Tag Archives: walking

Tangier, Morocco

We spent 2 nights at a Casa Rural just out of Tarifa.  The literal transalation for Casa Rural is Country House but it means a hotel or accommodation. We’ve stayed at a few and have always enjoyed them. Sometimes it’s up-market accommodation in a restored old building or farmhouse, this one was self-contained cabins at the back of the main farmhouse, with great views over the nearby mountains, the sea and our host’s amazing home orchard.

Tarifa is at exactly 36 degrees north, it’s the southernmost point of Spain and Continental Europe and it’s where the Mediterranean and Atlantic Seas meet. It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations for wind sports including windsurfing and kite surfing, also whale watching and just ‘going to the beach’, which goes for several miles around the bay. We did go to the town beach and it looked good with nice sand. Tarifa has the ferry terminal for ferries going to Tangier in Morocco, which was our main reason for staying there.

We did a day trip to Tangier yesterday. The novelty of visiting another country and being back home in time for dinner just never gets old for us, and this time we actually visited another continent! Caught the 9am ferry from Tarifa and arrived in Tangier at about 9am because even though the 2 places are just about on the same longitude, Spain keeps to the Western European timezone which is just geographically wrong. Current sunrise in Spain is close to 8:30am! Daylight saving finishes here at the end of this month.

So, the ferry ride was all good, not too rough, took about 35 minutes because we left a bit late because ….. Spain. Somehow Spanish time seems a lot more elastic than time everywhere else in the world. After some online research, we knew that we had to get our passports stamped by Moroccan immigration on the ferry. If it’s a full ferry, this can be a lengthy procedure and MUST be done prior to disembarking. So we made sure we were among the first to board and followed those in the know straight to the immigration desk on board. Got our passports stamped again – we’re running out of room in them! – and settled in for the ride. Got off in Tangier and set about finding our way out of the terminal. Greg had read online about how awful the taxi drivers and touts  can be at the Tangier ferry terminal, but compared with some of their Southern African counterparts, these guys weren’t even trying! We’re well practised in the art of saying ‘no’.

Tangier is a large city, with a large bustling new (ie, less than 100 years old) area and the old historic Medina (old walled city in Arabic). It’s the second-most important Moroccan city after Casablanca. Most people we interacted with spoke Berber, French and some English. We started off in the modern part with a visit to the supermarket for water, flatbreads and a few other things, then a walk along one of the main streets and then coffee, juice and a pastry at McDonalds, mainly because … clean toilets. Then we walked to the Medina which was absolutely alive with activity and people and stalls and traffic. I was interested to see greengrocers unpacking boxes of cherimoya custard apples which had come from Almuñécar, where we’d camped a few days ago, just after we left Granada. I now realise that a lot of the orchards we could see from our campsite were growing custard apples.

We wandered down streets and lanes which got progressively narrower, until we got to the market, where there were rows of stalls all selling similar items – a row of dried fruits and nuts; a row of olives and the most beautiful preserved lemons (note to self: learn how the Moroccans do it!); a row of bags of herbs and piles of colourful spices and then to the butchers and fishmongers. We found an old man selling pieces of hot potato omelete from a huge flat pan in a lane and he was doing a very brisk trade at about 10c/piece. A local shopkeeper was very keen to buy a piece for us, and we were even more keen for him not do to that and to just buy our own, knowing there would be an expectation that we visit his shop … and you can guess the rest of that scenario. So we bought our own pieces which were served on pieces of butcher’s paper. That didn’t stop the shopkeeper from trying very hard to get us into his shop but like I said, we’re good at saying ‘no’. We kept on walking higher to the Kazbah (citadel), then back down through lanes selling haberdashery, clothing and I’ve forgotten what else.

Lunch was at a restaurant back in the new part of town. Chicken pastilla and a milkshake for Greg, chicken tagine with mint tea for me, and we shared a chocolate & banana crepe for dessert. That chicken pastilla has set a new high in chicken pies for Greg and now he wants all future pies to be decoratively dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon! The food was delicious and all up it cost around AUD 22. We walked a bit more and found some shade under some eucalyptus trees in a park, then went to the beach, walked some more and got back to terminal to catch the almost-empty 6pm ferry.

It was a good day, we’re glad we did it and as Greg pointed out when we watched a car being driven onto the ferry ….  we have this crazy long-term plan of shipping the Landcruiser ute (which is currently sitting in our back yard) to Southern Africa and driving it to Northen Africa …. one day it might be us driving our car onto that ferry!

