Tag Archives: Ceuta

Ceuta to Mallorca Part 1

Aiming to arrive in Mallorca by the end of April to meet up with friends from Yorkshire we began our journey of some 600 miles by setting out from Ceuta.

Ceuta
Ceuta

We waved goodbye to new friends, Peter and Annelies on Skadi and Elio and Maria on Sela and headed back out across the traffic separation zone towards the East coast of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean proper.  The wind was strong so we reefed in the mainsail and veritably whizzed across.  No dolphins this time.

Skadi scoots past-us
Skadi scoots past-us

We were overtaken by Skadi who were trying out their new ‘laminated’ sails.  Very fast.

We arrived in Estepona and since Peter and Annalies were anchoring, we figured we should try that too!  So we dropped the pointy heavy thing off the bow and spent a night bobbing around on the swell in the bay.  Ian had his new App working which tracks your movements on the anchor during the night and sets off an alarm if you start to move away from the anchor.  The App is wittily called “Drag Queen” and in her capable arms we had a fairly peaceful,  if rolly, night.

Keira & Ian
Keira & Ian

Next day, we set off to Marbella and found a nice marina to the Eastern side of the town where we encountered a Harrier hawk in town to scare off seagulls reducing bird poo on the sails. After a circuit of the marina she perched on our boom, and left a present.

Scaring seagulls
Scaring seagulls

We were able to enjoy a long walk down the promenade, people watching and then wandered up into the delightful historic centre to make our way through narrow and attractive lanes to find The Farm Restaurant which is owned and run by the people we had met in Ceuta.

The Farm,Marbella
The Farm,Marbella

Elio and Maria were most welcoming considering we had only met up briefly on the pontoon a couple of days before.  We shared a bottle of wine and had a platter of delicious cheeses and meat for our supper.  The restaurant was simply beautiful, with a secret garden at the side and tables set on the pavement square out front, as well as a lovely room inside.  If you are ever in Marbella, I can recommend it.

Marbella
Marbella

The following morning we were up early to take Keira to the bus station to catch a bus to Malaga airport for her flight home. We shall miss having her aboard.

Determined to try and find some wifi for weather reports and other vital communications we set off to a little restaurant we’d used the day before.  Somehow, between us, we managed to leave our wallet on the wall outside.  On returning there ten minutes later, it, and all its contents, had disappeared. So, the next hour was spent phoning round to cancel cards.  Not only was there our credit card and cash card there were our newly arrived EHIC cards and Cruising Association membership cards!  Very annoying.

So we were even more down in the dumps after that.

We decided to set off to Benalmadena for a change of scene and a change in fortune.  After a few hairy moments when currents and wind were pushing us towards the huge concrete pontoon we set off relatively smoothly.  By the time we rounded the renowned Cabo Pino at the half way point the winds were quite ferocious.  Gusting up to 30 knots.  The direction of the wind (NE) would mean an uncomfortable beat into the wind for the last leg.  Fuengirola, the nearest post of call, is more difficult to enter on a strong NE wind. Not being sure really sure how the weather was going to develop we decided to turn back.  We zoomed into Marbella for a second time on strong winds.

This time we parked bows to to make getting on and off easier.  We have also learnt that it is important to prepare strong lines for whatever the weather might throw at you.  Everything tidy and sorted BEFORE the beers come out!   And that there are simple preparations to do in port prior to leaving that make things a lot less hairy than trying to do them in 30 knots of wind!

Lots of lessons learnt.

Tetouan

Tet 1

A brief bus journey to the frontera for 80 cents was the start to our adventures into Morocco.

We arrived at the frontier and duly filled out the required paperwork, and joined a short but slow moving queue.

The border guard inspected my passport thoroughly.  Flicking through every page, rubbing each one between discerning fingers and thumb, checking labouriously the embossed design on the front and the photo page within.  All the while, delicately adding little doodle additions to the letters on my form. A balloon flying out from the ‘L’s, a circle atop all the ‘i’s, a tick confirming details of name and occupation, a dot embellishing my reason for travel.

