Monday, 24 June 2013

The hashish trail

21-06-2013 - 22-06-2013

Cannabis sativa
The Ultra, Jebel Tidirhine N34.84044 W4.51654 2428m P1901 rises in the Rif mountains above the outlaw town of Ketama. On one side of the main road out of the town is the Gendarmarie Royale office, on the other several hectares of young hashish plants.
I had known about the cannabis growing before I went there, but I assumed it would be hidden in remote valleys. At first, I just thought it was bracken. The whole area is given over to the cash crop with complex and sophisticated irrigation systems.
Azmorou had insisted that I park my motorhome next to his home, so that his family could guard it and he insisted that he accompany me up the hill 'for the pleasure'. I think he was more of a bodyguard than a guide as we walked through the terraces of marijuana plants that filled the valley at the back of his home at N34.86938 W4.53806 (1587m).

Hectares of hashish
Each patch was guarded by one or two young men - who did not seem any more sinister than any other Moroccans, but who knows. Obviously not women's work - but I bet when it comes to harvest time it is.
We followed the track to the edge of the forests that line the mountain - at this point the track became undrivable as the bridge at N34.86433 W4.50408 had been washed away.
Jebel Tidirhine
In the forest  we followed the track as it contoured around the mountain - occasionally there were small clearances given over to more young cannabis plants. At a fairly arbitrary point, we left the track and struck uphill steeply through the trees.

Summit from south
I began to doubt about whether my bodyguard had ever been to the mountaintop before. He was too interested in the misshapen trees and he seemed surprised as I was to join a well-maintained and well-engineered path - that did not seem to have any connection with the local harvest - and lead to the tree clear summit tops. Although it is not obvious which is the higher top when up there, it is very clear from below.
Lower top
Summit from lower top
True summit
Summit from the east
For the descent I tried to persuade my guide that there was an easier way off going down more easterly. He followed me for a while but then insisted we follow a line that looked and felt more difficult than the one I had chosen.
We hit the forest road and then it was reversal of the ascent route. Back to Azmorou's house for the inevitable mint tea with olives and bread dipped in olive oil and apricot jam.
Overnight in the grounds of Azmorou's house.

At first light I set off through Ketama, which mercifully at that early hour was free of the numerous dope-dealers and made my way back to the border of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta to catch the ferry back to Europe.

Nice hats - note these are women working, not tourists
Renault 12 - I had a white one in the 70s - I thought it was sleek and stylish, then.
Overnight in Lidl carpark, Algeciraz.

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