We left Dave’s cave house full of ideas about saving money and finding a cave to live in, fantasising about a life full of olives, oranges, almonds and all the other delicious fresh produce available locally to Orce. But the draw of the desert was pulling and although six or seven weeks away seems like a long time, in the back of your mind you know time is precious so we said our goodbyes to Dave and Carole and began our journey to Algeceiras to board a ferry to Tangier Med, our entry into Africa.
Our next main port of call was to see a guy called Carlos who runs a ticket agency called ‘Viajes Normandie’ selling ferry tickets for our selected crossing. We had found Carlos via various online recommendations as being a price you can trust and it seems that the going rate is €200 for the return crossing. Feels quite expensive for a fairly short crossing, but how else are you going to get there?
We found Viajes Normandie agency quite easily, it’s also right next to a few supermarkets meaning its a good place to stock up on the little home comforts that might not be available whilst on another continent.
After a few tense moments of misunderstanding and sense of humour failure Jed had purchased his tickets for the crossing, Harriet was next and with her slightly better language skills she had purchased ours with relative ease.
We took up on the opportunity to stock our cupboards with essentials, some of which being some select items of booze….well.. you cant have a proper Christmas day without a glass of booze in your hand really can you?
Shortly before arrival on our route to Algecieras we had spotted somewhere on the beach that looked like it might make a great place to camp up for the night. We backtracked along our route and pulled into the spot to find a few other vehicles there that looked as though they might also be on their way to or from Morocco.
That evening turned out to be the warmest on the trip so far. We all sat outside to eat and conversation was unsurprisingly gravitating toward what our next day would have in store.
Not only were we going to be entering Africa, but we had another ferry crossing ahead of us and if there’s one thing with Ferries its that you can never really know what’s going to happen. Different ports, different staff, different languages, different protocol etc etc. It all boils down into a big melting pot of ‘Not knowing what on earth is going on’. This ferry was no different.
After passing through tickets, customs and passport checks we were set free into that no mans land of ferry queuing lanes that every port has. It was a little harder than usual at Algeceiras to find your lane as it was hidden behind loads of parked lorries, but having found the way and boarded the ferry, forwards this time, we grabbed our various documents that we thought we might need and made our way up to the passenger lounge. It quickly became apparent that we needed to fill in some forms while aboard so Harriet and Louise took the filled in forms to the police counter where there was a queue tailing back a fair way already.
Approx 15 minutes later a flustered Harriet arrived back to where we were sitting ushering us off to the police desk. Unknown to Louise and Harriet each individual passenger had to be present with their respective passport. After a few tuts and moans we got what we needed and were one stage closer.
The crossing lasted around one hour, by the end of that hour i think we were all bracing ourselves for what lay in store. This time all the vehicles had to turn around whilst inside the ferry before disembarking…see what i mean about ferries?
Passport control etc wasn’t too difficult but its worth noting that whilst on the ferry to Morocco and going the police desk onboard they stamp a number into your passport along with a stamp for the country. The stamped number needs to be filled out on your D16 vehicle importation document before you reach the people who want to check it upon arrival in Morocco.
Vehicle insurance is available in a small white hut amongst a load of others offering money exchange. The insurance isn’t cheap by any means but compulsory so we went ahead with it. Three months insurance was approx £200.
With everything ship shape we set off for our first campsite in a place called Chefchaouen roughly a couple of hours from Tangiers. If you looked on a map at the route, you also would probably think the time estimate for it was quite accurate however, once you factor in Moroccan roads and drivers you might as well double it. A mixture of complete lunatics over taking on blind bends, generally driving on both sides of the road and heavy trucks moving at 5-10kph on the steeper roads makes for interesting driving!
It was quite overcast when we arrived and some time after dark we had a couple of hours of rain, not quite what we were expecting but we were quite high up in the mountains after all. The next day the sun was out, temperatures were still quite cold though, below zero at night and not much warmer in the mornings.
Chefchaouen is situated in the Rif mountains and the name literally translates to ‘look to the mountain’ Chef meaning ‘look’ and Chaouen being the ‘mountain’.
Its a stunning town with a mixture of white washed and deep blue walls. The medina here is not large but is a tightly packed maze of ups, downs, in’s and out’s and just enough hustle and bustle. The population here isn’t big which makes the town very pleasant to meander around.
We met a couple called Olly and Heidi who were parked next to us in a long wheel base Sprinter with UK plates, the first we had seen in a long time. They had also just arrived in Morocco but had been in Spain and Portugal for a few months previous. They gave us a few bits of info they had found out about the town and we had the usual chats about the UK and how we were all glad to be in a slightly warmer climate. Ollie and Heidi had already been at the site for a day or so and were leaving to head south, so we said our goodbyes and wondered if we would see them again on our travels.
On our walk into the town we met a man called Mustafa who showed us the way down the hill to the medina. He took us past some of the towns famously beautiful spots on our way and took us to meet a friend of his that runs a carpet shop in the town.
At this point we thought this might be turning into one of the many cunning ploys the Moroccan culture has developed to empty money from travellers pockets, however this turned out to be nothing like it, we were offered our first mint tea (whisky berber as they call it, it does not contain alcohol) and to our surprise the shop owner spoke perfect english.
He was very knowledgeable and a pleasure to talk with and not once did we feel pressured to buy anything in the shop. Jed, Louise and Isaac had gone off wandering so once we left the shop we headed for the main square to find a cafe, sit down, relax and after getting a taste for it, drink some more mint tea.
In retrospect we would have all liked to have spent a bit more time in Chefchaouen and i think in the future we all will but this time we decided to leave the next morning. Christmas was looming and there was a unspoken pressure to get to somewhere warmer at least for the celebrations.