After ten months travelling throughout Europe visiting Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania it was time to find somewhere warmer for their second winter. As Australians, experiencing the extreme weather conditions of winter in northern Norway was a highlight and their vehicle kept them warm and comfortable throughout their journey, but once was enough! It was time to head to the warmer winter weather of Morocco and to put the off road capability of their expedition vehicle to the test during three months there.Being avid travellers and enjoying countries and cultures that are vastly different to their own, Morocco had always been on their wish list. Now they had the appropriate vehicle to really explore the country’s landscapes, especially the off road tracks that would take them through deserts, across sand dunes, over rugged mountain passes and to places less frequented by the everyday tourist.
They found Morocco to be a genuinely friendly country where everyone welcomed them. People would give them a ‘thumbs up’ and wave to them as they passed through cities and villages. Often they were greeted with “welcome to Morocco” as they interacted with the locals at the medinas and markets where a wide variety of excellent, fresh and cheap fruit and vegetables could be purchased. The Moroccans are an entrepreneurial bunch, offering tajine and cous cous delivered to your door, or perhaps fresh bread, fish, fruit and vegetables or even laundry. Anything can be fixed there and this was put to the test when Wayne and Elizabeth damaged their rear under ride bar after forgetting to raise it on an off road piste. After turning back and heading to the nearest city, Guelmim, the damaged bar was soon dismantled and with a bit of heating, hammering, welding and true handyman skills the whole thing was repaired in a few hours the same afternoon for a fraction of the cost it would be in Europe and no new parts needed!
The landscapes in Morocco are truly stunning. Several mountain passes were traversed, however their favourite was Tizi n’ Ouano, north of Dades Gorge. This pass climbs to around 2900 metres with dramatic, rugged mountains covered with a dusting of snow. The road is not for the faint hearted as it is rough and at times very narrow, clinging to the mountain side several hundred metres in the air. Their truck handled the rough terrain without an issue, however at one point they barely squeezed through due to overhanging rocks and the road becoming only just wide enough for them. Thankfully they made it without having to air down their tyres, which they have had to do previously in Montenegro, although with a semi automatic tyre inflation system fitted it makes the process simple!
A highlight of the trip was their journey from Merzouga through the desert to M’Hamid, on to Erg Chigaga, across the dry Lake Iriki and finally to Foum Zguid. The ability to experience the sheer remoteness, rugged beauty, stunning sand dunes and pure silence were the exact reason they purchased the type of vehicle they did. This is where the true off road capability of their MAN TGM 4x4 expedition vehicle came into its own, handling the sandy tracks, the steep, narrow mountain passes and at times extremely rough terrain with ease. They were able to comfortably stay in remote desert locations for extended periods as their vehicle is fully self sufficient. Electricity is provided by their solar panels and battery bank, with the addition of a diesel generator if required. Onboard they carry 600 litres of water with multiple filters for drinking water, which is sufficient for 10 to 14 days or more if they do not use the washing machine/dryer! The living module has a separate shower and toilet and a fully equipped kitchen which includes a large fridge and freezer with plenty of space to stock up on supplies before hitting the desert. For the cold desert nights they have a liquid heating system running a radiator, underfloor heating, towel dryer and under bed heating as well as an air conditioner if the days are too hot.
For anyone thinking about travelling to Morocco they would highly recommend it. The country has plenty of interesting places to visit, including Unesco World Heritage sites. The local souks and medinas are wonderful places to not only shop for just about anything, including camels, donkeys and sheep, but to also just wander around and get a glimpse into daily life. The food in general is simple, full of vegetables and cheap. You can experience a variety of climates, from dry, desert heat and dust, to cooler temperatures and snow in the mountains and finally the beaches along the coast. At all times they felt very safe and welcomed.
After taking a short trip home to Australia to meet their first grandchild, Wayne and Elizabeth plan to spend several months over summer exploring England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Where they will head after that, who knows! The world is at their fingertips and they have the ability to travel wherever the mood takes them and their plan is to see as much of it as they can.