The story of three boys, one girl, six boards, a van, three countries and the open road!
We set out late, as usual, from darkest Cornwall and caught the ferry from Plymouth to Santander overnight, the only night we would spend out of the van. After a quick surf near Suances on the north coast we got down to the business of driving to Taghezoute, Morocco as quickly as we could in a van with a top speed of 65mph.
Central Spain threw up a myriad of adventures, from a beautiful night sleeping overlooking the lake at Embalse del Ebro to a town called Burgos where all roads lead back to the centre and we found ourselves part of a carnival procession. Madrid was not for the weak of heart, the concentric circles of the numerous ring roads bewildered us…how can a road have 6 lanes and exits on both sides?!
And finally we hit the coast, the Mediterranean though and the surf there is, well, minimal at best so we dipped our toes and forged ahead to Algeciras, with the oh-so-glamorous lorry parks offering a second night of cheap parking on the trot.
At Algeciras Africa is tauntingly close, you can see it, you can almost hear the waves (well, almost) but catching the right ferry, that’s a tale in itself. Suffice to say we had time to scout out and use some showers we found, the van lacking such facilities.
As soon as you hit Africa the whole feel of the trip changed, the scenery was different, the food and people too. We were still on a beeline for the furthest point on our journey so finally having purchased a map of Morocco we were good to go. The tea-making facilities were a bit harder to operate on the bumpy roads there though!
A day later and we reached Taghezoute, almost at the Sahara, a place where goats and camels roam free, you can eat yoghurt made by the villagers from the mountains and time to get down to some serious surfing. The south of the town has a couple of excellent breaks and provided opportunity for some filming of our impeccable technique (?) from the ‘car park’ we founded on the cliff. It’s just to the north though that the lines really roll in, providing entertainment aplenty and world-class waves on their day.
Just up the coast, Tamri was an experience, it’s a break for experienced surfers as the river mouth and the surf spot meet causing some pretty strong currents. The local guys are very protective of their spot but the break was great fun until they showed up!
Imsouane was much more friendly, with locals congregating around the harbourside watching the world go by and waiting for the best fish catches to arrive. The beach here was long and the surf clean but moderately small so we went for a wander, and even got a tour of a tiny beach house from a guy who invited us for tea and to meet his turtle! Waking up on the side of the beach and looking out the windows the surf was larger, a quick dip before heading off was the order of the day.
Further up the coast we skirted Essaoueira and made for Safi, where a friend was unexpectedly meeting us, and where we all stayed in a proper caravan park, hot showers included! We had some time to explore the souks which were amazing, the spices and the fruit and veg stick in my mind as the best purchases.
Sadly this is where our surf luck, as well as our navigational luck ran out, as we proceeded to drive down a bustling market street, get totally lost in Rabat and hunted for hours for anywhere to sleep in Kenitra. We kept ourselves amused though passing cups of tea from the van to the new addition to the convoy!
Kenitra proved the toughest surfing challenge of all as the winds had picked up and flat breaks all around left us with no choices. A heavy beach break separated the shore, and soon me, from the guys at the more reefy break behind, and before not too long I was trapped in the proverbial washing machine, unable to find my feet, gasp for air or fix the situation. Luckily a heroic local jumped in and dragged me to safety!
Exhausted by the constant attention a girl with three boys in a van gets in Morocco, and feeling the time pressure to carry on we then made a beeline for Tangier to see the capital before taking the worst ever road back to Ceuta. It varied wildly between a 3-lane motorway and a dirt track, teetering on the edge of a cliff and in some places virtually going through people’s gardens. But perseverance pays off and we made it across the border just in time to be told…the port was closed.
A worrying overnight stay in which our neighbours endured an attempt by stowaways to hide in their toilet we were finally back in Europe! Only problem, all the drivers had succumbed to the ailment we’ll politely refer to as traveller’s tummy.
Tarifa, windsurfers haven, was next on our journey but the high winds didn’t suit our sail-less boards! We high-tailed it to Portugal for the most beautiful leg of our journey, but the famous surf spots along the south coast were all flat and we were starting to lose hope of ever surfing again.
Sagres was the highlight of these barren days, and walking to the end of Portugal was an amazing sight, clear waters, beautiful cliffs and a great little market with a surprisingly high number of customers!
The very next day our luck changed and I experienced the glory of surfing without a wetsuit on (girls please note: you need your tightest bikini bottoms on!) at a little break around the corner from Sagres whose name not even the locals seemed really sure of! A huge rock in the centre of the bay provided extra entertainment as we climbed up and jumped in to the delight of those on the shore.
Onwards up the coast the winds picked up and blew out the waves so that was it for me, i really loved Portugal and the beaches were stunning but I had a plane to catch, leaving the boys to head across the top of Spain and through France before returning to Dover. Our road trip to Morocco and back had seen us cover over 5000 miles in 6 weeks, surf great breaks, fight with locals and have numerous ‘illegal’ barbecues on beaches and in campsites!