12-13 August 2006: Today we woke up very early, at 07:30am. It is the first time that we wake up so early since we have to travel from Marrakech to Tangier, one of the biggest ports of Morocco. Unfortunately, our return tickets are from Ceuta so we have to return there. I calculate that it will take us up to 600km to Ceuta. We were thinking of sleeping in Rabat but we change our mind and we will stay at Tangier since is closer to Ceuta.
We start our journey at 10:30 following the signs to Casablanca. We found our exit form the town and we stopped for benzene. There I asked the employee if the autopista that the map describes is actually an autopista and with proud he replied yes. In general the roads at these flat areas are narrow with traffic and make driving exhausting. The scene doesn’t have anything special to offer. As we are driving I see a classic country road like the one for Essaouira without many turnings but narrow. I can see the motorway in my left which is under development. I feel very awful since we need many km to do. Anyway, few km outside Seita we found signs which lead to a motorway.
The road is very good and without traffic whiles the tolls are a bit expensive, but not so expensive like in France. Probably they know that this road is been used normally from tourists who move between Tangier – Rabat – Casablanca-Fes- Marrakech and keep the prices high. Because there are not so many gas stations as they are in Europe we decide to stop to the next one that we will find. This gas station is alike the French ones. It has cafeteria, restaurant, parking, a small hospital and a mosque. We full our tanks and our stomachs and we keep some 100.000 dirham for the tolls until Tangier. After few km we pay 20 dirham at the tolls. Next to the tolls there was a gas station where we go to change 20euros to dirham. Before we enter in the motorway we went to Rabat to change some euros but the bank was closed. Anyway, we change euros to dirham at the gas station for 1 dirham = 10euros. At the next tolls they gave us a card to pay the amount at the exit which we will exit. Italian system! A sign mentions that we have to pay 58 dirham for Tangier. In total the tolls will cost us 119 dirham.
70 km outside Tangier I see that I need benzene. I keep driving without speed fluctuations while I am thinking what will happen if I run out of benzene. At a point where a sign mentions that there are 35km left to Tangier, my benzene spare led lights up. After 30km we reach the tolls. I ask there where we can find a gas station and the employee tells us that there is one after 2km. Anyway, we fill up our tanks to the gas station and keep driving for the town. We are thinking of staying here tonight so as to wake up early in the morning and go to Ceuta which is 70km away. Soon enough I realized that it will be difficult to move around Tangier and this is because we found heavy traffic in the city. We move to the centre and we found some paved streets full in people and cars, while we couldn’t find any hotel or hostel. But even if we find any the town is not so secure and we can easily park our motorcycles. After a logjam at the entrance of Medina we returned to the main road. We stopped to discuss what we are going to do. Although we want to see the town since it haves influences from Morocco and Europe. Even if we find a hotel it will take us time so we will not be able to see most of the sights there. So we decide to go to Ceuta and stay there or even cross to Europe if we can catch up the last sheep.
From the map I see that there is a coastal country road which goes to our destination. Although, we are tired we decide to go. We fill up our tanks and we start. The road is coastally indeed and looks like the route from Athens to Sounio in Greece. The road is narrow with many turns and not in a good condition. There were many cars travelling to Tangier at the opposite current. After 20km the conditions changed while after 30km we found the village Ksar-es-Seghir at which there is a sign that this road is closed because of work undertaking on it. There is an alternative route although, but it is 20km longer. The map shows this alternative route as a secondary country road so for this country’s aspects it should be one step before dirt road. At all this I have to add that is getting dark, so I do not think that is a good idea to make this route night. So we stop and search for a place to stay in the night and continue our trip in the morning. This seems actually difficult and impossible. We asked someone and told us that there is a hotel 10km to the opposite direction from where we are towards Tangier. We go there and there is no room. Bad luck I suppose! So there is no other solution. We have to go to Ceuta, without having any dirham in our pocket.
After the interjection we found out that the road is in very bad condition, full in rubbles, dirt and trucks, narrow and without any sign or lights. It is time for adventure actually and I doubt if this is the correct road. Anyway we keep driving, passing near to some mines and some shadows there intimate what probably might “happen” there. In all these I have to add my anxiety for benzene since my gas meter shows that I do not have much benzene left. At the opposite current I see cars with foreign plates so I am sure that we are in the correct route. Fortunately for us at the point we had to turn for Ceuta there is a sign. From now on the road continues uphill and its condition become a little better. We found the village Souk Tleta-Taghramet so we are in the correct route according to the map. As we have climb enough on this hill we found many windmills producing wind power. The wind is very strong there so we drive slowly and in the middle of the road while next to us it must be a big hill.
