Saturday 13th February[/i]
As it was raining, we put hold on the plans for a walk in the mountains or another wonder around the Souq. Instead deciding to continue our journey south into Morocco and towards the holy town of Moulay-Idrass. This was another slow journey on Moroccan roads, with us steadily taking in all the new sights and sounds around us and slowly becoming slightly more used to them. Behind slow old lorries churning out black fumes and through villages right on the sides of the roads. The villages had no pavements, just a few shops and café’s with always men hanging about and few women in sight.
It was when coming through one of these villages that disaster struck. A white Mercedes van was pulled up on our left and then all of a sudden without indicating pulled out onto the road. We slowed down thinking he would see us, but he didn’t and when I braked it was too late. He had accelerated onto the road and into us! All of a sudden in full slow motion the van smashed into the driver’s side (left side on our Hymer) and there was a great noise. Hymer was shunted over to the verge and inside the cab you could see the front coming in and the windscreen braking. We knew it was bad straight away from the noise and feel of the impact, Lorna was screaming and in tears, but we were both fine and not injured. The van, no sooner as it had hit us it had zoomed off down the road and Hymer was in no state to follow. The side had been smashed in and the window was hanging from the frame. The rain then started to come down very heavy and was pouring in through the gap between the frame and the window. We knew that our adventure could well be over and everything had gone wrong. We were on a small budget anyway and although we had insurance in Morocco, we were only covered third party. I got out the van to check the damage and people were already starting to mingle around us looking.
It was a horrible numb state of shock and knowledge everything had taken a turn for the worse, the heavy rain just adding to it. The bumper was in a triangle cracked in the middle and pointing out. The impact had happened by the fuel cap on the driver’s side just on the corner above the front wheel. As well as the bumper and windscreen, Hymer just had a big chunk of smashed in, totally out of shape, with part of it pushed against the wheel. We weren’t going anywhere in a hurry.
After a short while the Police appeared on the scene, only problem was we couldn’t speak Arabic or French and they couldn’t speak English. They established we didn’t need a ambulance, as we weren’t injured, so we waited while more police came to the scene. While waiting in shock we tried phoning the insurance company to tell them about the accident. Also to find out if we were covered in any way at all, as the accident wasn’t our fault. It was then we realised the problem we had, both our phones were now on pay as you go. Mine had only just changed over in the last few days and I had not been able to set up any credit card top up. So we sat in the motorhome in the middle of a strange country and we couldn’t phone anybody! After a bit, the police waved down a French van and asked if they could speak English to translate between us. We established, we were needing to wait while the police took pictures of the scene and that they would try to help, as we were tourists. The driver then said something that made me realise the severity of the situation. He said “ Your in Africa now, no-one cares about you.” or something along those lines. It made me feel very alone and up the creek without a paddle, so to speak. The rain was pouring down and here we were in a very foreign country not able to contact anyone or in fact talk to anyone and the motorhome wasn’t going anywhere fast! The situation was a nightmare.
Eventually a policeman came, that could speak a little bit of English. He asked whether we had taken the number of the van, to which we hadn’t as they had driven away so fast. He then asked to describe the accident, so I did. After photos were taken and some very random measuring was done. We were told we needed to come down to the police station with them and that we could also use their phone to contact our insurance, etc. The English-speaking officer came with us in the motorhome and we followed the other car. Luckily at this point the rain had stopped, so we very slowly drove off with the glass hanging half in and half out. After a while down the road, the front windscreen looked as if it was about to fall out. So we pulled over and the three of us carefully removed the windscreen and placed it inside the motorhome. Then with the policeman sat next to me, we continued driving down the road with no front windscreen. It was a very strange journey, I think we were still in shock and not really knowing what was happening or what we needed to do. At the station we were then informed we couldn’t actually ring international numbers from the phone as it would only ring Moroccan numbers! So we tried the British Embassy, to see if they would be able to help in pointing us in the right direction or contacting our insurance. They were closed, as it was Saturday. At this point we decided we just wanted to get to a campsite and work out what we needed to do, also they normally have international payphone’s outside. The police organised for a mechanic to re-fit the broken windscreen, at a price, though it was very badly cracked on the driver’s side. We then had to wait a good two hours in the police station while groups of officers filled out different forms and we had also written our statements. As the custom seems to be here, we were also given tea. Lorna made sure we didn’t leave without a crime number, but there was nothing much they could do. They just made sure they looked liked they were doing it all properly and being welcoming as we were tourists.
The day was now getting on, it would be going dark soon and we had a 20km very slow drive ahead of us to get to a campsite. After going back and forth trying to find it, we were pointed in the right direction by a local helpful guide and arrived up the dirt track to the campsite in the dark. We limped into a parking spot both tired and still in shock of what was happening and what to do. A French couple parked next to us, seemed to take pity on us and wanted to cheer us up, so they invited us in for a Aperitif or two. Another conversation was managed to have even though our French was not good and the didn’t speak English.
Sunday 14th February
I managed to get credit on another older mobile and contacted the insurance help line. Only to be told we would have to wait till Monday, when they could contact the company and be able to tell us where we stood. So the rest of the day was spent in limbo, staring at a broken motorhome. We weren’t able and didn’t want to travel anywhere till we knew where we stood. Just luckily it wasn’t raining, as the window would have leaked.
