Subtour 2: Riviera Tour, 0594 The Tanger Forest (Morocco 210—new)

Moraia Travel Blog

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It’s been a very quiet 10 weeks since my “Reconnecting to My Roots” trip back in December.  I haven’t done hardly any exploring, instead I’ve been trying to figure out what the theme of this next decade of my life will look like.  For a while I thought that maybe, just maybe my life might take on a whole new direction as it has at the turn of every other decade of my life.  1980… 1990… 2000 all came at life changing moments of my life.

 

But 2010 looks like more of the same--  not that that’s bad… After all, I am in just getting started on this “Global Parkbench Tour”… and have lots and lots of more territory to cover.  And right now I’m itching to get back on the road again.  Although my trip to Mexico was very satisfying in a nostalgic retro sort of way, I covered relatively little territory, visiting only 17 towns in 2 weeks--  and 8 towns were explored during flight layovers!

 

It’s been a very quiet 10 weeks since my “Reconnecting to My Roots” trip back in December.

  I haven’t done hardly any exploring, instead I’ve been trying to figure out what the theme of this next decade of my life will look like.  For a while I thought that maybe, just maybe my life might take on a whole new direction as it has at the turn of every other decade of my life.  1980… 1990… 2000 all came at life changing moments of my life.

 

But 2010 looks like more of the same--  not that that’s bad… After all, I am in just getting started on this “Global Parkbench Tour”… and have lots and lots of more territory to cover.  And right now I’m itching to get back on the road again.  Although my trip to Mexico was very satisfying in a nostalgic retro sort of way, I covered relatively little territory, visiting only 17 towns in 2 weeks--  and 8 towns were explored during flight layovers!

 

Now I have another 2 weeks, and this time I’m determined to rack up lots of points--  and hopefully a new country.

  Still going by the rule of thumb “go wherever it’s cheapest”, I’ll actually fly right back to where my European Adventure ended last October:  Bergamo, Italy.


From here I have three choices: East to Slovakia, which I’ve visited but haven’t parkbenched… north to snag Liechtestein, or west to Monaco.  I’d really like to visit a new country and since I’m a bit unsure about finding cheap transportation in the Alps at this time a year… Monaco it is…

 

I’m excited about it--  Italy and France are the best places to cram in a lot of cool little towns in a short period of time… So I’m psyching myself up for a marathon race.

 

But to get a really cheap flight, I’m going to have to wait an extra day and a half and fly out of Tanger, Morocco.

  But even that will not be wasted time, I’m going to squeeze the Tanger area for any more “discoveries” right to the last drop…

 

The Tanger Forest

 

I arrive in Tanger before dawn, and just chill out at the bus station for a bit, waiting for the city to wake up.  I’ve had several close calls trying to explore the old medina early in the morning that I’d rather not repeat.  Finally, feeling cold and stiff, I decide to get moving. 

 

I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the Old Medina--  as I feel that’s already been thoroughly explored, but that’s where the cheap hotels are, so I figure I’ll go ahead a book a room a drop off my bag.  But no one answers when I knock, or they tell me they’re still full and I should wait a few hours… so I hike up to the main square where I first parkbenched Tanger in February of 2008… and reminisce on how great it felt to play music and hang out with people in Morocco after a lonely 7 months of parkbenching around the USA.

 

Now, after 2 years of living here, I’m still not jaded with this country and I still love the spontaneous encounters I have when I pull out my guitar.


But for now, I’m just going to grab some bisara (pea soup) and a glass or raib (yoghurt) for breakfast as I wait for hotels to open up. 

 

By 8 AM I manage to book a room and head out to explore some new parts of the city.

 

This time I head straight west from the Old Medina past a large cemetery and a church with a towering steeple at the top of the hill--  a not so subtle reminder of Tanger’s colonial past… then on through another business district on what seems to be a plateau, with cliffs and the ocean not too far too the north and steep downhills a few blocks to the south…

 

Then suddenly I find myself in another “Old Medina” with bustling, twisting alleyways, lively shops and a picturesque aqua blue mosque.  Truly Tanger has a lot more to be discovered than I had first thought.

