Tetouan is about an hour from Tangier, and while it doesn’t have enough to see to justify the six or so hour drive from Ifrane, I was excited to figure that it’d be easy to stop by on my way back.
I arrived at the Tanger bus station around 7:45, ready to take the next bus. CTM was supposed to have a bus at 8:15; however, this strangely was departing at 8AM, so I hopped on quickly.
On the way, our bus was selected at one of the random police check stations, and an officer hopped on and checked the IDs of all the men on the bus, ignoring me completely.
Taking the CTM bus meant that in Tetouan I was dropped off at the CTM bus station–while the official bus line of Morocco is CTM, there are many unofficial bus lines that go to the general bus stations. I asked the lady at the counter when the buses to Fes were going, and while the website had said there was a 13:45 bus, she told me there was only 11:30 and 16:30. Whatever, I thought; I didn’t need that much time.
I was once again having issues with my left and my right–I’ll look at a map and think “okay, I have to take a right, a right, and a left” and then I’ll realise that instinctively I want to turn left and I’ll realise that I actually meant I needed to go left, left, and right. Bleh. I initially wasn’t very impressed by Tetouan until I came along the actual UNESCO heritage site. There, two big buildings loomed around a square, and I found the entrance to the real medina. It was pretty quiet, and I scrambled around the streets, trying to find all of the little signs put up next to random buildings explaining their significance. I bought a freshly cooked doughnut for half a dirham–five cents.
While I didn’t think it was particularly outstanding compared to other medinas, it was a very friendly medina with lots of pretty houses and interesting paint colour choices. Tetouan is definitely worth a stopover, if not a full night.
I was almost back at the bus station around 11, but decided to kill twenty minutes drinking mint tea at a cafe overlooking the Rif mountains and the gorgeous houses of Tetouan. However, when I went to buy my CTM ticket, the seats on the 11:30 bus were sold out. I asked the man about grand taxis, and she said they were very far away, and that there were no other bus lines running through the city. Frustrated, I bought the 16:30 ticket, and went outside. I sat down for a moment, thinking. I could definitely still get back to Ifrane that night, but the odds of there being a bus from Fes at that time of night were low and I figured I’d likely have to get a taxi for myself, which would be 180 dirham. I started walking again down the main street, and less than two blocks later, found a fleet of grand taxis–the ticket guy might have misunderstood me, but I think he blatantly didn’t want to deal with directing me and so just lied to me.
I asked the taxi driver, who thankfully spoke Spanish, if any of them went to Fes, and he suggested taking a bus. I told him CTM wasn’t running until much later, and he told me to go to the other bus station. Oh, I thought. So there is another bus station–another blatant lie! I asked him how far away it was, and he said very far, very very far, I’d have to take a taxi.
To my relief, back at the CTM bus station, the man scowled at me but gave me back my 100 dirham when I told him I didn’t want my ticket anymore. He was probably glad to be rid of me. I hopped a petit taxi who drove me the “very very far” distance of about ten blocks to the other station. When I walked in, I heard a guy yelling “Fes! Fes!” and approached him only to be whirled up and practically dragged to a bus. It was a 11:32; the bus was scheduled to depart at 11:30 and I had just bought the last seat. For 70 dirham. (Screw you, CTM!)
If the Beni-Mellal area is Utah, then northern Morocco is Montana. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. But of course, I had had a bad feeling about this entire trip, hadn’t I? It couldn’t go that smoothly. Around 14:00, we were pulled over by more police. I figured initially they would just do an ID check, but they boarded the bus and began examining all of the baggage in the overhead compartments and, from the window, I saw them opening bags that had been stored in the luggage compartment of the bus. This seemed to take twenty minutes; then, there was a yelling match between one of the police and the bus driver; then, another forty minutes passed before we finally drove off again. Sigh. A really nice Moroccan sat down next to me a while later, and since I had taken my notebook of Darija notes with me, I was able to actually hold a stilted conversation, asking about his family and his work. (I have no idea what he worked as since his response had never been one of my vocabulary words, but he had two daughters and a very beautiful wife.) He insisted that I drink some of his orange juice, and I shared the peanuts I had bought for a dirham off one of the vendors who’d climbed on the bus.
We were three kilometers from Fes when, once more, my bus got stopped and police boarded, this time checking everyone’s IDs. Thankfully I have a Moroccan residence card now, which sped up my process.
It was about 18:00 by the time we pulled into Fes, and I went to all the bus counters to find that all the buses to Ifrane and Azrou had left and the next wasn’t until 20:00. I went out to talk to the grand taxi people, but the manager guy was like “sure we can take you to Ifrane, 300 dirham” and I was like uh, no. That should be 30 dirham per seat, thank you very much. He claimed that no taxis were going to Ifrane, and at that point I really didn’t feel like arguing, so I went and bought a 15 dirham bus ticket. I sat down and drunk some mint tea before going to climb up to the old ruins overlooking the city. It was an absolutely gorgeous view, and almost made the wait worth it. I left the hill with forty minutes before my bus departed with about a fifteen minute walk in front of me, but they must have heard that I was a Kiwi, because I ran into a flock of sheep. Sheep, people, sheep blocking my path down the mountain. What a day.
Though I wasn’t particularly happy about all the time spent on buses, I got halfway caught up with books I have to review and since I didn’t have my laptop, it was almost a treat to not have any pressure to be productive. The return journey may have sucked, but overall it was a brilliant weekend.