Canary Islands: Tenerife.
25 November 2016
Photo: Cable car Mt Tiede
In Santa Cruz we continued to do the checks on the boat in readiness for the Atlantic crossing, including small fixes that Brian said needed doing. One such job was the door to the front cabin which Garry would be using when he arrives. As usual it was only going to take a couple of minutes, it ended up taking several hours and at one point saw Brian locked in the front cabin with a door that would not open, (the handle had been removed) and getting out the forward hatch was not going to be easy with the dinghy strapped onto the foredeck. Gail was sent up on deck to move the dinghy to allow Brian to climb out, an hour or so later the door was finally fixed. The day ended well as we had Klaus and Margaret, SV Starship, from Austria over for evening drinks.
Thursday 10th November we picked up a hire car and headed down to the south of the island to Los Gigantes, to stay at Gail’s brother and sister in laws apartment for 4 days. On the way down we drove through Los Cristianos and Los Americas, the tourist hub of the island. Apart from finding nowhere to park, both places were so crowded and over the top with resorts, shops and bars, we happily carried on and stopped at Playa San Juan for lunch. Los Gigantes is a lovely, small holiday area which nestles beneath spectacular cliffs, more our type of place, quiet enough to enjoy but with enough to do. Friday we booked a taxi and headed up to Masca village to do the walk down the Masca valley to the beach where we would catch a water taxi back to Los Gigantes. We were very glad we did not decide to drive to Masca village, the very mountain narrow road winds its way up the hillside to the village with very steep drop offs. The walk down took us approximately two and a bit hours although we did not time it. The track through the valley winds its way through impressive rock formations, gorges and streams, challenging on the knees as it is all downhill. You can do it in reverse, get the water taxi to the bay and then walk up, either way it is classified as “popular, though strenuous hike.” Sunday we headed off to the National Park which is centred on El Tiede, the volcano that dominates the island at 3,718 m. You can trek to the top if you apply for a permit, or do what we did and take the cable car to 3,555m, either way it is very cold at the top, you go from the heat of the park to -2 degrees celcius when we were up there. There are many walks and other interesting areas to look at in the park and we had an enjoyable day, meandering our way around.
On our return to Santa Cruz, we decided to drive along the west coast stopping at Garrachio for morning tea, again over mountain roads but not as bad a Masca. Garrachio was an interesting coastal town with natural rock swimming pools. Next stop was Icod de los Vinos to see the thousand year old Dragon Tree with a circumference of 20 meters and 16ms tall. Not much else to see, so we took the picture and moved on. Next on the visit list was La Oratava, a town with a beautiful historic centre. Unfortunately as we have found in Tenerife, getting a parking space was impossible, so we drove through and carried onto La Lagunna. The historic centre of La Lagunna was declared a World Heritage site in 1999, and we were lucky enough to find a park and wandered around looking at the cathedral, the tower of the Church of la Conception and the cobbled streets.
The marina at Santa Cruz has a buzz about it and is a hive of activity as most of the boats here are getting ready to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean, including the 20 or so boats in the Odyssey rally that leave on 19th November. After seeing the rally boats off we decided to take the bus into Los Cristianos to watch the All Blacks and Liverpool games, being tourist destinations we knew there would be lots of bars and cafes showing the games. After getting off the bus In Los Cristianos approximately j50 mins later and wandering down to the waterfront, we were surprised at how pleasant it was. On our previous visit by car we decided not to stop, however the waterfront is a traffic free zone, the boardwalks were wide and nicely landscaped, there were the usual hawkers and people trying to get you into their cafes or bar but it wasn’t the zoo we expected.
Back at Santa Cruz, Wind Pony and Scallywag arrived on Monday morning, 21st November from Lanzarote. We had a couple of days finalising preparation including shopping and the skippers seriously looked at the weather patterns. Scallywag decided to head south to the Cape Verde Islands on Thursday morning and we set up SSB schedules with them to keep in touch.
Garry arrives on Friday evening 25th November and our planned departure is Monday 28th, although it is now looking like it will be as early as Saturday as the guys are watching a weather system in the north Atlantic which is creating a less than ideal weather pattern just of the Cape Verdes later in the week . Bill, Wind Pony’s crew arrives Saturday morning and we may well clear out and leave as soon as he gets here, joining all the other boats that leave Santa Cruz daily.
This really will be farewell Europe as our next planned stop is the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast, then onto the Caribbean.
