Category Archives: Morocco

Time to leave: Morocco’s unpleasant sides

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Home-schooling with views. Today’s topic, Berber Monkeys and Riff Mountains
Riff Mountains Breakfast
Riff Mountain Breakfast Views

The last few days really felt like an adventure after our oasis of calm in the Riff Mountains. Africa travel tip: Never trust locals’ recommendations as to accommodation or restaurants. All they seem to be interested in is their commission. As such, we end up in Oub Laou. A tiny fishing village near the Western end of the Mediterranean Sea which, beyond some busy summer months, is dead. Moreover, our little apartment is 3 km (a biggie with tired and hungry kids) away from the centre – the only place to get food and internet, the latter not only important for Pablo’s job, but also to find ourselves our next accommodation in our last destination: Tangier.

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Oub Laou Breakfast views (can’t see the hundreds of dolphins on the picture)

The next day we flee with the only memorable highlight of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast a swarm of hundreds of dolphins jumping happily around all the local fishing nets directly in front of our sea-view balcony as we have an improvised breakfast of left-overs. So lucky to have easy going kids. So happy that our ferry back to Spain is only a few days away. This feeling increases once we hit Tangier, an ugly port city with the usual Arab machos (excuse to the few exceptions who might be out there) taking complete advantage of a blond travelling mum, charging quadruple prices, giving misleading information, stories full of bullshit. Street kids begging for food and money to buy their drugs – at ten years or younger of age! Anyone offering help or information will evidently asked you for money for it. Completely gluten-ed and sugar-ed out after two weeks of eating only Tagines, couscous and bread. Service – unheard of. Rudeness, the word go. In other words, I’ve had enough of Morocco for the time being.

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Tagines are delicious – but not all day, every day!

We end up staying in Tangier’s villa neighbourhood in a retro villa which likes to call itself ‘artist house’. The old building in itself could have some charm, but the stink of cigarettes impregnated into the smallest corner of the house definitely doesn’t. Neither does it’s location away from even a small supermarket to buy a few fresh veggies for dinner, nor the incredibly rude French manager and her irritable friend. They like to call themselves artists, but can’t stand the pure joy shining through children’s natural laughter. I can’t help but wonder how they cannot see the obvious hippocracy in their completely distorted self-image. When we flee after an ordeal of two nights, I just leave her the friendly advice to not call such an arrogant smog-hole ‘kid-friendly’ in her add on Airbnb. It’s rather a family no-go zone!

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Places where not to stay in Morocco

Gar Dabriel, Chechaouen – place ok-ish, but service ridiculously bad. Staff rolls out of bed around 10am and if you are lucky make you some basic brekky in their pyjamas. Rooms are never cleaned. Reception – if attended – then by a women who speaks no language other than Arabic from her bed, in her pyjamas and with her mobile on Facebook and messanger in her hand. Still, because of the picturesque town’s popularity amongst tourists and therefor distorted economy, they charge European prices.

Artist’s House, Tangier – full of cigarette smoke and hard to get to places. French manager doesn’t tolerate kids. Not even taxis stop here. Walk to town takes an hour.

Oub Lao – We like it away from it all, but here, there’s really nothing to do. In summer the kilometres of brown sand might get packed with local tourists in bourkinis, but else, there’s really nothing to do or see here.

Places to stay in Morocco

Riad Dalia, Tetuan – Best experience, most welcoming service, most delicious food, nicest rooms at fairest rates (We paid 35 Euros for a family room with breakfast.)

Riff Mountains – plan a proper hike, staying in low-key, but authentic ‘gites’ on the way where for 20 Euros you get a clean bed, organic dinner from the garden, simple but fresh breakfast and a wrapped lunch on the way – plus a most authentic experience and maybe even cooking course when the old lady from your gite prepares your meal.

The world is a book. Those who don’t travel read only one page of it.

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Riff Mountains, Morocco

Riff Mountains_644 Riff Mountains_634Many know the Riff mountains near Morocco’s Mediterranean coast simply for being one of the world’s top producer of Cannabis. Yet, it’s got so much more to offer, including peace and quiet.

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Four days in picturesque yet touristy Chefchaouen came and went. The best by far were the people we met and the book proposal we got on the way – by one of Argentina’s most remarkable characters. After him calling us to his table the first night when he heard Pablo calling the kids ‘Che…’ (a typical Argentine expression), we ended up having dinner almost every night as there were – and still are – so many stories to share. That’s a whole post for itself though, or more precisely a book (more on that when the time is ripe). Else I won’t miss the two hours in the morning having to wait for breakfast served by sleepy Riad staff in Pyjama (Riad Dar Gabriel – big no go as to 2015 management!), the annoying local street vendors and tourist filled cafes. It’s on the top travel itinerary for most Morocco visitors and therefor makes it onto our personal ‘least favourite places’ list.

