2016-09-22 to 2016-09-24
Continuing on from the last post. I cross from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. I ride up to the ferry line, buy my ticket, pass through security and board the ferry. The ferry is of the “fast cat” type which will probably only make sense to my friends who are from BC. It is an aluminum catamaran ferry capable of carrying passengers and vehicles that travels much quicker than traditional ferries. On board I fill out my entry declaration for Moroccan passport control on the boat. Waiting in the line in front of me are four Canadians travelling to Morocco, they are from Toronto and have travelled from Madrid by car roughly taking the route I will when I return. The crossing takes about 35 minutes but all in about an hour as the crew won’t allow people on the car deck until the boat has landed.
Once off the ferry I head to customs to fill out my D16 Ter form which will allow me to temporarily import my motorcycle into Morocco. It is slightly confusing and I am sent upstairs with the instructions “a la droite, room with computers, hand them your passport and they know what to do.” I must look lost to an employee so he brings me to the room with the computers. No one is in there so he tells me to wait a couple minutes and leaves me. Twenty minutes later the police officer on security for the ferry passengers takes pity on me and brings me to a police officer elsewhere to register my passport as it is my first visit to Morocco so it can be associated with my motorcycle. I head back down to the bike and speak to the customs officer who can now stamp my forms and let me go.
I am staying at a nice resort on the beach in Tangier as a treat to myself. Even though there is underground parking the staff has me park at the front door so they can keep an eye on it from the front desk. That afternoon I stock up on critical supplies like drinking water, Pringles, and Orange Fanta (which I have become addicted to this trip.)
The next day I walk to the Medina and wander around trying to avoid the numerous con-artists.
The day after I ride the bike out to the Caves of Hercules. The roads in and around Tangier are very good and not too confusing or crowded. The caves are located west of town so I ride the bike there and park out front. The cave existed naturally but the Phoenicians carved an entrance from the sea in the shape of Africa. The caves were later expanded to make grain mills which I believe (there were no tour guides or information available) is the reason for the circular patterns carved into the wall in the cave.
Once I am done exploring the cave I head back. The man cleaning the street at the cave is very interested in the bike and keeps fawning over it and my jacket in Arabic. Hoping he can understand some French (as this conversation is well beyond my means in Arabic) I tell him I am traveling around Morocco on the bike. He shakes my hand and says “God Bless” and carries on with his day.
I head out of Tangiers towards Mzoura Stone Circle which is a megalith dating from 3000 BC. From the research I have done it could be a tomb or used as a part of spiritual rituals.
I miss the initial turn off and carry on to the next intersection. There I end up in a town where some guy offers to guide me there as it is “very difficile.” I have the coordinates programmed in the GPS and think I can make it there on my own so I refuse his “help.”
I leave town and drive ~10 km and come to a sand road where the GPS tells me to go. I turn off the road and begin driving down a sand road. All of a sudden three guys are shouting at me to stop. Fortunately one of them speaks French and he tells me that the route has changed and shows me a picture on his phone of the pointer stone to confirm that is where I want to go. He lets me know I can drive on the main road for 4 more km and don’t have to take the sand road the whole way in. I thank them for their help and leave them to tend to there work. For every scammer you run into thankfully there are nice guys like this who are genuinely helpful and kind.
At Mzoura the guardian opens the gate and lets me walk around. In no time I have a young boy following me around the site who poses for a picture of the “Pointer.”
After Mzoura I head west towards Chefchaouen. The area around Mzoura is gently rolling farmlands where they are growing hay, watermelons, and lumpy orange melons. As you head farther west the terrain becomes more mountainous and the land is being used as pasture. As I am driving down the road an elderly goat herder flags me down on the road. I stop and figure out his water bottle has run out. It is quite warm in the valley (over 30 C) so it isn’t surprising. He doesn’t speak French so we have a conversation of gestures. I fill up his water bottle from my water bladder. Given the small number of vehicles traveling on the road and the fact that it doesn’t appear anyone else has stopped he is very appreciative and numerous blessings are said. Once he is topped up, he thanks’ me and heads off to his goats.
I continue my ride through the mountains to Chefchaouen and find a hotel room for the night. Chefchaouen is painted blue and looks quite beautiful. The hotel has a couple Turkeys in the compound that make noisy neighbours along with the numerous barking dogs that keep me up most of the night.