Whilst at the campsite in Tangier, we got chatting to a couple, also from England, who were staying in a van on the site. Their names were Simon and Dee, and they invited us in for a drink. They are a young couple, from down South, and they decided a while ago to convert an ordinary long wheel base white van, not just into a camper van, but into their home. They had been living in it for a year or so before they decided to give up their jobs and go travelling. There are not many people in this world that I find impressive, but these guys absolutely astounded me with not only the quality of the job they had done on their van, but with their outlook on life. Their van looks completely like a trade van on the outside, and the only giveaway are the windows on the roof, which you can see when they are open. Inside, they have used reclaimed materials wherever they can, they have everything they need inside (oven, hob, fridge, sink, shower, toilet, bed, storage etc.), and the space is beautiful and functional, very homely, and surprisingly light, considering the only windows are on the roof. Because the van looks like a normal van, they have been able to park up for the night wherever they want, for free, and nobody knows! They have solar panels on the roof, an LPG canister and an independent leisure battery for power, so they don’t need to be connected up to mains. In our ‘developed’ country, where lots of people live beyond their means, and think that having the latest flash car or big house is important or impressive, it was brilliant to meet people not of that opinion, and who are happy with just having a very small but perfectly functional roof over their heads, not too much stuff, and the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it. Thank you both for the time we spent together (and for the wine!)🙂
After we left this campsite, we were scoffing some food in a supermarket carpark, when a man came over and started talking to us. His name was Glen, he was originally from Derby, and he has lived in Tangier for more than 10 years, after his company moved him and his family out there. He is a thoroughly good guy, and gave us some good advice about where to go, and what roads to use. He also left us with his number, and it transpires that he is friends with Youssef and Othmane, again, through motorbikes.
The next place we visited was Chefchaouen, which was a recommendation of Glen’s. Chefchaouen is a town that is situated on the side of the Rif mountains, and most of the buildings in its old town, or medina, are blue-washed. It was a very interesting place to visit, and we would have like a bit more time there, but we had to move on because the weather was due to change. Whilst we were at the campsite here, we met some lovely people from Austria, who were travelling through Morocco in two converted army lorries, which were awesome, and capable of going over pretty much any terrain. We were very jealous, although not of the MPG! We spent the evening chatting with the Austrians, and one of them shared his Grandfather’s 40-year-old Peach Schnapps with us!
We headed to Fes, and booked into a place via AirB&B, as it was due to rain for a few days. We ended up striking it very lucky, as the place was an old Palace, and the chap who was running it was the grandson of the original owner. It was a fascinating place, and run down, but they were earning money to renovate it bit-by-bit, by renting out the rooms that were complete. We explored Fes on foot from the Palace, as it was situated on the outside of the Medina (original city), and we got lost in the many little streets inside the medina, where there were stalls of people selling everything from street food to herbs, spices and fresh vegetables, to clothing. One thing that I have really enjoyed about Morocco is that pretty much everything they eat is grown in the country, rather than being imported from others, and of course, things that aren’t the ‘right’ shape are sold regardless, as if the people there can afford to eat, they are just grateful.
It was in Fes that we had to do more work on the Russian visa, which we had been leaving and not really wanting to deal with, for many reasons. Firstly, we have been considering changing the method of transport we are using. We love our bikes, and want to continue to use them, but motorbikes, coupled with camping, is probably one of the most uncivilised ways of travelling, especially when you think about doing it for up to 5 years. It is wonderful in nice weather, but when it is cold and/or wet it can be miserable, and we are constantly checking weather forecasts and having to plan around the weather when we are riding out of season. Travelling for us should not be an endurance exercise, but something we are trying to enjoy, and I hate having to miss things because we are trying to outrun the weather. As such, we are trying to think of ways in which we can still have our bikes with us, but be more comfortable at the same time. If we were to change the method of transport then we would not be going to Russia next year, but more likely the year after, as we would need some time to prep it.
The second reason for procrastinating was that we were thinking of changing the route, as going ‘over the top’ of China and then either traversing through China on a guided tour to get to SE Asia, or shipping from Vladivostok via S Korea or Japan to Thailand or Malaysia are all extremely pricey. We are talking between £5,000-£10,000 for 20-30 days guided tour through China, or probably £4,000 for shipping, and you see absolutely nothing for that money except ports, airports, and the inside of a plane. We were therefore thinking of going through Iran, Pakistan and India to Myanmar, which would mean not going through Russia at all.
Not dealing with this had been swirling around in my head and making me extremely bad tempered, as I hate having things unfinished with deadlines looming. At this time the deadline was upon us, so we had to make the decision, and apply, or commit to not applying. In the end we decided to go ‘over the top’ of China, by motorcycle, next year, and rethink our plans when we get to Vladivostok. This meant we had to apply for the Russian visa now so that we are able to visit them to give our fingerprints when we get home. We have been using a visa service from a company in the UK, which at best, have been absolutely useless at answering our questions, so it has taken a lot longer to get this done than anticipated, and caused me so much stress that I cannot even put into words, but hopefully all will be ok. This is also the main reason for getting so behind with this blog!