Day 33: Fine

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Tue 7 Dec 2010 16:58
Day 33: Tuesday 7 December 2010. Camping Sables d'Or, Tan Tan Plage (El Ouatia), Morocco. N28 29.493 W011 20.284 Distance driven 219 km
Not a good day today. Coming through Tan Tan we approached what I thought was a roundabout and I was concentrating on finding the correct route (no route signs) and other traffic.  Being a roundabout I assumed that as I was already on it I had priority over traffic coming from the right and proceeded in front of  local car 80 metres from the roundabout on the right side. The other driver took exception to this and expressed his displeasure by hooting frantically as he dropped in behind me.  Just beyond the roundabout was a police check point where they pulled me over and accused me of not respecting a Stop sign.  Apparently, it was not a roundabout at all but a three-way junction with stop signs.  My protests that the stop signs (which I hadn't even seen!) were in Arabic, was to no avail. On-the-spot fine of Dh 700 (about £55).  I quickly assessed the situation and decided that it would not be prudent to try to "negotiate", as there were three policemen there including one who appeared to be the chief. Result: one pissed off John. Talking about this incident in the camp site later, we learned that every foreign traveller gets caught at the same place.  The police road block has been set up there especially as a cash collection point! 
We drove in company with Thomas today in his Austrian camper, out of Sidi Ifni initially through pretty, hilly country and quite fertile.  We got lost in Guelmim and had to ask directions, in Arabic, as French seems to be little spoken here. Then, the long straight haul south to Tan Tan through desolate, arid, flat country with very little vegetation. This is the main route south to Mauritania and the road, albeit tarmac, is in poor state with ragged edges and frequent pot-holes.  We stopped for a coffee in Tan Tan and learned that the annual Tan Tan Festival for Nomads starts tomorrow, featuring horse and camel racing.  Should be fun - perhaps we'll delay a day and go to watch.
In and around Tan Tan we were surprised to see that practically every other vehicle was a Land Rover Defender, some vintage ones too.  In Morocco we had seen a total of perhaps 25 Land Rovers, mostly around Merzouga and the dunes.  Here we must have seen 50 in an hour!