Monthly Archives: January 2014

Of a friendly taxi driver and lousy Land Rover service

The friendly taxi driver

Insane Casa traffic

Insane Casa traffic

I’m trying to find my way in the hustle and bustle of Casablanca’s insane traffic, looking for Salim on 625, Boulevard Mohamed V. Salim is the dealer for Britpart in these neck of the woods, and Britpart in the UK has a gearbox ready to be shipped. We all think that with a Moroccan company clearing customs will be less of a hassle.
Finding the right Boulevard is easy but I can’t figure out the logic behind the numbering; it stops at 323, continues a bit further with 128, then there’s 378. I stop to ask directions.

petit taxi

petit taxi

“Goedemorgen, kan ik u misschien helpen?”. A taxi driver in a small red petit-taxi asks me in fluent Dutch if he can help me. I explain to him what I’m looking for and he offers to pilot me to the right address. I tell him I’ve got a name, an address and a telephone number, and that it’s supposed to be  garage. He gets in front of me, drives a bit, stops to ask for directions himself, drives a bit more, gets out and dials the telephone number, and after 15 minutes he triumphantly halts in front of 626. When I want to pay him for his excellent services, he won’t hear of it.
“Just tell them back home how good these taxi drivers in Casa are,” he says.

Land Rover ‘service’

Lousy Land Rover service from Smeia

Land Rover Smeia

A few days earlier I had navigated my way through Casa’s city centre on my own, visiting the Land Rover dealer/importer for Morocco and the Middle East. When you have all that on your business card you expect chique, especially in Casablanca. I was not disappointed. My vintage Defender surely turned some heads; not out of admiration but pity. The chef de garage shifted the gear lever  a couple of times and concluded that a) it was old, b) it was not to be repaired, and c) that Land Rover stopped making these gear boxes eons ago. I could have told him that myself. I explained that there were replacement gearboxes aplenty in the UK, for instance from Ashcroft. They kindly but resolutely refused to be part of this: “Company policy, I’m afraid. We hope you understand?”

5th gear update (Sunday 19th)
The gearbox was shipped last Friday and should arrive today or tomorrow. Clearing takes one or two days. With the very kind help of a Dutch Expat couple (thanks Kevin and Stella), my own garage ET Coevorden (thanks a million, Erwin!), I should be on the road again end of the week. Insha’Allah, of course.


Smooth crossing, rough landing in Morocco

Lost 5th gear
After a relaxed trip through Europe and a smooth ferry crossing from Tarifa to Tanger, happily driving on the péage from Tanger to Rabat, the car suddenly lost its 5th gear. Shock and unbelief. Well, unbelief: with  a nearly 25 year old Defender, even when it’s very well serviced and maintained as mine is, you can expect anything. The gearbox is still original after 400.000 kilometers and it was running well so far. Fortunately the box had not completely gone on me, and 1st to 4th gear were still working properly. So I limped to Kenitra on the coast, not far from Rabat, thinking that it should be possible to have the car fixed there – if anywhere in Morocco. At an average speed of 65 km/hour, much to the discontent of my fellow Moroccan drivers.

Kenitra – Mohammedia – campsite Ocean Bleu
My already low spirits reached an all time low when I arrived at the Kenitra campsite late in the afternoon. What an incredible dump, muddy, crowded, noisy, filthy, unlit. There must have been at least a hundred campervans, cramped awning to awning. What inspires people to buy an expensive motorhome, costing at least two average year salaries, and to stay in places like this – and enjoying it – is far beyond my imagination! Got up at 6 o’clock next morning to find a better place to sit out my situation. I decided to take the péage as much as possible, so trucks could me easily overtake on the left lane. 
Campsite Ocean Bleu is near Mohammedia, which is about 35 km from Casablanca. It’s right on the beach, has a relaxed atmosphere, and WiFi everywhere. The latter I considered of vital importance considering my predicament.

5th gear update (Thursday 16 January)
My garage in The Netherlands has been really helpful so far. They have prepared a shipment with a new gearbox from England. Having it sent here is no problem; getting it through customs is. I’m working on that now, hoping to find a local business that’s willing to take care of that. To be continued…


Of Thimba’s flatulence, the crisis and other relevant issues

O.k., since I coined this blog “Travels with Thimba”, it is more than appropriate that I should share some thoughts on what the road trip with my canine companion is like. So far. And having only crossed Europe to the south of Spain in a very relaxed sort of way, and on impeccably tarmaced and completely empty autopistas (don’t mention the crisis!). But hey, this is a new experience, so here are some reflections that sprung to mind.

I may think that I’m travelling solo, but I’m not. And Thimba, for one, certainly doesn’t think so.

French campeurs  also travel with their dog. At least that’s what those hairy little mongrels at the end of a lead look like. I can’t tell head from tail. For some reason they have all left their Great Danes at home.

Road trips and physical exercise don’t go well together.Thimba reminds me that a few good walks every day keep the blood thin.

Stop looking in the rearview mirror. There’s no traffic and all I see is Thimba’s big brown eyes staring at me saying “Is this really supposed to be fun?” Ignore, and concentrate on the empty road in front of you (did I mention the crisis?)

A road trip with a dog is like traveling with a young child: does she get enough to eat and drink, OMG she threw up all over the seat, isn’t she adorable when she sleeps. And Thimba’s flatulence easily matches any used Pamper.

Anyways, we’re off to a good start, the two of us. Building new routines and breaking down others. And ready to cross to Africa in a few days.

Img 1771

building new routines