Four wheel drive adventure in the Sahara Desert, Mauritania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Chinguetti, Mauritania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Back to Morocco on January 31st.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Welcome to Morocco!

That was an interesting day! It's always an adventure crossing a border, but even more so when you're doing it by ferry. But overall, it went really smoothly. 

Written on our ticket booklet was the ferry departure times. It said 4am, 10am, 4pm and 10pm. We wanted to be on the 10am ferry and had read that it was best to show up at least an hour and a half ahead of departure.

And because our tickets are “open return”, it means that we don't necessarily have a guaranteed spot, and that if the ferry is full, they simply put you on the next one. And we had no idea what to expect, so we got there at about 8:15am.

Sunrise at the Algeciras port with Gibraltar in the distance.

Max, lined up to get on the ferry.

There were only five other vehicles in front of us. One car, another car pulling a travel trailer, two other motorhomes, and a small van. There were also three heavy trucks in another lane.

We figured that with the ferry leaving at 10am, we still had some time before they boarded. So Ruth started making some breakfast. Just as breakfast was ready, the vehicles ahead of us started moving!

Our ferry is named the Wasa Express. Built in 1981.
It looks good from far, but it's pretty dated.

And just like that, we were on the ferry at about 8:30am. No other vehicles came on behind us, which I thought was odd. We sat there for ten minutes and ate some breakfast, then locked up Max and went up to the upper deck. We're just looking around, taking some photos... when I noticed that the ferry was moving! It was only 9:05am! Very strange, because we had read reports of the ferry often departing late, and sometimes by an hour or two.

We spoke to a young couple from France who were with the older motorhome in front of us and they were surprised as well. It was so odd because the ship was virtually empty. Don't get me wrong... we were thrilled. It meant we would arrive earlier than expected, and there would not be so many people trying to get through customs on the Morocco side.

Algeciras is a busy shipping port. 
This big container ship was being nudged into dock by a couple of tugboats.

Looking back at Algeciras port.

I walked down to the information desk, and the guy there spoke half decent English. I asked about the departure time, and he said they have been behind schedule for two full days now. We were in fact on the 4am ferry that was leaving late! But, for us, this is the big benefit of having open return tickets. We are able to get on any Balearia ferry that has room on our route. The other benefit is that we would never be late for our return ferry, and if we are, we simply get on the next one.

We were just really surprised at how empty it was given how busy the ferry ticket place had been. Of course there are other routes and other ferry companies, but still.

My father had taken this same route in reverse from Morocco to Algeciras in 1954. He took one photo of Gibraltar that we tried to recreate...

Gibraltar 1954.

Gibraltar 2023.

We settled ourselves into the near empty lounge area with maybe a dozen other people. We had been handed a customs form to fill out, so we got that done. Then, the Morocco border police actually check and stamp your passport on board the ship. A guy came in with a big portable computer in a suitcase sort of thing and set himself up at a desk in a side room and called for passports. Normally, we've read that there can be a long lineup to get this done, but because the ship was pretty much empty, it only took minutes. He didn't ask any questions, just filled out some stuff on his computer, stamped the passports, and that was that.

It was supposed to be an hour and a half trip, but it took almost two hours. Not sure how they will get back on schedule at that rate!

Africa!

We saw one whale off in the distance, and a couple of dolphins closer up.
This was the best photo I could do though.

Ready to disembark.

Welcome, in many different languages.

We followed the vehicle in front of us, but it was a bit of a maze, and not well organized. We got to one section where there were two prominent signs... one for vehicles registered in Morocco, and one for foreign registered vehicles. So of course we took the appropriate lane, but we noticed that the young French couple we had been talking to went in the other lane. I figured they didn't understand the sign. But we got up to the booths, and were told we had to do a you U turn in order to be scanned by the big x-ray machine. Which we would have had to do anyhow because the lane didn't go any further anyhow. It wasn't very organized. Kind of reminded me a little of entering Mexico!

