waving goodbye as we drive Kaya away down the long row of palm trees and onto the national road again.
Our heading today, Meknes and Volubis, another set of Roman ruins that we want to spend time at.
We arrive at the campsite outside Meknes but close to Volubis and it’s lunchtime so we set off for the long, slow walk up the steepest hill we have managed to find so far. 1.5kms to the village closest to the campsite but 39 flights walked up according to my activity tracker.
So that by the time we arrived in Sidi Ali Moulay Moustapha el Hamdouchi, a tiny village belying it’s grand name, we were red-faced, freely sweating and in desperate need of a drink having chosen to walk up at the hottest time of the day. Mad dogs and Englishmen!!! Moroccan tea it is then. At the first cafe we found…. accompanied by our new friends!
Once we had cooled down and we were ready to go out into the sun again, we set off for the centre of the village and found ourselves in the alleyways of the souk, lazy and quiet for a Friday afternoon.
Again, beef hind legs and lambs swinging gently in the shade waiting for their night time customers. After passing a road of stalls with scarves, tagines, scents and herbs bundles along with live sheep and chickens for sale – meat in smaller villages (no expensive refrigeration!) is bought “on the hoof” but can be dispatched and cleaned for you, all part of the price –
the gorgeous Mr T chose a tiny little cafe with smells of fresh fish floating out to call us in. And for MAD25 (€2.50) we enjoyed some tasty fermented olives, whole grilled green pepper, chips and 4 fried sardines served with fiery harissa today and accompanied by a loaf of bread. Hands washed at the sink, we slowly ate our way through an excellent meal.
Then on to the little hole in the wall for a data topup from the stall holders own phone.
Supper that night of homemade bread cooked over a charcoal fire with steak and a couscous salad.
We woke to another glorious day and spent the rest of it pottering around. But as it cooled down later in the afternoon, there was a tap at the door and we opened it to Tam inviting us to join the group in sharing a glass of wine and watching the sun setting over the foothills of the Atlas mountains. Turns out they have been regular visitors to the campsite over the years but with children now grown, they had come over for a holiday and were re-visiting the campsite to say hello.
We gathered up chairs, wine glasses, a bottle of red wine and went over to join them. Azziz (humble apologies if I’ve got it wrong, Marie!) originally from Morocco and his wife Marie, our English translator for the night (fab job, thank you so much!), live in Paris along with Alain, Mohamed from Morocco (Azziz’s cousin) and Tam who had also invited Patrick and Jasmine from Germany, overlanding Morocco in their van, to their impromptu gathering.
One of the best parts of travelling overland is the wonderful people you bump into by chance – I know I’ve said it a hundred times before but you’ll probably hear me say it again….and again because it is a theme close to our hearts. With food on the table to share, wine opened and poured into glasses, peanuts cracked, French, English, German and charades abound as we laugh and chat the hours away. Different people from different cultures, from different lands, with different languages mixed together with food, wine and hospitality and brought together in a common love of travel and chance meetings. What more could you want?
We are forever grateful that we can do this.