africa

The Moroccan desert

The desert near Marrakech is of course the Sahara Desert, the largest arid zone in the world. This desert is present in the following countries: Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, Chad, Egypt and Sudan.

The Sahara has a strong tourist attraction. Every year, millions of visitors come to visit it. Marrakech is the main point of departure to go to the Sahara Desert in Morocco.

The two most important areas of the Moroccan Sahara Desert are Zagora and Merzouga.

Desert of Zagora
The Desert of Zagora is the most arid and has less dunes than that of Merzouga. The main advantage of Zagora is that it is closer to Marrakech; it is therefore the most appropriate place to make short trips of two days and one night.

The journey from Marrakech to Zagora takes about 7 hours, since 360 ​​kilometers separate these two cities. Since many stops are made during the trip, the journey is interesting and is not as heavy as one could imagine.

Merzouga Desert
The Desert of Merzouga is the most impressive part of the desert of Morocco. We discover the typical image that we have of the desert in his imagination. Although the dunes of other countries such as Algeria and Libya are more popular, the dunes of Erg Chebbi, south of Merzouga are 150 meters high and have nothing to envy.

A distance of 550 kilometers separates Marrakesh from Merzouga and the travel time is a little over 10 hours, so it is normal to stop sleeping one night both in the outward and return.

Which desert to visit?
If time and budget are not a problem for you, the best is to make a 4 to 5 day excursion to the Merzouga desert. The place is much more beautiful and the trip, although it is longer, seems less heavy thanks to the many marked breaks. The landscapes traveled during the days of the trip are so beautiful that the trip is worth it. Places such as’Aït Ben Haddu, the Valley of Roses, the Gorges du Dades. The Drâa Valley and the Todra Gorges are surprising and very little known.

If you prefer to spend fewer days on this tour, visiting Zagora is the best option. we had a desert camp morocco  by Dar Azawad. Since the trip to Ouarzazate is the same as going to Merzouga, you will also visit important places such as Aït Ben Haddou, so the trip will be just as interesting.

TREKKING TOUBKAL: 5 PRACTICAL INFORMATION TO REACH THE SUMMIT OF MOROCCO

Are you ready for a trekking tour on the Toubkal? This walk will take you to the summit (4,167 m) of the highest mountain in Morocco. Find the impressions and practical advice for trekking in Morocco , reporter for travel VOX, who also wrote our travel guide to Morocco in 44 days.

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CHALLENGE IN MOROCCO!This trek is simply unforgettable. Despite sometimes difficult conditions (cold and altitude), this trek will remain one of the best moments of this trip to Morocco! The landscapes were spectacular. Some days, you will not meet anyone during the 10 hours of hiking. This trekking in Morocco on the toubkal will give you the feeling of being alone in the world, out of time. If you go with a group of friends, this kind of walk is a great opportunity to share moments, to support each other during the adventure! This trek also offers the opportunity to excel physically and morally! Successful challenge!

 

 

Here are all my tips to succeed your Toubkal climb in Morocco:

Morocco :

INSPIRE YOUR OUR PROGRAM DAY TO DAY!
• Day 1: Taxi ride from Marrakech to Imlil, starting point of the trek. Count 1h30 taxi. Departure from Imlil towards the village of Azib Tamsoult. 5h30 of walking, 1,300 meters of elevation gain, night in a bèrgerie.

• Day 2: From Azib Tamsoult to the Neltner Hut: crossing the Tazaghart Plateau. 8h30 of walking, 530 meters of altitude to climb, 850 meters of vertical drop, night in the refuge.

• Day 3: Ascension Toubkal (4 167 meters altitude). 7:30 walk to go back and forth, 957 vertical meters, night at the shelter of Neltner.

• Day 4: Departure from the Toubkal refuge towards Lake Ifni, then overnight in the village of Amsouzaert. 10:00 walk, 454 meters of elevation gain, 1,884 meters of elevation gain.

If only the Toubkal elevation you are interested in or if you do not want to walk as much as you can, another alternative is possible. The first day of the trek you can leave Imlil and go directly to the refuge of Neltner, located at the foot of Toubkal. Day two, climb the Toubkal and at the end of the day or the next day return to Imlil.

HOW TO ORGANIZE THE ASCENSION IN PLACE, INDEPENDENT?

The organization of the trek was made from the guides office in Imlil. It offers guides, detailed maps of the area and mule services for multi-day hikes. This trek lasted 5 days / 5 nights. There were four of us. We left in autonomy, without guide.

