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 Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012

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tomw13
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:31 pm

Been reading about your trip, so over to Africa now the fun will start.
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Thu Nov 15, 2012 8:54 am

Latest update!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tinghir, Morocco

I can hardly believe it – almost a week since our entertaining ferry crossing, and we are just loving Morocco!

After crossing the border (more about that later) we headed for Chefchaoune and camped for 3 nights while our fellow travellers – Noel and Ping – caught up with us. Although the campsite was very basic – something we’ll adjust to after the luxurious camping we enjoyed in Europe – we had free wifi! Hot water showers were only possible when the water pressure was high and the gas canister was full. Between showers, we strolled from the campsite into the village and browsed the markets, stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables (fantastically cheap prices!). This village in particular has a huge affinity for the colour blue, and we were fascinated by the many different shades and hues we saw as we wandered around. We watched the numerous weavers, weaving carpets, clothes, bed spreads in striking colours. We followed our curiosity through the maze of walkways between the buildings. No chance of getting lost – the Moroccans are so friendly that they openly approached us to guide and direct us if we looked hesitant.

Itchy feet prevailed, and so we headed south to escape the dreary weather, and start our exploration of Morocco. Before meeting us, Noel and Ping had originally planned to go straight to Rabat to collect Mauritanian visas, then head down the coast to the border. Instead, they have been caught up the whims and fancies of African GirlChild and Viking Explorer, and are being dragged (willingly) into the interior of the Moroccan countryside!

Our first day saw us wind our way towards Taounate through the picturesque countryside. Not quite the desert scenery we had expected of Morocco, this northern part is characterised by green rolling hills and cultivated lands. In addition, we seemed to have – unwittingly – stumbled through hashish alley, which saw us offered by at least 100 men and children! The opportunistic attitude amazed me – cars travelling in the opposite direction which change course, follow us, overtake us and pull over, in the vain hope that we would be interested customers. Alas, not.

Dragging Noel and Ping into their next adventure, we decide to try our first night of wild camping! Complete novices at this, we took a little while to find a dirt track which looked promising. It ended up being a track between the fields of various farms! We had a few cars and trucks pass us bye – who were more concerned with our general welfare than whether we were staying the night! We were left in peace – although being close to farms, the first trucks came past at 0545!

Our adventure continued towards the mountains. We passed through Fes and Sefrou on our way into the Atlas Mountains. We passed over plains stretching horizon to horizon – before encountering our next shock. The warm weather disappeared … suddenly we were in the snow. Morocco continued to throw up surprises, and our plans for wild camping were slowly unravelling. Being the flexible travellers we are (and very accustomed to our plans changing!!) we noticed a sign for a gite, and decided to explore the narrow, snow covered track into the mountains. We stumbled upon a small settlement where one of the houses was offering authentic experience – traditional afternoon tea, dinner, a room for the night, and breakfast. Although being in the snow covered mountains it was still chilly, it was a truly unique experience. The family were very hospitable, and nothing was a problem. We sat, and delicious food continually appeared!

Overnight, the temperatures had warmed slightly, and a lot of snow melted. We continued our journey southwards (warmth seeking adventurers) towards Midelt, with the aim of following tracks into the mountains towards Lac Tislet. The snow covered landscape was breath-taking, but unfortunately, we hadn’t made it that far when we were stopped by all the snow. Disappointed, we returned to snowfree Midelt and headed our to try another night of wild camping.

We found a spot in a shallow riverbed - don’t worry, we were above the river bed itself, but below the level of the plain. There was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was setting … and a damn icy breeze was blowing! We had a few visitors – as we expected. Never that far from civilisation. First, a man with 2 donkeys. Then, the local shepherd with his flock of sheep. Next, two boys (about 7 and 10) who were joined by another man on foot. Eventually, we were alone, and could start dinner in the dark.

We froze that night. The clear skies stayed and the temperature dropped to below freezing. Double sleeping bags were the name of the game. The next morning, we woke early to watch the sun rise over the plains – and the mercury rise in the thermometer! It had almost reached 10C by the time we departed towards Todra Gorge.

Finally, the scenery we expected materialised as we headed over the High Atlas Mountains. We made our way through Ziz gorge – reminiscent of Grand Canyon, but smaller scaled. We made our way to Tinghir on the south side of Todra Gorge in preparation for heading into the gorge, and potentially back into Lac Tislet.

