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Rose & Brian 04 October 2009

Hi All

Again I used motor sailing time to start another update. We seem to have done so
much it is worth updating this one as we leave Morocco and send it at our next
destination. Our plan, after reading the Rough Guide, was to spend a couple of days
in Al Hoceima, then get the bus to Chefchaouen – about 260 km inland – spend a
few nights there then return,. This would be the first time we had abandoned Alixora
to her own devices in 3 months. The guide said “There are very few journeys in
Morocco as spectacular as that from Chefchaouen to Al Hoceima. The road
precisely – and perversely – follows the backbone of the Western Rif, the highest
peaks in the north of the country.” And Chefchaouen was recommended as one of
the best introductions to Morocco.

We arrived in Al Hoceima on Wednesday 23rd September in good time, despite

fighting wind and current to get there. We could see the rocky headland that we had
to go around and it didn’t seem to get closer very quickly.

Fishing dock

Al Hoceima is a busy fishing port with a ferry terminal – quite a big complex with two
fishing boat docks separate from the ferry area. We arrived around 4pm but spent a
good half hour trying to tie up in the acres of space available in the ferry terminal.
The wind was pushing us away from the harbour wall, said concrete wall was about a
metre higher than our deck, and only huge ferry bollards to tie to, set about another
metre in from the edge.
Finally I managed to lassoe one after I had given up trying to scramble onto the dock.
However it was a nice day, the harbour was empty, no-one was watching and there
wasn’t any hurry. When we finally tied up, I went ashore to see whether we were
able to stay put and what the procedure was. The ferry terminal is big, with lots of
car marshalling space, a very new terminal building all marble and glass, and it was
all deserted! The ferries only run from June to September and already seem to have
stopped. I found a uniformed guard who said that where we had tied up was fine and
that he had already phoned the authorities to let them know we had arrived! So back
to the boat to wait for the various officials to arrive. First the maritime policeman –
very smart with very shiny shoes – who athletically jumped onto the boat and sat
down to take all our details – just the same as the one in El Jebha but this time he
knew what the questions meant and his English was very good. We had been
warned in the pilot books that officials would ask for “baksheesh” and he was the first
(and last) to do so – but seemed to be happy with a single packet of cigarettes.

The maritime policeman confirmed we were fine to stay where we were. The next
along was the immigration official – we went off to his little cabin in the terminal and
filled in the forms – almost the same ones as the maritime police but with the addition
of immigration forms. Finally the Port Authority man turned up in a car with a form to
fill in (yes the same information) and instructions to take the completed form to the
Port offices where we would pay for our stay – only £2 a night!

We then ventured off into the hinterland of the ferry terminal.

On investigation (this took some time, not wanting to do anything that might not be
permitted) we found very posh toilets inside this vast empty marble edifice with glass
offices, body scanning machines and smart blue upholstered chairs. There was a
portacabin toilet outside, but the ladies was locked and the gents was full of building
material. However there was no water supply in either – eventually we found out that
the whole port had been cut off. So to go to the loo (our holding tank is big, but not
big enough for more than 2-3 days!) we had to fill a bucket with seawater and lug it
into the terminal building to flush the toilet. They were most apologetic about this and
the supply was going to be fixed tomorrow (every day)!

This fishing boat also came into the ferry terminal and they had a huge argument
about something. You can just see one guy on the left holding a small tuna!

We dug out the Rough Guide

map and wandered up into
town, looking for a tourist
office to ask about bus times,
supermarkets etc. After a
fruitless evening being told
there was, and then there
wasn’t a tourist info place,
and the next morning
continuing the hunt we finally
found a very helpful man in
the town hall who told us
where everything was – and
no, there wasn’t a big
supermarket in town!
The first evening and several times thereafter we went to the recommended fishing
dock restaurant – really nice food and very restful. The short menu listing all the fish
was supplemented by a metal platter displaying small amounts of the different sorts
of raw fish, so that if you said “what is this one” the waiter could point it out on the
dish! We had found a fish book at last in Gibraltar (Mediterranean Seafood, Alan
Davidson) so I now know that I had Pageot which is Bronze or Spanish bream – and
very nice it was too. They coat the fish in a salty flour and deep fry them I think –
anyway they are very crunchy on the outside. Of course, when ordering fish, that is
all you get! So we had to remember to get salad and chips too. On future days we
had sardines and gilt head sea bream, and Brian had lots of octopus and squid.

The next day we went hunting for food and managed to find the souk market where
they sell everything from tatty old stalls covered over with even tattier tarpaulins, old
sacks etc. We found a small tuna which we baked for dinner and had enough left
over for fish and bean salad the next day – a pleasant change from bread and
cheese and salad. Surprisingly we never found anywhere that sold cheese in
Morocco, although they did sell pasteurised (rather than UHT) milk almost
everywhere. When we were in Chefchaouen we did see soft cheese, but weren’t self
catering then.

To cut a long story shorter, we sent the last episode of our blog to you, bought bus
tickets for Chefchaouen and set off on a 7 hour trip on Saturday 26th. By this time we
had become au fait with the operation of the plentiful “petit taxis” which take you
anywhere local for between 50p to £1 and saved us a lot of time including getting to
and from bus stations on the outskirts of town. The clouds had started gathering and
it had started raining as we set off for Chefchaouen.

