Welcome to Journey To Morocco

This site is here as a test for the main journey which we're undertaking in July 2008 - visit Journey To Russia for more information.

Journey To Morocco will record the journey Matthew is making to Morocco in September 2007, and will then provide you with all the tools and information you need to plan your own Journey.

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The drive back to the coast last night was stunning. The countryside really opened up, I got out of the way of the cities and just enjoyed the wonderful views and vistas across and out to sea or up into the Rif mountains.

I was on the brink of changing my mind again when I pulled over in the middle of no-where for a quick brew. No one seen for 50 miles or so and just fields in front of me, a moment of silence and a cup of tea to sooth the worries of the night before.

No sooner had I sat down than I was joined by a Sheppard boy, complete with goats! Wonderful, I’m starting to experience the real Morocco, perhaps I’m past  the worst of it and it’ll carry on like this. However, on getting out my camera to take a photo the small lads starts shouting at me holding his hand out, not wanting to cause offence (the budget is tight) I put the camera away and instead offered the lad some of me tea – he takes it, sniffs it and hands it back with that look only 9 year olds can muster. I chuckle and my spirits soar – this is it!

Then he had to ruin it, no sooner had the tea touched my lips his little hands thrust into his pocket and pull out some cannabis resign – okay be calm – he offers it to me with the words ’50 euro, 50 euro’. There we are then, everything confirmed there really is no ‘real’ Morocco, just empty spaces filled by drug pushing Sheppard boys.

So I’ve been at this for a little over a week. I’m feeling run down (even with the rest in Gibraltar) and if one more person tries to rip me off I’m going to hit the roof. I think that’s my point actually… I’m not sure I can do this on my own.

Today I hit a small money problem that has left only 90 euros in my pocket for the next couple of days – I could take a risk and carry on into Morocco and be confident it’ll work itself out – making sure I spend as little as possible. The problem is working to a budget here is almost impossible. You can say you’re only going to spend 30 euros but by the time you’ve paid your unwanted guide, your unwanted bike cleaner and whoever else manages to make themselves payable around you your money flitters away, 5 MAD at a time.

But it’s not the money that worries me, my family at home will make sure that I’m okay with that kind of thing, what worries me is my reaction to the problem.

I’m not the kind of person who hides from trouble, I relish a challange and I never shy away, but all I wanted to do today was go home, as quickly as possible. I miss Catherine so much that I’m still tearfull after I get off the phone with her – I really thought this would pass.

I think it all boils down to my coming out here on my own. Talking to other backpackers is great, perhaps even a biker (although I’ve not met one yet).. but there’s something about talking to ones friends that keeps one going, even when it gets tough – that outlet just isn’t here.

I sat in my room this afternoon and cried, alot. I was shaking and really really afraid of the fact that I don’t even have enough money to get back across the border. In the back of my mind I know this will be fixed tomorrow, but that didn’t stop it all rather getting too much.

I’ve been reading a biography about a great explorer and traveller called Wilfred Thesiger, a great man who travelled the world and worked in Africa and Arabia for most of his life. He wrote his own book a few years ago called the life of my choice in which he explained that by having no wife, no family to look after or to care for he was able to go on trek for months on end without the slightest hint of remorse. I think that’s what I’m missing. I have a family, and I love them dearly.

Whilst I’ve been away from home many times before, often for longer periods than this, I think somehow, over the last couple of years I’ve become too much of a ‘home’ person, someone who likes to be around thier family.

So, after this trip is over, I don’t think there’ll be any excursions on my own – I still want to travel the world – much of it on a motorbike – but from now on – only with my friends and family.

Riding out of Tetouan towards Chefchauouen I was struck by how poor this country actually is. Lots of people liing on the outscirts of the city, living much as they must have done in the middle ages. Donkeys, carts and what cars and vans there were, were being thrashed within an inch of their lives; in some cases beyond it.

Chefchauouen is a breath of fresh air – 580m above sea level it’s clean and doesn’t have the bad feeling Tetouan has left in my mouth. Having said that I’ve already been offered a rather large chunk of weed!  It’s obviously a tourist destination but I’m begining to wonder what exactly the tourists come here for.

