This country has been quite the journey… I’ve been here around a month, but it feels like a lifetime has happened. Even though this is not an unusual vanlife feeling, it’s different this time.
We started out with a caravan of 5 vans, 3 couples with a baby and Carlos and me.
As I wrote before, the beginning was quite a challenge. We drove a lot, waiting for the awesome Morocco to begin. But the vibe just didn’t really come. Not to say that there weren’t really nice moments, because there were, but most of the time I felt this restlessness. Several times when driving through the poorer parts of the cities, I felt like a privileged white woman, which I resented a bit. At the same time, I realised that I can’t help everyone, nor can I help being born in the Netherlands and having the life I have. But still the contrast is big and this I hadn’t seen or felt before, while being the holiday tourist in Morocco.
While we were close to the coast, it turned out to be a challenge to find good and safe spots to sleep. We were told many times that it wasn’t safe or just not allowed and that we should go to a camping. But those didn’t really feel right for us either. Mostly because of the overkill of mobile homes and the matching people who travel with them. Nothing wrong with them, just not a match.
In the countries I’ve travelled so far, I always felt I could trust my gut feeling when I was somewhere, where I wanted to sleep. And so far, everything always turned out ok. But here, the culture is just different. Different locals saying different things, some trying to make money off of you. Maybe we were just unlucky, but for us it was tricky. Also, with three babies, we didn’t want to take too many risks. The weather wasn’t great in the beginning either, lots of cloudy, windy days, so lots of van cocooning time (time where everyone is in their own van, doing what they do).
It was quite nice though, that even when we were in more quiet areas along the coast, locals always found us. There was a man with his donkey selling bread and man with freshly caught fish (they weren’t even dead yet…). Everyone had gotten their own tajine by now, so we had some really nice open fire tajine dinner parties.
After about 2 weeks we arrived in the Taghazout area. Here, we found Hassan, the mechanic in Aourir, who ended up working on almost everyone’s van, including Lotje. Since I was homeless for a little while, I met up with friends from Westsurf surfcamp, whom I had stayed with 2 years before in Tamraght. It was a lovely afternoon of catching up and with the only surfsession of this Moroccan trip.
I had another sleep-over in Nils (Stefan, Sabrina and Mavie’s van, thanks again!) as Hassan was working my van. He fixed my cooling liquid leakage issue! He actually took the reservoir out and epoxied the cracks. Rinsed out my whole cooling circuit, because it was full of crap, which was already starting to block my new radiator (I don’t think anyone does that in Europe). He also had a look at my alternator, but I still have the feeling that my leisure battery isn’t charging properly while driving. Luckily, the sun has been out more since then, so my solar panel can do the job. So now I can keep going for a bit (I hope)! It was easy driving through the mountains, without a red blinking light :).
It was also the place where Carlos decided to go back to Spain to follow his heart and where the group split up. Mark, Marrit and Raja had to be back in Spain end of February and really wanted to see more of the country, while the others had much more time and needed to not be on the road so much. The different wishes, even though they were talked about during some sharing circles we had, were affecting the group spirit. I had thought about joining Carlos and going back, but it didn’t feel like the right time yet, so I decided to join Mark and Marrit. Marrit and me had also been working on a marketing challenge program for our retreat in Portugal, which was much more workable if we stayed together. We got in a really good vibe with that together (thanks Sabrina for the tips!).
What a 3-week adventure we had! We drove south and inland to visit the painted rocks in Tafraout, driving through the anti-atlas. It felt like such a relief to be away from the coast, the busyness and being able to enjoy the beautiful landscapes without having to go to a campsite. We went back up and drove through the valley between the Atlas and anti-Atlas Mountains. We had such amazing views! Even had snow falling down as we were driving to Taroudant and a Berber ‘hitchhiker’ in my van. Around Taroudant, Stefan joined us for a few days. Sabrina and Mavie stayed with Maxim and Alize, who had rented an apartment while their van was being fixed. Sabrina needed some time to relax, so Stefan came over to join our trip for a bit.
Lucky for me he brought their really good microphone (aka the big black cock), which I could borrow for recordings I wanted to make, to accompany my movement video’s. Productive days for me and totally out of my comfort zone. Listening to my own voice over and over again and looking at myself. I was pretty fine until I posted it on you tube, which made me feel really nervous for a bit. Luckily, I was busy enough to not think about it too much.
