It is already late evening when the ferry docks in Tangier Med. A good two days ago, we entered the belly of the ship in Genoa, Italy, with our travel companion Silvio, and meanwhile had a surprisingly pleasant time on board. Even though the onboard restaurant offered nothing but green salad as vegetarian food 😉
During the crossing, all the formalities for entry, including for the vehicle, could be taken care of directly. If you would like to know more about the ferry passage, what questions we asked ourselves beforehand and how it all went in the end, you can read on in the following article: Ferry to Morocco – Everything about the crossing from Italy with GNV
Thanks to the completed formalities, we got off the ship quickly. New country, new culture, new continent – we are allowed to stay visa-free for 3 months! 🙂 At first we wonder why almost all the vehicles are heading south towards the Atlantic and the motorway. We stick to our planned route and turn “left” at the harbour exit. This should take us a little further along the Moroccan Mediterranean coast. Not far from the harbour we find a suitable place for the night. We arrive there around 10 pm and the thermometer confirms the mild temperatures with a reading of 17 degrees! A very good start in our long-desired country for the winter months.
We wake up to a view of the Strait of Gibraltar and a beach right “outside the vehicle door”. Dreamlike! As long as you let your eyes wander into the distance 😉 Because, unfortunately, rubbish collects at the edge around the small gravel area where we are standing.
Well, unfortunately we already know this from one or the other country. Let’s go to the beach!
This is a great place for sunbathing (Sophia) and watching ships of all kinds (Chris). The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the busiest straits in the world, connecting the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, with around 300 ships passing through every day.
At this time of year, we have the whole beach to ourselves, apart from the beach buggies chased across the sand by their drivers. In the late afternoon it gets cooler, we extend our equipment with pillows and blankets from the vehicle. This causes irritation among the local people. As dusk slowly begins to fall, a man approaches us and makes us understand that it is not safe to camp / spend the night here. No problem, it’s not our plan at all! 🙂 After all, we are much more comfortable in our vehicle “Silvio”, which is parked on the site slightly above. We don’t want to tell him that, not that we have to leave it as well. But we can make it clear to him that we just want to sit here for a while. In spite of everything, it doesn’t take long and the “concerned” man shows up with two soldiers and a guard dog in tow. The same communication game as a few minutes before. Not wanting to keep this up any longer than necessary, we pack our things and leave. Fortunately, at this moment we are not yet aware that such situations will be repeated many times in the following weeks! -.-
We take a diversion back to our vehicle, wanting to spend another night here undiscovered and undisturbed. However, at around 10 pm there is a knock on the side window of the vehicle! Chris goes outside, but there is no one there. Once around the vehicle, nobody to be seen. Well, better a surprise prank than being sent away at this hour.
Having enjoyed the beach for a few days by this point, we therefore move on the following day. After all, there are still a few errands to do! In new countries outside Europe, these are usually things like organising the local currency and a mobile phone card.
By looking for an ATM without ATM fees (for your information: the cheapest fee is at the Attijriwafa Bank, where the maximum withdrawal amount is also higher), a lot of time and distance passes until we hold the first Moroccan Dirham notes in our hands. This is where the first surprising situations occur, when we are asked for money on the street. So far for us, in the 1.5 years we have been on the road, this is a very rare situation that can be counted on one hand.
At the height of the town of Tetouan, we leave the Mediterranean coast and head inland. If we were to continue along the coastline, we would enter regions of Morocco that many travel guides still advise against visiting alone. The lack of state control and the structures created by the cultivation and trade of hashish continue to make this part of the country dangerous for tourists.
During a short tour of Tetouan, we catch our first beautiful glimpses of Arab architecture. Some pictures of the old town open by clicking on the following gallery:
In the meantime, we had often read about the “Blue City” and seen first pictures. Although the city of Chefchaouen is also one of the centres for hashish cultivation in Morocco, the tourist side also seems to work here.
