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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Morocco Part 1

Back on British soil. Gibraltar. A little slice of Old Blighty on the southern Spanish coast. It's an awesome sight as you ride across 'La Linea' and see the massive rock sitting there. Mike and I celebrated the occasion with a couple of pints and fish and chips. Nice one.

The next morning we were up early to purchase our ferry tickets for Morocco. We departed Algeciras at 11:00am and arrived in Ceuta 45 minutes later. Ceuta is a Spanish enclave on the Northern coast of Morocco and the the Moroccan border is a short ride from the ferry terminal. We crossed without too much hassle. Immigration for us, customs for the bikes and a quick check of our body temperature to see if we had the swine flu. After being given the all clear we headed into Morocco. Africa.

We made it to Chefchaouen late in the afternoon. Chefchaouen is a pretty town in the Rif mountains, perched on the side of a massive rocky mountain. The medina is built on the side of the hill so that the streets are all steep and narrow. A bit tricky to negotiate with our laden bikes but we managed okay.

The Rif area is famous for producing a decent chunk of the worlds hashish and there were plenty of people trying to get us to buy some as soon as we parked up. Politly refusing, we eventually found a hotel in the medina which we could access with the bikes and unpacked.

The next day we had a great lamb and egg tagine for breakfast and explored the town a bit. Headed up into the hills behind the town and got lost in a maze of streets. We did find the hash sellers to be pretty persistent at times. Like all good salesmen they didn't take no for an answer and would tag along with us for a bit. Mike soon developed a technique which seemed to work better than my polite refusals. He developed and perfected a pretty scary 'angry face' which soon sent the drug peddlers packing.

The following day we packed up and headed to Fes. Sticking to our formula of avoiding the highways and main roads we checked our map and found a suitably interesting looking back road which would get us to Fes. Our Michelin map described it as unsuitable in bad weather but it was a cracking day so we headed off. The road was pretty good to begin with but was later pocked with potholes. Some were quite large but it was a good fun ride through the Moroccan countryside, our bikes attracting a bit of attention from the locals as we went through.

Our arrival at our Fes campsite was marred when Mike's sunnies disappeared off his bike while we were sorting our campsite. A bit of a crappy end to an otherwise brilliant day.

The Fes Medina was worth a visit and we checked out the tannery there. Apparently Fes leather and cured sheep and camel hides have always been considered the best and they still cure the skins using the same techniques as the did hundreds of years ago. Ammonia is used in the process and this is obtained from pigeon poo rather than commercially available stuff.

Fes was good but we needed to get to Rabat in order to obtain our Visas for Mauritania. Despite hearing that it could be a bit of a hassle we managed to get our visas fairly easily. We arrived at the embassy early, submitted our forms, paid the 350 dirhams and the visas were ready for us to pick up that afternoon. Sorted. We met quite a few people at the embassy who were travelling through Mauritania. A few overlanders like us (in 4WDs) and a few charitable people who were taking clothing and medical supplies down to Senegal from Europe. Given the current situation in Mauritania everyone was of the opinion that getting through as quickly as possible would be best, preferably in convoy. Food for thought for us but something we would think about when we are closer to the border. In the meantime we had a bit more of Morocco to see.


  1. Great pics and blog Simon , sounds like all is going well for you both.I wonder what OSH would think about the amazing tannery? Family all well and some new pics up on our blog. Dad and the famalee

  2. Awesome blog Simon. Keep it coming.

  3. Wow, those photos are excellent! Good on you for taking that route, I bet it was really cool aside from the potholes! I bet it was good riding through those narrow streets, reminds me of my first attempt at riding an old Honda through some narrow alleys on a Greek island, very scary what with the pedestrians! Enjoy... x

  4. Politely refusing, hein?! Your Zipollite days are far behind I see. Ja, ja.
    I'm glad to see that you keep your ginger beard, and I wonder how it would look like when you arrive to SouthAfrica (I pay to see it, in fact!)
    I love your blog, specially when you tell a bit of the social surroundings and history of the places you pass by.
    Muchos besos, take care. xxx

  5. Can you please get a pic of Mikes angry face. I might get it printed on a Teeshirt to scare my kids. Gav.

  6. I wanna see Mikeys scarey face too !!!