From Imlil to the Neltner Shelter, you do not have any shops to stock up on food or restore points. Do shopping at Imlil and plan for at least 2 days of food: bread, canned goods, biscuits … Bring cereal bars, dried fruit … It’s cold and the hike is fairly steady, it takes energy. At the refuge, meals are served and you will find a food point to buy biscuits, water, sodas …

EQUIPMENT: PREDICT LIGHT AND WARM
Provide a warm sleeping bag, good walking shoes, trekking poles, hot business: jacket, fleeces, gloves, hats … micropur type tablets to purify the water, first aid kit. Also provide a backpack to put your picnic, bottle of water …

BUDGET FOR A TREK ON THE TOUBKAL: ABOUT 90 EUROS PER PERSON
For information, I euro is worth about 11 Moroccan dirhams. Here is a detailed overview of all the expenses to plan for trekking on the Toubkal:

• Rental crampons for 2 days: 150 dirhams

• Services of porters for 1 day: 150 dirhams

• Services of a muleteer for 1 day: 150 dirhams

• 1 night in a sheepfold: 30 dirhams

• 2 half-board at the Neltner refuge, located at the foot of Toubkal: 200 dirhams

• 2 nights half-board homestay in Amsouzaert: 120 dirhams.

• Food expenses for picnics: 100 dirhams.

=> Count about 900 dirhams (about 80 euros) per person for the trek

Don’t Shoot!

Attempted sexual assault, planted drugs, drunken police, bribes and arms drawn, this is the night we never wanted to talk about. This is night that I thought I might be shot, fleeing a Mozambique police station as things escalated out of control.

It’s paradise on a Wednesday night in a bar with people from all over the world, chilling under the stars on a desolate beach. That’s how the night started in Tofo, Mozambique and none of us could have ever imagined the events that would unfold.

Warning: This story is pretty heavy. This is my first hand account.

At 2.30am a friend of mine, a young Scottish lass Sarah ventured down to Tofo Beach for a cigarette. A few minutes later screams were heard from the beach where guys in the bar saw a man wrestling with her. Luckily, with a left jab, she fended off her attacker in the darkness and made it back to the bar. To give you a better idea of the situation, he was a local police officer and he was demanding sex. He threatened to kill her if she refused, after attempts to hold her down failed. Guests in a frenzy grabbed me to help out and bridge the language barrier.

In a weird sequence of events after making it back to Fatima’s lodge, both Sarah and the American crew who’d seen the incident were confronted by the officer who pleaded his innocence. Another plain clothes officer tried to calm the situation, and by calm I mean tell us there was no problem and that there was nothing to worry about. During the screams, tears and physical aggression 30mins elapsed in which time an onlooker had ventured to the local police station to raise alarm – summoning Tofo’s most senior sergent.

An amateur move and let’s just say that I was less than impressed after negative experiences with corrupt authorities in Africa. Nevertheless, we were assured that the officer was legit, the real deal and was here to help.

Whilst Mitch stayed back to restrain an understandably irate Scotsman willing to dish out some of his own justice, which was a miracle in itself – It was agreed that we would go to the police station in Tofo to record a statement.

These were the events as they unfolded and they defied belief.

Present were the British female assaulted, a German girl, an American family, a Mozambique translator, 3 local police and myself. I made it clear that we would each be contacting our national embassies as a matter of priority following the incident. Over and over with my poker face.

Upon entry to the station Sarah immediately raised concerns – the accused officer had returned to the station and was present, now sporting more official attire. Imagine that, trying to explain one of the most horrific events ever in your life whilst having the person who attempted to sexually assault you right there in your face berating you. In an heroic effort, still visibly shaken, she pointed him out and solidered on – I’ll never know how she did it.

I requested the names of each officer in the room – naturally no officer had any identification or name tags. This was refused. I attempted to record the interview via my telephone and transcribe the interview. Needless to say both requests were also refused. My phone can’t record sound anyway but it was all about the bluff.

After recording a few lines of the victims statement on what appeared to be a loose piece of scrap paper the witnesses were asked for statements. All clearly identified the attacker as the officer. The Sergeant didn’t record any of these statements and it was almost unbearable to watch as he tried to hide a smirk amongst the victims tears. Let’s face it, his notes may as well have been written in crayon by a 5 year old child – that’s about the extent of detail he recorded.

Naturally after cutting off the witnesses, the accused officer insisted on making his own statement. Permission granted, with of course, other officers chipping in here and there with extra information. In a statement which was incredibly difficult to sit through, he tried to explain it was all a misunderstanding and that he was looking for 2 males who were allegedly smoking marijuana with the female on the beach. A claim denied by all of the witnesses.