 

At the other end is a royal palace, which I’m told I can’t photograph… around it are some very stately mansions that blend European and Moroccan architecture surrounded by lush growth, giving them almost a tropical “hacienda” feel.

 

And then an alley that leads down the steep hill, that turns into a footpath and then peeters out in a ramshackle area of fields and random junkpiles--  but I refuse to turn around and climb up the hill again, so I find a way through, over a fence, and--  whew!--  onto a main road again…

 

This road twists through a valley that leads to the rugged north shore.  It’s actually a new road that was built at the base of the cliff and leads around to the Tanger port, bypassing the inner city.  Quite practical, but it kind of spoils the breathtaking view that you get from the top of the cliff looking across the straits of Gibraltar to Spain. 

 

Anyways, I head up to the shore to see if I can follow the coastline on west--  maybe all the way to Cap Spartel, the Northwesternmost corner of Africa… but no luck… it’s just cliffs heading west. So I head back until I find a west-heading road, which takes me through a vast sprawl of very upscale villas that dot the hillsides.

 

It seems there’s a lot of wealth here in Tanger.

 

Finally it looks like the city is coming to an end and there’s just forest beyond.  To the north is a wooded ridge with a few more luxury homes and to the south is another ridge with what looks like lower class homes… I opt for south, figuring it will be more interesting.  I climb on up the steep slopes on muddy dirt roads, hoping I’m not just heading for a dead end as houses a gradually replaced by trees.  Generally I would really enjoy a hike through the countryside, but here I’m feel a tad bit nervous.  See, since Tanger is a popular launching point for folks heading to Europe illegally, it’s a magnet for all sorts of desperate folk, many of whom end up getting stuck here, unable to go on and too ashamed to go back.  I kind of suspect that some of these folks might be camping out in these forests… and I’m kind of a walking target…

 

But all is quiet, except for a couple of village ladies leading their donkey laden with water jugs.  If not for the uneasy feeling I have, this would be a marvellous little hike--  there aren’t a lot of shady forests in Morocco to hike through, so this is a special treat.  When a guy approaches me, red lights start flashing, but he ends up just being a construction worker from Sale who, like myself, is taking a break to enjoy nature a bit…

Finally the path and the ridge I’m following veer off to the south.  I want to go northwest, so I try blazing my own trail down the hillside.  Down below there are a couple of farmplots, and if anyone is watching they must be scratching their heads at this odd white guy trying to scramble his way through the brush.  I follow what seems like a path, only to find it dead end… I back track and try again…


Finally, feeling quite flustered I make it to the bottom of the valley, across the fields and up the ridge on the other side.  I don’t care if I’m trespassing--  there’s no way I’m turning back now…


Thankfully, on the other side there is a rocky dirt road that I follow on west. I quicken my pace, eager to either discover a new village, or run into the Atlantic Ocean--  whichever comes first!  Then suddenly I reach another ridge and… There’s Tanger again!

 

After all these hours of thinking I’m blazing my way through the wilds--  I’ve actually just been following the Tanger perimeter!  To the south is a “finger” of the city that stretches far to the southwest, and directly to the west are the lowland plains and the Tanger airport…

 

Right on top of the ridge, however, right before dropping down to the rows of apartment blocks being built, is a little village that I think definitely merits being parkbenched.  It’s surrounded by Tanger, and most likely is technically part of Tanger, but it clearly existed here long before the city’s fingers got this far--  so I decide to count it…

 

… Besides, I really need to reward myself for that long, arduous hike through the forest…

 

So I ask a young boy for the name of the place and he tells me “Moraia”.  So “Moraia” will be the first parkbench location of this leg of my adventure. 

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Moraia
photo by: nathanphil