Monthly Archives: April 2014

Lamb Woman

While driving through the Atlas Mountains, we pulled over for a refresher and to let the cars cool down, a woman with a small lamb appeared from know where and sat and under a tree to watch us. I took her a bottle of water to drink. We discussed what we had to and then she approached us asking for food, I gave her a packet of biscuits and asked if I could take her photo and this is it.Lamb Woman When I had taken it on my ipad I went over to show her, she had not seen a phot of her self before and asked me to show the picture to her lamb! It was a strange request, I showed the picture to the lamb which took no notice and we moved on. I think she must be the person most removed from my life style that I have ever met,

Fez to Tinghir

Monday 4th April – Fes to Tinghir

Breakfast was pretty good – pancakes, fresh coffee, yogurts, croissants and a cake that resembled Victoria sponge. Left Fes for our next destination – a place called Tinghir. Stopped for a quick break and to collect supplies such as water. Whilst Nick tried to buy a Morroco sim for a phone, Simon had fun waiting in the bank. Whilst we set off from the car park, we witnessed a bloke get run over. We headed for the Atlas Mountains, on the way driving through a forest with monkeys in it, they were hassling cars for food in a car park. As we heading upwards, the greenery gave way to sand and stones. It was clear people weren’t as well off as we had seen in Fes, many made a living by selling fossils on the side if the road. The roads meandered up through the hills. We stopped on top to let the cars cool down- mercury was around 32 degrees. As we took photos a lady (either 15 or 50) approached us with a lamb in tow. In exchange for a litre of water, she allowed us to take some photos. Simon showed her her picture, she had never seen it before and asked for him to show the lamb it too! We also met some hungry children who we gave some Princes Gate water too, and some crisps, they were very happy.

Throughout the day we came across some British motorbikes on a similar style tour. You’d think they would of been vaguely interested but no. The chubby one we approached (hello if you are reading this) was grumpy as hell – obviously not having a good time.

High plains on the Atlas

Into the desert


After some long long roads bad navigating last lorries using their engine to break down the hills, we reached Tingjir.. Streets were a maze of open sewers with only rubble to warn you.

After eventually finding the hotel, we met our young host Mohammed ( coming to the Dragon soon?) . He showed us the roof terrace where we had a drink, and ordered food. It was dark but we could tell the view of the old 3000 year city would be immense.

View from the hotel balcony

One of the rooms

Hotel was rustic, no water in the evening, walls made of straw. Food was late and ok, they seemed of sourced 6kg of cous cous for Simons plate however.

The route through Fez

We were all tired and we wanted to find a hotel in fez quickly and have a relax. We had no idea what the city was going to be like and how easy it would be to find a hotel.

The place was a nightmare, traffic everywhere people and chaos , and we were lost.. A couple of lads on a motor bike pulled up by the car as we were driving through the city and wished us welcome, I thanked them and took the opertunity to ask if they knew of a hotel with parking. They took us to the worst place in the city to take a car, right in the middle of the madina , it was a nightmare with winding streets that were only wide enough for one car and thousands of people , we eventually got to the place they wanted us to be, it was anarchy and we did not think it an appropriate place to leave the cars. We wanted to get out of there and quickly, they offered us an alternative. We eventually got there , and although it was expensive it was worth it

The Riad

Inside the RiadInside the riad

Breakdown at 1200 meters

We had not expected the delays in cueta , we had not expected customs to take quite so longBorder crossing at Ceuta, so we were behind schedule getting into the journey, Just over the border into Morrocowe had been warned about the rif valley, don’t go there, definitely don’t go at night, don’t speak to any one there and don’t stop. I knew that over heating was the Achilles heal of my car, I had tried and failed to solve the problem before we left and although I had made some more changes, I was not confident that the problem of overheating would not come back.

