“After 15 years in Morocco, I’m still not tired of exploring it”
By Jez Fredenburgh
Charlie’s heart beats to the drum of exploration like nothing else. But of all the places he’s been, Morocco is the one that keeps luring him back.
The north African country is also where Epic was born, and where Charlie has called ‘home’ the longest as an adult – 15 years in total with his wife, Mel, and later their three children.
Now having relocated to Portugal and swapped deserts for vineyards, and Marrakesh’s winding streets for Porto’s coloured tiles, Charlie still loves to travel back to Morocco.
“There’s something in the air there that is very intoxicating,” he says. “It’s very sensory, the colours, sounds, smells – it feels like someone has turned the lights up – the skies are so blue, the earth is bright red….
“But it’s also a very human place – you can stop anyone on the street and they will give you their time. It’s just a really nice place to be.”
“I’ve also never got bored of exploring further in Morocco – you never really know what you’re going to find around the next corner.
“It’s the kind of place where peculiar things happen and you’ll end up with great stories at the end of the day. So you don’t have to build adventure in, because Morocco itself is an adventure!”
Charlie’s path to the country is as much a tale as his time there: After leaving school he spent several years bouncing around Australia, Spain, and Latin America, before landing a job with a London-based travel company.
He worked there for seven years, notching up 25 trips to Latin America and becoming an expert in the sub-continent, while also establishing the company’s adventure department.
But living in London began to drag, and the chance of another “irresistible adventure” arose, says Charlie, when Mel’s parents invited them to move to Marrakech, to be manage an ambitious eco-hotel building project.
They jumped at the chance and Morocco captured them the moment they arrived. “We fell in love with the country immediately”, he says. “It was very instinctive – we felt very much at home and comfortable there.”
The building project threw Charlie in at the deep end – as project manager he had 70 unskilled local labourers to manage and 1.5 million mud bricks to make, each weighing 15kg.
“Those first six months were probably the most exciting of my life though,” says Charlie. “I was parachuted into this amazing new adventure and I learnt a huge amount about the culture.”
After two years of hard work and 5,000m2 of mud, the Terra Janna project was near completion and today it is still considered one of Africa’s premier earth brick building projects.
But despite the challenge and fun, Charlie was keen to get back to his real love – travel and exploring Morocco. And that’s when he created the first Epic tour – a biking trip from the Atlas Mountains down to the Sahara desert.
Over the following years, Charlie grew Epic and had many adventures along the way in Morocco, including running the Marathon de Sables (six marathons in six days across the Sahara), organising a 100-person charity trek, being a fixer for a BBC documentary, and helping thousands of travellers discover the country.
After 15 years though, it was time for a new challenge. He handed over the Moroccan reigns to Carla, who is today his fellow director and business partner, and took his family to live in Portugal to develop Epic tours there.
“Portugal is in many ways undiscovered Europe,” says Charlie. “It still has its traditions, its craftsman and a slower pace of life, and it has one foot in Africa and one in Europe.”
Morocco will always have his heart though, and always feel like a second home.