There’s traffic jams, and there’s Moroccan traffic jams

Leaving my hotel in Chefchaouen this morning for the bus station turned out to be a one of a kind adventure.

What should have taken no more than five minutes took more than twenty because of some idiot who thought he owned both sides of the road.

That said, it was kinda fun. It sure as hell was one of a kind.

The guy in the truck facing my taxi was trying to battle through the market day chaos, which is something to see. Everyone was doing there best to get up or down a massively congested street with as little hassle as necessary.

But this guy decided, since he couldn’t zip through the crowd on his side of the street, he’d just drive into oncoming traffic.

My driver took it all in stride for a minute or two, then honked his horn. And honked again. Then got really annoyed and laid on the horn.

After a minute or so, the jerk gets out of his truck and comes over yelling at my driver, like my driver’s the one who’s done something wrong.

That’s when our self-appointed traffic cop – and I say that with all respect – stepped in.

He confronts the clown and tells him to get back into his truck- well, as best I could tell.

And he gives the guy a “I’ll give ya such a smack!” gesture.

But the best photo didn’t get taken. Because after another five minutes of our traffic cop and three other guys yelling at him to back the f’ up, the guy cuts in on a driver to his right, and moves forward, but at an angle, so he’s still blocking oncoming traffic.

That’s when the traffic enforcer and two other guys walk over to left rear of the jerk’s truck, bend down, and – I kid you not – lift the rear end up and over two feet and set it down, straightening the truck out, and finally allowing my driver to get past.

Ya won’t see that in the States.

Chefchaouen

Long day getting to and exploring Chefchaouen. Need to tend to my ankle after all the very steep uphill walking. These people are just naturally fit, dealing with these incredible- by Chicago standards- climbs every day.

In the meantime, a few photos enroute and in Chefchaouen. The drive here is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in America. We know nothing about winding, snaking roads compared to Moroccans.

More later.

Ten or so miles outside of Chefchaouen.
The entrance to the more than 500 year old Medina doesn’t look like much …
… but at the top is the main plaza …
… off of which are numerous passage ways brimming with small shops.

And the walk back down? Much easier.

One of half a dozen stairways before you reach the top, and that after walking about three blocks up similar streets. I think a main sport of the Chefchaouens is laughing at tired, huffing and puffing westerners taking countless photographs.

Morocco, North Africa

Landed in Tanger, Morocco around 3:30 p.m. Ready for some adventures starting tomorrow on the two hour trip to Chefchaouen, aka “The Blue City.”

The Moroccan coastline in Tanger, late afternoon, from my 13th floor hotel window.

Though I didn’t realize my taxi ride from the airport to the downtown Hilton would be an adventure in and of itself. That happens when your cab driver roars through roundabouts, in between other cars and changes lanes like James Bond on crystal meth.

Yo baby! The guy was outright reckless on numerous occasions. My sole comfort lay in the size of the old vehicle he was driving, a 15 or 20-some year old Mercedes Benz taxi, long and wide and heavy. And the assumption that this guy was well-practiced in driving like a crazy man

We were on two lane urban roads much of the way from the airport, and on three or for occasions, he just jerked over a few feet and drove between the cars ahead. Got to the point where I was anticipating him doing it… and “holy shit!”… yup! … he did it again.

It was sort of amusing, in a not quite relaxed, mildly stressed way, until he didn’t bothered to look to his left while crossing an intersection and nearly got t-boned on his front left side by a car that never slowed down.

Long story short (I could write another 1,000 words in this narrative) I- we- got to the Hilton in one piece, with no injuries or property damage. I expected a guy who drove like that to try to play me for some outrageous fare, beyond what the airport signs said was legal, and was pleasantly surprised to find the approximately 25-minute trip cost just 200 Moroccan Dirham, or about $21 US.

I won’t be long in Tanger. Will have dinner here tonight, a brief walk around tomorrow morning, and then off to the mountains some 60 miles to the east and the legendary atmosphere of Chefchaouen for an overnight stay.

But I have to share this photo, poor quality unfortunately, taken from a distance with my iPhone. But it shows why I love the world outside the US. People in many places celebrate the joys of their environment and don’t stifle every bit of fun with laws in the name of safety and whatever else.

Those are horses – eight to ten of them – on the beach along the Tanger ocean-front. People ride them all day along the surf, just for the pleasure of riding horse back along the ocean. Looks so cool.

And probably a lot slower and relaxing than my taxi ride in from the airport. (And yes, that is a McDonald’s sign on the left.)

The real “Marrakech Express” isn’t on rails

So… continuing tonight’s (it’s almost 9 pm here) 60s theme, the quote of the trip so far (which really doesn’t amount to too much, since she’s one of the few people I’ve had an actual conversation with so far) comes from Rosalie, a chatty ol’ lady in her late 60s on holiday from Cork, Ireland.

When I mentioned that I was looking forward to taking “The Marrakech Express,” as we looked down from the ancient Alcazaba onto the even more ancient Roman theater ruins (photo below) she laughed and said, “There’s no “express”! That was just (the reefer) talking.” 

The 2,000 year old Roman Teatro, and, hidden by trees, the sprawling El Pimpi restaurant

And, in fact, it’s not an express train. Guess we know now what those smoke rings Graham Nash was blowing from the corner of his mouth consisted of. 

I still like the song, even though I decided it’s far easier and much quicker to fly on Air Arabia from Fes to Marrakech. I doubt I’ll see any 5-foot blue ladies on the flight, but I’ll get there almost six hours faster.

And then I’ll blow smoke rings from the corner of my-my-my-my-my-my-my mouth on the terraza or veranda or whatever they call it in Morocco. 

I land in Tangier Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, let’s let Graham have the last word, shall we?

The 60s come to Malaga

My legs hurt today after climbing the 1,500 meters up to the top of Castillo Gibralfaro yesterday to see the astounding views.

So after visiting the Picasso Museum and walking about the area for a couple hours before enjoying tapas on the Plaza, I found myself back in my rental applying Salonpas externally and a really nice Riojo Temperanillo internally.

Had enough of live streaming MSNBC this morning, so I was laying on the couch searching You Tube for music, and I came across this. A Spirit re-union in 1984.

Man, these guys weren’t phoning it in. Had me smiling and recalling a time too long gone.

Legs still hurt, but I didn’t mind so much.