Our first campsite in a few days – pretty basic, but it had free wifi on offer!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Being slight cheeky here - please head over to the blog and the Photography page for latest Morocco photos ... ta

rgds
African GirlChild

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:27 am

From Viking Explorer:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ait Youl, Morocco

17th Nov 2012

I am in a good mood today! I went off-road with Brodie. Not the normal UK “pay and play” day, and not the offroad playground you find in the Alps (Val d’Isere being an example). No, this was the real thing. If you want to have a look at where this piste is, find Gorge de Todra on the map, and look for the track that joins it with Gorge de Dades – roughly 30km up from the main road that joins Tinghrir and Boumalne du Dades.

The day started at Lac Tislit (about 80km north of where the piste starts), where we had spent two nights on the lake front under the watchful and very hospitable eye of our hostess. We had decided to go up to Lac Tislit using Todra, and back down using Dades. At the village where the intersection is, we asked if the pass for the “main” road was open, which was a good idea since it is at 3000m altitude and the snow was still on the ground at 2300m. The pass was not open. Plan B: try the track that joins the two a bit further down the valley. We found the piste using Tracks4Africa on the GPS and headed up a very rocky track. After a few km we met the main track. This was hard packed soil and had concrete river crossings and small bridges – definitely the work of the highways people and a good sign for us – at least so we thought until we reached the river flood plains… Here the road disappeared and was replaced by a rough track following the river bed (rest assured: the river was dry). We must have driven in the river bed for about 10km before we rejoined the track that was supposed to go along the river – when the track was still there and not washed away by the flood that is. The track now started climbing switchback up the mountain side, crossing creeks at regular intervals. In the shady spots we touched the last remnants of snow and it was clear that it was at least a week since the last vehicle had passed, judging by the hoof marks from the donkeys.

Almost exactly half way we crested the col. What a view! Stunning landscapes as far as the eye could see. And no one in sight. What had been a very barren and rocky landscape turned more fertile and less rocky, at least for a while. The creek we started following turned into a riverbed (also dry), and we had a super descent driving on the river bed. The last few km consisted of a lovely track of hard-packed soil with a colour very close to purple.

So how did Brodie do? He didn’t miss a beat! The new upgraded coils made him very stable and smooth and I never really feared that he would bottom out. The low range worked perfectly, and Brodie ate up all the rocks and bumps and cracks and twists the track threw at him. With ease. He never really worked up a sweat at all. This gives me great comfort for the many rough roads we’ll encounter further south. And best of all: African GirlChild had a smile on her face.

Viking Explorer

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:29 am

18th November 2012

Ait Youl, Morocco

I love gorges.

I haven’t had the good fortune to visit the Grand Canyon, but have seen many many photos. In Morocco, we have been spoilt with visiting 2 gorges – each unique, and each quite different from each other.

Gorge du Todra was a “small” gorge. Make no mistake, it was still towering when we drove along the bottom and gazed upwards in fascination. It was quite a short gorge too – only about 18 km in length, and most of the way we were driving along the valley, waiting in anticipation to drive around the next bend and see the surprise around the next corner. It really was an ant’s-eye view. As we pootled along, the gorge opened up into a valley, with more angled sides. This felt like the tourist gorge too: there were many hotels, kasbahs, campsites to entice the tourist to stay a while longer, and the local traffic seemed minimal in comparison.

Gorge du Dades was grandiose. It was large as life, proud and just enormous. We seemed to alternate between driving along the rim, then meandering down into the valley for a while, before climbing back out. This really gave us a chance to appreciate the sheer size – not only was it almost 30km long, but it also seemed to be higher, wider, deeper. We marvelled at the rock formations, interesting landscapes carved out by the winding river. This is the practical route north into the mountains – there are limited facilities for the casual tourist, and the trucks use this to transport wares up and down the valley. Of course, this is only possible when the route through the mountains higher up isn’t blocked by snow. In our case, it was.

In spite of the differences, both gorges shared one feature in common: they sustained life. It was amazing to see the rich green texture in the valley bottoms – villages and settlements present, agriculture managing to survive, herds of sheep evident.

We’re into the desert soon. I haven’t seen a real desert and real sand dunes before. I can’t wait.

(Photos to follow ...)

