La Linea de Concepción >>> Gibraltar >>> (Spain) Tarifa >>>
(Morocco) Chefchauen >>> Marrakech
6/25 – Arrive in La Linea de Concepción
6/26 – Explore Gibraltar and Whale Watching in Tarifa!
6/27 – Walk around Tarifa
6/28 – Travel from Spain to Morocco: Ferry, taxi, and bus
6/29 – Hike God’s Bridge and explore Chefchauen’s Blue Medina
6/30 – 10 hours of travel to Marrakesh
7/01 -Rest and Planning Day in Marrakesh
Arrive in La Linea de Concepción
+ With nothing on the agenda today except taking a bus to La Linea de la Concepción, we decided to sleep in for a bit. When we checked out, we didn’t see our Air BnB hosts at all. This had been our strangest Air BnB experience by far because we had only seen the guy owner once and never saw the woman who lived there. But it was nice because it felt very private, like it was our own place.
+ For lunch we headed to one of the places we’d seen the previous night called Noodles. Corey loved his pad Thai dish, but Liz wasn’t thrilled with her mixed veggies. We both enjoyed the change from the tapas we had been having. After a taxi ride to the bus station and buying our tickets, we returned to Taco Bell to use their wifi for the next 2 hours until the bus left.
+ After being as productive as we could during what seemed like the fastest 120 minutes ever, we hopped aboard the bus and drove south along the coast. Along the way we passed many different beach towns and fun looking resorts that had lots of water trampolines and slides. The water looked really inviting and we hoped to be able to swim once we arrived at our destination.
+ One thing to note is that on these bus rides, we often worked the majority of the time, doing things like writing out these blog posts, responding to family/friends back home, and reading about upcoming destinations in our Lonely Planet books and taking notes – bssically any work that could be done while offline. We rarely got the chance to sit back and do nothing, which was a major difference between long term travel or just taking a fun vacation. If we didn’t do these sorts of things now, we’d either be completely unprepared when we got to new destinations, or we’d have to devote a lot of time (and thus waste money) doing it at the hostel instead of exploring the city and attractions.
+ From the La Linea bus station, it was only a 10 minute walk to our hostel and along the way we felt almost creeped out by the mostly deserted town. Even though it was a Saturday evening, most shops and restaurants were closed and hardly any people walked the streets.
+ After setting our bags down in the room and some internet time, we headed out to catch sunset. The walk along the jogging trail was interesting because not only did it circle the giant harbour/marina during such a pretty sunset, but you could see Tarifa, Gibraltar also across the Gibraltar Strait to Africa! So we were standing in 1 country and able to see a whole other city and 2 other countries! Very similar to when we were in Colombia and visited Peru and Brazil in the same day.
+ On the way to dinner we passed a hole in the wall restaurant serving snails. Since this was the food to try in both Portugal and Spain, and we’d yet to do so, we knew this might be our last chance. When they came out, they were much bigger and more snail like than we’d anticipated and it took some guts to eat the first couple. Once we saw how long they were out of the shell, it was even more gross and caused Liz to stop eating them. Corey finished them all, but mainly due to the delicious, slightly spicy sauce they came in.
+ The restaurant we chose for dinner was obviously the most popular in town and after getting our name down, we had to wait for 30 whole minutes before being seated. But the food proved worth the wait as we ordered 5 different tapas and very much enjoyed them all. Liz’s favorite was called musaka and was a cheesy dish with vegetables, meat and tomato sauce. Delicious!
+ By the time we got back to the hostel it was already midnight somehow and although we’d hoped to work on the hostel computer, this one guy was still on it (he’d been on it since we first checked in hours ago). So we hung out in the room for a bit before finally falling asleep really late.
Explore Gibraltar and Whale Watching in Tarifa!
+ Today we were heading to Gibraltar to explore the Rock! It is a huge limestone rock jutting from the sea that had all sorts of interesting history and military purposes.
+ Before crossing into Gibraltar we grabbed lunch at McDonald’s and got their “Month Magnificent” special which was cheap, relatively yummy, and filling.
+ So for the first time since getting on the cruise we actually had to show our passports. But not really because since we weren’t from the EU, they pretty much just glanced at it and waved us through. We didn’t even get a stamp!
+ Gibraltar is a British territory and uses the pound instead of the Euro and they had many British themed pubs and stores lining the English named streets.
+ Right at the border they were offering an official tour of the rock and normally we choose to skip those and sightsee ourselves to save money. But this time we decided differently because we were in such a rush to make our afternoon bus to Tarifa. The tour covered every spot we wanted to see and included transportation providing a decent value.
+ The total tour was just over 2 hours and our van driver told us interesting history along the way. Our first stop was the Pillars of Hercules, which as legend has it is where Hercules pulled the European and African continents apart.
