Tangier to Agadir, Morocco
The first 14,700 kilometers ( 9,200 miles ) of our Odyssey have been great but in reality they were just practice for what lies ahead of us, NOW. The following report introduces you to a far different look and feeling than we’ve experienced up until now. Though Morocco is more European than any other African Country there is a clear and instant difference. Food, accommodations and religion to name just a few. Yes, this is a Muslim Kingdom and we have a lot to learn about Islam and Moroccans. Come along with us as we cycle to famous Casa Blanca. Ride the Marrakesh Express and see the unbelievable sights and sounds encountered there. This land is Desert and the distance between towns increases as we move south. The Desert land runs to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and we can see both at the same time. The people wave, clap and cheer for us as we pass. If you can’t take a trip to Morocco yourself we hope you’ll get a taste of it here!
Tangier to Asilah
September 3, 2003
Awake at the crack of dawn, we are pretty excited about getting on the road. Yesterdays sojourn into the streets seems to have given us a feeling of confidence. By the way, due to the time change here the sun peeks over the horizon at 6:00 AM instead 8:00 like we lived with in Spain. Breakfast with a businessman who spoke English but not to us. He had his briefcase and suitcase, ate and exited. A group of Moroccan businessmen laughed and talked among themselves. The elder Frenchman who lives here came in and saluted us. He stood and wished us Bon Voyage as we left.
Abdul #1 helped us see the streets we need to take on the map. I told him we would always remember the kind man in Tangier and asked that he remember the crazy cyclists from California. We were on the bikes and in the morning traffic by 8:00 AM.
It was a gentle climb in the city streets then a stiff climb as we got into the suburbs. We stopped to ask direction. The Policeman spoke to me in French, I got some of it and wished that Cat had come to talk with him. I knew what he meant when he pointed p the steep hill and said, “Tres dificile.” He wasn’t wrong! We had to push almost half of the distance. As we neared what we thought was the summit we came upon a white wall and lots of red flags with the green star. Moroccan Soldiers were walking sentry posts and there was a contingent of great looking uniforms in front of the gate.
We had just ridden past the military when a small silver car passed and honked. It pulled over a ways ahead and a guy in a Jellaba jumped out then a gal in a red caftan popped out of the passenger side. It was Ali and Margaret, the couple we met yesterday at lunch. What a wonderful co-incidence! They were as excited to see us as we were to see them, again. We asked if the place with the Soldiers was the Governors home and Ali nodded, yes. Later, in conversation, further away from the soldiers he whispered that it was the Tangier home of King Mohammed IV. He said something about being careful because of security for the King.
Ali thought that we had done most of the up and should start down, soon. We talked about maybe seeing them at a café at Cap Spartel. They rolled on and we rolled up, and up, and up. The roadside went from homes to grand homes to trees, then pine trees. Very near what would finally be the top we saw our first Camels. Of course we stopped and gawked then Cat got a pic.
Where the Atlantic Meets the Mediterranean
Down toward a spectacular coastline then another up, off to the right, to Cap Spartel. The side trip, in fact the entire out of the way journey to see the Cap and beach were sort of a waste of energy. Okay, this is where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean but water is water? The lighthouse is just a so-so sight looking out toward the Atlantic. It has a cul de sac lined with tourist stalls and a restaurant. We took a quick pic then rolled around and back down. There were some young guys along the road trying to get us, the only tourists there, to take a ride or picture on their Donkeys. Two 10-12 year old boys approached us and held out a hand full of coins. We couldn’t figure out what they wanted, I held out my hand and one put his coins in it? They were asking for pens and what sounds like papiere but we don’t think that they are talking about paper? Strange?
The ride down coast was hilly and reminded us of Malibu and Santa Monica except for the lack of development. Maybe they looked like this back in 1935? The road circles back then joins P2, the highway heading south. We passed a resort and chose to move on. From that point we found no other restaurant or café open. In fact it was pretty rural.
At Highway P2 we took the turn then found an opening in the median and pushed across to a Service Station. More than just gasoline, they had a loose restaurant sort of operation with lamb carcasses hanging in one stall. Cat had a French conversation then told me we were having chicken sandwiches. When the food finally arrived it was hamburger balls that had been grilled on charcoals and a loaf of the flat bread. We chuckled and ate. A mangy white cat came begging. We resisted until we were full and there were still two pieces on the plate. Of course we shared with Cat’s friend, Le Chat.
Highway P2 is a heavily traveled road. Lots of truck and car traffic. We had some, albeit narrow at times, shoulder to ride most of the afternoon. At 3:00 PM we pulled into a Texaco Service Station and had Fanta Limonade. During the short break Cat studied the book and we tried to decide which hotel we would stay in. All of them range well inside budget. It was just a kilometer to town, we stopped and asked direction from a Mom and daughter who spoke French. We were on track.
Following signs we stopped at Hotel Azayla first. I walked into the lower area and could see the lobby above. A young guy seated out front slowly got up and tried to talk with me. He wasn’t friendly and never smiled. I think he was telling me that someone would come soon. I couldn’t see any obvious place to park the bikes. We talked it over and decided to move on. The guy watched as we remounted then went back to his sitting without comment?
An arrow sign pointed us toward Hotel Zelis, we pulled up, I went in. They had a room and place to store bikes. We were home for the evening.
As we toted the bags a gal stepped out of the room next to ours and spoke to us in English. Cara is from Holland, here to buy a vacation home. How can someone from Amsterdam find there way to Asilah? Her Father is Moroccan, Mom is Dutch. She lived here when she was a little girl. I suggested a drink or dinner at 7:00 PM but she is booked to see 7 homes tonight.
Cat showered up then walked to the market while I typed. Voila, she found a wine store and made a buy. That along with bread and water for only 50 Dirham. This place is going to be good for the budget.
Cara had told us about the great lobster at Casa Pepe. The restaurant is on the edge of The Medina (old city), which was lit up and looked beautiful and medieval. Casa Pepe looks clean, it is owned by Spaniards. When we asked about the Lobster the waiter tried to explain the cost but we didn’t get it. Finally it started to sink in that they charge by the kilo. He brought a huge Lobster to the table and quoted 650 Dirham. (Wow, that’s $65 US!) Of course we had to turn down the Lobster. We had dreamed of a dinner like we would have on the coast of Mexico where it would cost $10 for all the Lobster you can eat. The waiter then told us about something that tastes like Lobster and we thought he meant the cost would be 150 Ds. Well, it was a large, strange looking crustacean and the price again was in kilos so it would be 620 Dirham. We settled on the Fish Tajine and soup. He didn’t seem too pleased, maybe he was counting on the tip at 1200 Ds? In fact, he dumped us and a woman took over as our waitperson. The food was fair, the service just okay, we did like the gal better than the pushy fellow.
We walked down the darkened shopping street looking for the Internet Café. Open stalls and lots of locals buying and selling staples and impulse items. Though a bit eerie in the lower light we didn’t feel self conscious of nervous. Those who did acknowledge us were friendly. The Internet Shop was primitive and sort of tucked in between a food and hardware shops. The system is slow and required persistence but we were able to receive and send family messages.
Cat kept saying it was like being in a movie or on a movie set. Donkey and horse carts, noisy little Mopeds and the smoke they spew combined with the smells of spices and food being cooked. Was it an old black and white movie or a Technicolor dream?
September 4, 2003
Asilah to Moulay Bousselham
90 + Kilometers
Up early and down for breakfast, we’re the only guests, at least the only ones up at this hour. Fresh squeezed OJ, baguette, rolls and a flaky crepe like thing they call Malwi. Our hope to meet Cara faded. She must have slept in after a tough night of shopping for her home.
Bikes loaded, we pushed out the door and into rain. Just a drizzle that cooled thing down, even put a chill on The Cat. We rolled into the surprisingly clean and uncluttered Medina. Most of the old buildings were whitewashed, some had murals and designs in brilliant colors.
As we entered the gate a young boy ran to us and after the usual string of requests for pens and Dirhams he just trotted along as we rode the tiny old streets. The walls of the Medina are thick and brown. They hide the beauty of the narrow ways that Assilah locals for have tread for centuries. The west wall is against the sea, you can hear the surf rolling and crashing against it. This is Morocco, this is fantastic.
Out the South Gate and we were back on the main street near the Internet Shop. The movie set aura of last night seemed a bit faded in the morning light. It was still a busy place. Donkey carts loaded with goods coming to market. Stalls full of useful items and people looking and buying. Life in a Moroccan village.
It was an uphill pull in car and cart traffic to the main Highway. It was 10:00 AM by the time we turned left and headed south. The countryside is farms, melons and squash. Small stands are manned by farmers, selling the fruits of their labor. It was all small hills and valleys but fairly easy riding.
People in the fields, especially the kids, whistle, wave and shout to us as we pass. The young kids want “stilos” (pens) and money. The teenagers sit under trees, cheer then ask for cigarettes. We began coughing and choking, to show our disdain for tobacco.
The Mad Melon Man
At the top of a small hill the road was lined with stacks of melons in stands. After a couple of pictures we started cycling past. A young guy ran out and offered us a small yellow melon. I tried to tell him that we didn’t have room to carry it. He turned angry and raised it as though to hit me. I grabbed at his hand and yelled at him. He backed off and an older, wiser guy came to our rescues. He took the melon and scolded the teenager then handed it to me. He even helped me get it secured under one of my baggage straps. We shook hands and rolled onward. When we stopped later Cat told me that the boy had grabbed her shoulder as we rode away. He sort of squeezed her then pushed as she pedaled off. She wasn’t concerned and felt that he was trying to be friendly. I wondered?
It’s hard to believe but there are Roman ruins here. Those guys really got around, I have seen Hadrian’s Wall in England so we had to have a picture of these rocks stacked so far south of there. A short way down the road we crossed a bridge and climbed into the town of Larache, lunch and a brief respite. Cat loves the look of the hilltop villages but hates the climb. She went into a Cafe while I parked then watched the bikes. Strange, she felt that the waiter didn’t want to talk with her? He did deliver Mint Tea and sandwiches as she had ordered. She paid the bill and he did get friendly, even talk with her, after she gave him a tip. When we exited we asked for direction. The two Policemen just stood and looked at us, either they didn’t understand or perhaps, just didn’t care?
Our map shows that we are going from a red, National Route to a more local, yellow road. Two more Police Officers had a bus stopped, we waited then asked again. They wre very friendly but the directions they gave seemed wrong. We followed them for a short way then doubled back and continued in our original direction.
More small farms then larger fields. The road that looks like it angles through the fields on our map actually zig zags and increases our mileage considerably. Work must have finished for the day as we were soon in a line of tractors pulling trailers filled with farm workers. Men and women glad to be finishing their day were smiling and seemed happy to see and then wave and cheer for us. Though it was nearing 5:00 PM, there were still lots of workers in the fields, perhaps waiting their turn in the trailers? Tough life but then, no matter where in the world you are, if you’re a farm worker you’re at the bottom of the earning chain and life isn’t easy.
Unsure, we stopped a car at a cross road and the driver pointed and indicated we should turn left then right at the next roadway. We thought it was about 5 kilometers but using hand signs and French he told us it would be 12. That didn’t boost spirits or help the fatigue we were feeling.
The road finally came to the dead end, cross road and more bad news. A young school boy told us that it was another 10 Km into town. We could see the Merdja Zerga (Blue Lagoon) straight ahead. It is home to thousands of migrant birds including Flamingoes in December and January but seemed limited to cattle and goats this time of year.
After a flat ride along the a tree lined road we came to another challenge. It was an uphill pull to town. A struggle at this late hour after having ridden 90 kilometers. When it did level out we were in front of Hotel le Lagoon with a view off toward the Lagoon. Our LP Guide Book had a B&B owned by a British Brother and Sister here in Moulay Bousselham. With thoughts of a great English Breakfast like the one we enjoyed in Gibraltar, we pressed onward.
The main street slopes down toward the beach. As we tried to figure out direction to Villa Nora a waiter came across the street and invited us to eat in his place. When we told him we were looking for Villa Nora he said it was closed but he had a house we could rent for the evening. Wanting more than one opinion we turned the corner and met a guy who spoke some English. He was so excited to talk with us that it was hard to get information out of him. “Yes, Villa Nora is open, it is this way, where do you come from? Do you like Morocco? Where are you going?” He was just full of questions then when we gave him our card he insisted on writing his address and phone number for us.
Finally free from Amed we stopped a cool looking young guy wearing sunglasses and a stocking cap and asked, again. He told us to go up the hill and continue, it is on the left. We hated the words uphill at this point in the day but pushed the pedals and pulled up the steep dirt road. When we stopped at a small store for a soft drink the cool dude caught up and pointed out the B&B.
The place seemed deserted, Cat called out then went inside the open front door. We were about to give up when Jeanne, the sister, appeared from downstairs. She did have a room. They were open but would close next week. Her brother, Alan, is ill and she is taking him home to England for treatment. We told her we were sorry about Alan but glad they were still here.
Another Brit appeared, Jason is here helping Jeanne as she prepares to move Alan back home. He is a drifter of sorts and has traveled extensively. We thought he was Alan and he looked pretty healthy until he introduced himself. He told us that Alan who is now 84 built the house in 1985. They live downstairs and have always rented the rooms above. I sat in the living room overlooking the beautiful Atlantic and chatted with him while Cat showered. He dug out a book about traveling in Morocco, written by a Brit, and suggested that I read it. (He doesn’t know what a slow reader I am!)
While I waited for the shower I walked out and talked with several teenaged boys. I was bare foot and when they saw my bleached feet they pointed, laughed and talked among themselves. I realized that their feet are brown, the same color as their legs. No wonder they were intrigued. A couple of guys in their late 20s came by and talked. Mehdi and Ilias live in Rabat. They offered their pone number and invited us to call if we need anything when we get there. Nice guys, Medhi is still studying and Ilias has just taken a job as an Accountant.
I showered up then opened the bottle of wine we brought along from Assilah. We sat on the veranda and watched a beautiful sunset. This is the life. Not wanting to walk back into the intense village, I asked Jeanne if we could cook some of our pasta in her kitchen? She was extremely hospitable, even offered extra pots and olive oil.
We unpacked the camping food while Jeanne started a pot of water to boil. She also sold us a bottle of Red Wine. The food was great the view breathtaking and the wine was fine, of course. What a terrific evening.
It took just moments for us to fall asleep once our heads hit the pillows. I did take time to read a little of the Moroccan book Jason had given us.
September 5, 2003
Moulay Bousselham to Kenitra
We woke up at 6:30 AM and tiptoed around in the bathrooms and packing so we wouldn’t awaken Jeanne or her brother Alan. When we finally went downstairs at 7:40 she was there and said that she had been since 5:30. Breakfast was not the English affair that we had developed a taste for. It was just another bread and coffee morning.
A health note, Cat now has the Moroccan two-step. She made 2 quick trips before breakfast and had a queasy stomach most of the morning. I seem to have put my bout behind me. (No pun intended.)
We got a photo with Jason and his cruiser bike then he led us into the village in a search for sunglasses and bananas. This is a resort area but the Marche is very basic, people sitting along the street selling everything from hardware to live chickens. I did find a pair of tortoise shell sort of wrap around glasses that look too cool but should do the job. The guy told me his price and I paid it. How can you argue with 40 Dirham, just $4.00 US?
