day 134 to 140 Chefchaouen to Fes, Morocco

 

Fes the old Medina from above

Fes the old Medina from above

day 140 – Moulay Idriss to Fes, Morocco

22nd January 2012.  We were greeted by the usual morning mint tea from Abdul and his brother and we got ready to leave.  Tina had a chat to Di who is travelling down to Mali with her husband Neil who I had chatted to last night.  They have bought a Hotel in Timbuktu and had a house built as well as building a school for the local children so they are going to be very busy working on their projects when they get down there.  I had a chat to Neil about funding the donkey and cart and he is going to run the idea by the ‘village chief’ when they get there. 

We said our goodbyes to Abdul who has made our stay really enjoyable and headed off to Fes.  The drive there was wonderful as we went back over the mountains. It’s just so fascinating to be sharing the road with donkeys and carts, lorries, mopeds and a few other motorhomes too.  One thing we have noticed on our travels is that before every town and after every town there is a police road check.  They make you slow down, they have ‘stingers’ at the ready and it’s as if they are looking for someone.  Luckily it’s not us as we have always been waved through.

Driving tip for Motorhomers:  If you have experience of Morocco you probably know this already but there is an unwritten rule that lorries don’t make way for Motorhomes on narrow roads (most of the roads are a bit tight for a widish vehicle going in both directions because the asphalt on the shoulder of the road falls away in big chunks thus narrowing the road).  The best strategy is when a lorry is coming towards you slow right down or even stop if there isn’t traffic behind you and pull well over to the right so they can pass.  After all we are having fun enjoying ourselves and are in no rush and they are working.  Allow time between destinations so that you don’t end up driving in the dark or having to rush as the potholes in the roads can be large and should be avoided.  They are hard enough to see in the day time to take evasive action in time so you could damage a wheel or tyre at night.  We have also noticed that lorry’s will also indicate right when you are behind them showing you if its safe to pass them on inclines when they are literally crawling up the hill (really helpful if you have a right hand drive motorhome like us). All the lorry drivers we have come across have been really friendly and we give and always get a smile and a wave.

We arrived on the outskirts of Fes and spotted the sign for the commercial zone and the big Supermarket Marjane so we were heading for that when a moped rider started to try and flag us down shouting something about the campsite and going the wrong way.  We ignored him and headed for the supermarket but he followed us and then explained that free of charge he will guide us to Camping International and maybe if we would like, his brother who has a car could take us on a tour around Fes.  We politely declined said we were OK and went shopping.  As soon as we got out he was there again explaining that we might got lost and all the wonderful sights his brother could show us.  I was getting a bit tired of the whole thing and was starting to raise my voice because a quiet NO didn’t seem to register.  Eventually he disappeared and after we had a snack I took Loli for a walk only to see him waiting for us at the edge of the car park.  I spoke to him again and it turns out that the Campsite pay a tip if they guide people in so his name was Abdulas and I agreed just to help him that he could guide us in.  Well we got to the campsite safe enough and checked in OK and then Abdulas’s brother turned up from no where.  By this time Tina had reverted to her tactic of hiding in the bathroom.  I was introduced to Abdulas’s brother who could do a tour for 200Dh.  I declined politely and his brother was fine and at last we got to park up and relax with a cuppa.  Its just the way the Moroccans are but it can be a bit nerving!   [Camping Morocco, page 51, FES, Camping International de Fes, Routede Sefrou, Fes from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].

day 139 – Meknes, Morocco

21st January 2012. Another sunny day and we decided to take the bus into Mekenes. 

The bus - what do you expect for 80 pence for a 45 minute ride

The bus - what do you expect for 60 pence for a 45 minute ride

That was a fun trip the bus had seen better days but for just about 60 pence each we got a 45 minute bus ride into town.  Meknes is a very impressive walled city with beautiful arch ways all mostly intact. 

One of the many fabulous gates into Meknes

One of the many fabulous gates into Meknes

 

Fruit market, Meknes

Fruit market, Meknes

It reminded me if the type of city you read about in Sinbad or Ali Babar.  We wandered through the ancient Medina and got completely lost until a kind Moroccan guy said follow me and we ended up in the main square. 

Spices in the Medina

Spices in the Medina

 

This man sold us tea!

This man sold us tea!

We did some shopping and bought some ‘Berber Whiskey Tea’ so we can make our own mint tea.

Tina enjoyed her sausages until she found out what they were made of!

Tina enjoyed her sausages until she found out what they were made of!