Canary Islands: Lanzarote, Fuerteventura.
20 November 2016
Photo: Casear Manrique wall art.
We arrived back in Rubicon Marina, Lanzarote at lunchtime on 5th October after a busy time in the UK. The boat was all good and we set about doing more work in preparation for the Atlantic crossing. One piece of work we had not factored in was to install a new hot water cylinder, our old one decided to spring a leak on our second day back. Lucky for us the marina chandlery had one that fitted, but as usual with these things it took 3 elapsed days to get it installed and fully operational. The Canary Islands have very few good anchorages which makes it difficult to plan for changes in wind direction and weather, the options for changing bays is very limited and with Rubicon Marina starting to fill up we had to make a decision on whether to stay in the marina or try and find an anchorage. Talking to people who regularly cruise the Canaries, and contacting other marinas, it appeared there were no vacancies on Fuerteventura or Gran Canary. We discussed the options with Wind Pony and Scallywag and decided to extend our stay. We then contacted Santa Cruz Marina, Tenerife and brought our dates forward and decided to do an overnight sail direct to Tenerife at the end of October. Rubicon Marina is quite a good place to be stuck, it has plenty of cafes, bars, sports bars, restaurants and a market two mornings a week. The walk into Playa de Blanca is along a nice boardwalk and there are options for other walks along the cliffs and surrounding areas.
Wednesday 19th October we took the ferry across to Fuerteventura for the day with Dick and Lynn “Wind Pony”. There are several ferries that do the trip, which only takes 25mins. Once in Corralejo, we tried to get a hire car, not easy as the first three hire car companies we tried had no cars available. Luckily the fourth one did, so off we went to explore the island. Fuerteventura, like Lanzarote is volcanic and has lots of volcanos but without the lava flows of Lanzarote it has a desert feel to it with red sand and not the variety of things to see and do. We visited a La Casa de Los Coroneles, an old colonial house with great views, the Centro Arte de Canario and then headed across the top of one of the scenic roads that went over a mountain ridge between Betancuria and Pajara. The road was extremely narrow and winding, passing cars coming the other way was interesting, but the views were spectacular. We stopped at the top lookout which has a couple of very large bronze statues of Guise and Ayose, the warriors who were the chiefs of the two kingdoms on Fuerteventura before it was united following an invasion by the Normans in 1402. From there we wound our way down to Pajara for lunch, where Brian ordered a pizza which, when it arrived would have fed the four of us. As we walked around the small church, Nuestra Senora de Regla, we commented that it looked like two separate churches with the centre wall removed. True enough when we looked outside at the two entrance doors, they were two churches or more accurately one church built in the 17th century which was ‘extended’ in 1952 by adding the second section complete with its own alter and nave, very cleverly done. From there we went to Ajuy to walk along the cliffs and view the caves and then drove back along the east coast, stopping at the impressive sand dunes for a walk, then dropped the car back and had a cool beer on the way back to the ferry. Once back in Playa de Blanca we stopped for tapas and the walked back along the boardwalk to the marina, the end of a good day.
Before leaving Rubicon, we decided to end for end our anchor chain. As we rarely use more than the first 50ms of anchor chain, the galvanising on the last 50ms was in good shape, by end for ending it, the unused chain would become the usable portion. Finally on 31st October it was time to leave Marina Rubicon for an overnight trip to Santa Cruz marina, Tenerife. We have completed most of our check list for the Atlantic crossing, the freezer is full of passage meals, cupboards are loaded with dry goods, rig and engine checks done, sails good and crew is ready, Garry will join us at the end of the month. Unfortunately for Wind Pony they have a mechanical issue which will prevent them from making the trip to Tenerife, but hopefully they will follow in a couple of weeks in time for the crossing. We left Marina Rubicon fuel dock at 15:00 and had a great sail for 100nm of the 130nm trip to Tenerife, finally turning the motor on at 05:00 as the wind died and came from behind us. The crossing was totally uneventful even though we passed through a major shipping lane and must have seen at least 20 tankers on route to various places around the world. As we arrived at Tenerife, we were greeted by a pod of pilot whales, cruising along as we approached the harbour and tied up in Santa Cruz Marina at 11:15. The harbour looks like a main centre for oil platforms and ships of various shapes and sizes, although all are huge, including the largest seismic survey ship, the Ramford Titan, as Brian said “the weirdest looking boat he has ever seen”, it was triangular in shape. Class Afloat, a fleet of tall ships where students undertake academic study whilst sailing to different continents was also in port.
