Saturday, 7 August 2010

Maroc 'n' Roll

July this year Matthew and I ventured to the beautiful country of Morocco for two weeks, setting off on Sunday 4th July with our back packs and arriving home Saturday 17th July with slightly heavier back packs.  I think my trip to Egypt with Dad put me in good stead for this particular visit as I was already used to the heat and the Muslim culture; although in Morocco the dress code wasn't as strict as it was in Egypt.  This blog entry is just a day by day diary of where we were and what we were doing throughout our trip, involving stories of Tagine, Henna, couscous, berber, haggling, dihrum, eight hour bus drives, camel spiders, that night at the camp site, cooking on the roof, rock climbing, waterfall jumping, monkies, bed bugs, tea a la menthe, river crossings, marijuana, pancakes, YARNI!, sahara, camels, prayer time, cockerels and sleepless nights in the desert.

Day 1 - Marrakesh
We finally arrived at Marrakesh airport, we were two hours late after a few engine issues at Gatwick and a missing couple.  Luckily for us the legend of a Captain we had totally made up for the delays, but then again this is easyjet we're flying with.
We arrived at the Hotel Ali around 11am, and dropped our back packs off.  The hotel had located by the hustle and bustle of the market square and after a brief walk around the noise of the hagglers, screaming children and birds, the smell of sweets, spices, mint leaves and olives all became a bit overwhelming, we lunched and then headed back to our hotel.  We sat in the centre of the hotel, the quietest part, and you wouldn't think it would be so quiet with thousands of people and cars outside.  People were sat with there the local cats, reading books and generally relaxing away from the heat.......even though we were to later find out that Marrakesh wasn't even a spot on how hot the desert is.

This picture was taken from the roof of our hotel before sundown and before Matt and I set off for our beautiful roof top dinner which had a lovely view of the sunset lighting up the city's main Mosque, all for the price of 60DRH each (£4/5).  After walking around some more we soon began to realise how 'westernised' Morocco is, especially in comparison to Egypt.
In Marrakesh on a Sunday all the locals come out at night for the market and becomes three times busier, even down the little side streets it is difficult to move.

Night time on the roof where we slept was noisier but a lot cooler, but what we thought would be a blissful nights sleep soon turned into a disturbed one, as prayer began soon after we'd gone to sleep.  Prayer is released from these massive speakers all over the city centre and even in the remote parts of Morocco, which is why they 'need' their daily ciesta. 

Day 2 - Cascades
We travelled for the first time on the bus, for three hours, to the Cascades which are deeply hidden in the Moroccan mountains.  We stopped at the 'roof' of the mountain where we were told we would have to walk down 650 steps and cross a river before we got to our camp site, so all in good spirits we walked down the windy steps through the Cascades down to the very bottom.

We stayed in Berber tents, in case you're not sure what they are they are basically a gazebo but it's held by wood and they use bamboo shoots as coverage instead of plastic.  Soon after we drop our stuff off we make our way down to the actual river which is abundant with smaller waterfalls, smaller than the ones in the picture above and were definitely small enough to jump off.  Well, small enough for some people, I was still too scared to plunge into the fresh cold water.
We stayed up late playing yarni and eating with some locals and the camp site owners, I say late, I mean we didn't eat until 10pm as there seems to be no urgency or rush to do anything in Morocco.  We soon found out that everyone in Morocco was rather laid back, which we found was quite refreshing.

Day 3 - Cascades
Got a decent nights sleep, minus the awkward shaped futon, and Matt and I felt up to walking across the river for breakfast where we found pancakes for 6DHR (45p), which we got from a Moroccan guy who had previously lived in Bath....weird.  But, we had to walk all the way up the 650 steps to find them.......typical.  On our way back down we started notice the amount of Coca-Cola, Fanta etc was available as well for such a cheap price and for bigger bottles, it's about 10DHR for a bottle (£1.75).  Also got some lovely henna done by a woman who was convinced that Matt and I were related at the bottom of the mountain, by the riverside, for 40DHR (£1.25)
When we got back to the camp site we set off with the group further down the river to a larger waterfall jump of 50ft!  Again, I was too scared to jump so I sat opposite the falls and observed, in such a beautiful place you can't really help but look and stare.  I was finding it hard to believe that somewhere so beautiful and green could be in such a hot and desert like country.

We went across the river again for dinner, seeming that the night before we had to wait until 10pm for some bland couscous.  Shared some lovely berber omelette with Lizzie and tucked in to some lovely fresh bread too! Nomnom.  We also started notice how many people smoked weed here, even though it's illegal, it is in most places.  There were also a lot more beggars than I thought there would be, Egpyt was nowhere near as 'westernised' as Morocco and yet there were no beggars there.....................only con artists.  But at least they try and make an 'honest' living.

Day 4 - Cascades to Ait Benhaddou
An early start for a breakfast of bread and pancakes, leaving the Cascades at 9am after a long walk all the way to the top of the mountain side again.  One of the locals, Momo (Mohammed), a friend of one of the organisers, joined us for the rest of the trip from here.  The weather wasn't too hot but when you're carrying a back pack up 650 steps, and then have to get back on the muggy Maroc 'n' Roll bus, it can be a bit sweaty!
We drove through the mountains to the outskirts of the desert to a little village called Ait Benhaddou, a quick place to stop over half way to the Todra Gorge, which would be our next stop.  It took a couple of hours longer than expected because the bus kept over heating, in spite of all that though we got to view some beautiful scenery.  We finally arrived at the Riad Maktoub hotel around 6pm and straight into the showers we went.  This hotel was pretty snazzy with a swimming pool, a flat screen TV and a pool.

