Wednesday, 26 September 2012

a new view

The roosters are crowing and my feet are cold for the first time in a few weeks. I am sitting on a rooftop terrace in the early morning looking over the ancient city of Chefchaouen.

Our travel belongings got loaded onto a bus yesterday in Casablanca and we spent 7 hours soaking in the Moroccan country side. The first stage of the trip saw us pass through Rabat, the national capital, with linking freeways like any other. But once out of Rabat things got interesting.

Flat tree-less fields as far as the horizon in both directions. People sitting or standing in them. Some crouched tending plants. Kids and adults walking, riding bikes along the edge of narrowing roads. Donkeys pulling carts. We passed through villages with roadside stalls. Some with thousands of tajines; given the apparent size of the villages I have no idea who buys them or if they pack them away each night.

We stop for the only time (apart from pickups) at a small village café. The bus has no toilet, so we all make a civilised rush for the back of the café. After we get going again we start to climb. I am thankful for a careful and skilful bus driver as we negotiate winding narrow roads, still with people on foot and bikes on the edge and trucks coming the other direction.

As night falls we drive on and eventually see lights, a sign that we are getting close. Once we collect our bags we bundle them into a little bongo van (kind of taxi) who drives up steep street, constantly honking to let other road users (mainly pedestrians) know we are coming.

(A side note here – Moroccan’s strike me as warm kind people. I know that is a generalisation, but it seems to be the case. In Turkey, drivers honk their horns constantly in anger and frustration. In Morocco, they also honk, but it’s a kind of ‘polite just-letting-you-know-I’m-here-kind-of-honk’. Even the bus driver was constantly on the horn, but never in frustration, it was a way of letting other road uses know we were coming from behind … no sealed shoulder for them to escape to as we scrapped past their pushbikes.)

Our bongo driver drops us at a doorway to the medina (old city) and we drag our bags along walkways alive with people out and about in the warm evening. Up steps, winding paths, more steps through a door into the reception ‘lounge’ of the Riad/hotel. Up more steps and we find ourselves in our room with an amazing vista over the town. Oh Maria, you’ve done it again.

Maria’s Nikon will love this place, my little snap on the iPhone this morning is just a taster. The sun is now on the mountain across the valley. This is the Morocco I came to see.