I've arrived at Chefchaouen; an instantly likeable and popular tourist destination. Visitors seek out Chefchaouen due to its relaxed vibe, pleasant mountainous surroundings and spectacle that is all things blue. Having heard the city was indeed painted blue, naturally my expectations were set accordingly but on discovery that only a large portion of the buildings were blue, well, I'll admit to this being a slight anti-climax. Still, it's a lovely town and the punters come in their droves including the ubiquitous snap-happy Japanese. It's also conveniently situated for people travelling south from Tangier and for people heading north from Fes or Marrakech.
Getting to Chefchaouen from Fes
The bus journey north into the Rif mountain range was straight forward enough although not in a literal sense. As you know, mountainous journeys aren't straight and often relentless in undesirable twists and turns. I've endured worse journeys before but evidently the young Moroccan mathematics student next to me, perhaps hadn't? Actually, I take that back because her spray can, wet wipes and multiple mini plastic bags, inferred she was well prepared for what she must have considered a certainty, if you catch my drift - with 'catch' being the operative word. You see, she twice hurled into her small bags during the journey and whilst she did successfully 'catch' her contents, her bags were completely transparent so I could see everything, which in turn, coupled with that distinctive smell we all know, very nearly made me throw up too! Considering I had no bags at my disposal, that could have become seriously messy situation but thankfully that didn't happen. Phew!
The one mainline bus operator from Fes to Chefchaouen is CTM and it will cost was 75 dirhams (£5.50) excluding luggage. The bus journey will take a minimum of 4 hours so don't forget your music and headphones.
Charming, quaint. blue(ish) Chefchaouen
Lovely, but as you can see, hardly all-things blue! Though this image shows a tiny portion of the town.
There are a couple of people in my hostel that are close to breaking the two week barrier (many have stayed a lot longer). The mindset of these people is distinctly different to that of my own and for once, I cannot attribute age to this. For me, I need to be continuously challenged as regular readers will know. Whether it's exploring, being on the move, writing, photographing or compiling these time consuming blog posts, I try not to waste valuable time too much. Then again, when I do have opportunities to 'unwind', I like to think I enjoy them all the more.
So although the ambience throughout the village, particularly from the travelling fraternity, is one of 'chill' and generally not do a lot, there are at least a couple of things to do here when you're not participating in 'doing nothing'. Typically there is hiking, visiting home grown hash-farms (yes, seriously) and of course, eating, drinking and being merry (but without alcohol, obviously). I haven't had a beer in so long now even my disciplined self is being tested.
Dominic - I'm even close to missing that poor excuse of Rosé wine you kindly had us sample.
It was time to ascend to the Spanish mosque and beyond...
This was a light hike of only a few hours return but nevertheless a hike that offered constantly wonderfully picturesque views down to Chefchaouen below. Needless to say you can't help but take tens and tens of shots but of course, only a small margin of these are then later selected for your viewing pleasure.
Tell me, does this first image below vaguely remind you of Santorini? For those that have been or know of the place.
You'd be forgiven for thinking from the image above that this was a super compact, dense village difficult to get around and find your way but this couldn't be further from the truth. It really is such a nice place to wander, and the streets are not tight so you rarely feel any form of claustrophobia - unlike the inner belly of Fes.
The only annoyance of walking around the medina (and even in the mountains) is something I experienced back in Essaouira, actually, come to think about it I've experienced it pretty much everywhere - pot-heads. By that I mean a high amount of locals asking if I want 'a smoke'. Thankfully though, they really don't hassle you past the point of 'La Shokran'. No thank-you!
My companion for the day was a lady nick-named 'Sunny'.
Sunny and I hung out for a couple of days until she set off for fierce Fes. One of my lasting, amusing memories of her is that when we would eat out and meet folk of an evening, one of the many repetitive questions everyone asks each other is where everyone is from. 99% can answer with one word, Sunny manages in two: 'It's complicated'. You see her parents are from China, she lived in Germany most of her life but she was born in the Netherlands and she considers 'home' to be Egypt having lived there for a solid 6 months with it having made a lasting impression on her.
Wow. Oh, and she speaks at least four languages fluently.
Having made it to the Spanish mosque, we set our sites on the next tall structure higher up the mountain range which we would then accomplished fairly easily. We didn't encounter too many other trekkers on route so other than between ourselves, conversation with the locals (human and furry) was somewhat restrictive.
How many readers stopped and dwelled on that last image for more than 1 or 2 seconds?
That young girl doesn't live the life of a normal young girl for she (with her family) live in the hills above the town of Chefchaouen. I can't imagine it's through choice but an obvious lack of money to find residency in the town. Then again, maybe they're from generations of mountain people. Still, hardly normality as we know it.
I also captured where she lives, it's extremely hard to envisage anything normal about this way of living.
We reached our second point of the hike and so took more shots of the scenery below us before heading back to the semi-blue city.
That's your lot, folks.
I enjoyed this post and so I hope I was able to convey why people make the journey to come here. So should you ever find yourself in Morocco (or even in south Spain), be sure to pay a visit to Chefchaouen. Just be careful not to enjoy it too much as you could end up spending weeks here and believe me, it happens.