+ Next we visited St. Michael’s Caves which were surprisingly cool, and not only because they were located inside this giant rock. They had huge stalagmites and stalactites and everything was illuminated by different colored lights which showed off the huge chambers and crevasses. They even hold weddings, concerts, and fashion shows in there!
+ Then we stopped farther up the mountain to admire the view at the top of the rock and all of the tailless Barbary Macaque monkeys that were hanging out. Many had just gave birth less than a month ago and the cute little babies were hanging on their moms as they jumped around.
+ Our last stop was the old Siege Tunnels that had been built by military forces back before America was even free from British rule! Since we had limited time, we didn’t get to explore all of the 2 km+ of cave tunnels open to the public, but did get to see many interesting chambers they’d built and holes they’d made for all the canons sticking through to protect the rock. There are actually over 70 km of tunnels in the Rock, which equates to more roads/pathways inside than outside of it in all of Gibraltar! Crazy!
+ When the tour ended we had to walk back to the hostel and grab our bags and then walk to the bus station. Luckily we had just enough time for Corey to grab some ice cream nearby for both of us and return to the station and eat it before the bus left.
+ The ride to Tarifa was only about an hour long and we got to see a lot of cows, windmills, and the Strait of Gibraltar coastline along the way.
+ After finding our hostel, Sulok Tarifa, and checking into our dorm beds, we set out to explore and book a tour for whale watching or scuba diving.
+ We luckily happened to find the whale watching office with seconds to spare before their last tour of the day. They told us the next 2 days would be too windy to go on a tour so it was now or never for us and we quickly bought our tickets and hopped aboard.
+ This was only our second whale watching tour ever, with the last one in January of 2014 in San Diego, California. While we got to see whales on that one, it was overall a disappointing experience since we never got close enough to really see the whales close up. This one though, far exceeded our expectations!
+ After quickly grabbing spots to stand at the very front of the boat, we made our way out to deeper waters for half an hour before the captain got the first sighting of a sperm whale! The boat raced over and ended up just floating next to this sperm whale for about 10 minutes as he just hung out on the surface resting up before his next dive. It was really cool to see this giant creature so close to us.
+ On the way to the next sperm whale we ran into a giant pod of pilot whales! There were probably at least 100 of them spread out in a long line swimming to somewhere and we pulled up next to them to watch. Then, a whole bunch ended up swimming along the bow of the boat and since we had the best seats, we were only feet away from them! In fact, we could even hear their squeaks and whistles coming from underneath the water! We ended up meandering along with them for about 20 minutes and saw tons of them, including some baby whales and even a Risso’s dolphin that was among them all!
+ Before the tour was over, we ended up finding a pod of sperm whales (Corey actually spotted them first!) and we were able to watch them surface and dive for another 10 minutes before they finally dove down deep and we had to return to the dock.
+ Back on solid ground we walked around looking for info on scuba tours for the next day, but everybody was already closed. So we eventually found an Italian restaurant to eat at and ordered 2 pizzas since we were both starving. Knowing that Corey had asked for something spicy on the pizza like red pepper, he brought us a spicy sauce (mainly comprised of olive oil) that was delicious! So even though the pizza was mediocre at best, the sauce made it great.
+ The rest of the night was staying at the hostel working on the tablet and phones researching our upcoming travels before finally going to sleep really late around 3.
Walk around Tarifa
+ When we woke up we found out that no scuba tours would be going out today because it was too windy. In fact, whale watching and even the ferry crossing to Morocco were both canceled too and the only activity option was kite boarding, but it was so expensive that we opted against it.
+ So we ended up spending the first part of the day doing some more work before heading out for lunch. We found another pizza place, except this time it was half the price and bigger portions (and better tasting food!).
+ After a delicious filing meal there, we went back to the hostel and hung out on the bench outside enjoying the cool breeze as we watched Brothers Grimsby. While watching, Liz enjoyed some ice cream and Corey had some local Spanish beers.
+ We wanted to visit the beach so we walked over there, only to find it pretty much deserted due to the extremely high winds making the place resemble a sand storm. Our intention was to maybe swim and snorkel, but the water was freezing so we opted against that. On the way back, we did find a outdoor city gym full of funny exercise equipment and we played around on those for a while laughing at the funny movements made while using the machines.
+ For dinner, we returned to the same lunch spot, but this time ordered some different items which were equally as filling and delicious. We also witnessed what we think is the first lightning storm since before we left on our trip! In Florida, they are so common they happen almost everyday, especially in the summer where it almost occurs like clockwork everyday. It was interesting to think about all the places in the world we’d been without that happening in over 6 whole months!
+ Before our food coma took complete control of us, we watched the season finale of Game of Thrones. And it was awesome!