It was 9:30 by the time we rolled away. The hill we struggled up last evening doesn’t seem to be as steep as we remembered it. It’s tree lined and we can see the lagoon but it doesn’t look too blue. We covered the 12 KM back to the main highway then headed down the road adjacent to it.
The road is fairly flat, a few little rolls. There are no towns or even stores or restaurants on the route. Though stops were missing there was no shortage of well wishers in the fields and along the roadside. The people look poor and dirty. Their job, cutting plowing etc. is a hard and dirty job. They, mostly women, sit on the ground pulling the vines up and putting peanuts in bags. Almost everything is done by hand or horse and donkey pulled wagons and plows. There are big tractors that must be just for the big jobs.
Bicycle traffic, I forgot to mention bicycle traffic. Twice we were challenged. Young guys who joined us, rode with us, tried to talk with us then sort of raced with us. One poor young guy had a bike that the pedals had gone away a long time ago. He was riding on the center metal axel of the pedals in flip flops. As he spurted past us his foot slipped and he came down on the pavement, hard. Then he regained his composure and cranked through the pain. When he came to his turnoff we got to see his brake system in action. He held his right foot on the back tire and pressed until it almost smoked. Whatever works, right?
The surface of the road ranges from decent to terrible. In some places it is just potholes but in others the potholes join each other and the surface is just rock and dirt. At times we have to swerve all the way to the left to stay on a narrow pave piece. Or, we just jump into the hoes and bump along until the paving resumes.
There was very little traffic today. They have two bus systems that move people up and down the road. Vans with curtains that people peek out of seem to run on regular routes. They are always packed as best we can tell. At one point we watched as they threw a huge bag of grain up on at least a dozen peoples legs. So they take freight as well as passengers. The others are Mercedes 4 door sedans. They fly up and down the road dodging potholes but always give us a wide berth and honk their horns lightly as they approach. They pick up anyone along the road that waves them down. They’re packed full, usually carrying 6 people. Two jam into the seat next to the driver and four across in the back. Most of the people here are small and that is good for the Taxi Drivers.
Today the little kids, age 4-10 were pretty aggressive. They whistle and yell then run out toward us. They hold out their hands asking for money we think. Abdul also told us that they ask for pens and papers. When we just wave and say, “Bonjour,” they began to taunt even chase after us. We had finished a bottle of Gator Aide and the empty was on Cat’s back bag. One of the little beggars grabbed it and knocked it off. They also pushed her a time or two so we began moving her ahead and I take the rear as we pass the packs of little grabbers. The teenage group sit or stand along the roadside and call out for cigarettes. We always yell back, “No Fumar,” or, “Pas de Fume” then cough and choke. Some think it’s funny others make sign language gestures. Most are quite disarmed when we just say, “Bonjour.”
Because we’re adjacent to the Paege, Pay Highway, we can see a Service Station with a restaurant. We stopped and contemplated how we would get the bikes across the soft dirt field and up the steep back then over the railing. We decided that it was too tough and moved on. Our hope for a store or restaurant faded as the gnawing feeling in our gut. We pulled up in the shade of trees that look like eucalyptus but don’t smell like them. We’ve seen people raking up the dry leaves and putting them in plastic bags? The best thing about this grove is that there are no people here. In fact we stood, drank our Gator Aide and ate the baguette Cat bought while I got sunglasses. We opened the Skippy Peanut Butter we’ve carried for more than a year and dipped. It hit the spot! I had to slip off behind a tree and squat. Yes, I did take tissue and was glad. I really needed it, a gooey mess!
The sun was high and hot when we were out in it but a sea breeze cooled us as we rode. Late in the afternoon the breeze whipped up a bit but all in all it was a good ride. We are both tired and weary from waving and calling out to folks along the road. Kenitra is an industrial town. Our first sighting was a twin stack electric generating station. Next we were greeted by smoke from the smoldering dump. Not a landfill but big piles of trash scattered across a huge open space. One of the worst visual blights here is plastic sheeting that has been used for fencing, has been beaten by the wind and dried in the hot sun. There are shreds of black, blue and clear plastic virtually everywhere. The smoke and acidic, toxic smell of burning garbage and plastic filled the street, the air and our lungs. Our eyes and chests burned as we pushed to escape the cloud of fumes.
We stopped twice and asked for Centre Ville. Nice drivers point and explain. Then when we did find Ave. Muhammad we had to ask twice and both times our guides were kind and took time to explain. We had chosen Hotel D’ Europe but saw Hotel Rotonde and pulled up. A guy wearing a badge and helping with parking asked what we were looking for, he had heard us talking. Ahmed had worked on the Military Base and learned English there. He was a great guy. He grabbed me by the arm and led me into Hotel Europe. The deal was good, 245 Dirham and they have CNN, Whoop De Doo, as Cat’s father, Earl would say. The problem became one of bicycle logistics. The bikes wouldn’t fit in the elevator and they had no space to store them. As much as I liked the room I decided to take a look at Rotonde.
Ahmed had been standing by, watching over Madam while I shopped Hotels. The other room wasn’t as nice, the price was 35 D higher and they had no Elevator. Back to plan A. Ahmed helped us lift the bikes over the high curb and into the mud that was the sidewalk. They are working, preparing to pour cement. The help at D’Europe had found a storage room on the first floor, that’s only up one flight of stairs. They volunteered to help get the bikes up. We had a deal! While was took the bags up in the elevator A guy walked up and spoke to me in English. Abdellah is one of the owners of the Hotel and wanted to make sure we were taken care. I told him we had only been there 5 minutes but so far, so good. He had lived in the US for more than 20 years and owned restaurants in Maryland and New York. He told the girl at the front desk to give us his home and cell phone number to call when we get to Rabat (where he lives) and said he would like to invite us, in fact send his car and driver to take us to his home for a tea.
A shower and CNN for Cat, typing for moi. Dinner in the restaurant, on the terrace overlooking the busy street. Food was just slightly better than so-so. The Moroccan Music starts at 10:00 PM. We were back in the room by 9:30. Neither of us is feeling that great and I just had another attack of the African Guff Guff! (When I was a young guy, anytime we had a hangover or the flu we called it the AFRICAN GUFF GUFF. I don’t know why but I do know why it came back to mind here, in Africa.)
September 6, 2003
African Guff Guff in Kenitra!
Diarrhea is one thing but in life throwing up is the one thing I dread most. I would hold the awful feeling, almost eat doo doo, if I could avoid it. This was one of those times when there was no choice. We lay in, listening to traffic and our stomachs rumble. Sick to the point of dizzy I had to leap out of bed to avoid soiling the sheets but as I landed on the porcelain (No toilet seat) I felt the surge and urge to purge. The bathroom is sick person friendly. The little sink is just in front of the seating place. I found my head hanging into the sink and while the backside went whoosh the upper end went RALFFF. Well at least it was a conservation of effort and energy. I don’t know what little demon got me, but it got me good! Laying back in bed I munched on antacids hoping for relief but there was none. I was doomed to an up and down, all night long kind of night. Shades of Hannover, Germany! My ups and downs pretty much kept Cat up, all night long, too. That and the light that shines into the room like a locomotive headlight every time one of our neighbors, without a user-friendly toilet of their own, had to use the communal.
I just lay in bed and drifted between fitful sleep, sweat and chills. Cat urged me to feel better, she wanted to move on but I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, Cat hated the idea of having to stay a day in this sort of nothing, industrial town. We lay in for a while then I had to give her the sad news, I wouldn’t dare get too far from the toilet.
Really a lost day for me. I just lay in bed, trying to rest and regain strength. I took some Imodium to plug the leak and it seems to be taking affect. Cat found an Internet site and bought water and bananas in the market. She confirmed that the place is pretty non-descript.
Breakfast was a struggle, Cat ordered toast. About half an hour later the waiter appeared with two full breakfasts. We accepted, I ate little but Cat was hungry. Sleep then soup in the room for lunch. Vegetable soup, pureed sludge to me but Cat liked it. More drowsing, sweat and chills then dinner in the room, chicken brochettes and rice. I did get some down but still only really wanted to lay in bed.
Truly a lost day for both of us. Cat worked on the journal into the evening hours, I just lay and drifted in and out. She surfed channels between CNN and EuroSport where the US Open Tennis Tournament was in full swing. In the semi-final Juan Carlos of Spain beat Andre Aggasi. We felt badly for Andre, age and treachery failed this time. Cat gave up after the loss and hit the bed at 10:30 PM. Amazing, after all day in bed I went to sleep and slept most of the night.
I did muster the strength to call Abdellah and get a recommendation for a Hotel in Rabat. He again insisted that we get together while we are in town.
Sunday September 7, 2003
Kenitra to Rabat
We both wanted to escape Kenitra. Down in the bar, we were the only customers at 7:30 AM. Omelets and toast, looked and smelled good but for me the taste for food is still missing. I ate to try to find strength. Cat and her pal, the cleaning lady, brought the bags down in the elevator while I got the bikes down the stairs. The lady is really taken by our adventure and introduced Cat to her teenaged son.
Loaded, we took tips to all the people who had helped us so much then rolled across the bumpy new cement where only mud existed two days ago and were off to Rabat. The street was choked with white smoke and the terrible smell of burning plastic. We rolled away as fast as we could to escape.
The street just a block away would be the National Highway. The National Highway was wide and smooth and flat. Traffic was light. Though I still felt pretty wobbly we made good time. Only one stop for soft drinks and toilet. The service station gave us our first experience in using Moroccan toilets. They were squatters and had no paper. They did have a faucet and bucket of water. We both had a slight relapse of diarrhea and carefully used our left hands to cleanse. Oh, we could have dug our tissue out but they did have a sink and soap so we went, and washed, Moroccan style.
We found the Hotel Majliss that Abdellah had recommended but it was on the Railroad tracks across from the Rabat Gare. We decided to seek another but after a fruitless search we came back and will be ever grateful that we did. The exterior was not the Hotel’s strong point. The lobby is all marble, the staff very nice and the price was only 680 Dirhams including breakfast.
Our room wasn’t ready so we went up to the Restaurant in the mezzanine. The food was good and we met a really interesting couple, Barry and Fatima. He is a Fulbright Professor, here for a year to teach. She is originally from the troubled area called Chechnya but they are Americans, from San Diego. There 15 month old son, Suliman (Julian) was tired from the trip and a little whiny so Barry took him to their room but Fatima stayed, anxious to talk. She told us about her life in Chechnya during Soviet times and how secure she felt. That was the cradle to the grave security that all Soviet citizens thought they had bought into when they won the revolution. She is intrigued with our adventure, we did enjoy the time.
Once in the room we unpacked, showered and I lay down for a while. Cat wanted to check out the neighborhood so we walked, looking for Mama’s, an Italian Restaurant and an Internet place. Not finding either we decided to return to Majliss and the mezzanine Restaurant. On the way back we stopped a couple to ask directions and got a real surprise. Abdel is definitely a local but his wife, Larita, who was dressed like a local, was anything but. She asked where we were from then really blew us away. She is a Texas gal, she works for Wal-Mart and is headed back to be there for the Holiday Season. He will miss her but he and his family are farmers here.
Seated, we were wrestling with the difficulty of communication when the only other guy in the place said, “Maybe I can help, I speak French.” Howard is another Fulbright Professor and a nice guy from Topeka, Kansas. As he helped he suggested that we move to his table. We did and enjoyed a great conversation in English. He has been with Fulbright 2 other times, in Turkey and Bulgaria. His usual job with a University in Kansas allows him to do things like Fulbright every 7 years. He loves being away and the experience. Just a really nice evening with a really nice, middle America guy!
September 8, 2003
Oh No, GUFF GUFF, AGAIN!
During the night I was re-visited by the Moroccan demons. Diarrhea struck with a vengeance. I slept sort of fitfully. We did get up, about and down to breakfast by 9:00 AM. Not feeling too great so I went back up and started typing. Cat took a walk looking for the Tourist Office but talked with a couple of gals from Switzerland who had just been there and found it an exercise in frustration without result. They told her that the Office had no maps or info.
Cat came back up and loaded the laundry then taxied to a Laundromat. I continued to work on the journal. When she returned we walked around the area then chose a Pizza place for lunch. I chose plain pasta as my stomach was still doing flips. Cat just stuck with a big salad. We walked and asked until we found the English Book Store. The Barber across the street told us that it would open at 3:30. We decided to wait and the guy walked up and unlocked precisely at 3:30 PM. His shop is a treasure and he is a pearl. We watched as he bought some books from a young guy who looked like he really needed money. Though he didn’t have what we wanted he took such interest that he made others wait while he drew a map and made a detailed explanation of how to get to the American Book Store. I was beginning to feel the return of the Guff Guff so I headed back to the room. Cat walked away, using her map as a guide to the American Book Store.
I was out of it. I spent the rest of the day in bed. Cat found the American Book Store and found that it was closed and is only open weekdays from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Cat spent a lot of time making notes and catching up missing days in the journal.
For me the day was a daze. In the early evening Cat ordered soup and some vegetables served in the room. Though I felt a little hungry I ate very little. Diarrhea was taking its toll. I finally broke down and took one Imodium pill. A lost afternoon for me and I drug Cat along into it.
September 9, 2003
Touring Rabat with Barry and Fatima
We met Barry and Fatima at breakfast and they asked our plans for today. They are interested in seeing some of the sights of Rabat and asked us to come along. Felling a little better, I wanted to escape the room and Cat loved the idea of English speaking company.
As we walked to the Taxi Stand we told them of learning that a guy there chooses which cab will take which passengers. He sorts out people and drivers then is given a coin by each driver as they pull out. When we reached the Stand we learned another Taxi lesson, they are limited to three passengers. So, we told our driver to follow them. He must not have gotten the message, we lost sight of them within 2 blocks. He knew that we were going to Hassan Tower and Mausoleum of Mohammed V. He pulled around the place and let us out at the gate. We waited then decided that they must have been dropped at another entry.
There are colorful guards on horseback at the gate. It was time for the changing of the Guards and I got it on video. Not as dramatic or orchestrated as those in Moscow or Warsaw but impressive when performed on horseback.
Barry and Fatima were inside already. They had come to the other side of the monument. This place dates back to 1195 AD and was at one time the tallest towers in the Muslim world. The tower survived but only pillars remain of the original Mosque that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. The Mausoleum houses the tombs of Mohammed V and his son, the late King, Hassan II, Father of the current King. For me the best part of the visit is inside the Mausoleum. The Guards are dressed in period uniforms, the décor is classic Moroccan and they freely allow photos.
Our next 2 Taxi ride was to the old Kasbah on the hill, above the mouth of the river and the Atlantic. It too was originally constructed in 1195. And it is similar to Tangier, cluttered and dirty. We may have been spoiled by our visit to the Assilah Medina. Though the view is good and the walls impressive but that’s about the only reasons to spend time here.
Across the street is the Medina, it dates only from the 17th century but looks and smells much older. Food, tea pots, carpet dominate the shops. Fatima ate a Cactus Apple to demonstrate how it is done. The man selling them makes four cuts then carefully opens the fruit without touching it. She took it and holding it by the skin, ate the fruit from the middle. Her urging me to try it was overruled by my puny stomach.
