Archive for the 'By Bus' Category

Casablanca You Weren’t My Favorite

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Marrakesh to Essouaira

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Marrakesh

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My oh My Marrakesh

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It was strange to be back in a city all of a sudden and that first day was a bit overwhelming.  After dropping off our bags we walked into the center, elated because there was so much to do (unlike the last two places) but a bit confused by seeing all the things we’d appreciated not having, i.e. McDonalds and the like.

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Really?!

We took a cheap cab back to the hotel and rested up for what would be a completely packed visit in Marrakesh.

Along the Way

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On the way from Erfoud to Marrakesh our bus broke down, ironic since it was the first nice and new bus of our trip.  It wasn’t all bad though, as is usually the case with travel even the bad moments teach you something.  We stopped in this little town in the mountains where I took some of my favorite photos of the trip.

No this is not for you, from me, not yet

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We woke up for our first day in Ouarzazate to beautiful weather, we had opted for the room ‘on the roof’ which was right near the washing station and a bit cheaper than those below.  Our hotel was a little quirky but we were excited that it had a pool and the owner was especially nice.

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Ouarzazate comes from the Berber phrase “without noise,” and carries the nickname “door to the desert” because for most people it’s where to stay before heading out to the Draa Valley.  Maybe it’s better to go there before the desert because coming from the desert Sister and I were not very impressed.  We walked around town and found mostly touristy shops with a sort of sad repetition of all things typically considered Berber and Moroccan.

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Construction site that seemed to be using the same ‘hold it up’ techniques as our desert tents.

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I still have no idea why the majority of trees in Morocco were painted white at the base.  If anyone knows please, tell me! It seemed to be only in towns and cities, ending on the outskirts and not happening at all in the countryside.

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Man loading bread into his car.

We headed to the Kasbah, a site which is highly recomended in Ouarzazate but were a bit unimpressed there as well.  Maybe it was our lack of research about Kasbah culture but other than being an interesting looking building with some beautiful ceilings it seemed to be more of the same- shops with traditional garb and shop owners constantly telling you, “Welcome, come inside take look.  Only a look, please.  You are welcome.”

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Kasbah

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Nearby there was a little market, most of the same desert clothing and painted pottery but one man had a sea of things that piqued my interest.  I wish I had taken his picture, he was just what you’d imagine, a bit hunched with leathery skin and eyes that looked just past you.  He didn’t say a word when I walked in, which was refreshing.  After sifting through some of the slightly sandy treasures he had out I was feeling good about my finds, I went to pay and something rather odd happened.  He laid out the odds and ends and quoted each with a price then took one of them away.  I haggled for a lower price on all the items together then asked how much for the little tree he’d taken back.  “No.”

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Me Optimistic: “Con bien?”

Him: “No.”

Me Confused: “Por qua?”

Him: “No, not you, no this.”

Me A little offended and confused: “Why not for me?”

Him: A lot of fast French.

Me feeling/looking like I’m 5

Him: More French, laughter, a sigh “Not now, this, not for you now.  Later.” then a lot more French that I didn’t understand.

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I was still confused, but after a lot of gesturing and trying to purchase four different types of objects that all had trees on them I realized that this man just knew he would not sell me specifically anything having to do with the tree of knowledge.  He couldn’t seem to tell me why.  It just was that way.  We both ended up shrugging our shoulders, I paid for my things and wondered what any of that meant.

Later we went back to the center of town and met another shop keeper, this one much less pushy (even the old man got pushy with other products in the midst of our ‘why you can’t have a tree’ conversation).  My Sister and I wanted to try on some pants and we asked for a place to try them on, he said of certainly, we could change there while he went across the street to grab a pot of tea.  And so he left us with his shop, closed the door, and after about ten minutes came back to share a pot of green tea with us.

First he poured the tea into the cups, then poured the cups back into the pot.  He did this three times.  I asked him why, expecting some romantic answer then feeling silly when he told me it was simply to mix the sugar into the tea.  Later while looking at a plate I almost knocked over the entire stack, I looked at him nervously and apologized.  He told me it’s good baraka when someone breaks something in your shop.  I asked why.  Just because it is. I wondered again about the old man, why I needed to know why something was.

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Later, the shop keeper walked us to the best tagine in town (leaving his shop unattended).

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The morning we left it was pouring and unfortunately during one of the many taxi strikes, but we made it just fine and boarded a nice CTM bus (like greyhound) bound for Marrakesh with plenty to think about and even more to just let be.

