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June 20, 2014 | Towards the South

It's Monday. A peaceful night on the campsite above the city. After a quick breakfast we set off and make good time for our 10 o’clock meeting with Chefchaouen Water. Mr Amziane, Plant Director, is already waiting for us and an interesting discussion follows on the water sector in Morocco. We are then taken on a tour of the ultra-modern Krones installation on which the two mineral waters, "Chefchaouen" and "RIF", are filled, and we also see the "Chefchaouen" spring, which is next to the factory.

After the appointment, in the early afternoon, we head towards Casablanca, as our next appointment is the next day with our sponsors PET Preforms Morocco in Benslimane, about 60km from Casablanca. My friend’s husband also has a flight from Casablanca tomorrow, as he has to return to Germany a little earlier than his wife. The 300km journey seems to take an age and as evening approaches, we realise that we are not going to get to Casablanca. We are utterly shattered from the exhausting drive. We decide to pull in at Mohammedia, not too far from Casablanca and spend the night at a small, family-run campsite which also boasts a restaurant. That evening we enjoy a typical Moroccan dish, the tagine, which is a kind of vegetable, meat or fish stew slow-cooked over charcoal with herbs and spices. Highly recommended! The rest of the evening I spend writing up my interview of the previous day with the World Cup on in the background. At 11 o’clock I fall gratefully into bed, and sleep like a log.

The next morning our first stop is the airport, to drop off my friend’s husband. The two of us then set off for our appointment in the afternoon with PET Preforms Morocco in Benslimane. Once there, we have just enough time to send a few emails and catch up on some paperwork before our meeting. To ensure we have internet access whilst travelling, I purchased a SIM card from Maroc Telecom, which offers internet access for a month at the bargain flat rate of around 20 euros. You insert the SIM card in the router aboard the vehicle and this creates an in-vehicle network. That’s the theory. In practice, it worked initially but then there was a sudden power outage and the system could not be reconnected. The only solution was to insert the SIM card into a mobile phone, find a WiFi hotspot, and hope to get a connection. Ah, the wonders of technology, - and I shudder at the thought at what I had paid for this completely useless router. On the Editourmobil we are and shall remain nothing if not enterprising. About an hour later – having agreed on a suitable meeting place in Benslimane - Mr Nourredine, CEO of PET Preforms Morocco picks us up in his car and takes us to the factory. Mr Nourredine lived for a long time in Germany and Switzerland and we can conduct our interview in German. But there’s more to come. He invites us to continue our discussions in a more salubrious spot and shortly afterwards drives us to a restaurant. Under the blue sky and with a cooling breeze we enjoy a splendid repast in a garden-like setting, whilst Mr Nourredine tells us all about his companies and about the PET market in Morocco. Then, replete and content, Mr Nourredine takes us to a second French-run restaurant, set in a small vineyard. In the impressive garden which even boasts a swimming pool we drink a little something and then our host orders a bottle each of red and white wine after which we head back to the factory for some photos. We are overwhelmed by the generosity shown to us and would like to take this opportunity once again to give heartfelt thanks to our host. It was a perfect afternoon in every respect and it gave us such delight! Mr Nourredine accompanies us out of the city, driving in convoy towards the motorway at which point we part company. The next stretch of the journey for us is the 160km drive to El Jadida to our next appointment tomorrow. It is evening when we arrive at the campsite. We have a little snack before retiring to bed after a satisfying and fruitful day.

The team of PET Preforms Morocco together with Kay Barton at their production hall

It's Wednesday and we have a 9 o‘clock appointment at the Morocco factory of preform producers APPE. The factory in the industrial area of El Jadida is easy to find and Mr Afelad, the Plant Manager, and Mr Slimi, North Africa representative of our sponsors Husky, are already waiting to welcome us. APPE manufactures, on four Husky systems, preforms for Coca-Cola and Pepsi amongst others. In the extensive discussions which follow, we gain a lot of insights into the preform and bottle market in Morocco, especially in relation to Coca-Cola. Sadly, owing to pressure of time, we are not able to arrange an appointment with them.

After the factory tour we need to stock up on provisions and fortunately, there is a Carrefour supermarket offering everything we could possibly need, conveniently located near the APPE works. Meanwhile, less happy news from my colleagues in Heidelberg who email me to advise that all the appointments I had arranged for the coming week prior to my departure (including Coca Cola) would not now be taking place due to it being the “high season” in the drinks sector, with all the time constraints that this involves. More than slightly annoyed, I discuss with my colleague what is the best way forward. On Saturday, she has a flight to Germany from Marrakech and Rolf will then replace her, also on the Saturday.

To Marrakech is quite a drive, about 200km on normal roads. We decide to get underway and have some free time the next day so that I can get on with some paperwork. It is late afternoon when we arrive. At a roundabout leading to "Morocco's most beautiful campsite" there is complete chaos and somehow I go wrong, both in direction, and with my driving. A police officer controlling the roundabout (a common feature in Morocco), pulls me over and starts remonstrating with me furiously in French, which unfortunately I do not understand. He is so angry that I already have a mental image of me being clapped in irons. A passer-by who has realised what is going comes to our rescue, explaining the situation to the enraged officer, who then thankfully lets us off. Totally confused, we thank him profusely and under his eagle eye, we have a second go at the roundabout, this time being super-cautious and making sure we take the correct exit. Still shell-shocked, we finally arrive at the campsite and everything they say about it is true: it is probably the most beautiful parking lot set amongst gardens, with hammocks, a swimming pool and even a jacuzzi, which I find incredible! With the help of some hardy German travellers, I manoeuvre the Editourmobil carefully into the parking space, and, still slightly dazed, bring an eventful day to a close with a cool beer.

The next day my colleague takes a taxi into town to have a look round. I spend the whole day in the Editourmobil writing and doing a bit of tidying up. My colleague returns in the afternoon just as I am finishing off, and we join some of the other campers next to us who have already set up tables and chairs. We have a lively time exchanging stories and of course the question comes up as to what exactly we are doing. Obviously, the Editourmobil decorated in the livery of Brau Beviale and sponsors is not exactly inconspicuous! Two people from Brunswick with a brand new all-terrain truck who for years have been discovering world history are meeting up here with a 19 and 22 year old couple who are travelling by jeep and in previous years by motorbike and who are now experienced Morocco hands. Or the man, on his own, who in two years with his vehicle, is constantly discovering new horizons. We feel immediately at ease.