Travel from Spain to Morocco
+ We had originally wanted to take the ferry straight from Tarifa to Tangier, but had been told late in the afternoon yesterday from the ferry company that they thought all of the crossings from Tarifa would be canceled today. We had already booked the next 2 nights in Chefchaouen, Morocco and needed to get over there ASAP. So our options were either hang out and risk the ferries not crossing, or make our way to another town back north and take that ferry, which was much bigger and went everyday regardless of weather.
+ So knowing our travel luck, we didn’t want to risk it and this had to wake up about 3 hours earlier to catch a bus to Algeciras, then a ferry to Tangier Med (annoyingly 40km east of Tangier where we needed to be), and then pay for a private taxi to Tangier which cost a bunch extra. Plus the ferry crossing took almost 2.5 hours as opposed to the 35 minutes the one from Tarifa would’ve taken, arghh! So in the end, we did make it to Tangier on time to catch our bus to Chefchaouen, but it took way more time and cost more money than it should have. Plus when we got to the Tangier bus station, we met people who had just come from Tarifa on that ferry, meaning it did end up running today after all. Very frustrating!
+ Although we were hungry and it was lunch time, there was no food to be had anywhere since in Morocco it was Ramadan right now and everybody was fasting from sun up to sun down. So we ended up getting some chocolate milk and discreetly feasting on our stockpile of snacks we carried with us as our bus made its way through the desert and mountains for 3 hours to Chefchaouen.
+ Tired from our already long day and not getting much sleep the night before, we chose to spend the rest of the afternoon lounging in our very Moroccan style room at our riad (hotel in arabic) Casa Amina. After a short nap, we went to meet up with a nice girl we’d met on the bus named Amber to go out for dinner. Thankfully, she’d been more productive that afternoon than us and found a nice place to go to for dinner. So after deciphering the different looking Moroccan menu and discussing options in mixtures of Spanish and English with the waiter, we got a couple of cheap appetizers and main courses to share. Everything here in Morocco was super cheap so we were able to splurge a little more with things than we were in Europe.
+ When dinner was over, we wandered around Chefchaouen’s blue medina for a while admiring the buzzing nightlife that was now taking place. This was due to everyone able to eat and be productive again now that the sun had set. Generally during the day they relax, nap, and even most of the shops and things are closed, so now they stay up late and even though it was midnight already, they didn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
+ Finally back at our room, we passed out because even though it was 12:30pm local time, we’d gained 2 hours today coming from Spain so it felt like it was 2:30 am.
Hike God’s Bridge and explore Chefchauen’s Blue Medina
+ We had been told about a really cool hike we had to do nearby to a place called God’s Bridge that also had a bunch of waterfalls nearby. So we recruited a nice guy from our hostel named Brett and along with Amber from yesterday we walked to the taxi station to get a ride. We were able to find one more girl (Adriana from Brazil) to split the taxi fare with us out to the mountains. So the 5 of us squeezed into the taxi for our 50 minute journey out into bigger mountains of Talassemtane National Park. These were much larger mountains than we’d thought Morocco had!
+ Our hike out to God’s Bridge ended up being more confusing than we’d initially thought it would be and we eventually hired a guide for about a dollar a person to show us the way. After an hour of walking through landscape that continually got more and more beautiful, we reached a river we had to wade through. The water was absolutely freezing and Liz’s ankles were even going numb and hurting as we walked through it. Then we reached the final pool at the end where we were going to hang out at and relax for a while. Corey, Brett, and the guide all took turns jumping off of the highest rock around into the freezing water, and then quickly scrambling out of it before they turned into ice cubes.
+ After a quick snack we headed back to the beginning of the trail where the path had split to go to the waterfalls. One thing to note was that along this trail we’d walked in this huge gorge were these remarkably placed cafes and tables you could eat at (normally, but not right now in Ramadan) that were situated in the middle of this crystal clear river on little islands. They were really cool to look at and everybody took a bunch of pictures of them. This whole landscape was vastly different than we’d ever pictured Morocco looking like!
+ After a short time down the waterfall trail, the rest of the group (besides Corey) wanted to stop and relax in the shade next to a small waterfall. So while they relaxed, Corey hiked the trail another 20 minutes and got to see a bunch more waterfalls and cool scenery along the way. Unfortunately he didn’t make it to the end to the largest waterfall and had to turn back due to time. On the way back to the group, he passed a group of 10 kids ranging from about 8-15 years old who yelled “F* You!” at Corey and tried to instigate him to come over to them. Knowing how dangerous young hoodlums can be from our Colombian encounter, he kept on moving to get back to the group. He did hear them following him however so he picked up the pace and made sure to make it to the group before they caught up to him. Who knows why they acted that way or what their intentions were, but when they passed our group hanging out at the picnic tables (the 5 of us together again) they simply scowled and kept walking.