Not so our completely remote mountain lodge where we ended up fleeing the masses. We are the only ones here and it took us ten minutes to convince the taxi driver not to turn off towards Akchou – the usual tourist route – but continue down the mountainous slopes another few minutes to take us to this place he had obviously never heard off. Moroccans can be stubborn I’ve had to learn! Once here any worry I could have carried fell off my shoulders. We all slept deeper than what we had done in a long time. 360 degree views onto golden mountain gorges and green forests. Although the Portuguese owner and passionate environmentalist, Daniel, seems to have a rather dark view on our future. Deep in my heart I share his worries. Will our kids still be able to enjoy such natural beauty with their own children if we continue to treat the planet the way we do? Still, I try to nourish the hopeful side of me which loves being able to educate our kids hands-on. Right now they are cracking open one almond after the other from the near-by almond tree which taught us all how almonds grow. I’m sipping my Moroccon mint tea in the white and blue-painted shady courtyard lined by olive and fig-trees.

Whilst inner peace is an internal affair, there’s certainly places – and people – in this world who facilitate the access to this ever-present space.

The next few days we spend hiking near pristine rivers, looking out for Berber monkeys swinging from tree to tree and really slow down as neither internet, nor any other kind of distraction, are inexistent in Akchour’s surroundings.

Camus: After a certain age, every man is responsible for his face.

PS Did you know how almonds grow? Here’s Noah and Gael cracking open the shells of the best organic, raw, fresh-from-the-tree almonds we had ever tasted!

Morocco yes, but not by myself!

Let me begin by saying that I’m a widely traveled person and independent woman since a young age. When merely seven years old, I spent half a year on an exchange with a French family near Paris. After British boarding school, at fourteen I discovered high-school and with it life in Madrid. At eighteen I lived for a year in Peru working with one of the most extraordinary development/educational projects I ever have, an orphanage and self-sustainable farm in the midst of the Andean jungle. A few years later I abandoned the safety and comfort of my Australian university for the adventures and challenges of life as a blond girl in China. In short, I’m not the kind of woman who needs a man or a group to attach to, to discover the world. That is, all but the Arabic world.

Yesterday we arrived in Chefchaouen after our first 24 hours in Marocco – in Tetuan – the warmest welcome this country could have offered us. Chefchaouen is a cutely painted steep town in the Riff mountains and couldn’t possibly be more picturesque. Fresh blue paint and flowers lining up to the smallest of little alleyways. Vendors selling artisanal crafts and delicious French-influenced bakeries. Little squares and fairy tale castles breaking up the maze of narrow car-less lanes of the old medina. Big square in the middle of the medina with cafes and restaurant offering the best views of the fairy tale castle and palm tree garden in its centre. You couldn’t ask for a better place to take the most gorgeous travel pictures. The price? It’s quite touristy and the comfortable distance of shyness from tourist-free Tetuan has given away to a hazzle of Arab men.

Another disclaimer. I’m the kind of blond, blue eyed creature who can only blend into the masses in the most northern of countries where I rarely tend to mingle as I’m usually follow the sun. Pablo, on the contrary, is more the southern mix type who blends in as a local in most if not all Mediterranean places we’ve been to. A well-covered stroll with him by my side (obviously no physical touching in public in a Muslim country such as this) and a kid on each hand through any town, including touristy Chefchaouen, is a pleasure. No one bothers us. We can freely chose where to stop for a coffee and where not. I can stare at all the beautiful artesan crafts for sale without being forced to buy any of it (heard of travelling lightly? Living on a boat? Being nomads with no place to put all this stuff?). Totally different story if I venture off without my man by myside. Within seconds there is a herd of Arab vendors running behind me with the most ridiculous offers, from marriage proposals, to gigantic prices for pieces of sh… and questions too silly to repeat here. All I can think of then is looking for the safety of his company or the quiet of our terrace-ful and chimney-warmed Riad. And from here it is, at six in the morning as sleep deprives me of its soothing calmness, that I listen to the muezzin’s call. Five times a day a gentle reminder that rushing around for money, weed (offered more or less discretely at every corner here) or the opposite sex is not all that counts in life. Five times a day a gentle reminder that spirituality is part of our lives and there’s something more Divine, deeper and noble to it. It’s the most beautiful sound.

And thus I send of these lines, wrapping myself up in the warm woolen blanket, dropping into a sunrise meditation.

Give every day the chance to be the most beautiful in your life.

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Bargain boat gadgets for sale

As you know, we are selling Happy Dancer, our Moody 425 and home of past two years, to travel over land for a while. This will balance out our sea legs and calm down the cravings of high mountains, green forests and vast plains I’ve been having.

A few items which have provided super useful on the boat are not so necessary on land anymore. Here’s the best deals and items I wouldn’t step on any boat without – let alone consider crossing an ocean.

Yellowbrick Satellite Tracker – as new

Yellowbrick

Handheld VHF Std Horizon HX851

VHF

Soon there’ll be more updates and pictures here, from since we left Madrid a week ago.  Interesting Castilla la Mancha and beautiful Andalucia have provided plenty of lovely adventures, well-needed relaxation, smiles and laughter with old friends and lots more. The next post will be a summary of a good time in southern Spain as I’m sending this off from the ferry on our way from Algeciras, Spain, to Tanger, Morocco – a bit closer to Tenerife where there’s only a few places left for my yoga retreat there in November. Life never stops. And neither to us travelling nomads – with or without boat;)

Live begins at the end of your comfort zone.