Sahara desert & Atlas mountains

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 The best choice we had made was to stay in the Diamand Vert campsite in Fes! Ok, if we had found some king with a limousine and a swimming pool interested in couchsurfing, maybe it would be better, but still…the only thing missing from that campsite was the swimming pool…and the limousine, but the place to pitch the tent, park our vehicles and the option to stay in a beautiful stone house, were making the scenery ideal for us! The place was really clean (that clean that we were embarrassed to go into the bathroom with our dirty shoes!), the WiFi connection was perfect and…oh, toilet paper…free toilet paper!

I forgot to mention the perfectly working washing machine to do our laundry and the kitchen to prepare our gourmet meals (Greek salad!)…imagine, the kitchen sink was only for washing dishes and not your feet (we saw that happening on the boat Livorno – Tangiers)! And all these amenities at a price of 120 Dirham (less than 12 euros)…not that cheap but if you take under consideration all these amenities, then yes, it’s a good choice!

In Fes, we spent 4 nights and did a lot of interesting things…in the campsite! Cooking, laundry, downloading thousands of films and a lot of chatting with a group of 25 English people who were traveling on an old Renault truck, prepared to do the tour of Africa in 40 weeks! We laughed a lot entering the city of Fes where many “tour-guides” were trying to convince us to walk us through the old city labyrinth (meddina). They were so tactful, though: they were asking about your country of origin and how they admire it, informing you that they have some friend there, asking you about your vehicle and admiring it also (that makes sense, it’s a vespa!).

After 1-2 minutes the truth comes out: they just want to sell you something or in our case, they want to help us find our way through the old city of Fes. Don’t make the mistake and start doing circles like you don’t have a clue where to go, they will come after you in a single moment! A gentleman was running after us for sometime yelling something about a parking space! Thanos nearly ran over him with the vespa (17:20 on the video “Kenitra, Rabat & Fes”)! For sure, the thing we will never forget in Fes is the traditional sweets with syrup bought from an old man in the old city (payed only 10 Dirham) and the coffee we enjoyed there! These narrow streets in the meddina could have been the scenery of a film and we could have spent hours there…if we could enter with our vespas!

At around 11.00 on Saturday morning we were ready to hit the road on our special gran tourismo motorbikes and head to high altitudes and low temperatures on the Atlas mountains! The last few days we were watching the weather forecasts and we have been preparing ourselves for snowfall in Midelt, our next destination and for freezing in our tents and our cheap sleeping-bags. This time the road had it all! We saw in a single country all the things we could see in 3-4 different ones! A pure Greek – mediterranean scenery with the olive trees everywhere around and not far from there, a scenery from the Alps on narrow, steep roads with stone houses with triangular roofs for the snow. And while we were thinking that we were somewhere in Austria or Switzerland, a motorbike not bigger than 25-50cc with a whole family on it appeared…or a Mercedes from the 1970s with two whole families in it, or…some adorable monkeys (and, yes we are still in Africa!).

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In the beginning, we saw a group of those monkeys crossing the street and we thought they were dogs. But dogs do not usually cross streets jumping around and climbing on trees! The “bait” we used for some good photos with the monkeys was Thanos’ sandwich! Be careful though, these creatures love to steal anything that catches their eye! The owners of the car which stopped next to us, can’t drive in the rain anymore…there’s nothing on the car to clean the front window now!

From now on, the situation got serious! The roads became steeper, the scenery reminded more of a desert and the sun disappeared leaving us alone trying to find something warmer to wear. The temperature was about 4 degrees but our strong will (maybe a bit stubborn will) helped us overcome the difficulties! I will always remember that brain-freezing feeling I had that day…like I’m in a hurry to finish my ice-cream before someone else eats it first! That headache…not good at all!

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We had almost reached Midelt and we were looking for a place to stay. Tired and frozen as we were, we were charmed by the smells of food in a village we found on our way and decided to stop for a while and have something to eat before we continue. And then, we did the mistake to stop at the first restaurant we came across. Our meal there cost us a little more than we usually payed until that time (140Dirham – we hadn’t payed more than 100 under any circumstances) and we also had the person who “invited” us to sit there for at least 20 minutes sitting on our table trying -what else? – to sell us anything you can imagine or asking us to give him anything from the things we were carrying.

