Morocco 5: Chefchaouen ‐ hiking and other fun things
The character of Chefchaouen, in my opinion, is a little like that of Pai in Thailand. A touristy spot that is just that little more civilized than the rest of the country. The perfect place to take a rest after the hardships one had to endure till then. Haha.
The "Blue city" in northern Morocco is well known among tourists in Morocco, for three things. First, it's blue. Apparently, if you want a town to become a tourism hotspot, a good place to start is painting it uniformly in something that is not white. The second thing: It is not just as dry up there in the Rif mountains, so you actually get some greenery that makes for nice hiking at also enables point number three in this list: The cultivation of Marijuana. Somewhere it has to grow, that stuff that makes Morocco the number one weed exporter in the world!
We arrived in Chefchaouen in the afternoon, so there was not much planned for that day. We checked in to the place that we had booked beforehand, since we expected the town to be packed with tourists, which it was. We chucked our stuff into our room and went on a first tour of the city, which is lovely though crowded. It is very easy to loose your way, since the streets are not exactly well planned and the city is very three dimensional, being built on a hillside. It gets even more confusing when you're out late and all the shops have closed, leaving the streets empty and looking totally different than just a few hours ago! Anyway, we had seen what we wanted and bought all the supplies we needed, so we decided to chill out on the terrace for the evening. Later, when we decided to go to bed, I remembered that we had totally forgotten to check the room for bed bugs! So I lifted up the matress...
...and we decided to sleep on the terrace.
Okay, there was one bed bug running away from me. No more. The last people staying in this room may have left it there, or, with some low probability, we may have even brought it with us from Fez. How could we know for sure? I believe, in a country as riddled with these creatures as Morocco, it is almost impossible to keep them out of hostels and guest houses. At least there didn't seem to be a proper infestation. Still, we didn't want to risk it and left the next day, going into a hostel.
On our first proper day in Chefchaouen, we decided to visit les Cascades d'Akchour, which was one of the highlights of our trip. There are a few different hiking routes that start there, and we set out to see "God's bridge", a natural rock formation forming a bridge over a crystal clear creek.
As stated before, hiking is very popular in the Rif mountains, and there were a lot of people hiking that day. But it was not too crowded to be enjoyable. It is a very nice, not too long or too difficult hike, always near the water. See the pics.
Unfortunately, we did not reach the top of God's bridge on the standard route. We remembered that there had been another path going up into the mountains at some point, but when we had tried to take it, some locals had indicated to go the other way. We thought maybe that path was closed. Still, I wanted to go onto the bridge and so did Samira. So we tried again to take this path. It's right next to a restaurant or something, so the locals were still there. After what looked liked some arguing amongst themselves, they allowed us to take the path. We left Thomas behind to meet him later, and started. And after not even a hundred meters, we saw the first weed plantation. Now we knew why they preferred keeping people outta there.
The hike is very steep in the beginning, but there are almost no people (obviously), and you get a different perspective of the valley. It is definitely recommended, though the bridge itself was not so special, being on top of it. It's more impressive from below.
We spotted a few more places in the distance where the grass just seemed to bit a bit greener than usual, so yes, weed everywhere. After realizing that they do not actually hide the stuff very well, we began looking for it even from the car, and we were successful at that! There was even one massive meadow right next to a major road that we had passed ealier and had not paid any special attention to. On a second drive by, we realized that most of it was weed. It's crazy. Like Thailand, Morocco is a country that theoretically has a death penalty on the posession of weed, yet it is hidden in plain sight. Berber laws.
Our second day in Chefchaouen was dedicated to exploring the town, walking through the streets, climbing up hills, taking tea or coffee in a restaurant, taking pictures and going through a few tiny shops.
It is probably true that one day is sufficient to explore such a tiny place as Chefchaouen, but in case you want to have a spot to chill out for some time, definitely recommended! However, at the end of the day, we said our goodbyes and left, making it till Asilah.
Here are some pics that prove the blueness of Chefchaouen: