24 May Snow in Morocco, back to Spain!?!
Day 72 – 74 1/2 (20/22 May 2013) – We are ready to leave Meknes and want to head into the Middle Atlas Mountains toward Ifrane. Supposedly there is a campground in town where we want to stay for a couple of days. Although Meknes was relatively laid back we are ready to leave the busy cities and want to go check out the cedar forest and maybe do some hiking.
We leave Meknes on a 4-lane road, traffic is steady but not too busy, and most drivers keep their distance. Today’s ride is pretty slow since we are steadily climbing for over 40 miles. Every time we think we make it to the top of the hill, there is more climbing to be done and before we know it we have made it over 5500ft in elevation with still more climbing to be done before reaching our destination.
Several miles before reaching Ifrane we spot many areas that would be suitable for a wild camp spot; yet, trying to do the right thing and confident that there is a campsite in town we keep on going. As we pop out of the wooded area into a highland prairie we feel a little chilly and to our amazement we can see our own breath. We watch another shepherd rush his sheep down the hill—maybe to get them home before nightfall.
Just before town we get so cold, that we look for our gloves and jackets, before continuing on.
Not sure where the campground exactly is located, we stop to consult our map, as a man drives by, asks whether we need help, and motions us to follow him to the campground. Quickly we follow his car. We spot the campground, tell the man thank you and good bye, and head to the gate.
To our utter disappointment the campground is closed and actually looks like it has been closed for a very long time. Everything is overgrown and the bathrooms have been vandalized and the “reception” is completely empty with junk all around. By this time it is getting dark, and the cold is ripping right through our clothes. When the police drive by, we ask whether there is another campground in town, or whether it might be possible to stay at this one without getting into trouble. The answer was disappointing as well: the only other campground is about 17 km away, and no–we are not allowed to stay here.
Since it is dark now and it is starting to rain, we decide to look for a room in town. We find out quickly that the prices in this little town are highly overinflated. As we check another hotel, a man is waving us down in front of the place, telling us he has an apartment for rent. Not sure whether he is scamming us, we are a little reluctant to follow him and tell him we want to check another hotel. He follows us to the hotel, which has a better price, but seems more like a brothel than a hotel and gives us a look like “see, told you so, just follow me to my place”.
Eventually we give in and follow him, “just to check it out”.
The price was right, the place looked ok, we filled out regular paperwork like we would at a hotel, and got a place to sleep for the night.
For being a fairly nice small apartment, it had no heat what so ever. So we just went to bed early inside our sleeping bag to stay warm.
In the morning we wake up to rain drumming on the tin roof. After a while it sounded less like rain drops, but we could hear slushing sounds as cars drive by. As we look outside we are amazed by what we see. It is snowing!! We are in Morocco, Northern Africa, and it is freaking snowing on us.
Just ten days ago in Spain, we had sent all of our cold weather gear to Germany, because we figured it was getting warmer and we were still heading south…and here we are getting snowed on!
We still get ready to ride, put our rain gear on and double, no we triple up on our shirts to stay warm.
We ride to the center of town to get free WiFi to check the weather. Apparently the weatherman on weather.com has no clue what is going in Morocco, it was supposed to be 11° Celsius (52° F) and sunshine, while we are being snowed on. A local goes by and tells us it is going to be like this for another week.
We stand there for a moment in disbelief. We were really looking forward to seeing Morocco’s quiet side, check out the cedar forest, hike the mountains and maybe get to see a couple of monkeys.
But we are not going to wait out the bad weather for a week in a tent and without our winter gear. So we decide to head back to Meknes. Maybe the snow is a sign for us to turn back, since we were being lured deeper and deeper into Morocco, to explore more of it; all the while we are deviating from our original route.
The good part about riding back is, that it is 40-some miles of down hill.
Once in Meknes, we figure we go find the bus station to get a ride back to Tangier and then a ferry back to Spain. To save us another hotel room, we decide to take the 01:15 am bus, which arrives in Tangier in time to catch the 07:00am ferry. It is a long day of riding and traveling, but we were up for it.
By eleven in the morning we set up camp in Tarifa Spain in a campground by the beach.
It is windy but the sun is shining, the campground is quiet, and the beach is beautiful.
We’ll stay here for a few days.
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