After a few important questions;  What was my name? Where did I live? Where was I staying?  How long was I staying in Morocco?

Then, Chock! Chock!

I had two new ink stamps in my passport.  The last two pages were the favoured spots so that the border guards at the other end of the no-man’s land line would know where to look, to double check!

We were spat out from a caged corridor enclosure surrounded by razor wire, on to a roundabout that doubles as the terminus for a rather splendid dual carriageway all the way to Tetouan. We quickly negotiated a fare with a taxi and jumped in to head the 32 km into the former Spanish enclave of Tetouan.  At €5 each, it seems reasonable.

Driving along the coast we can see green fields and flocks of sheep being tended by cloaked shepherds, a scene befitting the bible.  In the near distance the impressive Rif Mountains loom protectively.

Here are palm trees planted in regimented rows along the front and huge, twiggy storks nests sit perched precariously atop pylons, chimneys and even the turrets of a mosque.Tet 19

Left and right our heads dart in turn.  Signs are in Arabic and French.

As we approach the city, a bespectacled, helmeted man, clad in black, sped along beside us, stared into the taxi, and gave us a grin.  He manoeuvred to the taxi driver’s side and salaamed  him.  He talked at the taxi driver, who shrugged, as if to say, “Whatever!”

“Lovely-Jubbly,” the motorbike man shouted at us.

“I studied English in Piccadilly.” He offered as his opening gambit and his credentials.

We smiled and nodded. He then drove right in front of the taxi, waved and gesticulated and guided us along to a suitable drop off point.  The taxi driver made a crazy man motion with his hand against his temple. We all laughed at the shared joke.

When we alKhalid 1ighted from the cab, Lovely-Jubbly was there to greet us.  He introduced himself as Khalid and was extremely disarming.  We soon found ourselves with a guide to take us into the maze of the Medina, and, more importantly, out again!

Tet 3We stopped in the grand square had a coffee.  Delicious Moroccan coffee. Served with a glass of water on the side. From there it was a short walk to reach the streets of the Medina.

It certainly helps to have had twenty-four hours to absorb and process all the sights we saw in the Medina.   I am eager to give a description that does it justice and adequately expresses just how amazing and different a place it is to see.  I have visited all sorts of markets in my time, in many diverse countries,Tet 10 but I have truly never seen anything quite like the Medina in Tetouan.

The nearest I have come to seeing something like this was when I watched Raiders of the Lost Arc, the James Bond film set in Egypt (can’t remember the name, answers on a postcard please) or Harry Potter.  The atmosphere, the smells, the hustle and bustle, the people and the stalls, all conspired to contribute to the impression that this was an incredibly elaborate film set prepared entirely for our benefit.

I felt that if I had turned round quickly enough, or darted round a corner, I might have caught some scene-shifter unawares: That I would find myself gazing at the backlot of some enormous Pinewood-ian film studio.

For a start, the extras were so realistic.

The teenage boy, running along bearing tiny little pastries on huge rectangular wooden trays.  He rushed round a corner and nearly collided with Keira in his haste to get to the ovens.

The wizen, shuffling, hunch-backed old dear, wrapped in layers and completely covered in a pointy hooded djellaba.IMG_1436

The toothless herbalist trying to sell us Argan oil and Ras el Hanout.Tet 13Tet 27

The baker, slaving away at a huge wood-fired, pizza style oven; sliding flat loaves as big as dustbin lids in and out of its gaping, insatiable mouth.Tet 23

 

 

The kid, aged about 6, who came tearing into the dark confines of the bakery, shouting, ‘Give me a loaf, but if it’s not hot, I don’t want it!

The merchants constantly rearranged the displays of their produce to best effect.

The constant stream of people pushing trolleys past your legs.  Trolleys wobbling with the weight of cow’s heads, stomachs and intestines, bouncing millimetres from being joggled on to my exposed, bare, flip-flopped feet.  A trolley load of cow’s shins and hooves, off to the glue factory, presumably.Tet 26

For extras, they were extraordinarily believable actors!

