Inside the Orient painting

Color. Yellow color of the walls, blue – of houses in Medina. White, in the sun sometimes blinding, – of mosques. Modest brown and mournful black – of older people dress. Bright and tempting pink and violet – of young. Incredible and numerous colors of bazaars, of mosaics that’ve been here for centuries.

Palitra of colors – this is Moroccan painting. An artist from Rue des Consules (where the craftmarket is) draw it and sells to us in his gallery. His small shop belongs to a cat family. Actually, all Morocco belongs to cats. It’s the biggest and the most desperate clun. Its members are everywhere: hiding fearfully under cars, messy and dirty, wandering between tables in street cafes, examining pedestrians from windows and roofs.

An another Moroccan “tribe” looks happier –  street artists  sing on streets of the ancient fortress-town Kasbah des Oudaias, which walls face the ocean. They play traditional instruments and entertain people, spinning the long brush on their heavy round hats. Local busketers look like those in Paris, Moscow, Koln, Cape town and all over the world: cheerful, relaxed, talkative.  And sharing: their art, good mood and happiness. Simple and beautiful.

The gate Bab Chellah – a magic access to the old town Medina. If we turn to the left, we would find ourselves in the mess of Chinese market, run by Arabs and spread for not less than a mile. If we turn to the right, we would enjoy traditional craft of Morocco, whatever your soul desires, from brasses, carpets and Oriental caftans to musical instruments, lanterns and pottery. Make your choice, take your time.

Venders kindly greet and offer their goods. Venders know what is hospitality very well here. Real hospitality, with a genuine smile and welcome.

I met hospitality from everyone except guards of Palais Royal. I was politely expropriated from all three gates I tried to enter. Later Kamil – my volunteer guide and new friend in Rabat, whom I met on a street,  – explained me that only Moroccans have right to enter the palace. The amount of national flags – red canvas with a star in the middle – near it made me suggest it’s still a residence –not a king, but a president nowadays.

Kamil took me to the Maussoleo de Mohammed V, which tower teased us right across the river from our yacht-club. Mohammed had taste: his last shelter looks subtle and nice, reminding more a palace than a death chamber. Guards in traditional clothes on the entrance were busy, making photos with tourists. I felt myself almost like in Agra (probably, I would feel : )

Kasbah des Oudaias is a fortress of ancient times, infused by artistic spirit of times contemporary. Not only musicians and cats feel themselves at home here. Tourists stare on beautifully decorated doors and walls, painted in bright colors. Shadow of exotic gardens – pride of Rabat.

In the narrow passage of the fortress my arm was caught by a woman. She wanted to make me… an injection. In fear I ran away: I thought she will inject me a drug. That was just henna, that is used to paint on surface of hands.

The garden of Kasbah

Hm… and another disappointment: cards that we bought on market for 10 Dh (about 90 cents) in the fortress cost 2 Dh… To be a customer in Morocco is a skill that demands knowledge and character. You won’t be “robbed” by vendors – but being self-confident and eloquent can save 50% of price.  It’s a game – not for victory tho, but for pleasure. And some profit could be.

The ancient walls of Medina that "host" a big open-air market

For 100 Dh we bought spices and mint tea – traditional drink of Morocco. Now we have enough tea and spices till Brazil.

In the restaurant of Kasbah the waitor served another traditional dish – bakery. It deserved the best mark from us, sweet-eaters. 10 from 10 in the rating of “Vagabond”.

The kitten relaxing in a restaurant of Kasbah

We go to Casablanca. Noone of us watched the movie. We have no idea what is it famous for.

We went along the coast, enjoying view of resort towns full of summer houses. Looked similar to Costa del Sol. Or Cote d’Azur. Some poor clue houses were also around. Horses and donkeys grassed nearby. Rural scenes of Marocco made me remember Namibia. We stopped on the road to buy some fruits.

Casablanca, probably, is famous for its industrial zone. It’s huge, dirty and overpolluted.

