The beeping sound of my mobile's alarm woke us up at half past seven. It didn’t seem as early as it should. I guess we were still not completely adapted to Moroccan time (i.e. GMT-1), which in September is two hours ahead of Central European time we are used to in Slovenia (i.e. GMT+1). In Morocco they are on the same time all year around.
From the look through our hotel room window yesterday’s rain seemed just like a distant memory. Our plan was to catch a bus to the town of Chefchaouen. On the way to the CTM bus station we also stopped at the other bus station from where buses were leaving for Asilah. We made an inquiry just in case if the price and time of departure would be right for us. Since the time of departure was not planned for any time soon, we continued to the CTM station where we bought tickets for Chaouen (short for Chefchaouen).
During the bus trip we made a couple of short stops. In Morocco it is usual for the bus driver to pull over every two or three hours of the trip and announce a 20 minute break. Usually the stop is at some kind of a street restaurant and it was always quite obvious that the driver and the owner of the roadside-joint have some kind of agreement.
One such stop was also in Ouezzane – a small town at the southern part of Rif Mountains. The Rif region is known for the largest kif (that’s a local word for marijuana) production in Morocco. You can get the best idea about the extent of the green business in these parts if you count interactions with locals that end up with some kind of a smoking proposal. Well, you may have much less work counting conversations with no hash or kif reference.
In my case I had a firsthand experience with a hashish dealer the moment I stepped off the bus.
I went to buy a bunch of bananas from a fruit market stand at the Ouezzane bus station. There was a local guy standing next to the stand through the short bargaining process. When I was walking back towards the bus, he came after me and started a casual conversation. It didn’t take him more than a couple of sentences to get to the point.
He showed me a fist sized lump of hash and tried to persuade me into buying some. It was a classical “Special price, only for you my friend!” offer. To my surprise I didn’t have to try very hard to shake him off. A firm “Thanks, I don’t smoke.” was enough.
I didn’t know it yet by then, but this was just the first of many similar situations in this region. Fortunately none of them was unpleasant. It was much easier to make a dealer understand I didn’t want to smoke, then to persuade a carpet seller I really didn’t like nor need any carpets and that selling carpets later on Ebay also isn’t my idea of having fun.
After another couple of hours we finally made it to Chefchaouen. It is a relatively small city, surrounded by mountains. Although the bus station is quite far away from the town centre, we decided to walk the distance to the hotel of our choice. Unfortunately it was impossible to see from our LP map that there was quite a steep walk ahead of us. A quarter of an hour and a whole lot of huffing and puffing later, we found ourselves standing outside the medina wall. In the chaos of narrow medina streets we took a wrong turn and wandered away from the hotel we were looking for. Fortunately there were many alternatives everywhere around.
Hotel Ouarzazate was the nearest one. It is a relatively small family-run hotel with shared toilet and shower facilities. Since we were the only guests, that wasn’t a drawback. It looked like the hotel was just renovated and some of the rooms seemed really cute. On top of all those things it was also very cheap. 100 DH for a small (2x2 meters) double room per night - that's less then 10 EUR.
After settling in we went off to explore the town centre and to find some food. It didn’t take us long to realize that we like the atmosphere of this town. We decided over a pan of shrimps and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice that we would stick around for at least three days.