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Goodbye Europe, Hello Africa: Changing continent without plane.

As our Schengen visa was coming to an end, not taking the plane brought an extra challenge to our next steps. Yet, as it was winter, one solution clearly stood out: Africa. After hitchhiking across France and Spain, we were finally ready to cross to Morocco! Well, almost.

Step 1: Leave Màlaga.

First, we had to catch a 1.40€ train to get out of the city. From there, we had a surprisingly enjoyable 20 minute walk towards the rest area on the highway, Arroyo de la Miel. The signs promoting tickets to Ceuta and Tangier indicated we were on the right track. It turned out to be an amazing spot, and we found a ride to Torregino after only 5 minutes! For fellow hitchhikers, there is also a rest area on the other side of the highway, if you need to go in the other direction, with an underground crossing (you will need to ‘’jump’’ a fence though).

Step 2: Get to Algeciras.

Our driver said he would bring us to a great rest area on the highway, where a lot of cars go straight to Algeciras. Doubtful from our past experiences, we kept an anxious eye on the map, trying to spot all the possible rest areas. After going 10 minutes out of his way to make sure we were in a good spot, he left us at a small gas station. Although we were still unsure (this was far from the big rest area we expected), karma seemed to be on our side as we found another ride after 5 minutes, straight to Algeciras, our final destination (for now!).

Algeciras is the place where most ferries leave, and the cheapest ones, going to Tangier-Med, which is about 20 km out of Tangier city. If you are travelling alone, and not hitchhiking, taking the ferry straight from Tarifa to Tangier city would be the best option, costing 6-20€ more. However, for us hitchhikers, the cheapest is the best- and we hitchhike the rest! Although we read about some hitchhikers finding rides with truckers to take the ferry for free, all the stories of hassle and fear of complications at the border led us to simply buy a ticket. The cheapest one was 25€, with Intershipping (during January, which is low season) and don’t worry about buying it in advance, as the prices are exactly the same online as in person (from our experience). We arrived at 4 pm and were lucky enough to get a ticket for the 6h30 pm ferry!

Step 3: Ferry from Algeciras (Spain) to Tangier (Morocco).

We happily warned our friend we were coming and waited for the boarding. We thought we would arrive around 8 pm, as the ferry takes 70 minutes. Or so they said… After all, you are crossing borders, so expect a lot of lines and waiting. That’s when we met Abdoul, an inspiring Senegalese man. We were standing in a line, not really knowing why, but waiting regardless, when a man came up to us with a pen in hand. We had to fill out immigration papers and he was offering his pen to us! We started filling out our papers, slightly confused by this random act of kindness, but still thankful. We finished, and handed him back his pen, when he gave it back to us, along with his passport!

He was asking us to fill out HIS papers! It made much more sense. Vincent started filling out the paper while I was spelling out the information for him. Seeing he was from Sénégal, I asked him if he spoke french, he answered with his characteristic faint smile: ‘’Un peu’’. Not sure which language to use, I went back to dictating the answers to Vincent.

I asked him : ‘’Vous retournez à la maison?’’

‘’Oui’’, he said with a smile.

When it was his turn to hand in his immigration paper, we stayed close, making sure everything was alright. He thanked us again and started walking away. I whispered to Vincent that I wished we had spoken with him more, he must have so many stories! We sat down. Vincent told me: ‘’Well, invite him!’’ and I turned around to see Abdoul standing up on the other side of the room, trying to choose a place to sit. Vincent waved to him and quickly made space for him, even pulling out his chair. He sat down with a smile. We asked him about his travels, where he was coming from and where to. His wife lives in Valencia, and he used to work there, but he can’t anymore. Now, he goes back and forth between Sénégal and Valencia, bringing merchandise to sell both ways. How? Hitchhiking.

He tells us it’s hard sometimes, but it’s alright. ‘’Inch ‘Allah’’, he says. I stare at him with admiration and disbelief. You’re telling me the 70 years old man in front of me hitchhikes 3000 km in 4 days, sleeping on the floor or curled up in a sofa chair on the ferry- and he does this monthly, only to make barely enough to survive? Tell me again about the average westerner’s problems.

We end up all falling asleep on our chairs and I feel affection towards this man, whom I am happy to see asleep. I wish I could make the world a little softer for him. After about 2 hours of delay, we are finally coming close to the African shore! It’s time to find a ride.

Step 4: Ride from Tangier Med to Tangier city.

I spot a group of French speakers (one of the only awake ones) and go see them. Although I get offered rides to Casablanca and Marrakech, and meet nice people, I don’t manage to find a ride to Tangier. We start heading out, and ask the people waiting in their cars. We find a lost backpacker and one car, although they are not going to the city itself, the map they show us indicates they are going really close, so the three of us jump in!

We see Abdoul, but he didn’t find a ride. We felt bad, so we tried to help him find a ride, but people told us they wouldn’t just take anyone. It’s funny, because nobody ever said that about us. It made me quite sad and angry to see prejudice and racism so plainly. In the end, we offered him the 5$ a Spanish woman had given us when we were hitchhiking, although we had told her we didn’t need it. He tried to refuse but we insisted for him to take it, and said that if he really didn’t need it, he could just give it to the next one. We didn’t see him again.

Finally, the door of the ferry opened and the cars started heading out-woohoo! Our journey was far from over. We ended up spending a good hour going back and forth between different officers and handing different papers, as the Spanish couple that took us where driving a family member’s car and bureaucracy had trouble handling it. Finally, at about 10 pm, we made it out of the port and headed towards Tangier! Only for them to stop halfway, where their hotel ended up being. Confused and sore, we stepped out the car and they apologetically rushed to their room, exhausted from their trip. So, what do we do now?

The other girl was regretting following us and not taking a cab, and we felt stupid for not stepping out of the car after the first 5 minutes to find another ride. Still, after 2 minutes of standing on the side of the road, we found a car and, although we had to pay a few euros, we made it to Tangier!

Conclusion 

Hitchhiking to Algeciras from Malaga was incredibly easy, with a total of 10 minutes of waiting time for 125 km. I would also recommend buying the cheapest ferry ticket as hitchhiking out of the ferry is very easy. Just find a ride all the way to the paper control, head out of the car, and hitchhike the cars that are being released to avoid waiting. On a side note, I would also recommend doing this without plans, as you can easily find rides going much further south and can pick your destination amongst the drivers! I’ll tell you more about the awesomeness of hitchhiking in Morocco in the next entry!

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