It has begun. This event that many of us have been waiting for for months or more. We have just embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. Potentially the challenge of a lifetime. Quite possibly the most incredible, most inspirational, most enlightening, most insane thing some of us have ever done. It has begun.

For myself (Summer) and Gavin the trip started roughly a month ago in Turkey where our truck had been parked up between trips. Turkish customs officials are not known for their cooperative spirit or hospitality and they met our expectations with a quiet enthusiasm. They did not make it easy for us in the least bit. We couldn’t get out of Turkey quick enough and within hours of releasing the truck from the customs yard we found ourselves in Greece.

The people were incredibly friendly but the elements were a different story, as if Zeus himself was giving us a violent and furious “Welcome To Greece”. The rain poured. The thunder cracked deafeningly. A bolt of lightening hit a light pole only a couple dozen meters from where we were. When reached the relative shelter of a truck stop and swam through a parking lot to a roadside café, we were charged the equivalent of about $20 for chicken broth and a bunless burger. So, doing our best to escape the inexhaustible weather and ridiculous prices we quickly made our way into Italy via ferry.

We breezed through Italy, flew through France and eventually found ourselves in Malaga, Spain. There we parked up in what amounted to a mobile German retirement community. Our big, rough looking truck provided a source of amusement and bewilderment for the geriatric Germans. Gavin and I were quite popular. We stayed there about a week, sanding, varnishing, installing, making all the necessary repairs. That finished, we left the seasonal village with a grand send off. Everyone came out to see us leave. We carried on to Algeciras and Gibraltar where we met our 24 passengers.

Kev, Jeremy, Phil, Dave, Hisashi, and Pete had made their way independently and I found most of them in the airport lounge….eventually. I was sitting downstairs reading a magazine for the first hour when I saw a mass exodus from the upstairs café and decided to check it out. That’s where I found them. After introductions we waited…. And waited….and waited for the others.

The flight that brought the rest of the gang with it was an hour late. It was an appropriate start to the trip. Nothing happens when it’s supposed to happen in Africa and it’s best to learn that early.

The next day we made our way to the port in Algeciras where we picked up the ferry to Cueta. We loaded the truck on and then made our way into the luxurious vessel. The only regrettable thing about this journey was its length. Much too short as the ferry was beautiful.

The Moroccan border was very much what one would expect it to be: Chaotic. Mohammed , Mohammed and Mohammed (no, that’s not a joke) approached Gavin and me offering help with the immigration and customs procedures.

“Collect all the passports, now!” Mohammed #1, in the brown jalaba ordered me. I did. All 26 of them.

“Now give me the white cards that they gave you on the ferry.”

“We didn’t get white cards.” I informed him

“Ahhh! Then here,” He handed me a stack of white immigration cards “Have the passengers fill these out.” I did. Little problem: Mohammed #2, who was nowhere to be found, had everyone’s documents and not everyone knows their passport information by heart. A panicked rush to find Mohammed #2 ensued to no avail. I had to come up with a backup plan. Mid way through the execution of this backup plan Mohammed #2 turns up from God knows where with the passports. After the information was successfully garnered, passports were re-collected and I get told to take them to the police. Huh? I take them isn’t that what Mohammed #2 was supposed to do? Then why did Mohammed #2 take them in the first place? I’m confused but I comply.

Passports go to get checked by the police (twice). Meanwhile everyone is taking turns in the “Doctor’s Office”, a small white tent where a man with a computer looks at you through what I can only assume is an infrared filter. His job is to confirm whether or not you have Swine Flu. I’m happy to report that we all passed the test . According to Morocco’s finest technology, we are all completely healthy.

Back at the police office the passports all also seem to pass whatever test it was that the officer was putting them through. He asked me for a “gift” for all his troubles. While usually this can be a good idea, I’m still not skilled in discerning when and where it’s appropriate so I just gave him the innocent smile and tell him “Oh. That’s silly. I’m a woman! My husband controls all the money. You can talk to him.” Which they rarely bother to do.

Then there’s paperwork and more hassle with the police and this document and that document and this “problem” and that “problem” that can mysteriously be rectified with a little fee to either the “helpers” or the cops. Finally, the truck in boarded by a police officer who verifies that everyone in the truck has a stamped passport and we’re officially in Morocco. On to Martil!

In Martil we camped up at a little campsite near the center of town. We spent two days here just to get the truck organized and so everyone could settle in a bit. Lena, Katey, Daniel, Kev, Craig, and a few others had a great and cheap lunch in town. I was told that the squid sandwich was excellent. A few took advantage of the internet. Peter and Mayumi were given an octopus by one of the locals on the beach and Carolina has said she’ll show them how to cook it.

Martil was a good opportunity to settle in but today we were off down the road again. We were also on time this morning which is an incredibly rare event among most of the previous groups Gav and I have had. This is shaping up to be an excellent group.

We drove towards Tetouan and when we reached the outskirts of the city, a jalaba donning man on a motorcycle pulled up beside us and yelled:

“Where you go?”

“To the medina.” Gav replied

“Follow me.”

We followed the man, who later introduced himself as Rashid, to a parking spot outside the walled section of the city. Inside the medina, Rashid took us through the food market where Craig bought and generously shared some delicious olives. Dave started his dinner shopping and picked up some carrots while Sean and Dan collected bread.

We carried on through the narrow streets where we eventually and shockingly (please insert sarcasm here) ended up at a carpet shop. When getting an inexpensive tour, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, you know there is a commission-giving entity involved. Not that that is always a bad thing. A few of us left with some pretty sweet souvenirs. Gavin P. was interested in one of the cactus rugs but it proved to be a little out of his price range. However, Jeremy and Sean both walked off with a cashmere and silk blanket. Apparently we all have a lot to learn about haggling from Jeremy who also invested in a jalaba and has been sporting it regularly. Greg also came away with a small rug which he got for a steal. He and Peter will have the best decorated tent out of all of us.

After the carpet shop we moved on to the apothecary and spice shop. There Phil, Mayumi, and Sean all received a shoulder massage from a very sterile looking masseur. Sarah won the title “Hottest Woman” in the room. The color changing lipstick that was applied to each of the girls proved this. As hers was the darkest, she was indisputably the hottest.

We all got a little sniff of black menthol to clear our sinuses, some rose lotion to moisturize our skin, and a sniff off curry to tempt us. The presenter was a good entertainer. I think a lot of us ,who are savvy travelers, went in with the feeling that we were just trying to be sold something. Granted, we were but it actually turned out to be an enjoyable sales pitch. Quite good fun.

Tonight we’re parked up about 10 miles from Chefchauen. We’re bush camping for the first time. The site is a bit stony but there’s a nice little creek alongside where the fishermen among us have had some success this evening. The pink sunset is fading on the hills to the west and the mountains are disappearing into the darkness on in the east. Daniel H., Dave, and Sean D. are tackling the challenge of being the first in the group to cook over an open fire. The rest of us are sitting around and enjoying the warmth. There’s been a few bottle of wines popped open. The campfire is roaring. It’s a perfect setting for the evening. It’s a perfect time for it all to become real: It’s all happening. It has begun.