How to prepare, plan, decide etc.
Most weeks of the year I have to work as a teacher. One of the big advantages of this job is the 12 weeks holiday every year. You cannot choose them yourself (little disadvantage…) and prices are always higher in this school holidays (bigger disadvantage), it is more crowded everywhere (not sure anymore if it is much less these days in low season) but I am not complaining..not at all!! When I will grow old(er) healthy enough there hopefully will remain more than enough years left after my pension to travel in low season.
I found an interesting job next to teaching in preparing my holidays. What a great job that is! I love it! I can work overtime without even noticing, I spend hours and hours in my evenings, early mornings and weekends if I am not out there for a photo course, sunrise, camping weekend or any annoying household obligation.
How did I prepare our next trip to Morocco? For this trip in April 2019 I started in november 2018. During my preparation of my desert trip October 2018 I already came across some other deserts, the south of Morocco was one of them. I read a few blogs of travellers to the Moroccan desert. Most Moroccan travellers I found, make a road trip through Morocco and I read about the rich culture, nature and treasures. Bloggers are leaving loads of interesting information in their blogs. After some weeks reading I found out that Morocco, except for their deserts, could be an interesting destination. I had never considered it before and i got Paul into it. We made the decision to go to Morocco together for two weeks, period! That’s an important and exciting moment. From there on it is getting serious! Let’s go!
I google for instance “thru hiking”, “longdistance hikes”, “10 most beautiful hikes”, “trails” and the world is open. I start reading, reading, reading. A global exploration to get into the world traveling mode. I make folders on my Mac where I store interesting links or files, on Facebook I mark messages I want to keep. I make notes on my phone in “Notities”. This exploration can go on for weeks. During the past few years I have made already a list of interesting area’s, not really a bucket list, travelling doesn’t feel like a “bucketlistthing’, it is a kinda wider experience. Paul for instance wants to see the Aurora (Northern (green) Light), that’s more a bucketthing, for me it would be part of a trip to a Northern destination with much more around it. And if there happens to be no green in the air, so be it, if it is not, pity but it will not ruin my trip.
First book a flight and hire a car. Done in December…tick.
I read a lot again and more specifically now. I knew nothing about Morocco, never have thought about going there before. So I had to start from the bottom. Googlemaps you need. Where is Morocco exactly? How big is it? Where is the desert? Where is the Atlas? No holiday without mountains! What are the distances? How much can we cover in two weeks? What is important to see or do? For me it was very clear: mountains and desert, for Paul also sea. I am not good in cities, nature and less tourists above all, thankgod Paul is the same. So making a few “must’s” is handy. We definitely do not want to sit in the car for two weeks. I took my roll of wallpaper out and roughly drew the map of Morocco. Writing down stuff is still nice to do in stead of typing. Making notes all over the paper, places we had to stay, sightseeing things, mark all the interesting spots, write down distances people wrote about, travel hours between two spots are very important to be realistic, highlights….So much to see there! I can get over enthusiastic. Thats why I need to start in time, so I can take a rest in between, get my feet back on the ground and have a look again. Of course I involved Paul, but he is happy for me to take the lead. If I got stuck somewhere, I ask for his opinion. I talk a lot to him about every step I take, no clue if he seriously listens to all I say, but in fact he also doesn’t need to, I think I can make well considered decisions pretty good. And then you find out that it’s not gonna fit in two weeks. Normal! To be expected! First cut down: We only do the South. That was not so hard. A few weeks later: We can only do a part of the South. That was a bit harder. I checked again the blogs, together with Google earth and calculated everything: No way we can do it all and have a holiday feeling in the same time. Second important moment: We both had to choose our top 3 and agree on it. So happy that we share interests. I must admit that our first decisions still weren’t fitting comfortably in the two weeks so the process was repeated. In the end we chose to stay in the desert and mountains each for three days and nights and we built the rest around it…Very difficult steps to take, the decision not to drive to the Dadesvalley, Todra Gorges, Merzouka, Erg Chebbi, Tinghir, Agadir, Tan-tan. Not to drive the coast path as well. But……to make a perfect trip, you have to be honest with yourself, you know what is good for you (nature), what you enjoy the most (having the time to experience and make pictures), what you do not like (city-crowds-touristic hotspots) and make realistic choices.
Now the fine tuning can begin. This is so much fun. Printing out maps of the area we are going to. Reading, reading, reading again, the downloaded and marked blogs are now easy to find back. Reviews in TripAdvisor and Booking.com are also a huge source of inspiration, they get better and better. I emailed with a Dutch guy who drove the exact “road” into the desert we wanna do (well…Paul), 60 kms sand to the big dunes and the desert camps around erg Chegaga. I needed to know if it was possible without a tour guide. And he said “Yes” and told me so much more ….So, lets do it then. Reviews and blogs give you specific realistic uptodate information and pictures about everything.
Our route was fixed. Hotels can be booked. The first thing we booked was the refuge close to Imlil, we needed that spot if we want to get to top Toubkal. That a few days later the horror story about Imlil came in the news, was a short shock, but never made us doubt.
Hotels were surprisingly cheap most of the time. I liked it to choose the cheap ones with good reviews, and there were a lot. I noticed that months before we had much more choice then weeks before. Essaouira and Marrakech were the last bits i had to book, and you can make it there as expensive as you want.
So far the number one pain in the arse was Ryan Air who decided to cancel our plane after everything was reserved. We couldn’t accept their revised schedule because that flight didn’t fit in my school holiday, so we had to invest some hours to get everything arranged again. That is an disadvantage of arranging everything so far ahead. Changing the dates of our reserved car was the biggest problem, if we wanted to change it, we would loose our reserved Jeep. Our whole travel is based on that Jeep, so no way, impossible! How this will end we will find out in a few weeks. I spend hours on the phone with Hertz, who has nothing to do with it, we booked it via Ryan Air and cartrawler.com and that’s a whole different story…. Yep, I found a Jeep for two weeks for €500, Hertz could directly offer me one for €2500 for this period…you see…thats why I choose for cartrawler back then… But when it goes wrong, it’s definitely far more difficult to get it solved… thats true. I solved it almost….almost.
Weeks later we have only two more weeks to go before we fly. Time to get our suitcases out and make decisions about clothes and stuff. (not done yet…i choose to blog instead….) We have bought a hiking map of the area around Imlil and Toubkal, Paul bought today a new wide-angle lens for his (ours) camera. Never a rental lens needed again, yoeheee. I am not sure he will take it into the desert, he is always soooooo careful with his stuff, bit scary…. I am a messy influence in his life…also bit scary probably haha. I recently own the new iPhone xs with two better lenses in it, so maybe I will even never gonna take my Olympus out anymore. After all this preparing it is about time to go. I will keep you informed. And in the meantime I of course am already preparing my solotrip to Norway for this summer. My weekends are too short.
Sounds like a great trip! I hope you can keep the Jeep. One piece of advice, when in the desert just try to keep one lens on the camera and change as less as possible to keep the sand out.
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Paul definitely will! :))