So we head for a campsite for the night below the town and actually want to spend the following day there as well, in glorious sunshine. We start the day with a late breakfast, sitting in front of the vehicle. Shortly before the first bite, a boy, apparently on his way home from school, walks past us. He doesn’t hesitate for long and asks for chocolate. While we are still thinking, other boys and girls of primary school age follow in the meantime. They come straight towards us; well dressed and visually in no way needy. Before we know it, we are surrounded by the small group and everyone wants something from our table. This is a bit too much and we try to explain it to them in a friendly way. Unfortunately, the explanations are of little use, the children soon start to take our things in their hands and it is difficult for us to stop them from helping themselves. This is not very pleasant and the mood of the children turns into one of judgement and condescension. The boys in particular put themselves in the foreground here and soon provoke us with universally understandable gestures, e.g. whether we are not quite clean in the upper room. In the end, it feels like it takes forever until the last child from this “horde” moves on. Not without telling us that we had no business being here and that they would call the police. At the same time, they threatened our dog with sticks. Whew! What a shock! Were they really children of primary school age? The day at this place is definitely over.
Nevertheless, we don’t want to miss Chefchaouen. Since we have lost our appetite for the time being, we hurriedly pack up our things and head for the city. A few days ago, we were still wondering around Tetouan what the gentlemen with the jingling bunch of keys were doing on the side of the road, but in Chefchauen, at the latest, it becomes clear to us! It was almost clear to us that there would be no flats for rent, but the fact that drugs were so obviously being offered for sale surprised us once again. Immediately after we parked our vehicle, one of these gentlemen lies in wait for us. We try to be friendly and refuse his offer of the best “stiff”. But that doesn’t stop him from sneaking around our vehicle while we pack a few things for the city tour inside. This makes us a little unsure of where we have ended up here!
With the experience of the morning still breathing down our necks, we consider whether we should just keep driving. In the end, we set off, answer the dealer’s question “Where are you from?” with a smirking “from the world” and head off into the alleys of the blue city.
Follow us with a click to the sites worth seeing in the city of Chefchaouen:
We are reluctant to spend the coming night in or near the town, so after a short visit we drive on. Away from settlements we find a campsite by a river, hoping to spend the night there in peace. The night remains quiet. But we are woken from our sleep when we hear the sound of “Good Morning” from outside the vehicle – combined with the offer to buy drugs!
For some of us, getting the finest hashish delivered straight to bed is the ultimate dream. For us, however, it was just one more unpleasant moment in our short time in this country.
The only thing that helps is to flee forward! Let’s try the Atlantic coast, we think. So we drive cross-country for about 3 hours to the west until we can hear the waves crashing. The weather is drizzling and the sky is grey, matching our mood in escape mode. We quickly realise that the route takes us through areas that are certainly rarely passed through by tourists. But not only is there a lack of tourists, which is usually little of a disadvantage, but a lack of waste disposal in its entirety! Without exaggeration, the last 100km of our route are littered with rubbish in and outside the villages. There is not a single dustbin to be seen in any of the towns and so the rubbish just ends up everywhere! Sometimes it is so extreme that there is no soil left to be seen. This image accompanies us until shortly before the end of the journey and makes us very doubtful about how the journey should continue for us here.
Arriving at the Atlantic Ocean, in the village of Moulay Bousselham, we find a suitable place to spend a few nights near the closed campsite. The place is situated at a lagoon, which is known for its abundance of birds. We want to get to know it on a boat tour. In the harbour there is a small restaurant with a delicious breakfast and the weather invites us to linger in the huge garden of the former campsite. We meet a British couple who spend the night next to ours in their van and spend some entertaining hours. So we catch our breath and slowly change from animals of flight back to humans 😉
Let the following gallery surprise you: 😉
With Hassan we find an experienced ornithologist who has known the lagoon for many decades. On his boat and equipped with binoculars, we travel through the water world and learn a lot from him about the birds that live here permanently or temporarily during the almost 3-hour tour. With good English he also tells us a lot about the changes in the lagoon over the period of the last decades. The lagoon is not protected and is at the mercy of common poaching and pollution. Coupled with the ever dwindling habitat of migratory birds in Europe, he notes a marked decline in all populations. This goes so far that some disappear altogether.
Marvel with us at the endangered bird life of the lagoon by clicking on the following picture:
In the meantime, we often recall the moment of arrival and our amazement why all the vehicles turned directly south towards the motorway. Now we realise: there is obviously a reason why we have seen almost no motorhome or touring vehicle in the past two weeks…
Stay tuned to see how and if our journey in Morocco continues!
Culture shocked greetings
Chris & Sophia