I had slept well. We woke up to Dan’s alarm at 5.15am, packed up our bags, picked up our passports from the night watchman of the camp site, paid and left for the border with Morocco. It was dark and Ceuta was quiet. We passed a couple of Guardia Civil patrols who flashed at us because we had no lights but we carried on.
At the border, we passed through the Spanish side with ease and, when we arrived at the Moroccan side, we had to wake up the border official, who was asleep on top of his desk, dressed in his djellaba, a sort of robe with a hood, to get the forms we needed to complete to enter the country.
We could arguments between Moroccans and the police could be heard in the behind us. Some women with huge boxes on their backs were lugging them across the border. We crossed the border with relative ease after a short inspection of our passports and we properly in Africa.
We pulled over just inside the border and had some cereal while watching the sun rise. Already, the difference between Ceuta and Morocco was apparent. Someone was praying on his mat nearby just off the road.
After finishing up, we set off towards Tetuan. The road was smooth and kept near to the coast and its modern tourist resorts, before heading inland. There were several roadside huts selling pottery and other ceramics which were scattered all over the ground all the way along the road to Tetouan.
Soon, we were on the outskirts of the town and we had a Moroccan man on a motorbike talking to us. We had heard about the hustlers in the town and we were not keen to stop. We continued on the road past Tetuan and stopped once we were past at the point where the road heads towards Chefchaouen by some telegraph poles.
Dan and I brewed up some tea and waited for Steve, Simon and, now, Chris, to arrive. A man came up and said hello. He was waiting for a bus because his car had broken down. It turned out that he was a hashish dealer and that business was good! He looked well dressed and warned us about the ‘pushers’ on the roads around there. We also asked him the time and we realised that we were an hour ahead him. Morocco is on Greenwich Mean Time. No wonder the Moroccan border official was asleep on his desk earlier.
We waited another hour for Steve, Simon and Chris. It was good to see them. We chatted for a while and got going. It was reasonably cool but sunny. We stopped for some melon and had lunch a little further on. I ate too much and felt awful afterwards, which is never good when you are about to take a large amount of exercise.
The road soon began to rise. I was feeling tired after 70 kilometres that day so far. We soon started to see men appearing along the way from the verges. These were the pushers the dealer had told us about earlier. They started running after us, one grabbing at the ‘load net’ I had on the back of my bicycle which held my jerry cans in place, trying to slow me down. The pusher had obviously been smoking a lot of what he was selling. His eyes had that lazed looked about them when someone is stoned. I had to pedal hard to get away from him and felt exhausted after that.
The road was steadily climbing through the hills either side of us but we soon came to the top of the valley and the road, thankfully, dropped away. At the start of this drop, on the first corner, was a gathering of people. As I went past them, one kid threw a stone at me which hit my foot. We sped past and that was the last of any stone throwing that we experienced that day.
The final stage of the day was leaving the main road from Tetuan to Chefchaouen. Although this was only 6kms, it felt like a long road. It was steep and I was knackered. Half way up, I had to get off my bike and walk. At last, we came into the town, which was nestled into the mountainside, and we got a young lad to lead us to Pension Valencia for a fee of 100 dirhams (about 70p). The boy had originally suggested the ‘Hotel Atlas’ which was prominently located above the edge of Chefchaouen but it was far too expensive for us (about £30 a night these days).
The five of us came into the medina where there were plenty of kids and touts hustling us for our business for their varying goods and services. An ‘official guide’ (he had a pretty serious looking badge!) and wearing a djellaba saw us and helped guide us to the Pension Valencia in tandem with the boy. All of this hustling was hilarious.
Pushing our bikes past one particular jewellery shop, we saw a man wearing a ‘pork pie’ hat. “Alright, mate?” he shouted in a London accent. We were in stitches of laughter. He had a girlfriend in Eastbourne.
We were soon in the pension which was £1 per night each. That was more like it. The room Dan and I were in was painted in a bright blue paint on the thick stone walls. The floor was stone and the beds were rickety but felt comfortable. It was fine and at a quid a night, we were not complaining.
We had a cup of our earl grey tea and then went straight to a smart hotel for a beer with Simon, Steve and Chris before the official guide came in as we had arranged with him. The guide took us around the town showing our small group the traditional bakeries where the local people bring their dough to be baked and pay the baker with a loaf of bread who then sells it. He showed us a weaver, who smoked hash (or ‘kif’ as they call it locally) all day to keep spirits up. He was a short man with a paunch, black hair, teeth like tombstones and a wicked laugh. He kept saying that Simon looked like Bobby Charlton (I cold no resemblance between the two at all). He did his business by getting the local Berbers to bring in their wool plus a heap of kif and he weaved their wool in return for the kif. (I can only assume that he sold some of the kif and smoked a bit to survive).
The guide then took us to an old water mill grinding wheat, which was fascinating to see something that was still in use for real and not just for show as they are in the Britain. We were taken to the inevitable carpet shop, through the winding, tiny streets which were full of shops selling anything and everything, and a restaurant.
Chefchaouen was an amazing town. It felt medieval. There were people everywhere wearing djellabas. The smells emanating from the food stalls and the livestock in the town’s centre were amazing. There was the noise of people chanting from the Koran in the mosques and there were donkeys carrying enormous loads through the narrow streets. Everyone seemed very cheerful and happy.
What struck us about Morocco and what little we had seen of it was the stark difference between two countries separated by a narrow stretch of water. Even from the UK, Morocco is only two or so hours by aeroplane and it is so different in culture and economy than home.
We had supper at the restaurant that our guide had shown us, after giving him 50 dirhams for his services. I had couscous and chicken. The couscous had sugar and nutmeg on it. We had wine too which we had to keep under the table for Islam’s sake.
I was developing a headache which was probably down to a mixture of dehydration, tiredness and wine. We returned to the pension and crashed out.
Distance 100 kms
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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