Finally got there. Road trip for 8. Flu shots in Fes and it was off to the Rif.
The Rif Mountains are along the northern end of Morocco, best know as either the #1 or #2 pot growing region in the world-made into hash and referred to as “kif”. For obvious reasons, Peace Corps does not place any Volunteers in the Rif, despite what the rest of the communities may need.
Anyway, Chefchaouen is a beautiful town up in the mountains-with a distinctive blue paint on all the buildings-clean, winding, hilly medina that is fun to explore.
In the midst of negotiating 2 taxis to get us there, Lisa overheard a bus guy asking if there were passengers for Chefchaoen. Huh? Iyeah. 8 of us. Well, the bus was actually only going to Wzan, but we could get a bus from there up to “Chouen”. For about 1/3 the price of the taxis. Bus it was.
Beautiful scenery, incredibly lush green hills-their winter wheat has several weeks on ours-gorgeous sunset, finally in town. Apparently the 2nd taxi group of 4 up to the medina from the bus station got harassed by a guy trying to sell them kif and took their “no thanks” personally. Fortunately that was really the only kif hassle of the weekend. (Other groups of young male PCVs have reported being stopped about every 10 feet with someone trying to sell to them). Got ourselves situated in a good, clean, cheap hotel in the medina, a quick dinner (tagines-go figure) and off to bed.
It was very much a group trip-even when we didn’t all at first want to do something, we just gravitated to doing whatever we did together. Maybe because it was a great group of people.
We managed to get a relatively early start-good thing, since it still took us ‘til about 10am to get to the taxis to take us to Akchour to go on a hike to see God’s bridge. For what appeared to be an exorbitant price, we got 2 taxis to drive us about 45 minutes out of town, wait 2 hours while we hiked, and take us back-turned out to be a heck of a deal.
The hike was absolutely beautiful, up and down the cliffs along the banks of a river-plenty of good steep climbing, but rewarded at the end with this natural stone bridge that is about 300 meters above the river. The guys were really great going back, esp. with Kristen and I, both of whom fully expected to be on our butts on the downhills-but we managed to stay on our feet. We ended up having beautiful sunshine, worked up a bit of a sweat, got great photos and headed back into town.
Good chicken lunch with the locals renewed our energy for a walk around the medina. It’s very picturesque with the 2-tone blue walls, twists and turn, built into a hill, unique little shops and restaurants and inns-very different from other towns in Morocco and a nice departure from the typical medina. Side note-the little shop w/the guy knitting crazy hats and selling 1 DH candy seemed strange, until we realized he had his customer base completely figured out. They come to Chouen, get stoned, get the munchies and try on and buy silly hats-perfect! Note that this was Lisa’s observation-she was "on" all weekend-and to think that she had no intention of coming to Chouen when she went to Fes for her shot-we convinced her on the spot to join us for the weekend.
After contemplating our next move-a walk to the waterfall just east of town and the crumbling mosque (another hike-not my 1st choice), check out the Kasbah or check out the Artisanat, we all followed Colin’s lead to see the sunset from the mosque. Must admit that while we all made it up there, Colin was the only one to stay for the sunset-just got too cold-we enjoyed the view on the walk back down into town.
Fortified with ns ns kbir (a Moroccan equivalent to a tall latte), we opted for an early dinner. All chose non-Moroccan grub, at our own risk. Maybe stick w/the Moroccan cuisine next time. Anyway, finished up the night w/a couple games of Bananagrams and Balderdash and off to bed, as 5 of the 8 of us had a 6am bus to catch. That’s the only problem w/weekend trips-the travel time it takes to get there and back home doesn’t leave a lot of time at your destination. Chouen would be a great place to go spend a relaxing 3 day trip. Inshallah mn b3d.
Back to Fes in time for a quick Marjane (grocery store) run and caught a taxi to REK w/4 guys-bought out the front seat and we were off (1st time I didn’t have to wait at least an hour for the taxi to fill). Home in time to get on Skype with Debbie, Alex and Ginger. Hamdullah. What a nice weekend!