We had been fighting overheating in the foot hills of the rif mountains since we had started to climb, the solution was to put the heater on flat out and disperse some of the engines heat through the car. We had the sun roof open and the windows apart from the drivers window which was not working. On the way up into the mountains, we realised the engine was too hot, we had to stop, we radioed ahead to the team and pulled over. The engine was well out of its comfort zone. On pulling the bonnet, I had grave concerns for it. The electric fan had not kicked in despite having had a new switch fitted and as most of the climbing was slow, it was essential that we got it working. With a bit of wiring and messing about, we had bypassed the thermostatic switch and the fan was running. We set off again in the hope that this may be a solution. We had gone around 400 meters when it was clear things were not good, we stopped again and investigated. The top hose was pouring out water, not good because we had no spare. Fixing the carIt seemed to be leaking around where it fits up to the thermostat housing. We removed the jubilee clip and then pushed the hose further on until it would go no further then we moved the jubilee clip as far along the hose as we could to try and contain the hole at the wrong side of the clip. We filled up the water and fired her up and all was well. No leaks, let’s get going, it later turned out that the mountain went on another 700 meters, we would not have made it to the top. The concern now is will the fan last ther trip.

When we broke down at the the first location, we pulled in outside the house of a local drugs Barron, Dealers minionshim and his co traders all came out to look at what we were doing, it was not an easy situation to be in, Jim was very nervous and we all wanted out, how ever there Was no trouble other than constant pestering to buy canabis resin. Dealer!They waved us a fond fair we’ll and we went on up the hill.

Lunch , pine Forrest’s and canabis
We drove on and on and the scenery was increasing spectacular,Rif mountains the car was going well and I had a better feeling about the trip, at about 1500 meters we started to drive through the most spectacular Forrest’s, the trees were almost as big as the redwoods at Leighton estate and they went on and on, just the shade we were looking for to make dinner.  We pulled up in an area that seemed free from canabis traders and was fairly level.  We had a well rehearsed routine at lunchtime, nick would cook the noodles, four packages and a small amount of water, Jim would boil the kettle for a brew and stir fried the veg and what ever else we had. We can be back on the road in ten unites at a push, I. Think we could beat macro olds for fast food and ours is prepped on site.

Any way our attempt for a peacfull lunch was soon quashed by the canabis traders, they all arrived in there Mercedes Benz saloons and preceded to sit on the gras to talk to us and prepare there offer. In the end there was only two that stayed. I had a pot of olives similar to the ones you can get at castle kitchen , very good, so I offer the two young chaps the olives and they gratefully accepted, we all chatted about our lives and they told us a little about their trade, it takes 100 canabis plants to make 500grams of resin, I have no idea what it costs on the street in the UK. The one who was the senior of the two pulled a piece out of his pocket and offered it to us, it smelled amazing,  I was carful not to touch it, the uk border police wipe down door handles on the cars then test the wipes for drugs. And we noticed that all our cars were marked on the way through possible when they knew we were going to morocco. Anyway time for some of Rebecca’s ( my daughters ) delicious fruitcake. Me and the ,farmer shared a piece ten he gave some to his fried and commented on how good it was. So Rebecca your cake must be good , Moroccan drug dealers can’t be wrong.

In truth, they were decent chaps not dissimilar to any farmers around montgomery, just a differ ant product range. After lunch were got back on the road, I enjoyed the company and the food.

On our way down from one of mountains, we were following a wagon full of large concrete drainage pipes. Nick and Andy had managed to get passed then Jim had a go, he got pased quite safely, we were next and we both believed we had spotted an opertunity, we made our move and had almost got past when a mercades taxi seemed to appear from nowhere heading straight for us, we were still on the wrong side of the road, there was no time to get over even though we were petty much passed the wagon, our only option was to head for the ditch on the Left hand side to avoid a major collision. We. Were in the worst place for an accident, we new it, the infrastructure is not there to sort us out or the car, and I fought if there is any law and order or ambulances in the riff valley, our hearts raced as we waited to see if the taxi driver would make the right move and also go on the wrong side of the road, that way we wouldn’t be hurt, he did, but we still had n o choice but to go off piste , it appears that the highways agency, conscious of the fact that ten time more road fatalities in Morocco than the worst European county, seem to leave generous run off area in many places along the way, it was our lucky day, this bend had a run off that allowed is to get into with low risk to the car. We drove out of the other side not feeling very good about or selve and hearts racing, won’t forget that one in a hurry.

Two years ago I was fortunate. Enough to be able to do a road trip to the arctic circle and we came down through Norway on our way back. I have since said that Norway is the most beautiful place I have ever been, until now. The riff mountains and valleys are almost intensely buetiful  the shear scale of them is awe inspiring, the winding roads that we drove over, seemed to go on forever and around each bend another spectacular view. The pie Forrest’s near the top are like nothing I have ever seen, and provide a refreshing shade to have lunch under, the cliffs and rock formations  begged belief. I loved driving through the riff valley and mountains and I would do it again despite recommendations otherwise.  I had written all this text once then my tablet died and I am now doing it all again but my excitement for the area is un diminished.

