Mediterranea Chefchaouen, Wayfaring in the ‘Hashish’ Mountains of the Rif

Setting my heart-winded compass to the magnetic north, for thee second time passing the Atlas Mountain golemns by nocturne and feeling the desert drift mile upon mile further away from soul, I was headed for the northern regions of the Rif, namely in Chefchaouen. Renown for a few gems of Moroccan culture, golden hashish, goat cheese, and thee sky blue medina. This little harlem called my name months ago, and I was ready to embrace the little niceties of peasant trading culture, and the loftiness of a Zarathustrian hermitage in the hills… Night the first I set foot on soil, and tramped through the ‘new town’, a place that scared me, for I do not comprehend the straight lines and flashing signs. As I ascended in elevation, entering the blue medina I took rest at a circular garden and observed a donkey loading pack and setting off the cobblestones. The stray cats skulked about me, happy to receive bits of goat cheese and bread that I shared with them, before they were sated on meat from the bins. Walking through the medina was as a meditation, a question of true need, as one spirals higher, and winds through avenues of merchants, hermits, begging woman, western dealers, and hustlers, you are intermingled within the array of all possible prospects. Personal, Pleasure, Payment. I walked and collected a few morsels of food, because I knew my resting place was somewhere in the cliffs, I would return tomorrow. Reaching the upper terraced hauses neath the wall, the merchants fell away, and a quiet everyday life prevailed then coming out an alley, before one knew so, I found myself beyond the wall. A medieval spectacle of a dominion surrounding the village and keeping the boulders from falling into the innards of the streets. Striding deliberately at a peaceful pace beside the wall, I passed a contented man and shared a toke of tobacco as we spoke of our homeland, then continued climbing. Diverging from the easy gradient, I swiped a few prickly pears from thee cactuses and scaled impossibly angled bluffs in broken western boots before coming to rest at an apex to breath the clear aether in. I enjoyed a few strains of music up here then ascended even higher finding a promontory with a hollow to sit. Here I felt King. Mind clear, calm, and pensive. This is where the escapade of Chefchaouen seemed to reverberate, after the long stress induced travel from the south. And the reverberations only amplified afterwards. I listened to thee prayers sounding through the valley, staggered and echoing like a joyful noise. For I could not understand thee words, chanted from the Qu’ran, but could comprehend their importance and appreciate their beauty. The cold moon soon replaced the hot sun, in a magical ritual of cyclic opus, and I strayed into the slanted woods to find two fitting trees to encamp in my hammock the night. This took an hour or so, for the ground was steep, though finally cocooning myself in the mesh, I drifted off in an early slumber to thee sounds of wind, kief drumming, and an owl in empty branches.

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The next rise, descending down the bristly pine, I repeated the medina walk and hobbled by the open air cafes, where an English comrade walking behind me aroused a conversation after hearing my ‘accent’ and knowing then I was not from here. We went off to drink piping green tea, and the caffeine set a good pulse for the day. Initially I had planned for only a one night stopover, but after the Rif experience I knew this place called for more. This man looking like an older picture of my own self, in a brusk voice and humble tone suggested we walk to the waterfall and into the farmer hills, which fit my ideas quite perfectly. First stopping into the hostel he had been staying in, we smoked and talked on all things holy to the land, the Moroccan women, and the mountainous views. On the way up we took rest under a particularly robust tree, while feral goats roamed around the hillocks and mothers followed them back home. Thee animals here are beautiful, nothing like Scottish or English livestock painted colors and filthy from their own excrement. The Moroccan cows, and goats fur shimmers in the rays of sun, and their countenance is truly happy. A gentile man approached from the higher trail and offered his hospitality back at his abode, we acquiesced and followed him through medicine pathways and a puzzle of well trodden trails until coming to his humble place in lee of a depression in the mountain. There we sat in the shade and communicated the best we could, sign language and emotive expression, something lost on the most of humanity. He explained how most of the families lived off the land, and enlightened us on the state of the country, how Mohammed VI, the current King Hassan had decreed the use of growing the herb.  We partook in one of man’s greatest pleasures of silent communication, overlooking splendid country. My English friend discussed some politics with him, and I strangely found it interesting then we made to part as he offered me to return at sunset and stay with his family. I pondered his hospitality, and felt no ill cause behind it and agreed, for the night before was cold hanging in my hammock. I took a couple hours of stroll in the medina, drinking in the neo-medieval atmosphere and watching the people in their total existence. The blue skies turned to amber, turned to ruby, painted in the colors of gemstones, and my footsteps swayed back for the dusking refuge I heartily looked forward to. Wayfaring on the way, and getting lost, or not rather lost but unknowingly taking a new path found me moving through many thorns in camelhair sandals, getting tangled in vines, and perspiring pure bodily essence and loving it. I could no longer hold stress, this was as close to utopia I may have experienced in years…

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Thee braying of the goats ushered my upwards and onwards and eventually I found the cliff dwelling and my comrade waiting. His children ran in the garden chasing their chickens as he introduced me to his wife and elders. A siklver dish of couscous heaped in a mound was brought over by one of his daughters and then we partook in this shared communion of health, eating with our hands. Something else humanity has lost is their true relationship with their food, not knowing from whence it comes or what they are consuming. It is true to the point that people are by necessity what they eat. I found this suppertime to be quite a humble expression of real luxury in life. I learned some real wisdom from this man and experienced a sort of remedy against any lurking doubts that may have penetrated the prospect of staying here through slumber. We watched a Moroccan news channel which praised the King, he spoke of his reverence for him, and drank thee moonshine with fresh orange juice until we both fell into a kind of null state from the smoke, and spirits. Rest came peacefully. IMG_2622 The morn was a brilliant painting of the NorthernIMG_2630 Rif, as rich a life a man could want. The prayers began to bellow in the village, and it sank deeper into me every time I heard it. Always thee same, always different. I witnessed the kief drumming in a back room, to a steady bongo beatnik style beat. Apparently, the different ‘songs’ (sic),  altered the quality and color of the hash. The faster trodding beats made darker brown powder, and the slower beats made tanned saharan sand color powder. 100 kilos of the kief was needed for 1 kilo of the Rif Gold. I rolled up my Mexican rug, and let the slopes carry me back again, feeling truly like I may end up not leaving here at all. I countered against a return journey to Spain, and lingered on with my English friend awhile longer, we stalked the streets and met with two brothers who lived in Casablanca, they were here representing a calisthenics routine called Kresh, and I feel an uncany connection with their life all the way attitudes. The four of us ended up staying the day and night in the hostel, we waxed over the spiritual benefits of travel, and discussed impossible logic. One of the brothers mentioned he was teaching English in Morocco and taught me a few things about tefl, It was strangely intriguing to be sitting in a room with three newly made allies all coming from the same place. So, lounging in this semi-euphoric state, watching clips of Fantastic Planet and listening to A Horse With No Name. I departed the next forenoon from Tanger, on a tourist packed cruiser across the Gibraltar strait, the memories here were branded in the infinite. Moroccan lifestyle went on outside as usual in the forever hallways of the blue city…

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