Good afternoon from warm, sunny, friendly Morocco. Odysseus and I came across the Straits of Gibraltar yesterday, riding along with motorcycle riders from the United Kingdom who have been to Morocco 80 times. They were filled with tips, everything from how to avoid getting run over at roundabouts to how to deal with police.
As we were leaving the Spanish city of Algeciras I looked east, and there was the famous Rock of Gibraltar. It didn't actually look like much through the salty ocean air because I was on the wrong side, not the often photographed side. Still, here it is, and maybe when I return to Spain in a month I will go up it and visit the famous apes that live there.
Clearing customs at the ferry port was a long drawn out affair of going from office to office. It was compounded by the fact that the girl in Spain who issued me my ticket put down one single number wrong on my motorcycle VIN number. It took a long time to get that straightened out once in Morocco. Once away from the port, though, the road led east along the sea through some beautiful modern cities. Traffic was heavy, and it often slowed down to a crawl. Invariably when it did that there would be cops a little further along, ready to write out a ticket to speeders. I had been warned by motorcycle riders on the ferry that if cops did stop me, I should offer them about a tenth of the fine they wanted, and, above all, not to ask for a receipt.
Finally I arrived at the famous "Blue City" of Chefchaoeun (notice the four vowels all in a row -- how often do you see that?). Once settled into my hotel, I went exploring. Even at night the place looked interesting.
I was really taken by the sights, sounds and smells. It was a glorious treat for my first day on the continent of Africa.
I had exchanged some money at the seaport, so I was prepared to buy supper. Being hungry, I ordered a large salad, a dish of lamb and plums, bread, and a pot of mint tea. The entire thing cost $4.50. Wow! I'm in heaven.
I left Odysseus all safe and sound in a parking lot guarded all night long by some Moroccan men, and found an inexpensive hostel for the evening tucked away down a narrow alley among the maze called the Souk. It was a single door, not at all nice looking from the outside, but very adequate inside. I slept well, and by morning I was eager to go out exploring the "Blue City".
It is easy to get lost in this maze of passages. The souk is quite a place, with restaurants, shops and hotels tucked into niches all over the place. Here is a hotel.
There is a small open area of shops and cafes up higher on the hill. I sat up there and took a lot of people pictures.
This lady must have gotten up before the sun to pick mint for her bundle. She was taking it from shop to shop, selling a little at each place to be turned into the delicious mint tea they serve here.
This crippled man and his donkey were at work every time I passed through the "square", carrying water and juice to the cafes.
I climbed up higher through the alleyways of the souk, heading for a waterfall that they said was up there.
I spotted this lady dressed all in blue along the way. I was so disappointed that I could not get a better picture of her but there were simply too many people in the way.
The waterfall proved to be a disappointment, but the people up there continued to be interesting. I think some of them were tourists being dressed up by the city's people. I took these pictures with a telephoto lens from a great distance away. I think she probably looked as goofy to the native people as she did to me, but I couldn't resist taking her picture. I was 100 yards away and up a hillside so I couldn't tell what I was getting when I took the picture.
As I continued hiking up the mountain, I passed several stands selling the oranges that grow on trees here. Orange juice is almost as good as the mint tea which I have become slightly addicted to.
This is not an orange tree, but I liked its looks so I snapped a picture of it. I think it might be a fig tree, but I am not sure.
Way up high over the "Blue City" I met a young couple from New York City who asked me to take their picture. They returned the favor by snapping me with my camera.
This lady was tending a bunch of animals along a stream that flows down into town.
The town is full of cats. They walk on the roof tops and beg in the restaurants and generally scamper all over the place. Look at this group watching another guy put on a show. "Quit lickin' yer'self clyde. What'll the neighbors think if they see ya' doin' that?"
The women here seem to like these little straw hats.
Or at least some women are.
Younger girls tend to be a little more chic in their choice of dress.
Men, on the other hand, often seem to wear long heavy robes.
I think I could spend days here snapping pictures. There is something interesting around every corner, at least to a country boy from Illinois like me.
Tomorrow I think I might hike up to a highly recommended waterfall near here. And then, after one more night in the "Blue City" of Chefchaoeun, I might head off to explore some more of this fascinating country.