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Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Josephine Flohr,
Elephant at Camp, Namibia



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  #466  
Old 4 Mar 2015
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Birds have a nice place to hang out

We were hoping to get some nice views of the beaches at sunset, but we should have checked a map to see how Ponta da Piedade was oriented: the sun sets on the other side of the cape! All we saw were the shadows of the cliffs. So we rode back the next morning bright and early to catch a sunrise:


The only picture that worked out because 10 minutes later, it started raining. Of course.


The next day we headed into the historic centre of Lagos to check it out


More of the pretty Portugeuse ceramic tiles covering most of the buildings here


The reason why Lagos is so popular with tourists: lots of restaurants, bars and nightclubs here

We splurged a bit and found a nice Indian restaurant down here. Indian food is one of Neda's favorite foods, so this indulgence was purely medicinal. Hopefully it'll help flush (literally) whatever is making her ill out of her system.
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  #467  
Old 4 Mar 2015
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The older part of Lagos is walled off, and they've put some funky lights on the top of the walls


Looks like a video game!


Ok, I think we're done here.

I've reviewed the last few entries in our blog and it seems we've both hit a low point in our travels with all the bad weather, illnesses and our gear falling apart. Perhaps we need a change of scenery? We are at the western-most tip of continental Europe. We've already explored most of Southern Spain and it's too early in the season to head north.

Only one option left, really...
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  #468  
Old 4 Mar 2015
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Great to read that Neda is on the mend
Nothing worse than travelling with illness
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  #469  
Old 8 Mar 2015
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/206.html



Africa!

We're going to Africa today! On motorcycles! When I think about it, it seems pretty unreal. But Morocco is only a very short ferry ride across the Straits of Gibraltar and since the weather is so crappy here...

We're very excited!!!


Leaving Jerez in the rain

In our mirrors, we left Lagos, the Algarve, Portugal and the sunshine all at the same time. True to our luck, the weather had turned for the worse overnight while we were stopped over in Jerez and when we awoke, it was pouring rain *and* Neda's motorcycle cover was missing. I now knew that the only thieves were the high winds that have been pestering us all over Southern Spain. Dammit! Add yet another casualty to our dwindling and deteriorating equipment list.

It was a very disappointing way to leave Europe, but it was just another strike in a long series of downers. It was like this continent was telling us to get out.

Fine, you win. We're leaving.


We battled high winds on our early morning ride to Algeciras and we saw these along the way.
Either it's windy here all the time, or they heard RideDOT.com was coming and hastily erected these for our arrival


There are a couple of ports in the Gibraltar area that we could catch ferries bound to Morocco. But we chose Algeciras because it was the biggest one with more ferry operators servicing the routes with greater frequency, so we wouldn't have to wait too long for the next one. We found out that between all the companies, there was a ferry departing at least once every hour, all day long.


Waiting in line to board the ferry. The high winds and rain made pretty patterns in the standing water in the parking lot

We didn't really do too much research about Morocco beforehand, but from what little reading I'd done, there was a big problem with hustlers in the cities. I remembered how we felt when we were assailed by people trying to rip us off in Cuba and a part of me was dreading facing the same thing in Morocco, but then I thought maybe Cuba had toughened us up a bit and we would be better prepared mentally to deal with them this time around.

But we weren't prepared for the Moroccan touts to start appearing on the Spanish side.

As we approached the ferry docks in Algeciras, a parking lot attendant motioned for us to park in a lot that seemed a long way away from the ticket booths. We were being corralled into an empty lot with nobody around! Our bullshit detectors automatically went off. Neda radioed me, "It's a trick, let's leave!" and we made a U-Turn past the angry "attendant" who yelled at us to return immediately. Yeah, nice try buddy.

We eventually found a policeman who directed us to the real parking lot. He told us that these hustlers directed unsuspecting tourists to travel agencies which then re-sold ferry tickets at greatly marked-up prices. The hustlers, of course, got commission for every tourist they brought in.

We nodded, "Si, claro". We had already figured that out.

I shook my head. And so it begins...


Still smiling, still excited about visiting a new continent despite the rain and the hustlers
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  #470  
Old 8 Mar 2015
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Heading into the bowels of the ferry


Our bikes waiting to get strapped down for the journey to Africa!