We had one driving day, where I needed to make a video before sunset for the online challenge Marrit and me were doing. But, of course, I got my van stuck in the mud. Fortunately, Mark and Stefan took it upon them to tow her out as I drove back a bit with Marrit to shoot the video. Vanlife can be stressful… 😉
There was a lot of nothing but rocks and tiny dried out bushes at the places we slept. I’ve never been on Mars, but I can imagine it being somewhat like this. Somehow though, those places were feeling a bit off during the night, and some nights were pretty cold (so happy with my sheepskin I brought from home). A few times we had dogs just staying around our vans, no idea if they were strays. They didn’t come close, just felt like they kept an eye out over us. Or maybe they were just shy and hungry, hoping we’d leave food behind after we left. I don’t know, but interesting for sure, since it happened a few times.
It was always so quiet and the starry skies at night were breath-taking.
The Berber people also felt a lot more open and welcoming, the vibe felt so different to being along the coast. A lot lighter. We visited some towns and their markets and drove all the way east. Marrit and me got loads of work done in the meantime, which was great. My laptop was eating data, don’t know what is going on in the background, but I could buy more data anywhere easily.
The desert had been on our list and Merzouga was told to be really nice, which is 20 km from the Algerian border. We had a great time there. Finally, being able to walk barefoot again in sand and make Mark’s sandboarding dream come true. I had taken my big soft surfboard, which was a bit scary, because you can’t really steer it. Mark had found a guy in town with a snowboard which he could rent. After our first succesfull sandboarding experience, we drove a bit in search for higher dunes. We found a nice sandy place and Yak (Mark and Marrits van) dug himself in, Lotje to the rescue!
Together we walked up the highest boardable dune to go down. Me, complaining all the way up and eating sand on my way down as I fell. Him having great rides being the snowboarder. We had some good laughs.
The next day I took babysitting duty while Mark and Marrit spent some quality sandboarding time together. Raja was supersweet and I’m getting the hang of babies, at least most of the time… I think these days in Merzouga were the highlight of the whole Moroccan trip.
The last week we drove back up to Fes, through the Atlas. In 2 days we went from desert with sandboarding, to snowy mountaintops with snowball fights and sleigh rides, to green hills with trees and flowers. The visit to Fes was nice. I hadn’t been too fond on the citytrips so far.
I just don’t like the vibe of people telling me to get in their shop and asking me why I’m not married. But Fes was more relaxed, with all its super small streets that you can get lost in and the big famous tannery in the old medina, where the smell of death was very present. Brought me back to my youth, where, when cycling to high school through the countryside, there were these big trucks that came by the farms to pick up the dead animals. As that truck passed by, this smell would also be there.
Then the end of our Moroccan adventure came in sight. I got Lotje stuck once more around a big rock. A truck with proper towing machinery helped me out, after we’d burned quite some rubber, my doormat and failing to dig out the massive rock.
We celebrated Mark’s birthday and paid a short visit to Chefchaouen. A village where most things are painted blue and white and people try to sell you hash. There, I discovered that just because my cooling liquid light isn’t blinking, doesn’t mean she’s not running out of cooling liquid… (how to f*ck up your engine…) keeping an eye on the thermostat now, because the engine had been running hot for a few days…
All in all, I can say it was an intense and emotional month. A lot of feelings came up. I doubted myself and what I do, say and feel a lot (still do that…). Even though, deep down I know that what I feel is right, but fear gets in my way. Also, I’m experiencing a change in an intense friendship, which is affecting me more than I had hoped. It did get me in an ‘I don’t care what people think of me anymore’ vibe with regard to putting my retreats (and myself) out there and doing all the promothings, which was very helpful
I also noticed that there were times I felt emotions that I believe weren’t mine. If I didn’t make up a story in my head about what and why I was feeling this, it could just be there and go again. Emotions from the people I met and the places I had been, that I picked up on.
I’m happy to be back in Europe and grateful for having shared this experience with my vanlife family, especially Marrit, Mark and Raja.
Time to let it all sink in and make new plans!