Canary Islands: Lanzarote.
20 September 2016
Photo: Jardin de Cactus, Lanzarote
We left Agadir Marina at 07:30 on Sunday 11th September. We had checked out of Morocco the previous afternoon and had to wait for the local police to return our passports on Sunday morning. It was again foggy as we left, apparently the locals told us the fog has been a regular occurrence this year since about June, not the normal weather pattern for Agadir. The sun finally came out when we were 40nm off the coast, great to see it and gave the boat a chance to dry out from the moisture and dampness of the fog. The rest of the 216nm trip was uneventful, we did have to call one ship who altered course, with several pods of dolphins. One pod was particularly playful, with one of them going for the high jump record as he continued to jump out of the water, higher each time. We finally dropped the anchor in Playa de Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands at 15:15 Monday afternoon. A pleasant bay in the shadow of a volcano.
Thursday 15th, we left the anchorage and sailed down to Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife. Not sure how, but we managed to pick the windiest day so far, 20 – 30 knots from the north with quite high seas, oh well it tested the boat and us, luckily it was down wind sailing. As we approached the channel to the entrance of the marina, we were puzzled by what we saw in front of us. The breakwater with a green, starboard marker at the end of it appeared to have an additional boom attached and extending further out. As we got a little closer we could see that it was in fact an extension of the breakwater itself, solid concrete, awash at high tide with a red flag flying in the middle of it. There was another green starboard marker at the far end, some 2 – 300 metres away. On our way out of the marina some days late at low tide, we could clearly see the concrete extension to the breakwater.
Lanzarote Marina was full with Jimmy Cornell’s Barbados 50 rally boats, all flying bunting, very colourful. They had a series of seminars during the week and also a helicopter rescue demonstration in the harbour, the rally will cross the Atlantic in November. We enquired at the marina office for an auto electrician to have a look at our alternator which had failed in Gibraltar. Within 24 hours we had a new alternator installed and working perfectly. Once the alternator was installed we went for a walk into Arrecife town, a quiet, non-tourist town with not much happening the days we were there.
The Canary Islands are volcanic, Lanzarote is the lowest lying of the Canary Islands with many volcanos and the landscape is fascinating. There was a major eruption in 1730 that lasted 6 years and destroyed most of the island, leaving behind rich, fertile, volcanic soil. As there is not much rainfall, the island gets its water from large desalination plants.
With Lynn, Dick and Bill we hired a car for two days and toured the island. We started at the Jardin de Cactus. The cactus garden was wonderful, very well laid out with a large variety of cacti. We were all impressed. From there we drove to the Aqua Caves, a natural water filled cave that was formed by volcanic eruptions. Inside the cave is a lagoon were a species of white crabs live, they are blind and not found anywhere else.
Next was the Lava Caves, a walk through part of the 8 kilometre lava caves and tunnels. Unlike the limestone caves we have seen in Spain and Gibraltar, there are no stalagmites or stalactites in these caves, no moisture, although there was a small pool in one of the chambers which when the water was still gave a wonderful reflection of the surrounding walls, it looked like a giant chasm.
We then drove through the wine area of the island, San Bartolome. The vines are planted in black volcanic soil on the ground, in small pits that have north facing, semi-circular walls around them. They are not grown on trellises. Unfortunately at this time of year we assumed the grapes had been harvested as most of the pits were empty.
Casear Manrique was a local artist, sculptor, who lived on the island and was passionate about it. Everywhere you go there are examples of his artwork, sculptures, paintings, all the roundabouts are landscaped and many have his sculptures at the centre. He was an activist who campaigned against high rise buildings, for only white houses, no billboards and much more. After lunch in Orzola, we visited his house, which is now a museum and has been left the way it was when he died in 1992. Then it was back to the marina after a full day, for dinner and to see the helicopter rescue demonstration.
Sunday we set off for the National Park, stopping first to look at the Campesino sculpture, by Caesar Manrique in honour of the poor. The National Park is on the west coast of the island, you take your car in, having paid the €9 per person entry fee, park by the information centre and then board a bus for a 30 – 40 minute drive around the park, complete with commentary on the history and landscape. It is easy to see the lava trails that lead to the ocean, the area is desolate, but stunning at the same time. Nothing grows, there are volcanos, volcano vents, lava rock and ash that stretches to the coast. It was well worth the visit.
