Have you been to Morocco recently?
Paul Moody is an avid traveller, having visited 85 countries. Over the past 10 years he has travelled in his Gibraltar registered Hilux car, completing 26 road trips clocking a distance of over 200,000km.
By Paul Moody
I am a well-known coast hugger driving the coastal highways and byways around the world yet have failed to explore one so close by to where we live.
I have driven the Atlantic coast from Tangier to Mauritania many times, travelled Morocco extensively but never the Mediterranean coast to the Algerian border.
For maximum enjoyment I always need a great travelling buddy and for this trip I had two.
Alan Routledge my travelling buddy of old has reappeared into my life and more than a decade ago we explored most of Africa together.
He is now a tour guide for a motor cycling adventure outfit, squeezing in this holiday before he leaves on a five-month trip from Alaska to the tip of South America.
Paul Stiles, an American, is our new buddy. An educated, thoughtful writer who had to counter balance the short falls of his new mates.
Before you lose interest, I commend you to read on and go explore one of the last stretches of unexplored, undeveloped Mediterranean coast of great beauty on the new coastal highway designated the N16.
I assure you that the scenery is stunning, the driving is easy, the people are so friendly, the costs are low and it is safe.
Download a map then let us explore the coastline my albeit old Michelin map did not do the road trip justice as the N 16 highway has been re-engineered and is a breeze.
Tangier and Ceuta are all worthy of exploration but we chose Tetouan for our first night. Our new buddy Paul restored my aversion to a town I regarded as too edgy even for me. A guide opened up the mystery of the Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The adventure really begins on day two past Tetouan skirting the blue Mediterranean to our left and the magnificent Rif skyline to our right whilst also admiring the highway engineers’ cuttings to minimise the twist and turns of the topography.
We are road trippers who may drive further and for longer than you may choose but this time we have on board our own guide to reveal the unknowns of this journey.
Hugging the coast there are so many villages and small towns to stop and check out with photo opportunities at every turn.
Cafes abound everywhere with the obligatory mint tea and it is a joy to choose your fish fresh the boat moored close-by.
Hot tagines too are ready and waiting and the veggies amongst us have no problems.
Alcohol is not widely available but generally is at your accommodation. We stayed at a gite in the mountains where our French host was the only one to serve the alcohol. When I asked the reason why, he said that his good Muslim staff would neither touch nor serve.
Al Hoceima is a modern seaside resort and like all resorts along this coast almost exclusively popular with Moroccans. Founded by the Spanish only a hundred years ago the Spanish influence remains strong in language and architecture. French too is spoken everywhere with little English so our new
buddy on board speaking French was very useful.
El Penon de Velez de la Gomera, at the end of a long canyon in the Al Hoceima National Park is the most amazing sight of all.
Originally an island until in 1934 a huge tidal wave created a beach shore connecting the island to the main land.
Bizarrely it is now the smallest border in the world with two military outposts facing each other across a beach! It has to be seen to be believed.
The last stretch to Saidia is less interesting across flat lands but there are many hotels when you get there. The Moroccan government have huge beach facilities created for their civil service.
This is where you reach the border with Algeria that has been closed for the last 25 years.
To complete your return you have some choices. If time is limited take the new motor way from Nador to Fes, which if you have never visited is an essential on a par with Jerusalem for me. Further on a night in the mountain top village of Chefchaouen is always a joy.
We were in our trusty Toyota Hilux so went off exploring the Benni Snassen mountains then south to Degbou where even Moroccans are in short supply. Hopefully you still have that map to hand and let me give you a route that is beautiful beyond belief on your way home from Fes.
Take the R508 Ketama road as far as Ain Atcha then turn left on the R 406.... Mail me for the precise route where you will step back in time a hundred years and see the most stunning country I have ever seen. All achievable in a standard car.
So there you have it a great boys week trip for us and a trip that you must do and be the first to reveal the secret to all your friends.
Are you a keen traveller? Or do you enjoy short weekend breaks up the coast? The Chronicle’s weekly travel feature is open for local writers to share their experiences of the places they visit. Contact the Chronicle to find out more.