After all that we needed a cheeky mint tea and ended up having a meal overlooking the square and all the activity.  There were horse and camel rides, a monkey man arrived and a snake charmer it was a real hive of activity.

The King has a big photo on all of his palace,s he has so many he may forget where he lives!

The King has a big photo on all of his palace's he has so many he may forget where he lives!

 

A carriage passing the main gate of the Kings Palace

A carriage passing the main gate of the Kings Palace

We were going to take a horse drawn carriage ride around the city as this had been recommended to us as a cheap and interesting way to see the sights but Tina was upset about the condition of the horses, they did all look rather thin and emaciated so we walked instead.  We saw the big mosque and we walked round the massive and well guarded royal palace.  Apparently the King of Morocco has a Palace in every city!  If they are all that size then you can see where some of the money disappears. 

 

Tina and I in the stables, notice the olive tree said Hamed

Tina and I in the stables, notice the olive tree said Hamed

As we were trying to find our way back to the bus station I made the mistake of asking a guy outside the Sahrij Soumi which are the old stables that used to house over 1,300 horses.  Next thing you know we are paying the 10 Dh (€1) entrance fee to go in and then after the usual negotiation we knocked our ‘guide’ Hamed down from 50Dh (€5) to 20Dh (€2).  The building must have been impressive when it was being used and full of horses but it’s been empty and unmaintained since the 70’s and even Hamed’s ‘tour’ didn’t leave us that impressed however he did insist on taking loads of pictures of us and then at the end asked for an extra 10Dh (€1) which we of course declined – the pictures he took were rubbish anyway :-)

You probably know this already if you have visited Morocco or any other Arab countries but negotiating is really important to them but it’s a bit alien for us.  Our tactic is to have a small denomination note in the ‘negotiating pocket’ and just say we only have this so either take it or we won’t take the tour.  They give you the tour for the money because it’s off season or whatever but a deal is a deal and they don’t ask for the money until they have delivered the tour so that’s fair.  

When we got back I was walking Loli around the campsite and I met a nice couple who had an ‘expedition truck’ with GB plates and they are on their way to Mali and Timbuktu how fabulous is that!  I always remember my grandmother referring to Timbuktu being a very far off place and it was going to take them 3 weeks to get there.  They have built a school out there and they own a hotel and are heading back out to build up the hotel business and help the school more.  They are after the money for a donkey and cart to take the children to school.  It turns out some of them have to walk 10km in 45 degree heat to school and back without being fed and it’s just too much for the little ones so they don’t go to school.  [Camping Morocco, page 54, MOULAY IDRISS, Camping Bellview, Route Moulay Idriss – Zerhoun from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk]. 

day 138 – Moulay Idriss, Morocco

20th January 2012. It was a beautiful sunny day so we took the opportunity to do some washing – how exciting!  I walked into the local village in the afternoon to pick up a few supplies and what an experience that was.  This was the real Morocco the Souk (Market) was housed under tubes of polythene sheeting nearly all the food on offer seemed to be alive so cages of chickens and pens of goats and sheep.  When I got to the end of one ‘tube’ I found the butcher who was happy to take your live purchase and turn it into chops for you.  It was unusual not to be approached and whistled in fact it was hard to buy stuff as nobody seemed that bothered.  I bought tomatoes, onions, bread and I even managed to get 6 eggs after they understood that I didn’t want an omelette all for the princely sum of about £1.20. 

We ate in the campsite restaurant in the evening it was one of the best meals we have had.  The campsite owner really goes out of his way to make you feel welcome.  He brings sweet mint tea to your van in the morning and bread if you have ordered it and we were made to feel like a king and a queen especially as we were the only ones in the restaurant. [Camping Morocco, page 54, MOULAY IDRISS, Camping Bellview, Route Moulay Idriss – Zerhoun from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk]. 

day 137 – Chefchaouen to Volubilis to Moulay Idriss, Morocco

19th January 2012.  We moved on today, south in the direction of the oldest Roman ruins in Morocco at Volubilis.  The drive was fabulous down the N13 through the mountains; we got a real taste for how the people living in the area live and work.  The donkey is still really the main stay of the economy here. They are used for transport, for ploughing fields, for carrying a whole host of things from gas bottles, to water, to olive oil, to produce.  We also saw them being used walking around a grinding mill.  There are literally hundreds of them everywhere.  In many areas it looks like people just about manage to eek out a living from what doesn’t appear to be that fertile land.  Fields have been cultivated right up and over the hills and mountains every last little bit of land is being used to yield something.  As we drove we also got a wave from young children and adults alike everyone seemed really friendly. 