Back at our neighborhood Taxi Stand Fatima hurried off to check them out or the Hotel. Barry joined us in a walk to the American Book Store. He is interested in Moroccan Novels in English. Interesting how you can see his love of books by the way he touches and handles them. The store had neither Moroccan Novels nor West African travel books.
Barry invited us up to their room for goodbyes but nature called both of us back to the room. W did call and wish them a safe trip and make promises to see them again once we all get back to California.
Hating to walk aimlessly, I chose a restaurant close to the hotel for lunch. My Cheeseburger tasted like Sloppy Joe but did set pretty well. We spent time at Maroc Telecom on the Internet. The guy there suggested a bike shop that he thought could fix my bike but probably wouldn’t have parts that we may need.
We took a Taxi using only French verbal directions. The very bright driver was able to translate and get us directly there in just minutes. The fellow behind the counter listened to our attempt to explain that we needed to have a spoke replaced then nodded and asked us to bring the wheel in the morning.
Outside the Bike Shop we asked a guy about a larger store that might have bicycle parts. He told us to go to Marjane. Another big surprise, Marjane is a large Super Market similar to a Wall-Mart back home. Though they didn’t have any bike parts they did have a liquor section. We were surprised that it was open to the rest of the market and you pay for your booze at the regular check stands. They had a good selection of Moroccan wines, which made the trip worthwhile.
Back in the room, we sipped a little wine then went down for the Buffet Dinner. A nice selection and my appetite is returning. There was a German tour group but they seemed interested in talking among themselves so we just ate and retreated back to our lair.
September 10, 2003
Healing in Rabat
Early awake, I’m feeling better, not 100% yet but a lot better. We set two goals for today, fix the bike and get the pictures in the mail to Webmaster Wally. Cat walked to the Pharmacy looking for Larium, the strong Malaria drug we need to take in the south. I had to wait for the nice young guy to come to work who seems to be in charge of the key to the storage room down the street.
I got my rear wheel off and put the tire and tube on the new wheel LandRider had sent us. I was going to save some of the spokes and the hub for spares. With that task under my belt I made a decision to rotate Cat’s tires. The rear is getting smooth, it was on my bike from Berlin to Bois, France. Rotating encompasses breaking down both wheels. As I finalized I found her rear wheel had a slight wobble. When I tried to true it I discovered that she also had a broken spoke. I don’t do spokes!
She walked in just as I was picking up the tools. I cleaned up in the room then we caught a Petit Taxi and took the wheels to the bike shop. The guy was a little friendlier and worked with Cat and her French to understand what we wanted. We think he got the point? I want them to take the spokes off the extra wheel and save a few of the best and the hub for us to carry as a spare. Also, we asked them to use one of the spokes to replace the broken one. Did they get it, we’ll know when we go back at 4:00 PM.
Funny, we walked out of the bike shop and hailed a Cab. Cat asked him to take us to the Telecom Office where we will check e-mails. He tried to tell us something then finally gave in and off we went, down the street and around the corner. What a surprise, we could have walked and we now feel that he was trying to tell us that. His meter read 3.5 Dirham, we gave him 5. (That’s 50 cents, US)
Lunch in the room, a picnic of the lunchmeat and cheese we bought at the Marjane Supermarket. That allowed us a full dose of BBC, we never know when we’ll connect with it or e-mail again. Well, if we get into Casa Blanca tomorrow we should have full benefits there, too. One of the e-mails was from our friend, Danielle in France. She has given us an introduction to a family in Agadir. She says that they will host our stay there and their son, Luis, knows the Deep South extremely well. That too will be a big help as we have looked in vain for books and maps.
We taxied back to the Bike Shop and picked up Cat’s wheel and old hub and spokes. The guys were nice but it is tough when you have to struggle with language.
Back in our toilet storage room I put Cat’s bike back together then we cycled down the street looking for air. The attendant at the second service station we visited understood and brought a hose into his shop where he pumped the tires. He was concerned and didn’t want to put 4.5 Bar, 60 pounds of pressure in them. He kept using his hands and sounds to tell us he thought they would explode. I insisted, telling him they were strong, he got over 4 Bar in each, we were happy. Cat offered him a coin, he sort of refused then accepted. It was 10 Dirham but we liked him and appreciated his efforts for us.
Sitting in the AC, watching BBC, we had forgotten that Abdellah was going to call. The phone rang and he told us he was about a half hour from arriving to pick us up for a drink at his home. This was a treat that we didn’t want to miss.
We were almost dressed and ready when the desk called to tell us our guests had arrived. It was Abdellah and his driver. A very ostentatious departure, out the door, curbside was Abdellah and his big, beautiful, silver, Mercedes Benz.
The drive to his home made us aware that there is more to Rabat than meets the eye in the old city area. Miles of nice, tree lined streets with plenty of huge homes in their shadows.
Abdellah’s home was one of them. One a cul de sac, the driver opened the auto gate and pulled into a palatial setting. The décor is extremely tasteful and languishes between modern and old Moroccan. They have a beautiful yard with pool and waterfall. Cat and I, in our Real Estate mode, agreed that it would be a multi million dollar home in almost any location in California.
The family was open and hospitable. Sue, Abdellah’s wife speaks just a little English but he kept her up to speed in the conversation. They have two children, Ahmed, a six year old son and Abla, their two year old daughter. Both are great looking, Cat thought that Abla reminded her of Shirley Temple because of her curly hair.
Danny is Abdellah’s 16-year-old son. He just moved here from the US a couple of months ago. He says that he likes it a lot. His Dad told us that he has him enrolled in the American School, the best and probably most expensive school in Morocco.
Abdellah served us a glass of very nice red wine, Sue loaded the coffee table with wonderful, traditional hors d’ouvres. We ate and drank, they just ate. We all talked and enjoyed a wonderful evening.
Abdellah is the epitome of the American Dream! Somehow he was able to get to England and school, coming from a family whose parents could neither read nor write. He studied in London where he met his first wife, an American. They moved to the States and he went to work in a restaurant. He says that he was a typical immigrant. If the other guys worked 8 hours he worked 12, if they worked 12 he would work 16. He became manager of the Restaurant then opened his own place.
He had a successful 22-year Restaurant career and marriage. When the marriage ended he hated living alone so he packed up and came back home to Morocco. He’s obviously made some investments like Hotel D’ Europe and is in the process of opening a new concept Restaurant here. With one location ready to go along the Peage, toll roadway, he intends to serve home style Moroccan food at reasonable cost. His target market is the traveling families that ply the Peage. Sound like a winner to me! He is talking about more locations once the flagship is launched and the possibility of franchising. What a bright, likeable guy!
It was almost 10:00 PM when Abdellah and Sue dropped us at Hotel Majliss. We worried that the hors d’ouvres weren’t enough food to support tomorrows ride so we had pasta with olive oil to top off the tanks. It was after 11:00 PM by the time we hit the pillows.
September 11, 2003
Rabat to Casa Blanca
It was pretty tired out this morning. Too much fun, food and good conversation with Abdellah, Sue and their family last night. I did wake up at 6:30 but had a hard time pulling myself out by 7:00 AM. Breakfast, then bags down with the help of the friendly young bellman. By the way, bellman takes on a true sense of the name here. When they want to summons him they pick up a brass bell and ring it at the front desk. He appears as if by magic with his smile and friendly attitude, ready to go.
the Road Again
Loaded we took his advice and rolled down the little street, through the ancient gate of the Kasbah and into traffic. It is a straight shot from there to the beach and the coastal route along the beach. We did have a moment of indecision but asked a young guy, he wasn't sure and called out to another. By the time we had consensus we were surrounded by a group of 6, one them astride a motorcycle.
We rounded the corner and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves directly adjacent to the pounding surf on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic. Shades of PCH, Highway 1, along the coast in Southern California.
Breathing in the cool moist air was a treat. Then we began to hear a rattling sound. At first we thought it was a passing motorcycle. Then it sounded like it was coming from my bike. Finally we found that Cat’s front rack had come loose again. The plastic zip tie had broken. Funny but as we worked on the bikes yesterday I found some wire and reinforced it? Maybe that was what caused the break? At any rate I pulled the plastic out then re-worked the wire and within 20 minutes we were rollin’ south again.
There is still a lot of brown here, dirt and sand. A huge pipeline construction job ran parallel to the Highway and created dust now and then.
Without a break, other than the early repair stop, we rode from our 9:00 AM start to until almost noon. As we entered a town called Bouznoka Plage (Beach) we pulled up to give our seats a rest. A palm lined drive lead toward a real estate development called Palm Beach. It reminded us of master planned communities centered in Golf Courses we have seen in Palm Springs, CA. There was a guarded gate so we just pushed the bikes up on the grass and sat in the shade for 15 minutes.
Rolling along, we left the newer developments behind then just before a cross roads saw 3 cafes on the left. We passed on by, stopped, talked it over then decided to back track and get a bite of food. It would turn out to be a very good decision. For whatever reason we chose the middle Café. They had a meat counter with lamb quarters hanging and a big piece of beef out front. The meat cutter was competing with a thousand flies in his effort to slice the beef leg.
Tajine is the wonderful dish with vegetables that is served piping hot from the oven in the clay dished it is cooked in. Just the smell made us salivate. We ordered two bowls of soup then shared one Tajine. As the cook prepared I got the camera out and started shooting pictures of the meat cutter and chef. That led to requests from almost all the staff, including the parking lot attendant. A guy eating at one of the tables in the back called out, asking if we were German and for me to take his picture. I tried to explain that I was just taking pictures of the workers. He was a little upset but as he was leaving he came to our table. Though he speaks no English he and Cat had a fair conversation in French.
The Imam at the nearby Mosque began a call to prayer but his voice on the loud speaker sounded like a cow mooing. Cat asked and the guy, Sham, explained in sign and body language that it was to pray to Allah. He pointed toward the sky then put his hands on each side of his face and gestured like a bow toward the ground. Then he looked me straight in the eye and uttered the name, Osama Bin Laden and September 11. We agreed that September 11 was a terrible day in US History. Then he said, Iraq? In his next breath he asked about Palestine? We tried to express or feelings of sorrow about the plight of the Palestinians and the war but think it flew over his head. He did tell us that he has a boat and fishes for crab. They are shipped to Spain and France on airplanes. A very serious, complex guy, for a fisherman.
More coastline but the air is warmer, thick and warm. We covered the next 21 Kilometers quickly then took another break and had soft drinks. Though I’m not 100% yet I do feel a lot better today. Our original plan was to see how we felt when we arrived here in Mohammedia and decide whether to go on to Casa or stop. We’re both tired but feel confident that we will be able to go the last 25 Kilometers.
The open coast is swallowed up by Industrial property almost the entire distance from there to Casa Blanca. The big buildings and pollution thicken as Casa nears. Traffic, lots of trucks, busses and cars all spewing smoke and fumes add to the acidic flavor of the already thick air. Our eyes and lung were burning again.
Once we found where we were on the little map in Lonely Planet we made a quick field decision. The Hotel Corniche, where Abdellah’s sister, Foozia had reserved a room for us is another 5 Kilometers south. We went back to plan A and sought out the Best Western Hotel Toubal that was nearby. Okay, we circled the block a couple of times but finally found it. I went in to check for availability. The clerk was short on words and long on rate. He pointed to a sign and said, “1100 Dirham per day.” I told him that was above our budget and asked if they had a weekend special. He shook his head but when I acted as though I was ready to leave he called another guy over. He, Mohammed the Manager listened to my story then they had a conversation in Arabic. Then, he turned to me and said, “My best price is 700 Dirham.” (About $70 US) I said, “You’ve got a deal.”
He insisted that I look at the room. We took the elevator to the 10th floor and he opened the door of a fairly large room with a very large private deck. He invited us to keep the bikes out there.
Back below, I tried to get Cat’s bike into the elevator, not even close. Mohammed decided that he would let us store them in room # 107 and give us the key. He was interested in our story and couldn’t believe that we had cycled all the way from Rabat much less half way around the world. One of the other guys suggested a baggage room. It looked too small but he helped me ram and cram them in. We were home for a few days.
With our clothing and computer bag in the room we just sat down, got cold water and soft drinks from the honor bar and relaxed. We had earned a break! Cat did call Fouzia and try to explain why we stopped here. A cousin got on the phone who could speak English and was pretty understanding. We wanted to make sure that they understood and that they knew how much we appreciated them. Then we had to turn down lunch tomorrow as our main objective is to get our Visas for Mauritania and register with the US Consulate.
The shower felt great, we decided to just eat here rather than set out on a quest at this late hour in our fatigued conditions. The food was good, the wine okay. We were laying in bed watching CNN, a very snowy picture, by 10:00 PM. Israel has decided to expel Arafat and of course the Palestinians are up in arms, literally? Another US Soldier died in Iraq today, What else is new? Lights out.
September 12, 2003
Business Day in Casa Blanca
I woke up at 6:00 thinking about an early start to the Mauritanian Embassy. Cat was catatonic. Took a little coaxing but she was soon up and moving. I had just stepped out of the shower when all hell broke loose. We brought the remains of our wine up last night wrapped in the towel from the ice bucket. Cat through in the towel, so to speak, at least threw it on top of the lamp to dry. When she turned it on the towel was flaming in just minutes. She screamed and grabbed it which spread flaming pieces all over the floor, even up on the ceiling. I took the largest remaining piece of it and began stifling the flames. After a few minutes of extreme excitement the fires were out but the room was full of smoke. We opened the slider began airing. Once it had cleared some I carefully opened the door to create a draft that did the rest of the job. There were black smudges on the ceiling. We tried but just couldn’t get it cleaned off.
We went down for breakfast here but decided that we didn’t want to pay 8 Dirham each for juice, coffee and bread. Just across the street we found a restaurant and the same continental treat along with fresh fruit, Both continentals and the fruit cost only 7 Dirham.
Those little blue Taxis that we liked so much in Rabat are here in Casa, too. They are called Petite Taxis but here they are red instead. The beauty is in the price, we can go completely across Casa Blanca for only 20 Dirham, about $2.00. That is a good thing because we seemed to be doomed to criss crossing Casa today. Our first and most important task is to get the Visas for Mauritania. The Mauritanian Embassy is off our Lonely Planet map. The Petite Taxi driver didn’t know where it was. Since they don’t have radios they use the Alex system. You remember Alex in Russia, asking and asking and asking. So even though it is cheap, we did spend quite a bit of time stopped, asking other cab drivers or people walking down the street.
Once there the process seemed almost too simple. It is located in a house but we never got through the front door. A guy sits inside a wrought iron covered window and hands out forms and advice. There is no table or desk so we and the few other applicants use the porch rail to complete the forms. I made a mistake and scratched it our. When we handed the guy our forms he passed a new one back to me. I had to start over. Once they were completed to his satisfaction he told us to come back at 11:00 AM. (One interesting thing, they ask for an address in Mauritania. The guy told us just to write, “Camping”.)
After a walk to the corner we hailed another Taxi and started the process of ask, ask, ask. The Moroccan Tourist Bureau is on our map but the guy still couldn’t seem to find it. When he did we got the book that they hand out, in fact several but the one about Casa Blanca has a slightly larger map on the back. I had the staff there help us find the Mauritanian Embassy, the US Embassy, the DHL Air Freight Office and some book stores they recommended that may have maps and a Lonely Planet book on West Africa.