With the scanning done, we then had to go to the lanes marked for Moroccan registered vehicles. Which made no sense, but there was no other option. There, an officer came and took our vehicle registration and directed us to park at the side. He came back five minutes later with a card that we have to keep for when we depart the country. Then, another officer came and asked if we had anything to declare. We said no, and a drug sniffing dog came on board. The guy just let him loose, and he did his job. Put his paws up on the counter and everything. He was pretty thorough sniffing around!

The whole thing from the time we got off the boat to the time we got through customs was about 25 minutes. Then we got to a spot where they sell insurance and change money and have ATMs, so we stopped and used an ATM to get some Moroccan cash.

Our Teikom Spanish SIM card was not supposed to work in Morocco, but strangely enough it was. So we didn't yet bother with buying a Moroccan SIM card, although we will today. It turns out that it works occasionally, but you can't use it as a hotspot so the laptops can't connect to it.

On the road in Morocco!

Scenery along the way.


We stopped in at the first fuel station, and put is some diesel at 14 dirhams ($1.83 CAD, €1.28) per liter which is about $5.18 USD per gallon. We didn't put in very much in case it was cheaper away from the coast.



There is a small archeological site near the port.


And we hit the road inland heading south. We took a secondary road that led through several villages and small towns. Most people stare at us, especially the children. Young teen boys wave and give us the thumbs up signal. 

Hm. Maybe we should have taken the main highway!
Fortunately, it only lasted about 2 kms.

Watch for obstacles on the road.





There had been a boondocking spot mentioned on the park4night app that looked like it might be suitable for our first night, but when we arrived it was not what we expected, and besides, the entrance was blocked off. Plan B was actually our original plan anyhow, so we continued on to the small touristy city of Chefchaouen where there was a campground we could stay at.



On the outskirts of the city of Tetouan.
We had been to Tetouan in April of 2017.




The road ahead.



We went through several small towns.


The campground is busy! And it's really not that nice... most of it is just a parking lot for motorhomes, and it's actually quite expensive by Moroccan standards, especially for what you get. But, it's the only game in town if you want to visit Chefchaouen, and we do.

We signed up for two nights at a cost of 110 dirhams ($14.50 CAD, $10.75 USD) with electric included. And surprisingly, the electric works fine. 240 volts, and anything between 220 and 245 we are good with. Our new electric kettle works great, and we were able to use our electric heater this morning to take the chill off when we got up. And the fridge is on electric as well. The whole idea is to conserve our propane.

Max is filthy dirty!

Packed in like sardines.

Yikes. This is not our style.

Imagine driving this monster around?
Each to their own, of course. You never know, maybe they are headed deeper into Africa.

We think there is one touring group here which is why it is exceptionally busy at the campground. But, it was a quiet enough night, and we slept well.

Today, we need to get a Moroccan SIM card, and then off to do some exploring by foot.

Yesterday's drive.

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And in Canada...

2 comments:

  1. Wow, that doesn't look like any "campground" I've ever been to! Obviously just a way for someone to make some $$. But at least you have a place to stay while you explore the area. Poor Max, I don't think I've ever seen him so dirty. Glad it was quiet-ish, at least.

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    Replies
    1. keep in mind that this is Morocco and not the United States or Canada, having said that it probably isn't much different to a lot of the "campgrounds" along the coast in Spain, we hear that they are all packed in like sardines too, it is just that we avoided them. Boondocking/wild camping isn't much of a thing here, we hear that people who try to do it, often get moved on by the police plus the fact that if we boondock then we have to use our propane which apparently isn't easy to get the tanks refilled here, although we are going to try to see if this is a fact or not sometime in the next little while. At least the campground is in a nice location, it is not next to a busy road and it is in a forest setting.

      Yeah, it probably is the dirtiest Max has been, we will have to keep our eyes open for somewhere to wash him.

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