Monday 15th February
Spent most of the first half of the day and £60 on calls back and forth between insurance company and our breakdown assistance. Only to be told by the insurance they weren’t able to hep us. Although it wasn’t our fault we were only third party so basically we were on our own! We knew really this would have been the answer, but hearing it made our hearts sink more. We would have to find the money to repair and this would seriously eat into any money we had saved. At this point we didn’t know whether to get it fixed in Morocco, where the work would be cheap, but we didn’t know what the result would be like. Or limp back to Spain and pay a huge price, but hopefully get it fixed properly. In the meantime the campsite owner Abdul, who we spoke with on Sunday, was being very helpful. He knew of a body repairs garage in the local city of Meknes, which he could take us to. Well we would need to get something at least repaired to be able to drive even back up to tangier, as one part of the bodywork was against the tyre. Also as our language skills in this country weren’t good, we would find it very difficult at a garage ourselves. We took Abdul up on his offer and drove to Meknes, met him and followed him down some side streets to the garage. At the garage, Abdul translated for us and we decided on trying to get price to fix it and also just to repair a little so we could drive. At this point, I don’t think we were being very trustful and for all we knew Abdul may receive some of the money from the mechanic for his help. But we were thankful, as with the language barrier he was our only option. We negotiated a price of 3200Dh (around £260) for the bodywork to be repaired and the front re-sprayed. The other cars they had in their garage looked like their work was good and for that price it was worth while, we could always get extra bits when in Europe. The only problem was the windscreen, which would have to be found elsewhere. But there was a shop around the corner. Abdul took me round to the glass shop where after a search and a call to Casablanca, I was told that the glass would be very difficult to get hold of in Morocco and they couldn’t. They could make a perspex windscreen, but due to the size of the windscreen in strong winds it wouldn’t be good. So with that and the price they were quoting we decided not to bother. Instead the garage would repair the motorhome and we would try and source a windscreen from elsewhere. Meanwhile they would refit and tape up the broken windscreen, best they could. The mechanics started work and I went with Abdul for a walk around car part shops, to get hold of a replacement headlight glass.
Abdul was proving to be very helpful and kind and was spending the day with us, rather than at home or the campsite, as he knew we would be a bit stuck with out him. After Lorna, Abdul and myself went for coffee opposite the garage, where we got to know each other more. The work we were told would take two day’s. So we tried to explain about finding a hotel for us to go and stay in, but they wouldn’t here of it and said that we could sleep in the motorhome in the garage. There is a night watchman for the cars on the street, so we would be ok. We were rather unsure of this idea, but every time a hotel was mentioned by us, it was disregarded. We eventually thought it wasn’t a bad idea, as we would save money and all our stuff was in the motorhome, so we would be keeping an eye on it all. Abdul left us to head back to the campsite for a bit, saying he would pop in on us later to check how we were doing. For the rest of the day we stood about watching the mechanics work, as it was raining outside. The rain didn’t make us feel like going for a wonder and we were also in the new part of the city, not the old more interesting area.
They finished working around 8/9pm, with like what seemed a lot of the work already done. We were then left alone in the garage, as they brought the shutters down but didn’t lock them. So we would be able to get out and assured us the night guardian would watch over us. In Morocco there are guardians everywhere for parking, you pay to park and get your vehicle watched over. It is very hard to park anywhere without paying someone. We settled down for the night in a dark garage, with sheeting over where the windscreen had been removed. The garage was a little fumy, but we were tired and wanted food and sleep.
Tuesday 16th February[i]
The mechanics were back at 8am and we were relieved to step outside and get some fresh air! We had the idea today of heading off around the old town, Abdul had drawn us a map of where to go. Instead though heavy rain started and continued all day, to put a stop to that plan. So we spent another day hanging around the garage and getting on with the mechanics a bit, although neither of us spoke each other’s language. I wish I took a lot more of the French learnt at school in. Abdul came by and showed us where an internet café was, so we headed off to do some research about sourcing our windscreen. We found out that new they ranged from £1300 to £4000! Also second hand, we just couldn’t find anything. Our hearts sank again, it didn’t seem the windscreen even was available in Morocco and we would have to go back to Spain and Europe. We sent a few emails to companies including our ADAC German breakdown service asking for help and quotes. Deflated we headed back to the garage, to find that the motorhome was starting to take shape.
By early evening they were starting to re-spray, with the hope we could head away later. The rain again put a stop to that idea, as after the final spray we were told we would have to stop again for the night for it to dry as it was raining. So we had to look forward to another night in the garage! They had done a good job mind, due to not having the spare parts some bits you could tell were no longer new looking and were slightly battered, but these things we could probably pick up in Germany cheap. So overall Hymer was the right colour and the front was more in shape and healthier looking than when we had come in, apart from the broken windscreen sitting in place. Later that evening we were sitting inside waiting for the mechanics to finish so we could cook some food and tidy up. Then a knock at the door and I was invited out to join them for a drink. They had some Moroccan cans of lager and shared them with me as well as some French aperitif. Although the language barrier was apparent they were very friendly and looked like it was almost a goodbye, end of job drink for us. Lorna on the other hand was inside, and came out later, as she hadn’t been first invited. Morocco is defiantly a mans world.