After a short absence the officer returned with what looked to be an old ‘joint’ which he pulled from his pocket and placed it on the table. He then with increasing volume stated it was Sarah’s. This was denied and we stated we where happy to have a DNA test and await the results. Declined. Let the framing begin.

After further debate and as the accused officer who was heavily intoxicated became increasingly paniced, we sought to have the matter resolved by returning the following day. At this point the officers took the situation out of the senior officers hands – a scuffle broke out as they attempted to arrest Sarah for drug possession. In what resembled a tug-o-war we things got physical as we intervened when another witness was assaulted and the officers attempted to drag Sarah into a small back room.

Staring corruption in the face – the shit had hit the fan. If things couldn’t deteriorate any further, after running into out back the accused officer returned armed with an AK-47.

Needless to say, at this point, both the young females were beyond hysterical and I could not begin to describe the look of total fear now instilled in them as tensions reached boiling point.

As the situation escalated rapidly out of control, remaining calm, I attempted to reason with the armed officer outside. While the senior officer defended his own inside, the now totally enraged officer in the shadows of the station was jamming his firearm inches from my face, screaming Portuguese with veins popping from his protruding eyes. In desperation the family took the sergeant aside to ‘work things out’, They were forced to pay an excessive fee.

Our lives were realistically at risk, 2 of the 3 officers had also been drinking at Fatima’s lodge and were heavily intoxicated, mumbling and stumbling on edge, paniced and armed. A combination that is less than ideal.

After the screaming turned into a scuffle with the officers and the translator, we were able to push the girls out into the darkness of the street to make an escape back to the lodge. We hid the two females in the corner of an empty dormitory. You could have heard a pin drop.

As last to leave standing under only street light – I felt for the first time in my life that I might be gunned down.

Amongst the screams between the police the translator, we made our getaway as the search continued into the early hours of the morning. They never found us. The family fled town on a bus as we sat it out until the morning.

The British Embassy was there the next day and at last check in the matter was being investigated and raised by the German, American and Australian embassies.

As for Sarah, she’s home in Scotland and she is my hero.

Mozam-to-the-bique

Mozambique struggled for nearly 20 years with a bloodly civil war, the scars of which are still evident in some parts. Today, though Mozambique is a growing destination for tourists particularly for its golden beaches, incredible coastline and water activities.

Mozambique
Capital: Maputo
Population: 23 Million
Currency: The Metical is the currency. The conversion rate is $USD1- 35M or $AUD 30.
Economy: GDP (PPP) $18 600 Billion- 121st; Per Capita (PPP) $934- 170th
Human Development Index: .402, 172nd
Sporting Trivia: Maria Mutola is was the gold medallist in the 800m women’s race at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. At the 2008 games she became only the 4th track & field athlete to appear at 6 games. She is the only person to win any medal for Mozambique, she also picked up bronze in 1996.

>>> Traveller Info
The traveller scene is booming after the World Cup, predominately in the south of the country. Venture north to navigate the sheer size of Mozambique and you’ll find it pretty difficult as the roads still require a lot of work. A few days travel here can easily turn into more than a week long adventure as we experienced first hand.

Visa Requirements: It may just be the largest visa in the World, you’ll need 2 full pages. Most nationalities can get this on entry and coming in from Swaziland this only took us about 20 minutes along with 1 passport picture and 380M ($13).

The Lingo: Speaking English will get you around about 50% of the time. It was colonised by the Portugese so a few lines of Portugese will go a long way when you are trying to buy some seafood or ask for some peri peri sauce around town. In Maputo you will be able to get away with English but elsewhere in the country it is definitely more than useful to read up on the basics. Swahili, and Makhuwa are the most spoken indigenous languages of Mozambique.

>>> @ Maputo
The beating heart of Mozambique has a cool vibe wherever you are. It is clearly the most ‘western’ city in Mozambique and you can live it up whilst in town. This metropolis offers much more than the normal city sights but also serves as gateway to a number of golden islands. It is a must do if you are in the east of Southern Africa to feel the difference between this former Portugese colony and the rest of the region.

How did we get there: Shared taxi from Manzini (Swaziland). The trip took about 5 hours and cost 70R ($10). You will be offering plenty of opportunities to get rid of any Swazi currency you have, this is the sort of currency you don’t want to be left with.

Where did we stay: Fatima’s Place on Mao-Tse Tung Avenue. This is a pretty well known backpackers in town and has a self catering kitchen. There are private rooms and a dorm room will set you back 400M ($14). Yep – it’s overpriced.