Never drive through the riff valley at night, that was the next recommendation to break. The nearer the top of t he mountains we were the rougher the towns and villages became then when at the very top at around 1600m we drove trough a town that my simply knowledge of English can not adequately describe. You will have to look at the video when it goes live, it was like a scene from mad max croxssed with a refugee camp crossed with a town that law and order forgot. We locked our doors and drove through hoping not to break down. That is why not to drive through here at night and it was nearly dark and we had far to go befor we sleep.

This has been the most extraordinary day of my life, I have been terrified, stressed, elated filled with amusement and relaxed, I have had my hart strings pulled by destitute children and starving donkeys an I have. Been delighted by the ordinary people we have met. I will never forget this day and I think my fellow travelers will feels the same way, but the day had two note worthy event to through at us.

Day 4 Goodbye Europe

Gibralter from the ferryWe were up and about at 7 am and in the cars by 7:30 on our way to the ferry terminal, had a good nights sleep, Africa awaits. We were soon in the queue for the ferry and wating to board with about 20 mins to spare. The terminal was full off people with landrovers and big 4wheel drive toyotas with all sorts of parafinalia for crossing rough ground and going through rivers,  I began to think we were perhaps a bit underprepared. I went over to talk to one group, I asked where they were going and the said central morocco, they said that there was no way they would be gong to Daklah, may be this will be a bit more of a challenge than we thought!
I took the opertunity to move the back tyres, which are both winder and slightly bigger diameter to the front and the front ones to the back. This will better in the sand and improve engine cooling as the engine will run slower.

The ferry is very comfortable with really nice seats to sleep (or blog) in, not many people on board. I am not looking forward to dealing with the paperwork at the other side, I guess it will take a couple of hours

We are coming into port now, I am both nervous and excited.

Day three close

It’s difficult looking round a strange town for some where to stay, in fact quite frustrating, and this tow was not the easiest on the eye. we drove in the direction of Gibraltar hoping for an excuse to go there and got lost on the way, this seemed to take some time and I was about to give up when we took another wrong turn at a round about, we ended up i a car park right out side a notable seedy hostel in what was later to become clever, a notably seedy area. I went in a negotiated a price of 25 euros per room, about £10 per person. The rooms were ok. There was wifi and each room had a bathroom. All boxes ticked. But, you get what you pay for, Jim had to fix his bed and the door fell off the wardrobe. The shower screen in our room had a third missing, and the water was cold din the morning . It was fine, we are six bloke on a road trip, we only need somewhere to lay our heads.

Day 2 Closing

Friday night we landed in a small town in Central Spain where we had booked our stay, it was a really nice guest house, clean and friendly and most of all cheep. Andy decided to book a room on his own so we have had to postpone the the first match match of the snoring competition final, Andy being the only qualified adjudicator .

The room was pal ail in comparison to the last one, which was more like a caravan than a room, three single beds and I tidy bathroom. But our object was not to consider the various features of the room, it was to eat and possibly have a pint or two.
Tapas is a traditional Spanish food similar in a way to canapés , it is served in most bars and restraints and is made from all sorts of local fresh ingredients. Spanish people will go from bar to bar sampling the tapas. It was not made clear to use that it was not prerequisite to have a pint with each taster. Any way, that’s what we did and injected a few extra euros into the Spanish economy. Not long after we arrived at the first bar, I realised I had left my card in the room, so gave my apologies and went back for it. The hotel had gone, it was defiantly there when we left it but now it had gone,  I went back to the bar and explained it to the team who for some reason showed no sign of concern over this strange occurrence, Tom offered to to come and look for the missing hotel, and with in a few minutes it was found, back in its correct place again with the cars parked opposite, thank goodness for that.
We had a great time in the bars of ? Can’t remember the name just now, the people were really friendly and keen to hear what we were up to and I. Managed to go most of the night with out mentioning our next stop was Gibraltar, when it slipped out, I think I got away with it, may be the Spanish have another name for it!

We are now about 110 miles from the port, haven’t booked a room yet and haven’t booked. The ferry, we are hoping to get to the ferry terminal tonight and book an early boat then go and find some digs. Unless nick has managed to already, our radio isn’t working so I can talk to him, or at least he can’t talk to me!