After few km the road becomes downhill. Someone with a flashlight waves us to stop. He is a policeman asking us where we go. We tell him and he let us go in a friendly way. From now on things are better. So much the road and our mood change to better. From this high point Ceuta looks beautiful. We continue to the Ibis hotel which is located before the borders. We find a sign which leads to it but unfortunately it is also full. We ask someone there when the last ship departs and he tells us at 23:00o clock. The time now is 22:00 so we have time, unless we delay at the border. Luckily, for us we spent only 20 minutes to the border control and we go to the port.
Before we enter in the port we make a stop to a travel agency to ask when the last ship departs. The guy there tells us that it left. We ask him how this is possible since it should depart at 23:00pm and now it is 22:30pm. Then the employee replies that the time now is 01:30am. He is correct! The time here is the same as in Spain and not with the time in Morocco. We forgot again to change our clocks. We ask him when the first ship departs and he replied at 07:30am. So, we leave to find a hotel to stay. We stop to the next gas station to fill our tanks since it is cheaper here 0.88euros/litre. We realize that there is not much time left so there is no point to find a hotel and is better to stay to a 24hours cafeteria until 07:30. By this way we will be able to reach Cadiz until noon since it is not far away and sleep there. We ask there for a cafeteria and someone tell us that there is one that remains open 24hours and is next to the police station. So we start our wandering to find it. Finally, we find it and we park our motorcycles outside next to the police station for safety.
We see the employees to take the tables inside and we ask them if they are closing. They replied no and left a table for us. We enter in the cafeteria to buy coffees. There are not many things to see except some tables, a small bar and a door which leads to the mall. The people who work are the owner and another guy willing to provide his service. The customers are some ladies and another slimy guy sitting on a table. We want something to eat and the owner offered to make us a sandwich with tuna and tomato. So we take our food and our coffees and go out to sit to the table. In the beginning we are alone but as the time passed more people come and go. We also see some policemen who come to take their coffee. By looking at their faces they did not look so “good”.
I ask Ploumisti where the toilet is and tells me inside the mall. Anyway, I do not give further notice to the fact that there are so many people coming and go to such a deserted cafeteria and go to the toilet. When I return I see the 2 ladies who previous were sitting on the table, now to stand on the road. When they saw me the first one goes in the cafeteria and the other one comes towards me. As she came closer to me she asked me nicely where the toilet is with such a way like she wanted to start a conversation with me… Then I realized what is going on. These women are part of the “job”. The cafeteria is the station for people who want to have “fun”. Later on my assumption confirmed. More women, policeman and men come and go while taxi drivers leave them or pick them up. However, all of them are friendly with us.
The slimly guy took a chair and came to sit outside with us. After a while he starts to speak in Spanish. Ploumisti replies to Italian. The conversation moved around to the motorcycles, his motorcycle and that he has an Italian friend who was caught for selling drugs. He kept repeating these things all the time and he was very fun while he did not missed any change to judge anything that is happening around us and in general. For example, that today the youth think rash and believe that drugs are good as crafting and become addicts, for the policeman and for the racism between Spanish people and people from Morocco. Something that he keeps repeating is that he has asthma and the doctor gave him one year to live, but his doctor died and he is still alive. The people in the cafeteria start to feel easy with us. We finish our second coffee and the guy wants to buy us another one. We did not want anything else but because he kept insisting we drink 2 glass of milk.
The time now is 06:00am and we have in our company a woman and the owner. The owner asks how we decided to come here. We tell him our story and he is impressed. He also told us that he was born at Fes and that he studied at the University there, which is the oldest university of the world. At 07:00 we had to go. So we shake hands with everyone and the owner told us that his store will always be open for us…Driving to the port I was thinking the previous night as well as our trip to Morocco. I always believed from the moment that we entered Morocco that we would experience an adventure, because of its different culture and actually we did the previous night. This is and adventure that you do not forget it easily…
It’s been 24 hours since the last time that we woke up and we have travelled almost 700km. however, our passing to Europe it gives me the courage to continue. I can say that Morocco impressed me. I realize that everything I have read and heard from different people had made me to be very suspicious something that made me not to enjoy many things. Of course whatever I saw there it was worth it. We are in the ship travelling to Algeciras. I do not know why but I feel that the European countries are more familiar to me than Morocco. We are passing in front of Gibraltar rock and Ploumisti tells me to visit it and drink a coffee there before we go t Cadiz. I found it as an opportunity to step on an English ground, since I couldn’t make it to visit my friend Ragas in London when he was there.