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:30 am

19th November 2012

Overawed by kindness

Agdz, Morocco

Warning: African GirlChild has had time on her hands to reflect … ponderous thoughts follow

These last few days, we have been overawed by kindness shown to us – by complete strangers. Unconditionally.

Our camping at high altitude at Lac Tislet was a heart-warming – if not body freezing – experience. Our hostess kept a caring eye on us while we were under her roof. From caringly prepared dinner to providing a dry place to hang laundry; from providing indoor heated seating when it was near freezing outside to leading us back to our vehicle with a torch; from afternoon mint tea at a table tucked away in a ray of sun to warm bread for breakfast when it was below freezing. She helped us choose roads to drive safely, and called to obtain tolls on autoroutes. Her generosity, hospitality and unconditional care for us was truly overwhelming. I was a hopelessly emotional girl when we left.

Our search for tracks has tested our navigation skills at times. This particular time, we were stopped on the side of the road pouring over maps and GPS looking for the elusive piste. A kind gentleman soon appeared, and before long had provided directions and information on the best route. As we were opposite his auberge, he asked if we’d like tea. With our philosophy of accepting offers, we parked up. By this stage, he had already arranged a small table and 2 chairs in the sun for us, and shortly arrived with a pot of tea, 3 glasses and a plate of nibbles. Together, we shared the tea, and Viking Explorer chatted away in French (while I did my best to follow the gist of the conversation). In time, we decided to continue our journey. He would accept no payment – his invitation.

Finding accommodation still is an adventure each day: do we camp or wild camp? What other options are there? Many hotels in this area of the gorges seem to have some element of camping tacked on the side. This particular evening, we found a beautiful hotel with camping. While the hotel was indeed tempting, we opted for camping with the promise of warm showers and a western style toilet. After dinner, we headed into the hotel for a traditional mint tea. Soon, the wind started howling outside. Next, the owner of the hotel approached us. He was very concerned for us camping in such strong winds, and offered us one of the empty rooms they had available. No extra cost involved. Unconditional care for our wellbeing.

We’re overawed.

It has felt extraordinary to be a recipient. Strangely, it is a real adjustment.

But re-connecting with humanity – even in this simple way – is a start on yet another adventure.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:14 am

Great reports, keep 'em coming.

Great line mate:-

"it was at least a week since the last vehicle had passed, judging by the hoof marks from the donkeys."

Mentioned before when this forum first began that I was lucky enough to drive the Todra Gorge before tarmac was lain. Dodging boulders, some massive, we drove the gorge one balmy night with the fantastic sound of two burbling V8's bouncing off the rock faces and what appeared to be a river of a million stars up above us - unforgettable!

The hospitality abroad can be overwhelming, if not a little bizarre at times. Going back a few years, I recall standing in a queue at a bank in Turkey with my traveller's cheques, when, in what was obviously the Manager's office, a young lady arrived with what I could only think of at the time as a ‘glass of yellow liquid with some sort of herb in it’. scratch I gave one of those "that looks interesting" looks to the Manager, and a few minutes later myself and my girlfriend were each handed a piping hot glass of camomile tea ,,, nobody else, just us. Yep, we were still in the queue, so thanking him with a distant nod we stood there, grateful but somewhat embarrassed, sipping our tea as the queue sloth-like shuffled forward. A weird but interesting experience you can only have in foreign lands. That’s what travel is all about!

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:12 pm

glad you made lac tislet it would have been a shame for you to have missed it,, :shock: ,,what did you hear .. scratching chin ........nothing...priceless..... thumbsup

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:41 am

Tom - yip, this is certainly what travel is about! It just takes a bit of a mindset adjustment after living in the UK or so long ... I'd love to see the manager bring you a cuppa while standing in Natwest!!

Tuggy - it was worth the drive around and second effort. It was absolutely freezing though, and we couldn't even explore much on bikes due to the snow on the ground. But next time ... when the weather is better ... Wink


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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:43 am

Aaaah ... another day of sitting still Wink

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
20th November 2012

Agdz, Morocco

We have been strangely stationary for a few days now. It feels odd. In a good way.

We are in Agdz, just on the northern end of the Draa Valley. It was an unexpected relief to reach here: after 2 nights sleeping in the cold in the mountains, and 1 night of howling winds, Agdz blessed us with wall to wall sunshine, and heat. Proper, comfortable heat.

