Morocco - days 2 to 8
Trip Start May 23, 2008
54Trip End Ongoing
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Sunday 3rd August - Chefchaouen
Our first day was pretty cruisy. We met at 8am and got to know the truck, then set off. We stopped for morning tea in a cafe and had our first experience of 'moroccan whisky' - green tea with stalks of fresh mint in it. And about half a truckload of sugar. as im not a mint person i didnt take to it too well, and the sweetness factor sent me right over the edge. This was my first and last time that i touched the stuff. i just couldnt stomach it. Though most people liked it.
We got to the first campsite a little after lunchtime, and buddied up with Jess (the girl i met in Tarifa) and after a quick demo by Tim, we set about setting up our dwelling for the evening
In the avo we got a local guide to take us down into the township of Chefchaouen, which is a moderate sized village situated up in the Rif Mountains, surrounded by jagged rocky peaks. He told us a little of the history of the area, and showed us around the maze like cobblestone streets, and blue and white-washed walls of the buildings. We visited an authentic blanket and rug store, where you could watch the guy handmaking the blankets on a huge manual loom. We were shown heaps of blankets and rugs in different patterns and sizes, while sipping on mint tea or coke, and eating handmade biscuits. A couple of people bought some stuff, but i had no money and wasnt keen to buy up on the first day without checking out the prices. There prices are fixed as well, so the fun of bargaining with them is also missed out on
Monday 4th + Tuesday 5th - Fes
We had a fairly long day of driving, and the changing countryside was amazing. Always dry and brown, but i have never seen such a variety of shades and textures in my life. And then out of knowhere, huge bright blue lakes. It was breathtaking.
We stopped to admire another of the locations that the Romans seeked to conquor, the ancient village of Volubilis. We had a tour around but after seeing so many ruins, i wasnt so impressed. I think that once you have seen one you have seen them all. Its not that i dont think they are amazing, but i think they are all blending together and mashing up in my head. And it was hot. And i couldnt stop thinking about lunch. It was fun.
we got into Fes and the campsite a little after 6pm, and set up in the only spot that would fit the group - which involved surrounding this tiny little 1 man dome tent with 10 huge tents filled with girls (and a couple of guys of course)
Tuesday we had another local guide show us around Fes. We visited the beautiful golden gates to the palace, headed up one of the nearby hills for a panoramic view of the city, visited a traditional handmade pottery and mosaic factory, visited the stinky tanneries where they change animal skins into leather and colour them in huge pits filled with natural dye (we were given sprigs of mint to hold to our noses as we visited here, as the smell is overwhelmingly bad, but the sight really impressive. check out the photos), wandered the labrynth of souks (markets), visited a rug shop and a pharmacy where we got to sample natural products, perfumes and medicines.
By the end of the day we were exhausted but we headed back into camp and about half of the group got ready for an optional evening out at a traditional restaurant where we stuffed ourselves with 5 courses, while being entertained by musicians, magicians, belly dancers, drama performers and drummers
Wednesday 6th - Sahara Desert
After our big night out we had to be up at 5am as we had a huge day of driving ahead of us. It was 54 degrees at 4pm and spending most of the day on the truck we got very restless - but the last part was a killer, the roads were so bad that it took us over an hour to drive 12km into the area where we would start our camel trek. This resulted in a great game of ´celebrity heads´ which continued for a few rounds until we saw the looming sand dunes appearing almost out of knowhere in the distance, and our attention was quickly diverted to the sight of them drawing closer and closer
Our camel trek lasted just over an hour and i was quite glad to be getting down by the time we reached the traditional berber camp. As were most of the girls. The ride hadnt been the most pleasant, as the wind had picked up and we were pretty much all covered in sand. I had to hastily wrap my scarf around my face and head and put a pair of sunnies on to stop the sand getting into my eyes and mouth. I looked like a traditional berber... well sort of. I now refer to the look as ´slit vision´as the only part of your face exposed is a tiny slit for your eyes. and even thats covered up by the sunnies. i forgot to take a photo, i would have looked pretty funny, but it wasnt the most pleasurable experience needless to say. Not to mention the jolting action of good old Beryl as he lumbered across the sand, its definately not as comfortable as riding a horse thats for sure.
We arrived into the traditional berber camp just as the sun was setting, and the group decided that we needed to attempt sand-boarding before we were left completely in the dark. The berbers had brought with them 2 snowboards which we carried to the top of one dune. By the time we got to the top only a few people got a go as it was almost completely dark by that time and there is no electricity so no lights. We decided to go back while we could still see as it wouldnt be a very pleasant night stuck by youself in the dark in the sahara. or maybe it would have been refreshing! But i was hungry so i took the first option
The camp was made up of a u-shape tent made out of big thick brightly patterned blankets tied off with ropes. The open area in the centre was also covered in blankets, and then matteresses laid on top. we sat cross legged around some low round tables and talked while the berbers made us our dinner, and then later on they played us their drums and we sat under the stars and tried to drink in the atmosphere. The wind also disapeared and we spent the night sleeping under stars. It was an incredibly surreal moment in time, and one of the best things i have ever done in my life. The desert was so quiet and the sky so clear. i felt like the world had stopped. It was an unexplainable experience.
Thursday 7th and Friday 8th - Todra Gorge
We woke early and continued our amazing experience by watching the sun rise, and we all sat in silence on the top of the dunes trying to drink in every moment. The colors of the sand and the sky seemed to continually change and it was mesmerising. i felt the biggest sense of calmness wash over me. I could have sat there for hours. The tones and the textures of the world around me were so amplified and you couldnt help but be in utter amazement.
We packed up our belongings and rode back out at about 7am, this time there was no wind and all around us was complete and utter silence. I felt like we were trekking out of a fairytale world and back into real life. Although highly animated by the continuing rotation of the song 'arabian nights' from Aladdin in my head, followed by 'Alice the camel' (alice the camel has 5 humps..
We stopped off at yet another rug store, where i was hastled for at least 30 minutes by some of the sellers after i simply enquired on the price of one of the pieces, which turned out to be about 500 euro and way out of my price range. I ended up having to climb back up into the truck to escape them, as they wouldnt take no for an answer and kept demanding that i tell them my highest price that i would pay. persistant little buggers!
as we hadnt been able to have showers out in the desert so we stopped at a very nice hotel where they hired out rooms so we could tidy ourselves up and even got the chance to have a swim in their pool. It was nice to spend a couple of hours in air conditioned comfort after the heat of the desert. The rooms were beautiful, mud and straw rendered walls, huge 4 poster bed with billowy white curtains and lots of bright cushions, and a cozy little bathroom. I think we were all a little sad to leave, but the drive into the gorge was impressive enough to wipe that feeling straight away
Friday i had planned to do a traditional cooking course with some of the other group members at a hotel nearby, but when i got there i was overcome by nausea and fever and ended up spending the whole day with the other kate who also got sick, sleeping next to the hotels pool, missing out on what apparently was a fantastic meal. It was inevitable that at some stage of the tour i was going to get sick, when you come to places like Morocco, Egypt, India etc it tends to be a matter of where and when rather than if. Unfortunately the hygiene standards in these areas are less than great, but its impossible to determine what the cause is, it could be the water, dirty vegies, touching something, bad food handling, who really knows. but its definately not like anything you will ever get back home. i had the worst stomach cramps, i literally thought i was about to give birth it was so painful. and i pissed out my arse for days. The only thing that you can do is drink plenty of water, and let it clear out of your system. Needless to say it wasnt the best experience of the trip. But part of the experience none the less.