Closing the Encircle

My legs aren’t too interested in Melilla’s hilliness. I take a direct route to what I had considered the fort, in fact Old Melilla, a series of 4 fortified precincts providing layer after layer of defence. Its not so much an old town as a giant castle rising and falling tiringly in the morning heat. Compared to the new town outside the walls the old town is quiet, with few cars on the narrow streets and few people in probably expensive housing.

The next morning is a cool morning to take bus line number 2 to the beni Enzar border post with Morocco. I leave fortress Europe – high razor wire fences and high walls – for a dirty rubbish-strewn concrete mass. After sunny Spain-in-Africa it was grey. I take a shared taxi to Nador only a few minutes away. It’s brighter there, the sun breaking through the cloud to glint off the Mediterranean. Nador is Morocco’s answer to Melilla port, just a little further south of the Spanish enclave. From there I catch another shared taxi to El-Hociema. Along the route the whole of Morocco’s northern coast is laid out in front of me.

I think the Swiss would like Hociema. It’s lacking bicycles but is big on the uphills, even more so than Melilla. From there its a two hour wait, with another shared taxi, for the other five passengers to arrive before we travel through patchwork hills, following the sea again for most of the journey to Tetouan. Tetouan was the capital of Spanish Morocco, with an interesting mix of Moorish architecture and a delightful location sitting in a bowl surrounded by the Rif mountains only 8 km from the coast. I have little time to explore before needing to head on to Tangiers.

Sitting on the bus I realise I’ve been to Tangiers before – I’ve done it, I’ve Encircled Africa. From central Tangiers its a series of short transport hops to Tangier Med port 50 km away, and a fast ferry to the Spanish port of Algeciras, before I can catch onward transport to Gibraltar, Encircle Africa’s ‘base camp’.

Seeing it, I remember the M-120 bus to La Linea, the Gibraltarian border. There are queues of traffic to the rock, but its easy on foot, the bus having stopped me just short of the actual border. In Gibraltar I start to feel proud of my achievement. I want people to ask why I’m in Gibraltar so I can explain that 13 months ago… but there are far too many tourists for me to be an exception.
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