Although the nights are still chilly (and the winter sleeping bags are still in use), the days reach a very soothing 25C. Soothing for an African GirlChild. We have relaxed, wandered in and around the village to browse and stock up on provisions. We have been invited to numerous cups of tea – both mint and saffron – but have so far managed to avoid making any purchases (the natural assumption), though not to say we haven’t been tempted. Unlike Istanbul, though, there seems to be a lot less animosity about not making a purchase. We are also exploring what there is to eat! Most food is bought in markets, although we have started to find more and more tiny hole-in-the-wall stores with a variety of wares. Not a Tesco, Carrefour, Checkers or Safeway insight!

Laundry is finally coming under control (remember out blue tub washing machine?) as we can hang everything up outside to dry! We have managed to wash the fleeces (which have had far too much use for a supposedly warm trip) which really needed the warm sun to dry.

Viking Explorer is speaking French like a native! The classes he took before we left have certainly been invaluable, and he even received a compliment from a French lady (thanks M-H!!!). I am starting to speak a little bit of French. The French I did all those years ago in high school has not been completely forgotten, but my grammar must make a native speaker cringe. One of the chaps at the campsite (which is also a bustling restaurant and café) has been very patient with me while I try very hard to untangle Norwegian, Spanish and French as I speak! To be fair, this dialect I am probably picking up here may or may not resemble “true” French … only time will tell!

As with every adventure, we had never planned on staying here in this little town for quite so long. It just sort of happened. But, the people are friendly, the sun is shining, and we are recharging our batteries!

Tomorrow, though, we are heading to the Sahara. Really this time.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photos on the blog Embarassed I have uploaded the gorges ... and will upload a few from Tislite with next internet connection ...

rgds
African GirlChild Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:47 pm

WOW Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:35 am

Hey mugwump - glad you are enjoying!!

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:38 am

Another installment - yes, we finally have wifi again!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
21st Nov 2012,

Zagora, Morocco

So, as we arrived in the town of Zagora, at the bottom end of the Draa Valley, a motorcycle pulled up alongside us, and a chap was telling us all about his garage and waved a business card at us. We politely declined, but this had little effect on him. This suddenness still startles African GirlChild, and arouses a feeling of discomfort. Viking Explorer – much calmer – takes the guy’s card and says we’ll think of him if we need a mechanic.

Interjection for clarity: Viking Explorer and African GirlChild are at opposite ends of the scale of suspiciousness. The healthy spot is somewhere in between us. African GirlChild has an overdose of African style suspiciousness of people and situations; Viking Explorer is the eternal optimist who believes only the best in people. It makes for interesting dynamics.
After filling with fuel, we return to the main road and find a pavement café. Finally, I feel like I can catch my breath and calm down after the whirlwind that was our arrival into Zagora. We take our time and eat our lunch slowly, watching the passing traffic of all kinds.

Next up, the car needs a wash. It is very dusty and dirty, and while it will no doubt reach this state again soon, we are still attempting to keep it under control. The lavage auto across the street is our next stop, but disappointingly is closed. Never fear, a different chap on a different motorbike ALSO has a garage, and he’ll wash the car for us. Price agreed (Viking Explorer getting into this). Off we go back into the side streets, and pull up outside a rather bigger garage (with another adjacent, for good measure and healthy competition). Washing is done half on the street, half on the pavement. High pressure hose, a few helpers and a bucket of suds appears, and we disappear into the garage.

It all went Twilight Zone!

This double bay – neat, tidy and orderly – is literally covered in stickers and photos from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, door to door. Aziz very proudly points to his favourite photos – one of which is Peter from Atlas Overland! Next, we find stickers for One Life Adventures, Trailmasters and Waypoint Tours! All UK tour outfits, who are clearly regulars to Chez Aziz. Viking Explorer and Aziz began chatting in a mixture of French and English: notes compared, updates on news on common acquaintances … and before long, they were lifelong friends!

After Brodie has been returned to his former glory – the colour of Tuareg we are informed – and the previous garage sticker has been replaced by a Chez Aziz sticker, I casually ask our new friend if he has a sticker of the flag of Morocco to add to our collection. Of course, he says … and the chaps jump back on their motorbike to source one for us! Oops … I thought he had one in his office …

We drink more tea (you didn’t think we’d escaped that did you?) and chat and wait … eventually after about half an hour the motorbike returns with our stickers! A gift from Aziz – no payment accepted.

