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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mystical Morocco

Mystical Morocco proved as intriguing, dirty, cheap and crowded as we’d remembered from previous visits.  A great place to provision from the markets, buy the obligatory hand painted tagine dish, have a cheap meal out, explore the medinas and kasbahs…..and then get out!

Olives, olives and more olives

Now...which one to buy?
The Atlantic swell meant we couldn’t risk going into Rabat – our preferred destination.  The river entrance and sandbars mean it’s only safe to enter if the swell is less than two metres – we were getting three to four and it was predicted to increase so we kept heading down the coast to Mohammedia.  There was one free space on the floating pontoon in one of the filthiest harbours we’ve been into ever and we were surrounded by scruffy Moroccan fishing boats and even scruffier Morrocan fishermen!  Within minutes of docking we had a parade of officials visit us – customs/immigrations/port police - all incredibly friendly and keen to mention they knew New Zealand had won the World Cup. Luckily we had some All Black souvenirs to give them. Formalities completed and shore leave passes issued we set off to explore Mohammedia – an interesting enough, if small, town.

Sale medina

Next day we caught the highly efficient train to Rabat where we spent the entire day exploring the medinas in both Rabat and neighbouring Sale, across the river.  Time stands still in these market places that have existed since ancient times.  The produce on sale was astounding including fragrant spices, aromatic fresh herbs, freshly dug and picked vegetables and fruit and – to my horror – freshly dressed chicken…killed to order.  I had to run past that stall but the squawking from the unlucky bird followed me!
Waiting for the right winds meant we had four nights in Mohammedia and over that time a handful of cruisers came in, including a boatload of friendly Germans who rafted next to us.  They were on a tight schedule and told us they’d be leaving Monday at 3pm.  In true Germanic style, they let lines go on the dot only to return half an hour later with a fouled prop.  Their frustration mounted as the rope proved impossible to cut – and we felt incredibly sorry for the skipper forced to snorkel in the fetid waters.  Help came in the form of Czech sailors who had a diver and compressor on board and, at 8pm, the rope was finally cut free and the yacht left.
Spices galore
Bandit in Mohammedia marina
After filling with cheap diesel we left on Tuesday morning to find the wind Gods smiling.  
We had a fantastic sail to Graciosa, the northernmost and smallest Canary Island, averaging six knots and catching a good tuna en route.  Didn’t start the engine once.  It doesn’t get much better than this!
Wonderful door in the medina


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