We get off from the ship and we follow the signs to Malaga. The roads are empty since it is Sunday morning. Let’s see what is going to happen later where most of the people will go to the sea beach. Soon we arrive at the border control. The English employees there ask for our passports. It seems that English people do not want to become 100% Europeans. Soon after the border control we pass through the airport while in front of us we can see the high rock. I can feel that I am on an English ground. There are signs everywhere with information, secured parking and warnings about tow tracks taking away vehicles parked in not designated places.
After a while we find a sigh leading to “Upper Rock” and to some other sights one of them being the lighthouse which is located at the “Europe Point”. This will be our first visit. I only hope not to pay any ticket to see it, since they do not accept euros only English pounds. We cross the town, passing through narrow roads which remind me of the English districts as I have seen them from photos. After a while we reach at the lighthouse which many have photographed it as a proof that they found themselves at the end of Europe. The access to the lighthouse is forbidden but you can see a plate which portrays the area as well as the location of some big European and African towns in accordance to this spot.
At the sea you can see 20-30 ships moving to different directions. This place kept busy the minds of many ancient people. Ancient people believed that Gibraltar was the end of the known world and that the Hercules was holding the 2 continents, the European and the African ones, so as not to join or draw away. So we take our photos and move on towards a gun positioned on the top of the rock weighting 1 ton. As we drive along the road we see a sign saying that we have to pay in order to see the rest of the sights. Because the road is very narrow we cannot park our motorcycles so I am thinking that we will stop at the ticket office and discuss with them our entrance since the ticket costs 2pounds. By reaching the ticket office Ploumisti steps off from her motorcycle and goes to the office to ask about the price. After a while returns without having bought anything since the ticket costs 8pounds. So we decide to see the beach and then depart for Tarifa. Moving at the opposite direction of the rock we find a dead end. We have pass next to some beaches without anything special to demonstrate. Gibraltar does not have tourism except some English people who live there. At the end of the road we found the building of the local motorcycle club, which was closed for the period.
After a while we reach the borders again. Ploumisti managed to pass over but I was stopped for inspection without knowing why. I haven’t had such an inspection when I passed from Morocco to Spain. Anyway we keep driving following the signs to Cadiz which is 105km away. The time now is 11:00am and the motorway is full in cars. The route (N340) to Tarifa is very good. At some points we find our selves stopped because of logjam since there, there are exits which lead to camping and beaches. After a while re finally reach Tarifa. There we sit on a restaurant to eat something. Tarifa is a beautiful place which is preferred by the Spanish people especially at the summer months. From there, there are ships which travel to Morocco able to take only passengers and not vehicles.
From the time that we left Ceuta I am not feeling very well. Maybe it is that I haven’t slept at all, maybe it is the sandwiches that we ate there, I don not know. Anyway I start feeling sleepy and in front of me I see beds and not the road. The road condition is very good and at 15:00 hours we enter Cadiz. To tell you the truth I thought Cadiz to be different –since for some people is the oldest town of the Europe-and behind big walls but what I see is a big modern town. We stopped at a place to search the guide for a hostel. After a while a family passes next to us and we asked them about hostels. They told us that it will be difficult to find a hostel with empty rooms at this period. Anyway we try to find a room at the hostels that we found at the guide. After a while we found ourselves at a pedestrian way where all the hotels are located. After a search we notice that we haven’t many changes to find a room. We sit at a cafeteria to relax and wait news from a hotel where they told us that they might have a cancellation. After a while the bad news came from the hotel so we decide to go to Seville which is a bigger town and probably empty since it is not near to coastal areas. The route to there is 200km.
The national road (NIV) has a very good condition even if it is not a motorway. For once more I steam up with their signs which are confusing in regard if the road that you are about to enter has tolls or not. At 19:00pm we enter Seville which is empty. Many big avenues are empty. We move on a main road next to the river. We pass next to beautiful buildings and big park following at the same time the signs to Centro Ciudat until we reach a square. There we stop to check out what the guide says about hostels. At a point behind Alcazar there are some hostels which have the names of big painters. We choose the one called Hostal Picasso (San Gregorio 1) where we find a room at a price of 45euros. By searching around we realize that its price is better so we book a room. Another advantage of the hostel is that is located at the centre of the town where the most sights are.
We unpack our stuff to the small but beautiful room and go to have something to eat. After a while we found our selves sleeping after almost 48hours travelling. Tomorrow will be a more relaxing day…