I can’t help myself. Even though we saw the Ice and then the Fire I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to borrow a Pat Benatar song title for my own blogging title. So, some pictures of fire and Ice in reverse order of the song.
Even though we were traveling Iceland in early May and everyone was telling us how lucky we were that the weather was so great we still saw lots of ice and drove through rain, hail and snow on two different days.
This is Dettifoss Waterfall. If it looks like it is moving in the photograph it is the waterfall. Pretty much everything else is ice including the ice on the other side of the railing and the icicles on the railing. Roughly a two-mile round trip going down and then back up that includes 240 stairs and rocks covered with snow or ice. Nancy was the smart one and after about five minutes turned around to save her legs for the remainder of the day. I on the other hand not being smart made the trip down just so I could experience the freezing waterfall mist blowing into my face while trying to take a photograph.
Imlili – April 5, 2021 – Dakhla to Imlili and back, Morocco
By Tom Allin
Yesterday was a day of taking it easy and trying to de-sand ourselves, and our clothes, luggage and the 4Runner. As for de-sanding; we made progress and hopefully someday soon we will say goodby to the sands of the Sahara.
Today we are taking another drive into the desert. However, this drive will be with Martina not Nico and she will do all the driving. Nancy and I will be passengers.
Martina is a knowledgeable guide: (a) a Doctorate degree in Ocean Biology, (b) enjoys the outdoors, (c) has lived in Dakhla for six plus years, and (d) enjoys people. She discussed tourism, government programs, the issue of the Sahrawi independence movement, birds, oceans and of course the desert.
The primary destination is Imlili. Not the very small village but the Imlili sebkha. A sebkha is a depression with a salted bottom. The Imlili sebkha is characterized by small saltwater pools with fish and is approximately 12 km long and 2.5 km wide and 10 km deep. It is 15 km east of the Atlantic Ocean and if you know this area there are several trails to drive – I didn’t see trails but Martina said we were on trails.
Essaouira Fishing Port – March 29, 2021 – Essaouira, Morocco
By Tom Allin
First thing I did this morning after making my morning check to confirm I was still breathing was to go to the parking lot to retrieve an item or two we had forgotten to unload yesterday. On the way back I stopped In Essaouira’s Moulay Hassan Square for a cup of coffee.
The square is huge and as you can see: empty. Essaouira has morphed from a fishing port into a tourist center during the last twenty years. However, being a year into the pandemic and Morocco still limiting Europeans and others in visiting plus the mandated closing of all restaurants at 8:00 pm has brought tourism to a standstill.
Nancy and I spent 30 minutes or more looking for the perfect café for an American egg and black coffee breakfast. When our search turned up nothing we sat down at a café, ordered eggs and coffee, and sat back to enjoy the morning.
Essaouira – March 28, 2021 – Drive from Marrakesh to Essaouira, Morocco
By Tom Allin
After three days of taking, it easy at the Al Fassia Hotel in Marrakesh it was time to become explorers again. We are doing nothing tough today after a pandemic caused layoff of one year. We have a less than four-hour drive to Essaouira and I have already made hotel reservations with a hotel with parking. Oh, to be so naïve.
We leave the hotel, drive out of Marrakesh, stop for gas, and hit the open road. It didn’t take but a few minutes to again become comfortable with driving in Morocco. Something new to contend with: it seems there is a police check point every 20 or 30 minutes that require us to come to a stop and either we are waved through or we have to pull over to show our passports.
As we entered a small town the policeman waves me over. I put on my mask, roll down the window and the officer says, “Texaaasss, you are from Texaaasss”? I say, “Yes, from Texas”. He is smiling (no mask), we fist bump through my window and off we go.
Today was Sunday and no one was working on transporting our 4Runner from Morocco to South Africa. We decided to go bathing suit shopping. Nancy and I both thought we had left bathing suits in the 4Runner when we left Morocco last year at the beginning of the pandemic. We returned to Morocco and the 4Runner to find no bathing suits. The front desk suggests the Marina Mall, grabbed a taxi and off we went.
It was maybe a 15-minute ride that cost about $2.50 – we over paid. The mall was two floors with two U.S. small medium sizes store, a large grocery store, 30 small shops and a dozen eating establishments. Took us less than 45 minutes to see everything including maybe 10 women swimsuits and to head for the door.
