Our Moroccan road trip, part 3: Across the High Atlas mountain range

Driving away from Merzouga, Mattis insisted we stop in one of the fossil “Museums” along the road. By coincidence we were really lucky, and walked into a shop, in which the owner took part in scientific expeditions to excavate the fossils, and who showed us articles featuring him in National Geographic. Mattis loved the place, and spent probably an hour looking around. Meanwhile, Mohammad, the owner of the shop, told us stories about the Moroccan fossils, and taught us how to test if the very fancy ones are real (see if they melt when they are burned…). In the end Mattis could only afford one type of fossil, so it was very easy for him to choose, but he was very happy. Continue reading

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Our Moroccan road trip, part 2: Into the desert

The first two nights of our trip had been spent in hotels, but for the third night we had found room through airbnb in the house of a young Berber couple living in the Ziz Gorge. The drive from Meknés to our hosts took us from green and fertile meadows, across the barren Middle Atlas mountain range, where snow could be seen in some areas, and finally into the desert. What a day. We made a few stops along the way, and even saw the same species of barbary macaque monkeys which we had met in Gibraltar, but we mostly spent the day driving. Continue reading

Our Moroccan road trip, part 1: Sleeping in medinas

An hour after leaving Gibraltar, an alarm went off. This time we knew where it came from – the engine was overheating again. After a bit of discussing back and forth, we ended up continuing very slowly towards Tangier. This would keep the temperature of the engine down, and we would be arriving early the next morning. We could have gone back to Gibraltar, but we knew that bad weather was approaching again, and we preferred to spend that time experiencing Morocco rather than being locked in Gibraltar again. Continue reading

Monkeying around in Gibraltar

The characteristic rock of Gibraltar slowly came into view on the fourth morning after leaving Cartagena. It had been a really nice trip, with many dolphins and even whales around the boat. Nobody was seasick, and we had plenty of time to play the guitarlele and read. But at night the Spanish coast guard would call out pan-pans, asking all boats to look out for rubber boats that had been set adrift from Morocco with 79, 95 or even 130 people on board. We felt really sorry for the desperate people onboard, but never saw any of them on the water.

As we approached Gibraltar, the traffic of cargo ships got more intense and we made sure to stay out of the way until it was light enough for us to head for the marina of La Linea on the Spanish side of the border. As always, we were the smallest cruising boat in the marina, and we ended up all alone on the pontoon for small boats – but with a magnificent view of the rock.

We spent a day getting the boat and ourselves sorted, and then it was time to head to the top of the rock to see the apes. We crossed the border to Gibraltar – and suddenly we were in the UK, complete with British signposts and pubs. We found our way to the footpath that would take us up, and soon it was time for lunch next to an old cannon and with beautiful views of the Strait of Gibraltar all the way to Morocco. We walked past the entrance to the many kilometers of tunnels that carve through the rock, and which were used as a hospital and home for the soldiers during world war two. And soon we saw the stairs that lead to the home of the apes. They are fed in the same place every day, so it’s easy to know where to find them. As we walked up the stairs we soon saw the first pair of apes. We had to walk in between them and were a bit apprehensive as we weren’t sure if they would be aggressive. But we soon learned that that was not the case, and saw how they would crawl on the roofs of the taxis and even sit on the arms of tourists. Runa and Mattis spent a long time watching the animals, and when they were finally done, we walked the last distance to the top of the rock where a huge cannon used to be ready to fire at anybody trying to go through the strait. Now it has been converted into a small museum, and we learned how much work went into firing a cannon like this.

After the hike we naturally had to go and get fish and chips for dinner, not a huge hit with our strange kids, but the adults liked it.