The Spanish roads are very good and quiet and largely toll free, we had a few sm all tolls in the north soon after leaving France, but none today so far. I think today is Easter Day over here perhaps that is why it is quiet. The scenery so far has been fairly flat at first, we were on a large plattow of agricultural land surrounded by mountains, it peaked at 1186M on the road. That’s higher than snowden which I thought was the highest mountain in the world. We are now traveling over a similar plattow which is at sea level, if you lift the sat nave through the sun roof you can make it 1 m above, we have to do something to keep our selves amused!. The high land was very beautiful, and rustic, lots of run down farm buildings and quite a few castles. I would like to spend more time exploring, but we have somewhere to be, inevitably, back home.

Sorry I don’t know how to spell plattow, GLYN can you sort this before you upload, Elaine, when you fly out, can you bring the earplugs Clive gave me, I am dreading ending up camping, in tents , on the same site as Mark and Nick.

Now for a nice glass of princes gate still water while I consider the array of job opertiunities from that fine recruitment agency ‘ Recruitment  Zone’

A note from Tom

Tours to Medina De Rioseco (Valladolid)

Left Tours at 8am. Made good progress through France and its many toll roads (around 10 booths in total, prices ranging from “take a ticket” to 32 euros). After carefully navigating our way through and around Bourdeux (minus Tom almost taking the wrong exit, and all three cars getting caught out by some suddenly placed French motorway cones), we headed towards the mountain range in the distance.

The Spanish border consisted of a 1.70 euro toll and we headed into the Purinees mountains. The motorway swept through the vast valleys, disapearing into lots of tunnels and over briges, sometimes leading straight onto one anothor. After a quick glimpse of the sea, we headed onto some open and very flat farmland. The roads were very long and very straight, and after going through small desserted and half destroyed farm villages, we eventually reached our end destination for the night – somewhere beginning with ‘V’ and somewhere none of us could pronounce.

“It’s like Chester but older” – Nick, after inspecting some wooden pillars.

It did have some beds and, in the views of others something more important, various bars that served beer and tapas. This included a plate of snails and various kinds of sauasage. Locals were friendly enough, and naturally pursumed we had arrived for the start of Holy Week which had just started – maybe next year. Some spoke English, including an Erasmus student who had studied English in Turkey or so we heard; “oh Istanbul?” Mark asked….”No” she said….”Torquay”

More Day 2

I have had some goo ideas in my time, but driving to the Sahara desert in a car with a dodgy cooling system, isn’t one of them. We are driving down towards the port near Gibraltar on a Spanish motorway, it must be 30 degrees outside and we have the heater on flat out to dissipate some of the heat from the engine. What adds insult to injury is the drivers window won’t open so when driving you are going to cook. It’s now 3:30 and it is sunny, proper sunny like we don’t get on your side of the channel, not good.
Sally the sat nave had a turn on us this morning, she could not find herself for ago,it three hours, fortunately, we had 196 miles to do on the same road so she wouldn’t have had too much to say. We eventually got her going just in time to make our first junction, you can’t beat a nice junction.  This time it was a left turn, one of my favorite directions.
Communication between cars  is vital if you want stop for a brew or fuel, that’s why we bought the two way radios, however that description isn’t exactly accurate, ours is a one way radio, we can talk to the other two cars but they can’t talk to us, however, we soon devised a plan, we talk to them and they reply using a simple morse code by flashing their head lights once for yes, twice for no. Unfortunately this only works if we are in front, and given our overheating issues we are usually trailing some way behind. Such is life, well at least the camera has been reliable, err, no it hasn’t, it overheated on the dash board and refused to function until mark held it out of the window (passenger side of course, drivers side doesn’t work) for 5 miles to the amusement of the other two drivers on the motorway.

Mark has just decided that the sun roof should be set to slide mode and opened wide to get the heat out, so hats to or my head will boil. Next post will be about last night. I better not write too much on this mail or my ipad will probably break,  oh, before I go, the TEP which is supposed to give us wireless internet in Europe does not work. Never ever consider hiring one of these units, they are s**t

However if you are thinking of installing a swimming pool or sauna, Colley construction in Martin are briliant! as used by the soon to be best hotel in mid wales the dragon montgomery.