Using our well marked map we made our way fairly easily to the American Book Store. It is buried in the American Language Center. They have a nice selection of books but none on West Africa and they don’t have maps. The US Consulate was a close walk and we took it though we knew that they are only open to the public from 1:30 to 3:00 PM daily. The renta guards were friendly but firm. They made us cross the street a block from the Consulate and confirmed the hours.
Another frustrating Taxi ride back to the Mauritanian Embassy. Our driver was either completely thick headed or good at dragging out the time we spent in his cab. As we neared the Embassy he slowed and acted like we were asking him to turn on every street we passed. A different guy smiled at us through the same window and handed us our Passports. We asked about the Visa and he chuckled then took my Passport and opened it to a page that was stamped and signed. It allows us to enter anytime between now and the termination date, November 11, 2003. So we need to get to the border and through Mauritania by or before then.
A visit to the DHL office proved fruitless, the package isn’t in yet? Hot as Hell, we walked up the street to Gig@Net Internet shop. After an hour and a half we went on a quest to a find a map store that was recommended but found no maps or books.
At about 2:00 we Taxied to the US Consulate. He had to drop us at the corner because the street is blocked. The renta guards smiled, they remembered us, and ushered us to the door. Inside we had to go through the same scanning machine and metal detector you do at the airports. We fill out the form indicating our requests, health, travel books, and registration. We then were sent to the next room and sat until the guy behind the glass window called out a number and the people next to us went up. We looked around and saw that everyone but us had a number. Cat went back into the first room and they apologized then got us into the lineup.
The guy behind the glass is Moroccan and very nice. He is a little prejudiced about going to Mauritania and told us to watch out for the Police. When Cat asked what kind of problems he could only say they might arrest us? Sounded like the way the Portuguese talk about the Spaniards, the Russians the Polish etc, etc, etc.
With little more info than we entered with we walked back out into the heat and ongoing fruitless quest. More possible map places, an electronic store that had no mini CDs but a nice guy who walked us down the street to their warehouse, all to no avail?
Back at the Hotel, we relaxed and decided on a restaurant. A seafood place that was started 45 years ago by a French women. It is now run by her Grandson. The place was walking distance and all heads, men’s heads, turned as we walked in. We had come into the bar from the back door. They took us up the stairs to the almost empty dining room. The one couple were an Aussie and his gal from France. The food was okay, Cat had sea bass and I couldn’t resist Lobster at only 500 Dirham. (about $5.00) Well, the 500 Dirham was for 100 grams. I didn’t get it until the bill came. WOW, I blew budget, 230 D’s just for the Lobster!!!
Back to CNN and bed.
An aside, two Johns died in the US today. Both were sort of famous and it bares out my Fathers feeling that no matter how well known or wealthy we are when the time comes we’ve all gotta go! You may not have known this but the up and coming Johnny Cash built a house and lived in Ventura, California for several years. In fact his fairly famous daughter Rose Ann Cash went to school at Ventura High. His diabetes got him at age 71. The other was John Ritter, comedian and TV star. He was only 54 when his heart attacked him. You may remember him from the long running Sit-Com, Three’s Company but do you know that his father was Tex Ritter, a C&W singer? These type of events always make our remaining days seem even more precious. It keeps us pedaling and enjoying our BEAUTIFUL LIFE!!!
September 13, 2003
Another Day in Casa Blanca
Up at the crack of dawn we did manage to lay in until 7:00 AM then off to our favorite place, across the street, for breakfast. As we stepped out the door the Bellman asked if we were having breakfast and gestured toward the Hotel dining room. We told him of the place, Restaurant des Fleures, across the street. When he asked why Cat explained, in Dirham and French.
Omar our new favorite server there was happy to see us and cleared our table. He got us two bananas and a melon followed by coffee, croissants and toast. A great breakfast and a great way to start the day.
A call to Fouzia and a lunch date, she will pick us up here at 1:00 PM. Our package is at the DHL office so we took the little red Taxi there. We thought that the electronic store, FNAC was in the same building but it turned out that this FNAC was a finance company. It’s a short but again HOT walk to Gig@Net Internet Café and spent an hour cleaning up messages. The good news was that Charlie did contact First American Escrow and Tina sent us and e-mail. It means that we will have to stick around here until Tuesday but may get the deal done and our house on Reef Way on the market. Yes, we have planned to sell it because it qualifies for the tax free sale but it has been an emotional roller coaster for us and Charlie. He manages it and has to tell the tenant and manage the sale.
Back at our BW Hotel, we relaxed and waited for Fouzia. At the door, she pulled up and we did our introductions then got into the car with her and two friends, Samira (Sam) and Faiza. We drove down the beach, past the fantastic Hassan II Mosque on the ocean front and to the Hotels at the beach area. Cat and Sam went into Hotel de la Cote and booked a room for us. We will move tomorrow.
Fouzia lives in a very upscale condo. As we entered her cousin, Bouchra was just finishing having a pedicure. Fouzia’s help was doing the job. Bouchra is a cute young woman, she is independent and works in a bank. Later he friend, Nezha, another very good looking girl, came in and joined us. There I was surrounded by beautiful woman, what a tough thing to have to do? Then another guy came in and took the spotlight. Ahmed, Fouzia’s 10 year old son, made his entry carrying a tennis racquet. He is a handsome, well mannered boy.
The meal was an unbelievable plate of Couscous, and we ate heartily. Then, when we thought it was finished they took it away and served several types of what they called salad. Okay, we forced ourselves to taste some of all because we wanted to learn the tastes. Just as we thought it was over we learned as Yogi Bera would say, “It ain’t over til it’s over!” Fouzia brought a huge platter of French fries surrounding a leg of lamb. Of course we had to do our best to try some of all.
During the meal the ladies discussed life, love and ex-husbands. The three who picked us up have all been divorced or widowed and re-married. Cat thought that the verbal contest that got pretty loud at times, was about Fouzia and her ex having problems over Ahmed. I chimed in and told them that it is tough but to argue in front of the child puts him in the middle and that isn’t fair for him.
Cat asked if any of the women wear the scarf, Hejad. No, they don’t but Bouchra did say that she wears a scarf when she prays. I asked about whether parents still choose who their sons and daughters will marry? She said that maybe in some of the small villages but in cities it is pretty liberal and most men and women chose their own spouses.
Then the question that I really wanted to ask, “Do men in Morocco marry more than one woman?” The answer she gave was carefully structured. “Yes, according to our Koran they may marry more than one wife but the Koran also says that he must be loyal to each.” That, she says, is virtually impossible. Yes, there are still some areas where men have more than one wife but the first wife must agree to the arrangement or no deal. Well it seems to be a fairly male dominated society so it may be more common than even Bouchra believes it is. These ladies are quite liberal in their lifestyle. She is 29 and feels good that she is still single.
There was some discussion about Nezha. Cat thought that they were talking about her boyfriend? Hard to say because though they speak French when they get into heated discussions they really rattle off the words.
Bombs in Rabat and Casa Blanca?
Geez, almost forgot to insert a really important thing that came up during the spirited conversations. We all remember that just 2 months ago a group of people here in Casa Blanca strapped explosives to themselves and the final body count was 32 dead including those who blew themselves up. Now, Faiza, who speaks good English, looked at me and asked, “Do you read the local newspapers?” Of course we told her that we couldn’t then came the shocker. “Then you don’t know about the twins who came to the Super Market in Rabat with bombs strapped on them this week?”
Wow, we were in Rabat and in that Super Market just 3 days ago. Security guards caught the girls, 14-year-old twins because they were hanging around in the Liquor section of the store. Maybe the same section that I was surprised was so open, here in this Muslim country. Well, it was a happy ending or maybe beginning for the two girls but what about their families and teachers who convinced them to strap up and blow up? Well, I for one am convinced that if the US would put their foot down and make Israel stop the attacks and work out a deal it would take most of the starch out of the militant Muslim’s movement.
What a treat this afternoon with women of Morocco was for us! Fouzia dropped us and we all kissed cheeks then said goodbyes with promises to get together after we make the move to the Beach.
We spent the late afternoon watching CNN while I worked on the journal and Cat sort bills preparing to do the taxes. At 7:30 we checked our options and decided to eat in, no, not in the room but at the restaurant downstairs. Same old crowd, same old menu. We did talk with a young guy we saw night before last. He is from Italy, here selling, installing and training the use of textile machines. Nice guy, sort of fearful of bombs here, he stayed in a different Hotel last time here but it was where the 32 were killed. He says it is best to choose small, out of the way places like this. We don’t know if he’s correct about the choice but this is a pretty non-descript place.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
The Move to the Beach
Casa Blanca to Ain Diab Beach
Our usual breakfast with Omar was enhanced by his introduction of Dbaich, an English speaking guide. She was curious about us and sat nearby to talk. As we listened to her I wished that we had our camera. She would be perfect for our “You must be Crazy.” She is a teacher of linguistics and speaks 4 languages. I had to have the picture but she was going to an appointment. I ran across to the hotel and up to the room. Then, I couldn’t get an elevator. The cleaning guy came and talked or tried to. I thanked him for cleaning the burns off of the ceiling and gave him a tip of 5€. He tired of waiting and ran down the stairs, unlocked the other elevator and brought it up for me.
Back at Restaurant Flueres, Dbaich had gone. Cat said that she was very disappointed but had to be punctual. I was probably more disappointed than she, the value of the language study is dependant upon finding someone who speaks English well enough to understand what we want then translating it properly. She would have been perfect!
We had our usual wonderful Café au Lait breakfast but added Casaba melon and banana. Omar was his usual self and served us extra orange juice and coffee, all for 106 Dirham. ($10.60) We posed for a photo with him. His colleague tried and it took three tries to get a good picture.
A trip to Marjane failed to find Mini CDs but we did buy some zip lock bags and a couple of bottles of Moroccan White. They had a nice Deli so we also picked up picnic supplies. The store is large and well stocked. Another Wal-Mart style place.
Loaded and rolling down the street Cat felt that her bike was making a funny noise. As soon as I fell in behind her I could see that she had a flat tire, rear tire, of course. This is our first flat since we installed the heavy tubes back in South Dakota. She had picked up a big staple and a piece of glass. The glass hadn’t cut into the tube but the staple was well driven in at least a quarter of an inch. I crouched on the sidewalk in front of the Police Station. One of the officers was curious so he and Cat chatted while I pulled the wheel off, patched the tube and put it all back together, again.
We were both glad that this happened on an easy day. Rolling down to the coastal road it was a simple ride in just a small flow of traffic. We stopped and took pictures at Hassan II Mosque. It is truly impressive both architecturally and in the way it sits on a promontory that juts our to the oceanfront. There is a pool I the rocks and swimmers below the imposing structure. We got some great pictures.
We just followed the route that we had driven with Fouzia yesterday. When we reached the Hotel de la Cote it was a disappointment to learn that they didn’t have any English language TV. We know that we will be here for 3 days and I will spend a lot of time on the computer. We decided to try another place. The Hotel Bellerive, next door, did have BBC and I questioned the price because it was 100 Dirham higher than the place next door. The old guy at the desk couldn’t understand me and called another young guy in from the next room. Ali spoke good English and assured us that they did have BBC and though the price was a little higher it included breakfast. I looked at the room while Cat stood guard at the bikes. It is just okay, sort of dirty looking but the view of the pool and beach is extraordinary.
Ali had the parking guy open a garage and we stored the bikes. Once we were settled in we decided to eat before showering. It was 1:00 PM and we were hungry. The patio grill looked good. We took a seat and waited, finally after waving and asking the waiter brought a menu. When I asked about food he walked away and talked with the cook. We waited and waited then moved to the area near the barbeque. The chef ignored us but another waiter did finally show up and take our order. Then he and the chef had a shouting match and he went to get the drink I had ordered. The chef came to our table and almost shouted at us. We think he was saying that he was out of everything but a few brochettes. We sat, waiting to see what would happen next after he stomped away. Finally I got up, went to the door of the kitchen glared at him because we were so frustrated and waved goodbye. The waiter was coming back with the drink, we waved goodbye to him and he apologized.
Across the street we settled in and ordered. They too were out of some things on the menu. The waiter was curious about us and asked if we were bicycling. He saw our shirts. Then he wanted to know how long it would take. After learning of our 1000 days he asked how we could do it. We thought he meant cycle so far but he really wanted to know how we could afford to take the time off from work. Probably a good question for a guy that is and probably always will be a waiter and will spend his vacation time sitting around the house watching TV? (Maybe an unfair and judgmental statement but he seemed envious almost to the point of anger.) Well it was pretty good food and only 67 Ds, $6.70.
Showers then I typed while Cat took a walk looking for a nice place for dinner and checking out the neighborhood. She came back ready to move. The place up the street seems cleaner and the people nicer. We had dinner at the Restaurant, Catania located in the front of the Hotel Suisse building. Our server, Said, was a great guy. He taught us how to say, “Hayat Jamila”, Arabic for Good of Life. The food was to our taste, too. After dinner we walked through the Hotel and decided that we would move in the morning.
A little BBC and we hit the light switch before 10:00 PM. It was hot in the room. The AC doesn’t work so we left the slider open. The Disco below throbbed and screeched until we finally drifted off.
September 15, 2003
A Tour Of Casa Blanca
Our day started with the buzzing in the ear and the itching that follows a mosquito attack. We closed the drape to try to keep the little pests out but it was too late. At 4:00 AM we were under the sheet for protection but sweat drove us back out into their territory. Needless to say, a pretty sleepless night between the Disco, bug bites and the itch. We decided that we would go back into Casa Blanca to the room we know. Hotel Suisse doesn’t have AC either.
Downstairs I talked with the one guy who speaks some English. When I told him that we were going to move because of the mosquitoes he said, “You shouldn’t have left your windows open.” I told him it was too hot to close them and the AC didn’t work. He talked with the desk guy then said, “We will change the room for you, you must have AC working.” An entourage of helpers came, showed us the other room and turned the AC on. It felt good, we would stay. Then they followed us to our room to carry the bags. One guy said, “This AC works.” He sent for the remote and sure enough, it did. We just stayed put in our fresh, cool room.
We talked over breakfast about calling the gal that Omar had introduced us to. The one that I failed to get the video of because the elevator quit working, remember? She is a guide and we should have one to see the hidden treasures of Casa Blanca. I couldn’t make the phone work and asked the same guy that made the AC work to help me. He tried and tried then told us the number was no good. Downstairs, the desk clerk had no problem connecting.
Her card says, Name: Dbaich Surname: Najate. We might have missed her but she asked why the desk clerk wanted to talk with Mr. Dbaich. Najate was excited that we had called and we made an appointment to meet at 2:00 PM in front of the Hassan II Mosque.
There is a taxi that seems to hover in front to the Hotel. We asked the desk about laundry and they suggested a place that sounded fairly close by. When we asked the driver Bazzo he said we should take his cab. We ran back up and grabbed the bags of dirty cloths and he putt putted slowly to the small center near the Arab Kings Palace. He kept saying that we were driving on Rue Roosevelt and would turn on Kennedy. He must have repeated that at least a dozen times. He stops working at noon and was worried that we might not find the place again.
