After an extra day’s well needed rest, on Monday 27th May the final three vans carrying Penny and Chris, Tony and Margot and ourselves left the Cascades with the intention of getting as far north as possible for a ferry crossing the following day. Our aim was Asilah which was 508km away which on normal roads would be perfectly doable. However here, an inch on a map can take hours…..
The gorge into which the Cascades fell continued for quite some time but once into the agricultural plains the road was much better and farm vehicles aside we made good time to Rabat where we picked up the motorway for the final 300km. Throughout the whole trip people appeared along the roadside from seemingly nowhere and this continued along the motorway as they crossed the carriageway to get to the other side – shepherds were even watching their herds as they grazed on the verges!
10 hours or so later and we reach our destination. On our last Morocco trip we overnighted in a car park right outside the medina walls and we were pleased to find out (initially) that we could still do so after a small payment to the guardian – Dh30 (under £2.50) and a couple of beers (with alcohol not on general sale it is very much a means of payment and we were asked for it on numerous occasions). We settled down to dinner and there was a knock at the door; it was the guardian again and this time he was with his father who had fresh fish he wanted to exchange for wine. After some negotiations it became apparent that our wine wasn’t good enough (and it wasn’t the rubbish we exchanged last time!) so we couldn’t have the fish. No worries on our part as it saved the worry of having to gut them and then store them without stinking the van out! With no joy from the other two vans, the father then decided to throw a bit of a wobbly and he and his son had a huge argument; now if we’d been able to understand the language it might not have been so intimidating but we had no idea what was going on or what was being said so we just shut down all the blinds and turned the lights off in the hope they’d go away. They did eventually at which point another drunk slouched up against the wall decided he would have a whinge and moan at the top of his voice; time to decide if we really wanted to stay here….
The car park did quieten down by a reasonable time so we stayed as it was only short hop to the ferry, or so we thought. As we had time we decided to take the scenic coast road rather than the motorway – our first mistake! All throughout the trip we had known that the return ferry crossing was from Tanger Med rather than Tanger although this was a small detail that didn’t register with Bob when he put the destination into the sat-nav – second mistake! The consequence of these events was that we missed the sign on the motorway to Tanger Med and ended up on one of Bob’s mystery detours through the old town of Tanger as we headed to the old port. Having followed a local’s instruction to find the sea and turn right we were able to pull over and put the correct port in only to find it was about 40km from where we were and we had about two hours to the midday ferry departure time; if the exit from the country took as long as the entry we were not going to make it, not to mention the 40km along the winding coast road.
Having survived a small tussle with a couple of Italian vans who also seemed to be lost but who decided to stop on a roundabout, we, to our amazement, made it to Tanger Med with 90 mins to spare. Tanger Med is a huge new ferry facility currently under construction although with enough complete to allow services to begin and to our delight, it’s very efficient – one window to check in, the next for the vehicle exportation, then two customs stops, one of which involves the entire van being scanned for what we can only assume is stowaways. 20 minutes from beginning to end – unbelievable! We arrive quayside around 11am to see a ferry sitting there although with its doors closed so decide to get coffee from the cafe – just as the boat pulled away! Question was, what time was the next one? Morocco has had several time changes recently and the timetable we had showed ferries leaving at either 12 noon or 1pm (clocks had been an hour out in several towns as well) so if we had another hour to wait then it wouldn’t be in issue. As it was we didn’t board our ferry until gone 1pm but the delay was just as well as Penny realised she had left her set of van keys at one of the first windows at the other end of the port and had to work out how to get them back. She and Chris are finally able to hop on a bus back to the entrance to the port but are gone so long, we’ve boarded by the time they get back but again there was no need to panic as it seems the ferry sits there until there are sufficient vehicles on board to move!
We finally depart Morocco at 2pm and spend the entire crossing on deck from where we can see Spain, Gibraltar and the Moroccan coast. We are also joined briefly by a small pod of dolphins but they don’t hang around and we see no more. The journey should be around 90 mins but just outside Algerciras the captain switches the engines to minimum power and we sit there for 30 mins or so going nowhere. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem but we were intending driving for a few hours once we arrived in Spain to get a headstart on the journey but after putting the clock forward to local time it became obvious we weren’t going to get too far tonight. Time to switch to plan B and we found a campsite just south of Seville (Camping Villsom) which was €22 well spent for a quiet pitch and good showers plus being able to fill with water. It was then turn right out of the campsite and head north for the next few days!