Sunday, January 3, 2010

al-Maġrib (pt. one)

missing out on ireland redirected our path towards various areas of england that we had both never been to, and loved intensely (this youve been made aware of). from the big smokey couch of brighton, our path was influenced toward something we had all but given up on. after barcelona, we did indeed make our way to the african continent. we woke early in our hostel on la rambla and made our way down to catch a taxi to the airport. our driver seemed extra sluggish, perhaps annoyed by my three-year old spanish. exclamations of "rápido, señor! estamos muy tarde por el avión!" seemingly only made the man go slower (literally stopping a few times as we cruised la rambla, to tell me to put on my already fastened seatbelt, among other insanities). whatever the cause (a ticking meter on the cabbies dash is the most probable one i can think of), matters not for soon we boarded our plane to malaga. a few bus rides after landing in malaga, we were deposited in the port city of algeciras, one of two points in southern spain to catch the ferry to morocco from. we planned on going to the other point (tarifa), but as we discussed waiting for three hours to catch the bus to tarifa (which is only about 25 miles from algeciras) somebody heard us and implored us to just take the ferry from algeciras. following the advice of a stranger, we walked the few blocks from the bus station to the port. greeting us at the port were the first of dozens of "helpful" souls that we encountered as we guess-worked our way to mama africa. these gentlemen herded us toward their friends ferry-ticketing business. we were sold tickets, some euros more than we should have, for a ferry that boarded twenty minutes before we even entered said establishment. while our tickets were being processed for the first time, two other hurried/frantic looking tourists (one of which was carrying a surf board)entered the establishment and we exchanged greetings and soon, goodbyes. as we were returning to the ticket office, we ran into the gentlemen we met earlier and found that they, too, had been hustled. alas, we explained our situation to the ticket vendor, and were given new tickets for the same route (or so we thought). running back to the port, i looked at our new tickets and saw that our destination had been changed. we found our way through security and met up with twice mentioned gentlemen for a third time. these gents (doug and nate from here on out) so happened to be headed where we were headed, albeit through a different port on the other side of the straight of gibraltar (we caught them at the very beginning of an insanely ambitious trek of the length of continental africa. they hail from vancouver and wanted to escape the expenses and insanity of a city hosting the olympics. i hope they are doing well, wherever they are now).

(leaving spain, to go to spain)

(the rock of gibraltar)

(nate and darth)

(nate, douglas and melissa)

(spanish castle in morocco)

we landed in ceuta and somehow found the bus to the border (yes, ceuta is a spanish city on the african continent), all the while doug drawing attention/giggles/stares, toting his surf board through the streets and onto the buses of ceuta. the border between ceuta and the rest of morocco consists of a dirt lot enclosed by a chain link fence that we went on foot through, while people swarmed us exclaiming "my friend! my friend!" trying to get us to buy this, take a ride in their taxi, etc. this atmosphere did not produce in us a sense of trust, but official-ish looking people (laminated business cards hanging on lanyards from their necks)got us through customs (which included getting scanned for swine flu) and yelled at the junkies offering us rides in their taxis to get away. we eventually accepted a taxi offer from one of the laminated-lanyard fellows. his friend would drive us straight to chefchaouen for a good twenty euros a piece. all accounts settled and ready to drive off, another of the lanyard men delayed us in asking for a tip. douglas (surf board) finally relinquished a hefty amount of euros in the man's direction and we were off.

(just over the border, colors flying proud)

(cramming douglas' board into the trunk)

if only for thirty minutes. we pulled into the first town we came to, stopped at the side of the road and our driver starting demanding "passports! passports!" eventually douglas wandered off, with passport in hand, with the driver leading the way. eventually, to our relief, the two returned to the vehicle and we were officially on the way.

every single town we passed on the three and a half hour drive our cabbie would exclaim loudly and then start giggling, thus making us giggle in response (it was our main way of communicating with him, this giggling, for he didnt speak french or spanish or english and we didnt speak arabic or berber). we passed massive sheep and goat sales (sheep getting wrangled and man-handled into cramped trunks) and gorgeous mountains and valleys with the setting sun playing off of them. after climbing into the mountains where chefchaouen resides (chaouen! chaouen! he exclaimed in between giggles), our cabbie dropped us off at the city center. we were unmercifully hounded all the way to our hostel by prospective tour guides. we made it to our pension and settled in to an epic three course meal at a nearby restaurant and then found sleep in the rhythms of doug's gargantuan snoring patterns.
(hefty meal, hefty day, canadians)

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