Took a taxi to Hassan II Mosque. This is the third largest mosque in the world – and was closed, no tours. This is the one tourist attraction that Casablanca claims and it wasn’t open to the public.
Drive to Tata – April 10, 2021 – Tafraoute to Tazalaght to Ait Ballou to Imitek to Tata, Morocco
By Tom Allin
Our original plan was to drive through Tata, but Tata ended up being a destination not a waypoint on the map for us. What we didn’t know until later is Booking.com doesn’t show any lodging within a two-hour drive of Tata. No matter what the Lonely Planet says about Tata, not many tourists end up here – yours truly did.
Enough about Tata.
It was the drive we thought would be interesting and it was a fascinating drive. This area is a combination of the Anti-Atlas mountains and Sahara plains. For the most part it was a good two-lane highway. We only drove on compacted dirt for maybe an hour. At times I was doing 80 km/50 mph but for the most part was driving about 60 km/35 mph.
Spain returned Sidi Ifni to Morocco in 1969. The Spanish took possession of Sidi Ifni after a successful war against Morocco in 1859. The central district has a number of art deco buildings that need renovation or have been renovated mixed in with traditional Moroccan architecture. The city has been painted blue and white – a cooling color to the eyes.
We have a tight schedule between landing in Marrakesh and meeting up with Martina Rovers in the Western Sahara. Today we will drive from Essaouira to Sidi Ifni. This drive is approximately 333 km/200 miles and Google maps says will take 5 hrs. & 45 minutes if we average 35 mph – easier said than done.
We got up and while Nancy assembled our luggage, I was going to walk to the private parking lot to get a baggage carrier. Down two flights of stairs, open the door and damn – there is an older guy with a cart ready to take our luggage. Am guessing either our landlord or the parking lot arranged for this great surprise.
Better than half our drive will be along the Atlantic coast. It was an easy drive and we made several photo stops and a coffee stop – no breakfast and therefore no coffee before we left Essaouira.
We woke with a planned drive from Tafraout to Taroudant by way of Tazalaght, Imitek, Tata, and Igherm. However, about 30 minutes outside of Tata Nancy suggested we stop in Tata for the evening. I immediately agreed, our long drives do tire one out.
Nancy grabbed the Lonely Planet Morocco book and looked for lodging in Tata. We decided on a place with so-so reviews but a bar. As we drove into town, I pulled over to see if we could get the internet and google maps – No. But Nancy sees a sign for the hotel we want, damn good luck. I drive a hundred feet, make a left and pull into the hotel unloading area – looks dead. It is closed. Nancy and I agree on hotel #2 which I had seen a sign for as we drove into Tata – it’s closed. As we drive through town, we see the Lonely Planet’s 3rd and last hotel. It’s open and we get a room. What can I say, I think we have had worse and Nancy’s not sure. Price is $31/night and no breakfast but a restaurant that serves beer.
Editors note: Tom and Nancy Allin are bad on the road. This is the story he posted this week. 4/12/2021
We set the alarm for 5:30 am so as to leave our hotel room in Laayoune by 6:15 to meet Nico, co-owner with his wife of Martina Dakhla Rovers. We were to meet about an hour north of Dakhla at a gas station where we hoped to fill up again with gasoline. The evening before, after a 20-minute round trip walk to a café restaurant for dinner – we both ordered pizzas – I had filled the 4Runner’s gas tank to the top. At a previous gas stop that day I filled both emergency 5-gallon roof top containers with gas. Still, there was some concern about having enough gas for the trip since most of the filling stations down here only have diesel.
We set out to explore the desert in the dark. I drove slowly at about 25 mph until we were out of town and on the two-lane highway. I probably averaged less than 40 mph – wanted plenty of time to stop for any highway sleeping camels or highway crossing camels or donkeys; not to mention bicycling or motorcycling Moroccans.
Many of the towns have either a large arched wall to drive through or some kind of display to let you know you have arrived. Also, most of the towns in southern Morocco have a long entry stretch of road lined with palm trees, streetlights and very wide sidewalks.