Of course, we have to leave our piece of history to add to the wall. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any of our own stickers, but we left a business card and then took a few photos of everyone at the vehicle outside the workshop.

So, when you arrive in Zagora, do look out for Chez Aziz / Garage Iriki Zagora. And please check the walls to see if there is a photo of the Kapp2Cape crew …

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
rgds
African GirlChild

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:49 am

And another budget update ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
22nd November 2012

Zagora, Morocco

Time for another budget update. Can you believe we have been on the road for 6 weeks already? It doesn’t feel like we left the UK more than a handful of days ago. Aaaah … time flies when you are having fun!

Fortunately, the budget has been steadily improving since we hit Morocco.

The fuel price is a real blessing! Viking Explorer filled up almost 100l of fuel – for the princely sum of £60. Back in the corporate days, that was what African GirlChild paid every fortnight to fill her little hatchback. (As a slight aside, we have tried as best we can to fill up at fuel stations that accept good ‘ol plastic. TOTAL seems to be the most reliable accepting cards, but others do also. It is usually noted on the board outside the fuel station.)

Camping prices have varied greatly with different amenities included or excluded. The cheapest so far has been 40 dirhams (about 4 EUR) which included free wifi, indoor seating and a warm shower (for those in the party at the front of the queue!) The other end of the scale has been 80 dirhams plus 10 each for a warm shower, free wifi. Mostly, it is around 65 dirhams. At these prices, we haven’t done a lot of wild camping. We may do more once we hit the desert.

Food prices have been mixed. Fresh fruit and vegetables in the markets we find quite cheap. A big plastic bag of vegetables cost about 40 dirhams (4 EUR) which is enough to last us a few days. Turkey was about 60 dirhams per kilo (6 EUR) and beef was about 70 dirhams per kilo (7 EUR). Both reasonable by UK price levels, but feels high here in Morocco.

Eggs are available everywhere! Standard price seems to be 1 dirham per egg (about 10 EUR cents). Tinned tuna is pricy (I eat a lot of tinned tuna – or used to) and not very easy to come by. The only place we have seen it, it was 17 dirham per tin (about 1.70 EUR, significantly higher than 50-60p in UK). I have switched to sardines (again, not easily come by) which is significantly cheaper at 4.50 dirhams (45 EUR cents).

So far, our daily budget in Morocco has been about £25 for both of us. This excludes the ferry crossing, the car insurance and the visas we still need to obtain. Including these other “once offs” our daily budget is currently under our target of £50 per day! Hooray!

For those planning their own trip – we hope you find this information useful! We’ll continue to add comments as we proceed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
rgds,
African GirlChild

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:55 am

All this info wil come in handy next year when we have our little jaunt ... especially useful if anyone in our party has a tuna craving! cheers

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:06 pm


yea this is the garage they are nice guys always give you tea. Smile ....they have bikes at the edge of town and if any travlers enter, there on them like fruit flies, :shock: ,,and bang they have you.. Laughing ...but all good fun.....and there very help full . cheers1









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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:26 am

So that's the one. I've seen umpteen photos of this garage, it has quite a reputation - all good I hasten to add. Now I finally know where it is. clapping

That said, I've just looked again and spotted the top sign - Garage Sahara Zagora. Missed that one in amongst all the rest, I always thought it was Dakar Auto - wrong!

Bet they were gutted when the Dakar rally-raid moved to South America.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:13 am

Yeah - these guys are all in a row, and there is a 'friendly' rivalry and banter between them.

We were at the chaps in the far left of the Tuggy's photo - but had already been given business cards by the rest!!!

Quite a giggle really ... but good to know they are there thumbsup

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:37 am

Catching up on sharing the last few days with you all ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
26th November 2012

Merzouga, Morocco

Three days by camel

Or rather, three days by trusty Brodie.

One of the attractions of Morocco is the vast number of pistes that link up various towns and villages. The majority are, of course, not marked on maps, adding significantly to the appeal. A few tracks have been detailed in Chris Scott’s book, and although somewhat out of date, the route details give enough of an outline that we could make our way.