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And then the weather turned really bad, with strong winds and rain for the next week. So we stayed put in the boat, doing school, baking cake, watching movies. Mattis and Esben braved the weather and went to Gibraltar to buy an ipod for Mattis, and we even went back to the top of the rock so that Mattis could make his own pictures of the apes. And we also prepared for Halloween. Runa and Mattis carved a pumpkin head, we made a very scary chocolate-fondant cake and were invited to a boat-kid-Halloween-party at the marina. But finally the winds were in the right direction for us, so we ended up leaving just before the party started, hoping that we would be able to enter the harbor of Rabat before it was closed again due to too much wind. But that wasn’t to be…

Engine problems on the way to Cartagena

Time was ticking, and the weather was getting progressively rough in the Mediterranean, so from Ibiza we decided to make the trip to Cartagena on the mainland of Spain in just one go. So far we had only done trips of one night this year, so going for two nights was not only good for moving fast, it was also good to progressively make longer trips before the trip from Morocco to the Canaries.

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Hiking through lemon groves in Mallorca

Port de Soller was located only a few miles down the coast, so we sailed down early in the morning, and were soon anchored in a very crowded, but very nice and protected anchorage. Once again, the sun was out and we could go swimming in the warm water.

The area around Soller is known for it’s oranges and lemons as well as for some beautiful hikes. And since our kids love hiking we soon found a route that seemed to work for us. We took the tram from Port de Soller to Soller, and from there we followed directions we had found online for a nice walk, first to the small village of Biniarix and then on to Fornalutx. We walked on the old road through groves with lemons and oranges, slowly upwards, surrounded by high mountains. In Fornalutx we walked through the little alleyways of the town to reach the main square. We had brought some lunch, which we ate in the shade, while watching the many cyclists getting ready for a day in the mountains.

The walk back was even more beautiful, this trip took us through old walking paths, meandering back and forth between lemon and olive groves. The change in scenery around every bend meant that the kids didn’t get bored, and soon we were back in Soller where we had started.

After these first 9 km we should probably have called it a day and taken the bus back, but instead we decided to walk back, and at the end of the day we had hiked 16 kilometers. Not bad for kids 5 and 9 years old!

After a few days in Port de Soller the weather was changing for the worse again, and we decided it was time to move on to Ibiza. We prepared for a short overnight sail, by making pizza in the omnia stove top oven, and left late in the afternoon. The sail down the coast was calm and nice, and after dinner, the kids went down to sleep. Esben and I took turns with shifts through the night and early in the morning we arrived in a cala on the north side of Ibiza. We had chosen this place as it was protected from most wind directions, and we spent the next couple of days on the boat mostly, waiting for the weather to calm down again. We were becoming very aware that winter in the Mediterranean was approaching fast, meaning that it was time for us to move towards Gibraltar.

Crazy weather and beautiful landscapes in Mallorca

Finally we had enough wind to move by sails instead of by engine. Due to the last days’ mistral, the sea wasn’t exactly calm though, and since the wind was pretty much coming from the direction we were going, it became a pretty miserable trip from Barcelona to Mallorca. We started in the evening, to let the kids sleep most of the trip away. And while Esben got some sleep the next day after an uncomfortable night shift, Runa, Mattis and I slowly watched the mountains of Mallorca grow in the horizon. Late in the afternoon we anchored in a small bay close to Port de Pollença in the northern part of the island, surrounded by mountains. The anchorage wasn’t completely sheltered, as wind and waves came from different directions, but the clear water and sunny skies soon had us all relax and go for a swim. Continue reading

A spot in Barcelona

We motored down the coast over night to get to Barcelona before the mistral once again hit the coast of Port Lligat where we had been moored for the past few days. This time Runa and Mattis decided to join me in the cockpit, while Esben tried to get some sleep. Spending time in the cockpit might not sound remarkable, but for Runa it is, as she is normally lying in her bed throwing up in the beginning of an overnight sail. But this time we had a nice evening together, and as the kids woke up the next morning we could point out landmarks like the Sagrada Familia, as we were approaching the city of Barcelona. Continue reading

The European inner waterways in summary

Numbers are always fun, so here are a few summarizing our trip through the European inner waterways.

We had the mast removed in Breskens on the North Sea coast in the Netherlands on the 15th of July, and had it put up again in Port Napoleon on the Mediterranean coast in Southern France on the 23rd of September. This makes a total of 71 days, but only 35 days of sailing. Continue reading