Chillin' in Chefchaouen
Trip Start Oct 07, 2008
31Trip End Dec 10, 2008
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We spent the trip catching up on listening to our iPods, watching the countryside and small towns roll by. Often the towns were no more than a cluster of low mud brick houses and possibly a white minaret of a mosque standing above them. The outskirts of the town were surrounded by what stood for farmers fields, barren and rocky ground, being ploughed by men and donkeys pulling heavy metal ploughs. Women in hijabs carried baskets or stacks of wood on their shoulders and children played in the dust while chickens scratched for food.
We arrived in Chefchaouen in the bucketing rain, both feeling a little sick and hungry. Dan had not eaten anything that morning and one of the pastries we bought yesterday turned out to be a pastilla, a sweet pigeon pie in flaky pastry dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar. Neither of us were willing to try the, now day old, pie on our upset stomachs, so Gabrielle had only a small croissant to last her the four hour trip.
Despite Chefchaouen being a small hill town, the regular gaggle of cutthroat taxi drivers still loitered outside the bus station. We commenced with the regular haggle over how much a taxi ride to the town square would cost, once again receiving ridiculously overpriced responses. We eventually found one for a decent price, which we shared with another man who had arrived on the bus with us, and made our soggy way upwards. The ride was surprisingly steep, and everywhere we looked the roads mostly curled around tight bends or dove up and down hills at incredible angles. As we reached the square Gabrielle realized she had left her favourite green pashmina (scarf) on the bus, which had now departed. Crushed and soggier by the minute, this wasn't an auspicious start.
The rain was coming down in torrents so Gabrielle parked inside a nearby internet cafe with the bags while Dan went scouting for our intended hostel. Dan soon returned, very soggy, to retrieve Gabrielle and the bags and we were soon safely ensconced in a little white walled room in the airy Pension Cordoba. Dropping our bags we pulled ourselves together and headed out to find food.
According to our guidebook, Chefchaouen is a beautiful blue washed town (which it is) with a laid back attitude to tourists (which it DEFINITELY is not). The streets were lined with tourist shops and sellers called out for customers to come and buy. We found a small cafe on a quiet terrace which served vegetable tajine and chicken sandwiches while we watched the tourists and cats crisscross the square. The rest of our day was spent resting up and sitting at a cafe with cups of mint tea, people watching in the main square as the rain continued to fall.
This morning we woke up to hot showers complete with a pension bread-fest breakfast topped with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and syrupy sweet mint tea. The rain had refused to stop throughout the night so we grabbed a taxi down to the bus station to book our bus tickets out of Chefchaouen the next day, having been told that booking the day before was a necessity. Our helpful taxi driver waiting for us as we stopped at an ATM and helped us in our panic as the ATM ate Dan's bank card. Since it was a Sunday, and the bank was closed, we started to get desperate. Upon the suggestion of the taxi driver (in Arabic and minimal French) Dan started to dash up the hill to find a police officer that might be able to help. Just as Dan started up the hill the ATM belched loudly and spit out Dan's card. Relieved we found another ATM and continued down to the bus station.
The morning adventure ensued at the bus station where Dan attempted to purchase bus tickets from the CTM stall, the government owned bus company. A surly, wrinkled, and almost toothless gentleman manned the booth and refused to sell Dan a ticket, telling him to come back in ten minutes. While waiting Dan noticed a familiar face in the bus station - Viv, the Australian we had shared a ferry ride into Morocco with, was on her way out of Morocco that day after braving lightning storms in the Sahara and the tribulations of Marrakech as a single female traveller. Soon Gabrielle and Viv were chatting up a storm and our incredibly helpful taxi driver was helping Dan to buy bus tickets.
Turned out the friendly CTM stall person didn't actually have any bus tickets left for the next day and may have thought it funny to have Dan waiting for ten minutes before he decided to let us know. So the taxi driver pulled Dan from stall to stall, checking with each of the private bus companies to see if they had buses running to Ceuta the next day. We soon found one, we think, and were on our way back to the town square after fond farewells with Viv and a big tip for our taxi driver.
We wandered the touristy medina streets in the light rain and Gabrielle bought some small ammonite fossils from a fascinating stall that was drenched in fossil souvenirs from a famous region in the south of Morocco. Giant fossil sinks, stacks of fossil plates, carvings and polished fossil paper weights in every shape and size filled the tables, and the short, tubby store owner blended in to the chaotic stack of fossil items in his grey and brown gelabia.
The rest of our day was spent between resting up at the hostel, still recovering our energy from the bouts of stomach flu from the last few days, and wandering the pretty blue washed streets and poking around at shops. Chefchaouen turned out to be quite the tourist town, mainly for Spaniards who had driven down for a brief holiday, but still managed to retain the striking beauty that had made it famous.
Tomorrow we head back to Spain. Morocco has been an interesting experience, full of ups and downs, and lots of memorable moments. It hasn't always been very easy traveling here but very much worth the effort.
All our best from Morocco
Dan and Gabes
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