Day 35: The day of the fiche

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Thu 9 Dec 2010 20:58
Day 35: Thursday 9 December 2010.  Camping Sahara Line, Boujdour. N26 07.992 W014 29.728  Distance driven 494 km. Total distance 6,008 km
We are now well into Western Sahara, although you wouldn't know it.  We drove steadily south-southwestwards all day on a good tarmac road, mainly dead straight, with little traffic.  Others have described this stretch as "monotonous" but it was fascinating, and in an unusual sense, quite lovely.  For me we could quite easily have been driving through the western province of Saudi Arabia, the terrain was so similar.  For the most part the road runs along the coast about 50 to 300 metres inland and at an elevation of 30 to 50 m.  The cliffs just drop straight down to the beach below but access to the beach seems very limited and difficult.  We passed many fishermen and were intrigued to see some of them fishing from the top of the cliffs with the line 50 m below them in the sea!  There were many locals and French camper vans "bush camping" at the top of the cliffs and we would have done the same if we had time to stop.  In several places the road wound down through a cutting to cross a wadi and then up the other side. Several of these looked to be wonderful places to camp with access to miles of totally deserted beach.  The surf was huge but not a surfer in sight.
Once we neared Tarfaya, and the border of Western Sahara, we encountered police road blocks.  They all expect one to produce a "fiche", or a paper abstracting passport details and details of the car. Fortunately, we knew of this requirement and had pre-prepared 35 copies before leaving home.  Of course, it has to be in French - many thanks to Coco and Patricia for checking my French translation, it seems to be acceptable! Now we are not sure if 35 will be enough as we have gone through 6 copies today in 300 km and we have another 1500 km of Morocco and Mauritania to do! Most of the police were relaxed, very friendly and some quite humorous. On the outskirts of Layounne we were stopped at one road block, drove 100 m and there was another, and we had to give up a second fiche!  This invisible border has an economic significance -  diesel prices are two thirds the rest of Morocco (down to 41 pence per litre, or one third of UK prices) and even bread is costing only Dh 0.75 instead of Dh 2 in the northern towns. This is the country's commitment to strengthening the economy of the region.
Passing through Layounne, the scene of recent troubles between Polisario and the Moroccan forces, everything seemed quite and normal although a lot of troops and police were evident in the streets.
The camp site here is very clean and civilised and has clean, HOT showers!  As we arrived early, I took the Land Rover to the car wash and then greased the universal joints (yet again), before supper which Thomas prepared.  We had been driving in company all day and both found that fighting a strong head wind had increased our fuel consumption dramatically.