We had planned to head to Casablanca on the Atlantic coast after we left Ouzoud but we changed our minds the night before we left. As much as it would have been nice to see the Grand Mosque and art deco buildings of Casablanca we really didn’t fancy another city break. As we wanted to see Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains in the North before we ended our tour of Morocco we went straight up the middle via Azrou and Mèknes. It’s about a 550 kilometre drive so we chopped it up with a couple of stops in between.
We back tracked to Azrou stopping for a couple of nights at Camping Emirates and visited the weekly market again which, under wall to wall sunshine, was twice as busy and mad as the first time we visited.
We had another mooch about in Mèknes finding, this time, an even more ancient souk area which reminded us of some parts of Fèz. We stayed again at Camping Bellevue north of Mèknes where Tim did another deal with the hat seller. A pair of boots for another knitted hat this time. You can never have too many woolly hats.
So the N13 then led us through the Rif mountains to Chefchaouen. It was raining. As it often does in lumpy areas. We couldn’t complain though as it was the first real rain we’d had in over ten weeks in the country. Coming back to the north felt different. It almost felt like we’d just arrived in the country and were experiencing the culture shock we’d experienced on our first few days in Morocco all those weeks ago. I don’t know, it’s hard to put my finger on why we felt as if we’d just arrived in the country. It could have just been down to the weather. The landscape is certainly a spectacularly lush, green area with a variety of different mountainous landscapes. It’s predominantly an agricultural area and is well known for its production of cannabis which grows really well on the hillsides in the region. It’s illegal of course but it’s a staple form of income for local families in an otherwise very poor area. Maybe it was just that we saw more donkeys per square metre than anywhere else in Morocco!
The only campsite in Chefchaouen is right at the top of the town and it’s advisable not to follow your satnav to get there. It’s a municipal campsite more like an aire really. There are small places to camp under the trees on the hillside but anything bigger than a VW van needs to park on the flat bit which fills up by the end of the day with everyone squeezing in where they can.
It’s popular because Chefchaouen is popular and it’s just a five minute walk to the top end of the medina.
Chefchaouen…………known as the blue city……………oh yes, it’s definitely blue.
Why? No idea! I had to consult google for the answer. There seems to be no definitive answer.
Blue was introduced by early Jewish settlers as it represents the sky and reminds people of heaven and God.
Blue keeps mosquitos away.
Blue helps keep homes cool.
Blue represents the colour of the Mediterranean sea.
Blue looks nice.
Blue attracts tourists.
In truth it’s probably a mish mosh of all of the above.
Whatever the reason it appealing.
Even though it is really touristy it has a really nice feel to it within the medina.
It’s more relaxed than other medina’s largely I think because its set on a steep hillside with plenty of steps making it inaccessible to mopeds, bikes and handcarts which makes it feel much quieter and calmer.
We spent three nights chilling in Chefchaouen as it looked a good place to do a bit of walking. Unfortunately, Tim had the onset of a migraine (it was probably seeing all that blue) so I left him in peace and decided to take a walk up to the summit Jbel el Kelaa, the hill behind the campsite, as there seemed to be a good track leading directly from the campsite to the top and then back down the other side. I think the writing was on the wall that it wasn’t one of my best ideas as soon as I’d left the campsite. A young guy lounging on the wall opposite the campsite tried to get my attention just as I started my walk. I waved but carried on. He went off into the trees but appeared again a few hundred metres further on up the track. He tried to get me into a conversation with the usual patter. Allemagne? Hollondaise? Francaise? Blah, blah. I ignored him and he eventually gave up and sloped off backed towards the campsite. After passing the local rubbish dump a kilometre into the walk the views opened up across the landscape and were superb.
Several cars had passed me as the track is driveable but a couple of kilometres further on after I’d gone past a couple of houses I began to feel a bit ill at ease. Four young men were trailing in my wake a couple of hundred metres behind. I tried to not let it disconcert me as they may well have just been walking to the next village a few kilometres away. A bit further on though two young men were coming down the track towards me and one of them started to chat to me. I wasn’t going to be drawn in. Again, he left me alone after a minute or so but I still had the four behind. Fortunately I spotted two lady shepherds tending their flock of goats a few hundred metres away so I made my way towards them, sat down on a rock close by and pondered my situation. It’s the first time I’d felt ill at ease in Morocco but then, other than my cycle and walk at Tafraout, Tim and I had gone everywhere together. We were also in cannabis country where money can be made selling it to tourists. Tim had been asked twice if he wanted to buy cannabis on the first day we were there. Whatever their intentions were I decided to give up on my quest for the summit and marched back down the hill to the campsite in a ‘don’t even think about messing with me’ kind of way. Even then I was approached twice!
So after Chafchouen the pull of fish and chips and a bumper pack of Morrisons pork pie’s from good old Gib was just too much to put off any longer. We had a night in Martil (could have been in Spain) on the coast before heading to Tanger Med for the ferry.
As we had an open return ticket there was no need to book. We just presented our ticket at the Trasmediterranea office at the port and were issued boarding passes for the next ferry leaving. We’d hoped to be on time for the ten o’clock ferry but it took a bit longer than anticipated getting to the port from Martil. We drove onto the ferry after the various checkpoints and an x-ray of the van at eleven o’clock. I’m not sure if it was the ten o’clock ferry or the one o’clock as we left at twelve o’clock!
So, that ended our first tour of Morocco.
Eleven weeks. 2607 Miles.
A very successful trip me thinks.