Malaga, Spain to Chefchaouen | October 19 | 175 miles
While not much can be shown of the border crossing itself, columns can be written on the processes and failures of efficiency… nothing unusual for a border crossing with a motorcycle really. Thankfully, given a few hours of patience and experienced guides, we slink through, all while waiting under a high tin roof to relive of us some rain. Handlers wave us into one of the many open lanes and we set about standing there with our jaws agape while we watch the scene unfold. Every imaginable configuration of crapped out automobile passes by, a million more scooters piled high with goods traveling in both directions (regardless of the actual flow of the crossing).
One man stamps our paperwork, another man is to be found to sign it. Showing it to a third and forth person comes with time. All of this (D16 form) could be simplified online in advance of course, prepared and automatically translated into arabic, but that would surely put someone out of a job and set some higher officials to dislike you. Take the slow boat, smile and wait. In time comes the freedom to roam!
This is where you get your Moroccan number. A number stamped in your passport, and carried onto the motorcycles paperwork, which gets carbon copied, signed, resigned and later when you leave, resigned and torn to the last standing sheet. Keep it with your passport and don’t lose it.
A few of the Taiwanese travelers in the group, those with special VISAs to enter Morocco go though an extra 30 mins of hurdles while we huddle near the exit and don our rain gear. Again, with patience and smiles, we are allowed to enter and we collectively roar into the already cacophonous neighborhood. While very few want to enter the country on Monday morning, thousands are in line to exit. Honking seems to be like breathing and goes unnoticed.
Regrouped and refueled, now with 95 octane at roughly 95 cents per liter or $3.50/gallon, we’re southbound and ready for lunch.
In what becomes later the humorously-named city of M’diq, we saddle up to a multi-story seaside restaurant and overload the chefs with orders for many, our first ever tajine food and our introduction to thé del mont. If you’re not already well versed in the French language, you soon will be… lest you rely entire on your guides as it is an official language of the country and a travelers main conduit to conversation. Arabic might as well be Japanese in spoke tongue as well as the written word, it’s no something we can pick up along the way!
This is also where we take turns running to the few ATMs nearby to get some local currency, with which we then bury the restaurant with requests to break a 200 dirham tap for 40 dirhams of food. Surely they loved us!
From there, with some freshly open skies, we make our way to the hillside community of Chefchaouen. A “quick” stop for fuel doesn’t seem likely, but a good idea before calling it a day. Should make for a more easy departure come tomorrow morning.
The city of blue is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to take a walk around town and check it out! Bring your walking shoes however, as there’s no elevator in this hotel, hell, the walk to the riad itself is over cobblestone streets, dozens of stairs and through a bazaar of vendors and tourists. There’s no easy way in there from the parking lot, thankfully someone from Edelweiss did the dirty work of getting our luggage to our rooms! Time to explore!
Now dark and damp, my shutter snaps the old city in black and white despite the unique coloring. Call me weird, I’m used to it. Luckily, before setting out for my midnight crawl around the neighborhood, I had logged into the riad’s wifi as when I returned no one could hear me knocking through the two large wooden doors and center court but I could SMS the one other person in the group I knew would be awake at this hour, the other journalist and fellow Californian also living on a west coast time zone. Thanks Chris!
All told, we rode 175 miles today, through two countries, over two continents and through a myriad of cultures.