We wandered on the market of Casablanca. This time we made a brief inspection. Local market is bigger than Rabat’s. But the most famous city for shopping is Marrakesh – 150 miles from Rabat.

Probably, Casablanca is also famous for traffic jams. We were lucky to get out of the city before being completely stuck. By the way, to be a driver or pedestrian in Morocco you needn’t know anything about rules. Just pray for good luck and go. Because no one cares. If the rules exist here, no one uses them. Including road police, who deserve a medal, trying to organize this mess somehow.

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Welcome! Bienvenue! Marhaban! مرحبا

Back to the darkness, humid and chilly.

That’s not a warm wrap of Mediterranean, but cold squeeze of Northern Atlantic ocean. I do not complain: this night is summer vacations if to compare with Baltic or Northern seas in autumn. We’re in 12 hours till Rabat, the capital of Marocco. This country has been luring me for a long time.

My history of getting to Marocco:

Plan A: This spring I was planning a trip to Marocco but, due to financial situation and upcoming long-lasting journey, cancelled it.

Plan B: Another chance had appeared, when we arrived to Tarife this September. It takes 35 minutes from this Spanish town to get to Maroccan Tangier. But boycott of our freezer closed this way for me too – we went to the north, to Cadiz.

Plan C: Chris got an idea to avoid Canaries and go along the coast of Eastern Africa. I was excited. But reports of Noonsite brought me back to Earth: Marocco – dirty towns, no facilities, bribes, long-lasting bureaucracy procedures, possibility to be robbed, no anchorage… what else… So we returned to the first suggested route of “Vagabond”: Canaries – Capo Verde – Brazil..

A sailor suggests, but the last word is by weather. And it promised to be tough in two days. We didn’t have chance to reach islands before strong wind will come. We needed a break in the middle of the distance. And the only option was… Marocco.

…Far in the fog – shores of my dear dear Africa! We’re in 16 miles from the land of Marocco! 13 miles of sea from a shore belong to the country. But here they are already, the police of Marocco – military, pretty scary ship. Polite “hello” and the question that made us suspicious about the reason of their visit: “Any problems?” Potential reasons of problems were already overboard, so we didn’t have anything that could interest them. ..did I say anything? : )

Chris explained them that we’re going to Rabat for a couple of days. They welcomed and left. Looks like they just ordered their assistance. Or prevent us from entering inner waters if we are not “all right”, not to cause problems to both sides.

The hospitable shore of Maroccan capital

I expected much from Marocco. I’ve never been to Arabic countries before. Still, I kept in mind, that Marocco is much more touristic (read: tolerant) than, for example, Oman, where Chris had not the best experience of his journey.

We expected much… and our expectations were generously regarded with kind welcome we met.

Gulls sailing a boat. Behind the feathery "fishermen" there're buidings of a new fashionable district in construction.

Rabat has a new channel and a marina that are not displayed on old Crisa’s version of MaxSea. Was thrilling to watch how “Vagabond” first reached the riffs, and soon ‘turned” into vehicle, passing through the space, pointed by MaxSea as a land. We called the marina Bouregreg and asked for assistance. Soon the pilot arrived and led us through a narrow channel to the entrance.

First that you notice – friendly interest of locals. In the estuary two men – one swimming, one sailing – pointed us the right direction, before we asked. Fishermen from their picturesque boats were waving us welcome.

Colours of fishermen' boats create cheerful mood

Guys in the marina spoke English, along with local Arabic and French. They smiled and were extremely helpful. So were migration officials! The procedure took less than an hour. Moreover, we were told all – pass (that substitute visa for sailors) and check-it – check- out – are free of charge!

The marina is well-equipped, with clean showers and WiFi (not very fast, tho). Guys in Capitanerie do their best to help us with all formalities, point all important see-sights and facilities and answer all questions. Guards are neat, friendly and talkative. There’re plenty of them on the quay and near the gate – looks like this place is really safe to stay.