Watch your motorhome in service stations this guy had his truck stolen from under him!

Watch your motorhome in service stations this guy had his truck stolen from under him!

We stopped for a cheeky mint tea and some lunch at a Moroccan Service Station.  It was clean, the food and the tea was excellent and just like service stations all over the world you pay a bit more than you would in a local restaurant however compared to the prices in Europe its still cheap. 

Volubilis equivalent of the Arch de Triumph according to Abdul

Volubilis equivalent of the Arch de Triumph according to Abdul

 

Volubilis equivalent of the Champs Elyse

Volubilis equivalent of the Champs Elyse according to Abdul

 

Enjoying the sun on the Volubilis Champs Elyse

Enjoying the sun on the Volubilis Champs Elyse

 

The storks or 'Clack Clack' birds nest everywhere

The storks or 'Clack Clack' birds nest everywhere

We arrived at Volubilis the sun was shining and there were already a couple of motorhomes parked outside so we parked up and paid the man who watches your car his 10 Dh (€1).  Then we went inside and paid our 10Dh (€1) each to walk around the wonderful looking Roman Ruins and then we were approached by Abdul.  Abdul was happy to show us around for 140 Dh (€14)  the price in the ‘tourist book’.  Well we only had 50 Dh (€5) with us so we declined and walked on but Abdul wouldn’t give up and in the end because it was quiet he would do the small tour for 50Dh (€5) and would accept a gift from England.  Abdul was actually very good and it was really worth having a guide because there were no guide book or information signs that were readable.  We ended up getting the big tour because we were so nice!  Volubilis is really worth a visit it doesn’t match Pompey or Ephesus but you can get a clear idea of what life was like living in Roman times. 

View from the brothel

View from the brothel

 

This sign pointed you in the right direction for the brothel

This sign pointed you in the right direction for the brothel

For the first time we saw Roman Manhole Covers which was cool and a rude brothel sign (see picture).  We paid Abdul his money and his gift from England was a bag of clothes we had been planning to donate anyway. [Camping Morocco, page 54, MOULAY IDRISS, Camping Bellview, Route Moulay Idriss – Zerhoun from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk]. 

day 136 – Chefchaouen, Morocco

Tina with JW and Marion and their expedition home

Tina with JW and Marion and their expedition home

18th January 2012.  We were leaving to go for a walk around the town and visit the Kasbah when I noticed that the owners of expedition home that I liked the look of were about and I got chatting to them and they invited Tina and me for coffee.  They were a lovely adventurous retired Dutch couple JW and Marion.  They also had a sailing boat, both were experienced sailors and travellers and JW had even crossed the Atlantic single handed.  They gave us a ‘tour’ of their home and explained all the good and bad bits which was so helpful. 

We just love the mint tea (Berber Whiskey)

We just love the mint tea (Berber Whiskey)

We or actually probably more like I left inspired and we went down into town for lunch and a cheeky mint tea.  The Moroccans call mint tea ‘Berber Whiskey’ and it has become my favourite drink. 

Lunch was Chicken Coscous - The food is fab in Morocco

Lunch was Chicken Coscous - The food is fab in Morocco

After lunch we had a look around the Kasbah which is a fortress right in the centre of the town which is now a museum.  Unfortunately all the descriptions of the fascinating photographs were either in Arabic, French or Spanish so we had to satisfy ourselves with just looking at the photos.

View of the Mosque from the Kasbah

View of the Mosque from the Kasbah

 

View from the Kasbah

View from the Kasbah

As we left the Kasbah and walked across Uta el-Hammam square direction the famous springs we were accosted by Mohammed.  Just a word of warning if you visit Chefchaouen that the square is full of people who just want to ‘help’ tourists.  They will offer to be your guide to show you this, that or the other.  Or try and sell you a carpet, hashish or lunch it doesn’t really matter what it is because they are all on commission from the surrounding shops and restaurants.  I am fine with this because you can always say no but for some reason when Mohammed approached us we didn’t say no.  I think it was probably because he didn’t try and sell me drugs.  Instead he helped us shop for vegetables, then took us to his ‘brothers’ shop who was also called Mohammed so that we could see the locally woven rungs and blankets.  He was actually an OK guy, he spoke 5 languages and we got the full carpet/rug treatment at the shop.  However although we had talked about ‘themeing’ Christina in a Moroccan style we had no dimensions of the seats with us so were un sure about sizes so I declined and the more I declined the lower the price became – fascinating.  Anyway we didn’t buy there but we couldn’t shake off Mohammed who wanted to show us the way to the springs just in case we got lost. 