Thanos was ready to give up but I, with my iron will and my vicious look (with the help of the beard I have been growing for 2 months now), made him give up and leave us alone calling me “Ali Baba”! Now we are wiser than before! In a short distance from that spot, we found a campsite and started asking all those very important questions for our decision (prices for a spot, a room, the vehicles, hot water etc). It was too expensive (110MAD per person in a tent and 380MAD for a hut), so we decided that the best thing to do was to get to Midelt and find there a place to stay.

Again, we were lucky! In Greece we had been really unlucky (maybe the socioeconomic situation back there is the reason!), but from the moment we decided to live this adventure, everything had been on our side! When we entered the town of Midelt, for once more, many people came towards us trying to “help” us but the, we knew…we avoided them doing extravagant tricks with our motorcycles that left them completely astonished! We stopped at the entrance of the Atlas Hotel and in perfect co-ordination, Thanos stayed outside to watch our luggage and our vespas and I went inside to negotiate the prices as this is one of my talents! The result: 120MAD.

The granny who was working there didn’t seem to understand my question for WiFi and in my desperate attempt to lower the price for the room, the only answer was that she is not the owner. Fortunately, Thanos had to cope with only one guy on a bicycle but he was a bit anxious about where to park the vespas for the night. The granny from the hotel recommended a safe parking space with only 20MAD more, but that lifted the price for the night to a high-rate suite and not a simple room. At the same time, the guy on the bicycle insisted on helping us find a room (and sell us something, of course) but we just left. Following the same street, we came across the hotel “Rue de la Biere”.

It seemed like our last option for the night, as it was getting dark, so without many negotiations we decided to make a try and ask for a price. The price we were given was at first 250MAD but somehow it became 120MAD…How this happened is still a mystery to me, but nevertheless, it seemed fair enough and the only thing we were dreaming of now, were the warm blankets! I couldn’t worry anymore about the internet connection or the cleanness in the bathroom, the only thing I was worried about was where to park the vespas, but an extremely friendly guy who seemed that he was working in the hotel, suggested that we could leave them in the neighboring coffee-shop which would be closed until 10.00 in the next morning. All those things we had been reading about vehicles parked in houses or hotel receptions are true! The hotel was not perfect: around ten small rooms with no luxuries but compared to the ground of our tents, where we had been sleeping for two weeks in temperatures below 0, they seemed to us like a suite in Hilton!

There was nothing in particular to see in this town and that was exactly what made it interesting! A small town with a gas station, a bank, thousands of small shops where you could find anything you need (we needed some toilet paper!), but the best thing was the…INTERNET! Oh yes, our hotel had the best WiFi connection…better than in Greece! We spent three nights there; we wouldn’t change that WiFi for anything in the world! Saw and answered to every e-mail, downloaded all the episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” show…ok the free WiFi was not the only reason we spent three days there: we were also exhausted from the freezing cold and we needed some sleep. That’s why it was impossible to wake up earlier than 11.00 only to realize that it was too late to drive all the kilometers we had ahead of us. Some extra planning (or some extra sleeping and watching films) for the trip was the thing we chose to do.

Cooking was proved not to be one of Thanos’ talents and after an accident we had with the spaghetti sauce, we decided to eat out! Luckily, no-one in the hotel noticed that the walls of our room were full of spaghetti sauce, so they gave us an address to a nice restaurant called Merzouga and told us to say that we stay in this hotel, so the staff could bring us their best dishes! Some tajine with veal and some chicken was what we chose, served with that delicious home-made bread they make in Morocco. Of course some salad with tomatoes and onions and some olives and all these at a cost of 100MAD. Fair enough! This was one of the few times we ate in a restaurant. We usually prepare our meals by ourselves (mostly spaghetti and salad) and we choose to eat out only when we have many kilometers to travel. Our breakfast is mainly bread (very cheap – 1.5 MAD) with some vegetables or some honey.

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After all these mountains there was the desert, and specifically a village called Hassi Labied, 2.5 km before we reached Merzouga. The campsite “Océan des Dunes” had something we couldn’t resist even if the other campsites in the region were more “luxurious” than that, so we chose to stay there. Of course the price was a good argument to support our choice – only 30MAD per person, but also the very polite owner. (once more, the WiFi connection was perfect!) Sleeping in a tent has become a part of our everyday life and we find the whole procedure very easy and natural, like sleeping, eating etc.