There are a number of ferry companies servicing the Algeciras to Morocco routes, and they run vessels of differing speeds. Some of the newer ones can make short work of the trip and be in Tangier Med in 30 minutes, but we just so happened to pick the slowest one because of when we arrived. This old girl would spend an hour and a half plodding across the Strait! I looked around to see if there were oarsmen boarding with us...

It wasn't a very leisurely ride over since the ferry company also opted to perform passport control during the cruise (hey we have the time, right?), so we spent the entire journey standing in line with over a hundred other passengers to get stamped into the country. Well at least we wouldn't have to do it once we landed...

So far we were not doing very well in our choices... Mental note: we have to do a bit more research and planning beforehand!


Arabic writing as we unloaded from the ferry really made us feel like we were in a new continent!

Africa! So we've now ridden motorcycles in six continents! Four on this trip alone! So awesome!!!!

The official languages in Morocco are French and Arabic, so once again, the baton was handed off to me to perform all communication duties. I don't know what's worse: not knowing the language at all or knowing just enough that you're expected to do all the speaking, but also knowing that they won't understand your accent or the way you're using the words...

*le sigh*

Being in Europe for the last 8 months has really put us out of practice crossing borders - getting our temporary import permits in Morocco was a bit of a circus. There wasn't an official line-up so all the cars and trucks were parked all over the place and it wasn't clear who was next in line to be serviced. There was no pushing or elbowing, it was fairly orderly: every single person who approached a customs official was told to step away from the booth and wait until they were called. There didn't seem to be any methodology as to who got serviced next, it certainly wasn't first-come-first-serve.

After watching a few people get called in. I finally figured out how they determined the order. It was by height. Or maybe it was the colour of their pants...

We actually got our permits before a lot of other people who had been waiting around when we arrived. They must have liked the colour of our motorcycle pants.


Africa! Africa?

And we're off! We punch in the town where we're going to stay for the next couple of days into the GPS and promptly got lost.

The problem was that we had the "Avoid Tolls" option selected from our time in Europe. At this point, it was late in the day and we weren't mentally equipped to deal with navigating the smaller roads in Morocco yet, so we sucked it up and rode the toll highway to our first stop: Chefchaouen.

Our trip on the highway was eye-opening. We both had visions of Africa being more... deserty. Like with mud huts everywhere and tribes of people dancing around fires... totally stereotypical. That's okay, everyone thinks all Canadians live in igloos. Actually, from looking through all our friends' Facebook pictures this week, it's absolutely true!

Morocco, or at least the northern part of it, was very green. Lots of agriculture and rolling hills. It kind of looked like an extension of Europe. I radioed Neda, "Soooo... when are we going to get to Africa?", she replied, "I know, right!?"


"I'm going to take a picture of our hostel room"
"No wait! Let me make the bed!"
"Too late, now everyone on the Internet knows we're messy..."
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  #471  
Old 8 Mar 2015
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The roads were in good condition, considering we paid to ride them. We pulled into town late last night because we got lost and we also had to find a place to eat for dinner along the way. The streets of Chefchaouen were crowded and we inched our way slowly to the hostel that Neda booked for us, through the local traffic of the historic centre, which is called the "medina". Our big bikes were attracting lots of stares. I didn't like that too much.

From what we saw, Chefchaouen's medina seemed like a very happening place in the evenings. I was very surprised at how many westerners were milling around, specifically hippie westerners all dreadlocked and decked out in their sandals and hemp clothing... which told me all I needed to know about this town: The Ganja runs strong in this one...

With all the foot traffic (and dirty hippies), we didn't really feel safe leaving the motorcycles parked on the street overnight. For the first time in months, we would have to pay for secured parking...


Morocco is an Islamic country, so no alcohol is sold here. The national drink is Mint Tea, otherwise known as "Berber Whiskey"

Mint tea is apparently a big thing down here. When we first arrived in our hostel late last night, the first thing our host asked is, "Would you like to sit down for some tea?" We still had our helmets on, holding all of our softbags in both arms, hanging off our shoulders and around our necks and we hadn't gotten our rooms yet. "Would you like some tea?" He said it more as a statement than a question.

