Chefchaouen to Al Hoceima
We were up ridiculously early today. CTM only has the one bus at 6am!
Being smart, we packed the evening before. Jumping up, grabbing our bags, and waking David & Sophia, we headed out. It was nice and quiet. There was hardly anyone on the streets, and we made our way down the hill through the old town with no problems. From new town it was easy to backtrack the way we went yesterday, and eventually made it to the station with plenty of time.
The bus headed out before sunrise. This was not such a problem, but the road is supposed to be one of the most spectacular roads in all Morocco. When it did get light, everything was white. There was fog everywhere. The road was carved out of the side of hills and mountains, and the sheer drop off the side was veiled by the soft white cloud. The bus stopped on the side of the road for breakfast, and the fog started lifting. It never completely went away, and at times we were below it. Other times above, but mostly through. It was an amazing sight when we came through it, into the brilliant sunlight to see a far off peak sticking out of the sea of fog.
Most of the country side here is covered in thick forests. Leaf forest with the occasional little lake and rivers.
Higher up the pine trees take over . Little villages are dotted around and in places there is a lot of agriculture. The “wild riff mountains” are very cultivated, and not so wild, except maybe in the attitude of the people.
After a few hours, we came to Ketema. Famous in Morocco for it’s kif. Not a very pleasant looking town, but neither were the other places we had come through. A big part of this is the attitude to garbage collection. Most people put it into piles to be collected, but there doesn’t seem to be a garbage truck. There does not seem to be much old history about, and most of the concrete houses have a thin layer of mould growing on them. While out of the bus for some fresh mountain air, a local man welcomed us to “the Colombia of Morocco”.
Unfortunately, I fell asleep for most of the bus ride. Waking up for the last few hours. There was one interesting thing. The girl opposite us was very sick. This probably shouldn’t go in the blog, but she failed to tie up the bag properly, and with the winding road, it was all over that side of the bus before we got out. Not much fun, and made us all queasy as well.
Arriving in Al Hoceima, we found out our guide book was out of date. No surprise when it was written in 2007. There is a nice new bus station out of town. Not in the centre as it used to be. Makanoushki. We grabbed a couple of taxis and headed in. Looking at the hotels, we found a perfect one. En suite, hot water, good beds. 120Dh. Then it turned into 120 per person. No thanks. The hotel next door was the same except for the en suite, but it had a balcony to compensate, so we stayed there. A walk around town showed that we were staying in the market area. Everyone had all their stalls set up along the streets.
From here we decided to hit the beach. It is on the Med, and we do have to go see it. Following our small map, we made it to the last street before the beach, only to find out the town is built up on a bluff overlooking the sea. This was a bit of a surprise, and we then had to work out how to get down. Following the roads around the bluff, we came to a section where we could clearly see the beach. It would have been perfect a few years ago. A wide beach, enclosed with a small harbour on one side, with a breakwater, and large cliffs on the other. The hill behind was quite steep. Now however there is already one massive hotel built on the beach, with another under construction. We made our way down an unofficial path to behind the construction site. Here there is a small shanty town set up. They would have had the best views before the hotels came along, now they are just stuck behind them with nowhere to go.
The beach itself is pristine. Crystal clear water, clean sand, and people playing soccer. It is quite popular, but not overrun with people. Finding a nice patch, we made ourselves comfortable as the sun crept down towards the bluff. Sitting there talking, watching the small schools of fish swim past as the sun set was perfect. Not being much of a beach person, I could appreciate the moment.
It was easy to follow the road back up the hill, if somewhat steep, to town. This is new town (Well, newer than the bit we are staying in). It looks a little European, with wide boulevards, tea cafes and expensive shops. Fountains set out in the square, neon lights and people in suits or otherwise well dressed walking past.
A fair walk took us back to the approximate location of the hotel. We only needed the one stop for tea (with free directions) before we returned. As it was still early, we found the internet cafe next door, and tried to do our blog. However the cable we were given didn’t work. Putting some on a USB, we tried that. No USB ports. Oh well, next time.