Home > The List, Travel > Morocco Hitch: The Verdict

Morocco Hitch: The Verdict

In the end the hitchhike took us (thee of us) 21 lifts, or in timescales, one week. We traveled from London to Portsmouth, took the overnight ferry (only £19 with LD Lines!) to le Havre, and hitched Southward through Rennes, Bordeaux, San Sebastian, Vitoria, Madrid, Seville, and finally to Tarifa.<p>

I have to say something about Tarifa though, as this is a town that didn’t even appear on my map! We were on our way to Algeciras when the Spanish surfer ‘dude’ who was giving us a lift told us that he can drop us off at Tarifa, where we could catch ‘cheap ferry: Spain to Tangier’. As soon as we arrived in the town, I knew that one day I would have to go back to spend some time there.

As soon as you arrive, it feels like you’re in Spain’s own Newquay. Surfers, windsurfers and power-kiters pack the beaches (this was in April, remember!), and in the town centre, there are surf shops, ‘kite lesson’ shops, and bohemian looking bars in all directions. And what’s more, it’s hardly been touched by the Brits! Maybe next summer…

When we arrived in Tangier, we weren’t too impressed. The conmen spotted some fresh meat- with their homes on their back- assuming these tramp-like figures, with no place to stay and no cash in their pockets could fork out some ridiculous amount of money so they could take us down the street to meet some friend or family member of theirs.

Luckily, we escaped unscaved, and discovered that once the backpacks were off, Morocco would be an easier place to deal with.

To be honest though, there’s very little to do in Tangier. There’s the obvious strolling around the Ville Nouvelle, having a butchers around the old city, and trying some local food, but other than that, we exhausted the options very quickly (although, the best Moroccan soup we had was in Tangier. It seems to be the only place that uses eggs as an ingredient: that must be what made the difference!).

After a couple of days, we took a 10 hour bus ride down to Fes and stayed in the YHA’s Hostel, which is an amazing retreat from the hustle, bustle, and bother you get when you step outside. The staff here were amazing. They arranged everything for us for the next leg of the trip to ensure we didn’t fall victim to any conmen. Breakfast was included in the reasonable price, and the closed-off courtyard was fantastic.

Again though, Fes didn’t seem to provide us with much to do, although seeing the Sun set over the Medina was a great experience. After another couple of days, we took a rickety bus through the Middle Atlas to Rissani where we had an overnight camel trek into the fringes of the Sahara booked. This was by far the highlight of the trip.

Surprisingly, the Sahara is exactly as it appears in the movies and documentaries! Rolling, red dunes as far as the eye can see, small tufts of grass sporadically and very sparingly scattered around: and camels. My camel- Jimi Hendrix was his name- was a great guy, and he treated me well, and the trek was amazing. Something I will never forget.

Our local guides- actually from the desert- were great hosts who made the best tea I’ve ever tasted, and a served up a great tagine before lighting a campfire which we sat around while they played some local songs on drums they’d brought along.

At around midnight we climbed the highest dune in the area. We reached the top once, but climbed the damn thing at least 8 times. 1 step up, 25 steps down. When we eventually reached the top our guides taught us how to make different patterns in the sand- from tyre tracks, to pictures of camels- before we all raced down the side of the dune like Ferrari Enzo’s on a good day. I counted four shooting stars that night.

In the morning we made our way back to the town, squashed into the back of a converted Fiesta Van, away from the unbearable heat of the desert so that we could catch yet another bus, this time to the Todra Gauge. This was a 7 or so hour bus ride into, and through, the High Atlas which look like a picture pulled from a Himalayan guidebook.

The gauge is a 300ft high ravine which fortunately keeps out some of the day’s heat. It’s an awesome place to visit, but somewhat spoiled by local traders trying to sell everything from carpets to necklaces. I was almost persuaded to swap my phone for two rugs. Almost.

We stayed at a great campsite half an hour walk down the road, where we slept and sweated for three nights before catching a Berber taxi (an open top truck. It’s your job to hold on for dear life while trying to avoid the cow pat spread over the floor), to the nearest bus station to catch a ride to Marrakech.

After another 10 hours on a seat that may as well have been made of concrete, we arrived. There were people everywhere, traffic whizzing around and the sun blisteringly hot, as usual (at least it wasn’t snowing like it was in Northern Spain!). Eventually, we found a pretty nice hostel (El Abi I think it was called), which was cheap and shaded from the Sun.

Marrakech as a city is very nice, but the only thing that truly separates it from other Moroccan cities is the ‘Big Square’. This is where all the street entertainers gather at night. Story tellers, snake charmers, comedians, and clowns. Along with a host of other locals who’re clearly trying to make some money any way they can, which unfairly makes you wary of everyone, so you’re not fully able to enjoy and appreciate where you are.

The atmosphere in the Big Square is fantastic though. But be warned, the food in the open food market here is expensive for the size of the portions. I would recommend going here for one day to experience the eccentric waiters, but spend other days trying out different restaurants, most of which make great food.

After about 6 nights in Morocco, 2 of which were spent sleeping on the roof of our hostel: an awesome experience, apart from the difficulty of trying to escape the heat of the midday sun (which lasts from about 10am until 4pm). This is where I saw the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen! It trailed across the entire sky before I even realised what it was!

On our last day in Marrakech, I tried to charge my phone in the hostel, but 15 minutes later, it was gone. Note to self. Don’t leave your phone unattended. Ever. Even a crack squad consisting of Poirot, Morse, Wexford and Frost couldn’t have solved that one.

All in all though, it was a great trip. I saw so many things, and came away with masses of stories to tell. Morocco isn’t the most fun packed place in the world, and it’s not on the top of my list for places I’m desperate to return to, but it’s great to say that I’ve actually been, and the smells, sights and sounds of Arabic culture have given me hundreds of memories to share with others, as soon as they show any interest in wanting to hear them!

Categories: The List, Travel
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