As we crossed the short journey to Ceuta, we were greeted by dolphins swimming alongside. The trip across from Algeciras took just over an hour and you could see the mountains of Morocco in the distance getting nearer and nearer.
Disembarking the ferry was a speedy affair as was leaving the port, due to once again being waved on through without even a glance at my passport. I was soon out and on the road to the Moroccan border, but not before I spotted this unusual view of Ceuta and the leaving behind of Spain ->
Arriving at the Moroccan border I was surrounded with complete chaos, cars and people were everywhere and I couldn’t for the life of me work out what (if any) system was in place. In the end I simply wiggled my way through the mass of cars (which were not lined up) to try and get close to the kiosk, but not before a tout had placed a form into my hand and asked me to fill it in. He would then hand it in for me, for a small fee of course. As I had just over a Euro in change, I decided to go with it as the touts seemed to be able to work their way through. By the time I got to the kiosk my details had been entered, I produced my passport and was asked a few questions, then it was stamped and I was on my way. Phew…
My first reaction was to let out a huge whoop, another country to explore. I quickly got out of there and headed down the road, which was stuffed full with all manner of people and vehicles. The overwhelming feeling was how dirty the whole border area was and it wasn’t until I was well away that I started to enjoy the views around me and the cycle lane, which was pretty impressive as I headed towards Tetouan.
In my research of Morocco I had seen a picture of two storks nesting on the road to Tetouan and I hoped I would spot them. I remember thinking at the time how great a shot it would be if you could capture one leaving the nest, it would make the shot a little less ‘ordinary’. Tony, take note here: this is not luck, it is waiting for the right moment. Maybe I still have the knack, even if I no longer have the expensive kit? ->
Tetouan was a huge town which I soon got lost in. It was also heaving with traffic and I came close to a cropper more than once. It had been my intention to have a good look around, but I decided that could wait for one of the less busy places, like my next stop Chefchaouen. I rode out of town and began looking for a safe place to wild camp, not easy, but I eventually settled on a quiet field tucked next to sugar cane reeds. No sooner had I put up the tent and unpacked everything when along came an invitation to camp next to a local house. I asked would I be safe and he just shrugged, so I thought I’d chance it as it was already quite dark.
Apart from a few dogs, I was left alone. The next morning I packed up and set off for Chefchaouen, 50 km away. Mindful of the need to take things a little steadier, I was breaking up the mileage into sensible chunks. What you can’t account for is the amount of climbing which I spent most of the day doing, though I did stop and take pictures and enjoyed a coffee in a local cafe. As I rode along, lining the road as I approached my destination were many stalls selling all manner of pottery. ->
I could see Chefchaouen in the distance up on the hillside and when I eventually turned off the road from Tetouan, it was a horrendously steep 6 km climb up. ->
I was bushed and flopped down on the outskirts and pulled out my Lonely Planet guide. Rooms were cheap and so I decided I would book in somewhere and then explore the town in the morning. What did surprise me was just how cheap, only 70 dirham (about £6) per night. OK very basic and my shower consisted of pouring hot water over myself from a cup, but it was hot and another surprise – they have wifi, even if the girl at reception told me they hadn’t.
So I’ll report on Chefchaouen in my next post…