Of course he waited then drove us across town to the Gig@Net Internet shop. It was the slowest taxi ride we’ve ever had. It was also equally interesting. Bazzo is eighty years old, no wonder he drives so slow. Age and the constant tick of the meter may have both motivated the pace? He was in the French Army in 1944 and fought against the Germans. When we asked if he takes a siesta in the afternoon he laughed and agreed. We asked if he makes a fiesta in the evening and he shook his head. “Me eat Couscous and drink Coca Cola he said, again with his infectious chuckle and smile. He went over that statement several times, too. When we finally, slowly made his way through the other pushy drivers we felt like he was an old friend, a very old friend for a Taxi Driver. His constantly clicking meter had run up a 35 Dirham cost. We didn’t have any small Dirham so I gave him a 5€ note. I said, “Get yourself some Couscous,” he grinned and said, “Couscous and Coca Cola.”
Hallelujah, Charlie had taken time to call Escrow before he left for the weekend and Tina had responded. We sent her a message outlining exactly what we would need and emphasizing that she must do it early Monday morning if we were to get the documents on Monday evening here and take them to the consulate on Tuesday morning. If she misses we would be stuck here another two days because the Consulate is closed on Wednesdays. Casa Blanca is okay for a big city but Cat wants to get back on the road. She really has become a gypsy.
Omar sounded like a good guy to see for lunch. We missed our super breakfast this morning and felt that if Restaurant des Fleures lunch was as good as breakfast we should go with what we know. Omar was all smiles when we walked in. He seated us at a central and two of the other waiters, the bike rider and another, stopped and said hello. Then, like the way he introduced Najate, Omar brought a guy to the table and introduced him. Ali was a driver for the US Army for several years back when they had a base here. He learned English and liked to practice whenever possible. He is a Taxi Driver now, another oldie but goodie. His claim to fame was that he drove Bob Hope around Casa Blanc when he was here to entertain the troops. He said, “Do you know Bob Hope? He is 98 years old you know.”
When Cat broke the news that Bob had celebrated his 100th birthday then died Ali was taken aback for just a second or two then asked, “Did this just happen?” We told him that Bob Hope had died about a month ago and he said, “I knew it must have just happened and we haven’t heard about it yet.” A nice guy, we had to eat fast while he talked about his experiences with the Army and the Americans.
By the time we finally snagged a Cab we feared that we would be late for our meeting with Najate. This driver was young and aggressive. We made great time and walked across the huge open area to the Mosque just at 2:00 PM. There was a line of people waiting and buying tickets for the 2:00 PM visit. By 2:10 we were the only ones left without tickets and the guy was threatening to close. We had just decided to buy our tickets when Najate came running up. Her earlier group didn’t want to let her go. The tour of Hassan II was truly a treat. Najate started her career as a guide here and knows all the people working here and every detail, nook and cranny of the place.
We learned a lot of details about the materials used in the construction of the Mosque. However, the most interesting thing to us was that she was very open and forthright in our discussions about Islam and the way Muslims worship. Morocco is a Muslim Kingdom and 98% of them are Sunni, the more moderate of the two main sects. She says that all practicing Muslim Sunni women cover their heads with the scarf and wear the long sleeve Jellaba to cover their bodies. We asked about the veils and were surprised to hear that there is no religious connotation just an old custom. She jokingly said that only the ugly ones cover their faces, then laughed heartily.
This Mosque, Hassan II is new and modern. It is designed to accommodate 25,000 worshipers inside and an additional 80,000 in the square outside. Oh yes, it is named after the past King who ruled from 1962 until his death in 1999. His Son, Mohammed VI currently rules. There is a huge door on the west end and a cordoned off walkway down the center of the Mosque with a waterway on each side. It is reserved for only the King when he attends worship here.
You can see through the floor where the water runs, down into the lower area. The Mosque was originally designed to have seawater flow in and out down there but it proved impractical. We went down and Najate explained the body washing prayers. They wash hands, arms, face and feet three times just as the Prophet Mohammed did. There is a washing room with Lotus Flower fountains and a Roman style Hammam, a public bath. You enter in the cool room the move to the tepid room then into the Calor. There is a row of faucets on the wall where people, men at certain times, women at others, sit and wash or have them selves washed and massaged. One room also has a beautiful soaking pool.
Muslims men are required to take a full bath at least monthly. Both men and women are required to bathe after “sexual experience” as Najate put it. Women must also bathe after menstruation. We have been told that the Religion resembles the old Soviet system in the way neighbors are encouraged to tattle on those who don’t observe Holy Days and other events. Now we wonder if someone here keeps count of how many times you bath and figures out how sexually active you are? (That is just a twisted western joke!)
Najate claims to be the only Woman Guide in Casa Blanca. We feel very lucky to have met her. Though she professes to practice she is a walking contradiction at times. A Gran Taxi came down the street and almost ran us down. She looked the driver in the eye then brought the fingertips of her right hand together and made a little sign then said something to the driver as he honked. When she saw that I had been watching she said, “Sometimes you have to put them in their place.”
Later, as we entered a small street area a car backed up toward us and almost hit Cat. Again, Najate said something in a loud, stern voice and the driver answered back. Then she stopped, stood her ground and barked back at him. Of course I had to know what the exchange was about. I thought that when she barked at him he barked back. Not so, she explained that her first vocal tirade was met with the statement, “I’m not a very good driver”. Then she told him, “No, you’re not, you use this (The rear view mirror.) when backing up”.
Our next stop was a Souq a shopping area. The streets are lined with shops that have goods for locals and tourists alike. Najate stopped at several places and explained the use of kettles, teapots and incense burners. Our favorite was a visit to the Olive Market. We learned that the only difference between green olives, the yellowish ones and black is when they are picked. Green, when they are green on the trees, yellow after they ripen some and black when they are picked at the most ripened state. They do cure them in plastic container. The black ones are layer packed in salt. They are my favorites. Cat doesn’t like olives, no matter what color they are.
Najate spent at least an hour walking then taking cabs to stores that she thought might sell the Mini CDs we need for our camera and a Lonely Planet Guide Book to West Africa. We had a good time just talking about her life and answering her questions about ours. She is one of 13 people who live at home with her parents. Only she and her sister are working. They support the other 11 including her brothers, their wives and children. She told us that there aren’t enough jobs for educated men like her brothers. Phooey, when you get an education in a field where there are no jobs, get a new education or lessen your self to something that pays? We see so many young guys sitting in Cafes, drinking tea and talking and wasting their time. Are they all brothers of women who support them and their families? (We didn’t ask her that question!)
Najate was starving, she came from her morning appointment to us without eating. As we walked we remembered that we were supposed to call Fouzia to confirm dinner with Abdellah. I tried the phone at a Tele Boutique but couldn’t get through. Najate held her cell phone out to me then dialed the number. Cat talked or tried to talk with Fouzia and told her that we were late but would be at the Hotel soon. Shortly after the call her phone rang, it was Abdellah. Fousia had trapped her number and called him. He wasn’t able to come to Casa Blanca so we wouldn’t see he and Sue tonight. In a way it was a relief.
When it came time to pay Najate did the typical, “Pay as you wish” thing. We loved her and the 4 hours we’d spent with her. After a short huddle before the calls on her phone we had decided to pay her at least minimum wage in the US. So, now we raised it to $8.00 for each of the 5 hours we’d now consumed with her. Then we added $4.00 for the phone calls. She was so happy that she kissed Cat on the cheeks then asked her if it was okay to do the same with me. What a nice girl. She hurried off to eat. We hoped that she would treat herself to dinner out before handing over the balance of her earnings to the family!
While riding the Taxi back to the Hotel we realized that it was too late to pick up our laundry. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. We had dinner across the street at a nice little place void of other humans. Off-season was the reason, we hoped. When we hit the pillows we were out like lights. Najate had inspired, educated and tired us, completely.
September 16, 2003
Internet, Consulate General and DHL
After our continental coffee and bread supplemented by our own bananas we decided to walk to the laundry. My short cut turned in the wrong direction. The dogs of Casa barked but didn’t bite, we were in the back streets of a moderately poor neighborhood. Looping left, we were soon out on the main road near the sea. As we walked a Petite Taxi passed going the opposite direction. The driver honked and waved vigorously, it was our buddy Bozza. We waved him down, he made a U-turn and we were back in his back seat. What a character.
Bozza took us to the laundry, waited while we picked it up then dropped us at the Hotel. He told us that he had to take “The French Lady” to work. He has a standing appointment with a gal who is working here. We have seen her in the Hotel but haven’t talked with her. She must be a very patient lady or just loves this guy, Bazzo like we do.
Laundry back in our room we took a ride in a taxi with a typical driver. He didn’t talk, he was puzzled about our request to go to Gig@Net but got it right away when I said, Holiday Inn. It’s just around the corner. The ride was typical, too, unlike the leisurely pace of Bozza this guy was “hell bent for election” as my Father used to say.
Halleluiah, the documents we were waiting for were there. This age of Internet is really fantastic! Once printed they looked like original deeds from Escrow. We spent an hour on the machine, had a Panini, (Hot Sandwich) up in the Café, then took a taxi to the US Consulate.
Same drill as our first visit but we knew enough to get a number before entering the second waiting room. Both the first and second rooms were pretty loaded up with people patiently waiting. We took a seat and joined the wait. Everyone in the room was drawn to the story that was unfolding as a couple told their story to the man at the window. (It is almost irritating to see six people inside the glass office and only one working the window.)
The couple is originally from Algeria but now live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They have two little girls that are playing and occasionally fighting like sisters sometimes do. They had been in Algeria visiting family, on vacation. On the flight back home they had a 24-hour layover here in Casa Blanca and were given a pass to explore the city and get a Hotel room here. Their problem started when they returned to the airport and were told that they had to have proof that their youngest daughter was their child. They couldn’t get back on the plane. The Airport people kept their Passports, they have been here, in limbo, for 5 days. They are out of money, their Sister in the US wired funds to them but Western Union won’t release it without seeing their Passports. They are stuck in a Catch 22 situation. The girl cried as they talked with the man in the thick glass window. They have an earphone so you can hear the guy but he has somehow pushed the wrong button and the entire conversation is being broadcast on the speakers above our heads. He explained that there is a lot of illegal child smuggling. They were now waiting to talk with the Consulate General. It seems like it would be simple to get their Passports released then sort out the details. The daughter is a US Citizen, she has a Passport but the Consulate wants to see her birth certificate.
Our problems seemed to diminish to miniscule as we watched their soap opera play out. Our turn came, he looked at our papers did most of the work to Notarize them then told us that we would have to wait for the Deputy Consulate General. Martin Snyder is fairly new at the job and had to ask for help from the staff. A nice guy, he asked about our trip and seemed to love the idea. It almost distracted him.
Once signed and sealed, we grabbed a cab to DHL and shipped the documents off to our Base Camp and Realtor, Charlie. Our quest for mini CDs was futile.
Dinner near the Hotel at a fairly glitzy, very expensive, touristy Moroccan Restaurant. The food was good, the music typical. It was all right but not what we thought it would be. Guess we were spoiled by the great dinner in Tangier?
September 17, 2003
Casa Blanca to El Jadida
I awoke at 4:40 AM, anxious to get back on the road. Dozed, stared at the ceiling and finally got up at 6:40. We were down to breakfast before any of the other guests. Our bananas and the usual. While we were eating I decided that we should get a picture of our pal, Bozza, the eighty-year-old Taxi Driver. He is always parked out front, waiting for a French lady that he drives to work, everyday. He thought he would be back about 9:00 but that worried me. We were probably going to be out the door and gone before he would get back. After we finished eating I ran up for the camera and we took a couple of pictures. He is just a wonderful guy, so full of life.
The parking lot guy was nervous, he wanted us to get the bikes out but I told him we would bring the bags down, first. We think he is more nervous about missing a tip than he is in the safety of the bicycles. Bags on the ground, he and I got the bikes and he got his tip. Cat says that she thinks too many of the people here hold out their hand for a tip or hand out. I think of walking down the street in LA or even Ventura and remember lots of homeless looking folks with a cup sitting in front of them. There is a funny commercial on BBC, United Air Lines says that they are helping to cut back on the high cost of travel. The scene is of people in a Hotel and the women who come to the room with towel, a blanket then one who just comes in moves an ashtray and holds out her hand. It’s universal!
We hit the road at 8:40 AM, almost a record for us. The fog was so thick we had to ride without our sunglasses. There were lots of people walking and jogging on the promenade walkway that extends for a couple of kilometers along the beach. Just a short way further along and we came to a crossroad. We went straight to a roadblock and asked the Police. They pointed back to the turn, it was around and back then off to El Jadida. As we pedaled back we noticed that condensation was clinging to the hair on our arms. My gray looked particularly shiny in the muted sun.
A nice road, mostly flat with a small shoulder to cycle on. We stopped at a small café and I got a soft drink. A station wagon has been passing us then stopping at every small store and café then passing us again. The guys came in while we were standing in the shade. I watched as they went inside, got the order then loaded bread, cake and muffins in a box and took them in. They are the wholesale bakery guys. The driver was friendly, he began honking at us when they passed, some time back. We shook hands, sipped some of our drink then rolled on.
With only 36 kilometers left to go we found a shade tree and ate our left over Couscous with a loaf of our friends bread. I sat on a rock, Cat was on the root system of the tree. The Couscous was great! A couple of guys came walking along and tried to have a conversation. One kept asking us to come to his house and eat our lunch. We told him our house was the tree. Both of them thought that was pretty funny.
Cyclist Down, Hit By a Car!
Just a short way down the road we witnessed an incident that made us pause and reflect. A car passed us then slammed on the brakes and slid. Tires screeching and smoke boiling up from them then wham! We couldn’t believe what we saw next. A young boy maybe 14 or 15 years old laying on the side of the road tried to get up then sank back down and sat staring. He had been riding his bicycle and the car hit him so square that he crashed right through their windshield. The impact was so great that it completely shattered the windshield and bent the roof of the car. A crowd gather, the boy was bleeding from the left side of his face, his left art and leg. He must have had internal injuries. The woman from the car that hit him was yelling, we assume she was chewing him out for ruining her car. A guy in a Mercedes pulled up, checked the boy then called for help on his cell phone. The boys Mother came running but some of the people kept her back. We were amazed that the boy didn’t cry or moan, he just sat staring. He did try to talk but the people talked to him, probably telling him to save his strength. We couldn’t help so we rode on.
We’d gone several kilometers when Cat saw an ambulance go by. It came passed again, headed toward El Jadida with siren and whaling and lights flashing when we had covered 10 kilometers. The boy had been down then for at least 45 minutes. We hoped he would be okay. It was a graphic reminder how fragile we are compared to a car. Also, you’re riding along enjoying the morning sun one minute and you’re a hood ornament the next. Though we weren’t shook up it did make a pause and reflect on the beauty and impermanence of life. Yes, we are vulnerable but we are careful, too.
The last few kilometers flew by quickly and we entered El Jadida by 2:30. Then the tough job of finding a place to stay. We had passed on the Sofitel Royal Golf Hotel. It is 10 kilometers north of town and expensive. After circling the town, getting lost, then getting directions several times we finally found a place. Definitely not luxurious but a value at 240 Dirham. (24$ US) The bikes we stored in a locked room around the corner in the garage. Oh yea, that cost an extra 10 Dirham. (A Buck!)
