Whenever we go to Morocco, we always try and plan something different to do. This trip was no exception and we decided to check out the fishing paradise of Southern Morocco, Akhfiner.
Driving in Morocco is always an adventure, but the thing to bear in mind is where you are going and to make sure you have prepared for your trip. If its short distances, then its not much of an issue, but when you are travelling any distance, then some essential things need to be catered for.
Firstly, check your vehicle. In the UK, everything is close by and the AA are always on hand to sort things out. In Morocco, you are pretty much on your own, especially on desolate roads. The N1 is the only road south of Agadir, but fuel stations and towns are many miles apart. Before you set off, check the tyres, oil, water and of course the spare wheel/tyre changing tools are in the vehicle. Let somebody know where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Always fill the fuel tank as well and monitor throughout your journey – never drop below 1/2 a tank. It all sounds common sense, but a few minutes taken before will save a lot of stress.
Driving in Morocco is pretty relaxed. In the towns, especially the larger ones, it is a bit mental, but just keep calm and you will be fine. Liberal use of the horn is a way of life so don’t get cross about it – join in! My wife cringes when I start using the horn as a local would, after a few weeks of doing it and coming back to the UK can cause a few issues as you keep using the horn over here too – I am amazed I have not been a road rage victim yet!!
Take a map, the signposts are a little random and sometimes hidden. You would think that a single road south would pose no problem, however we got lost several times as the roads seem to still follow through tiny roads in towns, rather than by passing them.
In Guelmim, a large market town, we got hopelessly lost and ended up in the middle of the market on market day. The great thing in Morocco is that there is always somebody that will help you for a few Dirham. As the only Europeans in the whole of Guelmim on that day, were stood out like a sore thumb, so one of the locals who spoke very good English guided us out of the market on his moped, then invited us to tea and Cous-Cous – it can only happen in Morocco!
The trip to Akhfiner was about 480Km and took about 8 hours. The landscape changes all the time, from mountain passes to open deserts. One thing you will see is the amazing things people carry on their trucks, vans and mopeds. We saw just about everything you can image from baskets and building materials to livestock and even 4 people on a moped.
One thing there is no shortage of is road blocks and speed traps. The police are fanatical about both. Every village and town seems to have at least 1 speed trap and almost all have road blocks. We got stopped 3 times each way, so always travel with your passports. Most policemen speak English and they all asked the same questions – the most amusing was what occupation we have. What difference it makes I don’t know, but the answers seemed to be satisfactory! These road block are to check for contraband and weapons. The Western Sahara is famous for is cheap fuel and supplies, so smuggling is a very lucrative business.
On the spot fines are imposed on speeders….but we are told an offer of “baksheesh” to the policeman normally works very well in getting you out of this problem – we have not used this system and I would be very cautious. Baksheesh is basically a bribe or “charitable donation” and some officers will take it, some may not, so your choice.
One thing that does strike you is that these towns all seem very prosperous, with loads of new building works going on and new roads being built. What the local economy survives on is anybodies guess.
Once through the town of Guelmim, you are met with desolation. There are many small homesteads which have been abandoned along the way. You do not see anything but desert – no trees, no animals, no birds. This is a very harsh place and it’s so hot it burns your skin. We stopped for a break after about 5 hours and got out for a short walk, but it was so hot and windy, we just could not stay out in it. The gauge on the car said 42 degrees, but the wind on top must have added a further 5 degrees.
At last we came to the coastal road and could see the sea once more, knowing our destination was getting closer. A heavy sea mist descended which made driving a little interesting, but eventually we came to Akhfiner. The town is very small – in fact if you blinked you would probably miss it. It’s reputation of being the premier fishing spot is somewhat larger than the town, but we soon found our hosts hotel and were greeted by Yves Sicart and of course mint tea!
Here is a short video of the trip for you to watch, showing the road conditions and arrival at Akhfiner.