Morocco and Gibraltar 17th Oct-5th Nov

Chris & Sally Longstaff
Sun 5 Nov 2006 21:22

Morocco 22nd-27th October


Tangier as warned; not much to offer although we made the best of it with a very affable local guide in Jamal, who showed us the markets and introduced us to some traditional Moroccan fare.


Olives in the Souk                                                                 Spices and dates  

The station was crowded with end-of-Ramadan home-goers. Some possibly without tickets, or the right credentials; sufficient, anyhow, for the bull-necked station master and his equally (coincidentally?) bull-necked assistant to grab them, punch and slap them. I was personally warned not to take too close an interest. (Suddenly) The kebab sandwiches from the buffet were, I thought, particularly interesting. It was young soldier conscripts who seemed the most intent on helping people get past the wrath of the ogres and on to home-bound trains.


Very excited to be on the “Marrakesh Express”, overnight sleeper! We boarded like a bunch of kids on a school outing, all fighting for the top bunks, which needless to say were “shotgunned” (!!) by Lauren and Maddie. Slept superbly all the way and woke to a peach dawn approaching Marrakesh.


Marrakesh  developing fast under the present government’s policy to improve housing, education, health etc. Inside the old city, and into the inner sanctum of our Riad. Being Marrakesh one is tempted to say “Far Out!” . Recently restored by very affluent French lady, expressing traditional exotic Moroccan taste and retaining wonderful calm atmosphere. Mint tea (enjoyed for the first time in my life!). What I hadn’t realised was how the city presses so closely around you, so that from the sanctuary of your second floor window you can just about peer out at the manic bustle of the narrow street which forms the immediate external boundary. Lots of local vocalisation! I can’t do justice to describing the colour and atmosphere of the square and the souks; described well enough in lots of travel guides, but it’s great to find it’s all true, and just as manic as it surely ever was. Round the corner still sat the shoe trader who “smoked dope with Jimmy Hendrix” (and do you know he was wearing a Jimmy Hendrix T-shirt ~ maybe he just never took it off). Actually he turned out to be rather rude and impatient. That’s “celebrity” for you!


Musicians in Tangier                                                                   Lauren and Maddie in the Saadian Tombs                       

Much to my dismay and severe embarrassment, Sally immediately bought a (very nice) scarf from a guy without so much as a barter. I ran away up the alley muttering something about “what an insult”, much to Lauren’ chagrin, who didn’t realise that my manhood had just been inadvertently insulted.


Sadly I was never once afforded a traditional Arabic greeting, requiring a customary exchange (something which I enjoyed in Egypt prior to bargaining, and something which I had rehearsed in anticipation) and found that “tourist French” was the established lingua-franque. Worse stil,l on identifying us as English every greeting was “Lubbly Jubbly, fish and chips”. Who do I blame?

In addition the starting prices in the souks are ridiculously high; they are set for a very false “tourists routine” which starts at half the initial asking price etc. Of course the tourists subsequently pay (we did) what they think is a bargain price. Infact, too late, we found that much better prices (and quality) is now to be found in the small traders shops outside the souks.


Although we all dressed conservatively and respectfully walking the streets with Lauren was a chore (endless jokes about trading her for camels were the nicest comments made), and Sally was propositioned . Very sad. I thought that by now we should have reached a stage where if our women are respecting their traditions and religious standards, Moroccans will respect our women. Boy do we all have a long way to go.


Took a trip miles away to visit waterfalls, in a Berber area (very gentle pleasant people, or maybe just out-of-townees), and a suspiciously hippy river gorge for “campers”. Met Bob Marley, who I thought………..


Cascades d'Ouzoud

The above bad bits notwithstanding Morocco beckons us back, to buy fabulously coloured furnishings, to explore the mountains and the dessert, and just to have more of all the fantastic things it offers. Did I mention chicken tagine…….?


Back on the overnight express which we caught in a panic of mistaken train times, and back to Tarifa in Spain!



Gibraltar, again

Grim, miserable weather and first night back a gale storm. Everyone double their lines, but at three in the morning a surge of water threw us at the quay which smashed into our Hydrovane self-steering gear. A morning dismantling revealed a bent shaft casing, and jammed shaft. Fortunately later in the week I was able to track down “Metal Mike” and we found that straightening the stainless steel casing was enough to enable us to set the internal shaft straight on its bearings.  A nasty close shave on expensive cross Atlantic equipment!


Two hot sunny days, and then just before Will is due to arrive more miserable weather.

In a bizarre development we are obliged to move our boat from the end of the marina due to complaints that we are “a danger and a hazard to the RAF”. Now it’s a while since I’ve been able to say anything like I’m a danger to the RAF, but as an ex-Lancaster Bomber navigator I know Dad will be proud to hear it (?!!).


Will flies in and we celebrate with an exotic food shopping expedition (sort of) and some splendid cold beers and tapas ~ on the Spanish side. The plan is to leave Sunday am…………..however unfortunately the weather looks so bad that we are advised by the locals, and by our own forecasts to postpone 24hours. So here we are….still in Gib, but determined to leave in the morning. Bound for Tenerife, and praying that we might enjoy some sunshine in this week of Will’s company.

We made the most of a grey day and walked to the top of The Rock and visited St Michaels Cave, well worth the climb for the views and a spectacular show cave.