|Having disembarked from the Oujda, we made our way straight through passport control and customs and into the rather splendid Nador terminal building. The departures board seemed fairly empty, reflecting the fact that we had just missed the peak season, and the only departures (all to Almeria) for the rest of the day were the morning sailing of the Mistral Express and, in the evening, those of the Wisteria and Berkane. Having travelled on the Mistral Express and the Berkane last year, our minds were largely made up for us, although an interesting possibility was to try and hot-foot it over the border and make it onto the, inevitably late-running, sailing of the Ciudad de Valencia direct to Malaga from Melilla. The Canguros are a lovely class of ferry and a day sailing on this ship would have been a real pleasure. In the event however, we were held up at the frontier and the ‘Valencia’ had left port by the time we made it through to the Spanish enclave.
The day was thus spent in Melilla. If you didn’t know this was North Africa, it would be easy to mistakenly think you were on a quiet resort on one of the Costas. Once away from the border, the contrast with Nador couldn’t be starker: the crowds on the Moroccan side seem a million miles away when you’re sat on Melilla’s sandy beaches or having a relaxed meal in a local restaurant. I love Morocco, but Nador isn’t the kind of place to spend a day if you just want to sit back and relax, particularly after 36 hours on the Oujda!
We re-crossed the border in the early evening, just before it got dark, and headed to the Ferrimaroc office to buy tickets for the Wisteria’s sailing to Almeria. Once within its police-controlled boundaries, Nador port is almost cosmopolitan: you can cheerfully sit there in the bars and restaurants with other Western faces, hemmed in from the outside world by the tight security control. Gone are the touts, the beggars and the over-enthusiastic freelance guides who tended to distress tourists before the authorities clamped down. Nowadays they can still be found, clustering around the port's exits and at the border, offering their ever-helpful assistance. Inside the port itself however it is now all pristine roadways, clean-concrete buildings and pizzerias. One could be in Dover or Portsmouth, if only the toilets weren’t so clean and the food so favourably priced. The only distraction from this happy illusion was that overpowering stench, but once settled down in the bar this soon passed and we witnessed the Oujda, seemingly with a healthy load, departing almost surreally half an hour early back to Sète.
Ferrimaroc’s Wisteria was due to depart at 10pm and passengers were let on board well before then. This ship is now owned by Trans Europa Ferries but was well know previously as Brittany Ferries’ Duc de Normandie at Portsmouth and latterly Plymouth. Originally however she was the penultimate ship of the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland, the elegantly appointed Prinses Beatrix of 1978, running from Harwich to the Hook of Holland until replaced by the Koningin Beatrix and sold to the French in 1986. [Report continues on next page]