As the bus got closer to Tarifa and the southern coast of Spain, more and more wind turbines started appearing. The winds from the Atlantic blow particularly strong in that part of Spain, and are channeled down to and through the Strait Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean. The bus also passed by one of those giant bull road signs. The Tarifa bus station was a distance from the main part of town and by the time I got to the hostel, settled in and took care of other business, it was about 6:30pm. My hostel was just outside the old city and a short walk from the beach. I went over to the beach and got there just in time for sunset. Where I live in America the mountains cutoff the setting sun, so I normally don’t get to see the more dramatic sunsets you get at places where the sun goes down on the sea. As the light faded I could see the last of the surfers coming in to end their day and the fog was encroaching on the shoreline further north. I followed the beach for awhile and then came back up to town. Back at the hostel I found that there was an outdoor clothesline on the roof, so I spent the night doing laundry and leaving things out to dry.
The next day was one of the more interesting ones on my trip. I didn’t sleep too much the previous night because one of the guys in the room would shout something in Spanish every two hours or so. Regardless, I had major day trip ahead of me and no amount of tiredness was going to stop it. I started in the morning back down at the beach where I had been the previous evening. With the sun out I could better see the rest of the coastline. I could also clearly see the continent of Africa on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Later in the day I would be going there, but for the moment I was checking out Tarifa. The town of Tarifa sits on the southernmost point of Europe. Jutting that far out from the rest of the continent, it has an end of the world feeling to it, like you’re standing at the farthest edge of the known universe. Across the sea is a whole different world. The southernmost point of Tarifa is actually owned by the Spanish military and called the Isla de las Palmas. You can’t go in there, but you can walk along the causeway up to the gate. Tarifa’s old city doesn’t have much of anything going on. I spent a little time in there looking around and taking a few photos, but whatever sightseeing there is to do in there is quickly exhausted. The main reason people come to Tarifa is either to enjoy the beach and surfing, or to take the ferry across the strait to Tangier, in Morocco. I was there mostly for the latter. I bought a ticket for the midday ferry to Tangier and also bought a return ticket that would give me about 5.5 hours to explore before I had to return to Tarifa. The ferry ride took about 50 minutes and most of the immigration stuffs were done on the ferry, so I only had to do a quick passport check when I arrived at the port. There was no visa requirement to visit Morocco, but I did have to fill out a short form with my information. Morocco is also on the same time zone as the UK (one hour behind Spain) so I had to adjust my watch. The boat docked, I got off and had my passport checked, and immediately upon walking past the security guards I was confronted by Tangier’s friendly guides and salesmen. The salesmen in Tangier are even more aggressive and persistent than the ones in Istanbul, but as annoying as they may be I can completely understand why they do what they do. Tourists like myself have money (otherwise we wouldn’t be there) and these guys can make a lot more by selling stuff to or assisting tourists than they would with a regular job. If I was in their situation, I might consider trying to make money off of the tourists too. For me, the most effective way to deal with them is to just ignore them completely and not even respond to their overtures. On one hand this is very rude, especially given that Moroccan culture is naturally outgoing and extroverted, but on the other hand it was the only way to get them to leave me alone. Once I cleared the ferry dock I made my way over to the old city. I had just a basic map on me, but because the town is built on a hill the only directions you need to know are uphill and downhill. In town I saw a few tour groups moving around. I actually could have been part of one, and strangely enough it would have cost a little less to be part of a group than to buy my own ferry tickets, but I wanted this visit to Tangier to be my experience, even if it meant I missed out on some of the information and context a tour guide would have supplied. That not to say I was going in blind – I had read a bit about Tangier before arrival so I knew the basics. Tangier is a tangled network of small streets and alleyways, so there’s often no direct route to get from one place to another. I hiked up through the old city, ducking into the covered market and eventually wound up at the Grand Socco; a large public square/park with traffic circling it. There was a map there with more details than mine and I tried to memorize it as best I could (in retrospect, I should have done the easy thing and just taken a photo of the map). Later on as I was walking nearby the Casbah (fort) I ran into an Australian couple that I had talked to during breakfast earlier in the day. They were spending the night in Tangier before moving deeper into Morocco and I walked with them for awhile before we parted ways. As they went their way, I ventured into the maze of small lanes that run through one of Tangier’s residential area. I honestly have no idea where I was but I eventually came out near the covered market. At that point I had seen all of the old city that I wanted to see, so I went downhill back to the shore and then followed the beach eastwards. The farther east I walked, the more modern the city became. The current king of Morocco is channeling a lot of money into redeveloping the city. He wants Tangier to to be the premier tourist destination in his country and there’s a lot of new apartment buildings and other structures going up. The beach at Tangier was fairly wide with decent sand, though the waves are not that big. I saw people riding horses along the beach, a few windsurfers in the water, and even a pair of camels sitting around (I’m guessing they are for tourist to ride). I kept walking further and further, not realizing how far I’d gone until I turned around and saw how distant the old city was. Before turning back, I saw a windsurfer get his parachute too close to the water. It caught the edge of the water and went down. The surfer had to drag himself, his board, and his parachute back to shore and spent a few minutes adjusting his gear before going back into the water and catching the wind again. With him back surfing again, I started making my way back towards the ferry port. I got to the port with a little time to spare, but the ferry ended up leaving 45 minutes late for some reason. While I was annoyed, I knew it was better to be annoyed than to have missed the ferry and having to buy another ticket. When I got back to Tarifa and cleared immigration, the sun had already gone down so I didn’t get a second Atlantic sunset. There was also a bar that I was thinking of going to for its tapas (which sounded good from what I had read online) but the bar was mysteriously closed, which seemed really weird for a bar in Spain on a weekday before 9:00pm. Maybe it’s a seasonal bar that’s only open during tourism’s high season. The day ended, and my short adventure to Morocco was done.
Nobody was shouting the previous night, so I slept a lot better. My bus out of Tarifa was at 9:30am, leaving me no time for doing anything else in Tarifa. The bus took me to Algeciras, a depressing industrial port town that I was only coming to in order to catch a train to Ronda, the next city on my journey. As I was waiting for the train, my backpack got inspected by a local cop, who didn’t speak much English, but I was able to understand that they were inspecting anyone who had been to Morocco, as a lot of illegal stuff crosses into Spain from there. After that somewhat awkward encounter, I still had to wait a little longer for the train to show up. When it did, I got on, and I bid the southern coast of Spain goodbye. I was heading back inland into Andalusia, and to the whitewashed hill town of Ronda.