Of course, when we left M’hamid and said we were travelling to Merzouga, there was much drawing in of breath by the guide who had returned us safely from the excursion to the dunes. “You’ll get lost” he proclaimed, assertively. “It is very close to the Algerian border, and you don’t want to stray across” he added. We told him we’d turned around if we felt lost. He wasn’t convinced. But despite his best efforts, he wasn’t coming with us. This was ours alone.

What did we face? 240km of dirt piste from Tagounite to Merzouga. That is what the book says. Actually, the first 15km and the last 25km are tarred, leaving a mere 200km of dirt. This was no “one day rally race” for us. We planned to set off nice and leisurely and savour the scenery.

And the scenery was spectacular, and varied. We passed through palm tree groves and small villages. We climbed into and out of a wide flat basin. We crossed the Hamada – 50km of flatness with mountains on each side. At times the vegetation disappeared completely. We touched the edge of the sanddunes. The scenery was BIG. I have grown up in Africa, and so quite accustomed to the size and scale, but this just stretched in every direction.

We did have a couple of military checkpoints along the way. The first officer was very friendly, and like many other Moroccans asked if this was our first time to Morocco and whether we were enjoying it. Yes and yes. He asked whether we had a fiche – which we did – and aside from checking nationalities verbally, seemed happy and waved us on our way. At the second checkpoint, we almost had to search for the officer to let us through! He was slightly more thorough, and checked all the details on the fiche against our passports and against the car. Clearly not taking any chances. He was polite in his efficiency, and did enquire whether this was our first time in Morocco and whether we were enjoying it. Yes and yes (again). No problems, and we were waved through.

Although the tracks lead us to believe this was a well used piste, we saw very little local traffic at all. But, never fear, there is always a foreigner around! First, a group of 3 motorbikes and 1 quad bike with support vehicle passed in our direction – at speed! Then, a tour of Italians in their 4x4s, travelling in the opposite direction. No stopping for them: the lead car plus 5 followers sped past us. One of the chaps was clearly dressed for the occasion – white collared shirt! Not done yet, we met a group of 4 Belgian guys coming the other way in their Landcruiser, and decided to stop. I was suitably embarrassed: 4 guys sharing one vehicle, and I barely felt we had enough space for the 2 of us in ours! One of the travelling party is returning home in early December, while the other 3 are travelling onwards in West Africa for 6 months. It was typical boys locker room talk as the guys all compared and shared preparation stories.

Our favourite part of this piste was the opportunity to wild camp – in complete isolation. We stopped at 100km each day, and found a spot hidden just behind the first hill. There was no-one else around. This is as remote as I have ever experienced. Just the 2 of us – and the nearest civilisation about 20km away. Picturesque sunsets, and no barking dogs! Magic. Never fear, though, if wild camping isn’t to your taste, there are numerous camping and auberge options at 120km, and the last 50km too!

And all too suddenly, after 3 days, we could see the dunes of Erg Chebbi … and start being hassled by the touts of Merzouga.

We made it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some photos have been added to the blog (under Photography), but internet is iffy tonight ... more to come!

Enjoy!

rgds
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:30 am

It really is a small world! Update from Viking Explorer on just how small Wink

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Merzouga, Morocco

It is a truly small world! Read on, and I’ll get to the point…

We have been in the southern part of Morocco for about 10 days now. It is “dead season” here – right inbetween the two major tourist seasons of late summer (Aug-Oct) and Dec – so there are not too many tourists milling around. After our encounter with Aziz in Zagora (whom Peter from Atlas Overland uses) we had a good giggle about how small the world is. Little did we know.

As described in the previous post we had a fantastic couple of days driving across the desert very close to the Algerian border. We arrived in Merzouga where we managed to fend off half the local population trying to sell us accommodation – of which there is plenty. The number of Auberges and Kashbas around is staggering and because of “dead season” they are somewhat empty. We found ourselves a nice little campsite where we will be staying for a couple of days to do some laundry, some blogging, and some cycling.

Yesterday afternoon we went in to the centre to do some shopping. Oddly most stores were closed so we only got about half of what we needed. Today, after a chilled morning we headed back in to do the last bit of shopping. Arriving at the town “square” we immediately spotted the two Landcruisers parked there, and the very bearded Frenchman working on one of them. The Cruisers were both adorned with stickers all over, and some of the stickers looked vaguely familiar… I went over to say hello and saw that the guy had a t-shirt with a logo for the Breslau ralleys. This made me make the connection about the stickers: Chris, whom I bought the water tank and the fridge from is also the PR man for the Breslau ralleys. I asked the bearded guy if he knew Chris? “He is sitting over there having tea”, was the answer!

