Essaouira to Bouabout

Essaouira to Bouabout

After an early start out of Luton airport ✈️ we arrive in a some what warmer climate than we left. I say we, I’ve a confession, I’ve sneaked along a cycling partner for the start of this journey, namely, Jude! Yes, female! She informs me she’s resolute and akin to a machine 🤖 We’ll see!

The journey/adventure started before we barely got out of the terminal at Essaouira international airport. Over two hours just to get to the car park. Initially, passports had to be checked by all in sundry on the apron, and then asked, where had I come from? Well, there’s only one fracking plane here! Then to top the welcome committee, a young green horn immigration 🛂 officer felt he needed to impress someone, so he duly got himself a knife, and tucked into my bike bag, come half box! His explanation: I’d brought by bicycle into the country to sell. So I’d now be due to pay taxes! It all halted once a female ♀️ senior officer saw his shenanigans and then verbally tore strips off him. Only because she wanted to go home!

Eventually, we passed through the big-glass-doors to arrivals. No one else around. The place was abandoned. Next, find a taxi 🚖 After many a discussion, both bicycles were unceremoniously bundled into the boot of a dilapidated Mercedes taxi. The bikes were then left half hanging out the back. Shame, I was too tired at this stage to take a photo. I’d lacked the will to argue. And I hadn’t even got on my bike.

The taxi driver said he knew the address I’d given him. The fun didn’t stop there, it was soon apparent he didn’t know where the address was. FFS! We called into shops, butchers (nice) and stopped anyone that didn’t run 🏃‍♀️ away! But luck soon changed as we passed the complex and with agents (owners friends) waving outside. Two forlorn passengers clearly gave us away. One British 🇬🇧 and one Aussie 🇦🇺 (I’m told!).

The accommodation was fine, if not a bit grubby. The area did have the blighted plastic bag problem that plagues parts of Morocco. We were 10 kms out of Essaouira, so not part of the cleaner tourist entrapment.

The next few days were spent gathering food and checking out the area. Except for the town, not much else to see. Plenty of plastic bag spotting to be had, though! I filled my plastic bag spotting book 📖 in no time!

My biggest struggle was finding cooking fuel 🔥 Methylated spirits as it’s called in the UK, but it’s called many other things, in other lands. It took me days to track some down. So, I bought three bottles just in case I never found some again! I was then to find out, that once you grasp what to ask for, it’s not so hard to find. So I set off with 2 kgs of unnecessary weight (2 litres). D’OH!

I also purchased an INWI SIM card for about US$12 (£10) with 10GB of data. Bargain I thought. It worked in Essaouira i.e. the shop, but then nowhere else … !

The tea ☕ was always good in the cafes, and you could be guaranteed of some tat on the TV!

Off the start line by mid morning. Not quite sure how far we went, but I/we promptly came across a camp site. Best get our camp admin 🎪 together while in the easy surroundings of a camp site I say! As they say in Swahili, Pole Pole (Slowly Slowly). Not too shabby as 80 dirham (£6/US$8) for the two of us.

First stop out of camp was to stock up on a few more things. For me, sugar. Jude, sweets! You can’t stop without someone wanting something off you. I took a photo 📷 of a shabby donkey. At that point the custodian of the said shabby donkey wanted his royalties💲Two Dirham out of me. Last time I photograph a shabby donkey! I bought a kilo of sugar ingots. Considering the shop proprietor wanted to sell me a 5 kg bag, I did well. I did point out that I was on a bicycle. Made not a bit of difference to him!

No sooner had we covered a huge 12kms, I thought it was best to make our first wild camp spot early. The site was practically perfect with a good vista 🌄 and easy access. Perhaps, a bit close to the dirt road than I would normally like. As with any wild camping spot, it’s always good to practice basher building. Why, I don’t know! I’ve never had need for one before! Never one to rush, we stayed two nights. Pole Pole! 

The rest day we had a visit from two goat herders 🐐 A young girl with her goats, then what seemed like her brother, with his goats! Goats will 🐐 become a theme in Morocco! That evening about 2000 hrs, their father decided to rock-up and investigate too. Initially, I thought it was the Police👮He quickly produced and returned to his pocket just as quickly, some kind of ID card. Could’ve been his video-rental-card for all I knew! He spoke no English, so that was me out of the frame. He spoke no French or Aussie, so that was Jude out of the frame. But he did speak fluent Arabic حلال!

He proceeded to phone 📱 someone and hand the phone to the adjutant of our camp … me. The person on the other end spoke some French, so showing adjutant authority, I handed the phone to my 2IC (second-in-command) … namely Jude! After sometime and a lot of gibberish, we were informed, we couldn’t stay here outside, as it was dangerous. We should follow her father down to their settlement. My initial calm reaction was, like f#@$ we are! Therefore I informed my 2IC that we (I) was staying. After some more gibberish, the father departed 🙄

That night 🌌 was spent listening to every damn vehicle/s (not many fortunately in the middle of nowhere) engine signature as it passed. Was it stopping, did anyone get out, was that a door I hear? I was prepared, at all costs, to throw my 2IC out to confront the trouble. That’s been a leader!

We were delighted to be moving the next day. After two nights in hostile territory! The first appointment was a healthy climb out of the valley with the occasional passing 🐪 camel! Jude would get fitter in time! 

Generally water sources were good, but then, you’d see this everywhere by the side of road, disposable nappies. And they were everywhere. Bin liners (refuse/trash sacks) of them just strewn out, I’d imagine from vehicles.

The meaning of Disposable Nappies is taken verbatim. They’re disposable, so why not. Water courses, hanging from hedges, everywhere. You couldn’t do 1 km without seeing fracking nappies.

This Is Africa (TIA). I was initially raised in Ghana, traveled extensively in Southern Africa, worked in Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania, but I’ve never seen the total disregard for human waste as this. I WAS SHOCKED.

After more shocks of passing through one village that had more dirt 🚯 than you could throw a goat at and men sitting drinking tea in it, we found a peaceful spot by a river out of town. Old stealth camping adage; let no one see you go in.

We started getting our tents up, then the heavens opened up too ☔ Just as much water inside, as out. Jude did far better than me on the water collection front, she had a Lido 🏊I did my best to support a floundering Aussie, I laughed my socks off!

Once a cup-of-tea on the go and dry clothes on, all’s good with the world again.

Not disturbed through the night, except for what is becoming the norm … barking dogs! 🐕 The dogs kick-off at sunset and carry on barking till sunrise. At that point, the minarets start the first pray of the day at 0550 hrs, yes at sunrise!

The next day was relatively uneventful. Must’ve been, as I don’t recall much! Except for barking dogs and the whaling of minarets! 🗣️

We cycled, we had lunch, we found a wild camping spot, we ate, we try to sleep while listening to barking 🐕dogs!

Photos generally shot with a Samsung EX1 24-72mm f/1.8 and a Nokia Lumia N9 phone as back-up.

The map is interactive. Click on the route or icons for detail.