There’re plenty of shops not far from the marina. Prices made a pleasant surprise: twice lower than in Spain. For example, full cake cost 6 euros. Another nice invention was the price of diesel: 70 cents per liter.

Tram station to the Old town Medina is right in front of the marina.

In several hours before departure to Rabat I started to try different ways of wrapping myself. Being guests, we were going to show respect to local religion and traditions, covering our arms and legs. But locals appeared much more tolerant and relaxed than I expected. At least at their attitude to travelers. Moreover, many of local women (especially young) are dressed in very European style: jeans, T-shirts, leather coats, even summer dresses. Hair is loose or in pony tail, without any cover. Probably, women start to dress more modest traditional way after marriage. Anyway, I saw many Arabic couples, dressed very casual way.

Young people having fun in Mausolee de Mohammed V

Men are very nice, helpful and even gallant. When me and Aimee went for a walk together, we didn’t feel any inconvenience at all.

Soon departing to the Old town Medina – and craft market of crs! Can’t wait : )

The wall of the Old town - Medina

1000 and 1 …troubles

In Tarife we met Dominic – a sailor from Belgium, who adores Brazil. He couldn’t miss a boat with Brazilian flag – not a frequent quest in a small harbor of Tarife. Dominic works as a guide of whale and dolphin watching tours, taking excited tourists to the Atlantic for the adventure of their life. www.turmares.com

Arabic spirit infuses the whole town.

Dominic became our guide too – he showed us around numerous bars and pubs of old Tarife. Bar crawl started with calamari, continued with alco drinks, accompanied by crying of flamenco singers, finished on the boat with psychological discussion and smoking session. The evening was all right.

In four days the wind calmed down. But we were destined for Cadiz… The freezer died.

Actually, time in Tarife (and Gibraltar in the plan A) we devoted to preparations for Atlantic crossing. There was much stuff to fix, like pasting holes in a sail, checking the engine, cleaning winches, repairs of a deck table, fixing a loose rudder… And freezer. It theory, we could feel it with ice and buy more cans – some sailors do round-the-world trips without the freezer. But that was considered the last option.

As you understand, the master, who knew all about yacht freezers, lived in Cadiz…

…Autipilot wasn’t in list. It was another unpleazant surprise. But in Cadiz it decided to join the freezer. We were not glad of idea to steer 24 hours a day, 21 days consecutively.

Another unpleasant one was that there were no technicians in Cadiz. But we were still lucky: we found one in a small town in 3 miles from the city center – Santa Maria. Here, spent 15 minutes and 300 euros, we resurrected capricious electronics.  We are ready for departure.

The quay of our marina – artistic maritime Spain

Another news waited for us… On our way to Canaries we could be caught by 35 knots wind, the latest weather forecast indicated. We decided to stop somewhere between… in Rabat, the capital of Marocco, for example. What about Arabic fairy tale for night?

Our almost neighbors – the copy of the ship of the 16th century. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to meet the crew and kindly ask for a tour.

Cris on his site www.mundovagabond.com wrote a post about “gender” of a ship, a yacht. I can’t not agree: in amount of troubles SHE can be compared only to us, women : )

English Spanish

While travelling by yacht, I feel like a turtle: my house is always with me. Omnia mea mecum porto : ) That’s why some rare cases of inhospitality do not hurt.  But they can change plans much.

After Malaga we were going to stop on the corner of European continent, in Gibraltar. In this strategically important point the huge port is situated, supplying way between Eastern and Western hemispheres.

It’s 65 miles from Malaga to Gibraltar. We decided to break the distance and stopped in a town of Estepona for a night. Later, when we arrived to Gibraltar, we were grateful to ourselves for this decision.