Time for lunch, we headed for Marina Rubicon and Playa de Blanca, the tourist area on the south coast. This area was a total contrast to where we had just visited, it does have semi high rise, lots of resorts, hotels and shopping malls. There are also many beaches in this area and a ferry that goes across to Fuerteventura. It was then back to the marina for drinks and dinner, we also said goodbye to Bill as he heads back to USA till the end of November.
Monday morning we left Lanzarote marina and motored down to Rubicon marina, where we will leave the boat for a couple of weeks while we visit Gail’s parents and family in Liverpool, UK.
We are starting to do the checks and get work done for our Atlantic crossing. The sails are all off the boat, gone for main baton pocket checks/repair, UV strips on the Yankee and Staysail, minor tear in the gennaker, all will be done whilst we are away. One thing we have found difficult in the Canary Islands, and is still unresolved, is where to get our LPG bottles filled. It appears no one on Lanzarote can do them, we hope we can get them filled in either Gran Canaria or Tenerife.
Morocco – Marrakech and Atlas Mountains
10 September 2016
Photo: Village in Atlas Mountains
Tuesday morning after breakfast, we set off to continue exploring, with a busy day planned. We only got as far as the parking lot when a man, who told us he worked at the Riad, said the Palace and museum were closed for the day due to roadworks (we had seen them on the way in the previous day) and that today was the last day for the Berbers, Atlas mountain tribal people, at the tannery and workshops. He offered to show us the way when we looked bemused with his directions, and off we set through a labyrinth of streets, alleys and markets wondering if we would ever find our way back. It was fascinating to see donkeys being used to carry goods, remember there are no cars in the Medina although there a lots of motorbikes. The common call is “keep to the right” to avoid being run down by a motorbike, they travel at fast speeds at times. After a while, the guy passed us off to another guy who took us to the Tannery. The Tannery is an open area where animal pelts are treated in ammonia baths, the smell was horrendous, even with the sprigs of mint they had given us as ‘gas masks’. It was extremely hard work and the workers’ health suffers, we did not stay long. From there we went to see the finished goods in the shops, and spent several hours looking at rugs and leather wares. We don’t know how, but between 5 of us, we ended up with 3 rugs and 6 runners, all “for a good price”. As we left, the guy from the Tannery and the guy who had shown us the way, were waiting for us and wanted money. Another lesson learnt, if someone offers to show you how to get somewhere, they expect some dirhams in return.
Having negotiated our way out of the Tannery area, we visited the Koran School, Medersa Ben Youssef, the Maison de Photographie and the Museum of Marrakech, all of which, despite being wonderful buildings, did not have sufficient artefacts or story boards with information on how they worked or what they were used for. The building themselves were very elaborate, the carvings on the wooden ceilings, the mosaics and masonry were amazing, they were just not what we expected of a museum, maybe that was our naivety or lack of understanding of how Morocco works.
It was back to the Riad by 16:00. Lynn and Gail had a Hamman booked for early evening. The Hamman is a steam room where ladies pour warm water over your body, then apply a black soap, which is then rubbed over the body with an exfoliating mitten, followed by more water and Argon oil. Argon oil comes from a fruit which is eaten by goats who then excrete the pip, which is picked up by the women and ground to extract the oil. It is apparently high in vitamin E and very good for your hair and skin. The Argon oil is left on for 5 minutes then washed off. We followed the Hamman with a massage, a very decadent afternoon, Dick and Brian also had a massage but not the Hamman. At 21:30 we were picked up by Pierre’s driver and taken to dinner at a Moroccan nightclub which had belly dancers. An interesting evening.
We set off again on Wednesday morning more prepared for what we would see. Again we had not gone far when someone tried to tell us the museums were closed and that today was the final day for the Berbers at the Tannery and showroom, we were not taken in again. We had decided to explore more of the Souks, they are arranged loosely by the wares they sell, e.g. Woodwork, fabrics, spices, metal work etc. We did manage to get slightly lost but eventually found our way out and visited the Palais La Bahia, a sultan’s palace with a harem room. Again a lovely building but not enough information on how it was used, it seems for the palace you are supposed to get a walking guide. After the Palace we split up as we wanted to see and do different things, so we said farewell to Lyn, Dick and Bill hoping we would all meet up later that evening at the Riad.
