Camperstops, Life on the Road, Motorhoming, Places
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Stopovers 3 – Essaouira to the Sahara

#21 Fertile Roots

After camping at the very peaceful Esprit Nature our next stop was at Fertile Roots. Quite apart from the terrifying drive down the track to find the place (I doubt any other motorhomers would have been daft enough to try it!) the land we were offered to camp on was itself a bit of a trial. The ground was uneven – so we constantly felt like we were on the wonk – and the wind blew dust into the van whenever we opened the door. Then the sand and cement dust that had gathered on us throughout the day got transferred into our beds making it all feel a bit gritty and grimy. On the upside, we were with some totally ace people helping them to achieve their permaculture vision which definitely outweighed the discomfort. My recommendation? If you fancy going to help Mark and Ajelen, unless your van is very nimble and agile, perhaps leave it somewhere else and walk down…

#22 Cathedral Point, Imsouane

This campsite is pretty laid back and all a bit basic. We were deliriously happy that we could get a shower after staying at Fertile Roots but if there was more than one person trying to shower at a time the water ran cold. The site also had some little beach shacks made from half boats on their ends and was full of very tanned surfy types doing very little except hanging about looking irritatingly young and carefree. There is clearly a bit of a surf scene but the tiny town (at least a kilometre walk away) is surrounded by odd pink concrete housing estates which rise up out of a semi-desert landscape. The beaches are quite nice but it was very windy which took much of the pleasure out of the experience as sand was constantly whipped up into our eyes and the van again got full of sand. I guess it would be a good place to visit if you really like surfing and it was perfectly fine for our quick stopover but I’m not sure I’d want to stay for any length of time. This could be to do with my age and family status however as many of the people staying at the campsite had been there for months. There’s also a pretty good chance I’m just not cool enough to see the appeal.

#23 Terre D’Ocean, Taghazout

Terre D’Ocean is one of those campsites that is like a small town in itself. Morocco has a few of these sites, catering for the mass of retired sun seekers that descend during the worst of Europe’s winter. It is super efficiently run, has a well stocked shop and plenty of loos and showers. They’ll do your laundry for you and drop it off at your van for a fee, and various salesmen wander about the place offering everything from freshly baked bread to paintings of camels on your van. Looking at its position on a map you’re led to think that it’s next to the beach, but actually the site is way up on the edge of a very high cliff looking out to sea. There is access to the beach but I imagine it’s a tiring walk back up. There are tons of pitches available and a very well established camping population. Many of the campers here will stay for most of the allowed three months, and you get the feeling that everyone knows each other pretty well. Again, not entirely our cup of tea but useful if you want work doing to your van or you need some new tailor-made matching wind breaks and camping seat covers.

#24 Free camp, Tafraoute

One of our favourite camping experiences in Morocco. A huge area of flat ground on the edge of the town, it usually has around twenty wild campers pitching up but when we arrived there were hundreds. The favourite wild camping place for many of the overwintering crowd at Taghazout had become unavailable and they’d all come to Tafraoute. Strangely though, this didn’t spoil the experience as there was a vague festival feel to it all, albeit a rather sedate over sixties one. We made some good friends, enjoyed spectacular mountain sunsets, had a big fire with palm fronds as fuel and cycled into town each day. We stayed for a few days at the beginning of the week, then stayed a couple of nights at a campsite and returned to the free camp for the last couple of nights. Every morning and evening, men and women wandered about with baskets of bread and various other comestibles.

#25 Camping Granite Rose, Tafroute

This was a necessary camp for hygiene purposes. At that point in our travels we hadn’t figured out how a family of four could last more than a couple of days wild camping with only one toilet. This was a teeny weeny campsite with all the vans squeezed in tightly together with a wall around the outside, like a tiny fort. The owner/manager, Omar, took a bit of getting used to as his manner was rather curt but once we got to know him we grew quite fond of his diligent busy-ness. He seemed permanently harassed in general and particularly troubled by the tagines he was always making for his campers, which were said by all to be the best tagines in Morocco. The facilites were good and it was not much further out of town than the free camp. Again, various men came round selling vegetables, bread and windscreen wipers.

#26 Auberge-Camping Toubkal, Taliouine

The drive from Tafroute to Taliouine is gruelling. If I were to travel that part of Morocco again by motorhome I would organise the trip differently as it took something like six hours in total and parts of it were barely driveable at all due to terrible roads. The campsite was pretty good but with weirdly no laundry facilities. The pool was also grimy but seemingly most places don’t put much effort into their pools until later in the year. The best bit about this campsite was the restaurant which unexpectedly brought egg and chips with our ordered brochettes. I can’t recall ever before being quite so ecstatic about something so commonplace, but I almost wept with pleasure when they brought it out to our table.

#27 Auberge-Camping Kasbah du Jardin, Ait Ben Haddou

This ‘campsite’ was mostly auberge with just a small paved area available for campers. Facilites were basic but fine and it was a nice place to pitch up with a great view of old Ait Ben Haddou and a tortoise in the garden. There was a pool which was clean, and the restaurant and inside of the auberge looked lovely. The young chaps running the place were very accommodating and the boys really enjoyed playing in the compound and in the surrounding scrub.

#28 Camping Atlas, Todra Gorge

It would have been absolutely gorgeous here if it hadn’t been for the constant noise from the building work they had going on in order to create a new hotel/restaurant. There aren’t many pitches but they’re set within palm trees and roses next to the gushing clear waters of the river Todra. With views of rocky cliffs and lush dense palmeries it really is a beautiful place to camp. The young bloke running the site was incredibly friendly and very playful with the boys and we all liked him a lot. Down at the river there was a little bridge made from palm trunks which Eli and Monty obviously loved and on the other side was a path right into the palmery. We’d have appreciated a restaurant as we’d been covering so much ground so quickly we were too worn out to cook but as theirs was being rebuilt they pointed us in the direction of another place up the road, which was really good.

#29 Camping Kala, Erfoud

Such a great campsite! On the edge of the desert, surrounded by palms it’s a real gem. The people running it are really friendly, there are loads of pitches and fantastic toilets! Yes, again I know it’s a bit odd to get so excited about something so basic but after camping in so many places with fairly rudimentary provision for showering and whatnot, it’s such a joy when you find somewhere that feels even vaguely luxurious. There’s a souvenir shop onsite (stuffed with fossils), a restaurant, a berber tent for general hanging out and good wifi. Erfoud itself is a good sized town, with banks, shops, tour guides, a big market and a hospital. It was a shame that we were only there for a night as we’d have definitely liked to stay longer on the site, making fires with palm leaves by night and soaking up the sun by day.

#30 A Berber Tent, Merzouga (Sahara Desert Tours)

While we were on our desert trek, we parked Colin up in the grounds of the affiliated hotel in Merzouga. The hotel was nice and seemingly run by a bunch of very sweet young men, who took an awfully long time to make food but put a lot of care into it; their Berber salad and Berber omelette were absolutely delicious. The Berber camp in the desert was good fun, and the guides provided a simple but satisfying meal on the night we stayed. The camp toilet was self swill and there was no pipe out of the wash basin, so it took me a while to figure out why water just came pouring all over the floor whenever I rinsed my hands, but it was all more than adequate considering we were in the desert. The blankets in the tents were seriously thick and blankety but the sheets built up a considerable amount of static electricity as we moved so that every time we inadvertently touched the bed frame we got a shock. One of our fellow trekkers managed this by putting his blanket underneath him. Genius.

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