As if this wasn’t enough, the scene makers had gone to enormous lengths to make the place look authentically medieval.  The noises, the narrow alleyways,Tet 24 the maze of streets, the dark doorways that looked as if they led nowhere, the beautiful mosaics, the white, green, lilac and blue painted walls, the covered-over alleyways,Tet 29 the arches, the huge, old, wooden, studded doors, the twenty-four different mosques, the synagogue, the street signs.Tet 30

Clearly, the property department was not to be outdone.  The stalls were stunning. Tet 20 Piles of tomatoes, floes of enormous strawberries, mounds of plump oranges, stacks of every kind of fruit and vegetable you can name, plus some unusual ones, like bracken.  Tet 22

Meat stalls, where butchers carefully carved up chunks of meat and blood oozed; dripping down in dots to the paving stones below.

Stalls were packed in tightly here.  Tet 7Fish, fruit, vegetables and herbs, neatly arranged, spilled out across the already narrow space.  Tiny cubby-hole kiosk stalls utilised the tiniest left-over spaces and hooded men perched inside, within an arm’s reach of any of the products.

Lentils, chickpeas, pasta, Tet 17rice, corn and spices overflow from sacks carefully rolled down to precise and equal heights.

Pots, pans and kitchen utensils gleamed in the beams of light produced by the lighting department.  TET 28The sun light filtered in through the narrow space high above our heads.  They had achieved, to a tee, the sharp contrast between sun and shade, together with the glimpse of blue sky, cut up in slices between roof lines.

The offal stall, Tet 16the tripe stall, the baskets Tet 14and wooden implements.

 

 

 

 

 

The white wash in big stoney chunks, Tet 11the powdered tinctures of green, lilac, blue and saffron in huge bags for people to dip into and mix into their paint.

The prolific number of barber shops was also noticeable. Tet 12 On a Sunday they all had customers, sporting fairly severe and sharp cuts.  Some were having a wet shave, too.

In what seemed like the very epicentre of the Medina, we came across a deserted restaurant, buried so deep in the maze that we were the only customers. Probably because no one else could find it.  Tet 21Its only light came from a huge, orangery type roof three floors above as it was surrounded by other buildings on all four sides.  It had an enormous, dusty, crystal chandelier, that helped us to see clearly the curved filigree of the inner arches, the tiles, mosaics and the glittering, plush, tasseled cushions on the sofa benches around the room.Tet 31

Here, however, the props department only managed to deliver a fairly bland, over-cooked meal, with a mere nod to Moroccan traditional cuisine.  I think I could easily have made it myself.  A style of Minestrone soup, tiny cubes of beef on a sheikh kebab, a cone of couscous with bendy carrots, stewed cabbage and grey chicken legs finished off with a peanut cookie.  Not quite the exotic, spiced, tasty Moroccan dishes we had hoped for and as a government establishment, sadly lacking in imagination and flavour.

The sound department, however,  reproduced with great accuracy, the Arabic stream of words, the occasional French or Spanish being shouted by merchants and their customers.   They called out their wares in a stream of words, over and over again, even whilst bagging up a sale.  It was as if they so were impatient to sell all their produce that they didn’t appreciate the interruption of a sale in their pursuit of announcing and marketing what they still had to sell.

Live chickens squawked Tet 15from back room cages, unwittingly waiting to be selected, slaughtered and plucked for the next purchaser.

The costume department had shown a keen eye for replicating the kinds of clothes and colours worn in the Medina.  Rustic fabrics, full length djellabas on men and women with pointed wizard-like hoods, shawls, straw hats with decorative woollen pom-poms Tet 2dangling from each side, like a kind of ethnic compass.  Children dressed in a mish-mash of clothes, leggings over a skirt, with a jumper and then a coat.  Women in tightly bound head scarves. Young men in skinny jeans and denim jackets.

At every turn of the head there was another incredible sight to see.

By making this analogy to a film set, I don’t want to detract from the wonder.  I was so completely in awe of what I saw.  I loved it!  It was an experience in every sense.  We had NO hassle, no stares, no harassment.  Everyone we met was delightful.  Khalid, our guide was knowledgeable, patient and knew everyone in the Medina.