In this village we stayed for three nights with me having convinced myself that I’m riding a KTM, trying to climb up the sand dunes! Thanos, more conservative as he was, he was walking on these sand dunes trying to maintain his vespa in a good condition. But I wanted to burn my clutch disks so I could have some really interesting videos from our visit in the desert! If only we could spend some more days here…I could have made it, ride for at least 10 meters on the sand without sinking! Next stop: Ouarzazate, 360km from where we are. We had the intention to be there in one day. We were in a hurry so that we wouldn’t have any problems with our visas in Mauritania.

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We already knew where we would stay in Ouarzazate: at Abdel’s house who had agreed to host us through couchsurfing. If you’re lucky enough, you can find anywhere someone to host you. “Lucky” is sometimes more complicated than it seems: Abdel was a really poor man living in a neighborhood with narrow streets where we had difficulty to pass with our vespas, with small houses made of mud and of course he wasn’t alone. He was living with his two children, his wife and his wife’s sister.

The day we arrived, they were waiting for someone to come and meet the sister so maybe she could get married to him. Abdel was responsible for that as the woman’s parents were too far to help, and the father traditionally, is responsible to find someone for the daughter to marry to. We were curious for that meeting and we couldn’t wait to take part in that conversation, but unfortunately the conversation was held in Arabic and the negotiations were tiring for everyone. We could only talk between us about Greece and it’s financial and social situation as well as for politics, and since we couldn’t find a solution, we just waited in silence until everyone had left. Now, we were getting ready for sleep and with no concerns about our vespas, which were already parked inside the next house, we could rest.

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Abdel and his son

The next morning we were ready to hit the road again. We would like to stay a bit longer but we weren’t feeling very comfortable. Abdel had to go to work and he would be back at around 23.00. Moreover, he had suggested that we could go for some sight-seeing in the town and return also with him at home. That seemed to us that he didn’t want to leave us alone with his wife and his wife’s sister but when he saw that we weren’t very pleased with the idea of staying outside the whole day he told us that we could stay. Uncomfortable, again. We left some stuff there as a thank you gift and left Ouarzazate. The decision was taken: we would leave to go to Marrakesh.

The truth is that we were curious about couchsurfing in Morocco: how people who are not rich at all are so familiar with the internet and the couchsurfing which, for example, in Greece is not that common? Is providing accommodation in their culture or are they trying to earn some money out of it? We can’t answer it right now. The experience we had on that until now, doesn’t allow us to draw any conclusion, but combining their need for some money or goods and the fact that they are open-hearted people, we can assume that both can happen at the same time.

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At an altitude of 2,300 meters. In the clouds…

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Our first rainfall after one perfect month

 

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From Ouarzazate to Marrakesh

 

PS: +32° 40′ 48.27″, -4° 44′ 31.92″…the exact location of the hotel “Rue de la Biere” for anyone interested in staying in Midelt.

 
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worldvespa

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We (Stergios & Alexandra) are traveling around the world 2-up on a Vespa scooter. For 2.5 years we were in Africa & South America and very soon we'll be back on the road. Our book "Rice and Dirt" is now available.

11 Comments on “Sahara desert & Atlas mountains”

  1. Μπράβο αγορινες μου.. Αμα συνεχίσετε έτσι θα πάρω βέσπα LML …
    Φιλουρες και καλή συνέχεια…

  2. Μπράβο σας ρε παιδιά!!!! χαιρόμαστε σαν να ήμασταν μαζί σας!!!

  3. Ευχαριστούμε και χαιρόμαστε που σου άρεσε!
    Το couchsurfing το χρησιμοποιούμε και για τους 2 λόγους που αναφέρεις.
    Το να γνωρίζεις πως ζει κάποιος από πρώτο χέρι και όχι από περιγραφές άλλων εννοείται πως μετράει για εμάς
    αλλά δεν θα κρύψουμε πως μετράει και το ότι ο ύπνος δεν μας κοστίζει τίποτα.
    Λεφτά δυστυχώς ΔΕΝ υπάρχουν!

  4. Περίμενα πως και πως αυτές τις ημέρες μια καινούρια ιστορία και επιτέλους
    .Πολύ ωραία περιγραφή.Το couchsurfing το χρησιμοποιείται πιο πολύ για την εμπειρία του να μείνεις σε ένα τοπικό σπίτι και να γνωρίζετε καλύτερα την κουλτούρα η για να την βγάζετε δωρεάν;Απίστευτο πάντως όντως που και σε αυτά τα μέρη είναι γνωστό.

  5. μπραβο βρε παιδια,ωραιες φωτο, ακομα καλυτερη γραφή,μου θυμιζει τον πανουτσο οταν εγραφε για το “μοτό”

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