…It was crowded there: dozens of huge cargo ships, we were able to see their silhouettes from far away. American, European and Arabic flags. Giants were staying side by side with small boats that loaded diesel to their depth. Passing between them, we read their names. Weird to see a clumsy and heavy ship poetically named “Aeolus”…

Soon we were close to a marina. Cris called them from VHS, asking prices in Spanish … and got the answer in perfect English.

–Well, – decided we, – it’s a huge port, where all ships stop before crossing Gibraltar. English is international language, nothing special about it.

We set ropes, put fenders and headed to the entrance of marina. “Queensway” was written on a wall. Queensway? Wat a fuk a queen is doing here? Hell, is it British territory? – was  the logical suggestion.

The next suggestion was about my visa: if Gibraltar is British,, as a citizen of Russia, I need visa to Great Britain that is not in a Shengen zone.  As you’ve already guessed, all suggestions were right.

That was pretty a surprise. We still had time to cross the straight – we left in the morning and there were just 20 miles from Estepona (thanks God, we stopped there. Otherwise, we could have two options: go back, or – cross the straight at night).

The wind was 25 knots, but bureaucracy didn’t give us chance to wait for calming down. We turned the boat and left inhospitable land.

The staight was tough: strong current + strong wind.  We needed to steer all way, ‘coz the autopilot said “Solve this situation by yourseves, guys. Adio”.

Finally, we needed to drop the main sail. Happily, the entrance to marina of Tarife was already in front of us.

We entered the harbour. There were no sailing boats in it. Noone. It was a fishermen harbour, not a marina. We were ready to leave it and go further, searching for anchorage. But another boat – a catamaran – had arrived, and their  captain, noticing our doubts, showed us a place to stop.

Parking was tough too. Wind gave no chance for a gentle arrival, pushing us to the shore. The nose of Vagabond hit the pier.

Even behind marina walls waves pulled and puhed the boat. Poor Vagabond trembled, held by mooring lines. The wind was moaning and shouting. We almost got used to listen to it all days long…

Dance, baby, dance!

Our “investigative” trip to Malaga gave me enough information to make a plan.

  • First – flamenco performance.
  • Then – the second biggest Arabic fortress in Spain – Alcazaba.
  •  Third – Picasso’s museum.
  •  Finally, like a cherry on a cake, – pleasant walk through the evening Old town.

I was in such an excitement. This curiosity about churches, fortresses, old towns, hundreds of which I’ve already seen, I hope I will preserve till the end of my life.

Cathedral of Malaga

Well, plans are on part of human’s mind, but reality is full of circumstances.

We planned to stay in the marina of Malaga. But SeaMax (a program for navigation) showed us an opportunity of anchorage. We were happy: No extra expenses : ) According to weather forecast, for the weekend this anchorage would suit “Vagabond” well.

View from an anchorage in Malaga

Anchorage in Malaga

36°42.7358 N, 004°24.7714 W (just in front of Playa de la Malagueta)

And it was good! Moreover, right in the city center, close to all attractions. So we cheerfully headed there –  and we politely asked to move by local sportsmen. Just for a couple of hours, till 20.00 – a boat competition was about to start.

Attempts to throw the anchor a bit to the side from the event ended with zero result – soil there was too hard. So we decided to stay on board till the end of the contest – watch the boat, and afterwards relocate it back to the chosen place.

I was in fury. Flamenco show started at 20.30! “We had no chance to be in time”, – I was grumpy and miserable. Actually, this restaurant – Liceo (Calle Beatas, 21, Malaga) – has flamenco parties “todos los dias” – every day, but for me was essential to see it on Saturday evening. I planned it!

The band Sonike in "Liceo". Author of the photo: Crisa

Finally we were on time : ) It was sparkling performance full of feeling. Actually, flamenco for me is not a dance, I never loved dancing. It’s a feeling that comes out with a story that body tells.Someone could say that every dance is a way of expressing yourself. And will be, probably, right: depends if there’s something to say, to feel or not. Flamenco is my way of telling the story…

Nature dances flamenco! Actually, he was just sunbathing : )

Put a tick in “flamenco” point – done!