Getting a feed: We were ready to be knocked over with peri-peri chicken and seafood. The stuff is available but you will really struggle to find any street food. The best value we found was a small take away place selling ridiculously large beef burgers for 25M (70cents)

On the town: In a word – Coconuts. This place has to be one of the greatest nightclubs in Africa. That’s right this is where the rich and famous hang and you’ll see why. It is a massive complex which holds easily over 1,000 party goers, has 3 seperate dancefloors, a pool complete with swim up bars and blasts beats all night right on the beach. It’s open Friday and Saturday nights and it’s where you need to be.

There is a great jazz/karoake bar Gil Vicente that draws a big crowd all through the week. Why? Because you can jump on stage and jam with the guys with a reggae jam session on Saturday and Tuesday night it’s home to Mozambique’s biggest Karaoke night.

Learn from us: In this part of Africa the currency of choice is the US Dollars. This is what you want need to use to pay at embassies. There are plenty of change officers around just make sure you get notes after the year 2000. Nobody wants anything to do with a any note that is pre ‘99. This applies it seems all across the east of Africa.

It is a requirement to carry your passport with you at all times. We do not encourage breaking the law, but if for some reason you forget, or don’t want to take your passport for security reasons then calling an interested police officers bluff and saying let’s go the station seemed to do the trick when we were stopped for money.

Traveller scene: Maputo was packed with travellers of all descriptions. A lot of people had come up to check out southern Mozambique after the World Cup. You can head out to the major spots and find travellers along with plenty of expats working in Maputo.

The highlight of a trip to Maputo is heading down to the pulsating fish markets. Their are a bunch of touts here and you will pay more than at a more local place, nonetheless it is a cool experience buying some prawns at the market and taking it to a restaurant to get cooked up in delicous local sauces.

>>> @Tofo
Boasts beautiful beaches, and chilled out beach vibe what more can you ask for. Unfortunately, this beachside paradise was spoilt by local police officers. Our most horrific story. Hence, we got out of the place as soon as we could bound for destinations further north. We hope this problems with local police corruption can be soon fixed to ensure this place gets the tourist attention it deserves to ensure people get to see Mozambique at its best not its worst.

How did we get there: Fatima’s runs a minibus for travellers at 5.30am to Tofo. The trip took us about 9 hours, including wasting about an hour on the edge of Tofo as the police decided to check every single bag. The cost was 600M ($20). You can do it cheaper by getting a mini-bus to Inhambana and on to Tofo but it might be a slightly more comfortable experience for a bit extra to do what we did.

Where did we stay: Fatima’s, yep we were lazy as we got dropped off there. There are other places that are more highly recommended just up the beach. A dorm will cost you 400M ($14).

Getting a feed: Walk into town and you’ll an amazing assortment of fresh foods at the markets. We tried to put together a few basic ingredients but as it turns out this doesn’t really work – it’s more expensive than iheading to a local take-away store. Africa doesn’t really encourage you to cook in when you can find such cheap and normally tastier options on the street. Fatima’s has a reasonably priced restaurant serving cheap sandwiches and salads.

Out on the town: Tofo is home to full moon parties that draw big crowds, although without the Thailand style craziness. We weren’t there for this so normally Dino’s is the bestside bar with the most to offer, unfortunately it was a Wednesday. Fatima’s bar has a bit of a dancefloor and nearly everybody from the surrounding area drops in. Security seems a major issue here and we were part of a major incident that went down this night.

Learn from us: Don’t get there on a Wednesday, for some reason it’s the only night ever that Dino’s is closed.

Traveller scene: Plenty of tourists make the trip up here from Maputo and it’s about as far north as most travel in Mozambique. There are also plenty of South Africans who were enjoying the longer winter break by the beaches.

>>> @Velenkulo
It’s another 8 hours north of Tofo. Velenkulo comes packed with fishing boats, golden beaches and friendly faces with a busy village vibe.

How did we get there: From Tofo we jumped on a shared taxi to Inhambane for 25M (75cents) for 20 minute ride. Then jumped across for a ferry across from the peninsula to Maxixe. We anticipated a ferry service but instead had the more genuine experience on board a small boat to get across the shallow inlet. This was 20M (66 cents) each including the baggage. In Maxixe you’ll find taxi’s bound for Velenkulo and for the most part roads for most of the journey are alright. In saying that, it took us about 7 hours to make it up there.

