Now that the abandoned puppies that we rescued have been handed off to Morocco Animal Aid, we had a really important decision to make. Morocco has locked down. Like many places around the world, Morocco’s current conditions are very dynamic. As we are passport and residency holders of Croatia, ‘going home’ for us actually means getting back into Europe and beelining straight for Split and begin a new 14-day quarantine in Marlene’s family’s apartment.
For a couple of weeks we didn’t think it was an option to leave Morocco as we were told the maritime borders have been closed. We thought staying put was our best option as we didn’t want to leave the comfortable campground we had settled at to risk going out for the unknown.
Wild camels roam the wash behind our campsite.
We are not allowed to leave the campground without permission from the local authority. The campground arranged for a local fruit and veggie person to come here and give us a chance to replenish our supplies.
Life is easier at a paid campground rather than wild camping. Electricity, showers…
…water for washing…
We parked like this to give us privacy and extra separation from the other campers here.
But with all eyes on Africa and learning about the inadequate healthcare system from a few locals, we decided ‘going home’ might be our best bet if it was possible.
All of the information about a possible exodus from Africa had only being verbally passed around amongst other campers in French, Arabic and German. What we didn’t know for a few days is that people have been successfully crossing the land border into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla right here on the African continent. From there, people were catching a domestic ferry back to mainland Spain and carefully making their way back to their home country as quickly as possible.
Information was scarce and even the Croatian embassy we contacted in Morocco’s capital of Rabat did not know about this option.
So when our German campground neighbors were told by their embassy, they decided to leave on Friday and made it across successfully. The trip was seemingly without much delay so we decided to make the same 600-mile drive north to Ceuta ourselves 2 days later by obtaining an Exceptions Transit Permit from the campground owner to legally be on the road.
During our first police check, they told us we could not leave the city and demanded that we go straight back to the campground. Not a good feeling at all! A few other campers were pulled over as well. We didn’t think we had any other choice because the police has the main roads blocked. The campground said if we left that we would not be able to return there since they are not letting new people in or others that chose to leave back in to limit virus exposure of the people who chose to stay.
We decided to take a chance. What if we drove down one of the many smaller roads that lead through smaller villages instead of the main blocked road?
And IT WORKED! We drove through a small village and ended up on the toll road. There was another police check but this time they just waved us through. PHEW!
After a long day of mostly empty highways and arriving at the Ceuta port last night at 9pm, we learned that the Spanish government was going to close the border at midnight. With hundreds of vans waiting to get across, we knew we really didn’t have a chance before the deadline.
For now, us and a few hundred other Europeans await patiently on the Morocco side of the Spanish land border waiting for it to reopen so we can all go home.
We have been here now for 4 full days. Kids have not stepped foot out of the van to keep our contact with others to a minimum.
Plenty of food in the van and plenty of internet too.
View out of the van door made us wonder if the puppies will look like this when they grow up.
A long 4 days of not knowing what to do. If we leave here to go a campground, will there be room? Will we loose our chance to cross back into Europe?
And then our situation changed. In fact most people started to leave for a car park near Tanger Med. Various European ambassadors in Morocco were in close contact with all the people stuck here. Our ambassador from Croatia has been amazing in checking on us a few times each day and giving us updates when they knew some information.
There was a meeting amongst the European Union countries about the border closure. In the end, Spain refused to reopen the border to allow transit. The solution was to have the roughly 500 campers waiting at the border to move to a parking lot near Tanger Med. People had started emptying their cassette toilets on the streets which was unbelievable to see. Not gonna point any fingers at anyone but if you did this before you left, shame on you.
Many people left voluntarily and by 4pm, the police were asking everyone to leave the Ceuta border. Even though we do not have a resolution to the border closure and none of us have any idea of a timeline on a possible return home to self isolate, the Moroccan government really went above and beyond to help everyone here by setting up a place for us campers nearby.
In the next post, I will show you the makeshift campground set up by Morocco for us.
Off we go!
Here’s the video series Dan created during our lockdown.
Thanks for following along,