So, whenever you find yourself in a small desert town in the south of Morocco, don’t be surprised if you come across people you know.

Viking Explorer

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

'Nuff said!


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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:42 am

More interesting people around!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
28th November 2012

Merzouga, Morocco

Ordinary people, amazing exploits

Today, again, we met an interesting person. Our little stroll into the village finished 4 hours later after meeting Francois.

We saw Francois yesterday for the first time while we were playing ‘small world’ with Chris (see yesterday’s blog if you haven’t already). He arrived in the village high street on his recumbent bicycle.

Today, we saw his bicycle in one of the auberges, and then bumped into Francois at a local café. We invited ourselves to join him. He and Viking Explorer talked for hours – Francois very patiently helping with Viking Explorers French when we stumbled. African GirlChild listening as closely as possible (but deciding that French school is a must!)

We talked about everything – Morocco, our trip, his cycling. He gave us some ideas for places to see in Morocco, and tips about Mauritania – ideas of places to go is the situation is stable, or just places to stay along the coast. He is a remarkably relaxed, down to earth, humble man.

We had a chance to see his recumbent cycle up close – and even had a chance to ride it. This is definitely the way to cycle! The little bit of electricity certainly helps with the uphills, and the body position is a lot more accommodating than our mountain bikes. Funny – he didn’t want to swap with me.

Then we learned his story.

Francois has been a guide in the Sahara for the last 20 years. He has also untaken a number of other adventures around the world, including cycling his recumbent in Argentina and Bolivia. On this occasion, Francois has already cycled 4,000km since he left France. This is all in preparation for a ride called the Sun Trip, which takes place next year from June to August, from France to Kazakstan. All the participants in the adventure are riding solar powered bicycles. The ride is in conjunction with the Astana Expo2017 on sustainable energy.

(If you have a chance (and your French is better than mine) do check out the SunTrip website, and Francois’ blog.
http://thesuntrip.com
http://surlestracesdernesto.blogspot.fr/

An inspirational man.

We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon with him, and wish him and his fellow adventurers a “bon voyage” and successful adventure.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

back on the move again tomorrow ...

rgds
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:13 am

Wow! A week of being disconnected!

Anyway, we have made our way back towards modern technology (i.e. the touristy areas).

Updates from the last week coming through ... enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
2nd December 2012

As we headed from Merzouga – where we spent a very relaxing few days – we heard about the market in Rissani. It is held 3 times a week (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday) and is a meeting place of traders, Berbers, Nomads who converge on the town to trade their wares. A must see – so we saw.

After parking our car, we were immediately greeted by someone who wanted to be our guide and show us the market. Normally, we wouldn’t bother (we feel quite at home doing our food shopping in markets) but thought this time it would be worth the 20 dirham cost (about 2 euros). Off we went.

First up, we were taken across to see the animal markets. The donkey market was rather quiet – only activity was where the donkeys were ‘parked’ for the day at a cost of 1 dirham and guarded by a parking attendant. Prices ranged from 700 dirhams to 1200 dirhams – quality dependant of course.

Next up was the cattle market. The market is depressed at the moment as cattle feed is expensive due to low rainfall. So while you can bargain a good deal the animal (a mere 4,000 dirhams) you’ll likely lose out when trying to feed the poor creature. They did all look a bit on the thin side – hip bones sticking out. There wasn’t that much on offer and it was rather quiet.

Lastly, we ventured into the sheep market. This market was certainly active. There was a constant flow of people bringing their animals into the market – from an individual sheep carried in a box on the back of a bicycle, to a small flock of sheep and their lambs. Prices ranged from 700-1000 – again dependant on the quality. We watched for a bit before moving on. No purchases for us.

Then, off to buy provisions – the fruit and vegetables were some of the best looking we have seen in a while. We managed to stock up on what we wanted – despite the guide seemingly heading us towards his favourite sellers (who may or may not have had what we needed).