Having spent all our time in the Medina, we took a taxi to the Grande Café de Poste, outside the Medina walls for lunch. The café felt old colonial, wide staircases, palms and lounge chairs, very nice. We then walked to the street which has a Mosque on one side and a Catholic church on the opposite side. Even though it was 44 degrees Celsius, we decided to walk back to the Medina through the modern section of Marrakech, which is just like any other modern city and quite a contrast to the Medina. On our way back we stopped at the wood workers souk and bought the backgammon set, however when we saw the counters we were disappointed so the old guy offered to make new ones, “better”. We watched him make one and arranged to come back later to pick up the backgammon set and counters. Dinner was again a traditional Moroccan dish at the Riad.
The following morning we said goodbye to Pierre and Reslan and with Pierre again showing us the way on his motorbike, headed out of Marrakech for the Atlas Mountains. As we drove through the streets we came across one worker in the middle of a busy intersection, breaking up the tar seal with a pick, no protection or guard rails around him, you could barely seem him for all the traffic.
We eventually found our Auberge, guesthouse, after again getting lost. We had been looking for Ourika, not realising that it is a district not the village, however we stumbled across a Visitor Information office who put us on the right track. We put our bags in our room and headed off in the car up the Ourika valley towards Setti Fadma. This valley is very touristy, there were dozens of cafes set out in the river bed with guys all along the road acting as parking wardens to get you to pull over and park. We continued to Setti Fadma and saw local women cleaning rugs in the river and then carrying them on their backs, home. We were disappointed in the Ourika Valley, it was not what we were expecting.
The following day we checked out of the Auberge and headed up the other arm of the valley to Oukaimeden, a ski resort area. This was more like what we were expecting, villages clinging to the side of the mountains, rich red soil, children playing with hoops, footballs and donkeys walking up the trail. Oukaimeden is 8620 feet above sea level, it has a modern ski lift that was installed 2 years ago at the base and 6 other lifts. The small village has ski lodges and a hotel, where we had lunch. Unfortunately we were the only foreigners in town and were harassed by locals trying to sell fossils, Agates, geo stones and honey, one guy trailed us halfway up the mountain to try and sell us things. We had to be very forceful in saying “No” to enable us to leave.
Back down the mountain and onto the highway back to Agadir after 4 wonderful days. However our adventures were not over. Approaching the toll road we were pulled over by the police who said we were speeding, having no luck proving it they eventually fined us 300 dirhams (30 euro) for one person not wearing a seatbelt in the back seat. (If only they had realised none of us in the backseat was wearing one!!) Back on the road we made good time to Agadir, seeing a herd of camels crossing the over bridge of the motorway linking one side of the desert to the other, we could not see anyone with them so don’t know if they were wild or domestic.
Saturday, after waking up to fog, we had a quiet day on the boat, doing laundry and chores, we plan to leave for Lanzarote, Canary Islands on Sunday 11th September. We are pleased we came to Morocco and experienced this wonderful week.
Morocco - Marrakech
10 September 2016
Photo: Riad Adika
We left Ocean Village marina at 07:30, Thursday 1st September for the 432 nm trip to Agadir Marina, Morocco. We anticipated the trip would take us 3 days/nights as we wanted to arrive in daylight. Dropping the lead lines at Ocean Village, we anticipated this would be the last time we would be med moored and therefore left behind on the dock our Passarella, “free to a good home”. As we have mentioned before, although we have become good at Med mooring, we are not fans.
Leaving the marina, we hoisted the main with two reefs, anticipating strong winds going across the Straits of Gibraltar. The Straits are the narrow stretch of water, separating North Africa from the Mediterranean, about 12 miles across at the narrowest point, ideal conditions for strong currents and winds. It is also a high traffic zone for shipping entering and leaving the Mediterranean. We hugged the Spanish coastline to Tarifa Point and then called Tarifa Traffic control to let them know we would be crossing the traffic separation zone heading towards Tangiers, Morocco. Tarifa Point has winds in excess of 30 knots for 300 days of the year, the most we saw as we crossed was 34 knots.
