So the plan was to make a YouTube show called “Vikings Across Africa” during my trans-african expedition last year, but was robbed halfways through the trip and lost all the clips that I had stored up, so all I got was three episodes from the first three countries. Check them out on my channel below:
The night before arriving in Dakhla we made camp a cliff pretty much right on the Tropic of Cancer. That is the Northernmost point around the earth where the sun would be directly overhead, so days should start getting longer and temperatures will get higher from there on.
Dakhla was a much more beautiful town than the Western Saharan Capital of Laayoune. From the city center and onwards there was a beach popular among kite surfers and they had a Spanish church and Plaza just like in the capital. Tomorrow we will do another bush camping right by the border to cross into Mauritania early the next morning.
Our camp at the Tropic of Cancer
Western Sahara is a country currently occupied by Morocco and most of its inhabitants have fled to the refugee camp in Algeria called Tindouf. Most people living in the country now are Moroccans but some of the original citizens, the so called Saharawis still live there and they have previously made some violent protests in Laayoune which is the reason why our Lonely Planet guide recommended not to go there. We stayed three nights and our experience was that people were much more friendly than in the touristic cities of Morocco.
On several occasions we were invited to coffee, tea and food. One guy also wanted to pay for our taxi as he meant that it would be better for us than walking. Only in central Asia and Iran have I met as hospitable people and that definitely made up for the city itself as there was not much to see there.
One of the evenings we were also invited over to some local people’s homes to eat camel, drink whisky and smoke water pipe. At the house there was one Moroccan and the rest were Saharawis. Whenver the Moroccan was in the bathroom they were eager to tell us that they did not like the Moroccan police who would beat you up if you would be speaking too loudly about the occupation. Quite interesting to really see how deeply they feel about this political matter, much like the Palestinians, Northern Cypriots or people from Crimea felt about their occupied country.
On the 500km drive from Laayoune to Dakhla then landscape looked exactly the same with desert on one side and ocean cliffs on the other. One night we camped right on the cliffs which was a great view to wake up to the next morning.
After more than a week in Marrakesh everyone had recovered and the truck had been fixed. We had never been more ready to get back on the road and continue our journey. We set off to Essaoira, which is a small coastal town for a couple of days to relax , get back to communal shopping and cooking and sort stuff out.
Being in the middle of winter, Essaoira was not at all as busy as it had been described in our guidebooks. The town could be described as laid back and artsy with a breeze that attracts kite surfers from all over the World. Its 18th century Medina is a fort constructed with European military architecture, which you can see many places in Northern Africa.
In small shops along the beach it was possible to rent water sport equipment, so some went for a surf in the whitewater waves and others spent the days relaxing in the sun.
When continuing to drive further south we crossed the surf town of Taghazout which seemed like a much cooler place for young backpackers. Here the waves were also big and green and it was almost painful driving past it without trying out the waves. Just less than an hour further south we stopped for a couple of hours in Agadir to get everything we needed for the Saharan desert crossing that we will do in the next few days.
I’ve now been over a week in Marrakesh and do I like it? Hellz yes! Marrakesh pretty much has no touristic sights, but that is also not why you should go there. You go to Marrakesh to experience the crowded streets with all the noise, smells and feelings that they entail. You can wander the streets for days and still get lost and find new shops or discover new street food. For example we found some 40 eurocent pizza pancakes that we never found again and them there was a 50 eurocent milkshake bar where we went daily and had up to five milkshakes in a row. Days were lazy and most of the time we were just hanging around on the rooftop of Hotel Afrique where we were camping and then just heading out to the streets whenever we were hungry.
Marrakesh were full of touts. Not surprisingly as there were lots of tourists there, both foreigners and Moroccan ones. When asking for the price at a shop you could be sure that his asking price was around ten times what you should pay, and if you got in a cab, tasted something that was offered to you for free or took a picture of snake charmers, people having monkeys on chains etc you were sure that they would ask you for a ridiculous amount of money afterwards. If you did not know better you would easily walk into these tourist traps up to several times a day.
The first couple of days I was In Marrakesh to get surgery for Jussi, then to wait with the rest of the group for the truck to get fixed. After a week in Moroccos secondary biggest city we decided to head to Camping Le Relais, quite a luxury camping (or glamping) site with swimming pool, hot showers, petanque playing fields etc. When the truck arrived we were all happy to finally being able to be able to cook and to get on the road again towards South Africa.
The tannery in Marrakesh was not as impressive as the one in Fez, but at least we got to see it in action
It was a cold Sunday morning on the last day of January. We had gotten up at 5.30 in the morning to arrive early in Todgha Gorge, our next stop on the journey towards South Africa. Everything was as always in the truck; some people were sleeping, others reading books, writing journals or simply looking out the window into a landscape that looked like it was taken straight out of Star Wars. The ground was sandy brown with just a few green bushes growing that the camels would feed on. Our truck was driving slowly, about 30km/h over speedbumps and then on top of a narrow bridge. That is where our adventure took a quick turn. Someone in the front must have shouted that we were going to crash or something, as I thought to myself that I needed to find something to hold on to or put my hands up to protect my head. I went for the latter, and the next thing I remember is elevating over the bench for a micro second before being shot to the front, together with the thirteen other people who were sitting next to me. We were cramped into one big mass as the truck had landed with the front into a giant sand dune. I did not know which way was up or down until some locals came. They broke what was left of the front window and dragged us through it, one by one. It was just a few minutes before the police and ambulance arrived at the scene. The ambulance took with them the four people who were injured and two, including me who could help out as support and translators. We had been to three hospitals by the time that they finally could tell us what the damage was. Two were fine, Jussi had a broken arm and Gloria had some kind of damage to her back. She was taken to Errachidia where she still staying and talking to her insurance company and I joined Jussi on a 8 hour taxi ride to Marrakesh to have his surgery done there.
Witness reports and photos from the scene has shown that the driver who drove into us had the full responsibility of the crash. The bridge was only big enough for two small cars to pass each other and when trucks or buses had already entered the bridge the smaller cars on the other side were supposed to wait. The car had tried to drive past us and when it crashed into us from the side the car forced our front wheel to turn off the bridge. Things could have gone a lot worse if we had missed the pile of sand. Then we most likely would have flipped over on our wooden roof, which would not be strong enough to hold ten tonnes of truck. We could then also have our heavy canisters of water, cases of beer etc to fly on top of us.
Gloria might not be able to continue the trip and if so she will be greatly missed. The silver lining is that the bond between the people in the group has been strengthened and the experience has taught us to make the inside of the truck more safe by securing water tanks and loose objects better than before. We do have hip seat belts for every one of us, but wearing them would only have made the situation worse.
It is unsure how long the people in the hospital would have to stay or how long time it would take to fix the truck, but it is sure that we will continue as planned, just a little longer behind schedule than before.