We found the springs!

We found the springs!

How caring, kind and considerate of him. However coincidentally we passed another rug shop this time well off the beaten track where the blankets were better quality and cheaper because no tourists found their way there alone.  How convenient I thought.  Well to cut a long story short we did buy 3 throws/blankets and we got 3 cushions covers thrown in.  It wasn’t an amazing deal but we were happy with the final price, Mohammed was going to earn some commission and Christina has now got a very Moroccan looking interior.  The way I look at it we were supporting local craftsmen and the local economy isn’t that what tourism is all about?  [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk]. 

day 135 – Chefchaouen, Morocco

17th January 2012.  Went for a walk in the National Park whose entrance is right next to the camp site in search of ‘the viewing platform’.  We didn’t actually find the viewing platform but we had a fab walk.  The three of us headed into the hills and after we got past the rubbish dump and the poor dead donkey the landscape opened out to display the Rif mountains. 

Tina under the rainbow

Tina under the rainbow

It was raining a bit which was great because we had a fabulous rainbow to follow.  You could actually see where it began and where it ended however it kept moving so we didn’t actually get to the end of that either. 

As we got further into the mountains we came across bunches of young boys who were looking after herds of sheep and goats who on our approach with Loli started to scatter.  As a result we got followed a number of times by bunches of them chatting away to us although we couldn’t naturally understand a word. 

What we have noticed though is that in this area rather than French being the second language they all appeared to be able to speak Spanish and addressed us in Spanish as we passed by. 

Although the road was just a gravel track there was a local bus service which carried people between the villages and Chefchaouen.  The houses in the mountains had electricity and satellite dishes but didn’t seem to have running water because there were loads of hose pipes running down the mountains into the villages providing fresh spring water. 

It's a hard life for the Berber women of the Rif mountains

It's a hard life for the Berber women of the Rif mountains

Out here the women have a really hard life they were either carrying huge bundles of sticks on their backs or working in the fields or washing clothes in the stream and hanging them on bushes.  While in contrast the men sat around watching sheep and goats, laying the odd brick on the many unfinished buildings or trying to persuade me to smoke this hashish stuff. 

A wooden plough pulled by two donkeys still used today

A wooden plough pulled by two donkeys still used today

After we had walked for a couple of hours and the road had dwindled to a path we stopped for our picnic lunch and then headed back. 

They've not invented the clothes line yet

They've not invented the clothes line yet

When we arrived back at the campsite it was full gain with a bunch of new and interesting motorhomes including a troupe of Germans and a fab Dutch registered expedition motorhome. I could never understand train spotting but now I have a bit more empathy because I have become an avid motorhome/camper spotter.  They do fascinate me because of the huge variations that they come in.  This expedition home was based on a blue Iveco chassis with a white habitation unit on it, with big chunky tyres and a huge diesel tank it looked all set to cross deserts.  The manufacturers name and website was on it so I looked straight up on the internet as I really do fancy one of those. 

We spent what was left of the day drinking tea, chillin and on the tinterweb. [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk]. 

We were going to walk up to the Spanish Mosque if it hadn't poured with rain

We were going to walk up to the Spanish Mosque if it hadn't poured with rain

day 134 – Chefchaouen, Morocco

16th January 2012.  We can’t believe it!  It had rained all night which is really fun in a motorhome because it pitter patters on the roof and makes you feel extra snug and dry and secure but it didn’t stop all day.  We planned to wait until it eased off a bit but it didn’t and as a result motorhomer’s started to leave the camp site in droves including our favourite ‘double decker’ van which it turned out collapses down for travelling. 

Tina having a cuppa and doing Computer stuff

Tina having a cuppa and doing Computer stuff

We caught up with blogging, I finished the ‘Kite Runner’ which is a brilliant book and Tina practiced Beatle songs on her Ukulele. 

We were just sitting drinking tea looking out of our window when a small VW camper pulled up.  It had a high top, was clearly 4 wheel drive and had one of those snorkel air filter things and big chunky tyres.  On the side of the van was a world map and it was clear that the owners of this fab little expedition van had already been to China along the silk route and down the length of South America because they had put their route on the map.  As Tina said we think we are having an adventure but compared to the Dutch owners of this van our BIG trip is rather like popping down to the local supermarket! [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].

 

 

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