Moroccan highlands

Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
Trip End Dec 15, 2006

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Friday, November 3, 2006

After our overnight in Tangier we got a 3 hour bus south to a mountain town named Chefchaouen. It's only 40-odd thousand people but doesn't lack the intensity of Tangier. Again the medina was crammed full of shops and people. Most buildings in the medina are painted an electric light-blue colour, apparently when the town was initially settled there was the Muslim and Jewish quarters and signified each by painting the Muslim buildings green and the Jewish part with that distinct blue colour, but after a while the whole place took up the blue colour.

The landscape heading up the Rif mountains was pretty cool. It's very sparse with plenty of small farming communities. As a result of a strange urban management scheme there are also random outcrops of housing and apartment blocks that seem to be in the middle of nowhere.

The bus ride was one of the more unpleasant ones we've endured, but for €4 euro (40 dirham) we weren't complaining. Although, it was more like €5. The ticket was 40 dirham, then its 5 dirham for them to tag your luggage and then when getting on the bus the luggage porter demands a tip of about the same again, and I presume failing to pay this extra tip probably means your bag just might accidentally fail to be there when you get off to collect it.

We were sketched out a little when we found our hotel and the guy pretty much refused to allow us to pay before we stay. I believe the tout who promised us the room for 40 dirham a night may have promised us a little less than the owner was expecting, but nonetheless we were promised a rate of 40 dihrams a night. More trouble began when the tout tried to sell us some hash (just like the other one in Tangier) but somehow got the idea that we were interested when we were just trying to lose him. He followed us around the town for most of the day pretending to be our guide and attempting to listen in to our plans to know where to try and send us next. In the end we lost him and he loitered around the hotel again for us and kept track of all our whereabouts. At about 9pm when we were heading back from dinner he confronted Luke and myself in the main square and demanded we buy the hash he had. When we refused he then started demanding money straight up as commission for taking us to the hotel. When we tried to tell him where to go he started getting agitated and began making veiled threats about us having to move to a new hotel if he didn't get his way. So we coughed up 50 dirham for the guy, who then demanded more, and began a tirade of swearing and abuse when we walked off. A quick chat to the hotel manager when we got back confirmed our suspicion that he really didn't need any money because hes mainly a drug dealer and that we had nothing to worry about with our room - they commonly threaten things like that to get money out of foreigners. All in all it still was not a nice experience and we will most probably avoid all touts from now on.

Our full day in Chefchaouen saw us off on bit of a trek up a nearby mountain. It wasn't very high but it sure was steep. We got a great view of the entire valley and the other mountains along the Rif.

The food is pretty good too. Plenty of street vendors sell fresh fruit and vegetables, but the best stuff is the restaurants that make tagines and couscous dishes. Although i'm a little paranoid about getting sick again from dodgy water, there isn't much I can do.
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