The mountain ranges leading up to Chefchaouen are striking, marred only by the amount of litter everywhere. The evedence of a tip on the outer reaches of Tetouan persisted for well over 20 miles, scaring this otherwise beautiful countryside.

When I mentioned a breath of fresh air I wasn’t talking about the actual air quality. In the towns it’s thick with desil fumes and on the main roads, trucks, cars and cows all belch constantly to create a real ‘smell of Morocco’.

I’m having to leave behind an awful log of pre-conceptions about people, how we should live and beauty. It’s proving a lot more difficult to leave my decedent western lifestyle behind that I thought.

This evening I arrived in Ouazzane, actually it was just after lunch. I managed to only pay my guide 10MAD rather than the 200 I got stung for yesterday, and find a room for only 120MAD, rather than the 400 that got taken from me for the palace suite at the most expensive room in Tatouan! Feeling a lot better about the people of Morocco I set out for an exploration of the medina – wonderful place, full of energy and interesting little shops selling ripped off Nike gear.

However, walking around I was accosted several times for money, and when I got back to the hotel room feeling a little warn out by all this ‘white westerner must have money’ lark that I was rather pissed off to find the hotel owner had cleaned my bike – a service he justly expected payment for – unfortunately I’m on rather a tight budget for the moment and I could ill afford the money I grudgingly handed over with a scowl – hardly the reaction he was expecting I’m sure.

Tomorrow? Who knows. At the moment I’m not seeing the beauty of the place or the people. I think I must be doing something wrong.

So I’ve decided to head for home. It’s not that I don’t like Morocco (although to be fair I’ve only seen a very tainted part of it) it’s a combination of things. Right at the top of that list is spending 14 days in my own company. It’s what some may call, madness; or at the very least that’s where I’ll end up if I spend any more time on my own with a very basic understanding of French.

I get the feeling I’ve not really seen Morocco – what I’ve seen is the Tourist hell hole that is the con artists, the cities and the crazy driving that is northern Morocco. I’m sure had I stuck with it I would have seen the many wonders and secrets that it holds; unfortunately this time it didn’t open them to me.

I’m coming back. Of that I’m very sure, perhaps next time with friends, which I think will make the world of difference. Three seems the perfect number; one to watch the bikes, another to search for hotels and the third to fend off the money making scum that have ruined this once great nation.

Tomorrow I head for home, I will of course be heading in the opposite direction from which I came, and my luck being what it is it will be beautiful, wonderful and everything I was hoping!


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I’n here, typing on a rather odd keyboard but here all the same.

I was taken for a ride when I got here by a guide’ who escorted me to an expensive hotel (he must have miss understood what I meqnt by cheap, followed by an excersion to a ‘school’ which turned out to be a ‘carpet shop’.

Never mind the hotel is wonderful, a traditional family home in the medina – the food there this evening was good and filling and the bedroom is nice and cool in this heat.

Tommorrow I don’t plan to go far, maybe just a few miles into the mountains and see if I can find a camp site to make up for an expensive room tonight.

I have loads to write but this keyboard is getting the better of me so you’ll just have to wait!

Red & WhiteHere in good old GB it’s National Day – I’d say it’s a riot of colour, but actually it’s a riot of red and white – everywhere. You can’t turn around without seeing the colours balzened over people, shops, animals and even the drinks. The Gibraltarians take this very seriously!

I’ve spent most of the day joining in the party, drinking red drinks and laughing at the very few people who didn’t get the message that today you had to wear red & white – it’s a bit like playing spot the tourist – oddly I don’t feel like a tourist – not sure why.

I’ve made a lot of friend here and I’m going to be quite sad to leave. The day before Yesterday I met a couple of polish backpackers on their way into Spain and a chap called Ed who had just come out of Morocco. It was my duty of course to purchase him a beer and get the very latest intel. Yesterday 4 new people joined me in the Youth Hostel dorm – 2 backpackers from Brighton and 2 German chaps – very nice people who are all 7 years younger than me but can’t hold their drink – inexperience.

Tomorrow I leave for Morocco. Wish me luck.

Having decided to stay around in Gibraltar to see in (and out) the National Day, I found myself at a loose end, wondering what to do and where to go. Do I hit the streets and explore the whole Island, leaving nothing for Catherine and me to see together? Or should I simply sit in a bar and drink until I don’t care what I do.

