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Family camping in Africa.  Sahara Desert crossing with children in Jeep & tent trailer.  Travel in Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, & west coast. Exploring, safari, backcountry, backroads, overlanders
The Blickley Family's
African Camping

We are in the process of updating our African story and photos
This travel account was originally written onsite while traveling.

      Africa!   What a continent!  To actually be here and see for ourselves, is better than any research done by us from the United States.                                 
     Our family traveled helping Bill to continue  his  urban study of  public transit,  housing, solid waste disposal, neighborhood organizations and cultural differences and similarities to the United States that we began in Europe four months earlier. 
  While in Europe we visited the French national offices that worked with African countries and received several names, phone numbers and addresses of officials in several African countries who could help him in his continued studies.
    Before leaving the United States we tried to obtain as much information about Africa and especially the Sahara Desert as possible.  When in Morocco we visited the American Embassy and sought information about crossing into Sub-Saharan Africa and were told that traveling along the West coast of the continent was dangerous due to political unrest and insurgents who would stop and molest any travelers like us.  We were advised to travel from Algiers South across the Sahara to Kano Nigeria.
   We soon realized that we were not adequately equipped, but God was with us! 
     We crossed the Straights of Gibraltar on a ferry with our Jeep and tent camper trailer landing in the Moroccan port of Tangier where the sounds, scents, and scenes were completely different from anything that we had ever experienced before.  The first night camping outside Tangier was Christmas Eve.  Nearby our campsite, in a small neighborhood reminding us of a Biblical scene, there were several Moroccan Moslems celebrating their religious holiday roasting rams heads in front of their adobe homes along a narrow winding street.  It was like visiting an Old Testament scene for us to celebrate Christmas here.  Although the traveling was not physically difficult, it didn't take us long to be exhausted taking in the new environment that required all our energy to translate the implications of all the new things that we were experiencing.
     After a couple days rest and cultural adjustment, we traveled to Rabat, one of the four imperial cities. While driving in the cities and villages  we continued to see people carrying material on hand made carts, pulled by horses, mules and donkeys, that were made using a truck axel with 17" rims and heavy truck tires.  When we saw this Bill wished that we had one of those axels and wheels for crossing the desert rather than the 10" rims and recreational tires that that were on our trailer. 
     We found a beautiful  spot to camp along the Atlantic Coast operated by a Moroccan family who made our stay most enjoyable.  Nearby the operators of the campsite had an outside oven constructed of dried mud in the shape of a dome about four feet in diameter.  Out of this oven came delicious loaves of bread that looked and tasted like a combination of a German/French and African recipe.
      While camping here, one evening we heard the sounds of an automobile crash on the road near the campground.  Then a few minutes later we again heard More crashing which caused Bill to investigate.  After walking to the paved highway about a hundred yards away he found that there were several cars that had been an accident and other cars were continuing to crash into these cars.  As a warning to oncoming traffic, the crash victims had laid small branches and stones in the traffic lane to warn on-coming traffic of the accident.  Even in the daylight, on this winding road, the branches and stones were not an adequate warning.  It was getting dark and no one was moving the cars out of the road!  Anxious that many people would get injured, Bill ran back to the camper, got a long pole and a pillow case.  He attached the pillow case on the end of the pole like a flag, and after walking up the road ahead of the accident, he stood way off the edge of the road and held the white pillow case out into the traffic lane to slow down the speeding traffic headed toward the wrecked vehicles.  When the headlights of the approaching cars lit up the white pillow case in the middle of the road, the drivers quickly braked  slowing down enough to stop before they hit any of the wrecked vehicles and injured people. We made another set-up like it, and LaVerne and the boys went further up the road to double the slow-down effect. After about 45 minutes, finally the traffic police arrived with warning lights.  When Bill saw them coming we quickly left the scene so as to not be caught up in any official problems there with the police.  Later we were told that this stretch of road was called the "RED ROAD" because of all the serious accidents that happened on it.
     In Alfeciras, Spain, we were told by a German desert traveler that it is impossible and forbidden to tow a trailer across the desert. There are three main roads which cross the desert; the quality of the road surface is not comparable to anything in the United States. The trails in the national forests of upper Michigan are top-grade roads in comparison to desert tracks. The road with the best reputation regarding gas, water, and supplies runs from Algiers, Algeria in the north to Kano, Nigeria in the south. The route is over two thousand miles in length, with approximately fourteen hundred miles of desert tracks. After speaking with staff members of the Algerian Embassy in Rabat, we were assured that passage for a trailer was not legally forbidden.
    We traveled from Rabat to Casablanca where we planned to pick up some spare parts for the Jeep and to purchase some necessary medicines from the Pasteur Institute. The road connecting these two imperial cities runs through a dry sandy agricultural region, which provides little income to the local farmers.   Although this region gets very little rain, the orange orchards are irrigated and produce the best oranges that we have ever eaten.  The land is worked with the latest agricultural equipment.
    We also visited Marrakech, which is a major tourist center, attracting travelers from all over the world. We took a camel ride through a movie lot where reputedly major American film stars were rehearsing . We decided to look out for the film when finished so we could see how the scene worked out. The camels were un-cooperative and needed to jump over a small stream. 
