One of the things that Paul and I are not too good at is staying in one place for very long when we are travelling, there are always so many new things and places to discover we have found ourselves often doing a whistle stop tour of a location then promptly moving on to the next. Previously our record was a total of 12 days on a campsite near Zagora in Spain over Christmas and new year in 2016 and that felt like a looooonnnnggggg stay. We have now surpassed it though after having a mini holiday in Sidi Ifni on the south west coast of Morocco for 16 nights. That certainly wasn’t our intention when we landed there, but one day just turned into another…….
It wasn’t so much the place itself that encouraged us to stay for such a prolonged period, more a combination of things. Firstly there was the weather, after all we were still in January and most days we were enjoying temperatures of early to mid twenties when at home they were struggling to see 6 degrees, we did have a blip in the middle of our stay when storm Gloria hit Spain and we got the tail end of their weather front, but it only dipped to around 15 and although we had rain it was kind enough to mainly appear during the night. We met a lovely group of people, some Brits who have been coming to Morocco for years, so having toured extensively they are now happy to see out the long winter days in sunnier climes. Lots of French who are basically doing the same as the Brits and out number them around 20 to 1 and the odd German or two here and there. The convenience of having both a beach and a town within walking distance (our bikes stayed firmly attached to the back of Boris!), but mostly the fact that we’d agreed before leaving the UK that we were going to take this trip at a more relaxed pace. We certainly did that here!!!!
The town was only returned to Morocco by the Spanish in 1969, so it retains an atmospheric Iberian flair, although a lot of the buildings are now fading they are a reminder of it’s colonial past. At the heart of what was the Spanish Sahara, it was once a base for slave-trading operations and later a large exporter of fish to the Spanish mainland.
The locals have painted the town blue and white, and continue the colour scheme in their turbans and robes. The vibe is a laid back one and the resort attracts a throng of surfers who come to seek out the Atlantic waves, they are certainly more courageous than us, we dipped our toes felt how cold it was and said “not on your nelly” . The vast sandy beach was covered in rocks and had lots of discarded rubbish, but apparently this is all cleaned up before the summer season when hoards of rich Arabs descend on the resort. It was a treasure trove for sea glass though and we went combing several times and collected quite a pile. The plan is to make it into something when I get back home. I thought I could make a picture or even some jewellery. Any other suggestions?
Having three campsites almost next door to each other in close proximity to the beach and another near to the town it caters well for the scores of winter motorhome travellers. We opted to stay at Camping Gran Canaria which offered clean facilities and had just had a new washing machine installed – happy days after several weeks without staying anywhere with one our laundry was piling up. The sites are often visited by local sellers and here you can source new covers for your bikes, tables or screens, argan oil or honey, fresh fruit, mechanical work or bodywork and even home grown mushrooms.
At the towns centre there is a compact souk which is open daily and sells a combination of fresh produce, meat and fresh fish. As well as the fish market where we were able to buy fresh sardines for just 7 MAD per kilo (around 60p), there’s also a couple of restaurants that take advantage of the town seaside location and serve up BBQ’ d fresh fish in basic surroundings. We opted to try a mixed fish platter and a plate of sardines which was supplied with Moroccan salad and bread and cost us the princely sum of just 65 MAD (around £5).
Fresh Fish Served adjacent to the fish market.
The town is also home to a weekly visiting souk which takes place on Sundays on an old airfield just behind the towns main street. You really can buy anything and everything at these and they are a cross between a market and car boot sale, you will find everything from carpets, jewellery, teapots, plasticware, bikes, mats and clothes to an array of food stuffs, fresh fruit and vegetables, honey, loose eggs, and even live chickens that will be slaughtered for you then butchered. It’s not for the feint hearted. However you do become a little desensitised when travelling in Morocco as their general animal welfare is a far cry from what we deem acceptable in the west. We did however decide that we would like to try a chicken thinking that we couldn’t get much fresher than that. We certainly couldn’t watch the poor thing being slaughtered though so pointed to our chosen bird and went off to buy other items whilst it was put out of its misery (they are kept in very cramped pens and by the looks of them do not have a very healthy existence). We returned to collect it once the deed was done and I have to admit to feeling somewhat squeamish when the bird was carved up and handed to me still warm! Having not ever bought a newly slaughtered bird, a quick google told me to leave it 24 hours before eating so that the bird relaxes and any rigor moritis has left it. We did as instructed and I decided a couple of days later that we would marinade some of the bird in Tandoori spices. With the bird marinating, I set about making accompaniments of a mint raita and Bombay potatoes together with a freshly prepared salad (recipes coming soon) and in the evening we lit “Bruce” our charcoal BBQ and slowly roasted our fresh chicken. We tucked into it and almost needed a new set of teeth, the bird was so tough it was inedible and so had to be binned. After some more asking of google it would appear that we were perhaps given an old bird (over 10 months is considered old apparently) and that’s why our nashers couldn’t chew it. Determined to at least salvage some of the remainder the following day I made a chicken stew and cooked the meat for around 6 hours on a very low heat and I’m pleased to report it was passable (still a little dry but at least this time we could eat it). #Lessonlearnt: Do not presume that just because a bird is alive it will produce fresh meat tender meat!
As one day ran into the next we found ourselves relaxing into a temporary routine of sorts which often included a morning run for me or walk for Paul, a coffee with fellow travellers in the village (we love the Moroccan Nuss Nuss half and half coffee and milk), combing the beach for sea glass and drfitwood and picking up some rubbish along the way and being challenged by our French neighbours to a game of Rummykup or Boules. One of the things we love about travelling by motorhome is how easy it is to meet lots of other Nationalities and you don’t have to speak their language perfectly, spending time with our French neighbours made me use my very rusty French!
With my birthday looming and no decision on where we were going next we decided to stay put as it would give us an excuse to try a restaurant called Nomad which currently ranks No1 in the area on Trip Advisor. It also gave me the opportunity to try the Moroccan specialty of Pasilla a filo pastry parcel with a mixed sweet and savoury filling, mine was made with chicken mixed with dried apricots and sultanas and served with salad. It kind of looks like a giant Samosa but tastes nothing like one!
Camping Gran Canaria (GPS 29.384402 –10.172405) Clean showers and toilets (a little dated) with intermittent hot water dependant on your timing. They have just got an automatic washing machine and charge just 20 MAD (€2) a load! There are communal washing lines too. Good drive over emptying point and two cassette emptying points. Sinks specifically for cleaning fish separate to washing up and clothes washing sinks. Large pitches, but this is a popular site so we were glad we got a pitch on the end of a row so that we didn’t feel cramped. Cost is 80 MAD €8 a night inc EHU.