Drivey drivey scrapey scrapey

Trip Start Feb 01, 2012
Trip End Feb 05, 2012

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, February 4, 2012

We decide last night that we would head for Setti Fatma, a small village in all the brochures right at the end of the Ourika Valley in the foothills of the atlas mountains. After a lot of faffing we finally made it to the car hire place, signed lots of documents and were greeted with a modest Dacia Logan (with a stylish silver complexion). we calmly pulled out onto Marrakech's surprisingly peaceful streets, found our way to the main boulevard south out of the city. The road to the village was literally at the end of this road. The landscape south of Marrakech was very flat, barren and occasionally inhabited with a few soulless buildings and the odd minaret. Suddenly, 40kms south of Marrakech, the road changed at it became a snaking, alpine road with a very questionable (asphalt) surface. The sun appeared behind the clouds and the valley opened up to show berber villages (whatever they are) straddling the hillside. Camels roamed along the sides of the roads and the little villages were full of life. We climbed higher and higher as the road got steadily narrower. The high Atlas appeared round a bend which resulted in one of many scenic photostops along the way. After around 90 minutes we arrived at our village at the end of the valley and were immediately followed by faux guides trotting 2 paces behind us trying to get our custom. "You go waterfall". We refused and had a couple of ginger nut breaks by the side of the river and took numerous photos of the increasingly dramatic landscape. Suddenly the hassle all disappeared and we were alone to explore the incredible atlas. We walked off an on for an hour, scaling up a good 2 thirds of a mountain and sitting like crows surveying the almost human-less scene. After a good while taking photos and admiring the landscape we descended back down to the village, immediately got hassled by people and especially by a one man in particular. This is where it all goes wrong. We had parked on the road next to the river tucked away from the hub of activity. When we came back there were many more cars around us and as we got into the car we were hassled for a few dirham for some reason even though it was clearly not his car park. He banged on the window and demanded money but fed up of the Moroccans' incessant hassling I put my foot to the floor and the old man picked up a rock in anger and threw it at our car with a loud bang. We checked that there was no damage but it left us in a rage about how we couldn't do anything in the tourist destinations without being asked for money for something, a photo, a bit of tourist info, a direction or a helping hand manoeuvring around parked cars. We had only just calmed down on the road heading south where a white van approached us heading north and instead of slowing down for the narrow road like I did, he continued at full speed and clipped the wing mirror. I stopped to have a look, there was a scrape along the side of the car and the wing mirror was pushed in. He got out of his vehicle too and he approached us but instead of apologising he was clearly cursing in Arabic and started running towards the car. Tim shouted "go go go" and again I floored the pedal and we got another rock thrown at our car. After about 5 minutes we'd calmed down and started laughing when I saw in my mirror a white Citroen Berlingo hurtling towards us. I just kept on driving but he overtook us and slammed on his breaks, forcing us to stop. He got out of the car, opened my door and had a huge go at me for driving off. "What is your problem". I told him to calm down and tried to articulate to him that it was up to him to stop as well if the road was narrow. He got more infuriated and stopped me closing the door. I put the key out of the ignition as he tried to grab it and put in safely in my pocket. He got on his phone to god know who but it sounded menacing. I went and had a look at his car and in fairness there was more than just a scratch, it was an obvious dent. I stood up and told him to calm down and shook his hand. Suddenly he calmed down. With encouragement from Tim I apologised and shook his hand again. I think I must've done this a few times until he eventually let me close the door and let me on his way. (Cue the hysterical mums' reactions) Shocked, we just kept going slowly down the road. I was trying to juggle the two options: being killed falling off a cliff or being killed hitting another car full on in the middle of the road. We slowly meandered our way down, dodging the horrific driving not just by Moroccans but my French and Italian drivers too. The flat, souless plain couldn't come soon enough as the road opened up and we glided towards the big city. A wrong turn in the outskirts (to our pleasure) led us to an out of town shopping centre with a Carrefour. We bought snacks and even a beer to reward ourselves: a rare sight in a country 98% of whose population are muslims. We again parked on the road, not even outside Carrefour but when we returned to the car a man in a jacked was waiting for us. I got in the car and tried to turn out but he stood in front of the car, having done absolutely nothing, not even having made eye contact so Tim came to the rescue and shoved some small change in his hand. After calming myself down...again, we tried to get back on the main road but we failed miserably, almost ending up in the old city and going round in circles. Eventually we found the way into the city but it lead us through the main square, the equivalent of Paris's place du Concorde. Somehow we managed to navigate our way across the 8 lane boulevard and park up safely outside our car hire place. We waited for a while for someone to appear after phoning him from a phone box but we managed and the guy seemed more worried about a crack in our windscreen than anything else. Somehow after our manic day he handed me a blank deposit slip which meant that we were free to go. I gave Tim a huge relieved hug and we headed to get a bus (a very crowded one at that) back to town. The main square was the most manic we had ever seen it. 30 minutes before sunset on a bright winter saturday it was teeming with life but all we wanted was our beer. We were greeted well at our hostel, had a pastry and chatted to some travellers before opening our Casablancas on the rooftop to slowly see the sky turn blue. When it got too cold we headed into our room and by 8pm Tim was snoring his head off while I researched the weather to see if we would get home tomorrow. A brief chat at 9 was the end of our fantastically dramatic day. Definitely hoping for an event free day tomorrow.
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