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Beginning our Morocco Advernture
Rating: (5.0) (7 Votes)

September 23, 2005

Pros: A great adventure and excellent guides
Cons: None

Morocco has always appealed as a destination for us. The country is so full of contrasts and steeped in rich culture and traditions. The question for us had been how will we travel in Morocco? We settled on a 7 day camping tour on an overland 4 X4 all terrain expedition truck which was offered as an add on to our busabout pass. Our adventure began when our bus from Granada arrived at Algeciras the embarkation point for the ferries to Tangier in Morocco. On the 3 hour ferry trip we met up with Bronwyn another Aussie who was to be on our tour and was arriving a day early as we were. Also on the ferry were several handcuffed Morroccans being deported from Spain accompanied by Police officers.

Tangier is a busy, bustling port city full of hustlers and we enjoyed spending time looking around before our tour began and trying to avoid the scammers. The old centre Medina was full of colour and life and we went to the traditional fish, meat and vegetable markets and saw amazing sights including camels hooves and goats heads for sale. Men dominate the street cafes sitting watching the world go by drinking mint tea and women are mostly covered up in traditional Muslim fashion.

We started our tour with a group meeting and hotel dinner on the Saturday night to get to know each other. Our guide Corrine was from the Netherlands, our driver Cosmic was from the UK and all 6 of us travellers turned out to be Aussies with Avan the only male! Our group was Bronwyn from NSW, Katherine from Tassie and Brooke and Natalie from NSW. This tour can take up to 20 people but we are at the end of the season so we were really quite lucky to have a small group and when it came to travelling in the back of the truck we could spread ourselves out.

Out first day of travel was really only a half day. We left the city of Tangier behind and journeyed up into the Rif Mountains arriving at our Chefchaouen campsite at lunchtime.The view from the campsite was spectacular as it was perched on the side of the mountain overlooking the city. Then it was time to set up our tents and stretchers for the first time. Reality set in a bit when we realized there were no pillows and our beds were canvas stretchers but generally we slept very comfortably on the trip. In the afternoon a local from Chefchaouen arrived at the campsite to take us on a tour of the city below. We were taken to have mint tea and biscuits at a weavers shop and shown the most amazing handwoven blankets and rugs. The Medina of the city (as most Moroccan cities) is a maze of twisting little alleys which are very easy to get lost in. As darkness set in we made the steep climb back up to the campsite which was a little eerie as the twisting path took us through a cemetery with the graves clinging precariously to the side of the mountain. Once back at the campsite those rostered to cook got busy preparing fresh vegetables and rice for our tea. We ate extremely well on the trip with most meals being predominately fresh vegetables and fruit which was all carefully washed in condy´s crystals before use.

The next morning Avan was up with the roosters (and the Muslim call to prayer) watching the sunrise over the mountains and light up the valley. The call to prayer is relayed by loud speakers at various points throughout the valley and mountain villages. After breakfast another local guide arrived to take us on a 4 hour hike in the mountains where we saw Marijuana fields, little villages and stunning scenery. We took mint tea very high in a mountain village with the locals. The mint tea drunk in copious quantities in Morocco (given that alcohol is banned) is made with a branch of mint in the glass and lots of sugar. We learnt to ask for it without sugar!

After leaving Chefchaouen we spent the day in the truck with an amazing stop over at the Roman ruins of Volubilis. The mozaics in the ruins are in excellent condition because they were buried and not known about for centuries. A guided tour in English was arranged for us and we learnt such a lot about the ancient roman way of life.

We arrived in Fes as darkness was setting in, with camp to set up and evening meal to cook. All was achieved and then Corrine advised of a slight change in plans for the next day as Achmed our truck needed a new water pump and Cosmic our driver would need to work on it all day. The alternative of taxis for our Fes touring worked very well and we were taken to various artisans workshops around Fes before commencing a guided tour of the Medina. We definitely needed our wonderful guide as the Fes Medina has some 9,000 twisting little alleys to get hopelessly lost in! In the evening we were pleased to find Cosmic had worked wonders by locating and installed a new water pump in the truck. We then all dressed up and had an amazing night out of Moroccan music, dancing and entertainment

Leaving Fes behind was a bit sad as we had all enjoyed ourselves immensely but on to our next adventures. We arrived at the Imperial city of Meknes and found it a little bit more laid back, quieter and smaller than Fes(however we did witness a domestic in the main square). After a few hours to look around we were back on the truck and off to the port and beach side town of Asilah where we set up camp, had tea then walked into town to have a look around. Asilah has a Portuguese influence in its architecture and beautiful murals all around the town walls.

Next morning we had quite an adventure, visiting the local Haman. This is a communal segregated bath house,where you have the pleasure of being scrubbed clean with a loofah, massaged, and have your hair washed all for a few dollars. You come out all squeaky clean. The girls were lucky because Corrine came with us to explain the procedure but Avan had to brave it all alone!

After the Haman had beaten us into a state of squeaky clean, we travelled on to our last campsite at Cap Spartel and enjoyed exploring the Hercules caves before having an "all hands on deck" clean up of the truck and preparing our last meal together of a BBQ on the open fire. The campsite looked a replica of the Aussie Bush complete with gums and wattle. The camp had an onsite Massuesse who for about $5 gave an excellent massage which meant we had scoured 2 massages in the one day! Can be absolutely justified given we had been sleeping rough for a week. We had a fabulous farewell night and ended up sleeping under the stars.

We made a plan that night that we wanted to stay longer in Morocco and as Kqtherine was heading off to Marrakesh on the next night train we decided to join her.