Suddenly, we were jerked back into the 21st Century and factual life, by loud cheers from cafes, bars and shop booths, that added to the spice of life in Tetouan. A ‘derby’ football match against Casablanca that very afternoon.  Both teams on 24 points in the national football league; a crunch game?  As the 1530 kick off approached, stalls were abandoned and every one was either glued to a small TV with coat hanger aerial and grainy picture or to a radio that screamed out the commentary.  By half time the home team was 2-0 down.

“There’s still plenty of time,” was the hopeful common line.

2-1, 3-1, 3-2 …. Final whistle.

The local team went down 4-2.  Our talkative taxi driver listening to the crackling in car radio whilst driving us back to the border in his stunning 1970’s Mercedes Benz,Tet 18 became a little quieter.

We passed miles of spruced up promenade.  Ritz-Carlton and Sofitel Hotel complexes being built by the generosity of a Saudi Prince,  in an attempt to reap the rewards of a downturn in tourism fortunes for Egypt after their recent problems. The Moroccan King himself is so keen for this to become the Moroccan equivalent of the Costa del Sol, that he has invested millions of his own hard-earned cash to  build the dual carriageway road from his seaside palace to his Tetouan one, and back again.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our brief encounter with Morocco.  Khalid had definitely made our day.  We have made a note to come back and see more of this beautiful, varied and amazing country.  We are glad we came in early April, on a cool day when there were no other tourists around.

It was an unforgettable day.

Ceuta

Ceuta 4

Ceuta – pronounced Thayootah.  Known as Sebta in Arabic.

On Saturday, we braved the waters of the Bay of Gibraltar again and headed out of La Linea de la Concepcion towards Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the North African coast, adjoining Morocco.

The weather was perfect for me, a few knots of wind only, which meant we had to motor most of the way.  When crossing the traffic separation zone that cuts through the Straits of Gibraltar, it is best to cut across at right angles and do it as fast as possible.  With our newly fixed propeller anode in place we could bomb along at 8 knots.

We did sail for the last couple of hours once we were clear of the TSZ and it was perfectly lovely in the sun.   Keira even extracted and wore her bikini!!!and it is only April!

But best of all, when we were motoring along we spotted a couple of dolphins up ahead.  Soon we were really near to them and they swam right past.  It was a mother and her calf.

Later on, we spotted some more fins carving up the water. Keira lept to the front of the boat, (practically giving me a heart attack!) phone in hand ready to take pictures.  We were so lucky that a small group of four dolphins decided to join us and they played under the bow for a good three minutes before shooting off into the briny blue to our port side.  They were so fast and agile.  Diving over each other in a competition for pole position.  Rolling over coyly to one side so that they could glance up at us and see the tremendous effect that their presence was having on us: One person shrieking about how beautiful they were, one exclaiming about how they could be common or bottle nosed dolphins and one trying to speak dolphin by squeaking, clicking and clacking at them as they rode up out of the water to take a breath.

Excitement over, we arrived in Ceuta and parked up calmly at the part time fueling pontoon and then made our way to a berth near the temporary marina office.  We settled a rather alarmingly expensive, inexplicably calculated bill and swallowing hard headed into the city and made a walking tour of the impressive, old walls of the city fortifications. Ceuta 3

Ceuta 9Then to the centre of town to the tree shaded plaza near a couple of churches.  Ceuta 8A group of chattering people were gather outside the church when the bells of the other one across the square began to chime.  Clanging and clattering with a tremendous peel, bang on the dot of seven o’clock, blocking all chance of conversation.

Ceuta 7

We headed back to the boat around dusk and tucked into a tasty supper, which was one that we had prepared earlier!

A turn in the weather meant that we had to stay a further two days and nights in Ceuta.  With 40 knots of wind in the Straits we were so glad we stayed. So we spent a day happily catching up on maintenance, cleaning, paperwork and blogs.

Gib to Ceuta, a brief video blog

First pass at a video blog, featuring guest crew a few dolphins and lots of big ships. Enjoy!  Continue reading Gib to Ceuta, a brief video blog