We were tired, I was a little shaky. Cat showered then shopped. I typed then showered. We ate bread and cheese with a bottle of wine then went out in search of dinner. Just around the corner is a liquor store. Strange, we haven’t seen one like this in Morocco. It must be rare, it was crowded with people, mostly guys, pushing to the counter in a quest for the forbidden
Our quest for food led us to the door of many an awful looking place then back to the Hotel Provence and dinner in the leafy patio. That is how Lonely Planet described it and that was close. The food was very good, Cat had Lamb Chops and I had a Beefsteak. We really enjoyed the food and the patio.
September 18, 2003
El Jadida to L’ Oualidia
We were out the door and exploring by 7:30 AM. As we walked we looked for a place to have coffee and croissants and found a great one. The Hotel offered continental breakfast for only 35 Dirham each person but we wanted to see the other side of life in La Jadida. Patisserie Royal was the place. Great juice, 4 cups of coffee and 5 wonderful little croissants. What a shock when the friendly guy handed us the bill. The entire came to only 38 Dirham. ($3.80) We were generous and gave the guy 50 Ds tip.
The Portuguese City is a walled area, the Medina in most places here. The Portuguese established it in 1513 and they controlled it for more than 200 years. The walls are thick and brown like so many things here. We have come to the conclusion that the fields, the animals, even the people are varying shades of brown. It may just be the time of year?
The streets in the Portuguese City are narrow and the walls loom above creating a maze of tiny canyons. As we entered a young guy caught us and began talking English. Alejandro was a treat to talk with and he insisted that I step inside and try something on to surprise Madame. It was a pull over Jellaba then he wrapped a turban around my head and pulled one layer across my face. He completed the outfit with a man’s handbag. Cat was surprised and took a photo of us. He invited us back to sign his book and have tea after we have visited the Citerine Portuguese. It is the big feature of El Jadida. A water cistern system designed like the original Roman cisterns and built in 1541.
I fell in love with the building and the effect of the sunlight on the water and the reflection of the pillars. It is awe-inspiring, they say that scenes from several movies have been shot here? The only one mentioned by name is Orson Welles’ Othello. Shot in 1950, the opening scene takes place here. I've never seen it but it is as classic as this place. When we get home I must rent it and relive our moments here.
Back at the shop, Alejandro was busy, we begged off on the tea and he forgot the book signing. I did take a good picture of him so he gave us his e-mail address and asked for a copy to send to his Mother in Portugal.
of El Jadida
When we checked out of the Hotel we found that they had added a 10% tip to last nights dinner. Generous us, we gave the guy a little more than that, too. Well we made some back on breakfast and we must say the place was very pleasant for the 240 ($24 US) Dirham price. Oh, I did splurge and double the cost of the garage, I gave Medi an extra 10 Dirham for being so kind.
We stopped at the Tourist Office and got another book but little info about the road ahead. The girl did say that there were no places to stay between L’ Ouadidia and Safi. We hope that she is wrong because that is a 121-kilometer pull. She said that the road rises and falls along the coast there too but the scenery is spectacular. We hope she’s right about that.
A young woman with a baby hanging on her back and leading a boy about 3 years old came up and held her hand out. We shunned her as we usually do. She was young and should have a husband or boy friend helping her. She could work, too. After she said something to us in Arabic, one can only guess what, and walked away I began to think that I missed a golden or in this case purple opportunity. She was dressed in purple including a purple veil covering her face and carrying a purple plastic bag. I wished that I had offered her a little money and if she allowed, taken a picture. It is difficult to get women with veils to volunteer for photos.
It was 10:00 AM by the time we pushed away from Hotel Provence. Down the street, around the corner then up the first hill of the day. The road was very good, wide and smooth. Traffic was light and the trucks all honked, we think they are the same line drivers that were passing us yesterday. Most of the first few kilometers is a climb that levels out above the Port area. Several ships there were loading or off loading goods. Some of it is oil, being pumped up to a Texaco refinery.
We cycled without stop for 2 hours. Cat had just said that we might have to eat peanut butter and bread today when a beautiful Hotel and Restaurant appeared like a mirage. Le Relais was a wonderful oasis on the ocean front. It reminded us of Malibu. We parked the bikes in a car port area. The attendant and the waitress assured us they would be safe then a wiry, wily looking guy came right up to me, put his hand on the bike and spoke directly into my face. Though he only spoke Arabic it was easy to see what he wanted. For the second time today I missed a photo opportunity. He had the worst looking teeth, I wished after they shooed him away that I had given him a buck and taken a close up of his face and rotten toothed smile.
The food was great, the scenery superb! Kids swimming, fishermen testing their luck or skill, trying to out smarting the fish. A wonderful sunny beach day. We opened a window and got a taste of the sea along with our food. I had fish, two whole fish, Cat had a huge salad. The bill including a big bottle of water and two Cokes was 112 Ds. You’d never see a price like that for food like that in a place like this, in Malibu!
Onward, we rode the ups and downs then climbed up and leveled out above farms and salt ponds. We did stop in a Service Station for a soft drink. Cat has started a new way of dealing with the guys that sit and stare at her. She just smiles and stares back until she stares them down. Funny, the same Fanta that costs 18 Ds in the City is only 4 Ds here. (40 Cents)
We have never ridden any where on this journey where the people react so positively to us. Trucks honk, drivers wave, people along the roadway whistle, clap and cheer. We’ve never seen so many thumbs ups anywhere. I had started waving then giving the peace sign, two fingers in the air. The waves then frowns made me wonder if that was a nasty gesture here. I’ll have to ask someone. In the meantime, I stopped the peace sign.
As we entered L’ Oualidia a guy on a bike carrying a plastic chair pulled up next to Cat and shouted out, “I have a home with two bedrooms and shower, very clean and very cheap, do you need a place?” Another Ali, a nice guy who learned English in school but has lived in Germany for a year. He also cooks crabs on the beach at night and invited us to join him. We fibbed slightly and told him that friends had made a reservation for us at Hotel L’ Initiale. He smiled understandingly and told us to go down the hill 600 meters.
The place was almost fogged in when we pulled in. The man at the desk, Ahmed, spoke perfect English. We were home for the evening. The room wasn’t ready yet so we off loaded the bags and I took the bikes into the dungeon, piano bar. They will spend the night there, in repose, against the piano. They close that room at the end of the season.
Cat showered, I typed then showered and we went down to dinner. Another enjoyable end to an enjoyable day. Cat stuck with Pizza that she said was just okay, the dough was like a pastry. My Lasagna was perfect and our salads were a treat, too. We talked with Chef and Hotel Manager, Ahmed and told him that we think Morocco is a good place to cycle and we would recommend it to adventuresome cyclists. He thinks their tourist business is just in its infancy. This is a special place, the prices are right and there should be lots of European tourists coming here to escape the winter weather.
A walk down to the beach just as the sun disappeared. This area is a little enclave of private homes, nice homes.
We were in bed by 9:30. Though the ride wasn’t as long as yesterday it was a bit more difficult.
September 19, 2003
L’ Oualidia to Safi
A slow start, we were ready for breakfast by 7:30 AM but they weren’t. The night watchman opened the door to the Piano Bar and I struggled up the stairs with them, one at time. One of the young guys came in at 8:00 but it took almost half and hour to get coffee. And, that was about all we were going to get. They had no juice or fruit just crunchy toast, jam and coffee. Te bill for the entire evening including the inadequate breakfast was only 500 Dirham. We did have wine that was extra but still reasonable. Our entire day cost less than 800 Dirham. ($80.00 US)
During our toast and coffee we talked about Marrakech. Both of us want to take the train and we now know that Peter, the interesting young German guy in Casa Blanca was correct, there was no train from Essaouira. For a moment we considered riding on to Essaouira then taking a bus but hated that option. The second was to take a bus back to Safi then the train to Marrakech. That made little sense. Finally we convinced ourselves that finding a place in Safi, storing the bikes there after tonight and taking the train tomorrow. “Don’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakech Express, it’s taking us to Marrakech! All aboard that Train, all aboard that train to Marrakech!”
We sat adjacent to a French couple, said hello then goodbye as we pushed out. The climb was a partial push. It was 9:45 by the tome we hit the summit. It must be at least a 250 to 350 meter climb. (500-700 foot) A couple of pics and we were off to Safi. The ride was all ups and downs, one so steep that we had to push again. A short way down the road the French couple came slowly past, honking and waving. In fact we enjoyed another day of honks, waves, thumbs up and cheers.
Traffic was so light that we felt isolated at times. Plenty of donkeys and people sitting under trees or on rocks. Much of the time we were on a ridge high above the Atlantic Ocean on the right and the Sahara Desert on the left. Most of the landscape is brown and rocky. Rock fences sometimes divide worthless looking lands. The rocks are so close together that we began calling it the Moroccan moonscape. The desert view is stark and vast the Atlantic coastline is spectacular.
to the Sea Sheep
Except for a few photo ops we cycled non-stop to Cap Beddouza. Our hopes for another wonderful restaurant were dashed. The village was virtually closed down. We rode back and forth finally stopping at a tiny market. It was peanut butter, a loaf of round bread and soft drinks to wash it down. The owner, Abdelati, spoke just enough English to be able to communicate in combination with his French. He quickly moved a couple of cement blocks for us to sit on and cushioned them with cardboard.
The locals came and went, most stood and stared for a while. Two cute girls peaked over the boxes so I got the camera out to take their picture. As soon as I pointed the camera in their direction they took off on the run. A kind of interesting looking old guy came with his hand out. Abdelati sort of shooed him away but I decided to try my photo for pay idea. As I approached him with the camera and a couple of coins in my hand he stood up straight and smiled. It is a pretty good close up of his face.
Abdelati pointed out the Lighthouse but couldn’t get the point across about the building. He pulled out a book on Safi and opened it to the page with a picture and the story in French. The Cap Beddouza Lighthouse was built in 1916. The book had several pictures of places and buildings along the coast. He offered it to us bet we told him we didn’t have room to carry any more books and thanked him in three different languages.
Onward, along the ridgeline and through the moonscape. Other cyclists joined us from time to time. One young guy stuck with us for miles. He would pass then slow, sometimes swinging back then return from behind and pass again. Another stuck with us and begged for money or a pen. We stuck with our policy of not giving to one because we can’t give to all. He didn’t look like he had missed any meals and he had a pretty nice bike.
Safi lies at sea level, we took a couple of pictures and prepared to swoop down in to town when we came upon a great, new looking place, Hotel Atlantique. We turned into the parking lot and lost the last of our hanger on bike buddies. The place is so new that it is still rough around some of the edges.
They agreed to keep the bikes and had plenty of rooms. The girl quoted 550 Dirham but immediately agreed to discount that by 25% because we would stay two days. The room is great, with a balcony overlooking the pool and Atlantic beyond. We think that Miami Beach is straight across the big pond but we can’t see it from our Atlantique Panorama.
Starving after a terrible food day, Cat set out to find food. She was able to get cheese sandwiches with fries. The best news was the price, 50 Ds for both. However, as food value it wasn’t much better than we’ve had all day.
Dinner, we both ordered Tagine and they were very good, small but good. The price was small, too. Then came the hook, we used the computer in their office for about 35 minutes to check e-mail. When we passed the front desk after dinner the girl at the communication window wanted to see us. She had a bill for 5 Ds, use of the computer. They hadn’t mentioned that they would charge us. To top it off, we received a message from Abdellah and he said it was urgent that we get in touch with him. I tried to dial to no avail then called the desk. The girl said she would place the call. I asked about cost and thought she meant 1.5 Ds per minute.
Abdellah had met with some politicians and government employees and they were worried about our ride through the Deep South. He said that the fish trucks drive like crazy and the road is narrow. What a nice guy and a nice thing that he is concerned for us. Oh yea, the call cost 15 Ds per minute and the 12 minutes came to 180 Dirham. ($18.00 US) YIKES!!
September 20, 2003
Safi to Marrakesh on the Marrakesh Express!
Don’t You Know We’re Ridin’ on the Marrakesh Express!
Up early, we are anxious to get to town and buy tickets on the train. Breakfast was a disappointment. A small variety for 50 Ds each. We miss the Patisserie Royal and Des Flueres. Guess we’re spoiled. They did have some uncooked looking pancake things and the girl showed us a jam to smear on them. I had two, Cat tried one but set it aside.
The desk arranged a cab for 9:30 and it was here early. Nice young driver took us directly to the train station then waited and even came in and helped translate. With tickets in hand we had him drop us near an Internet Shop. His fee seemed a lot for the drive, 40 Ds then we remembered that’s only $4.00 US. Things are such a bargain here that you lose track of the exchange rate.
With our messages cleared we explored buying a West African Lonely Planet book and a Michelin Map. Both sites were difficult to work our way through so we put off the purchase in hopes of finding them in Marrakesh?
Another cab, a driver who spoke no English or French. We were in trouble. Our first destination was Place Mohammed V but he couldn’t understand us. He stopped and asked some schoolgirls for help. When it was obvious that we were getting nowhere fast we changed destinations to Hotel Assif that we found in our guidebook. Even then he had to stop and ask a young guy for help.
Because we’re carrying our bags we decided to eat in the Hotel Restaurant. The food was good, the service was slow. As we ate Cat dug out the phone number for the Ibis Hotel in Marrakesh, not very Moroccan but reliable and near the train station. I ate ice cream while she went across the street to a phone boutique. She returned with a look of despair. Ibis and 3 other Hotels suggested by Ibis were fully booked. She took a long list of other Hotels and went back to make calls. I paid the bill but thought I could hear her voice in the lobby. Sure enough, she had met a gal, Leila, who lives in New York but works for a Sardine Canning Company here in Morocco. She is originally from Rabat but has lived in New York for several years. She did say that she took the train from here to Marrakesh once and vowed to never do that again. She says the first train from Safi to Benguerir has old wooden cars and also carries cows, sheep and freight. The Marrakesh Express will definitely be an interesting ride.
Cat went back to make calls only to find that the TeleBotique had closed. Kessan, the desk clerk here speaks some English. He pointed out the liquor store and the Poste where they have a coin telephone. She did finally score, The Sheraton is going to allow us an ordinary room for 1250 Ds. (Wow, $125 US per night?)
The first train was a pleasant surprise. We were almost disappointed that it was so clean and almost modern. No cows, goats or sheep and it had good air conditioning. In fact we had a cabin designed to seat 8, all to ourselves. We celebrated with wine, lunchmeat, bread and cheese. Leila, you’ll have to give this ride another try.
Benguerir is a dusty Military outpost. We thought we had an hour and a half layover so we took a seat and watched the locals come and go. Another train pulled in so I went out in front of the station and took pictures of the horse taxis. We’d only been there about 20 minutes when a train came in. We decided to ask if it was our ride to Marrakesh. Surprise, it wasn’t but the guy did get the point across that the next train would be one to Marrakesh. We think it was the earlier train, running late. Bag and baggage we shuffled to the platform and waited as it pulled in. There was a rush to board so we joined the push and shove. Apparently the crowd was due to the schedule problem and the fact that a lot of us who thought we would have to wait wanted on.
