Friday, July 31, Algeciras, Spain

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The blue medina of Chefchouen. By tradition everyone within the walled part of the city paints their home blue. Note the mountain to the right.

I’m not sure now which is my favorite place in Morocco, Essaoura or Chefchouen. This city is small enough to be a community, but large enough to have many charms.

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Like many Moroccan cities this one had its raison detre from a spring. The building in the distance is the place where the water emerges from the mountain. On hot days residents and visitors gather here to play in the clear, cold water.

I managed to climb to the “Spanish mosque”, paradoxically a structure built during the Spanish occupation in 1912 (Spain left in 1956 as did France). It’s on a knoll about 1,500 meters above the city.

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The mosque.
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Kids playing in the spring water just below the outtake.
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Some of the mountains that loom over the city.

I worried about how I was going to get to Spain today. I inquired about buses to Tangiers but was told there was only one, departing at 3pm. That would be much too late. I wasn’t sure if I could get across the Mediterranean in time with that late start. The idea of staying overnight in Tangiers–a city with a bad reputation–bothered me. I spent considerable time researching this leg of my trip on the internet, but most of the results were unhelpful. Most only discussed transiting southward fromTangiers. There was one brief comment on a chat site saying that there were many unofficial buses leaving Chefchouen, that one only had to go to the bus station and look around.

Which is what i did. And, thankfully, that comment turned out to be spot on. I got to the station around 9:15 to find a bus waiting. By 9:45 we were on our way. Three hours later (an hour shorter than Lonely Planet lists) we rolled into Tangiers.

The Tangiers bus terminal was unprepossessing, with no covered building, just a few bus parking spots. And no blue taxis waiting. I needed a ride to the ferry. There were two guys hanging out asking if anyone needed a ride. I heard stories of rapacious Tangiers taxi drivers who would rip you off given half a chance, so I was wary. But these guys seemed harmless and friendly so i let them importune me into a $4.50 fare to the port. My guy didn’t speak any English, and for a while I thought we might be headed for the airport instead of the seaport, but a bit of pantomiming verified that we were going seaward.

The van the guy had was a wreck. To open the sliding door required reaching inside to find a handle that worked. The outside handle was long gone. This smashed and dented little piece of the 1990’s puttered out of the ‘station’. And puttered right into a gas station. My fare was going to buy the gas for the trip I realized. A violation of etiquette I think it would be fair to say, but I liked the driver and went along with the irregularity. With four litres of petrol on board we scooted out onto the competitive avenues of Tangiers.

Soon the port loomed in the distance. Sometimes on my trips I marvel at the places I go. I was slightly awestruck at the notion of hopping on a ferry and crossing over to a new continent. The day was beautiful with blue skies and temperate seaside weather. I found the ticket place and gave them my $44 fare. I expected the third degree from the passport people. After all one of the biggest stories in the world right now is the migration of people across the Med. But, at least in Tangier security was casual. They xrayed my bag and painting but no one seemed to be really looking at the screen. And no one asked where I was residing in Spain (I’d forgotten to write down my airbnb address in Algeciras).

There were only two downers. One, there were no outside seats on the ferry. My only view of the Med was through the dirty windows. Two, we weren’t going to Algeciras. Tarifa, a few miles west of Algeciras was the only available destination. I asked if there was another ferry somewhere else in Tangiers that might take me to my preferred destination. No, was the terse answer.

It only took an hour to broach the distance to Europe. Now i had to find a bus to take me from Tarifa east.

But no, I didn’t. There was a bus sitting right outside the terminal waiting for us. As best I could deduce, after the fact, the dock at Algeciras was temporarily unavailable so the company supplied a free shuttle bus to Algeciras. In 30 minutes i was where I wanted to be.

The place I’m staying at is the home of a young woman who regularly rents via airbnb. I intend to stay here for three days, in order to visit nearby Gibraltar, and to slow down my pace a bit.

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Jerry Heverly

I'm a high school English teacher from San Leandro High School in California.

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