Leaving Salé

Clearing out of Salé is an easy enough process, you agree a time and head to the fuel pontoon to clear-out with the officials at the appointed time. First, you need to give the marina, customs, and police folks 24 hours notice that you want to leave (this applies to any of the ports in Morocco). So, we agreed a time with the marina guy, and he took care of the rest. The next day, we turned up at the fuel pontoon to start the ball rolling.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, clearing out is almost exactly the reverse of the clearing in process: the police pay a visit to the boat, ask the same police questions and customs come along to ask their customs questions. But this time, the drugs dog made an appearance.

That dog is big. I was expecting a beagle or something just as pint-sized – not something the size of a German Shepherd. The dog handler asked if I had a gate (a gap between the guide wires) so that the dog can get on board. To which I replied “Non” and offered to lift him over the wires. But he declined, and that was that for Fido – no job today – so it was a green light from customs without the sniffing around. The policeman then took our passports away for stamping.

Just as an aside, each time you move from port to another port within Morocco, you effectively leave the country. So when we arrive at Agadir, we will gain another couple of stamps in our passports.

After filling up with diesel, and having our passports returned, the same fellas who led us from the sea to the marina in their little boat led us back out to sea again. Bou Regreg river was just as alive as when we arrived. People are swimming across from bank to bank, jet skis are zipping up and down, and ferry boats are crisscrossing the water laden with passengers from Rabat to Salé and back.

On the Salé side of the river, near the beaches, we saw lots of people waving to us as we motored past, clearly indicating thanks for coming here with a wave and a touch of the hand to the chest. Not many yachts come here, and I think they are genuinely grateful to us for making an effort. Most people we met along the way to Morocco sailed directly from Portugal to Madeira, bypassing Morocco altogether. It’s a shame for the sailors and the folks at the marina, as both sets of people are missing out. The marina is safe; it is not expensive and, just as we experienced in Fes, the people are lovely.

After passing the outer breakwater, the pilot boat turned back towards the marina leaving us to continue alone.

The Journey to Agadir

The journey to Agadir continued with no drama. Maria used a seasickness cure recommended by the owner of the fragrance shop we visited in Fes: a mixture of Nigella seeds and menthol used as an inhaler. Drug-free and it seems to work. I reckon we could be onto something here, and it has to be far healthier than drenching her system with Stugeron.

The nights were clear and full of stars, and the sea alive with the occasional pod of dolphins coming to see us. And both of us managed to get a decent amount of sleep along the way. So much so that on arrival in Agadir, we could string together a sentence consisting of more than a few words interspersed with grunts.

Despite being in Africa, the nights are still cold and damp, so we aren’t quite at a place where the butter is in a permanent melted state. By the time evening falls, we have swapped our shorts and t-shirts for mid-layers and waterproofs. And by mid-morning we are back to shorts and t-shirts again, only to repeat the cycle later in the day.

We made good speed to Agadir, getting here in just over two days – not bad for a trip of over 230 miles – tying up to the marina at around 4 pm on 25th August. And as strange coincidence would have it, the Marinero allocated a berth next to Craig and Julie – the folks we met in Salé.

Agadir

When I was a lad, I remember Agidir being a favourite amongst package tour destinations for Brits. Cheap, with a promise of sun, sand and an English pub, this was the place to go to stretch your hard earned cash while stretching yourself out on a beach towel. Now it seems more the domain of Moroccan holidaymakers. There’s hardly an English accent around. I mentioned this to the police man at the marina – explaining that in my twenties this was very popular with British tourists, his reply was “Oh yes, before the earthquake in the 60’s this was a trendy place for British people.” That puts his estimate of my age at around 80. Thanks for that.

Geoff and Natasha came to our aid once more bringing financial advice, coffee bags and, this time, charcoal filters for drinking water. All very much appreciated. They surprised us at the marina by coming to the pontoon to say hello shortly after we tied up. European data roaming doesn’t extend to Morocco, of course, so that we couldn’t receive iMessages from people – so this really was a surprise. Later that day we joined up again for dinner and once again had a lovely time.

The 1960’s earthquake clobbered Agadir, so not a lot is left of the original city. As far as I am aware, only the kasbah on the hill remains. Consequently, Agadir has a very different look and feel to Rabat and Salé for example. The architecture appears more Mediterranean modern: clean-lined white apartment buildings with retail and food outlets spanning the length of the beach. It certainly isn’t ugly, but it looks more European than North African. So we packed our bags and went to Marrakesh.

Journey to Marrakesh

There’s no train service from Agadir to Marrakesh, so if you want to go there, it’s necessary to hire a car or take the bus. We opted for the latter and reserved tickets on the “Supratours Confort Plus bus with reclining seats, free bottle of water, free wifi and a choice of music channels” for 29th August. And we booked the Art Place hotel right on Djemaa el-Fna square.

The three and a half hour journey to Marrakesh reminded me of childhood holidays insofar as it was a long coach trip: I didn’t quite know if we were there yet, and we stopped at some point near halfway for a break. Stopping was a good thing, given that the promised bottle of water was highly inconspicuous and no loos existed on the coach. Everyone poured out of the “Confort Plus” bus for a comfort break at a service station about an hour from Marrakesh, either rushing to the loos or to the drinks. Twenty minutes later the bus rattled back into life, everyone climbed on, and one hour after that we rumbled into Marrakesh bus station.

After a short taxi ride to the hotel with its golden doors signposting a quiet luxury haven amongst all the bonkers-ness that is Djemaa el-Fna, we checked in and given keys to our room. Although we arrived too early to check in, we were pleasantly surprised to find we had received an upgrade to a suite in the riad part of the hotel. As with the riad Laroussa in Fes, the quality and attention to detail here are stunning and the craftsmanship immaculate.

More to follow in Maria’s post on Marrakesh.

 

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