Spain - Day 11 : Excursion to Morocco
We slept in until 8. We headed to the front desk after breakfast. From there, a man brought an English family and us to the port of Tarifa. We were curious about what would go wrong today so we wouldn't be back at the campsite tonight. There was plenty that could go wrong. At the port, we first needed to pay for our ferry tickets. We didn't have enough cash left but fortunately could pay with a card. We each received two forms to fill in our data. Those were required to get through customs. Bram got a third one because he didn't have a passport. I immediately asked for a pen, but we were told we would have enough time for that on the boat.
We walked to the dock together with the English people. We were allowed on until the customs office, which was still closed. The room we were in looked like half of it was renovated a year ago, and then the workers had just stopped. I wondered if the customs office would ever open. After half an hour the officers arrived. They checked our IDs and allowed us to continue onto the boat to Tanger.
It was a large boat built like a catamaran. It looked luxurious, especially considering we only paid 60 euros for the entire day. There was a desk with a sign saying something about passport control. We stood in line, but 10 minutes later, the first people still weren't finished. That could never be the intention. It was really nice to sit down in a soft chair after eight days of cycling and look out over the water. We had already been sitting for half an hour by the time the boat left. While we saw Spain disappear, the row in front of the desk kept getting longer and longer.
Departure from Tarifa.
View towards the closed island south of Tarifa
We were at sea for a while. The boat went up and down more than I had anticipated. When we were almost in Morocco, the line was short enough not to run all the way into the corridor behind us. We joined and waited for a while. We had been searching for a pen to fill in the customs forms but still hadn't found any. Finally, we reached the desk where apparently essential things happened that took a long while. We put down our IDs and the man asked for our boat tickets, which he stamped. Then he grabbed the still empty custom forms from our hands and threw them on a pile behind him. Apparently, they weren't that important after all. Without even looking at us, he started 'helping' the following passengers.
When we were nearly in Tanger we walked to the boat's cargo hold. There we waited for the door to open so we could enter Africa. First we needed to show our IDs again. The customs officer looked shocked. There was no stamp in my passport. Yeah, that was on the boat ticket, just as for the other 400 passengers that arrive here multiple times a day. We would join a guided excursion together with 50 others. Someone started shouting we needed to go in busses, there were English and Spanish speaking groups.
Only on the bus we heard what the actual program would be. First, we would get a tour through the city by bus, then we would enter the city center on foot, eat in a restaurant, visit a tapestry workshop and a herb store, and then we would have some time off. The bus drove via a steep road around the city to the wealthiest part of Tanger. There we came to a parking lot filled with camels. We were warned not to accept the bracelets the people there would try to stuff in our hands because then we would have to buy them. Those salespeople were terrible, but nothing compared to the ones we would meet later that day. The camels were nice to see but were dromedary with a fake second hump so the tourists wouldn't fall off. We didn't ride them because it seemed cruel. Every time the animal needed to go down on his knees so a usually fat tourist could get on or off. Often the dromedary didn't want to, so the owner would pull his rope for an hour. The smaller animals were funny.
The small dromedary and the bigger ones with the fake hump
After a while the bus left. The guide told us about the city. There was an old part, the Kasbah, that had been walled for ages. There was no crime there, he said, because alcohol and drugs were forbidden. We would visit it later that day. Because it was walled there were a few necessities, which we needed to remember. There were five: a mosque, a fountain, a baker, a school, and a bathhouse (I needed to look that last one up when writing this story).
View of Tanger from the bus
The bus stopped in a narrow street where we were allowed off. Soon we were in the Kasbah. After a while we left it to have a nice view over the ocean.
Old streets of the Kasbah.
We were part of a nice group.
Outside the Kabash.
It must have been difficult to keep 30 people together in the crowded streets of the inner city, but the guide did a good job. The streets were so narrow that only two people could walk next to each other. We saw small alcoves where people had sewing workshops and many food stands.
In Tanger's busy streets.
After half an hour, we had already seen much of the city. Now it was time for a Moroccan lunch. We were seated next to a Tunisian bus driver who lived in Brussels. He was married to a New-Zealandic woman. She wore a headscarf and spoke seven languages, including some Dutch. There was also a family from Norway. Everyone was on vacation in Spain and now visiting Morocco. There were a lot of different nationalities. The man spoke Arabic with the waiters, who brought him a special Tunisian sauce of red peppers. The food was delicious. First, we had soup with bread, then lamb kebab and finally couscous. We also had mint tea, which I would recommend. The dessert was baklava. It looked like apple turnovers that were undercooked and covered in honey. They tasted perfect. In the restaurant a Moroccan band played music while we ate.
