Where do I plug in my straighteners?: wild camping in Morocco 5


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Right now we are in Morocco, here, the tiny little dot in the middle. We’ve got a “pitch” about 3km square. Even the reserve driver could manage to reverse into that.

Some people are a whizz with straighteners. I’ve never owned a pair, I would just burn my ears. So that problem is solved.

But what about water and electricity and internet in the middle of nowhere?

WATER

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Drinking water we carry separately in 5 litre plastic bottles – there’s room to store a few in the boot. We buy more ever few days, along with some food supplies in shops like this……

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Other water – for dishes/showers etc – is stored in a tank of about 100 litres. We have a shower in the van. A big step up from our 2-man tent 20 years ago. You need very little water for a shower if you put your mind to it.

Our carbon footprint is like a toe compared with what it is at home.

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We fill up the clean water tank as needed – it lasts a few days depending on showers – and can be filled at a campsite, most car garages, motor home stops, or by enterprising Moroccans with water trucks attached to a big hose who drive around known camp stopovers. The average charge from a truck or garage is 2€ per fill.

Dirty water: there’s the dirty water from the shower and the really dirty water (ie toilet). The former is collected in a tank which we have to empty regularly because of the heat – at a campsite or garage. The latter is also collected in a small tank – which these days can be emptied from outside the van. Again at a campsite or garage. We are also very well trained now; any cafe stop sees at least 5 trips to the magical loo-we-don’t-have-to-empty.

ELECTRICITY

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We need electricity mainly for

1. charging computers/electrical devices excluding straighteners etc

Out of all the disputes threatening harmony in the campervan, the charging of electrical devices with a limited amount of electricity causes the most angst.

2. Light.

We also have a rechargeable lamp and candles. A couple of the lights are LED so use a lot less power. One changes colour every few seconds: half close your eyes and you might be at a nightclub. If we are playing cards and it makes a whole lot of difference whether or not we can differentiate between red and black, we put on the big lights. If I am making the tea and I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out, the lights stay off. I am thinking this may have been the origin of candlelit dinners.

3. The water pump – for the sink and shower.

4. The router + dongle for internet access – see below.

Matt is the electricity police, and never a fully-charged device still plugged in shall be found in out campervan on his watch. His charging rota is quite harsh but scrupulously fair.

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We get electricity in one of two ways.

We can use the stored-up power from the leisure battery (the campervan has two batteries, one for the engine and the other for electrical power in the back). [Neil: 3, 1 for engine, 2 in series for the back] [Jen: Thank you, smart a*se :)]. This can be topped up by switching the engine on – driving or static – or via the solar panel. A few locals have set up in the solar panel trade, because if you don’t have one when you arrive, you’ll wish you had one before you leave.

The 12 volts is converted to mains by a cool thing called an inverter. It would have been more useful learning about inverters at school in physics, instead of using hundreds of thousands of millions of miles of ticker tape – and then making up the results anyway. Or maybe I am the only one who did that.

Our supply of electricity is therefore very limited, especially if we are static for a few days.

INTERNET

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Until Morocco we made do with wifi. We would find a hot spot, for free or for a coffee, and we stayed put whilst on the internet. The IBoost helped – it can find wifi from further afield and boost the signal, so you can sit in the campervan with the same wifi signal from afar. Like hiding round the corner from Macdonalds.

But now…… we have 3G, by virtue of a dongle. Entirely painless, entirely wonderful. And the signal is split (using a router) so that more than one of us can be on the internet at the same time.

It was so cheap in Morocco, it didn’t make sense not to – 10€ for a month of unlimited internet access. It is so cheap, we established later, because you can download about a picture a day. If you want any sort of speed you need to set your alarm clock for 3am. But all the same, it’s BRILLIANT.

We now have one nominated internet user at a time to avoid the frustration of each looking at a static upload bar for an hour. The boys made me sign a contract yesterday promising that I wouldn’t go on the internet between the hours of 1pm and midnight because I’d hogged it for the morning (to be fair to me, I need more internet – to keep the blog up to date, because I do the bulk of the destination research, because I’m doing an online degree, because I deal with most of our admin, because I can’t help peeking at Facebook now and then, dee dah dee dah dee dah). They just wanted to see a picture of what Arnold Schwarzenegger looked like at the age of 16.

So really, now, in the middle of nowhere in the Moroccan outback, in the dark, miles away from civilisation, we could be skyping home…… if we had a decent connection.

FOOD

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We decided fairly early on that the money we spent in Morocco would go to local shops, souks and roadside vendors, and not Marjane, the big supermarket chain here.

We have a tagine that we can cook with now and then on an open fire, but mainly we use the cooker/oven in the campervan. There was a space for a microwave and we did toy with taking one on our trip. But that a) would use masses of power and tie us to campsite mains power and b) mean less space for clothes/children.

WASHING CLOTHES

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Easy. Handwash little things, or desperately needed things. Do a once a week or so wash for the rest, either in a campsite or at a laundry (price in Morocco is about 1€ per kg). It’s surprising how few clothes you need. I’ve not done any ironing in 7 months. That alone is one mighty excellent reason for heading off on campervan travels.

RUBBISH

That’s quite hard. There is a huge litter problem around built up areas. Trees beside towns are covered with plastic bags. Dumped plastic is a common sight.

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There are some public bins and there are bins at campsites. Here’s a bin with a goat in it. It just not something you see every day at the recycling centre outside ASDA. And a donkey cart collecting plastic.

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The rubbish problem is a big shame. There are fewer public services to deal with litter, some visiting campers are entirely irresponsible with their rubbish, and it doesn’t seem to come naturally to locals either. We stopped for lunch at the side of the road a few days ago. We shared it with a young local lad who was tending goats nearby and who came over to see us – when he was done, he threw his chocolate paper on the ground without a second thought. I experience, in lifetime conditioned-fashion, something akin to an electric shock if I see someone a mile off dropping a sweetie paper.

CAMPSITES

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We sometimes stay in campsites. In Morocco so far, for 12 days out of 33. The highest price for a night about 22€ (for 5 people), the lowest about 8€. Facilities vary enormously, but we don’t really need any more than a washing machine, water fill and empty facilities, and the occasional long, hot shower. It’s not the money, it’s the freedom that gives wild camping the edge for us.

There are also “in-between” stops, which aren’t campsites as such – more like a big parking area – but they do have a place to empty toilets or fill up with water. And often they have a “guardian” who will watch over the van if you decide to leave it for the day to go into town or whatever. They cost between 2 and 4 euros.

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Last night, it was really bright outside, even though a full moon is a few days away. We lit a fire – to heat up hot chocolate, and because Katie like most kids loves poking fires.

We had no telly and a pile of dirty washing in the shower. I was banned from the internet with no right of appeal (see above). The toilet full warning light was perilously close.

But we wouldn’t change it for the world.

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