Our first stop was the supermarket where we could get a local sim card which would give us access to wifi. We decided to go with Meditel as this seemed to be the one which our phones always connected to. We spent 230 dirhams (£15) per couple which would give us enough wifi access for 4+ weeks and would work in Western Sahara and Maurintania. Perfect! We grabbed a few things from the supermarket and off we headed into the Atlas Mountains.
Later that evening I turned off the iPad as the hotspot option seemed to have vanished. After turning it back on the SIM card was blocked and we were given no PIN numbers to unblock it. Great, just our luck! The store we bought it from isn't answering their phone either, so that was 230dirhams down the drain!
But nothing would put us down, so let's get back to the fun stuff!
We drove through beautiful sceneries with amazing winding roads that Charles kept cursing at because he couldn't experience it on a motorbike. He was a maniac on motorbikes back at home and would drive like a hooligan on these roads if he could. Cat and myself were extremely pleased and relieved that we were in our very slow Land Rovers where we could just chug along safely and slowly. Then Rob piped up that he would do crazy things on this insane road in his mega fast Subaru he once had.... Of course it turned into a 'who's dick is bigger' contest and who would out run each other... Boys will be boys at the end of the day!
The scenery continued to dazzle us for hours; we could never get tired of it. We pulled over at a beautiful spot next to the river where we could have a lunch break. We made our usual wraps and had some time to just admire the gorgeous views. Unfortunately, Cat had come down with a rather nasty runny tummy, cramps and an awful head ache. So she retreated back to the car very quickly to see if she could get some shut eye. The travellers bug, as they call it, had to hit us soon and Cat was the first one. So our plan was to make sure we could find a campsite where there would be a decent toilet.
After lunch we had to endure more magnificent views and amazing roads while keeping a look out for a campsite. As we came over one of the hills in the mountains we came across a campsite which had panoramic views. We had a quick look at the facilities and we were very pleased to see an amazingly clean and modern toilet, even to European standards! We were also the only ones there, which was even more of a bonus (particularly for Cat). This would certainly do and we would watch amazing sunsets and sunrises from our mountain top campsite.
However after the sun went down at 5:30, it soon started to become extremely chilly as the wind rose quickly up from the valleys below. It was bloody freezing! The owner said very nicely that we could go inside where there was a lounge that people would use when booking out the hotel rooms. What a relief! But we still needed to do the cooking outside, so we prepared ourselves for a very cold night. We made spaghetti bolognese and huddled around the Colman like penguins while trying to block out some if the wind. It took ages but when it was ready, it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered and it was devine. Poor Cat only managed a small bowl which is sad because this is her favourite meal! It always happens like that, doesn't it!? But we spent the rest of the evening in the dark lounge that had no electricity while Charles put on a movie for us on the laptop, Transformers to be exact. A little bit of home comforts was just what Cat needed.
In the morning, we woke up to the most beautiful sunrise (sorry I keep going on about the scenery, it just is so breathtaking!!!)! We packed up and heard two bikers coming up the mountain. They pulled in where we were camped as they noticed we were from England. Seeing fellow Brits in these parts were becoming very rare, normally only seeing Swedish, Dutch, Germans and French travellers. They were running low on Petrol and asked for some help, but unfortunately we only had Diesel. The next petrol station was miles away, but with a bit of luck the owner of the camp site had a small rashon for them to have. As always after having a few laughs and swapping stories of our travels we were on our way again.
A long drive was ahead of us as we headed to Zagora. The boys had noticed a few suspicious noises on their gearboxes and our Daisy had developed a water leak. Sod's law, the gearbox's were the only thing Rob didn't replace in the cars before we left... It always happens that way, but these things need to be sorted while it was still a minor issue.
I had read that Zagora was the place to go for Engine repairs before heading out to the desert, so we were headed to the right place. As we came into the town we had two cars pull us over to say we should go to their workshop where they had helped many English travellers before. We got their cards and stickers, but would do our own research that evening into a recommended garage. We stayed in Les Jardin de Zagora at 65dirham per night (with hot showers and wifi). After reading some reviews and recommendations, we knew which garage we would use so we headed off into town the next day on foot, so that we wouldn't get pestered to get some quotes on parts and labour. Unfortunately because we are not in the peak tourist season, everyone knew about us, so we got pestered anyway. All in the name of fun!
We are starting to learn not to tell anyone our immediate plans. We mentioned we were going to the desert next.... And of course this flips a switch for them and they go off in a selling tangent. Camel rides, desert tours, cousins shops, rugs, etc.... You name it and they could and would offer it, for free!! But at a small price! Lol!!!
Unfortunately Charles and myself happened to catch a small bit of the travellers bug and found ourselves running, no joke, running to the nearest toilet! It certainly was not much fun. But we certainly didn't have it as bad as Cat and we were on the mend as quickly as we had caught it! So now the three of us are well and attending the loo's at more regular interval. (My apologies for the over share, but a small hint of dia comes with the territory of Morocco. Lol) Rob is the only one that has been fine and refers to himself as having an iron stomach. I suppose this comes with being a mechanic and eating food with filthy hands and never cleaning his coffee cup at work! Ew!!! Lol....
Rob and Charles took Daisy to Chez Ali Nassir's garage the next day and soon found out the problem was worse than he thought and needed a whole new gearbox! Ouch!!! A quote from 2500dirhams(£166) for two bearings to 7000dirhams(£466) for a new gearbox! Not too much we can do about this, but we need it sorted now before it shoots us in the foot somewhere in the middle of Africa. They had a massive room filled with parts, more than Rob has ever seen before, so they were ready for the job! Rob and Charles hung around the garage to make sure the machinists knew what they were doing.
Cat and I stayed at camp and did some washing and major research into visa's we would need and where to get them for our future travels. We have since found out that the DRC is going to be a nightmare! But hopefully we will try get over this hurdle over the next few months.
The car was still not done by the end of the day so Charles and Cat kindly attached the back annex under their roof tent so Rob and I could kip at the bottom. We would then do the same the following with Charles and Cat kipping in our annex.
While waiting for the cars to be sorted Charles was desperate for a hair cut and Cat was up to the job. She got the razor out and would give him a number 4 shave. After this was done, Charles went for a shower to get rid of any itchy loose hairs. We had noticed a few straggly bits when he had returned, so Cat went to go sort it out..... All of a sudden she burst out laughing! Charles was asking what had happened with a panic in his tone. I rushed over to see what the commotion was all about, and I too was in bits while Charles sat there unaware of what had just happened... Cat had put the wrong size on the head of the razor and took a chunk out of his hair. Well, we were all in stitches while we laughed at Charles' misfortune! So it was time for haircut round 2!
We collected the cars and decided we would stay one more night before moving on. That way the boys could look over the cars and make sure everything was ok before heading off into the desert.
On a more personal note...
For those of you that know Rob and myself, you will know that Rob and I used to bicker all the time at home (All Robs fault, of course!). We often have very different views on things and generally always settled with "let's agree to disagree". They say opposites attract, don't they!?
Our work patterns always used to overlap, so we were lucky to spend one day together during a month. Now we are spending 24/7 with each other and having to learn all over again how to live in harmony and figuring out who's jobs are who's. We love each other to bits, but we also know exactly how to get under each other's skin. So we are finding we are fighting like cats and dogs. Looking back at all our arguments we tend to laugh at how silly we were and always end with a hug and a 'sorry babe'... 'No I'm sorry!'
We are slowly getting there and arguing less and less. But certainly has been a learning curve!
A trip like this really teaches you about yourself, each other and your relationship. I know that during and after this amazing adventure we will become stronger than ever!!