We took his cue: "Um... okay". We both plopped ourselves down haphazardly on the comfy couch in the reception area still clad in all our gear, bags strewn around us, sipping the sweet, hot mint tea that was specifically brewed to greet us. It was delicious, but more importantly, our host seemed happy - as if we had passed some sort of test - and as a reward we were allowed to stay in his hostel.

I found out later that offering tea to guests when they first arrive is a very traditional and ingrained Moroccan custom. It is considered horribly, horribly impolite not to offer and perhaps rude not to accept? I didn't want to find out.


At breakfast, with the auto-timer on the camera. Sometimes the mistimed shots are the best ones...


Nice details inside our hostel make us curious to see what's waiting for us outside


Getting ready to do some sightseeing!


We're in Africa!!! Let's see what's out there!
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  #472  
Old 8 Mar 2015
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Great trip Envious

Have been following you two, an genuine envious. Was in Africa in the 60,s working for uncle sam. Hope you have a safe and enjoyable visit.
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  #473  
Old 8 Mar 2015
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Hi Neda and Gene,

I was in Morocco some time ago and really enjoyed my visit to Fez.
In the hotel in Fez, I asked if it was possible to get an Engish speaking guide for my visit to the Medina and that was a good investment because I saw places that I would not have seen without him.
Check the Morocco part of this trip on my website;
Jan Krijtenburg homepage (Travel pages)

I really enjoy reading your travel stories. Keep up the good work
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  #474  
Old 9 Mar 2015
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Thanks for the info!
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  #475  
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/207.html



We awoke to the distant sound of the Moroccan Call to Prayer blaring over a set of loudspeakers that sounded like they were tucked in somewhere deep in the neighbourhood, yet powerful enough to be heard everywhere in the medina. It was a semi-familiar sound to me. I grew up in Malaysia and I remember the Call to Prayers being broadcast on TV stations at regular intervals during the day.

The Moroccan ones differ slightly from what I recall from my childhood, the monotone voice slowly rising and falling in pitch sounding like a combination of air-raid siren, wolf call and racing cars.

Muslims are expected to pray five times a day, with the first Call to Prayer commencing at dawn. If you know me, then you know that the one we heard when we woke up was not the first one of the day...


We peek our heads outside our hostel (building on the right). OMG (OMA?) it's sunny!!!

Upon leaving our hostel, we're thrust out into a brilliant, alien blue landscape. The buildings were familiar-looking, but all were painted as if to blend in with the colour of the cloudless sky above us. It was an amazing visual treat wandering around these narrow blue streets, like we were all inhabiting a shared dream.


Shopkeepers getting ready for the start of another business day

It seems like the stores open fairly late in the day. We're doing our sightseeing after a late breakfast and the store owners around the medina are still fussing around in the front of their stalls, cleaning up and setting up displays. Almost all of them are shawled in the hooded djellaba, a robe that totally reminds me of what the little Jawas wore in Star Wars, which is understandable, because George Lucas probably stole the design when he was filming in nearby Tunisia.


Very Meta


Daily life in Chefchaouen
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  #476  
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More Djellaba-d storekeepers waiting for business

Although the Djellaba has its roots within the indigenous Berber culture of Northern Africa, worn as a protective garment against the sun and the wind-borne sands, today it's more of a fashion statement. I saw businessmen with djellabas over suits and ties and lots of guys wearing jeans and running shoes underneath.


Neda got pulled into this store selling soaps and spices, the aromatic waves and bright colours capturing her attention


We asked what these powders were. It's paint, used to colour the outsides of the buildings!


Moroccan herbal tea mixtures!

Neda really wants to buy something. I can sense it, and so can the storekeepers who call out to us as we walk by. She's like a butterfly that is drawn to all the bright colours of the spices, soaps and paints as if they were flowers.

I got to talking to an artist who was selling some of his captivating paintings of Chefchaouen in his gallery, and he immediately invited us in to sit down and have a mint tea. I'm starting to realize that offering tea is kind of like shaking someone's hand: "HelloHowAreYouWouldYouLikeAMintTea?" I politely declined for fear of being obligated to buy one of his paintings, beautiful as they were.