Actually the decision was made for me. Getting up bright and early to get out of the unbelievably hot stuffy smelly dorm at the Youth Hostel I headed straight into town and found a very pleasant little cafe / bar who served me a dreadful coffee but a divine orange. I sat there waiting for midday, the time of the ceremonial changing of the guard outside the governors’ house.

Heading into the small square at the Convent (where the Governor lives) I waited, it dawned on me that if this were a changing of the guard it would be prompt rather than 10 minutes late. I headed back to the hostel to check the poster out – ahh – it was Saturday at midday, not Sunday.

Further irritation was caused when I discovered that Sunday trading laws are pretty much still in effect here and nowhere was open, at least nowhere that could sell me a small bundle of handkerchiefs (I forgot mine and a fat man in a hot climate needs something to mop his brow with).

I chanced to run into the hostel owner again and thought I’d try and charm her into opening the launderette especially for me – she wasn’t having any of it however – I wasn’t going to be beaten so easily! I headed (dirty washing in tow) to the marina, figuring that dirty sailors would need to clean clothes, and if all else failed I had every intention of marching up to the barracks, making much of my fathers army life and blagging the use of their facilities. Fortunately it didn’t come to that and the marina came up trumps.

A fantastic little place hidden away in the depths of brand new, stylish, marina buildings and posh cafes. The lady who runs the place is Scottish, and as ever when a Welshman and a Scot get together rugby comes to the fore – we both thought England did pretty badly against the US – even if they did win. To cut a long story shirt, I smiled sweetly, pretended I knew nothing about these complicated new fangled washing things and she very kindly offered to do it all for me, she shooed me out of the door and told me to return in an hour… perfect… exactly the right amount of time to grab lunch and a small pot of mint tea.

Enough action for a rest day you may think, but no not me. I couldn’t resist getting my leg over the bike and exploring this tiny little bit of Britain away from home. Heading up to the rock I looked in detail at the Siege Tunnels, the Apes (don’t call them monkeys) St Michaels Cave and I also got my first proper look at Africa. It wasn’t that good a look as it was surrounded by heat haze and it could quite easily been Spain for all I know – but it was in the correct general direction.

Heading back into town I found a mosque –  isolated out on Europa Point, I saw a big tanker that had kind of sunk and kind of not sunk – see the photos, and I managed to find a shop open that sold handkerchiefs!

A pretty successful day in all, tonight sees me meeting my new room mates (let’s hope they don’t snore as badly as last nights). I’m heading into town this evening as I’ve decided it’s better to join them than try to ignore them – the party is getting into full swing and if last night was anything to go by we’ll be treated to a bad Spanish singer made wonderful by a gang of scantily clad Spanish women who can’t dance very well – but look quite good trying!

http://flickr.com/photos/journeytomorocco/

… and me.

Last night I gave in and crashed at a hotel. It was a bargin at $25 but dear me I wish I hadn’t. Amazingly it was the worst nights sleep I’ve had so far, even with air-con a comfortable bed and clean sheets. I’m obviously getting far to used to my sleeping mat! (I told you it was comfortable).

But tongiht sees me hunting out a hotel again, as there’s no camping on Gibraltar. You’d think this was easy, there’ll be loads of hotels here! Think again. There are about 6, and they’re all full. The only hope I have is the Youth Hostel which opens at 4:30pm. It has 2 single rooms (£25) and then dorms that sleep 12 (£15). I’m crossing my fingers that I can get the single room, but if not then the dorm will have to do.

I’m here for 2 nights as I digest the recent politcal unrest in Morocco and wait for the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office after the bombings in Algeria – it’s totally unconnected, but at the same time, I’d rather sit here for and extra day and make sure that everything is fine before I grab the hourly ferry across to Cetua.

Looking at BBC News the election has gone well, with little unrest and with a low turn out… this boads well, but given the latest attempt to set off a terroist device next to a tourist coach in Meknes if I do go, I need to be very vigilant.

Tomorrow I plan to see a little of Gibraltar, but I don’t want to see too much as it’s quite possible my darling wife will be flying out to join me here around the 27th September for a couple of days, and I’d rather leave things for us to do together. I miss her dreadfully and it’s the hardest thing to deal with whilst I’m away. I find myself quite tearful most nights.

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