Fez and Chefchaouen: Heading North, Up Up and Away

Fez kind of flew by in a blur of food poisoning, fever, and flu symptoms. At 6.30am I woke up in Marrakech, threw up my dinner from the night before, and then got on an eight hour bus to Fez. Not exactly the best farewell from Marrakech. When I eventually arrived in Fez it took a further hour and a half to get from the bus station to my hostel because, just like when I was in Agadir, the King was in town. Unlike in Agadir, however, this caused serious disruption to my already unpleasant day. All the streets around the medina were closed and it took a mammoth effort just to convince a taxi driver to take me close-ish to the medina. From there I had to walk, which took me 45 minutes in the ridiculous heat because the medina in Fez is like a giant maze and it’s so easy to get lost and my GPS got confused. Finally I arrived at my hostel and collapsed on a couch for half an hour before I could even move to check in.  

Volubilis: and now for something a little bit different. Dear security guard, please get out of my photo.

Getting my nerd on.

A cool thing that happened in Fez: when I had adequately rested and I decided the most important thing was to get some food, I went into the street to find sooo many people waiting at the sides of the road. After a few minutes all these cars went past – it was the King’s process around the city, waving to his people. So I saw the King.

Meknes. Tagine, anyone?

The next day, after a breakfast of bread and gastro-stop pills, I headed out on a day trip to Volubilis and Meknes with some other people from the hostel. Volubilis was really cool, an ancient Roman city that was quite a large site. Meknes was another Moroccan city just like the rest. We also stopped at Moulay Idriss which was an interesting town with a cool view.

Moulay Idriss.

More Moulay Idriss, home to the only round minaret in Morocco.

The next day we went for a walk around Fez. We visited the Jewish Quarter which mostly just looked like the rest of the city except for the synagogue tucked away in a corner. We also walked through a garden and eventually found the blue gate. Then we went through the hectic maze that is the medina to find the tanneries. I wasn’t quite sure why everyone wanted to see the tanneries, and after going I still have no idea but for a different reason. It is interesting, definitely, but it comes at the price of having to breathe in the overwhelming smell that comes from the vats of pigeon poo they use to soften the leather. They give you mint leaves which are supposed to mask the smell but when you sniff the mint leaves you’re basically just sniffing in larger amounts of stench.

The Blue Gate. Surprise surprise, it’s a blue gate.

And on the left we have the pools of pigeon poo. Don’t want to know how they collect that much pigeon poo.

Learn all about the operation of the tanneries.

The next morning I left Fez on the bus to go to Chefchaouen, travelling with two Americans, a Canadian and a Chilean, all five of us solo travellers that banded together for a few days. Chefchaouen was blue. And also hilly. It was an interesting location for a town and a nice relaxed vibe after being in the big cities. Also I think just the presence of the blue buildings was somewhat calming in comparison to the reddish brown of Fez and Marrakech.

Chefchaouen: the Blue City. (Photo by Holden)

After arriving in Chefchaouen we had lunch at a place that did amazing tuna salad rolls for just 7 dirhams (AU$1) which also included hot chips. Then, after wandering around for a while, we collected supplies to take for our hike the following day, which also happened to be the first day of Ramadan.

This photo does not do justice to the deliciousness of my sandwich.

In the morning we got a grand taxi from Chefchaouen to Akchour, about 45 minutes and 25 dirhams each for six people – we picked up a Japanese girl on the way to the taxis which made us a group of six, perfect. When we arrived in Akchour the driver insisted that we tell him what time we wanted to be picked up to come back. He would come back at that time and it would cost us another 25 dirhams each. It was 10am at that point so we figured 3pm would be a suitable amount of time to do the hike.

Hiking in the Rif Mountains. (Photo by Holden)

So we hiked and hiked and sweated a lot and eventually we came to the waterfall. Somehow we managed to be the first people to reach it for the day. We were so confused because we’d been told it’s normally packed with tourists but we had the whole pool to ourselves. It was great, we had a swim in the freezing cold water which was so refreshing after the two hour hike, and then ate our packed lunch. While we were eating the other people started to arrive, and by the time we left to go back to meet our driver the place was packed. We were so happy we’d arrived when we did.

The wonderful waterfall. (Photo by Holden – I couldn’t be bothered taking photos that day and no Holden is not a car)

We arrived back to the little town almost exactly at 3pm, found our taxi driver and headed back to Chefchaouen. My knees were hurting a lot, I think I’m still recovering from my Toubkal trek, so I pretty much spent the rest of the day horizontal.

Enjoying the waterfall.

The next morning I got up at 7.30am, got dressed in the dark (discovered many hours later that my shirt was inside-out), and headed down to the bus station to go to Tangier. After arriving in Tangier I walked, with my 12kg pack, 3km in the wrong direction in 35 degree heat before asking directions from a policeman. The policeman was very helpful and hailed me a taxi to take me pretty much all the way back the way I’d come. He was also very surprised to learn that Australians speak English…

Getting on the massive boat.

The taxi took me to the the train station, where I got another bus, not a train, to Tangier Mediterranean Port, or Tangier Med, 40km away. The bus dropped me seemingly in the middle of nowhere but I found my way into the ferry terminal, got my ticket, went through customs, and then sat in a strange outdoor waiting room type thing for an hour and a half. Here I met a lovely American family who were so nice and generous, they bought me lunch on the ferry (it was a massive ferry by the way, and only about 20 passengers, so strange) and when we arrived in Algeciras they took me in their taxi and dropped me at my hotel before continuing on to their own. I will definitely visit them in Colorado when I eventually make it over to the States.

Saying goodbye to Morocco. Thanks for the memories.

Two final things.

1. I saw so many dolphins from the ferry while crossing over the straight!

2. I really enjoyed Morocco, it was amazing, but there were aspects of it that were quite stressful and I’m very happy to be back in Europe.

Arriving in Spain with a great view of the Rock of Gibraltar.


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