    Minor business transactions in Africa are often complicated  negotiations. A sum is suggested,  many counter-offers are considered, until finally buyer and seller agree. The unvarying routine among Marrakech merchants: "I have a very special bargain for you today. Today only, I sell to you half price." The price quoted is always two to three times the amount that he will accept.  We enjoy the interaction with everyone here, and had a good time in many local markets. After happily receiving some mail, we left Marrakech for Fez, our last stop in Morocco before entering Algeria and the beginning of the Saharan crossing into what is locally termed "Black Africa."  We entered Fez after nightfall and had some problems finding a municipal camping spot.  Whenever we entered an older portion of a town visited by tourists, we were always approached by people who insisted that we hire them as guides.  We usually resisted being lead around, but once we couldn't stand the pressure  when the guides started fighting with each other, pushing back the younger ones from approaching us. We then  hired a young boy and told him that he had to follow us and keep the other "Tour Guides" away.   It didn't take us long after we entered Morocco, before we purchased some clothing of the style used by the local population so that we could enter the markets without being so quickly spotted as American tourists.  We still could be identified as foreigners but not so quickly, and not as novices. .
    We left Fez before sunrise and saw workers waiting for busses huddled around small fires for warmth. At the Algerian boarder the officials tried to be very thorough in their inspection of everything that crossed the border.  They made us open our tent camper and even empty out our laundry bags so that they could inspect everything we had.  After we had passed the boarder we had a good laugh ,though.  Preparing our equipment in the US we had built small compartments into the whole length of the trailer's frame.  There were about ten compartments on the underside of our camper trailer.  From each compartment hung a small padlock. Ten small padlocks hung clearly from under our trailer!  The inspectors never thought to look under the trailer.  If they had... it would have been difficult to have crawled under there and had the inspectors look into each compartment.
   We crossed the Moroccan-Algerian border and traveled east along the Mediterranean Sea to Oran where we camped next to a fire station. In the morning the firefighters toured our tent camper and we toured their facilities.  We had stopped at "flat-spot sites" called  "wild-camping" in Europe, and  lots of times in the USA, and that  would be that way most of the time ahead for us. Look around for a decent flat spot, see if anyone has to give permission , and stay there for the night.   We reached Algiers and searched for a suitable camping spot. We were given permission to camp in the parking lot of a recreational center in Zeralda on the Mediterranean Sea. The complex is designed for upper -lass tourists (not campers who hang their hand-washed blue jeans on the fence), and is more beautiful than anything we saw on the French Riviera. The sand is smoother, the architecture is more beautiful, and landscaping is more artistic. The services are more complete and the weather is warmer on the south side of the Mediterranean. Algeria is busy competing for the tourist dollar, and from our vantage point in the parking lot, camping like Gypsies, we enjoyed watching  how "the other half " lives.
Since leaving Europe we have continually thought about how we were going to arrive at the southern end of the Sahara.  There were only two real choices, and each had more disadvantages than advantages. We  left the capital city of  Algiers on January 12 heading for  Kano on February 15. The first one hundred miles we saw  many children selling produce, eggs, and live chickens along the mountainous road.  Soon the vegetation disappeared and barren rock and sand replaced all greenery.
      After we left the greenery we came to a small village where we encountered travelers coming north out of the desert that we planned to cross.  As we approached, we saw that one of the travelers was driving an American Jeep similar to ours, with the hood up and several men working on the engine.  What an opportunity to learn about what the road ahead is like!  After hearing about their experience, we shared what our planned route was going to be, and were told that if we took that route we would die in the desert.  That was not what we wanted to hear!   After traveling into the desert a few hundred miles, we came to another village where other travelers had a broken trailer set up, not a good omen.
     Normally one visualizes the Sahara as endless sand dunes stretching from horizon to horizon. This is true in some parts where we traveled, but much of the desert that we saw is similar to photos of the moon's surface without the round craters. The land is littered with, gravel, drifting sand, powder, rock shale and huge boulders. It is beautiful in its silence.
     Only the veiled, blue robed Tuaregs and their camels, and the Fulani with their donkeys inhabit the land between the isolated towns.   Both the Tuaregs with their encased swords, and the finely-featured Fulani would often stop us and request water, matches, and aspirin.   While traveling through the desert we were often met along the trail by people living in the area who were in need of water, matches, or medicine.  We first questioned whether the need was genuine after we had given what we could, and then later we were greatly impressed by the fact that in the Sahara Desert, the regular truck drivers carry supplies to give to these  desert dwellers.  We would have thought that only people who were unaccustomed to seeing  people asking for things would stop.  We've heard that Algerians are rather hard people but we've experienced how caring they are  when we were in trouble, and we've also seen how they love one another and demonstrate that love by helping their people who are in need.

When we stopped for lunch under a lone thorn tree, curious children whose job is to watch goats, camels, sheep and cattle, visited us.   They didn't speak English but recognized some of the food that we ate and used the English names for it.
The Algerian truckers carry supplies for the desert people, and following their example, we also carried a supply of necessary survival items for the people living in these desolate areas. After the first day we wrapped our heads against the dust just as the Tuaregs and other desert inhabitants do.      

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