Alcazaba – the center of the old town, the ancient fortress of 11th century.  For a Russian its name sounds funny: it’s not typical for Spanish and has its roots in Arabic language. Originally, it was founded to protect surroundings from pirates of Mediterranean, but after that changed many hosts.

At night Alcazaba dreams of "Old good times", when it was a formidable fortress of an empire, not just a touristic attraction...

Alcazaba used to be connected with the castle Gibralfaro on the nearest hill. Actually, the castle looks much more like a fortress. Such a playfield for children!

Alcazaba ft. Gibralfaro

And well-known Alcazaba looks much more like a place to live – full of gardens, fountains and decorations. And the palace is an amazing pearl of Arabic culture. Here’re some photos, enjoy : )

By the way, on Sundays from 2 pm the entrance to the fortress and the castle is free.

Another tick, and Alcazaba is done!

I’m definitely not a fan of modern art. Yes, art should be innovative but not every new approach becomes art, I hope you would agree with me.

Picasso with his new canon of beauty, the way to see beauty could be a philosopher for me. His talent is apparent. But for me his courage to show his attitude with the use of the most ambiguous tool – arts – is even more significant.

Probably, my mind is stick in classic canons. Probably, I’m not too brave to discover the other way of seeing things.

Picasso’s museum  – done!

Alcazaba is surrounded by cathedrals and castles, remains of ancient walls that are left from Phoenician, Roman, Visigothic, Arab and Spanish dynasties.

The bullring at Plaza de la Malagueta

This part of the city is a museum on the open air, full of splendor and spirit. The cinema, where we watched “Midnight in Paris”, is a neigthbor of a Roman theatre that is… 770BC! Near the place, where ancient tragedies were performed, today people drink beer in bars and listen to street artists. Thinking about that, I stop counting years but start to count centuries…

This theatre is almost 3000 years older than me!

Charming old town is full of laterna light in the evening. Busy tavernas, where between tables wander, in wait of regard, Spanish guitar players.  Violins send their tunes through narrow streets, and statues on ancient cathedrals listen to it solemnly. This is how I feel Malaga in evening – between old and new, past and present.

The plan is considered to be accomplished!

I see… rhinoceros!

Splashes over the board. Spines and bubbles show on the surface – it looks like someone fights under water. Would love to write now some horror about monsters of Mediterranean (tremble, Englishman!), but I will be frank – these’re just fishes, who are our neighbors in marina in La Caleta de la Velez. Marina’s quay is a popular spot among locals, who come here to feed – not to fish! – sea dwellers. Probably, this “pet” role is a reason, why some of them reach impressive size.

Marina in La Caleta de Velez

36°44.8021 N, 004°04.3394 W

Today is 3d of September… autumn has come to Spain. We feel it here from the first day of the month. Not only because of note on the gate of aqua park that says: “10.09 – el ultimo dia” (10th of September is the last day). But because of clouds and cold at night and in morning. September in France the last year wasn’t much different from summer.  But how precise Spanish climate is!

On Wiki page about Malaga is written that average temperature from December to February is 17 degrees at day and 7-8 at night. I feel as if it’s already December, despite that fact that during the day can be pretty hot.

On Wednesday we rented the motorbike (dream of my fiveteen : ) and went through the coast road to Malaga. First we visited a small town to the north – Velez-Malaga, famous for  its monumental ancient churches and a castle on the hill. The castle we saw from far away. Velez-Malaga appeared to be a lovely town with thousands of narrow twisty streets and secret corners, where it’s so easy to get lost.

After that – 40 minutes along Costa del Sol, passing picturesque rocks, pretty white houses with flower fences, long beaches with fishermen boats (some of them are barbeque bars).

It’s always pleasant when impressions turn to be more delightful than expectations. That happens rarely, and that happened in Malaga to me.  Look forward to the story about the magic city – it is in the next chapter.