Day 5 - Ait Benhaddou to Todra Gorge
You wouldn't have thought that in the middle of the desert you could access the internet or that you would be able to hear prayer at 4:30am, but you could!  Not a good nights sleep though due to chanting, cockerels and dogs fighting.  Fair to say that all the people who thought sleeping on the roof because it was 'cooler' than the big room downstairs, were in foul moods that morning.
After taking our time getting up and ready to look around the Kasbah opposite our hotel, where parts of Gladiator were filmed we climbed back on to the Maroc 'n' Roll bus to make our way to the Todra Gorge, a five hour drive away.

The hotel Tafilelt, where we stayed at in the Todra Gorge was hidden away in, well, the gorge which again, was surprisingly green and surprisingly cool.  We spent the night cooking our own food with Momo because the hotel charged 'English prices' for food, which when you've been paying £4 for a full dinner setting is expensive, I tell you now!

Day 6 - Todra Gorge
The lack of sleep was starting to take a toll on all of us now, not because of the heat but because of mozzies! They loved to fly around you and wake you up at about 6am.
We were about to set off on our walk for the climb when we were told the normal route was closed, so we would be taking the scenic route, guided by Momo.  It took us twice as long and took several river crossings but we finally got to the part of the gorge we were going to be climbing in, apparently parts of MI2 were filmed here??  Climbing was incredibly fun, but incredibly scary too at 100ft up!  First time round, I cried half way up, when I got down and looked how far I'd gotten I was so embarrassed that I put my gear back on and climbed the other route; that time I got to the top!  Everyone else who climbed also got to the top, it was a great effort.
Dinner time was pretty standard, we were all quite tired so retired earlier than usual to the roof.  Suddenly our sleep was disturbed by a scream from the opposite side of the roof, from Laura, there was 'something crawling on her.'  After all the fuss the boys made from finally spotting what it was that Laura had on her, the hotel owners came upstairs and reassured us that they weren't poisonous.  Although, from my recent research on camel spiders I've discovered that they inject a local anaesthetic type liquid in your flesh, and they chew where they've injected you.  Beautiful creatures they are indeed :D

Ok, this isn't an actual camel spider but it's a lot nicer looking than a real one, if you want to google these ugly creatures, google at your own risk! :P

Day 7 - Sahara
Drove 4 hours East to the Sahara after a lazy morning at the hotel Tafilelt and we stopped to eat at a restaurant in Erfoud.  When we were on the outskirts of the sand dunes Barney came onto the bus and asked for eight people to go in the landrover to even the weight out.  We didn't just go IN the landrover, we went on the roof of the landrover, and drove 14km into the desert dunes.

Saw a few desert shrews and LOTS of sand.  That night we had a choice of staying the air-conditioned hotel or riding on a camel to sleep in the desert, and me being the arrogant arse I was said "I've been on two camels this year already so I'll stay here" and what a big mistake that was as I didn't sleep a wink that night.  Around midnight, half an hour after the group left, I was in my room and the lights and then the air-con went off.  I could have cried. The only time I did manage to get to sleep I woke up with a camel spider on my leg, fully grown, hairy, juicy spider. Eugh.  But, there is always a silver lining on the cloud and I managed to take some beautiful photos of the Saharan sunrise at 4:30am.

Day 8 - Sahara
Everyone came back from the desert around 9am, Matt hadn't slept at all - like me - and was in the most awkward mood, also like me.  It was a strange day, bit hazy really, we just sat around the hotel, in the shade, in the pool in the blistering heat of 56'C.  The hotel had struck again and had switched off the air-con at the hottest part of the day because they couldn't afford to keep it running.  People were beginning to go crazy from the heat, and to top if off we had to wait until 10pm, maybe later, for food because of the football final.  People were angry, hot, hungry and crazy, this wasn't the best mix to be honest.

Day 9 - Night in Arfou
Long day of travelling again, everyone was very moody especially Barney.  Mainly because of the lack of sleep, the heat and the fact that people were complaining because we had to pay 30DHR more than agreed for a breakfast hardly any of us ate, but there were more opportunities to sit on the bus roof through the desert where there was a spectacular breeze, so not all was bad.

Finally arrived at our camp site in Arfou, riddled with ants, spiders and mozzies, we walked away and found the site had not just a restaurant but a very cheap bar!

This is all that needs to be said about the evening we spent in Arfou, but here is the last picture take of Matt and I, lol.

Day 10 - Arfou to Chefchaouen
Not such a long drive this time, about 3-4 hours to Chefchaouen, a beautiful town North of the desert and very Spanish, rather than French.  We got the feeling that the locals weren't quite used to tourists though as haggling was an issue, and people staring at us didn't go amiss.

Day 11&12 - Chefchaouen
Lots of shopping, lots of sleeping and lots of eating, sitting on the roof, drinking, playing music and singing; just generally relaxing.  The only interesting thing about the town was the fact it was painted blue and white, because apparently bugs don't like it?

Day 13 - Tangier
Our last day in Morocco and I get bitten 76 times by bed bugs haha, but we got to make sand  castles and go wave jumping.

Yet more delays at Tangier airport, courtesy of easyjet, and again at Madrid airport. Arrived in England on Sunday 18th 00:35!

So yes, that was mine and Matthew's holiday, sorry the writing is not pretentious and creative, but I don't think this blog needed to be, the pictures show more than this blog does, I cannot describe the beauty of this country; it's beautiful.  I recommend that you travel to this country, it is definitely an experience, it was for me.

1 comment:

swallows and amazons said...

it looks like you had a fantastic break! I went travelling in india for a while earlier in the year and it was fantastic! It's great to experience different cultures! x