So having made it to Martil I followed the signs for the campsite. The roads to Martil were lovely and smooth with only two Police checkpoints along the way. I must get insurance I remembered. My fixer had suggested Martil as a closer stopping point than Tatouan. He said the campsite was fine and they have a beach. They certainly do have a beach, not quite golden sands but certainly very picturesque, the street is wide and lined by cafes and resteraunts. I turned right towards the campsite and instantly into an area that looked a cross between a derelict housing estate and a building site. I wasn’t sure. I was less sure as I turned into the campsite. It looked like a gravel parking lot, but there were a few tatty old tents and a British registered VW campervan. I quickly used the loos which were clean. By the time I got back to my car the owner was there. He assured me it was safe to leave the car whilst I went to the beach as he has security. It would cost about £8. That was all fine and I went to town to locate a WiFi signal and resteraunt. I didn’t bother with the local dish as I’m pretty sure the further south I go the less the choices will be. So pizza, cake and a coffee capable of waking the dead, just what I needed before bed. I walked the seafront thoroughly enjoying the Friday night atmosphere of families enjoying a walk in the mild evening air. I wanted to get a SIM card as using my phone would be too expensive. There was nowhere but it was a great walk.
Back at the campsite it was dark and still warm, I wasnt really in the mood to put the tent up in the dark on the gravel flooring. So I reclined the car seat and climbed in. I must have been tired as the next time I woke it was to the unmistakable sound of the Imam calling morning prayer. It was 6am and far to early for me to pray but I did say a thankyou for getting me this far. A morning coffee and post the last blog before I was ready to set sail again. The owner of the campsite asked if I had a tent. I do but I didn’t use it. He dropped the price to £5.
I checked the car over before setting off for Tetouan and then the road to Chefchaouen. I got slightly lost and ended up going through Tetouan. Each set of lights or give way sign there was a different beggar pleading for cash. I actually didn’t have any, but it did mean having the central locking on and windows only slightly open. Eventually clear of the town I started to head up into the mountains, the little car with less horse power than one actual horse didn’t get into fourth much, let alone fifth, but was being very good on hay consumption. I followed lorries that bellowed smoke like you wouldn’t believe and cars alike. All overloaded for the steep roads. I did wonder where Morocco stands on global warming and if they have a congestion charge? Every car without fault has some form of accident damage. I was getting very precious about Dubless. In town you needed eyes everywhere to not collide with cars and people alike, now on the hills they didnt care where they went for overtakes. Hauling past lorries, busses and anything else that was in their way and at any location. “Oh I’m heading towards a blind hairpin on a mountains edge, now would be a great time to overtake this VW and three busses”! At Zinat I stopped by fruit at a stall, I picked up two apples. When I got back to the car I was swamped by children with all manner of goods to sell, none of it, any use to me or even slightly desirable. I made it clear as I pushed my way back to the car that I wouldnt be buying today. Once in the drivers seat one little chap had wedged himself so the door wouldn’t close, hands out begging. I had to push him away. I still didn’t have spare money. As I drove off I was left wondering what right do I have to push these people away, but I can’t give to them all and there isn’t a system to choose who get hangouts and who don’t. I may have no money but look what I do have. If their bike broke down they couldn’t just summons up a new car to carry on the journey. It was a thoroughly difficult situation and I didn’t like it. I had read a book ‘There are no fat people in Morocco’ by Lawrence Bransby and he had a similar issue. I recommend his book, if you are planning a trip here, its far better than my ramblings (Plus he actually did it on a bike). On that subject it is quite true that in a car you see the picture but on a bike you live it. I dearly wanted to be on a bike far more than I thought. Two days ago I just wanted to be in Africa.
1. If your coach overheads drive with the engine cover open!
Soon enough I climbed the steepest hill yet to Chefchaouen. The campsite was at the very top of the road. I pulled in and met the owner who promptly showed me round and gave me directions to the old town. The campsite Azlam was very nice and appeared packed with overland vehicles, motorhomes and of course adventure bikes. The town of Chefchaouen was one place I had on my list of must visits. I know little about it other than nearly all the buildings in the old medina are painted blue. I decided to walk down. The steps down were a short walk away and no sooner than I left the campsite I was approached by a guy wanting to show me round for just a few Dirham. I didn’t need a guide and telling me his family worked the campsite didn’t help, nor did trying to get me to walk the wrong way. Having offloaded him I walked down the steps, it was a long way and I ached. The town is built on the side of a mountain and everywhere you go is by steps or stairs. I had a coffee and accompanying Orange juice as I wrote the days blog. Then climbed the strength sapping hill back to base camp. I spoke to the owner and told him I had not managed to get insurance yet. He informed me that I must get it before moving on, as the road check, on the spot fines were very big. It had been a pure oversight and now it was going to cost me more time because it was already late on Saturday and the commercial district did not open on Sunday. I was staying until Monday. There are worse places to be stuck for sure.
I strolled back to my car and noticed that the VW camper I had shared the site with the previous night was also here. I introduced myself to Ian. He was travelling alone to Marrakech where he was going to meet his daughter for a holiday together. I relayed my plight and we sat together drinking his coffee.He had spoken to two Harley Davidson riders whonhad told him they met me at Hostel Rio Grande. Ian has a Harley of his own and is a knowledgable chap with many contacts. I told him about the insurance thing and suddenly he was in the same predicament. He had not got cover for here either. Ian is a very nice guy, also just trying out his first prolonged trip abroad in his motorhome. He was thoroughly enjoying it. We spoke about where to go next and he suggested he would travel to Ketama I pointed out that the area was the biggest cannabis growing area in the world and it was not unknown for unaware travellers to be robbed. I believe it is very rare but knowing the luck I was having…….. So back in the 1950’s there was a revolt in the Rif mountain area and as a result of that the government withdrew all aid to the area. Cannabis was once grown across Morocco but due to international pressure the rest of Morocco has stopped, but Ketama remains very poor due to the sanctions and they produce what they can, which is a lot. Obviously the actual farmers dont make so much money and the area remains poor, so incidents of the uninitiated traveller being pulled over and having their valuables removed is known. Anyway for all you pot heads, the regeon is in the Rif mountains and that’s where the term ‘Riffa’ comes from.
I got back to my tent and climbed in fairly tired from mountaineering. As I laid down the bed collapsed. I got up reconstructed it but the plastic retainers couldn’t cope with my weight on the very slight slope. I plugged in my iPod turned the volume up and fell asleep with aluminium poles digging into my side.