Monday, 1 June 2015

Plage Blanche: in search of shipwreck - part two (by Polka)

Th new day brought new enthusiasm to search the way to Plage Blanche and the shipwreck. Up and ready to beat the tide again we set off past fishermen's villages, along the coast of the Atlantic towards the south entry to Plage Blanche.

Again, this is where we were:



Driving past fishermen villages, wondering what the huts would be like inside. Surprise, surprise! Very soon we would have a chance to explore one of them.








Notice the satellite dish and solar panel on the hut below.  That's all you need to get tv out here. 

Getting closer to Plage Blanche.


An old military post
                             





Very close to Plage Blanche, just a oued away (hidden below the dunes). The road in the picture below took us straight to the river marking the other side of the beach .  It was a very picturesque place: Dark empty river bed set between  a sandy bank on our side and high bright yellow dunes opposite. The way to the beach was to go down the river bank and simply drive towards the ocean. 
Looking for the way into the river bed

Aaron decided not to take this track down to the river.  It was an established track down, but after the rains and flooding Aaron decided it looked potentially destabilised.




So close but not there yet.





Eventually we found another route down to the river bed.  

Aaron decided to walk down there first and double check whether the surface was firm enough to be suitable to drive the car on. He decided it appeared firm and fine to proceed. I got out of the car as I didn't feel comfortable with the steepness of the river bank and watched Aaron from the top. 
Looking towards the ocean. Plage Blanche is to the right.

The car had no trouble whatsoever getting down to the river bed, however once down there its weight brought water hidden deep under the surface to the top! As the car was getting into the river bed I could see its wheels sink in before getting onto a harder surface. In 4wd the car was having no difficulty with traction at all, but it just looked risky and we didn't like it.  We feared if more water came up the area may turn into a bog.  At that point Aaron decided to test whether it was possible to get back up the bank. Retracing the steps brought even more water onto the surface and unfortunately the attempt to drive up the bank was unsuccessful.  Sometimes it takes several attempts to get up steep sandy tracks.  But each drive over the wet area brought more and more water to the top and increased the potential to get stuck in it.  Aaron then tried a slightly steeper but less muddy part of the river with the traction boards positioned along the muddy part and we nearly got up, but just at the very top there was a curve which prevented the car from going any further. 

Although puddles aren't usually scary, this one looked like jelly and behaved like jelly, so we didn't know what to expect from it - would it turn into a kind of sinking sand?!  You could see it wobble under the weight of the car with wheels sinking into when driven on.


Aaron was lowering the tyre pressure to very low levels before the next attempt to drive the steep and sandy river bank. At that point we got really anxious that the car may get stuck. Having a winch in a dessert isn't very helpful with no trees around..... (something that will be remedied in future trips as we've since invested in a ground anchor - sometimes known to 4wd'ers as a 'portable tree')

While we were discussing possible ways out, we could here some male voices approaching. Two men were approaching from the remote collection of fisherman huts at the top of the cliff and they were coming to assist us. They didn't speak a word of English but it wasn't necessary since we could clearly see what they were trying to do.  The plan was to cover the mud with twigs and branches from surrounding bushes, which Aaron had just been about to start doing - this is a technique we've seen used elsewhere on our travels.  It just adds some body to the soft ground and gives a bit more grip.


Once the puddle got covered with the bushes, the fishermen indicated that Aaron should drive as far back as possible and take the maximum run up; like a plane taking off on runway.  One of the fishermen offered to drive the car up for Aaron, but Aaron wasn't having that so instead the fisherman took the passenger's seat. We have a video of the car finally getting up the steep sandy river bank, at speed.  What a huge relief! Very grateful for their help we tried to tip the men, however they refused the money. Instead, we got invited to their village and home and offered lunch!  We realised lunch would not be free of course - these are commercial fishermen who need to make a living, but we were happy to come back to their hut for lunch. Actually there was no price as such.  After the lunch before leaving we just paid them some money and they didn't even look at it or count it as it was slipped into the hosts pocket.  This is how things are in Morocco, where money is exchanged in a sort of low key manner.




And here we are, in the fishermens village

We were welcomed with a cup of tea and had a chance to have a good look inside a fisherman's hut. As much as it was possible we were trying to have a conversation. Aaron explained to the fishermen that we were attempting to find a shipwreck. He had a picture of it in a 4WD book we followed so he was able to show it to the men. The men clearly knew the shipwreck and the spot where it was but to our surprise and disappointment they indicated it wasn't there any more. They made an angle grinder sound and motion and said Casablanca.  We understood this to mean it had been cut into scrap metal and taken to Casablanca.  

Our hosts preparing traditional mint tea

Inside a fisherman's hut, being served traditional mint tea served in a traditional way, too.

The seats we were sitting on were also their beds.  It should be obvious from these photos that they live in very basic surrounds.  They have a gas bottle for lighting and another one for boiling tea on.  Our fish was cooked outside over hot coals, as shown below.

The lunch is being prepared!
 





And it's ready!



Plage Blanche and the Atlantic behind Marcel



The military post




Our little adventure had a happy ending. Now it was time to leave the fishermen's village and head back East to start another route across the Sahara. However; it wasn't that easy! The map showed a military road existed from where we were and would join onto the main sealed route along the Moroccan coast.  But the heavy rains and flooding had cut the route to pieces and there were many washed out areas and subsided terrain that caused us to reach an impassable point.  We spent a long time looking for alternatives and in the end had to just go completely off track overland over rough terrain until we could rejoin a section of track nearer the sealed road.  But the mighty Mitsubishi prevailed and after a few hours we finally got to the sealed road north of Tan Tan.




Tan Tan





Tan Tan was just a short stop to replenish our supplies after which we headed towards the Sahara. However, since we'd had so much trouble getting to our destinations on a few occasions, we asked a local policeman whether the next route we'd planned was accessible. Unfortunately it wasn't. It was still too wet for cars to cross some rivers so we had to change our plans once again. We spent a night in the kasbah we drove past a couple of days ago whilst heading to the coast in our search for the shipwreck.


Kasbah
















The kasbah was a beautiful place, one where we would've been happy to stay for much longer than one night. Unfortunately, we had no time to enjoy the kasbah for longer since there was still so much to explore in Morocco with very limited time left. 



Exploring the old fort we drove past a couple of days earlier









That was our last day in the dessert. Off to Anti Atlas next!




  

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