Chefchaouen travellers review

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Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen travellers review Reviews

Graemeltfc Graemelt…
1 reviews
A month of madness Jun 05, 2012
David & i had been wanting to visit a certain town in the North of Morocco, middle of nowhere,that had a war with the government some decades ago, is known as the centre of

Hashish production of Morocco (ergo the world), which is also a smugglers paradise and when we visited the tremors of neighbouring countries Arab springs were felt here too. This town is Chefchaouen.

Getting to 'Chaouen' as it's simply known in Morocco is fairly easy, just be vigilant in who your transport providers are. Not the case for the pair of us though, as we departed Fes on a coach that broke down 4 times on the way out of the bus station, mechanics and kids selling bars of chocolate ran after the bus. After the mechanics created a makeshift fix for whatever was troubling the engine, we were on our way.

Roads became windy as we left the city north towards the Rif mountains. Clouds gathered over as we ascended up narrow steep hills, then finally released a deluge of rain. The coach started taking on water quickly, i donned my rain jacket as i was getting sprayed with water where the window would not close properly. A teenager in front of us moved in his seat, enough for the loose hinges to send him through the seat on to the floor, sending Dave and half the back of the bus into stitches. Water flooded down the roadsides and ran down the hills all around us, this weather was more reminiscent of my native Britain.

After around 3-4 hours we reached the town of Ouezzane, a grim town of 60,000, which had one long road through it and a load of apartments, we didn't feel particularly safe there either. We arrived at the bus station however and easily enough sorted out a 'grand taxi' to Chaouen. We were in a Mercedes from about 1980, with 7 people squashed in the car, which im sure wasn't even a Mercedes, but the journey took about another hour before we finally got to Chaouen, the pastel blue buildings buried into the huge mountains of the Rif, Jebel el-Kelaa at 1616m looking over the town.

We were dropped off by the edge of the medina and no sooner had we dropped our bags down from out the boot of the Merc, A 40-something guy marched across the street to us, introduced himself, seemed nice enough so followed him on his promise of good, cheap accommodation. We ended up on the third floor of a basic hotel which seemed to have a lot of youths smoking joints, drinking tea in the social area.

The man who took us there let us get used to the twin single room, then we rejoined him as he said he wanted to take us to his house for tea. Upon arrival at this mans house we were taken upstairs, passing his wife on the way upto his lounge. The wife brang up Moroccan tea for us all while the bloke retrieved a plastic carrier bag and proceeded to present large amounts of around 7 varieties of Hash. After an hour or so of sampling each type (out of courtesy, of course) and the inevitable hard sell, we made our excuses and went to explore the town for ourselves.

Chaouen has a manageable Medina, though it is easy to get lost, typical narrow windy alleys teeming with more life the further you head downhill. It is also very blue, a legacy of the Jewish population pre-1930's apparently. Fabric shops hide behind corners,Goat's cheese is sold in Abundance and herb shops create intense colours. There's a good chance the Medina will spit you out at the place outa el hammam, where there are a selection of cheap eateries, which most are pretty much the same as each other, the proprietors competing for customers in the square. Moroccans are very adept with languages, a few of them were speaking with some Japanese tourists in Japanese to add to their knowledge of English, French, Spanish, German,Italian

let alone their own dialects.

Just off the Place outa el hammam there is the Kasbah which is accessible only on some days and for a small fee, but inside are well tended to gardens. Further along the pedestrianised avenue is the Hotel Parador/ Taxi rank (good for a beer ((pricey here though)) if you're missing it)and beyond this, one of the towns main attractions Dar ras el maa, which is a beautifully sculpted stream, with deep pools at intervals and runs round south of the medina. The locals love coming here to mess about and cool off from the heat of the African sun. Women would also bring clothes down to wash stations alongside the stream.

We moved on after 2 nights from our hotel/hostel type building, to make the arduous journey up the hill to 'Camping Azilane' as it was cheaper and David & i had a one man tent each that fit unobtrusively on our backpacks, skimmed from our past jobs in a camping warehouse in Southern France. The campsite was on the way up the mountains, so everyday it was a killer trek into town if we wanted to get some stuff. Sometimes we got a taxi as it was only £2 if we were feeling lazy..

After a few days of inactivity we decided to trek along the road behind the campsite with a couple of Danish girls we had met who were on their way back to Denmark from South America. We walked for about 2 hours, one dog i named 'Max' from the camp site had also decided to leave and follow us into the Rif mountains, who was our unofficial mascot for the journey. We reached a small village in a small valley and were stunned by what we saw. Every single garden in this village was growing weed. plants about a metre tall, in neatly lined rows,a bout 50 to each garden.

The paths through the village were literally stepping stones in creeks. I believe this place could be 'Ain Tissimlane' Men followed us the whole way on our walk, i think they are rather protective of the crop round there, but were good natured and we got a game of football with the villagers while they tried to organise a minibus back to Chaouen. It eventually arrived and it was about 15 men in the back of a land rover, so i ended up standing up last on after 5 minutes of chasing Max trying to get this random dog on the 'minubus'. We headed back to camp, the dog acting like nothing unusual had happened as he went back to his owners.

The next day, David and I decided to climb up the Jebel El-Kelaa mountain. We literally started sprinting up the mountain straight from behind the campsite. We soon run out of breath and water. Note: stick to designated tracks! We soldiered on for an hour, maybe more. I gave up near the summit but fair play to David for going on and completing the task whilst i sat back with some local produce and enjoyed the view from my new lofty perch.

Dave met me on the way back down the mountain, it was trickier getting back down and proved to steep for me, i ended up hurtling down for about 150 metres, landing fortunatley to jump over the next rock or avoid a prickly bush but i had to slow myself down so did just dive in a bush. I'm honestly lucky not have got a serious injury or worse, it was one of the most scariest moments of my life, i did not know how to stop myself falling. Needless to say we took the rest of the descent at a slow place, looking out for wildlife, crossing goat herders in random surreal places to shout a quick 'salaam'.

I highly recommend an Excursion to Kerala/Akchour for the waterfalls which are simply stunning. There are restaurants and barbecues hand made from local sources along the river front which serve drinks and basic food and are precarious to get to. If you keep perservering however you will reach the 'Bridge of God' which is an impressive strip of land hanging over a waterfall.

Chefchaouen is an amazing place and well worth making the effort to get to. The locals are some of the friendliest you'll encounter in Morocco.
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