A year on and I was heading back to Morocco. As much as anything else my choice of destination was on the grounds it would be a cheap trip to a warm destination. The intention was to spend a bit more time exploring this really interesting country and visit some new places I had not been to before. A significant change-up, though, was that I wouldn’t actually be starting this trip in Morocco. Seduced by Ryanair’s winter sale I had snapped up a flight to Malaga in Spain for £16.99 (yes, you read that right!). Although this ended up being £26.99 with baggage added it still constituted a real steal.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Malaga. I found the Picasso Museum really interesting and the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro provided some great scenic views of the city and its Mediterranean surroundings.
After a day and a half exploring the city I moved on to visit my friends Michael (aka Sweet Cacophony) and Goshee who live an hour to the east of Malaga, slightly inland from Torrox Costa. Their place, in a stunningly idyllic spot in the Andalucian countryside, was amazing and I even found time for some unseasonal swimming – what a place to live!
If I’m honest by this point I could have quite happily spent a while longer in Spain. But I had some kind of broad itinerary to stick to so after two nights in a Mongolian-style ‘yurt’ out the back (you can see it poking up behind the fence!) it was unfortunately time to move on.
A long day of travelling was in store as my target was to get from here to Morocco in one hit. After being dropped off at Malaga bus station, by midday I was on my way down to Algeciras, a Spanish town located just to the west of Gibraltar from where I could get a boat over to Morocco. The bus took around 3 hours as it snaked it’s way down the coast through Marbella and a series of other Costa del Sol resorts. The coast gets increasingly built up to the west of Malaga and to be honest I preferred the tranquility of where I had been. Shortly before arriving in Algeciras there was then time to take a photo through the bus window of the Rock of Gibraltar as we passed through the border town of La Linea, a stone’s throw away.
Whilst there was always the option to hole up for the night in Algeciras I decided to press on and get a 2-hour ferry across to Tanger Med. The next sailing was with Balearia, a company I know well from trips to Ibiza over the years. The boat was delayed for an hour but on the plus side I was able to get my passport stamped on board which would save time later on. I noticed, though, that there weren’t many foot passengers – the reason why would later become clear.
I ascended to the top deck for the start of the voyage. Whilst a bit blowy, it was well worth it to take in views of the Rock of Gibraltar and the striking peak of Jebel Musa dominating the skyline in the distance on the Moroccan side.
By 7pm, shortly before sundown, the crossing was complete. The error I had made, though, was to take the Algeciras-Tanger Med crossing and not the Tarifa-Tangier one. Tanger Med is a huge cargo port, the biggest in Africa no less, situated 50km to the east of Tangier. Whilst I knew this, I had underestimated how unfriendly it was going to be for foot passengers. The fact there were only two of us on the boat said it all – I had clearly got this one wrong!
I asked a woman at the information desk for directions to the bus stop but it was all a bit weird as it wasn’t actually within the ferry terminal. I headed outside, walking quickly past a series of heckling taxi drivers to a point where all I could see was the roundabout to turn on to the motorway. Needless to say, I didn’t particularly fancy waiting for a bus in the soon to be dark beside a motorway in a deserted area. So I swallowed my pride and allowed myself to be talked into an expensive taxi ride in to town. The fixed price was 250 dirham (around 25 Euros), money which would go a long way in Morocco, but needs must. I could justify it, so I told myself, on the grounds that had I got the bus I would still have been faced with a taxi ride for the last stretch anyway as Tangier bus station is a couple of kilometres from the medina.
Once in the taxi we had only been going a short while when things took an unexpected turn as the driver randomly pulled over to a stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway. Was I about to be robbed? No, he just needed a piss! But as I was tired after a long day I was feeling rather on edge – unnecessarily so as it turned out. We got talking – it seemed Spanish was the best modus operandi for conversing. By now it was dark and he pointed out the ‘fabrica de coches’ in the distance on the right. I didn’t really appreciate at the time what he was on about but it turned out this was a big Renault-Nissan car factory. A lot of money has clearly gone into the new Tanger Med port to help attract such foreign investment into the region and its location by the entrance to the Med clearly makes it a great base for global exporting.
As we approached town (Tangier by night pic above) some random older Moroccan guy then jumped into the taxi. Apparently he was a representative from the tourist office and the taxi driver had phoned ahead to alert him of my presence. Strange although they were probably just trying to be helpful as I had been ambiguous about where I was staying. I had only asked to be dropped at the Grand Socco by the entrance to the medina although I had booked a dorm bed in the Baytalice hostel. The man was very helpful in walking me in the direction of my accommodation and didn’t ask for any financial recompense. I did, though, need to pay a boy on the street 20 dirham for the final 20 metres of the journey! This all felt very familiar. I was back in Morocco and had made it in one piece as the hostel door opened and I was welcomed inside.