Getting the visa for Mauritania was a bit of a pain as it meant to drive back north to the clean and more orderly but quite boring capital Rabat. After queuing up for quite a while at a kind of hole in a wall in front of the Mauritanian embassy we acquired the necessary forms. Andreas’ translation of the papers was pretty helpful as you have to go to the back of the line in case of any faults – which of course happened to us anyway. We were told to come back at 4pm and spent the day trying to find a camping shop which we never did. It took another 3 hours of waiting in the queue before the door finally opened and we could get our passports back. Apart from the waiting this was certainly one of the easiest visa processes of our trip anyway especially as they get issued the same day.
It was time to head south along the Atlantic Ocean which we could not see very often though. Essaouira was to be a place to stay for a while and we truly enjoyed the relaxed feel about it. The camping is situated two kilometers from the town center and we walked daily along the pleasant beach to the Medina which in itself might not be the most traditional but definitely one of the most hassle free ones in the country. Essaouira is also famous for its fish market with plenty of fresh seafood as well as even more seagulls roaming the sky. We enjoyed a huge portion of grilled fish, crab, prawns and octopus together with sea urchins at one of the many stalls at the harbor and watched the sunset from the ramparts. 5 days went by in a blink and we were back on the road to Agadir for a last big grocery shopping before Western Sahara and Mauritania. Finally a T5 Torx screwdriver could be found as well so Fabian was able to open the laptop and fix the keyboard connector. Many keys stopped working quite a while back and made writing e-mails or blog entries little enjoyable so it was good to have that finally fixed.
Before leaving the country the fourth and last of Morocco’s mountain ranges still awaited exploring. The Anti-Atlas was very different to the High or Middle Atlas again with very little water and barren landscapes dotted with argan trees. On the ascent we saw some argan tree goats which make for quite a funny view balancing high up on thin branches and nibbling at the leaves. More wildlife showed up along the way in the form of hundreds of tiny squirrels running away in panic whenever we approached. Apart from argan trees there were also plenty of cactuses around heavy with tasty fruits. A little warning though – if you do not know how to pick them properly it will end up in a rather painful experience. We spent hours picking out the tiny needles from fingers, lips and anything else we touched!
The views on the road were terrific though and driving through the villages around Tafraoute very enjoyable with plenty of palms and well maintained pastel colored buildings everywhere. With Tafraoute as our base we headed out on a 13km walk to the Painted Rocks and back in a loop. A Belgian artist colored different rock formations in the area not necessarily to the locals liking. The rocks itself are fairly unimpressive by now with a lot of the paint having washed off and can easily be missed out on in our opinion. Walking through the area is pretty amazing though as you barely come across other people let alone cars and there are interestingly shaped rock formations all around.
The following day was meant for exploration by car again and we drove the Souk el Hadd Issi loop which offers serpentines, palmeries and a beautiful drive through a gorge with palms building a natural tunnel where only one vehicle can drive at a time – another highlight of this inspiring region of the country.
At the moment we are spending time in the former Spanish town of Sidi Ifni with its crumbling Art Deco buildings back at the Atlantic. Jasmine’s birthday was celebrated with our last bottle of red wine and some surprisingly good seafood pizza.
Unfortunately we just had to discover that our ceramic water filter broke off into the housing. We do not have a clue how long ago it happened but all the sediments and bacteria that were filtered out before could happily be flushed into our drinking bottles – might explain Fabian’s permanent stomach troubles. The replacement filter was installed instead which was actually supposed to happen in South Africa for the second leg of our trip. The water pump decided to show solidarity with the filter and is only running on short intervals at the moment but nothing that cannot be dealt with.
Today we are off into Western Sahara and a long and some might say monotonous drive along the Atlantic before arriving at the border to Mauritania.