My little KIA Rio was jumping painfully along the narrow, rocky road. The steep hills and the frequent u-curves made it impossible to know if the car would survive through the next bend. The frequent loud cling every time a large rock scratched the bottom of my beloved car made me cringe. Still, I pressed the gas pedal and kept going. I had to reach my destination, and without enough speed, the car would get stuck. The alternative was worse. Getting trapped in the middle of nowhere in northern Morocco at dusk. On a tiny rocky road with no possibilities to turn around.
Driving in Morocco, What Was I Thinking?
I felt incredibly stupid to take my own car on a road trip from Spain to Morocco. What had I been thinking of? Knowing that I was too far off to get help from my insurance company if I got stuck was one thing. There was no phone coverage anyway. But when could I expect any locals to come by and find us? Honestly, all I wanted to do was cry. Luckily, my friend sat next to me being the bravest co-pilot in the world, cheering and telling me how well I was doing every time I mastered a new bend. I probably couldn’t have done it without her.
Cala Iris and Al Hoceima National Park
We were heading to Cala Iris for a couple of days of hiking in Al Hoceima National Park before continuing further south. The GPS had taken us the shortest route and even after a policeman told us we needed to drive a different but longer way to get there, we opted for the shortest one. Stupid!
After one hour of praying for my car’s life and the well-being of my friend and me, the few lights of Cala Iris came closer and we were close to safety. The little camping ground at Cala Iris was warm and welcoming, and the little cabin with just enough space for the two narrow beds and our bags was beyond perfect. The solar-powered showers did their job and the home-made vegan Tajine was heavenly tasty.
The next morning, I woke up to my friend opening the sole window, letting crisp air and morning sun into the cabin together with a couple of annoying flies. The night had been a nightmare of mosquitos buzzing aggressively around my ears. Luckily, I wasn’t traveling solo this time (unprepared as I was) and my friend had brought mosquito spray that prevented them from eating me alive.
Al Hoceima National Park
The view from the window took my breath away immediately. I fought the sore muscles from the tense drive the night before and got up to enjoy my breakfast and sipping my over-sugared, but still so delicious, mint tea staring at the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. So well-known from my home in Spain but still. This was Morocco. Yet, it was not the messy, maddening Morocco you meet in Marrakesh. This was a calm, balanced, quiet Morocco. Surrounded by nature and friendly people making me feel like home. Cala Iris was pretty much five scattered houses and a little port. The camping was situated on a hillside so I could see the whole village from there. Or was it even a village? I never saw a shop, nothing.
The hiking routes were the same. We walked for hours with mesmerizing views over the Mediterranean, only a few people crossing our path. Mainly locals. I cannot think of a better place to indulge in Moroccan calmness than Al Hoceima National Park.
There is a saying in Morocco that you can never get lost. No matter where you are, people will always come by – even in the most remote places. I was thinking about the scary drive the night before. I wonder how long it would take for someone to find us if we had gotten stuck.
When you go:
Cala Iris is secluded enough to need a car to get there. To avoid the same road I ended up on so that you can drive safely the whole way, make sure you drive to Beni Boufrah and take off north towards Cala Iris from there. Eco-Camping Amis de Cala Iris is a relaxed campground with small budget bamboo-huts with shared toilets and showers and small apartments with kitchen and toilet inside. There are also options to tent or stay in your campervan.
Written by: Linn Haglund
Originally from Norway, Linn has been living in southern Spain during the last 5+ years. She has a long history of traveling and living abroad. This made her aware of all the negatives tourism can cause to a destination and she started to become more conscious of her footprints while she travels. To spread awareness on responsible travel and help others travel more consciously, she founded the travel blog: www.brainybackpackers.com