As we walked through the cars it was obvious that we wouldn’t have the luxury of a private compartment. I caught a glimpse of a western looking couple so we ducked in and took the last two seats in the compartment. The two Moroccan guys were quiet, a language barrier. Tony and Tina are from Australia, they just stepped off the plane in Casa Blanca and onto the train. Though totally jet lagged, they are excited about being here. They’re on a tight budget, headed for the high Atlas Mountains. Trekking but using a guide and donkey to carry the bags. A nice couple, we just enjoyed listening to them speak the Aussie brand of English.
It was dark and the lights eerie in the big station. We grabbed a cab and went directly to the Sheraton. Driving the main street was a lot like cruising through Scottsdale, Arizona. One big Brand Name Hotel after another.
There was a time when both of us would have loved the resort feeling of the Hotel. The lobby is huge and ornate. Checking in was still a bit Moroccan, the other guests sort of elbow in rather than stand in line. We’re in the south forty, across the lobby, out passed the pool and in the next building. Then it was up the elevator and to the end of a long hallway before we hit the end of the tunnel and saw the light of the room. The pool area was alive with guest taking moonlight swims. We threw the bags into our upscale room and went back down for food.
After circling the area and reading all the menus we decided that the Café Napoleonic had a high priced bowl of pasta that was the lowest priced plate in the Hotel. We took a seat near the pool and enjoyed the evening air. The Maitre de walked past several times before I called out, “Are you going to serve us?” The stuffy jerk looked then sort of snarled “We will be there in a minute, Sir.”
There is another reason for our dislike of this type of place. We did finally get food from a nice young guy who also had to put up with the cranky Maitre de. All the froo froo aside, the king sized bed felt great!
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Tourists in Marrakesh
Our experience at the Napoleonic last night left a bad taste in our mouths. The menus for breakfast were bitterly expensive, too. The breakfast buffet was not a bargain at 185 Ds per person. ($18.50) We know the prices of food in Morocco and somehow a $37.00 breakfast doesn’t add up? In fact we began to feel sorry for the tourists who come here, stay in and eat in, take the bus tour and think they have seen Morocco.
Out the door and we were immediately beseeched by guys with a service or some other something to sell. Outside the gate there is a flock of taxis, waiting like buzzards. An aggressive driver came to us and said “Taxi, 20 Dirham.” Again, the inexperienced would think that $2.00 is cheap. We decided to walk rather than hassle the driver. It is a beautiful morning and an interesting street.
It is about 1 kilometer into the center. The street is wide and modern with a large fountain at the entry, through the gate of the 12th century wall. On the left, we took a side trip through gardens to a tall Minaret. Just across the street we found a café and ordered coffee and bread. The bread wasn’t good and they had no jam. We drank the coffee and walked into the Medina. Another, cleaner looking place drew us in and it was a good choice. They had pastries and great coffee.
As we exited we ran into a very rare sight, a guy and gal on touring bicycles. An even greater surprise, when I said hello they answered in English. When we asked where they were from the guy, Dave said, “Based on your English we’re from close to the same place.”
Dave and Sarah are from Colorado and are spending a year biking around the world. They are a spunky young couple, they slept in a bed last night for the first time in 40 days. They free camp most of the time. We enjoyed talking but they were looking for food so we reluctantly said goodbye and watched them push away. We did get their e-mail address and website. They had just rounded the corner when we wished that we had invited them to have dinner. We hurried down the street but they had disappeared into the crowd.
The Square, Djemaa el-Faa is a crazy place. Dave and Sarah told us they walked through last night and it was really wild. We walked around in broad daylight and could see how night will add to the bizarre atmosphere. There were snake handlers with several Cobras. They drew us in, one guy put a snake on my shoulder and I knelt down for a picture with the Cobras. He tried to get Cat to touch the little snake but she really is fearful. I did get a little video of her sitting near them. Then, as friendly as the snakes in the grass handlers had been as we walked by, they turned on us and demanded 500 Dirham. One, the one with the small snake even made threatening gestures as I told him there was no way we would pay $50 for the two pictures. I gave him a 50 and we walked as he complained and called us names, we assumed, in Arabic.
We spent the next two hours just walking through the narrow streets and alleyways that make up the interesting Souq, the marketplace. There are so many interesting stalls and merchants. I usually dislike shopping, especially when we know that we aren’t going to buy anything. The colors, the people, the strange spices and food kept us wandering what was around the next corner.
A woman in veil came up to us trying to sell water jars. I told her no then decided that I would try the bribe for a photo. She thought about it for a few seconds then agreed. It is one of my favorite pictures from Marrakesh. As I showed it to her a big guy sitting nearby asked to see it. He seemed irritated that she had allowed it. He sort of growled to me in English that I could take his picture. I told him he wasn’t pretty enough. His friends laughed but he only frowned. Two kids, a boy and girl who had been watching looked at the picture then indicated that they would like a picture. When I took it with the square in the background they almost attacked me for money. I thought they just wanted to have a picture of themselves taken. They followed us and whined, begged then yelled things we felt must have been insults.
Checking our e-mails, we sent one to Dave and Sarah, hoping to catch them and get together for dinner. After lunch in a Climatese Café we shopped for a restaurant for dinner. There are several on Djemaa el-Fna but only Restaurant Marrakchi seems to serve wine with dinner. Of course you know we chose it and made a reservation, dinner for four.
Not wanting to be pressed tomorrow we took a Taxi to the Gare Routiere and bought tickets to return to Safi by local bus, tomorrow. The rest of the hot afternoon was spent lounging and journalizing. Yes, it is much hotter here than on the coast, at least 40+ degrees compared to about 30 on the coast. (100 degrees compared to 85)
The heat drove us to seek a taxi but the BS from the drivers led to an argument with one aggressive driver who insisted that the rate was 20 Dirham. It had cost only 4 Ds to get back from the Square this afternoon. The amount is small, only $1.60 but it is the principal of the thing. Another example of hustlers, trying to take advantage of tourists.
Finally we cut a deal as the cab drove along beside us to pay him 7 Dirham. When he got us to the Square he demanded 10 but we only gave him the agreed upon 7. Every deal here is a negotiation then sometimes a forgetful renege?
The Square at dusk was even more interesting and crowded. Our table was at a window, 4 stories above, overlooking the surging crowd. It was dinner for 2, we never heard from Dave and Sarah.
The food was good, the wine the best in town? The view increased in drama as the sun disappeared and dark gave way to the eerie gaslights of the marketplace below. A local duet entered and began to play that throbbing rhythm that seems popular here. They were as classic as their music. The guy with the little tambourines reminded us of Knuckles, my alter ego that I assumed when playing the Rub Board with our band, Acadiana. He squats then shoots back up, swings his head around causing the tassel on his fez to swing around as he plays. I took pictures and tipped them, I liked it.
Walking back through Djemaa el-Fna was a trip through time and weird. The energy of the place surges and wanes like the music. The lights add to the strange feeling as they reach out toward the black desert sky. This walk alone was worth the trip to Marrakesh!
September 22, 2003
Bus Back to Safi
Breakfast at the same great place where we had our second breakfast yesterday. A couple of gals came in and took a seat nest to us. Mandy and Asesha are from London. They have been on a trekking trip in the Atlas Mountains. Though they loved the mountains they have decided that they would never come back alone or with just a girl friend. They had been harassed, even by their guide while on the trek and in all the towns. They felt that it was because Asesha is originally from India and the guys here all love Indian women. They see the films from India and think all women are as loose as those in the movies. They have even been publicly groped by some of the poor, sexually suppressed boys here.
It was a treat talking with them. Mandy works with a non-profit that funds education for disabled children. Asesha is a Psychologist. We asked if the trip had been a study in behavior for her.
The streets and alleyways in Marrakesh are full of tourist things and tourists. We walked through the winding ways of the Medina, and then checked our e-mail. The cab to the Sheraton and check out. Taxi to Charter Book Store, wrong place, Taxi Driver dropped us at a shopping place full of tourists. Must be a mistake? He offered to take us to the Book Store for free, I gave him an additional 5 Ds. (Big spender, 50 cents.)
Nothing at Charter, we had lunch, Panini at a sheik looking place, Climatise again but warm. Taxi to the bus station. On board at 1:45, pulled out a little after 2:00, went three blocks and stopped for gas. The conductor put water into the radiator. The bus is like a larger Classique. (We had a 1974 Cortez motor home that we used to advertise our business and Acadiana, our band. It was old, needed a lot of work and was hard to drive. We called it Le Classique.)
Hot, Cat was sort of trapped against the window on the sunny side. I chose the seat because the back of the one ahead was missing, giving me legroom. However, I did have to be careful not to cut my legs on the ragged edges of the broken pipe frame. As the sun continued to broil us we got the guy ahead to open his little window and got a breeze going. It wasn’t long before the fellows across the aisle felt the air and closed their windows. They are all wrapped up in Jellabas and turbans, they must really be hot blooded.
The guy who opened the window turned and held out his hand, not for a shake, he wanted money. I liked his look so suggested I would give him 10 Ds in exchange for his picture. He was pretty stiff when I shot the pic but smiled big once the coin was in his hand.
The ride ground on for 3 hours with lots of stops to pick up or drop people off. The only real break was 10-minute stop. Neither of us needed the facility and from the looks of it that was a good thing. We stayed in the bus, the shade inside looked cooler than the searing sun. Next time you’re in Marrakesh and interested in getting to Safi, despite Leila’s opinion, we recommend taking the train. We thought the bus would be faster but it took the same amount of time with far less comfort.
The bus pulled into the station at Safi and we walked to the waiting cabs. With the several there we had to choose the one with the grumpy, chiseling driver. He didn’t understand or know where the Assif Hotel was. We saw a sign and asked him to turn. He continued on then used a cell phone to call for directions. He had failed to turn on the meter and when we finally saw the store where Cat had picked up bread we made him stop. He asked for 20 Dirham and I told him that on the meter it would have only been 3 or 4. He snorted and indicated that the meter didn’t work. I told him that was his problem and handed him a 5 Dirham coin. He shouted what sounded like obscenities and continued his tirade as we crossed the street. Then he shouted toward the guy in the store and his tires squealed as he roared away.
I wanted to visit Kessan at the Hotel and get a picture and video of him. I love his voice and he reminds me of our Portuguese pal, Jose. The girl behind the desk was nice but she was no Kessan, he was off today.
At one of our stops, the Wine Store, a gal sitting outside, begging, caught my attention. I offered the usual 10 Ds photo wage and she agreed. The interesting thing was that she is leaning on the fender of a Mercedes Benz. As I knelt to take it a group of guys sitting on the windowsill of the Alcohol Store asked me to take their picture. Okay, the ads in the window would be interesting. As I set up to shoot another guy jumped in and flexed his bulging bicep. This has become one of my favorite pictures.
Though we worried that the angry driver would let others know about us we got a really nice young guy to pick us up. He immediately set the meter and took us directly to Hotel Atlantique. The tab on the meter was small and he would have a dead head return because there are so few guests here. I gave him 20 Ds, sometimes it pays to be nice to your customers.
It was dinner in the empty Restaurant, a little journal catch-up and BBC then sleep.
September 23, 2003
Safi to Essaouira
The long ride had us up early but the slow service left us departing at our usual, 9:00 AM. For some reason, probably lack of guests, the buffet was barren. There were 3 guys there, who work with an electrical switching company. (Big switches used by power supply companies.) There were 3 servers helping the 5 of us but they just don’t know what they are doing. One of the guys Jean Christophe, a Frenchman currently living in Spain, told us that the Hotel was not officially open yet. They are just taking guests that happen in and using them as training. So, we’re guinea pigs, that’s why the great rate.
The guys finished and left for their training session leaving three boiled eggs and two pieces of cake, untouched, on the table. Cat made a raid and we stashed them for lunch on the trail.
It’s a steep swooping drop down then a climb back up into Safi. Luckily we asked our taxi driver how to get the road to Essaouira. We stay on the coast and won’t have to go through the main part of Safi. Asking, we found a road close to the Atlantic and stuck with it. This is Cannery Row, Morocco. There is a slight resemblance to the buildings in Monterey but these are in their natural state and reek with their natural sardine smell. This sardine fishing fleet is the largest in the world but like Monterey the catch, therefore the industry, is in decline. The buildings show the decline. Maybe they’ll become a tourist attraction some day?
We’ve been paralleling the highway and joined it at the end of the Canneries. Close to the coast we passed near an oil refinery then a phosphate chemical plant. A guard stepped out of his shack and yelled, signaling for us to move on and not take pictures. Too late!
The road took a rise, a long slow grinder. We rode with a guy who had a bag of something heavy looking strapped to the rear rack. He had to give up and walk first. When we gave in to gravity he slowly caught us. He tried to communicate but there was a huge language gap. We did get the message that he too was going to Essaouira. Once atop he sailed away from us.
Most of the morning was an up and down roller. We picked up another cyclist, an older looking guy on an even older looking 1-speed bike. He had a pair of goggles on his forehead but was wearing street cloths. In fact it looked like he had too many cloths on for the warm morning. We played tortoise and the hare for several miles. He would pass us then pull over and talk or get water of food from locals along the road then sprint to catch us after we passed.
This would be our best Camel day, yet. As we rode the coast we spotted 4 walking on the sand dunes in the distance. It was disappointing because as classic as it looked it was too far away for a good picture. Then, we were looking at a big guy, just across the road. Another out in a field made a good shot with the Atlantic beyond. As I took the picture a guy yelled out then started running toward us. We asked what he wanted and he answered, “Dirham”! No, no, we’re not going to pay for a long shot of the field and sea, sorry.
Our lunch was a seat on rocks in the wind. We had bread and turkey that Cat had bought yesterday in Safi. Oh yes, this morning when our 3 table neighbors left Cat grabbed the 3 boiled eggs and two pieces of cake from their table. We ate the eggs and saved the cake for later. The guy with goggles waved as he passed.
Onward, over hill and dale, Mohammed came up from behind as we ate our cake at the bottom of a hill. This time we motioned for him to stop. Though he looked older he was only 59 and his identification card shows his occupation as Professional Cyclist. He is proud of the ID status. He dug out two oranges and gave them to us then pedaled away, up the hill. We caught him before the summit and waved as we sped down the next hill. He fell behind and we felt it would be the last time we would see him,
We rode without stopping until reaching the outskirts of Essaouira. There is a viewpoint overlooking the city off to the right. We stopped and were checking our map when Mohammed swept passed and shouted out a hello and goodbye. The tortoise had won, again!
A long ride but we were assisted by a fresh and blustery tail wind. Tired we took the first Hotel we passed. I checked and they wanted 700 Ds. The guy threw in breakfast when I asked. Cat just wanted to get in out of the fast cooling wind. When I told him we’d take the deal I asked once again if it was his best price for us. He dropped it to 600 and I signed the registration.
We were in what they call the “Bungalows” at Hotel des Ilse. It is large enough to keep the bikes inside but a little dirty. The Hotels claim to fame is that Orson Welles stayed here when he filmed the beginning scenes of Othello here in Essaouira. So, they still cling to a 50-year-old claim?