Day one was a great sail, wing on wing down the Moroccan coast, unfortunately for us we then motored or motor sailed the next 48 hours. We passed quite large fishing trawlers which surprisingly did not have AIS (Automatic Identification Systems) on them, so needed to be vigilant. At 03:00 the second night on Brian’s watch the fog rolled in and stayed until we entered the marina at Agadir. We had to motor sail, trusting our radar and AIS to ensure we did not hit anything, as large container ships and cruise liners work this coast. This was a challenge as quite small, wooden boats with people fishing did not always show up on radar, we were very lucky not to hit one boat which suddenly appeared meters way on our port side out of the murk. The 3 guys on board seemed happy as they waved to us and showed us their catch, we took a deep breath, thankful we had missed them. Shortly after this encounter, a bird landed on the deck, it looked like possibly an Osprey, it was exhausted and stayed for a couple of hours before flying off. That evening we phoned the marina in Agadir, via our Iridium Go, to inform them of our early ETA arrival Sunday morning, approximately 07:30. “No problem we will be here”, they also advised us to stay 15nm off the coast to avoid the fishing flags. As we were then 6nm offshore, we altered course to take us 15nm off by dark. Lucky we did as we started seeing the fishing flags, it was like being back in Thailand. The following morning as we were heading into Agadir, a bird emerged from under our dinghy on the foredeck, it was a different bird from the day before and who knows how long he had been there for his free ride.
We arrived in Agadir at 07:45 Sunday morning, went into the marina and safely tied up against the pontoon, no med mooring here. Customs arrived at the boat shortly after, and cleared us into Morocco, we had to get the Atlas out to show them where New Zealand was. They were amazed how far away it was. That afternoon Lynn and Gail got onto the internet and booked a Riad (guest house) in Marrakech while Dick, Brian and Bill walked to a nearby resort to book a rental car. It was a long story when they returned but they did have a car.
Monday morning at 08:00 we all piled our luggage into the car and set off for 3 nights in Marrakech and one in the Atlas Mountains. Dick was the navigator and soon had us on a mountain road insisting it was the correct way to the motorway. The route took us through small villages and mountain terrain and we all agreed it was much more interesting than a highway as we passed donkeys and saw children playing alongside the road. We eventually joined the highway which turned out to be a toll road, no problem except no-one had been to an ATM to get Dirhams, the local currency. That problem was soon sorted as we stopped at a service stop for breakfast/morning tea and exchanged Euros for Dirhams, it seems most places will take either currency. Most Moroccans speak French with a little English along with Moroccan, luckily for us Lynn and Dick both spoke French so communication was not a problem. At the service station we had our first taste of Moroccan tea, it is hot water poured over mint leaves, very nice. We also had our first experience of the local people coming up to us trying to sell their wares, at the service stop it was eggs, the children were cute and very persistent, a taste of things to come. We set off and came to the toll exit we wanted, paid and let Dick concentrate on getting us to the Riad. Riad Adika was in the Medina, the old walled part of Marrakech and we knew we could not take the car all the way, but Pierre the proprietor had given us instructions to the nearby parking lot. We ended up going around the same block 3 times, the traffic was busy, noisy with horns blaring and no-one appearing to take any notice of road signs. At one point when we were stationary a motorbike fell into us causing a scrap along the car. Thankfully we had taken full insurance. Getting frustrated we pulled in and called the Riad. Pierre answered and told us to stay put, he came and found us on his motorbike and guided us to the parking lot, which wasn’t far away. A local then piled our bags into a cart and pushed it through narrow alleyways and low arches to the Riad 5 minutes away, we wondered what we were heading to.
We need not have worried. Riad Adika is truly an oasis in the chaos of the Medina. Like most Riads or houses, it was built around a central, covered courtyard which had a pool. Riad Adika has 8 rooms that all open onto or overlook the courtyard, the rooms are all the same size, spacious and decorated in local design, the rooms have no outward windows; the light comes through the courtyard. Once we had been shown our rooms, Pierre and Reslan, our hosts, sat down with us with a map to explain where the local attractions were and how to get to them. Armed with the map we set off to explore, it was 3pm so we decided to take the direct route through the Souks, market stalls/shops to Jemaa el Fna square. The Souks are narrow alleyways crammed with stalls, shops, people, donkeys and motorbikes, it is an assault on the senses, we loved it. It was hard to go past the stalls and not look at what they had, but we quickly learned that if you stopped to look or point at something, the owner was quickly trying to bargain with you over price and offering other suggestions as what to buy. We were not very far into the Souks when we came to a stall were a man was making wooden items using his feet to turn the lathe, we watched him and admired his chess and backgammon sets and also his variety of boxes. We promised to return the following day. We finally made it to the square, Jemaa el Fna is lively, more so in the evening when the food stalls are set up and local musicians and artists are performing. When we arrived only the last of the snake charmers were around and they were disappointing. Across from the square is La Koutoubia mosque, unfortunately not open to non-Muslim. We wandered around, had a drink at the French café terrace which gave us a panoramic view of the Souks and then started making our way back to the Riad for dinner. We managed to make it back without getting lost.