Leaving Tarifa on the Ferry
The pilot leaving the Ferry. The pilot was on board for a tricky maneuver that was only about 100m long
All safe with Australian life rafts on the ferry. The Tarifa Jet is a fast catamaran built by Incat in Tasmania
Arriving at Tangiers port – the Medina is to the right, the new part of town is to the left
Herb sellers in the Medina
in the narrow alleys in the Medina
So many olives in the Medina, and those lemons were all preserved!
Medina with meat sellers
Sharpening a knife with a pedal powered grinding wheel near the butchers in the Medina
narrow alley high in the Medina
working our way down the Medina
all sorts of shops in the Medina
Mint tea
Chicken pastilla with icing sugar!
Tangine with preserved lemons and olives hiding somewhere under all those chippies!
Resting in a park full of Eucalyptus trees
The beach at Tangiers
on the beach at Tangiers


Better write about our day in Gibraltar yesterday before we move onto the Next Thing, which is a day trip by ferry from Tarifa to Morocco tomorrow!

Lovely sunny day & we had great views of both The Rock and Africa. We walked the 2+kms from our apartment to the border, where border control on both sides barely even glanced at our passports. On the way back, Greg didn’t even get his out of his bag as there was no-one at Passport Control. Driving into Gibraltar is a much more tedious process, if the long line of cars waiting at the border was any indication. The runway at Gibraltar Airport intersects the road, so we got to tick off another ‘bucket list item’ – walking across a runway. When a plane lands or takes off, the road is closed. Gibraltar is also the first British Overseas Territory we’ve visited.

If you want to know about the history, you can start here. I’ll just add a couple fun facts in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the Gibraltar Sovereignty referendum which was held in 1967 … the vote to remain under British sovereignty was an overwhelming 12138 for, 44 against and 55 invalid. Franco was so pissed off that he closed the border in 1969, and it was not fully reopened until 1985, 10 years after his death.

So, Gibraltar was interesting but kinda weird, like going back to 1970s or ’80s England in a time machine. Main Street reminded me of the High Streets I used to visit when I spent a few months in London in 1984, and not only because it was full of English people! The shops had a quaint old-fashioned feel about them, althought I do remember more off-licences in the average High Street than there were in Main Street. Being a little part of the UK, all prices are in GB pounds, although euros are readily accepted at most, possibly all, places, probably at a very disadvantageous exchange rate. Street  and public signs are all in English and there are old-style British phone boxes & letter boxes.  One thing I really liked was that many pedestrian crossings had ‘look left’ or ‘look right’ painted on the edges to remind people before they step out. I think every country in the world should do this.

The enormous P&O ship Azura was in port and had disgorged nearly 5000 people for the day – 3500 passengers plus crew. It has the Union Jack painted on its bow, and I guess most, if not all, passengers were British.  We visited the supermarket nearest the port and found that there was no Cadbury’s chocolate on the shelves! Oh, the disappointment! We did find both fresh and canned rhubarb which we didn’t buy, plus Bakewell tarts and English pork sausages which we did buy. Last night’s dinner was a fry-up of sausages, potatoes and eggs.

We sat in the main town square for a while and I thought it might be fun to count how many people were wandering around wearing socks with sandals, but to my complete surprise, I only counted 6 people the whole day. Maybe the fashion police wouldn’t let anyone disembark if they were wearing socks with their sandals.

The big drawcard for most people, us included, is the Top of The Rock. We thought we’d walk up the Mediterranean Steps, which would get us somewhere near the top, then take the cable car back down. Information about how to actually get to the Steps was not plentiful, so we decided to get the cable car up and maybe walk down the Steps if we could figure it out. Return tickets for the cable car were 2 euros more than a one-way trip, so we got the return tix, just in case. Good thing we did, as it turns out. We had to wait a long while in the queue for the trip up, and while we were waiting I had an allergic reaction to something. Sore, streaming eyes, runny nose, felt awful. Which is all a rather dramatic way to say ‘I got hayfever’, but I’ve never had it before and it was horrible. I guess I’ll be adding an antihistamine to my first aid kit. It started resolving as soon as we walked back into Spain and I feel fine today.

I just wanted to sit somewhere out of the wind and away from the apes, so headed for the snack bar area on the top floor of the cable car building. Great views of the northern peak of the rock and over to Africa. Greg went to find those Mediterranean Steps and walked down them for  few flights, but we had arranged that he would come back and meet me where he’d left me, then we took the cable car back down. The P&O ship had left and was replaced by 2 smaller cruise ships. None in port today, because nothing much is open in Gibraltar (or Spain for that matter) today, Sunday.

We were really lucky with the weather yesterday – clear skies, warm but not too hot. Today it was very overcast and The Rock was shrouded in cloud when we left La Linea.

Crossing the airport runway to get into Gibraltar
We must be in Gibraltar
Main Street Gibraltar

The cable car
The Southern part of the rock
Africa across the Mediterranean
Down the Mediterranean steps
Our apartment in La Linea from Gibraltar







We like visiting tiny countries. Swaziland, Lesotho, Monaco and now Andorra. Oh, and Greg and Sam went to Luxembourg to buy fuel on a Sunday when they couldn’t find any servos open in France. I guess they appeal because it’s such a novelty to get from one side of a country in a day or two, or even less. In the case of Andorra, we could have zapped in and out in an hour or two, but we decided to stay for a while, go for a walk and spend a night at a campground.

