It was a sad (temporary) farewell to Mr Colin Dog as he is off on his own holiday to schmooze with the poodles of Marbella and Malaga. He didn’t fancy Morocco and had much more pressing affairs to deal with in Spain!
With the import/export of dogs an iffy affair we decided an easier and safer option was to leave Mr Colin Dog on the mainland safe in the wonderful hands of the lovely staff at In The Dog House. He’s probably enjoying the break from us lot. Donna at ITDH has been great, sending me pics and he even got his own chauffeur to collect him from Malaga!
So the next day we set off early, from our lovely pitch at the Cabopino campsite near Marbella. As we head towards the port of Algeciras we pass by Gibraltar, and shouts erupt from the back: “Monkeys, monkeys!” Our boys’ memories never cease to amaze me, small things that they remember from so long ago and some things as a mummy with a constant caring eye on the boys themselves that I hadn’t even noticed (although I did notice Gib’s monkeys when we visited…)!
We hand over the tickets and cruise through the port with the Trasmeditteranea ferry (booked for us, as with our Spanish and Portuguese campsites, through one phone call to the well versed experts at The Camping & Caravanning Club) in sight, so excited I forgot to stop at the Stop line next to the police border control causing the Spanish policeman to leap from his seat and holler! Not impressed by my driving skills he tells me off abruptly – although after a little explanation and a sincere apology he finds his smile again and wishes us a fun journey. Wide-eyed Daniel learns a valuable lesson in how admitting when you are in the wrong promptly is the best course of action!
So after a short queue we are on board on our way to “The Rocco”, which is what Darley calls the country. The ferry journey is just over an hour and passes swiftly, some of it taken up by filling in official paperwork to do with temporary import/export of a vehicle and getting passports stamped. Daniel makes friends with the man doing this on the ship and hands over his passport, while Darley plonks his cuddly cat on the desk for the man to inspect, which he does with a wry unofficial smile…
We head outside on deck to look out and to our delight we get our second sighting on this Education By Astonishment trip of dolphins. Squealing commenced (mostly by me!) before the sea turned back to its dark lapping surface and these heartwarming creatures disappeared in to the depths again, until next time we meet, maybe on the return ferry trip.
We all head back inside for a quick snack before heading down to the car deck. We get a close-up glimpse of not just Morocco’s mountains looming, but explain to the boys this is Africa!
We drive off the ferry eager to explore this new land but are faced with a very slow-slow moving long-long queue. As we near the front it seems there’s no real plan or method in dealing with all the vehicles entering, and we get ushered various places with various pieces of paper, while the policemen seem to be constantly surrounded by a huddle of men (only men!) waving green forms.
Torrential rain drips off the policeman’s hat and on the the soggy paperwork he is trying to fill in, then somehow after 30 minutes of getting drenched we get waved on and we are away!!! Queues and rain: Daniel rightly comments it’s a bit like England so far…
The country we see is immediately different to what we are used to, men in peak-hooded djellabas stand on the sides of the road staring intently at us from within and policemen cause everyone to slow down at the roundabouts where they’re standing, sheltering fruitlessly from the hardening and teeming rain under little shelters.
We head away from the port and into the the foggy mountain. the fog clears and just as we comment on how good the roads are, we see this…
We head for Chefchaouen. As the rain clears and we get out of the clouds we see the beautiful expanse of green that is north Morocco.
People smile and wave as we drive on, the road is narrow, the camber uneven, we pass many a top-heavy lorry load, witness much friendly tooting, so much that I felt it only polite to join in (much to Daniel’s delight), some pretty risky overtaking, and oncoming vehicles that seem to have lost their way over the middle white line were in abundance too.
There are goats grazing among and in olive trees, also sheep, cows and donkeys grazing just at the roadside and behind the crash barriers! Although this is a huge culture change for us there’s an almost more innocent attitude that is something we like.
We stop our Swift Escape for dinner on the roadside and share our dinner with a very timid and hungry looking dog. I found some of Colin’s dog treats for pudding (Colin won’t mind sharing…), which went down well. Daniel was puzzled why the dog had no owner, and after we explained about strays he had the great idea that we could collect all the stray dogs we saw into our motorhome and give them all a home and then they wouldn’t be hungry. It’s an honourable idea and how we wish we could help all those four-legged friends with their beautiful brown eyes…
The blue town of Chefchaouen appears in the distance on top of a rather large hill. Pretty tiles decorate the walkways and its amazing blue and white just hits you!
Tired from our drive and after some much-needed sleep I get woken up far too early by little Darley insisting on some breakfast. After super yummy oaty banana pancakes made by Daddy we set out on foot in the still teeming rain to get a closer look at this town. We meet some very friendly locals, although of course several want us to buy things from their shops, but they they are extremely polite, welcoming and not too insistent. Locals young and old affectionately ruffle Dan’s or Dar’s blond hair, and some even stop to pick them up and kiss them as we wind our way through the blue labyrinth. The happiness in these Moroccan people’s eyes is genuine and unbounded. Their delight is tangible, their sighs of love clearly audible – and it really looks as if just the mere sight our two boys has made their day. There are some amazingly spiritual people here in this laidback place, their eyes shining with a love of life, a gratitude of being.
I feel my inner magpie urging me to stop and investigate the many inviting doorways in the medina selling these treasures from afar.
We wander around the beautiful blue streets – and what doorways and entrances we see before us – before enjoying some toast, cheese and honey (a second breakfast) at a colourful cafe in the main square. We people watch for a while, the call to prayer echoes all around in the mountain air here, and its causes men to hurry along the narrow streets and into the square where one of the town’s many beautiful mosques is situated.
After a good soaking from the mountain rain (for just these sort of conditions we can recommend Craghoppers gear and Anatom boots, for they kept us warm and dry!), but beaming from seeing this amazing place, we head back to camp. An interesting taxi ride back up the hill (it was long, windy, narrow and very steep so we feel justified in getting the cab!) that involved some skilful driving and tooting.
We run from the taxi to the warmth of our motorhome on the campsite, and I start the peeling for our veggie lentil shepherd’s pie dinner. Call me sad if you will but using my new Outwell saucepans makes me happy! Having had the dilemma before of which saucepans to use on the road, listening to them clatter over bumps, and being bulky, big and rattly I am so delighted with this very clever feast set – great quality pans that neatly pack away into a handy-sized bag!
Full of hearty-filling delicious dinner, Daniel writes in his diary about his day and Darley tells Daddy his favourite thing about the day – making noise with the local cockerel.
So after watching the sun set over the vast mountains that surround us (with a brief gap in the torrential rain and some sheep for company), we all get ready to dream about all things blue and ponder what astonishing things tomorrow will bring us!