Horse riding, fish market and a punch up

Trip Start Jun 12, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I’d always had this romantic notion of riding a horse along a deserted beach with the wind blowing through my hair – well it sure was windy, but it wasn’t quite as romantic in reality due to having an extremely sore bum!! I won’t sit down for a week I reckon!! Yep, another dream was realised today.

At breakfast we mentioned to the owner of the riad we are staying in that we wanted to go horse riding – he says that he has a friend who could take us horse riding – that’s good enough for us, so we ask him to ring his friend who offers to pick us up from the riad at 10:30. He’s bang on time and we follow him through town to where he has parked his van and he drives us out to his ranch. The horses are in good condition and obviously looked after really well, so I’m happy with the situation. The horses get saddled up, we’re given hard hats (just in case) and then we get up on horseback! My horse – Sahara – was a bit temperamental and in truth he actually frightened me a bit by shaking his head around and flicking his tail about – he seemed agitated and I think he sensed that I was a bit nervous of him, so he took full advantage of that – which meant that I ended up being led round, which wasn’t quite the same.

Johnboy on the other hand was a complete natural – he looked decidedly unsure when – after two minutes of telling him how to work the reigns – he’s left to his own devices. We file out of the ranch and into the sand dunes – its not long before John looks completely natural and like he’s been doing it for years, he wasn’t brave enough to go any faster than a walk on his horse (Nassib), but I felt really pleased for him cause every time I looked at him he was grinning from ear to ear!! Alex is already an accomplished rider and has been for many years so she was able to canter along the beach and through the waves with her horse – totally awesome, I want to do that some day – I AM going to do that some day! I was having a fantastic time, but part of me was extremely disappointed at having to be led. It was amazing riding along that beach – really beautiful, hard on the legs and bottom, but breathtaking just the same. We make our way back through the sand dunes to the ranch – the entire time we are riding around we are followed by a baby donkey, apparently his mum died 6 months ago and he doesn’t seem to realise he is a donkey, he thinks he is a horse and keeps trying to get milk from the horses, which would be a miracle if he actually got any as all the horses are male!!!!

This is actually the start of something for me and John, it has sparked an interest in both of us – we are going to arrange some lessons when we get home. Next time I want to be able to just get on a horse and canter wild and free along the beach like that – awesome!!

We get dropped off back in town and go to meet Yassir – he’s coming for lunch with us. The fishermen get back in around this time with their daily catch – some of which is sold in a handful of fish restaurants down by the harbour. We have other plans, we go to the local fish market which is in the centre of the Medina where locals purchase their fish and then take it to a small kitchen behind the fish stalls – where your freshly bought seafood is placed on a bbq and a few minutes later its in front of you on the table ready to eat.

Anyone who knows me well, will know that I don’t eat any kind of fish or seafood (except fish fingers – which don’t really count as fish, lets face it) – its been the longest psychological battle in my mind over food and I’ve no idea where it came from, I just have never been able to eat it. I mean seriously, I’ve tried really hard to eat a prawn before and as soon as I get it in my mouth I’m gagging, no idea why, but I have actually given up trying. Of course I’ve no intention of stopping John getting the meal of his life, so I just figure I’ll get something later. Yassir gets the fish for us, Sardines, prawns, sole and some other fish that the name couldn’t be translated for – at an absolute bargain price and then we retreat into the small kitchen seating area to wait for it to be cooked. Yassir orders me some chips and a Moroccan salad. The atmosphere in there is superb – and I love every second.

Their selection arrives cooked and ready to eat. They all get tucked in and I really, really wanted to join them, I just can’t find it in me. Then Yassir breaks off a small bit of sole and hands it to me “come on” he says “eat it, it can’t kill you” – 40 years I’m talking about, 40 years I tell you - of not eating fish and somehow it was washed away in an instant – no idea why, but I just pick it up and start eating it. Before I know it Yassir has then placed a sardine in front of me and I just start eating it – next a prawn and I honestly thought that would be where it ended, but no, I pick it up, shell it and down it goes!!! Before I know it I’m chomping away on all of it – several prawns later and John is looking at me in total and utter surprise, it amuses him, he says he never thought he’d see the day – well, me neither – I have to say it, I even shocked myself!!! This is what I love about travel – you are in unusual surroundings, embracing different cultures and it just felt wrong to refuse it – who would’ve known it, that it would take a trip to North Africa to cure my phobia about eating fish!

The price for the meal was amazing – we had to buy the fish and then pay a small amount to have it cooked, but to feed the four of us with more fish and prawns than you could want, a salad each, chips each, bread, a big bottle of water and a couple of cokes it was less than 10 between us.

John has never ridden a camel before – so after lunch we make our way back to the beach and take a camel ride for half an hour. Half an hour is more than enough – I don’t think it helped that we were sore from the horse riding earlier, but it was most, most agonizing. I really did laugh – John was on a camel behind me and all I could hear were mutterings from him about “my legs were never meant to stretch this wide” and grunts and groans with every lollop of the camel – they are quite ungainly creatures and John was feeling every footstep. It was a whole new level of uncomfortable for him and I could do nothing for laughing! I think we were both glad when it came to an end.

We wander back into town and decide that we are going to go and get a crepe. I have a banana and chocolate one. Alex realised earlier that she had lost her phone somewhere on the beach when we went horse riding, we all thought that she’d never see it again. By complete luck, my phone had been left on since we first arrived in Morocco and it started ringing – someone had found Alex’s phone – looked at the last person she sent a text message to, which happened to be me and rang my phone to tell Alex her phone had been found and to come and get it from the horse ranch. Alex goes off to go and get her phone and its such a chilled out and relaxed cafe that me and John decide to stay there and wait for her – so we order ……… mint tea!!!

We’re catching the 6:45pm bus back to Marrakech, so when Alex returns we have just enough time to go round saying goodbye to everyone, collect our luggage from the riad and walk to the bus stop.

We arrive back in Marrakech around 10pm – and are greeted by the usual crowd hassling you to offer you taxi services. We could barely get off the bus for people thrusting things at us and shouting for our attention. John is trying to get our bag and he engages in conversation with one of the taxi drivers, for some reason one of the other taxi drivers seems to think that John is his cusomter and takes exception to the other driver talking to John and suddenly the two drivers start throwing punches at each other – serious fighting and then a few of the other drivers standing around see this as an opportunity to join in, so before we know it we’re in the middle of a taxi driver fight!! It eventually gets split up and we jump in a taxi and go to the main square. The riad we are staying in this time is within the souks themselves, its around 11pm by the time we find it. This riad was my least favourite of all, it really needed some TLC, it was quite run down. The owner recommends a nearby restaurant and then gets offended when Alex asked if it was run by a friend or family – she meant no harm, she was just interested, maybe he was in a bad mood, I don’t know, but he says no I am taking you there because the food is good – however when we get there he walks straight past everyone and shows us to a table, so we thought he probably did know them there after all. Anyway, the food in there was good – another tagine for me!!

We go back to the riad and say our goodbyes to Alex as she has to be up at 6 in the morning to catch her flight and our flight is not until tomorrow night. We’ve had great fun together, it really has been excellent. Alex has similar interests to us and likes to travel and experience things in the same way as us, so it has worked out perfectly. Bon voyage Alex.

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