Buying meat is always an experience. I have to confess, I do enjoy my beef and chicken, but in Morocco, you need a strong stomach to purchase! The beef is cut from a leg hanging over the counter – and although it is clean and has been kept in a fridge, I have taken some adjusting. Chicken is sold similarly: we normally buy a whole chicken (dead, plucked and without head and feet) and have the butcher chop it up into pieces we can use!

We were taken through the spice market: very educational, and the store owner took time to explain the different spice mixes and what they are typically used for.

Lastly, we were taken to the obligatory carpet seller! We were pretty relaxed by this stage, and the gentleman must have realised we weren’t likely to buy. He was very informative as he showed us the different types of carpets typical to the different ‘tribes’ in Morocco. They were absolutely beautiful.

And after a few hours, we were guided back to our car. Safe and sound.

In hindsight, we could have made the purchases ourselves, but we learned so much from having a guide that we are glad we made the effort.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Please head over to the Photography page for photos from Rissani Market.

More coming tomorrow ...

kind regards,
African GirlChild

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:48 am

Another entry ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
3rd December 2012

Viking Explorer came across a note on the Norwegian Forum “Tur paa Hjul” about an interesting staircase in Morocco called “Himmelstreppe” or “Stairway to Heaven”. It wasn’t that far off our own route through Morocco, and so we added it to the itinerary.

Heading west from Erfoud, and dodging a few very determined touts, we made our way to the desert building Himmelsteppe. This looks like a set of stairs that climb 16m upwards into the sky – and then stop. The reality is that there is accommodation inside the structure, accessed from the top. We were unable toenter as we hadn’t taken a guide. This was designed and built by the German architect Hannesjorg Voth in 1987.

Once finished exploring this unique structure, we saw another building in the distance – presumably a hotel – and headed over to find out more. This turned out (we later investigated) to be the “City of Orion” (Stadt des Orion) – another creation by Voth, completed in 2003. This time without accommodation. The “city” is laid out according to the constellation Orion, with the height of each tower representing the brightness of the particular star. Remarkable construction, but at that time we visited though, we were utterly confused about the intention of the building.

There is also a third in the series (so to speak) which we would have driven past had we taken a slightly different road. It is known as “Golden Spiral (Goldene Spiralene) which was completed in 1997.

So, if you are in the area, it is worth taking a slight detour to see and experience some rather unique architecture in an unusual setting.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~##

take care
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:43 pm

Nothing to report here, still cold, dank and thoroughly wet 'n' miserable. Crying or Very sad

On the upside, we are devoid of beautiful carpet sellers over here ... the carpets of course, not the sellers!!! cheers

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Dec 12, 2012 4:32 am

Never fear Tom - I am soaking up more than enough sun for you!!! Cool

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Wed Dec 12, 2012 4:33 am

8th December 2012

There really are no words to adequately describe the experience of travelling with Shibani – George.

We met George and Jack in Zagora - two Frenchmen travelling in Morocco since the beginning of October. George is in a green Mercedes van and Jack on a motorbike. We all spent the day at Chez Aziz / Garage Iriki having work done on vehicles. George has been travelling regularly to Morocco since his first visit 35 years ago. Jack has joined George on a number of trips – some with wives and children – for a few years.

George is a truly unique individual, with a very special way with people. His gentle and humble nature, his sense of humour and a complete and utter love of life – ‘C’est par belle la vie’ is his morning greeting – together with his vast Moroccan experience, makes him a fascinating person to travel with.

Including Jack, the 3 of us have been swept along the incredible magic carpet ride that seems to accompany George.

By leaving everything in George’s capable hands, we have had a surreal few days: first we crossed the piste from Zagora to Foum Zguid. Each vehicle took a slightly different route, and we met up in the afternoon in Foum Zguid. On the way, George had made a new friend, bought some carpets, and ended up with our next 2 days planned.

We have spent time – as friends – with a Berber family in Tasla. Carefully treading some of the cultural intricacies, we have been taken around and shown the village, drunk tea, eaten homemade couscous and tagine, seen home-made carpets, stayed in a Berber home, bartered items for carpets, drunk tea with Nomads, and almost bought a live goat (we couldn’t agree a price).

As is the case, all too soon we parted ways – we went west towards the coast, and George and Jack headed north to Marrakesh on their way back to France.

We experienced and learned so much, and we hope that we will take the spirit of Shibani with us – not only on this adventure, but through our lives.


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