The walk was up to a lake in the mountains at 2745 metres above sea level. We started at around 1800 metres altitude and climbed almost vertically for the first part. I’m not sure how far I got, with plenty of rest stops to allow my lungs to recover, but I eventually gave up and headed back down the mountain. Greg made it all the way .. and all the way back too! Stunning views of the surrounding mountains & farmland, and I was delighted to see lots of Colchicum Autumn Crocus with their purple flowers dotting the fields.

We found a campground on the main road as we drove south. Nice set-up but it was a cold night – down to 3C. We’re heading south now and hoping for warmer weather. Andorra gets 80% of its GDP from tourism, and I’d say most of that happens in the winter. The towns and villages seemed quiet, but I’m sure they’re all full of skiers, snowboarders and holiday-makers as soon as it snows. There was actually a dusting of snow on the higher peaks, but not on any of the ski slopes that we saw.

Many of the buildings in Andorra are build of local stone, and they sit beautifully along the sides of mountains, really lovely use of readily available building materials.

The climb up to the Col on the edge of Andorra
Stopped for lunch at 2000m on the Col Andorra
judy climbing up the Valle de Incles on the Cabana Sorda trail
Valle de Incles
Cabana Sorda trail
the lake at the top of the Cabana Sorda trail
looking back down the Cabana Sorda trail
camped in Andorra



Walking in Cinque Terre

Lovely sunny day on Sunday, so we figured we’d better seize it and go for a walk. Cinque Terre is a very popular place for walkers, with walking tracks between each village plus a few more challenging, higher tracks which visit other nearby villages away from the coast. Our guidebook noted that some of the paths might be closed. Oh yes indeed, we were warned.

We thought we’d do the walk from Corniglia to Vernazza, which was written up as a 1.5 hour walk and one of the nicest in Cinque Terre. There’s an information booth at the start of the path, but the woman there told us that the walk was closed, we couldn’t purchase the necessary pass for it, but that we could do it at our own risk. Um, right. And then the young man at the information place in the village told us that all the walks except the long trail to Manarola were closed and that if we did any of the closed walks, we would be fined 500 euros. O-kay. And then when we were catching the train back from Vernazza to Corniglia, there was a notice at the station advising that all walks are closed. Hmm. So who really knows what’s going on? Nobody, I suspect.

We did do the walk from Corniglia to Vernazza, along with lots of other people walking in both directions. Took us 2 hours including a few stops along the way. It was lovely. Mostly on well-maintained paths through olive groves and other vegetation, with a cafe/bar about 2/3 of the way along, then a steep drop down into Vernazza. We ate lunch at the beach, which was closed due to rough seas. There were no boats out on the water on Sunday or Monday, but on Tuesday the sea was calm again. We caught the train back to Corniglia, and then there are a couple of options for getting back up to the village. There’s a shuttle bus which looks like it seats about 12 people, there’s a set of 385 steps up, or you can just walk up the same road as the minibus drives, but  we only worked that out after we’d done the 385 steps. I watched one woman drag her wheelie suitcase down the steps, bumping it on every single step, and wondered  if it still had all its wheels by the end.

After a gelati each – chocolate for Greg, basil with olive oil drizzled over it for me – and while we were in a walking mood, we also went down and up several hundred more steps to get to the ‘harbour’. There are houses almost all the way down to the water, and the one right down the bottom even had its own letterbox – it would be quite the trek down and back for the postie to deliver letters there!

On Monday it rained on and off all day. We thought about doing one of the longer, higher walks, but decided against it because of slippery paths. So then we thought we’d have a go at the short walk which goes from Corniglia railway station around he coast to Manarola. Our guidebook advised that it had closed due to a landslide in 2012, but that was 5 years ago and it should be open again by now, right? Well, no. But we didn’t actually find out until we’d walked about 500metres along the track and came to what looked like an enormous sinkhole. There were 2 young, fit German guys who had climbed the stone wall and even they couldn’t find any way around, so we conceded defeat, walked back to the station and took the train to the first or last village, Riomaggiore. There’s a nice walk , Via Dell’Amore, from there to the next village, Manarola, but I’m sure you can guess what I’m going to write next. Yep, it was closed too. So we  had a walk around Riomaggiore – much larger and even steeper than Corniglia, then caught the train back ‘home’.

And then I spent the rest of the afternoon caught in front-loading washing machine hell. We feel like we’re pretty used to using different washing machines when we stay in different places, but this thing just wouldn’t play nice. It wouldn’t open at the end of a cycle, or rather, it would only open at the end of every 5th cycle, so I spent a couple of frustrating hours turning knobs and hoping that this time I’d be able to get our clothes out and start drying them.

Walking along the path to Vernazza
Trying out my new (3 year old) walking poles!
Looking back from the path to Corniglia
Looking down from the path to Vernazza
The large and old hole in the path to Manarola
main street of Riomaggiore
The closed path for 5 years from Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore from the Harbour
Catching the train at Riomaggiore
Basil with Olive Oil Gelati