Today I cycled from Tetouan to Chefchaouen. I can handle the narrow road with no shoulder, but it would not be good for an inexperienced cyclist. The cars and trucks smoke and growl up the 30km climb to 2000 feet.
I meet an evacuating solo touring cyclist from Canada. He has been cycling in Europe for four months and came down to Morocco. He was planning on spending two months here but was now hightailing it back to Spain. He couldn’t take the touts. He couldn’t take not knowing who to trust. He couldn’t take having to be on guard with everyone that you meet. He said he always felt uptight and anxious down here.
The tout will be friendly, try to get to know you, then drop the shoe. Today I was approached when I pulled over to drink some water and rest. The guy said he was interested in cycling, how far did I come, what kind of bike did I have, etc. Then he asked me if I would like to smoke some very good hash with him. I got out of there quick.
The second tout was in the medina in Chefchaouen, and approached me very cheerfully, just wanted to walk with me, etc. I told him I was not interested in having a guide. He said he just wanted to be friendly. I said I preferred to walk alone. And here is how you know if you have got a tout- they say something designed to upset you. This guy said “You are way too paranoid, man.” I just smiled. Bingo.
Now for the good guys, which far outnumber the bad. I need wifi to upload this journal. I went to all the internet cafes I could find but no wifi. I stopped in hotels. No wifi. I asked in cafes. No wifi. Frustrated I hung on the street just wondering what to do for five minutes, and I noticed a computer shop. I walked in, and the guy had wifi, gave me the password, and refused any payment. He told me that if I came back when he was closed, I had the password, and I could stand in front of the shop and use it. I thanked him heartily.
Next door I stopped in to get a fresh squeezed orange juice. Four, 30 something men were counting change and we began a discussion in english. They invited me to sit with them, and we talked for 15 minutes or so. Very nice.
When I ride into town I always ask for directions to the hotel. It is easier, and I meet people. I ask directions six times, and everyone is helpful and steers me right.
THe manager of the hotel seems concerned about my comfort. The waiter at the restaurant is genuinely nice. I have a 10 minute conversation that I initiate with a guy dressed in one of those hooded things. He speaks four languages and is proud and bright.
I get beeped and waved at every 15 minutes or so on the road, more if I am climbing a hill.
And last, but not certainly not least, a cat snuggles me during dinner.
Maybe I’ll do better than my Canadian counterpart, but I understand his emotions.
It’s rainy today, I get wet and dry out a number of times.
On the road to Chefchaouen. It’s surprisingly lush here!
The clouds parted and Allah favored two shrubs.
A cat with salad, olives, and hot mint tea. Two cats purr happily.
Chicken and vegetable tanguene. Mmmm.
My purring pawing inquisitive but well mannered dinner companion. He was there for the affection but grateful for the chicken skin.
Chefchaouen is colorful, detailed, fascinating. Within 10 minutes of walking the medina I know I am going to stay here another day.
Chefchaouen. Not my hotel, however.
Chefchaouen. The creek that provides water for the town has a place to wash clothes.
Chefchaouen. This town has so many elevations, colors, it’s confusing at times.
Chefchaouen. Little hinges swing big doors.
More good. The hotel owner invites me to sit down and have a bite with him and two other Moroccans. We dip bread into a bean soup and chat.