Monday we arrived at Tarifa which is the most southerly point of the whole of Europe. Unusually we couldn’t find a local campsite or an official Aires with all the usual fascilities so we parked on a large car park right by the beach and there were a few other vans parked around. As we drove in we could see other motorhomes dotted around on side roads and lay byes so ” nil point ” to Tarifa as most towns supply proper places to stay as the local shops and businesses gain from the money spent by these visitors. As we walked around we came across lots of shops advertising day trips to Tangiers which we should have been able to see from the sea shore except for a haze that stopped a really good photo opportunity. We bought some tickets for the next day and decided to move up to a car park right by the harbour, because for us, we would have to be up early or miss the boat.
Passports in hand we went through various police checks shepherded by a very nice chap who I would guess had never used an underarm deoderant in his life. We were to be a very small group, a family of 4 Spaniards, another Spanish couple and Elaine and myself. I think we were all relieved that the non- bather did not join us as we embarked on the large catamaran ferry for the 35 minute crossing. We were given badges to wear to identify us to the guide we were to meet once we had been through the passport control in Africa. I don’t know why but we were both surprised by the sight of of a huge modern city as we approached our destination. The eight of us, from now on known as the group were met by two brothers who were to be our guides for the day. Rashid and Ahmed are the two nicest people you could possibly meet and both wore traditional kaftans and little hats and Rashid carried prayer beads. Both could
converse in many languages so Spanish and English was no problem to them. We were led to a very smart minibus and had a running commentary of all we passed as we were driven through the city to the countryside and to where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. You can actually see a line which is shown up by the colour differences of the two oceans.
We were then taken to an area where we could have a camel ride. These were one hump camels so you sit on the top of the hump on a blanket and there were no stirrups. I think my camel was the prettiest out of all of them; at least I told it it was so that it would carry me nicely. Elaine had decided to wear a nice dress that day so she had to decline the opportunity, so she bacame the group photographer. When a camel gets off its knees the person on the back is jerked foward and then backwards as it gets on to its front legs. At that stage I was hanging on to a bit of string tied to the front of the banket desparately trying to avoid giving Elaine the best laugh she would have had the whole holiday. We were led around all in a line and the head of the following camel was a lot of the time right by my leg so I told him he was a hansome beast as well. Getting off was just the same rocking movement and I was pleased that I dismounted with my dignity still intact.
We headed back into the city to start a walking tour of the old city. Please be warned, if you ever get the chance to take your car over on the ferry to Tangiers then do not be tempted. How that minibus got us back in one piece I will never know and I am convinced that they rely on their faith to get them from A to B as it certainly isn’t their driving skills. We watched people crossing pedestrian crossings with vehicles careering passed either side of them. The old town is a truly amazing place with very narrow streets, often so narrow that if you stretched you arms out both sides of you then you would almost touch the walls either sides. We went through many streets with “shops “selling food and Rashid explained that because it was such a hot country then people shopped daily so these shops were always busy. We were then taken to a traditional restaurant for food and the meal was accompanied by three musicians who played to us during the meal. The best part of the meal was the mint tea which was so refreshing and we were told that it was the local drink here. After that we were taken to the kasbah. Rashid is a man of importance here. He walks around ahead of his group and no stall holders approach and the local kids stop their football until “his” group has passed. They all know he then gives his tour party free time to wander around and that is when they can try to lure you into their shop or the trinket sellers can get to work. A lot speak english and they have learnt from Brits they have met so you will hear a very broad Liverpool voice or an exaggerated cockney accent pleading with you to buy their wares. We even had people sliding uo to Elaine and I, calling us Marks and Spncers and then going off smiling to themselves.
Athough you can see poverty in places I have never seen so many lean, healthy looking people and dogs were non existant. As we were heading back to the port we heard the first call to prayer. The ferry was much fuller on the way back and the journey was accompanied by lots of crying children as the sea was much rougher than the crossing we had earlier on. It was a long, hot, thoroughly enjoyable day and we were pleased to get back to have a nice cup of tea. After another day of exploring Tarifa we had intended to move on today (Thursday) but despite the warmth of the day a very strong wind has got up and even when our old bus is just standing here then it is being buffetted around so it would be silly to try to drive it up over the hills rowards Gibralter. Discretion is the better part of valour.
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