Last Saturday I had a very useful and interesting conversation with a chap called Chris who was introduced to me a few weeks ago as "the fella who has been to Morocco...and beyond "!.
Chris and his wife travelled to Africa in an old VW Passat in 2006, and judging by the enthusiasm Chris displayed whilst chatting in the pub, they had a hell of a good time....or was it just the beer ?................. (just joking !).
It's a strange thing, but even in the modern age travelling to a foreign country outside of the EU is still a very rare thing to to, probably because the majority of us Europeans don't really like "roughing it" when away on our hols, and consider a walk of 100 yards down to the beach as being a "bit of a hike" !.
Meeting Chris was a godsend in the simple fact that having himself driven to our intended destination, and using a similar method of transportation he had an awful lot of info that Glen and I are going to find immensly useful in our challenge...especially interesting was the story of a hurridly carried out repair to a collapsed shock absorber utilising such random items as a short legth of scaffold pole and a couple of wire coathangers :-).
Entering Morocco appears to be the most intense experience that is set to confront us when we first alight from the ferry, the process of getting into the country with your car involves lots of documents,some money a lot patience and plenty of handfulls of boiled sweets to keep the local youngsters (minders !) happy.He advised us to carry duplicates of everything important.Driving licences,passports,green cards,insurance documents etc as they quite often form the basis (by their non return after examination) of negotiations with the local officials and how much they squeeze out of you for passage to your next destination, Chris refered to these "payments" as gratuities or tips, the sort that you would give to a waiter...except that a waiter would not have the power (or inclination) to stick our sorry ass*s in jail if he so decided !.
One thing that struck me during our chat was the sheer size of the continent we are visiting, and this was further demonstrated when Chris produced a fold out map and extended it to it's full size,suddenly I realised what a small part of Africa we will get to see !, even driving over 100 miles into the country we are only just touching its periphery...the analagy of iceberg tips seems very apt as a metaphore :-)
I am still reading the very useful manual that Chris was given by the organisers of the rally he went on, and the information it contains therein will, i am sure, be just as relevant and useful to myself and Glen when we make our run down to "The dark Continent".When we first started planning this trip some 3 months ago it seemed that perhaps we were getting carried away and there was no reason to start so early on in the year, but to be quite honest I am glad that we did, because there are an awful lot of bases to cover, and now in March with less than 6 months to go before the off there are still emails to send,calls to make and routes to plan...oh, and we had better sort out some sponsorship at some point too !, after all, that is what all this preparation is for isn't it.