He ran to catch the bus at every stop

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After hugs and best wishes from the staff at Auberge de Sud we were driven to the nearby town of Erfoud to catch our bus to Ouarzazate.  On the way there, we stopped by and said hello to a family of Berber travelers and this grave site below.  Then we grabbed some fresh dates at the market, anxiously handed our bags up to the man on the roof of the bus (no, no room below but don’t worry he says), and grabbed two seats across from the door at the back.

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fresh squeezed orange juice, everywhere.

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We seemed to make all the local stops and we started to notice that one of the guys got off every time but never took a seat; he would just rest by the back door until the bus slowed.  Then he would hop off and disappear, we would start to leave then, just as we hit the edge of the town the boy would come running along side the bus and hop in the open side door with ease.  At first I was nervous for him, after witnessing my obvious amazement he seemed to cut it closer and closer to further impress.  I stopped being nervous for him and more curious about where he was running off to.  As far as I could tell he was running into all the local cafes and telling everyone the bus had arrived, which is pretty amazing service.

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An example of a typical Moroccan toilet, could be better could be worse.

Mint Tea on a Hot Day in Fes

The Riad we stayed in didn’t seem real, gorgeous mosaic over every inch and an opening to the sky in the center so that the light of the day seeped in.

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We headed out, repeatedly having to remind each other that we were here in Morocco, taking the trip we’d talked about over dozens of dinners at Mogador.

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Fresh squeezed orange juice stands everywhere

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The way we look in Arabic

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Graveyard

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Lounging donkeys

My Sister and I have developed a great dynamic, we both like to see the sights and have those days that are so filled they feel like weeks when you look back on them but in order to appreciate them we also have lazy afternoons.  Plus she’s gotten really understanding about stopping a thousand times for me to take or take and retake photos.

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Spices in the Medina

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After getting our bus tickets, walking through the Medina, checking out the tanneries (where I haggled for a camel leather bag), and taking tons of pictures we ended up on a terrace sipping mint tea, playing cards, and smiling about how amazing everything was.

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Fes had the best mint tea

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The Tannery

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A Berber Pharmacy

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Cafe Clock view from above and lunch on the roof

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mint, everywhere

Before we left when my Sister was planning things she had asked me if I was ok with an overnight bus trip so that we would have enough time to see Fes and the desert.  I had almost scoffed at her worry; listen I’ve been working through nights lately a bus ride where we can sleep sounds nice.

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We met some Spanish clowns at the hotel bar

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Fresh Kefta, yes please.

And you know it could’ve been, we were prepared for nearly everything.  After having some wine at the one bar in Fes (inside a very nice hotel) we grabbed some delicious kefta kebab, had a coffee, used the bathrooms, bought some water and boarded the bus at 10pm.  We even had the whole back seat to ourselves to stretch out.dsc_0338

When you think of Morocco frigid temperatures don’t really come to mind, certainly not mine when I packed.  My Sister was able to run out and grab her pack at one of the stops since my coat was not doing the job.  As we drove through the High Atlas Mountains we proceeded to layer on every item of clothing my Sister had packed, with the holes in the seats opening directly to the air whizzing past the speeding bus it was really no use.  We hugged each others feet and shivered our way to Merzouga.

290 x 290 x 500

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Four trucks at that size and one with an extra meter in length; all of them to be packed full with the contents of the installation we’d been working on for months.

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Moving days are always stressful and we knew some things would go wrong.  We had to be efficient with the space and make sure we weren’t forgetting anything.

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For all the elements and all the things that could’ve gone wrong, I think it went exceptionally well.  By the end we were all battered and bruised but it was satisfying to get the point we had talked about for so long.
Around 5am I caught the train home and took a shower in the light of dawn before grabbing my pack and heading back to HBF where I caught the train to Frankfurt.

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And here I want to mention a thank you to my Step Dad Andy.

Whenever we flew anywhere we had to get to the airport no later than two hours before our departure time and usually more like three.  I used to do a bit of eye rolling at this but nowadays I find myself doing the same.

In any case when I took the train from Berlin to Frankfurt Airport it’s a good thing I had that rule of leaving lots of extra time ingrained in my head.  As it turns out there are two Frankfurt airports and I needed to be at the very tiny one (Frankfurt Hahn) about a 45 minute bus ride from the one I anticipated leaving from (Frankfurt International Airport).  Thanks Andy!

From the Future

I come to you from my hostel in Amsterdam, 5 flights and almost a month since my last post and with more things to write about than I can process right now.

So, I urge you to be patient and come back soon (week or three).  Thanks for reading!

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