The town of Chefchaouen had been mentioned to me by three different people, and because of what they said, it sounded too alluring to pass up. I knew it was high in the mountains, the houses were unique, and it was very ‘old world’ in it’s ambience.
So this morning, I caught a taxi to the bus station to purchase a ticket that would leave at 10 a.m. and take two hours to get there, so I was told. I crossed the fast moving traffic, to get to the ticket office. The first sign it wasn’t going to be easy came when the agent said the bus wouldn’t leave until 1 p.m. The last taxi from Chefchaouen would leave at 6 p.m. I got a taxi to get back to the hotel. I had to re-think going somewhere that would take two hours and would leave me nearly 3 hours to look around. I went for it.
So around noon, I went back to the station by taxi, walked in past people who stared, and some made comments at the strange white-haired woman who gave away that she was a tourist and traveling alone.
I went to the coffee shop, ordered mint tea, and sat with arms folded over my chest, and delivered no eye contact the entire time I waited. Body language like that tells people you are not approachable.
So, the bus went up the hills, up to the mountains, past little villages, donkeys and mules carrying packs, past pottery and tile shops, cafe’s restaurants, bus terminals, gas stations, and many people out walking around.
After about one and one half hour, we stopped and picked up some other passengers in another city. A lady sat next to me and smelled bad, and it got worse. We drove past a very smelly dump along the road that wasn’t covered up and reeked. I think that may have triggered the lady’s sickness, but she may have been sick before boarding. She threw up three times into a plastic bag. I handed her a towelette that I had put into my purse at the last minute. She accepted that. Her face was grey-green.
When she began to throw up, I nearly gagged myself, but held the towelette close to my nose. What I had understood to take two hours to Chefchaouen, took over three hours.
When we arrived, I had one and a quarter hour to look around the city, but the bus left us off at the station, not near the city. I wandered around a bit wondering what I should do. I was hungry, too.
I couldn’t get any practical wisdom from anyone. When I asked how to get up to the town, it drew a crowd of men, each vying to be the one to take me in their car up to the top of the mountain where the city is located.
They must have seen dollar signs on my forehead. There was a hotel and restaurant across the road, so I went over there and asked if he had food there. He said he’d make me something to eat. But it wasn’t really a restaurant, so I went back to the station and began asking again for a restaurant and how to get to the city, and how far was it, and could I make it back to the bus on time? Deaf ears.
I went back to the restaurant (so-called) and the man made a fried egg and cheese sandwich. If I had anything unhealthy growing in my system, the penicillin on the bread cleared it up after the first taste. I left the bread and ate the egg and cheese.
When I paid him, he acted as though he couldn’t understand what I was telling him in Spanish about the bread being bad.
I also needed a bathroom, and he showed me where the bathroom was. Well, let me be discreet here: When I was a skier, I could snowplow pretty good. That’s is when you put your feet in a particular spot and crouch down slightly, just as I needed to do today. It was difficult: need I say more?
But sitting outside at that place, eating that (gag) food, gave me opportunity to see where the taxi stand was and how people used them to get to the top of the mountain. I went to the taxi stand and met two young men who understood that I wanted a taxi and had just a little bit of time. Well, a conversation like that draws people like flies. Again, there was more help than I needed…a taxi, just a taxi was my wish.
Then one came breezing by and the two young guys flagged him down and told him what I needed. It turned out that he understood a bit of English. He agreed to drive me up to the city and around so I could take photos. He picked up passengers along the way. He had a lovely soft voice and great laugh. I liked him immediately. He was an angel.
He stopped up on top of the hill so I could get out and take a photo of the city down below.
The city, known for the blue houses was founded in 1471 as a fortress, and the fortress (kasbah) still stands. I saw it from the road. The town was known as one of the main concentrations of Moriscos and Jews who sought refuge in the mountainous city after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.
Not only were the houses pretty so were the gowns worn by the ladies. They wore color coordinated gowns with head scarves. If it hadn’t been for the bright colors of their clothing, I would have thought I had stepped back into the Bible days.
My taxi driver got me back just in time to catch the bus back to Tangier.
Going back a young man sitting next to me kept falling asleep on my shoulder. I had to shove him back a few times.
A outlandish day, indeed.