IV: TETOUAN – MEKNES
L’agua l’agua no paraba, la carretera no se arreglaba y llegamos a Tetouan tarde en la noche a un parking donde acampamos descaradamente con permiso del personal.
Al otro día hicimos Mercado a la salida del parking y vendimos gafas a tletin dirham (30 DH, 3 euros) estuvo muy divertido y conocimos a Ryan que también vendía frente a nosotros y nos ayudó todo el día. Yazmín vivió su primera experiencia Hammam (baño árabe de mujeres) donde la bañaron minusiósamente e hizo nuevas amigas. Volvió vestida de marroquí con pañuelito y todo. Por la noche volvimos a nuestro “profechonalchiringo” y seguía l’agua l’agua.
Al día siguiente Yazmín y Belén acompañadas del Perro fueron a vender gafas y llegó Ahmed,un viejo amigo marroquí que conocimos en Barcelona. Ryan contrató a Belén para vender en su puesto de ropa.
A media tarde llegó la policía y se llevó a Marco y Xelo a la comisaría. Estuvieron un buen rato hablando hasta que finalmente nos dieron 1 hora para abandonar Tetouan. (otra vez 1 hora!!) Nos despedimos de nuestros nuevos amigos y nos marchamos rápidamente junto a Ahmed.
Partimos a Azla, una playa cerca de Tetouan donde nos quedamos en el camping del mismo nombre, llovía y paraba de llover todo el tiempo. Nos quedamos dos días, Ahmed hizo mercado, cocinamos en el fuego y jugamos con los cachorros que había en la casa.
Seguimos camino a Qued Lao, un pueblo un poco más grande donde tocamos en un restaurant a cambio de comida. Dormimos en un camping.
De ahí nos fuimos rumbo a Ketama, empezamos a subir el Riff por la noche y nos encontramos con grandes dificultades ya que el camino era malísimo y las subidas muy peligrosas con precipicios y mucha pendiente. Tuvimos que bajarnos de la furgo y hacer maniobras para poder subir. Acampamos por ahí al lado de la ruta. En la mañana seguimos hacia un pueblo en lo alto de las montañas, hicimos mercado y en la noche fuimos recibidos por la familia de Ahmed. Nos trataron muy bién, fumamos y comimos cordero, porque era la semana del cordero. Hacía frio y llovía, las montañas tenían nieve, parecía Suiza.
Pasamos por Fès y solo fuimos al Super supermercado, era todo carísimo, compramos 1 paquete de galletas para todos y nos fuimos a Meknes.
Se nos rompió el carrito así que tuvimos que pasar la noche en la ciudad por lo tanto hubo que ir a buscar un hostal a la 1 am, fue algo complicado porque la mayoría estaban cerrados y los demás nos cobraban muy caro. Finálmente encontramos.
Al otro día hicimos mercado, se arregló el carrito y nos fuimos. Ahmed se volvió para Tetouan y nosotros seguimos hacia a Mannismann beach en Mohammedia, donde tenemos varios amigos del viaje anterior.
Tetouan was our first authentic experience at incorporating ourselves to the daily habits and lifestyles of our fellow Morrocans, though always with trademark Chanto twists. We drove into a public parking lot in the center of town where Marco quickly made friendly chit-chat with the parking attendants, and after exchanging smiles and CDs for permission to set up a gypsy campsite in a corner of the lot (parking/carping), we started setting up our tents amisdt giant puddles and streams of neverending rainwater. During the following days we sorted through disintigrated and moldy cardboard boxes that had been tied to the roof of the Subaru, trying to salvage the goods that we had brought with us from Europe to sell in the Morrocan souqs (markets). In Tetouan we mostly sold batches of last season’s eyeglasses that Marco had acquired in Switzerland for free from generous/overstocked optometrists.
The going rate was 30 dirham (3 euros) but of course part of the game is the bartering, the edgy-yet-friendly negotiations. More than once I was reminded of Monty Python’s Life of Brian’s ridiculous haggling scenes, but as far as movies go I actually started seeing Star Wars scenes every which way I turned. Any superfan that finds themselves in Morocco can imagine George Lucas having visited, perhaps smoked something tasty, looked around him, and wrote `A New Hope’ right there and then. The chilaba clad merchants and traders, the hooded jedi tunics, what’s this about sand people, the similarity between the vast dryness of Tatouine and the Moroccan landscapes (alright Tatouine is a city in Tunisia, close enough) all were very impressive. It would have been very cool to have found the cantina (and Han Solo) but alas, stumbling across a bar that serves alcohol in Morocco is not a common occurance. Instead the typical social gathering point for men are cafes, which look exactly like a basic bar—tables, chairs, bar, bartender, television, cardgames—but instead of beer and cigarettes the men drink tea and smoke hashish, or in the north they smoke “kif“, a finely cut mixture of homegrown tobacco and marijuana leaf smoked through a very long and slender pipe with a tiny bowl at the end called a“sipsi“ or something of the sort.
And what really drew my attention was how extremely common it was to find all the men attentively watching animal and nature documentaries in the cafes! In Spain or in the US a typical bar scene may include a rowdy half drunk crowd spilling beer and shouting at the sports match on TV; in Morocco the men are sitting peacefully smoking their pipes and learning about animals on the Discovery Channel. Go figure.
Our eyeglasses stand in the Tetouan market was so successful that it attracted the attention of local authorities, who passed by and took Marco and Xelo down to the station with them. From there an informative game of 20 questions ensued, which ended when the police told the boys that since their people cannot go and sell goods in our countries, we were also forbidden to sell goods in their countries. They then gave us exactly one hour to pack up all our belongings, our public campsite, and get the hell out of Tetouan. And if we did not comply or if we were caught again making market in their district, they would deport us to Spain—which struck me as extremely ironic, as being banished to Spain is probably a dream for many of the Moroccans that surrounded us.
Luckily we had met up with Ahmed, a dear friend from Barcelona who is originally from Tetouan, who guided us to a (real) campsite where we paid 60 dirham for all of us to take over their gorgeous terrain along the winding Mediterranean coastline with the snowcapped Rif Mountains to our backs.
Our days and evenings were spent jamming and singing around a fire (‘Nos Echaron de Tetouan’/’They Kicked Us Out of Tetouan’, Perro’s hit single), and Marco proved to us yet again with his superb cooking skills that he is ready to get married and will be a wonderful mother to his dozens of little Marcos. From here we continued along the coast, climbing up into the mountains, even reaching 2000 meters above sea level with the sea still in sight! We had the incredible fortune and pleasure of exploring the nooks and crannies of the Rif region, a privilege not bestowed upon many travelers or curious eyes. The sparse and isolated farms throughout the mountains and valleys are where the ingredients of kif are grown, and the region itself is the heart of hashish production—one of Morocco’s most successful industries.
Now that we were traveling with a Moroccan we ventured along the cliffs and slopes—at times being pursued by psychotic locals who would speed up, hang halfway out their car windows, flailing about a joint in their hand, half shouting and half cackling ‘Hashish, hashish!’ as they passed us time and time again, adamant about finding a wealthy European buyer for their harvest. We passed through miniscule towns that only seemed inhabited on their souq (market) day—which is how they named these populations, we were explained. For example, we passed through the quiet town of Wednesday Market and so forth. Eid-al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice, was spent with Ahmed’s relatives up in the snow dusted mountains—that’s right, snow and ice in Africa. Over the next few days we snaked our way south to Fez, and then headed west towards Marrakech. We had to make an emergency stop in Meknes though due to a busted axle on the trailer—whoops—so we stayed on a few days, made market, a bit of tourism, and once Marco had patched up the axle (we prayed for it to hold out until we could fix it for real), and continued along the road west towards Mohammedia.