A Travellerspoint blog

Day 2: In the Desert

Dates, Donkeys and Beer

sunny 20 °C

We were up before the brink of dawn so we could haul our bruised butts back onto the camels (despite looking cool, not so comfy, especially if your frame is exposed) and got to a new sand dune to watch the sun come up.
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We were happy to get off (few close calls from flying off the front) safely and enter the hotel where a big buffet brunch was served. We loaded up on big flat pancake bread, cheeses, black olives, yoghurt, fruit and of course mint tea with lots of sugar (this is also called Moroccan Rum as it's drunk so frequently). Once we were done we were whisked away in our van and a long drive ensued. Luckily Anas had pity on our sore bums and stopped on the side of the road at a large date vendor. He had at least 5 different kinds (30 in total!) of dates and let us try his goat milk (very strong). We bought a bag and were off, through beautiful, yet lonely looking Berber towns. Some coloured like the sunsets, others rocky and crumbling.
We finally stopped at the Dades Gorge. Long and deep it winds along a river and a few restaurants cover its sides...a few had recently shut down after a boulder crushed its roof...A few people got hurt...Chelsea decided to ride a donkey for fun as we walked along the river and tried to avoid salesmen.

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We had lunch across from an old Kasbah (fortress/citadel) Taourirt, in Ouarzazate *Arabic or Warzazat *Berber: local bread with brouchettes and more tagine. Then we drove out to check out the famous Atlas Studios, split in the old and newer studios. We got up the gates but couldn't be bothered to pay the fee to wander around and look at dusty props. So we asked if we could try some Moroccan beer and Anas found a liquor store. NOT a good thing to buy all the time as alcohol is EXPENSIVE in a country that is about 99% Muslim. We tried a few kinds, all made in Casablanca, and settled in our hotel. It was quiet nice, with a pool and big rooms. They even brought us cookies before dinner! Another tagine with a big pile of fruit for desert...so hard to finish it all!

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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 22:41 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

A Moroccan Road Trip: The Atlas Mountains

Here we go again!

sunny

Time for another roadtrip! Chelsea and Renee had arrived in Fes and we gave them 1 day to explore before we were picked up early in the morning by Jade Tours. We lucked out with a friendly, young and English speaker driver called Anas (so many tours we had heard of, the driver barely spoke english and wasn't too social). We had booked a private tour through the Atlas Mountains, in and out of the desert for 2 nights/3 days and to be dropped off in Marrakech....if all went well!

Our first day was packed with stops. We had barely gotten out of the city when we stopped at Inke, a small lakeside location...we were way more excited to meet the local chickens and dogs! Next, we stopped at the funny Swiss-influenced town of Ifrane. It actually gets snow here and we passed the HUGE property of one of the largest private schools and we got to stretch our legs where a giant Lion adorns the local gardens set up for the swanky upper class that lives there.
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The best mini stop was next...the Monkey Jungle! We tried stopping randomly along the road where Anas had seen them before. No luck. So we drove further to where everyone stopped for the monkeys and therefore the monkeys stopped there for the human treats. They are a species called Barbary macaque, unique for its distribution outside of Asia. We had saved some cucumber and it became the perfect snack for these little monkeys...a small, cheeky one even climbed up Ariel to grab it! (Sorry, no photographic evidence)
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Our next stop was lunch at a gas station. It was a huge place to eat and served us some delicious tagine.
We neared some viewpoints where we were allowed to get out for better photos of the Atlas Mountains...jagged and steep. As we neared the desert we stopped again near a beautiful gorge filled with an oasis of palm trees amongst the growing desert. We picked up water and new scarfs to protect our faces from the sand and potential sand storms. The owner even tried teaching us how to wrap our heads up properly...not an easy feat!
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Finally we were near and we started seeing the ==Sahara Desert==! It covers 3.6 million square miles, covering parts of 11 African countries and overall takes up 8% of the world land area! It was beautiful in the evening light, and there was even a black desert on one side of us as we drove in. The colours were especially astounding...how could there be so many??
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We passed Erfoud and got dropped off at the Desert hotel, where Anas could rest, and we jumped on some camels with our new British friends Rich and Jill. Ariel got a grumpy-puss called Jimmy Hendrix; he had bit another camel recently so as punishment his mouth was tied up and put at the back of the caravan. We made tracks for about 30min before they stopped us for the sunset finale. We had just enough time to run up a giant erg, or sand dune...we took some time jumping off it and filling our clothes with sand, then we had to be off again. We had neared our camp for the night when our camels became loose! Well the last 3...with Renee, Chelsea and Ariel...apparently when this happens the camels just stop...thankfully they have no desire to run into the void.
Once safely in camp...it was built on tents, carpets and a few large lamps...we wandered around and wondered when dinner was...we were hungry! A rice with salad finally appeared when a few more groups gathered and we devoured it assuming this was the whole meal...but no! Tagine was next...I don't think we could ever tire of this meal. The evening continued around the fire where the young boys who guided the camels and wrapped up in metre long scarves sang and played Berber instruments for us. Later they tried teaching different drumming techniques...only some could pick up the basics! They also got people to tell jokes, and shared a few themselves (not all translated well). We ended the evening on top another erg watching the immense array of stars.
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 21:34 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Day Trip: Chefchaouen