After lunch we went to the 'tapestry palace'. To keep the costs down, they needed to make some money off the tourists. We got a presentation in a room above the store. The owner put up a whole show about why hand-knitted tapestries are better than woven ones. While he talked someone else was unrolling some examples on the marble floor. He had practiced a lot. He threw them so that they hit the floor with a loud bang. There were some really nice ones. In the end, everyone was encouraged to walk on the carpets. I wouldn't mind having one but they were way too expensive. A typical rug of 1x2 meters was more than 500 euros.
After the tapestry palace we headed over to the herb store. Here we received a lecture about all types of herbs and lotions. This guy could talk even better, which kept it from being boring. He had a nice story about orchid oil. You needed to put that on your temples if you had a headache, on the front of your head if you wanted to sleep, and on your hands if you had scars there. The first thing he showed was rose cream. A boy about 15 years old walked around to put a bit on everyone's hands. He started with Bram and then me. The first round he just pulled your hand and put some on it whether you wanted to or not. The second time we got something on our fingers.
Then we moved to herbs to cook with. The boy nearly stuffed them up Bram's nose. We were laughing, and the boy thought it was funny as well. While the owner was telling a story about the following type of herbs, the boy was already laughing next to Bram, waiting to stuff even more herbs up his nose. We also couldn't stop laughing. At the end every tourist got a plastic bag. Here they were also crazy about those, but more about that later. All the herbs and lotions that had been discussed were passed around again. If you wanted something you just needed to raise your hand. I didn't buy anything as we would have to carry it for the next 1500 km. Some people bought for over 100 euros, nice profits for the herb shop.
After the herb store we had some time off. That was when we were really bothered by the merchants. We couldn't stand anywhere without at least four people trying to sell us some junk. If you didn't look at them or did as they asked they would swear at you. We visited some more stores to select a souvenir. Most of it was junk. In one store, I found a tiny carpet that wasn't as expensive, which I bought. Then we still had some time left. We sat down on a terrace to drink some more mint tea, like genuine Moroccans. We couldn't really relax there either because the merchants didn't want to believe we wouldn't buy anything. I had come up with a tactic that worked quite well. You needed to buy something and wrap it in a bunch of newspapers so it didn't have a defined shape. If someone asks if you want to buy something, show the package and tell him you already have one.
Four merchants per tourist
The terrace, this picture was made with Swiss precision.
After our drinks we were brought to an open area to be counted. On the way there, an old man started talking to Bram while showing a small bag of white powder he held together with his cane. So there were drugs in the Kasbah after all. We needed to get back on the bus, which drove us 200 meters back to the port. While we were on the bus the guide noticed he had lost four people. Fortunately, we found them again soon. We needed to wait a bit more before we were allowed on the boat. That was a good moment to decide which of the four we liked the most, Bram and I both agreed on which one that was.
The boat that would bring us back to Europe
We were pleasantly surprised that everything had gone well thus far. We hadn't missed the boat, didn't lose our passports in Morocco, and made it back for the return boat. I had carried all my expensive belongings (wallet, phone, GPS, and camera) in a plastic bag so nothing could get stolen. I hadn't lost that either. On the boat we got hungry and bought a chocolate bar in the tax-free store, which was more expensive than a normal one. Even for a chocolate bar we got a plastic bag.
That reminds me, I had promised to say something about those. In Spain we always got our groceries in a bag. Without even asking, they start packing everything in bags. As soon as the first is filled they start with the next one. We didn't need all that plastic because as soon as we left a store we would eat everything. Even if you bought one baguette, which was already wrapped, they put it in a bag. In total, we must have received a hundred bags this vacation. Sometimes we would try to avoid it by saying, 'no bolsa por favor' but then the personnel would look confused or even insulted. How dare we insult their bag ritual.
Our passports were hardly checked upon entering Spain. We needed to walk 5 kilometers from the port to the campsite. On the edge of town were supermarkets. The first one was closed, it was already 9 o'clock. The second one was still open, so we got some food for tomorrow. We had dinner in the campsite's restaurant again.
After a long walk, we ordered paella. This time they had all the ingredients. After 5 minutes the lady returned. Sorry, she had again forgotten the got bread. That was why we hadn't been able to eat it yesterday. We asked her just to make it without bread. She asked if we wanted to drink something, so I had a beer. Bram didn't need anything. After much insisting, she gave Bram a glass of water, which she ensured was complimentary. Ten minutes later the paella was ready. We each got a small pan with rice and seafood that tasted very good. During dinner she stopped by to refill Bram's glass.
After again scaring the cat away, re-pitching my tent, and finishing the bottle of sangria, we went to sleep. This might have been the first day on which we didn't cycle out of all our cycling vacations.
The route of day 11.
Distance cycled : 0 km.