After drinks in the common seating area, dinner was a traditional Moroccan tagine, slow cooked meat dishes, which was served at tables alongside the pool in the courtyard. It was then drinks and retire for the evening after a very busy day.
31 August 2016
Photo: Rock of Gibraltar
We arrived at the entrance to Gibraltar at 14:30, 26th August, after an uneventful 53nm motor sail. To enter Ocean Village marina you have to motor alongside the airport runway and port marker buoys, they close the channel if a plane is landing or taking off. Our berth is med moored against a high fixed pier, getting on and off the boat will be a challenge, which we managed to solve by putting the dinghy in the water and the outboard on the bracket.
Once checked into the marina, we walked to the border with Spain, across the airport runway. There cannot be many place in the world where there is s two line highway and pedestrian walkway across the only airport runway. We walked through the exit point in Gibraltar, waving our passports at the official, same again on the entry to Spain, then across the road to the exit border control to Spain. This is where we asked the official for a passport stamp, to officially end our stay in Schengen, he took some persuading and called for his supervisor, but once we explained that as we were non EU citizens and we needed a stamp, he was happy to stamp them. It was then 50m down the road and repeat the process crossing back into Gibraltar.
The following morning we watched the All Blacks defeat the Wallabies again and Liverpool draw with Tottenham, then explored Gibraltar main street and supermarkets. Wind Pony arrived later in the afternoon and Scallywag on Sunday.
Gibraltar is an interesting place, there does not appear to be a one square inch of land or water that does not have something on it, it is almost a concrete jungle. The main street is pedestrian free, tree lined with jewellery, liquor and cigarette stores on either side along with many familiar British stores. We found a Holland and Barrett that sold EziYo yogurt mixes and will be stocking up before we leave, the Morrisons supermarket has Roses lime cordial another good find. It takes a while to go anywhere in the marina, everyone is so friendly, there are a lot of Aussies, Kiwis, Americans and English, all ready to lend a hand with jobs or swap stories.
Monday was a public holiday and most of the shops in Gibraltar were closed, so after Brian had done an oil change on the main engine, we headed across the border to La Linea and the chandlery. It was small and we only managed to find one thing we wanted, so we headed back to the boat and Brian went up the mast to install the new radar reflector. That evening we went out to Charlies for dinner with Dick, Lynn and Bill “Wind Pony”, Gloria and Paul “Scallywag” and Melinda and David “Sassoon”, a great evening.
Tuesday was not such a good day. Our new house batteries were delivered in the morning and then the electrician came to review the alternator, six hours later he was still here. The final scenario is our smart charger to the house batteries has an issue which has caused the alternator problem. We have decided to disconnect the smart charger and the alternator, (it was getting way too hot) and have it repaired or replaced in the Canaries.
Wednesday was a busy day, we took the boat around to the fuel dock to refuel at 08:00, Duty free it is 0.39 pence, then it was washing and out for a trip up the rock. Gibraltar is only 6kms by 1.5kms with land reclamation continuing, the permanent population is 30,000 but there are 50,000 visitors each day excluding the cruise ships. Many people who work in Gibraltar are Spanish and live across the runway in La Linea. We visited the Pillars of Hercules, St Michaels Caves, the monkeys and a lookout. We think Auckland has traffic problems, all the roads in Gibraltar are grid locked, it is probably quicker to walk but up the hill and in the heat, sometimes a taxi is what is needed. After the trip up the rock, we went to Morrisons, the big supermarket and provisioned the boat. Then it was back to Dol to bake and make passage meals as it looks like we will be leaving tomorrow, Thursday 1st September.
We have enjoyed our 3 years in the Mediterranean, but it is now time to head south towards the southern hemisphere and the Caribbean. There are many things we have enjoyed about the Med including the people, different cultures, history, the stone fruit has been superb, Greek and Turkish yogurt and so much more. We will not miss the dirty rain, med mooring (although we have become good at it) including getting on and off the boat using the passerale, having to take the Schengen rules into consideration for our cruising seasons and smokers in the cafes and restaurants.