The BLUE city

overcast

One day we took a day trip to the blue city of Chefchaouen. The most popular background of the obsession of blue might be because of the religious connotation to the Jewish refugees that it represents sky and heaven; they were fleeing from Spain in the 1930's. However others say it also detracts mosquitos!

The clunky bus took about 4hrs and we finally got to view the many different blue hues of the city. We walked around the old Medina mostly because that is where EVERYTHING was blue and beautiful. The locals were much more relaxed and less shops were eager to call you in (maybe because of the huge marijuana farms we heard were tucked into the surrounding mountains).
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We were eyeing some carpets when the owner of one ,who had amazing english, wrangled us inside and after looking at dozens of coloured camel, cactus and baby camel carpets we decided on a small, backpacker-sized cactus one. We knew we would probably be convinced into buying one eventually (they are all so beautiful!) but at least we got one that doesn't light on fire because we chose a cactus one!
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We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring and found a nice view point across the valley. We ended our trip by eating some some delicious local tagine (big pottery dish stuffed with variety of meat and veg cooked on wood fire with many spices eaten with bread sans cutlery), then back on the bus to Fes!
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 20:15 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

MOROCCO: A New Continent to Explore!

Acclimatizing starts in Fes

sunny 23 °C

AFRICA! WE ARE IN AFRICAAAAA!

We landed and passed through customs in the warm night of Fes. The small airport was quiet at midnight with only eager families and taxi drivers looking for some lost souls like us. We successfully got out our new money, Moroccan dirham, out of the one ATM and Ariel tried to barter with the taxi drivers who wouldn't budge on a set price to get us to the old Medina and our hostel. We had no other options so we got in and our driver ZOOMED on the road. We soon learned that most cars in Morocco do not provide seat belts and bags are thrown on the tops of precariously low bared roofs of the local red taxis, or petit taxis. We tried out our meagre french on our driver and halfway there he received a phone call from his brother, another driver at the airport. Apparently he wanted to talk to us, and Ariel spoke to him on the phone about having a local guide and offering us a place to stay. We knew better than to jump into any immediate invitations and avoided insulting his kindness by taking down his number.

Driving into the city we saw no one. The city was dead and we thought, surely there must be some sign of life! When our driver got close to our hostel he asked the few locals that appeared out of the small allies. We were walked to our hostels door by a few young boys who were energetically welcoming us and inviting us to eat at the restaurant their mother cooked at. Again we were suspicious and said we would maybe come out later...our suspicions were confirmed when the hostel host informed us that these boys made money by bringing tourists to eat and charge a guided fee on top of the over priced food...this seemed to be a common theme of Morocco which could not be blamed but on the inability for tourists to understand the language (which is Arabic and Berber and unofficially French) or the entrepreneurs of the developing world. We found of room packed with Belgian’s and realized that everyone was used to a much earlier bed time than the hours we were accustomed to in Southern Europe so we quickly were in bed.