Just a couple of words about our cinema experience in Malaga. “Midnight in Paris” – charming film about present and past, made with feeling, funny and philosophic, performed by awesome cast. “And see rhinoceros”, – Adrien Brody in part of Salvador Dali is brilliant (as always, indeed).

"I see... rhinoceros!"

I just advice you, my friends, if you have some free time and want to see light and thoughtful movie , that’s the right choice, you won’t be disappointed   ; )

Into the wild 2

Almeria met us with feria! We arrived there on Saturday (27.08), and weekend promised to be full of impressions.

Marina in Almeria

36°49.8475 N, 002°27.8880 W

Torro!

Almeria is “an edge” of Andalusia, the biggest city on the east of it. Anyway, I had already expected to find flamenco and horses : )

…We were walking along green and wide “paseo, crossing the city. – La Rambla. There, we were told in info center of San Jose, we could find stages, prepared for feria. We passed the pottery market – I love places of this kind so much! Simple and variously colored, statues and pots, clocks and plates – whatever you soul desires you could find here. Freedom of choice, imagination and arts.

We passed tents with games and entertainment for children, admiringly watched go the horse carriage with flamenco singers, passed a club street – nothing spectacular… Finally, we decided to rush to the edge of the city, where on a huge field main feria took place…

…And there the greatest disappointment waited for us. It was just an enormous dimension full of trivial attractions, popular singing, bars and (mostly!) fun places for children. For me, who was dreaming about romantic folk culture of Spain, that was a disaster. Drop the curtain.

The fortress in Almeria

The next day we stopped in La Herradura. But before… before I was stunned by nature of Spanish coast.

Costa del Sol, coast of sun, one of the most poetic coasts I’ve ever seen. Huge rocks come out right of seas. Green subtropical plants feel comfortable on inhospitable slops. And so do people! Numerous white houses nest on their top.  Have you heard about “The road of white villages”? It’s to the north. But how many white villages have we seen on the incredible coast of southern Spain!


La Herradura

36°43.7292 N, 003°43.3726 W;

36°44.0099 N, 003°45.6231 W

During the day I made a challenging walk around the outskirts. Sometimes I ask myself – does it really please me to climb wild rocks and slip through subtropical forest full of thornes, or it’s just the way to splash out the energy that doesn’t find a way out in our calm yacht being? I suppose, the truth is somewhere between.

So, despite the availability of “civilized road”, I climbed another wild hill and got the Torre de Cerro Gordo, the tower, preserved from ancient times. There’re many of them, perking on coastal rocks all along the Spanish shore. They were used to defend it from enemies and to send messages from one side of empire to the other.

Romantic and beautiful way of communication! Just imagine, at night, one after another, fires were lit on the top of these stone towers, sending to each other not only light, but a message. In several hours it could reach another end of Europe.

Torre de Cerro Gordo - remains of the romantic past

When I reached the top of the hill, I found myself in middle of clouds. They were passing the range, covering everything with thick voile. When the pause in their endless movement appeared, down the hill I saw a huge estate, with gardens and a park. The neighbor hill was also occupied by fashionable houses.

The entrance to the estate down the hill... I felt myself a fairy there...

The way home laid back, through the same road that led to Cerro Gordo and that I ignored already twice. “No excuses”, – was my thought and I went down the hill through thick forest.

Every forest is full of life, and that means – of paths. “The problem” is that sometimes these paths belong to very little animals. So, imagining myself someone not bigger than a goat, I explored this mysterious roads of wild nature for almost an hour. When with a hundred of new scratches on arms, I was finally on a human-made road, I was quite happy that my tet-a-tet with nature is over.

Forest house

Actually, for  the next hour nature and humans together prepared another pleasant surprise for me. Walking down the road, I found a stable. With the horse we shared an apple that I took from “Vagabond”.

So…finally I’ve found horses. But not flamenco! And that means…

…To be continued…