Spread out on the camping table it looked easy. Yes the motorway now extends most of the way, but the 400 miles from Marrakech to Ceuta involved a final twist, crossing of the Riff….again!
The ambitious plan was to do the final run back to Ceuta in one go, overnight near the border and cross next morning. Ray had moved on some hours before the “funsters” left the Marrakech camp. Bidding farewell to A’hammed they followed at around 6am in the morning. The idea being that they [in faster vehicles] would catch up with Ray around Moulay Bousallam, a tiny fishing village just off the motorway on the Atlantic Coast. As it turned out Ray received a phone call, mid-morning, to say the group were making good time and had already passed Rabat, and that he was to carry on and re-group near the border for the planned overnight stop. Worried that they were over-stretching themselves Ray contacted Geo late –afternoon, to be told that they were now nearing the border!!!
Surprised but both pleased and impressed Ray needed to bring forward plans. More phone calls confirmed that they might just make the last ferry out of Ceuta if there was no hold-up’s at the border……so he moved ahead to the exit area, started the paperwork and waited.
Clearly tired the Funsters rumbled into the holding area. The normal chaos that is Moroccan bureaucracy and that at any other time would have been laughed off pushed both Geo and Rory to the limit and tempers nearly cracked [both apologised later]…….. Ray did the “Keep calm and cool” bit and took the brunt, fending off the endless hustlers…..In reality it was in fact a brilliant exit with time in the border area just 15mins or so……but they were tired and a touch stressed…….
Border cleared it was just the short dash to the ferry terminal where it was confirmed that there was just time for a much needed brew before they would be on their way…..
The one hour crossing and time adjustment [Spain was 2 hours ahead] meant that not only was it dark but late as they disembarked. More calls and Ray confirmed that they could return to the tour starting point, Casa Bernardo’s, just a few miles from the port. Was it a second wind or the fact that the bar was open and they had just spent 20 days in Ramadan…….Whatever…….San Miguel’s and tinto’s proceeded a late bedtime and again lifted the spirits to their normal high.………Ray had continued another few hours drive to Alhaurin El Grande were the Funsters had agreed to descend upon myself [Debbie] for dinner, hugs and a farewell next day…….
And so it was…...
The local Guardia were informed that it was not a bunch of fairground workers who had descended on a patch of ground, under a hilltop Moor Castle, but the remnants of yet another Desert Detours tour group. While Rory/Jan and Geo/Pam toured the area on their motor powered bikes Mark and Linda discovered the hard way [on their push bikes] that what goes down inevitably must go up……or at least that is the case in the Spanish “White Village” we call home.
My 11 dogs were put on best behaviour, daughter packed off [not really, she is a pro-singer and had a “gig”] and cook book dug out.
After 20 days of Ramadan and Morocco being a Muslin country anyway I thought……….ROAST PORK, apple pie and as much wine as they could down……So on a mild Spanish evening and into the night the Funsters gathered on our terrace, reminiscing, laughing, and re-calling events. Re-living highlights…..the children on the school visit, overnight under the stars on the dunes, dining with on-looking apes in the forest, the stunning drives over pass and mountains, campfires and not least the people met and friends made ………
Clearly the Desert Detours/MotorhomeFun tour had been an outstanding success……a journey of discovery and adventure…….. may be even, as Pam said, “Life Changing”.
I thought I might end this series of “Blogs” with this…….While downloading Ray’s Lap-Top of tour details, info etc I came across this. Not liked to this tour but none the less apt as this tour had indeed been a “Journey” I risk Ray’s wroth and post…..
Many of us have a “Hero”, maybe someone whom we admire or who have been an inspiration to us. Perhaps not surprisingly one of mine is an extraordinary explorer/traveler (not as expected, by those who think they know me, Pam Anderson or Dolly Parton……..sad I know).
Vowing never to tread the same road twice Ibn Batutta, a Moroccan, was in his early twenty’s when he started an epic journey that during the next 30 or so years was to take him too around 44 Muslim countries. Obviously, his youth distracted him from the initial reason for his travels, the obligatory pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, because on route through Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria he had already managed to find himself two wives. After spending around 3 years in Mecca and no doubt after gathering a number of offspring the need to get away was overwhelming (know the feeling) and he was off again. This time he either got lost or was being chased……did they have the CSA back then?……Re-visiting Egypt via the length of the Nile he continued down the east coast of Africa, took to the water and visited Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Afghan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey…….In fact most of Asia.
Not some wondering waster was our Battuta, during his stay in India he enjoyed the patronage of the Sultan Mohammad Tughlaq, studied law and became a judge (Qadi). Such was his influence that he was later sent, as his ambassador, to China. He gathered great wealth during his roaming, but all was lost in an Indian Ocean shipwreck. His onward journey through Mongolia and Russia was as remarkable as it was eventful with reference to “The land of Darkness”….extreme north?
More wives, 4 in all, and more children drove him ever onward, back to Mecca (7 times in all), then Turkey, Greece, Ukraine and throughout much of Spain. It was here in Granada that news of this remarkable young mans travels and tales began to filter out and he was duly summoned back to Morocco and ordered to document his travels. Some years later, once completed he was off again, this time south crossing the Sahara several times and visiting Chad, Niger, Senegal and the west coast. Some say that recent documents indicate that he crossed the Atlantic, although I’m not so sure about that.
So, one of the most remarkable travellers of all time had completed in access of 75.000 miles, much more than say Marc Polo, yet never gets a mention in geography books. His recently re-discovered extensive text books and documents (Travels-Rahla) have been verified beyond doubt and now provide us with a remarkable insight and history. You will be stunned at the detail. Just a few years ago I had great difficulty in finding any reference to Ibn Battuta on the internet, but now you can easily research his journeys, please do, better late than never.
So, other than the obvious, what was it about this then young man that made him, for me anyway, a hero and source of continued inspiration? Many years ago, sitting around a small fire in deepest Sahara, I listened through the night ‘til dawn as a couple of our Tuareg guides whispered in awe his story. Looking across to my high-tech travel machine I could but only feel humbled. For his journey had reached places I would only ever dream about, had taken place over 700 years ago and on foot.
I vow to lay a flower, but as yet final resting place unknown.
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