I had loved the blue-walled Kasbah of the Udayas so much, we decided to head to the high Riff Mountains. There's a lovely town there called Chefchouen, and the medina is known to be awash in shades of blue.
This is the lovely part of unplanned traveling. You go where you want, when you want.
We were trying to stop in a notable bird preserve on the coast called Moulay Bousselham, but it ended up pouring rain for a few hours and the visibility was crap. Plus, I had not a single waterproof item in my pack. Ah well. Sorry birds.
The Rif Mountains are kind of a sketchy place. I wouldn't have wanted to break down in them, or stop for food or a pee break.
You see, about 1/3 or the world's marijuana is grown in these mountains. It's the ideal climate for it, and it grows, well, like weed tends to do. It's everywhere. So one thing that was noticeable right off the bat is that the people here seemed to have a bit more money and means than, say, the villages in the Atlas mountains. Despite being completely remote, there wasn't as rampant poverty here. Although it is illegal to grow and sell, a blind eye is turned and the trade is tolerated, as these mountain villages have a long history of being exempt from Moroccan law. The majority of product gets processed into hash and smuggled into Europe by boat. So there is a drug lord presence here- Spanish, Italian, and French. We got a whole lot of mistrustful glares and bad vibes from the locals.
The area was beautiful though. It rains quite a bit more here than the rest of the country, and there are still old pine forests on the hillsides. There was constant pockets of fog and low clouds giving the place an otherworldly appearance.
The light fades fast in the mountains, and the color blue doesn't photograph at night, so we woke up early to take advantage of the gorgeous light hitting the medina.
The sunrise was spectacular. Worth getting early up for.
The medina here was amazing. Not only was everything painted one of three shades of blue, but the streets were narrow twisting staircases that wind up the side of a mountain.
It seems like this cat got into something.
A good navigational hint is that if the ground is painted blue, the street will dead-end. I didn't even have a map of the medina. It was great fun getting lost, and when you wanted to find the main square, you just go down hill until you can't anymore.
It's one of those towns that gives you quite the workout just to get around. We saw a lot of elderly, with canes, making their way with their shopping bags up the steep stairs. I really felt for them.
Aside from Arabic, they speak Spanish here more than French. This area was traditionally held by Spain. I had a conversation with a shopkeep where I asked questions in French, he answered me in Spanish.
Obviously, there were no cars or motorcycles in the medina here. They used donkeys to get goods to the top of the hill.
Or you just have a very strong back.
The old Kasbah near the town square had the best views of the town.
While it gets quite crowded here in summer, in January, we had the town pretty much to ourselves. We were the only ones staying in the hotel that we had booked.
We were offered hash quite a bit, but never aggressively. No one hassled us. The only other tourist we saw were some hippie types wearing clown pants and scraggly dreadlocks.
Not only was it a picturesque place to stroll about, there were lots of fantastic little shops as well. Spices, soaps, cosmetics. The good stuff.
I took advantage and stocked up.
Especially on the spices.