We spent 3 full days in Fes exploring the old Medina (marketplace) and outlying buildings and parks. The Medina in Fes is a crazy place with a neighbourhood for each distinct craft. Nowadays there are less artisans of each trade but it is amazing to walk past a shop wide open to the public while a dress is made or a pot is hammered. Trying to window shop is nearly impossible however without being eagerly welcomed into a shop or asked for “good luck of first costumer”. Sales and bartering is very aggressive in Morocco so you have to learn how to politely say “no” very quickly.
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Our first day we spent the longest wandering around and just soaking everything in. We got a bit of a breather on the far side of the markets where we found our favourite neighbourhood which was the metalworkers. Loud musical banging of indistinct sheets of metal to beautiful cookery or tools were being made in a square and we wished we had room for a shiny new teapot or pan.
We were also eager to find the famous tanneries of Fes and we finally let a young local boy lead the way through the labyrinth of streets and alleyways...sometimes having to avoid a donkey or two. The stench of pigeon poop and chemicals greet you when you get to the tanneries but a fresh basket of mint is never far to counter the stench. We were lucky to see the dozens of coloured skins laid out and people at work (just next week they would be emptied and the King came to bless the next batch). Our young guide was keen to show us a spice shop and despite telling us how he was doing this out of brotherly love etc he still asked for a tip before we could lose him. Luckily we were not mugged by his friend that followed us when we gave him just a small donation that his was visibly displeased about...
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That evening we ventured outside the walls of the Medina and up the surrounding hills to an abandoned cemetery and french military tower. Many locals would come here to view the sunset. We had noticed earlier how few tourists were in Fes and we soon got the attention of a group of boys. The most boisterous one tried very hard to first get something for free then for Ariel to kiss his youngest amigo. They were quiet funny but were persistent in languages we did not understand so eventually they were shooed off by older boys.
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There was a huge marketplace for food (1-3 stray cats per owner) and we were able to cook at our hostel a few minutes away. We were a huge disappointment to the restaurants that were on the way as they tried every day to get us to eat there instead.

To get out of the crazy dusty chaos we spent a few days exploring outside the Old Medina. One day we found a nice school for cultural trades. We also read in a smaller park and found the Jewish Market. We got a lot of stares wandering around and tried aimlessly exploring back streets but you get offered by other “helpers” so often and without proper maps of the winding streets we didn't get far. The largest park, Kings Park was finally open one day (who knows why it was closed) and was filled with shade and ponds. Locals flocked to this park and it quickly filled up as we read and snacked on the local bread and skewered meat with veg.
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 19:53 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

Barcelona Pt. 2

We're Back!

We were back! But only for a few days before our flight to Morocco. We weren't keen to spend much money so we spent the a day walking along soaking in Gaudi's buildings again and attending to different tasks. One was to figure out if my camera still worked; answer was NO because its design was discontinued.

Another was mailing the guitar back to our first workaway couple. We helped as Kev had to saran-wrap the whole thing in order to ship it south, but at least they took instruments...we really hope it arrived in one piece. The last day was sunny and we enjoyed the beach and a few more drinks with our travel buddies before parting ways...it would not be for long though as we planned to meet up again in Morocco! It was time for a change, and to get out of Europe! We caught the airport shuttle bus and arrived with so much free time that we found an empty waiting room and threw our frisbee around :D The flight to Fes should have only taken us a few hours but there was a medical emergency right before take off and we were stuck on the tarmac for 2 extra hours...people go a little stir crazy when they are stuck in a metal tube for too long...

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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 19:50 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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