I read about the aggressive sales people here in Morocco but surprisingly the store-owners in Chefchaouen were very laid-back. We shook our heads and "No, thank you"-d a few of them as we walked by, and they smiled and nodded understandingly back at us. Good experience so far. Maybe we won't have to don the body-armor that we built up in Cuba...


A local shopper peruses the spice rack
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  #477  
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Lunchtime! Time to try some of these much-talked-about Moroccon dishes!


Tajine!

While Neda is a die-hard couscous fan, I ordered the tajine which is the national dish of the country. It's a stew with any kind of meat or vegetables you want in it: chicken, beef, lamb, etc. The stew is infused with a blend of Moroccan spices, different in each city and restaurant. Each portion is slow-cooked in a clay base inside an oven or over a grill. The thing that makes it unique is a conical lid which drips condensation back into the base. They say that tajines were popular in areas where the water supply was scarce because of this water conservation over long cook-times.

Real tajine has to be cooked inside the clay dish! They say that most of the cheaper tourist places just ladle the stew from a huge pot and use the tajine clayware as a serving dish. Not real tajine! Then it's called Pho.

Having said this, the tajine that I tried was just okay. Not as flavourful as the legends of Moroccan spices made it out to be. I'll just have to keep sampling similar offerings from other places! We now have a theme for this leg of our journey: The Ta-Gene Tour of Morocco!


Our restaurant overlooks the Plaza Uta el-Hammam, the main square of the medina


The reddish-brown castle in the plaza is called a kasbah, and is perhaps the only non-blue building in the old city!


Moroccan the Kasbah
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  #478  
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We decided to duck into the castle to get a bit of a break from all the blue surrounding us. The kasbah was a 15th century fortress used to protect high-ranking officials when the city was under siege. It's now a museum.


Deep in the bowels of the fortress


The kasbah was used by the Spanish in the 1920s to imprison the Moroccan resistance leader, Abd el-Krim


Back into the land of the blue and djellaba

I asked a few people why the buildings are all painted blue and got several responses. The painter I talked to told me that the blue was a better colour than the standard white-wash because the sun reflecting off the white gave off too much of a glare. The Internet says the buildings have been painted blue since the 1400s when Jewish refugees settled here and blue was supposed to remind them of God's power above.

Regardless, it is a visual feast and a photographer's dream! It took a very long time to finish this blog entry because I had to look through and choose from over 500 pictures I had taken in Chefchaouen!


Cats rule Chefchaouen

There are wild cats roaming everywhere in town! What is strange is the absence of any wild dogs. There is no barking at night, no packs roaming and fighting in the streets and no canine beggars at the tables in the restaurants. Just lazy felines in every doorway cleaning themselves and giving passerbys the DaFuqYouLookingAt? stare. I suspect that at some point in the city's recent history, there was a great battle between cats and dogs, and while dogs are bigger and stronger, they are dumber and cats are way more devious and evil, so all the dogs have been exiled from the city.

It's the only plausible explanation, and now that it's on the Internet, it will get quoted as a fact.


Camo outfit
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  #479  
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Cat is waiting for the laundry to dry so he can pull the clothes down into the dirt.


We are having such an amazing time in Morocco, so far!

We've even learned some Arabic words! Every time we pass by our parking lot, the old man that watches our bikes comes over and greets us and assures us that the motorcycles are still safe. He's super-nice and seems very paternal. We asked him to teach us some Arabic. We learned the important basics: Thank you - "Shaw-Kruhn" and some greetings - "Salam Aleikum" which we knew before, but that seemed too religious for us, so we like "Marhaban" better.




These are Moroccan tourists trying on indigenous Berber clothing.
I think that hat is typically worn by the men though!



More dress-up by other Moroccan tourists

Northern Morocco so far has been fairly modern outside of the medinas and not as interesting from a motorcycling perspective. I'm hoping that will change as we explore more of this country. We talked to these tourists above and found out that they were from the big city, Casablanca, and they were as enamoured of their country's culture and history as much as any other foreigner!


The real deal


Something about curiousity and cats...
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  #480  
Old 9 Mar 2015
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They obviously don't eat cats in Morocco......but maybe your dog theory is out a bit Gene ??
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