As I write this I’m on the worlds hottest bus enroute from Chefchouen to Fez, which is ironic given the bus into Chefchouen I was practically freezing.
Let me bring you up to speed.
Saturday after our final CSC night meant a long sleep in before check out, and a final check/redistribution of my kit. Nisrine from DOT had kindly offered to store my work stuff at her place in Rabat (am flying out of Rabat toward the end of next week) rather than me having to lug it around for the next few weeks. As I checked out I met up with Nisrine and Imane, and got a lift with them from Casablanca to Rabat. As far as Moroccan driving is concerned, Nisrine is a Grand Master, and once you come to terms that death is not inevitable under her pilotage, you can sit back and appreciate her impressive driving skills.
After the leaving the DOT team and my work kit, I checked into a hotel for an uneventful night before boarding the train for Tangier on Sunday morning. Just as I boarded the train I realised I had left my camera in another bag, so sent a flurry of texts to Nisrine and hoped for the best (I knew she had family visiting her in Rabat from Tangier, so hoped someone could take with them and meet me in Tangier). The train ride was uneventful, I couldn’t see much due to a combination of seating arrangement, dirty windows, and glare, so contented myself with reading my Lonely Plantet and planning where I was going to stay etc in Tangier. By the time I arrived (about 5 or 6 hours later), I had a firm plan and Nisrine had messaged to advise she’d made arrangements to reunite me with my camera.
I ignored the taxi drivers as I left the station, content to walk the 3km to where I was going to stay inside the walls of the old Medina. I’d set myself a daily budget in an attempt relive some of the glory days of my youth when Dr Al (aka ‘The Combat Dentist’) and I took a year off and essentially hitch-hiked through Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Israel. As it turns out, even the best laid plans don’t survive the first shot, and the place I’d decided to stay had been closed for a few months and was firmly under renovation. I found a similar place close by for the same price, so dumped my pack and set off exploring for the next few hours. Found some great little places, and some excellent views across the water to Spain (you can see it from Tangier). Having said that, the old Medina seems pretty shady and I don’t think it would take much to get yourself into trouble after the sun goes down. The first place I went into for a drink was full of drunk old guys (see you in 20 years fellas..!) and drunker ladies of ill repute, and after being proposition (by one of the ladies, not the old guys…) I downed my beer and left. The next place I went into was along the waters edge, and was better. I ordered a beer, which came with a delicious 4 course meal (salad, small fried fish, bigger fried fish, and then fruit). I was quite proud when I was able to tell the waiter that the food was excellent in Arabic, and asked for a couple of take-always in French! The next morning I had a message from Nisrine saying that she was in Tangier to visit her parents, had my camera, offered to show me around Tangier with her friends, and invited me to lunch with her family!
Fishing boats as they leave for the night. Thats Spain in the distance…!
I’m glad I got to see Tangier from a locals perspective, as the broader city leaves a much better impression than the Old Medina. There’s a significant amount of construction going on as Tangier continues to undergo a transformation to what I’m guessing will be a massive tourist destination rather than just a staging point between Europe and Africa. Lunch was excellent (the eggplant and tomato dishes I’ve mentioned previously) followed by melt-in-your-mouth chicken. Nisrine’s family were very welcoming and you could tell there’s a lot of laughter in their house. Dad even offered me a martini, but I declined as he had to work and couldn’t have one with me. Spent the next couple of hours touring around with Nisrine and her friends, until heavy rain ended our plans. I did however learn a few new choice words in Arabic, and have had the opportunity to use them since…
Nisrine had very generously offered to take me to Tetouen the following day, and arranged for her uncle to give me a guided tour (I suspect Nisrine’s mum made her volunteer when she found out that’s where I was headed…sorry Nisrine and friends…!). The tour of the old city was excellent, and Nisrine’s uncle was incredibly knowledgable about its history and architecture. I learned that there was a code in the stones in the laneways through the medina so that locals could use them when under attack. A single row of stones running down the center of the lane means that it goes to a dead end, 3 rows of stones running down the centre means the lanes lead to gates exiting the city, and two rows of stones mean that the lane leads to a three stone lane at either end! Afterward we went into the hills and had a late lunch at a restaurant overlooking the city. The food once again was amazing, with baked salty small fish in a spicy tomato sauce, a Spanish prawn dish, and a meat dish, all mopped up with freshly baked bread.
It was about 6.30pm when I got dropped off at the bus station and farewelled Nirsine and her friends (they had a 3-4 hour drive back to Rabat) and I caught the 7pm bus to Chefchouen. I used the 30 minutes to consult Lonely Planet to pick my accommodation for the night, then climbed aboard the bus (I retrieved my backpack from the cargo hold when I saw the driver etc trying to load a lounge and an industrial BBQ underneath….😬). The drive to Chefchouen took about one and a half hours as we meandered through the start of the Riff Mountains. It got dark pretty quickly so I couldn’t see much, and also very very cold. The skylights on the bus were open, and the only airtight seal was on the bus drivers lips as he overtook the slower vehicles… We arrived just before 9pm, and I grabbed a petite taxi to where I was staying. I was offered hashish 3 times between getting out of the taxi and walking in the hotel, a distance of about 3metres… I guess I’ve got a shifty looking head. Checked in, went and got a bite to eat where I was offered more hash, then turned in for the night.
Chefchaouen is a relatively small place at the base of the Riff Mountains, and is known for its blue and white medina. Its also a lot more chilled than the other places I’ve been in Morocco, so I spent yesterday (Wednesday) morning exploring the narrow laneways and taking a few photographs. You can knockoff Chefchouen in a few hours, and I spent the early part of the afternoon wondering around the base of the mountains, outside and above the city walls. It was good chicken soup for the soul to sit down in the sun and the quiet and relax. I wouldn’t say I got homesick, but it did make me think about home and realise how eager I am to get back and see the family. I found a hotel perched high above township with an open area that overlooked the valley, so had a couple of beers while I consulted Lonely Planet and made plans for Fez, and for the rest of my time here. Late in the day I meandered back down the mountain and had a lukewarm shower, before heading out for a bite. Goat targine which was ok, but not as good I expected. I later saw a guy selling bowls of snails; if only I hadn’t filled up on goat… Back to the hotel (no offers of hash this time; clearly word had got around…) to throw another 3 blankets on the bed, as it was about 7degrees last night and the hotel doesn’t have heating. No hot water this morning, so a very quick birdbath (ok, maybe BigBird…?) before donning my pack and tabbing it down to the bus station. Had enough time to grab an omelette and coffee at the cafe opposite the bus station (all ordered in French 😉) which cost the equivalent of about $7. My bus ride to Fez about $10. Accommodation the last few nights had been between $30 and $40.
I jumped on the bus about 4.5 hours ago for what was supposed to be a 4.5 hour journey, however it’s Moroccan time so I suspect will take closer to 6 hours. As an added bonus all the deals are airtight, windows closed, and it’s like a Turkish sauna in here. On the upside, it’s allowed me to catch up on my blogging so it’s not all bad. And, I’m in Morocco….
Please follow my blog for notifications of updates, and more photographs can be found on my Instgram account “Glenn72”. Please note that the pics here are taken from my iPhone, and I won’t be able to share the pics from my camera until after I return to Australia.