New years morning at about 03h30 after finishing a shoot at Pogs Irish Bar in Fuengirola I meet up with Jørgen in Karbon Klub to celebrate the start of the new year. Within minutes of sitting down to catch up over a drink, he wastes no times and says: “Let’s do a road trip to Morocco”. I think my response was something along the lines of “Hell yeah! Let’s do it!” I hadn’t seen Jørgen in a few months as he lives in Norway and has been embarking on a life changing world trip and had just come over to Spain after spending some time touring through South Africa.
To make a long story short… after celebrating the start of 2015 in true Spanish style, we started out journey a few days later from Fuengirola to Tarifa where we took the Ferry over to Morocco and a mini adventure was born.
Challenge 1: Dealing with thieving taxi drivers trying to overcharge for a 16km drive from the port to the airport where we wanted to rent a car. With Jørgens skilful negotiation tactics we managed to get the €20 taxi ride for €10 + plus my not so skilful tip. I’d like to blame it on a lack of sleep, but we all know better.
Challenge 2: Renting a car seemed more challenging than initially expected. As you’d expect in any airport, there were about 10 car rental desks, but only 3 or 4 were occupied by a variety of employee. As Jørgen prefers to drive an automatic transmission vehicle we walked from desk to desk only to find the same confused look on every face as they echoed: “sorry no such thing available”. After a brief discussion it was decided that i would earn my keep for the “Jørgen sponsored road trip” by being the designated driver of a manual transmission vehicle. Thus introducing challenge 2b: Suddenly only 1 desk occupied and therefore no negotiating the best car rental price. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a mere tactic. In all honesty though, we were given a really good car and it was well inspected (with our help) before any documents were signed. All good, minus about 2 hours!
Challenge 3: Moroccan sim card for Jørgen. Let’s take a drive to Tangier town centre to find a sim card. Mission unsuccessful! However we did manage to negotiate our way through a very busy pedestrian market where we weren’t quite sure if the street was actually a street or market place and we also saw some very interesting “wizard” robes.
Challenge 4: Where are we going? Earlier we had seen a sign with direction to Rabat. This could’ve been as good a place as any to start. I (obviously) missed the turn onto the main highway and we ended up along a small coastal road, we was (in my defence) quite the scenic route, and a beautiful sunset. Eventually we even made it to Rabat. Stopped for dinner and wifi. Good food. Good wifi. Map loaded on iPhone and managed to find the youth hostel, which was full. Never fear though, we were politely directed to Marrakech “hotel” where we spent the night.
A pleasant surprise: Facebook updates lead us find out that a friend of mine, Javiera was living in Rabat. A quick contact and arranged to meet up the following day for coffee, breakfast, trip through the city, Hassan Tower, back through the Madina before setting off to Fes.
Challenge 5: Leaving Rabat! The traffic is insane! So insane that we missed the petrol station before getting on the high way. Besides the fuel gauge was showing another 130km left before needing to refuel. About 40km later, tank showing empty! GET OFF THE HIGHWAY ASAP! I don’t think Jørgen breathed until the fumes in the tank was replaced with actual fuel! Relief, and another beautiful sunset!
Challenge 6: I’m going combined a few challenges in one here. Just before we arrived at the Fes Madina we met a really friendly helmetless local on his motorcycle who basically directed us to where we need to go. Awesome! People here are so friendly. He didn’t even want a tip as all the websites had indicated previously! So we arrive at the Madina and we are pounded upon by “guides” from all directions to pay for parking and to get direction to the hostel. “No” didn’t seem to be part of the solution to this scenario. We got walked to the door, handed over a tip and then got told that we hadn’t tipped enough. “Goodbye”!!! Entering the Dar El Yasmine hostel was a sense of relief and solitude from the brief yet intense madness we experienced from just outside the Madina walls all the way to the front door of the hostel. Heading out for dinner we experienced such of the same “guide treatment” but managed to find a good deal for dinner and filled out stomachs before seeking solitude at Dar El Yasmine once again. What a beautiful hostel though, warm beds, towels and an AMAZING breakfast. The next day was pretty extreme, couldn’t walk 3 feet without being “guided” with expecting outstretched palms. And yes we did get lost in the un-navigatable maze of Fes Madina and yes we didn’t trust anybody to send us in the right direction because it did feel like we had been walking in circles. Finally we recruited a kid on the street for directions. One kid became three kids, which became five kids and by the time we arrived back at the hostel we had an entourage of about twelve underaged guides. Having felt saved by this friendly mob of 4ft guides we offered tips to the three originals, though soon learned we had obviously not given enough. Though Fes was good, it was an absolute relief leaving for Chefchaouen in the afternoon.
Challenge 7: The condition of the road from Fes to Chefchaouen was less than safe in places – narrow with potholes and broken shoulders. Drivers from ahead showing their superiority by not nudging an inch, forcing us to stop or pull off the road numerous times. At times it felt like a game of “chicken” which I did not mind losing. A beautiful drive through the Moroccan landscape with good company, snacks purchased in Fes and yet another amazing sunset.
Arriving in Chefchaouen took a little longer than expected, but smooth sailing none the less. Maybe one wrong turn and some serious bad drivers along the way – the mountain pass was definitely another challenge (#8). Unfortunately we arrived pretty late and had to leave early the next morning to get the ferry back to Spain. We didn’t get to see much of this beautiful blue city.
Riad Baraka was brilliant! Clean, warm rooms and an awesome roof terrace, run by a friendly German named Toby who recommended the most amazing authentic Moroccan restaurant, Bab Ssour! This definitely turned out being the highlight of the trip. Amazing staff and food to match. Not forgetting the 2 pots of tea! I’m not sure how many courses we had and probably would’ve eaten more if the kitchen hadn’t closed.
Up bright and early the next morning back to Tangier. Dropped off the rental car and made it to ferry office on time, not evading the vulturous guides trying to get the last of our Dirhams before boarding the ferry and heading back to Fuengirola! At this point I won’t go into how we nearly missed the bus after waiting for 90 minutes because we didn’t know we couldn’t buy tickets the bus!
All in all it was a great mini-adventure and interesting experience. Moroccos is beautiful and I am sure there is still so much more we could’ve seen, had we the time. Though I imagine that I would rather explore some other parts of the world before returning to gem of a country.
Lastly: A huge thank you to my dear friend Jørgen for taking me on this adventure. You’ve been a wonderful friend in so many ways since the first meeting! Thank you for everything – specially for our own personal journey as we help guide and build each other, as well as ourselves. I wish you safe travels as you cross oceans, cut lines through the air and leave trails on land. I look forward to next adventure, whatever it may be!
Leaving Spain by ferry from Tangier
There lies Morocco:
On the road to Rabat:
Hassan Tower, Rabat:
Sunset on the way to Fes, shortly after nearly running out of fuel:
Dar El Yasmine, Fes:
On the road to Chefchaouen:
Leaving Chefchaouen bright and early:
Waiting for the bus in Algeciras – the one we nearly missed:
Always time for a bathroom selfie (Algeciras bus station)