Essouira- along the coast

Trip Start Sep 16, 2006
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Trip End Sep 16, 2007


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Saturday, December 2, 2006

Essouira...

The night before leaving for Essouira out of Imintanoute, we packed and prepared our food carefully- ready for a 90 plus mile day (our longest yet). We were determined to make it all the way there, but unsure of the terrain as our (Michelin) map lacks a elevation key and the color chart is shoddy and unreliable. A sale map, what cabn ya do... The morning was freezing cold in the mountains, and we bundled up for the frosty ride out of town, fingertips chipping off. The morning traffic in these towns greets you with dozens of kids milling about and rushing off to one of the 3 schools in the area, and countless donkey carts off to work and transport goods. The road out of Imintanoute was equally neat- the Atlas mountains closing away behind us, replaced with red rocky rolling desert hills ahead.

The road was sunny, flat, long and amazing!!! Clay, red, rocky villages. The scenery was so different during different parts of the day it kept our interest; every peak we climbed, we had a guessing game of what lay beyond it. In general, the route was a series of climbs all day, with significant drops in elevation with each one, until the coastline.

Our route first took us North to Chichaouea, about 45 km north of Imintanoute, but the town was a disappointing ugly strip of new buildings, with a creepy and strong military presence. To be fair, the city IS growing, and we did only pass on the outskirts and through the bus terminal strip hell of rude men, so for all we know it might be a hidden gem-BUT, the truth is it looked sad and bland, and the only reviews or info on the place is scientific papers about blood borne pathogens and pollution. Next was Sidi-N-Moktar, which was a dusty busy busy main street stop, surrounded by shops and restaurants, and lots of goods being unloaded and picked up. After Sidi, the PM donkey traffic really made Anna giggle, because for anyone who has ever heard a donkey speak, you know how comical that can be. After Sidi, the sweet town of Tafetchka crept up, surrounded by green Argon trees and lush valleys. We saw a lot of 'generational' traffic- meaning a little boy on a little donkey coming home from school, his dad on a bigger one, and the grandpa on his older one- which struck us as very sweet. The landscape changed from bone dry desertlike formations and rocky cliffs, to green shrubbery and Argon.

The funny and interesting thing about Argon is its' harvest, and the production of the oil. The oil is the sustenance of this region, and the communities rely on it greatly. the story goes like this... Argon goats, which are those funny long haired goat creatures, climb the thick, inaccessible spiky tree shrubs, munch on the berries, and then poop out what they don't need- which then gets collected by the local women's Argon Collectives, processed, cleaned, and the seed pods are cracked and the oily innards are ground and extracted. Voila! Pretty impressive and labourious.

Along the route today, while passing by villages displaying hand made berber rugs in all colors of the rainbow, a seller of a raw sheep or goat skin attmpted to flag us down, thinking we might want to purchase this item and pack it with us maybe. This was odd, bu then he just shrugged and joked it off.

Some hours before reaching Essouira along the coast, we began riding the beautiful Tour of Morocco route! The road is newly paved and had Arabic slogans along various stages of it, which was really cool! We saw three real, live camels- our first in Morocco despite the rumours. One was tied up as a toruist trap by a embarrasing 'camel desert excursion' arrangement, but the other two were actually being used to transport goods. We also saw two Arabic ladies jogging! One was wearing full dress, headscarf and all, eye make up- the other wearing shorts and a t-hirt, which is sort of unusual in this culture.

Reaching Essouira, we were absolutely exhausted from the 95 mile ride. What a day! The city lay below us, enclosed by its' ancient walls, surrounded by the Atlantic and some pristine sandy beaches. The city is referred to correctly as 'Morocco Light' - a term we at first found offensive. But it's true- meaning it is clean, safe, predictable, quiet and not as insane and overwhelming as say, Fez or Marakesh.

A sweet place to honeymoon? A great place to relax. A true beach town atmosphere.

The inner city has been totally rebuilt, new cobblestones and everything. Nobody speaks Berber- this is land of French and English for every employee. People come here to find a date, to find romance- like any US beach maybe?

Outside the city, you are roadside greeted by overly eager guys flailing apartment keys, beckoning for you to come to their pension, hotel or Riad (a home style hotel). Also welco,ing you into the town, are many men walking around holding gigantic, 4 to 6 foot plastic model boats- waving them about as if we, on our bikes, want to purchase one. Rabid tourist 'guides', Riad hustlers and boat salesmen aside, it's a good place overall- it really is really sweet, even despite its' shop-a-holic culture. The streets are jammed with blanket, carpet, scarf and fabric salesmen- super overwhelmingly colorful. The port is a fully functional fishing depot, and the views of the rocky cliffs and beach are tremendous! Former home to icons such as Jimi Hendrix, a hippie haven, a surfers' dream- the spot is a vacation get-away for pretty much everyone in Europe and Morocco, it seems. And, you know you are in a beach town when your hotel features a shower -with- hot water AND western toilet that didn't smell like cabbage. The rooftop was incredible, and gave us the best people watching perch! the square below is great, and the connecting and never-ending rooftops surrounding us are an explorer's dream. Really neat!

We found the world's greatest bakery today, alive since the 20's, serving delicious French Moroccan pastries, presented so beautifully you are almost too sad to eat them. And strong coffee.

Lucie had two odd experiences, worthy of a mention.
While waiting for our egg and cheeze sandwiches, hungry and quietly people watching outside of the little shop, a pissed off Muslim man barged over to her, stood very close to her face, yelling and accusing her of having 'sneaky eyes', 'reporting' on things he said, (pointing to her journal), and demanding she stop lying to him and tell him where she was from before she even said anything. It was really unexpected and sort of startling, as he escalated his voice and started really getting furious and waving his arms around for no apparent reason. So we think he thought she was a reporter...?

And immediately after this incident, a little shaken up in the internet cafe, a random middle aged English speaking man saunters over to her computer, and asks her out to a drink next door.

Weird nights can be had here...just like anywhere.

One more thing to mention is that Essouira is thick on the feline population, and from what we saw, everyone who lives here cares for the cats and feeds them all day. We saw so many kittens we stopped counting- they are fuzzy sweet things, and they are absolutely everywhere: every stall has one munching left overs and floor scraps, and every fabric or colorful rug shop has a few curled up in a pile. Really uncanny, making us mis our Fifa back at home despite all her flaws and evil habits.
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Comments

tetedecorse
tetedecorse on

WOW
I've been enthralled reading all of your entries! This is becoming quite the trip! It has to be scary with all of these people watching your every move. I hope Kurt is safe in his solo mountain adventure.

All is quiet on the western front, CX season is winding down, I placed 11th overall in the Bay Area Super Prestige Series (Cat C.) Missing you all and wishing you well.

-love Cal

klone
klone on

funfunfun
it all sounds so crazy and fun and so not here in the states, ive been trying to keep up with your travels as much as possible. we are all thinking of you here in oaktown.

bedam
bedam on

lovin it
i blew work off this afternoon to join your travels...all is so informative, the argon goats, fascinating really. i can almost smell the atmosphere and hear the cacophony of surround sounds. sure seems like anna is a hottie and in the hearts of these berber men ;) AND YOU LADIES LOVE THE PASTRIES!!

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