On our second day in marrakesh we sampled ...

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
Trip End Aug 08, 2005

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Flag of Western Sahara  ,
Tuesday, December 31, 2002

On our second day in Marrakesh, we sampled the local transport when we caught a bus into town. It's amazing how many people they cram into one bus and it was packed. After being dropped off, we started walking to the main square when one of the guys decided we could take a horse drawn carriage for the remainder of the journey. So, yes, we did the cheesy, touristy thing and climbed aboard. It cost us less than a dollar and it was quite fun as neither of us had done anything like it before. Arriving at the main square, we found rows and rows of stalls selling food or freshly squeezed orange juice. We ate at a place which served all manner of things including boiled sheep's heads which we weren't in a hurry to try out. The square is well known for having performers, story tellers, snake charmers, etc and they really play up to the tourists. We wandered around a small souq (market area) and we bought Kev a bongo drum for Christmas which he hasn't stopped tapping incessantly since - mistake perhaps?? We didn't really hang around and although we didn't get the chance to explore Marrakesh fully, neither of us thought it was anything special after the places we have already visited.

After our walk around town, we took a taxi ride back to the campsite and as soon as we had piled out of the cab, we realised that we no longer had our daysack. We turned around to see the cab disappearing down the road. Disaster! Sian thought camera, passport, visas, vaccination certificates, cash and credit card were all gone. Kev frantically explained to the campsite owners what had happened and by the time Sian sped off on the back of the Paul's bike, chasing after a needle in a haystack, Kev had already gotten the message across and was chasing the taxi in the campsite owner's car. Thankfully we managed to get the bag back - miracle! We are not in the habit of carting all our valuables around with us, but Sian thought we had forgotten to take them out, it turned out that only the camera was in the bag afterall.

Jen and Sam left us in Marrakesh, but Alex, Dan and Marlies are staying with us until after Christmas. On Christmas Eve we headed south to find a good spot for Christmas day. We were too far away to be in the Sahara desert so we decided to head for a national park. However, unable to find the park, or any of the recommended deserted beaches, we finally decided it was far to late to go any further so we turned down the nearest track, headed across the sand and ended up at the top of some short cliffs. We couldn't have been luckier, it was perfect. Completely deserted, unspoilt and beautiful. We woke up on Christmas morning to glorious hot sunshine, picture perfect beaches and rarely another soul in sight. We had a really lazy day, we walked along the beach and saw caves which people had carved out of the sand cliffs and made into houses. The sand and the cliffs have been sculpted by the wind into the most spectacular shapes, some of which are several feet high. Later, we watched the sun set on the horizon across the sea and then we all prepared a BBQ. We had stocked up in Marrakesh and bought steak, turkey fillets, lamb and sausages, along with lots of other treats. It was delicious and we rounded it off with gin and tonics (complete with lemon!) and toasted marshmallows. Yes, we really know how to rough it here and the only drama of the day was when Sian lost her marshmallow in the Nutella! We even made a tree in the sand with tealight candles.

The next morning as we were preparing to leave, three women on donkeys came by. They were heading to the next town to buy fish to sell. Marlies speaks French and chatted to them and before we knew it, the women dressed Marlies and Sian in their wrap around skirts and head scarves. They were so friendly and were eyeing up the men on the truck for potential husband material! We headed south later in the day and stopped in a town where we enjoyed a hot spring bath. It was luxurious, hot showers and clean clothes are currently far too few and far between. We ended up losing out on our accommodation so we spent a long time finding our way to a campsite at a ruined foreign legion fort. The last 5 kms was supposed to be dirt track but we got lost and in actual fact we went about 15 kms crossing the most rough terrain to find the site. There were some pretty dramatic ditches, which the truck managed to make it's way across but we didn't get there until after two in the morning. From there we moved on to a place called Tan Tan, and said goodbye to Dan along the way. We were meant to be heading much further south but after about 140 kms, Paul became quite ill with a stomach upset so we stopped for the day. The town was very small and we could only manage to get some semi decent tomatoes, onions and potatoes for vegetables. We are definitely going to come down with a bump after our nice Christmas food. We should really have been eating small meals to prepare ourselves for the long weeks ahead without decent food but instead we have done the opposite, and probably expanded our stomachs, so we are going to really notice the difference!

In Tan Tan we went to a hammam which is a public bath house where you sit on a tiled floor in a room and help yourself to hot water with a bucket. In some of the places you can get a type of massage but unfortunately that wasn't available at the one we were at. So for the second time in a week we were spoiled by the availability of hot water and were clean! Thankfully Paul felt much better the next day so we headed south to a town called Laayoune. We have now left Morocco and are in Western Sahara which is still disputed territory and so there is a heavy military presence with UN peacekeeping forces. All this means for us is that we have to keep stopping at police road checkpoints. The towns are now quite small with very little to see. The scenery whilst we are on the move consists only of the vast desert with the odd herd of camels. Speaking of which, we sampled the local staple of camel kebab and it was quite tasty!!

We have now moved on again to Dakhla, the last town before the Mauritanian border. On the way here, we stopped in the middle of the desert to watch the sunset over a secluded fishing village in a little bay. Later we stopped again to look at the stars. I know we mentioned them before but we really have never seen as many. They span over the horizon in every direction and the Milky Way was really clear. Dakhla itself is just another military town. The females on the truck are getting a bit tired of the continuous leering by local men and are looking forward to getting into Mauritania where the hassle should ease up. However, we will be spending New Year here as we have to obtain permission to proceed from the police and we are still about 350 kms from the border. It doesn't matter as we have the odd drink on board and it is illegal to take any alcohol into Mauritania anyway. The weather is definitely getting much hotter and the flies swarm over everything. Sometimes things are just a seething mass of the horrible black insects but we'll have to get used to it!

Well that's about everything, it may be while before we get to the next internet, we just don't know.

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Kev and Sian.
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