30 April 2010

Down the Coast

OK, caught the 08:00 ferry to Tanger on April 29 and arrived at 07:00 after an hour-long ferry ride--yes, Morocco is two hours earlier than Spain... Here is a shot of the ferry, and a picture from the ferry as we were pulling out of port:

The scene at the border was pretty easy; I pulled up to the border station, some little guy waved me up to the front and promised to "help me out" for a little money. I was eager to hit the road quickly, so didn't mind giving the guy some money. It was funny, he took me back behind some building, and then upstairs to his "friend" who could get us through the border faster. After a few formalities we returned down to the bike, where I noticed that everyone else was sitting in their cars waiting for the border officials to come to them. They probably finished about five minutes after I did, but I didn't care that much, I didn't pay very much... While I was waiting for customs guy, I spoke with a friendly Portuguese guy who had driven over in his car, he said there was no way I'd make it to Essaouira in one day.

Left the port and set out through Tanger, and got on the toll highway to the south, toward Casablance. Rode on the toll road to just past Casablanca, then got off to take the coast road through al Jadida, Jafi, etc. down toward Essaoiara. No shots on the toll road because it was a boring toll road, but I was psyched to finally see the Atlantic Ocean up close, so I took this pic: I made good time on the toll highway, but once I got on to the smaller roads my pace slowed considerably, especially when I got lost in al Jadida and Safi when I was just trying to pass through both towns. I bought the Garmin Morocco map specifically for this purpose, but the map was useless for these two towns (and many others). Anyway, generally the road was very nice, with lots of wild flowers along the road. For the first time ever, however, when I was just past Oualidia, I rode through some stretch of road near some kind of chemical factory that was so polluted that my eyes teared up so badly that I had to pull over. Nasty!

Finally got to Essaoira shortly before sunset after riding about 440 miles (and taking the ferry and crossing the border)--not too bad, but not very hard either. Not for the last time, it took me a while to find a hotel--this time because there were several to choose from, but on the beach part of town rather than in the old town, where I wanted to stay. The old town seemed totally blocked off for vehicle traffic though, so I finally gave up and picked the Hotel Miramar, on the beach:

After getting settled in the room and enjoying a well-deserved glass of wine and cigar (brought from Spain, thank you very much), I went for a stroll around the old town. There is an old Portuguese fortress in town:

In general the place was pretty touristy and not particularly interesting. This was also my first attempt to get a glass of wine or beer in Morocco...I quickly noticed that no one sitting in any of the pleasant cafes around town was drinking alcohol, and sure enough no one served it on the street, although a few places would serve you alcohol if you sat inside, back in a corner somewhere. I patted myself on the back for bringing my wineskin...

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