+ Needing to meet up with our taxi driver for the return trip, we headed back out of the canyon and away from the clear blue waters that were so inviting. Then it was another scenic ride back into town.
+ Wanting to make the most of our daylight we had left, we spent about 2 hours wandering through the giant Blue Medina, getting lost amongst it’s endless corridors and admiring all the cool architecture and doorways (all blue, of course). This place was known as the blue city and it definitely fulfilled it’s reputation.
+ After some much needed showers at the hostel, we were going to head out to dinner, but Liz was having a bad headache and chose to lay down in bed instead. So it was just Corey and Brett who went out to dinner together.
+ They ended up returning to the same place as the night before since Brett had preordered a giant helping of Cous-Cous the day before for tonight. We were each starving since we’d pretty much skipped lunch again (since again everything was closed) and ordered 2 main courses each and a giant salad to split. It was funny though because as we were eating our food his Cous-Cous came out and only then did he remember he’d ordered it for 2 people so he now had this giant dish in front of him to try and eat. He ended up boxing up most of it and even then there was a ton of leftovers on the platter still. After their bromance dinner was over, they went back to the hostel and Corey did some work on his phone for a few hours while Liz kept trying to relax and make her headache go away.
10 hours of travel to Marrakesh
+ Thankfully Liz woke up feeling much better and we packed up and ate some leftovers from the previous night before leaving the hostel. Then we caught a taxi to the bus station and got tickets for our 10 hour journey to Marrakesh today. It would involve a bus, then changing to a train in one city, and another train in a different city just to make it to Marrakesh, which was much father south in the country and closer to the Sahara Desert.
+ The bus ride flew by and we got to the train station in no time only to find out our train was delayed for 25 Minutes. With extra time, we walked around the city looking for some type of food for lunch but we were unsuccessful. Since it was Ramadan, everything was closed during the day, including all restaurants. So by default we went hungry most of the day as well, but did try to discreetly munch on snacks and drinks throughout the day. (We even took turns eating our Popsicles under the train station platform in an effort to not be disrespectful to those who were fasting. Can you imagine not only all day with no food, but no water or anything! Liz would be very hangry by sundown!)
+ Annoyingly, the train actually ended up being over an hour late and we were very worried we’d miss our next train connection and be stranded in Casablanca instead of making it to Marrakesh. Thankfully we made it onto the 2nd train with about 3 minutes to spare and after another 3 hours of travel we made it to Marrakesh.
+ Shockingly, neither one of us slept a wink the whole time traveling and instead were very productive on our phones researching upcoming European travel Itineraries through Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK! But after the 10 hour travel day and eating only snacks, we were pretty tired and hungry. We knew we wouldn’t want to venture through the Medina once we arrived at the hostel so we grabbed the first food we saw in the station which was Mickey D’s.
+ Afterwards we had a fun back and forth haggle with the taxi driver before he took us to our hostel, Dream Kasbah. Along the way, we saw a ton of the city and it looked so vastly different than anything we’d seen our entire trip. It looked almost like Las Vegas! Except this desert was in Africa and there weren’t as many cheesy world monuments dotting the landscape, just giant resorts and fancy casinos. This place was definitely going to be vastly different from Chefchaouen.
+ After arriving to the old part of town, we wandered through the Medina looking for Dream Kasbah hostel. With no luck, we finally relented and let one of the teenage guys pressuring us to let him guide us lead the way.
+ Exhausted and ready for bed, we just hung out upstairs on the rooftop terrace for a bit and tried some Moroccan beers before bed.
Rest and Planning Day in Marrakesh
+ Today was a work day so after our free breakfast we headed upstairs to the upper patio to use the internet with a cool breeze. The next bunch of hours were spent booking accommodation, applying for house-sitting opportunities, and a hundred other things we had to do. Lunch was yet again only snacks and part of a chocolate bar. This was such a great way to lose weight, lol!
+ In the early evening we finally left the hostel and grabbed some kebab sandwiches at a street café (one of the only ones we’d seen actually open since the sun still hadn’t set so everyone was still fasting, besides tourists).
+ We also wandered through the giant square and past mosques and saw people with monkeys and snakes, but sadly no snake charmers. It was still too early in the day for that. We checked out the other Riad (hotel) we almost stayed only to find it was much, much nicer and realized we’d made the wrong decision. But our hostel was a good bit cheaper so oh well.
+ After getting lost for a minute again, we found our way back to our hostel and had a big group dinner of Cous-Cous and chicken. It was kinda bland and neither of us liked it much.
+ We then had to completely repack some of our bags for our 3 day trip into the Sahara Desert leaving the next day, and hoped we’d chosen the correct items to bring with us.
+ Then we did some more work for another hour or two before we were too tired to continue and tried to grab a quick 4 hours of sleep before our big adventure began tomorrow.