Where did we stay: Boabab Backpackers was our destination. The international staff here dominate. It’s on the bay where you can walk 20m to purchase the day’s catch and cook it at the in house kitchen. Boabab has privates, camping and some big dorms so take your pic. More impressively there is a good bar area, with pool, local cocktails and local cuisine. Best of all – it’s cheap.

Getting a feed: The markets are a pretty cool spot to get whatever fresh produce you’re after. You’ll find some real bargains if you venture off the main street and combine that with fresh seafood in the afternoons and you’re set.

Out on the town: Our two attempted to get north to Beira at 4am meant the boozing was reduced here. The backpackers had a good bar set up and it’s a good place to start before finding the infamous Afrobar. Make it there and out alive, well, it’s a wild night out.

Learn from us: Book your tickets the afternoon before if you want to head north. Get the information beforehand, as the buses don’t necessarily leave everyday to Beira. So save yourself a 3.30am wake up, get the info right and you’ll only be doing the death early morning walk once.

Traveller scene: Velenkulo, whilst not teeming with tourists draw a crowd. There are 3 or 4 backpacker style options here. When we were there massive groups of Dutch and South Africans making the most of the coast. It’s cheaper than it’s southern rivals and with the village backing onto the backpackers it’s pretty much ideal.

>>> @Beira
Mozambique’s second largest city isn’t exactly known as a tourist destination and nor should it be. It does have a lot of expats working at the city’s large port along with volunteer projects. It serves as a stop on the way to the northern extremities of this country, there isn’t a lot to do here but if you know some people here you’ll have a pleasant stay.

Where did we stay: At a local volunteer’s place who is working with a local school and involved in improving rural literacy on the outskirts of Beira. Accommodation is a problem in town but you’ll have no problems finding ex-pats or local families to put you up.

How did we get there: It was horrific. We took a mini bus. The drive shaft snapped after 2hours in the middle of the desert on the highway. There was a mechanic on board who said he’d never seen anything like it, needless to say nor had we. Not wanting to wait 3 days we hitchhiked on a bus decked out with beds. It was weird and expensive but after 7 hours we made it to the edge of town before getting into the back of a dump truck for the last 5km.

Getting a feed: Head into town, just next to the market and find the best bargain chicken in Mozambique. 50M ($1.70) for a 1/4 chicken and chips with of course peri-peri. We found the best and worst of service here. The next day we just wanted a plate of chips which ended up taking over an hour served icy cold.

Out on the town: Local bars. Cheap beers. Every street. Take your pick and enjoy the Portuguese banter.

Learn from us: Can’t go past 20M (66 cents) for a plate of chips? Neither can we, but be warned this could take over an hour. Luckily enough we had some outrageous Brazilian TV game shows on to make the time fly by. What do they watch in Mozam? Think trans-sexuals, beautiful women, football shoot outs and bad acting and you get the picture.

>>> @Tete
We never anticipated stopping here in our ambitious effort to reach Malawi in a day, however Tete was a pleasant surprise. Set on the banks of the Zambezi River, Tete stands out as a city with a lot of develpment and opportunities for future growth across the board.

How did we get there: We jumped on a bus from Beira at 6am. This leaves every 2nd day so don’t just get up the morning before and think you can just show up. Head to the bus office the afternoon before to grab your ticket. It is a pretty nice bus, although a 2 hour breakdown stopped our progress. It cost about 350M (AUD$12) for the journey. Let’s be honest – transport is not Mozambique’s strong suite.

Where did we stay: Paradise a hotel under renovations adjacent to Sundowners on the highway into to town. A room here will set you back 1000M ($33) for a twin room.

Out on the town: After 10 hours travel where can you find a place to relax? Sundowners as the name suggests is the perfect place to relax with one of Mozam’s finest beers on the banks of the Zambezi as the sunsets. The staff here have relocated from Zimbabwe and jump at the chance to speak English so play your cards right and they’ll even share their dinner with you!

>>> The Amateur Low Down
Highlight: We wanted to like Mozambique, but the police corruption and transport difficulties made it hard. We have to admit we were very relieved to make it to Malawi and exit Mozambique.

In all fairness though, Coconuts nightclub has to be one of Africa’s best and the chance to try out some basic Portugese is something new for us in Africa.

Biggest surprise: To be honest it has to be how hard it was to find peri-peri chicken that is so famous from these parts. Apart from the outskirts of Maputo, street side peri-peri chicken was hard to come by. You can of course grab peri-peri anywhere.

One thing you can do to break down a barrier: We had direct experience with police corruption and crime in Mozambique so it is important we raise this as a key issue holding Mozambique and its citizens back at the moment.