14 May Leaving Spain–welcome to chaotic, colorful, busy, amazing Morocco
Day 64 (12 May 2013) – It is a short ride from Algeciras to Tarifa, where we catch the ferry to Morocco. On our way there we have to climb two more mountains. As we reach the the second hilltop, we see dozens of windmills turning so quickly it is dizzying to watch them as we ride by. The winds along the Straights of Gibraltar are strong and there are many warning signs along the road of winds crossing as we descent into Tarifa—luckily it is to our back!
Before reaching the city, we find a ticket booth for the ferry. Unlike another place where we checked before, this one does not charge for our bicycles. Without hesitation, we went ahead and purchased the round-trip tickets, which are good for a year…just in case we really like it over there.
Once at the port we find the office to exchange our tickets for boarding passes. Afterwards we stand in line with the cars to pass through the border control to exit Spain, and then to board the ferry. After a little bit of organized chaos, cars honking their horns, people shouting, and getting all the cars, busses, bikes, people, and masses of luggage securely into the hull, we find a place to sit and have a cup of coffee.
Since it is really windy, the water looks very choppy and there are many whitecaps on the surface. Surprisingly though, the ride is very smooth and we do not notice too many waves.
While on board, we stand in line at the back of the boat to get our passports stamped to enter Morocco, before docking in Africa. After a short 40 minute ride, we arrive.
Exiting the ferry is easy…entering a whole new world though is a little nerve wrecking! Especially, since we do not know the language, nor do we know where to go. Our GPS maps do not cover this part of the world, and the directions to the Riad, where we plan on staying the night are not very clear.
As soon as we exit the port, we encounter all kinds of faux-tour-guides, trying to hustle us into following them to “the best place in town”.
Between the traffic being chaotic and guys trying to get our attention around every corner, we are trying to follow the vague directions to the Riad… and get lost. Eventually, Petra figures she asks a women which way to go, since most women do not seem to like to get involved into the hustle-business. Unfortunately the woman does not know the way either and asks another passerby for directions. The old man quickly jumps on the opportunity to show us the way. (So much for that plan not to get hustled!) Reluctantly and after much discussion, we follow him. He takes us into the old Medina, through some narrow, twisty alleyways, into a somewhat shabby looking alley…and there it is—our Riad. Unfortunately it is filled and we have no reservations.
Luckily, right next to it is another Riad located, where the man insists we knock on the door. A very pleasant man opens the door and states his price. We are so overwhelmed by the first impressions of Morocco, the traffic, the chaos, the people, the colors, and smells that we decided to stay. After giving the old man a small tip, the Riad house manager tells the faux-tour-guide, and the herd of kids following us to leave.
Finally…a sanctuary! Once we are able to take a deep breath, relax, and look around, we are amazed at how beautiful this guest house is! The mosaic tiles, the colors, and the whole outlay of the house is just marvelous.
After a quick shower, changing clothes, we get directions to find an ATM and a place to eat a quick bite. After some food in our stomach, we are feeling much better and get a hang of fending off hustlers quickly to really enjoy the Medina.
We wander through the ancient Medina with its alleyways and fresh markets filled with copious amounts of fresh fruits, herbs, spices…the colors and aromas are astonishing. Much happier and much more confident, we return back to the Riad to spend some time on the roof terrace to enjoy the nightlights of the city.
Life is great again!