Nevertheless I remained glued to my window as we climbed up and up the
mountains, catching glimpses of cliff faces, huge valleys and mountains through an
absolute deluge and high wind. We arrived on Saturday evening and got a taxi to the
outskirts of the medina (walled old town) and found our way to our reserved hotel
room. It was brilliant and very quaint – a riad (built around a central courtyard) but
very small – the courtyard must only have been 10ft each side! Also, in the rain, it
gets wet as you might imagine!

Our bedroom

Internal balcony

Courtyard with stairs to rooftop


It continued to drizzle on Sunday

but cleared up on Monday.

The next two days we walked a

lot, wandered through the old
town and got lost a few times
(very touristy now, but apparently
only discovered by Europeans in
the 1920’s) went to the market on
Monday and set off back on
Tuesday at 5am to catch the bus
at 6.30am. There was so much
to take in, I will just list some of
the interesting things and include
the pictures to give a poor
impression of the place: (oh no, not bullet points you say, so I have picked pretty
• Temperature at the top of the mountains was 10°C - brrr. In Chefchaouen it
was about 17°C so we wore all our layers – didn’t think to take coats!
• A young couple were ordered off the bus by the restaurant waiter to eat the
meal they had ordered but then abandoned, as the bus had beeped that it
was ready to go. The bus waited!
• Little stalls selling bags of dyes and henna
• Women with hennaed finger tips
• The whole town is painted blue and white – where the alleyways turn into
private cul-de-sacs the floor is painted blue too.
• Berber women herding goats wearing red and white striped blankets round
their waists over trousers (and straw hats)
• Donkeys being loaded with gas cylinders for delivery to the houses
• Men in djellabas (long hooded gowns) looking like elves or goblins in the
mist. We now know where Star Wars got its costume design from.
• Pringles seem to be a favourite snack! But they do roast nuts traditionally.
• Markets always have 2nd hand hardware stalls – Brian is happy! Very few
skips to investigate.
• Buying fruit and veg – the veg or fruit is all loaded together into one bowl and
weighed – same price for everything!

Women washing in the cold river water

One of the alleyways

The walls of the city

A pretty square
Market with man in hooded djellaba in the middle, but the black ones are better ref
Star Wars. I didn’t get a good picture of one unfortunately.

Donkeys that have brought produce to the market

We returned in bright sunshine on Tuesday morning arriving just after midday. This
time we could see the fantastic landscape below us and I managed to get a few
pictures through the bus window. The one below is from Chefchaouen, the others are
from the bus.
We also managed to pick up a stomach bug which hit Brian first and then me
although it wasn’t too bad – the first of our trip! There were a few kids being sick on
the bus – yuck.
Cute little haystacks, with hairnets weighted down with stones all around

We planned our return to Spain – deciding that time was moving on and we really
needed to work out where to spend the winter months. Morocco, although great fun,
was hard work and not really suited to yachts (at least where we had been). Having
decided to cook up a big chicken curry to last two nights (the trip to Spain would take
about 24 hrs) we set off for the internet café again to check the weather, and the
souk to stock up (we had cleared the fridge before our trip to Chefchaouen). Finding
the chicken was interesting. There were lots of live chickens in cages but we didn’t
want to have to kill and pluck one on the boat! I finally saw a stall with a dressed one
hanging up but someone got to it before me. But the young lad pulled out one of the
live chickens, weighed it, checked that 1.5 kilos was OK with me, threw it to his mate
under the counter and chop, chop, rumble – it was killed, plucked and dressed in
about 3 minutes. That was some fresh chicken! Cost – 34 Dhirams (about £3). It
took me a while to recover though. Should have had the camera!

Rocky outcrop by harbour

We experienced the same westbound

current last Wednesday as we left Al
and headed overnight straight across
this end of the Med to Spain.
However the wind was from the west,
so although we had the engine on the
wind helped – 8 knots through the
water although only 5 knots or so over
ground. As we left Moroccan waters,
one of the sleek grey Navy patrol
boats zoomed up and asked us to
slow down (this was a bit scary). We
chatted over the radio (“This is the
Moroccan Navy” they said – “How do
you do” I said!), declared that we had no guns, immigrants or drugs on board, told
them where we had come from (they must have seen us for a week as they were
based in Al Hoceima) and where we were going and they let us go. After that the
wind picked up, the current fell away, and we sailed the rest of the way - about 100
miles. Fantastic, no engine just a perfect breeze to keep us zapping along at a
decent speed towards the northeast.

Fishing boat setting off with attached small boats – you can just see fishermen
standing in the back of them

We arrived in Almerimar on the Costa del Sol – a very pleasant purpose built marina,
I fell off the gangplank and pulled a few muscles (big ouch), we did 3 weeks worth of
washing (none done since Barbate!) and we are now relaxing in 30°C sunshine. We
may stay here a while as it has the supply shops we need to fix the heating for winter
(exhaust tube needs replacing and may need to be ordered) and do other jobs that
have been on the list for a while. Many people stay here for the winter (lots of Brits
too), but whether we will do that remains to be seen.

That’s all for now

All the best
Rosemary & Brian

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