We are growing accustomed to our new life on the road. Packing, unpacking Grommet, making and breaking camp as we move from place to place. Trying out our new toys as we go, the little generator, the Kelly kettle is great an even works with camel dung, the awning and sides survived our first sand storm!
I am now coming to terms with the fact that I can no longer read in the khazi. Those quiet moments with a Land Rover Owner magazine away from the wife.
Here in North Africa generally the toilets are of the squat and thrust variety in which one would not want to spend more time than is absolutely necessary. Any form of reading is purely for the brave or acrobatic. While still on the subject of toilets, it is common not to pass the time alone - aside from the ubiquitous flies and mosquitoes, I have spent time with geckoes and to date the most alarming, a large toad, during a late night excursion. I guess it should have locked the door!
Blanca 'a domestic goddess' - her words not mine - is finding it hard to cope with this year's plague of flies, apparently a result of the date harvest. Despite having two fly swats on the go at all times, she is currently considering making an 'all in one' fly screen.
Time is running out for our stay in the Auberge Dune d`Ore and we must move on if we are to make Ghana for Christmas. Life is so peaceful we could both pass the year here no problem at all, that is apart from the hassle of changing the web-site to Merzouga-total. Having had a little time in hand to study, the next leg of the journey has already begun to change shape. The new plan being to pass through Mauritania and on to Senegal, our research had led us to believe that no cars over seven years old were permitted to enter Senegal, but apparently they make an exception for foreigners passing through with a Carnet de Passage for their vehicle. We then hope to move on to Mali, Burkina Faso and on to Ghana.
We were both very sad to leave the dunes of Merzouga, particularly after being invited to spent our last evening at Hamid's family home and part take in the post-fasting Ramadan festivities, with dates, little sweet cakes, soup and following a wander round the village, a tagine. We were then invited to spend the night at The Panorama, the only auberge in the area on a hill top. Quite a luxury after spending the past few weeks in Grommet.
Following a night in the wild on route to Zagora, we were surprised to see the Dutchman Hanns and his wife who we had met in Casablanca en route to collect a friend in Marrakesh.
From Zagora, we headed west along the piste to Foum Zguid.
While Blanca prepared the bed for another night in the wild, I took the opportunity to have a piss, only after getting the head torch did I realised that I had been about half a meter away from a horned viper, Morocco's only really poisonous snake!
Days on the road with a few hundred Kms off hard piste was starting to take its toll and we both looked like a couple of ragamuffins, Grommet too was starting to feel the strain. I still hadn't managed to get the fuel to pump between the spare tank and the main, the engine is still leaking oil and now water, the speedo cable has snapped and to make matters worse we had our first puncture. Sitting by the road side changing wheels, we were both amazed by the number of people who offered us assistance, including two trucks full of soldiers. By the time we arrived at Fort Beu Jerif by yet more piste, we were knackered. It was here that we met Nicolas and Anne Marie a Belgian couple on their way back from Burkina, Mali, Senegal and Mauritania. We spent a very pleasant evening dining with them in the FBJ restaurant, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and collecting info on what lies ahead, where to go and where definitely not to go!
The following morning as we said goodbye, they were leaving earlyish, swapping map and map references.
A huge German registered Volvo lorry turned up with what can only be described as a house on the back, and a Swiss couple in a bright yellow Swiss made mowag (like a Unimog but Swiss). They had found a small puppy out in the desert and were anxious to see if anybody could give it a good home. If not its fate was sealed as they could not take it back to Switzerland. It was on-the-spot decision time. Blanca was unsure about taking on the responsibility, so in the end Nicolas and Anne Marie added the small puppy to the other two dogs they had on board and set off for Belgium.
Alone once more and both regretting letting the puppy go, we set about our various tasks. Blanca - yet another heap of washing, I on the other hand got on with Grommet related items, in between boiling water for one wash after another. First task, fix the flat tyre, not a nail as I had first thought just a very sharp stone. I inserted a tube from my stock, job done. The fuel pumping problem finally revealed itself to be a pipe pinched during the build of the bed/storage area. So with a careful application of the jack, I was able to free it up enough to re-route safely elsewhere.
A quick top up, check over and tighten up and we were all set for more piste the following day. Later that evening, after a quiet dinner of camel tagine and honey crepes, we were invited to join a group of 26 motorcyclists from Belgium to see a slide show of their trip. I guess Belgium must have shut for the week as it would appear everybody is here in Morocco. The guys had flown in to Agadir, collected their enduro bikes and done a Japanese tour of the south of Morocco by piste, returning a week later to fly home. We had a great time with them and Sus, their photographer had got some great shots. Far too much wine later, accompanied by a gift of a bottle of Dutch gin, it was time for bed and hopefully an early start. Unfortunately by the time we emerged in the morning, they had all set off for Agadir and home.
We both hope that they had a safe trip, unfortunately our efforts to reduce our cache of alcohol seems to be failing with the new addition of a bottle of gin, we are putting together quite a bar! It will be very interesting at the Mauritanian border where absolutely no alcohol is permitted.
One last note as I write this with the sea pounding against the ship wreck littered shore just below us.
The Moroccan police, we have met so far have been exceedingly polite, courteous and welcoming with no hassle and no question of a little extra pocket money. I wonder if this will be the same for the rest of Africac