Settled in, we walked through the Bab es Sebaa gate into the Medina. A surprising number of western tourists were working the shops along the narrow street. We found a small Hotel with a Café and went in. Too cold for the patio so we went on inside and were glad that we did. The rock interior spoke of a time past. The entire area was bathed in candles light. The food was good, the service very good. We were so taken with the place that Cat looked at a room. The price of 250 was alluring but alas, no place for the bikes. They offered a corner of the patio but we felt insecure with that idea. And, there was the loss of BBC to think about, too.
Back in the Bungalow we switched on BBC then lay back and talked for a few minutes about the joy of conversation with Dave and Sarah. Sleep came easily, so easily that we awoke at 12:30 AM to the droning of news on BBC. I shut it off and we instantly fell back into dreamland.
September 24, 2003
Day Off in Essaouira
Breakfast, soft-boiled eggs, the kind our friend, Greg the Aussie, in Greenland, called Salmonella Pills. The spread is really not too bad. The room is pretty beachy as Cat puts it. Like many old, worn resorts along so many coasts in the world.
Cat walked to a Laundry while I typed. Boy the journal does demand! She got to explore the streets inside the Medina. Lots of tourist traps and tourists.
We took a walk along the beach and took a look at the row of Seafood Stands. The fish looked okay but we hated the aggressive way they sell and the look of years of layers of grime. Pretty touristy of us but, I still remember the way I felt in Kenitra. The place we ended up at was on a balcony overlooking the square and East Wall. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.
We walked the streets, Cat was my tour guide. Not much to see but I did like the “No Work Team” surf shop. A group of guys, surfer types, were hunched over a huge Tajine. They waved and invited us to sit in and eat but we indicated that we had just finished.
The Internet Shop just around the corner drew us in, we wanted to try to get a message to Dave and Sarah, just in case our paths should cross here in Essaouira. They were planning on cycling here from Marrakesh and we thought they would probably stay at the camp ground just outside town. While I wrote Cat went down to the street to escape the heat of the little shop. I was just finishing the message when Cat called out, “Dave and Sarah are here, they’re just riding up”.
Fate has a way of bringing good tings to us and this was another example. They had decided to get a Hotel room, both have been suffering from diarrhea and Sarah has been throwing up. In fact they felt so bad that they were afraid to commit to meeting for dinner. We extended the invitation and told them that we hoped to see them at the beachfront Café.
We lounged and typed then headed for dinner at 7:30 PM. The place is so typical beachfront faded but it felt good to look out and see the sea. We ordered wine then stalled and finally chose soup and fish. We had just given up on seeing Dave and Sarah when they walked in looking very local. Both were wearing Jellabas, neither was feeling very well. They did sip soup as we talked. Their trip across the desert was tough, between the wind and the sickness. They slept in the trees near a house along the road last night. Wow, they are brave!!
They were tired and we had to get ready to ride. We could have stayed and talked all night. What a treat. They did a very fun little video as we left then it was hugs and goodbyes filled with promises to stay in touch and get together in California or Colorado, or both.
September 25, 2003
Essaouira to Tamanar
Up early and another pretty good breakfast. I went to the TeleBoutique to call our connection in Agadir, Luis Torres. Danielle, back in France had introduced him to us. I told him that we would be there on Saturday. He said something about leaving but suggested that we call him when we get into town and he would meet us and lead us to his house.
Cat got us checked out and we hit the road by 9:00 AM. Our thoughts were with Dave and Sarah, wondering how they felt. We cruised along, taking pictures of some Camels and the Islands on the beach then headed out for Tamanar. At the 15-kilometer marker Cat noticed that my little book and pen were missing from my cycling shirt pocket. Oh my God! I left it at the telephone place.
We pulled up and discussed our options. Cat preferred to call the Hotel and ask them to go over, get it and mail it to us. I thought that plan was tough because it is hard enough to get a point across when you are eye to eye. After some soul searching we decided that I would stand the guard and Cat would take the bus back and get the book. We didn’t even have Luis’s phone number as well as lots of other friends if we didn’t have the book.
Cat was a little nervous but thought the bus would be okay. After waiting for almost a half hour with no bus and watching several Gran Taxis pass by we flagged one down. There were 4 people in the cab, three guys and a woman. We hugged then she crawled in and was whisked away, back toward Essaouira.
I sat on the kilometer marker, in the sun. I seemed like an eternity and I was worried about her. I did pass some of the time talking with a nice young guy. He has studied English and attended University. He worked for 6 months for a Real Estate Office but business slowed in the off-season and he has been laid off.
Cat’s Memories of the Big Taxi Ride
We asked how much to town and back, the driver quoted 100 Dirham. We asked how much just into town and he said, “10 Dirham”. That is the regular, local’s price. I climbed into the back seat with the two guys and waved to Pat out the back window. Feeling reluctant, I sang out, Bonjour in my best French. The others completely ignored me. I tried to settle back but really felt uncomfortable in the silence or occasional Arabic chatter. In the typical Moroccan Taxi, none of the windows would open so we all just sat and sweated.
We came to a place near a market and the others got out. The driver tried to talk but we had a hard time. I finally got him to understand that I wanted to go to the TeleBoutique then back out to where Pat was waiting. He smiled and quoted his price, 60 Dirham. I would have the cab to myself and be whisked back, we had a deal.
The clerk at the Telephone stand had the book and on the shelf behind the counter. I thanked the guy, grabbed the book and jumped back into the taxi. The driver now opened up and talked, in French. He was interested in what we were doing and where we had come from. The trip back was quick. As I stepped out I handed him 60 Dirham. He clucked and said it was 60 to come back and I still owed him 10 for the ride in. What a nice guy and even a good price. We were back on the road after just a 40-minute delay.
Once I had the book and we were headed back all my fears and trepidations dissolved. It was just another small chapter in our big story.
It was great to see Cat, sitting and talking with the driver as he coasted to a stop. We took a quick picture of Hamid and Cat then he sped off looking for more passengers and we rolled south.
The road is hilly and the sun warm. Fortunately it was on a downhill run that a goat herders dogs decided to give chase. We cranked up as they jumped the rock fence and came nipping at our heels. They didn’t give up easily. I finally blasted the last hanger-oner with a shot from my water bottle. That stopped him in his tracks.
As we rolled fast down toward a riverbed town we found a little store that was open. We got bread and Laughing Cow cheese. I was hungry so I went back in and bought some cookies. There is a wood working shop next door that has just completed several window and doorframes. They are handwork of nice looking wood. The crew of two sat and watched as we munched. There were two kids, a girl about 5 or 6 and a little boy maybe 2 years old at the counter when we went in. They bought little candies. The boy dropped his out of his mouth, into the dirt. The little girl quickly grabbed it and put it in her mouth. She swished it around then took it out and spit the dirt on the floor then put the piece of candy back in the boy’s mouth. The store operator shooed them out and locked the door as we exited.
With a few cookies and soft drink filling the void we rolled down, into a dirty one street village. Still hungry we found a small café and had a so-so Tajine. A French guy and gal pulled up in a car. He was curious and asked then wanted to know more about our Odyssey. He even told us where he was staying in Agadir but, alas, he would be leaving the day we get into town. The hills stiffened and the heat intensified as we moved further inland.
The day was really a lot of climbing then a long fast drop. The hill away from lunch was just a beginning. It was all ups and downs and heat most of the rest of the afternoon We were happy to see Tamanar and be rolling down hill toward it. The Tourist Office in Essaouira had confirmed that there was a Hotel here but we couldn’t find it. There was a Gendarme standing in the street, in front of the Royal Gendarmerie so we pulled up and asked. He said no Hotel but suggested that we go to the Cooperative where they process Argan oil. There was a tour bus parked out front and what looked like a group of Germans taking a tour of the Coop. We asked the driver and he raised our spirits by pointing to a small Hotel sign, back up the street.
We cycled back and found the windows boarded up and the door locked tight. In a quandary we sat at a table in front of the small food store next door and drank a soft drink. A dirty fellow with his hand out hovered until the shopkeeper shooed him off. Boy we just can’t feed them all.
Back to the Policeman and asked to set our tent in the yard area of the Gendarmerie but he held his hand up and said it was not possible. He again indicated that we should go to the Coop. As we rolled in a pretty girl met us and asked if we wanted a tour. She was waving to the Germans as they pulled away. We told her that we were looking for a place to put our tent when she said, “You want to stay in my house? I have big house.”
It took a while to sink in but apparently her family rents a room occasionally. We were interested so she asked us to follow her to the Police Station. There we were required to leave our Passports but told that we could pick them up in the morning as we leave town. Some kind of security system but we weren’t sure whether it was to protect her family or us?
She led, we pushed. Up a long steep dirt road through sort of a residential neighborhood. We passed a school just as the students came out. What a treat for them and for us.
Khadija (You have to kind of cough as you say her name to pronounce it correctly.) seems to be the Matriarch of her family. The Father, Abdullah, is 75 years old and has 8 children. Her Mother seems younger but is shy and only speaks Arabic and Berber. Her two sisters are typical teenagers, she is 21 years old. Two of her brothers and several other people seemed to come and go as we introduced ourselves. There is an older woman who seems to be slightly affected by age or mental problems. Another, who works in the kitchen, was very pleased when I took her picture.
There are a total of 10 sleeping rooms in the old house and there appears to be more than enough people living here to fill them. Latifa, the middle of the three sisters, sort of became our guide and helper. She showed Cat several rooms then told us that we would sleep in Khadija’s room. It is at the top of the stair from the courtyard. In fact all the rooms enter off the center open space. All of the family shares one toilet and one bath. I used to think that my family of 6, when I was a kid, had it tough when we lined up to use our 1 bath.
Khadija’s room is large, cement floors and a double bed. There is a roof top deck out the back door and stairs down to a yard full of animals waiting to be invited to dinner.
We showered then watched as Abdullah cooked Tajine for us. It was a wonderful experience enhanced by the ability of the girls to speak a little English and they and their Father speaking French and working hard to help Cat understand.
Abdullah squatted in the long narrow room between the courtyard and living room as he cooked. The one son cooked fish at the opposite end of the room. So many people came and went, maybe friends or neighbors coming in to take a look at the strange foreigners? Mom and several friends sat on the floor and a couch in the living room and talked.
While the cooking show was going on the girls led Cat to a room across the courtyard, dressed her and themselves in traditional gowns and taught her how to do the local dance. The music blared from a boom box as they gyrated and stomped. They also gave us a demonstration of the shrill sound that Muslim woman make.
I asked Khadija if her Father like wine and she said yes. We had sipped a bottle of white in the room while we waited. I took a bottle of red down and handed it to Abdullah. He looked at it then at me and said something. Khadija said he wants it in the refrigerator. That was the last we would see or hear of it.
We sat with Abdullah, Khadija and another brother in the courtyard, the others ate somewhere inside. This new brother is 30 years old, College educated and unemployed. He, like so many young guys, spends his time sitting, sipping tea and talking with friends in a local Café. He does play Soccer on the Tamanar team. We think that the only way they can afford to live without working is that they have some fields they must work or have worked and they own the old house and have for years. Of course, like Najate back in Casa Blanca, Khadija’s income must come in very handy. We felt that she was the one who had the idea of inviting strangers like us in, in the hope of earning money for the family. She is definitely a very bright girl!
As we ate in the Courtyard Abdullah and the older brother asked for copies of the pictures. I told them that we could give them a CD and they could make copies. Funny, you think that a basic family like this might not understand computers etc. but the brother has a very nice Cell Phone. No telling how he affords it?
After we finished dinner I took our computer out and made copies of the pictures on a CD for them. Then, while we drank tea we viewed the pictures on the computer. Abdullah acted like it was normal to see himself but did say, “Look, an old man”!
It was obvious that he is a man proud of his family.
It was after 10:00 PM by the time we put our heads on Khadija’s pillows.
September 26, 2003
Tamanar to Taghazout
Breakfast was another family or at least partial family affair. They had what they called soup, a white liquid, probably like porridge? They served us mint tea and bread with honey and argon butter. We sat with Abdullah, Khadija and tall brother again. She had to rush off to work at the Cooperative. The others all drifted past and said good morning. Latifa, the middle one stood and tried to talk then went up to get ready for school. Ilhame, the baby, came down dressed for school then lay next to her Father and went back to sleep as we ate. Too much dancing and excitement last night?
We got the full family send off, well at least all of them still at home stood at the gate for a picture and waved as we rode down the dirt street. What a nice family, what a great experience for us.
Our first stop was the Gendarmerie for our Passports. The Chief greeted us, smiled a warm smile and asked in French if we slept well.
We crossed the street and Khadija gave us a personal tour of Cooperative Amal. They sort, shell and squeeze the oil from Argan nuts, a local nut that looks and sort of tastes like almonds. Most of the work is done by hand and by local women. In fact they employ more than 50 women. They extract oil for cooking, salads and a variety of cosmetic applications. They even use the left over pulp for animal feed. A wonderful cottage industry that creates much needed work and a little independence for the women.
We thought long and hard about what to give Khadija for our stay. It definitely wasn’t like an upscale B&B but it was an irreplaceable experience. The last place we stayed that provided dinner and breakfast charged 500 Ds. We didn’t have a private bath but we had a family. We decided on 40 Dirham. She beamed with pride when I handed the money to her. That moment had arrived again. Parting, leaving our new found family behind, hoping they will have a great life. The kiss on the cheeks and a hug then we walked out the door but they will always be in our hearts. We hope they all feel the same about us.
The route is full of hills, small mountains some of the time. We came upon a phenomenon that we’ve seen pictures of in brochures. The trees here are the only greenery on the vast landscape. As we rounded a corner there it was, a tree full of goats, grazing on the leaves. Almost surrealistic, black and white goats climbing around high above the ground and munching on life giving leaves. First Argan nuts now this, they really squeeze q lot out of the trees here. I asked the Herdsman for a picture. He indicated he didn’t want to be photographed then swooped up a baby goat and said, “Por Madame.” He wanted Cat to hold the little guy. She took it from him and I got my picture of the three of them.
As we rode on I thought about how unique the experience is to see and take pictures of goats in trees. Maybe there are other places where you will see this but until I saw the picture in the brochure I had never seen anything like it. That set about a chain of thoughts that included Khadija’s tall brother. Why not suggest that he or someone find a place or places where tour buses can pull of to allow tourist the same pleasure we had just experienced? Sure, a bus can stop and you can take a picture from the window but to walk around the tree, meet the Herdsman, even hold a baby goat, that is a real lifetime experience. I’ll have to find a way to suggest that to Khadija yet somehow I feel that she, not her brother, would try to get something going.
The cleanest looking Café in the village of Tangi served a great Tajine. We ate, endured the hundreds of flies and breathed in the dust of the passing trucks and cars. (We haven’t mentioned flies but they have them here and often-in abundant numbers.) The bikes were leaning against a rail that separated the Café from a small store next door. The merchant came back from his lunch and opened the door. He stood and looked at the bikes and us. We decided to buy some water from him, Cat went in and as she purchased he indicated that he wanted us to get the bikes out of his walkway. When Cat told me about his attitude I was tempted to take the water in and ask for a refund! She reminded me that we needed the water.
The street was busy, lots of stands selling bananas from the plantation planted in the riverbed. The ride along the Banana Plantation was a tropical feeling treat. The climb up and away from the river was tough on a full stomach. Once atop the riverside hill we found ourselves above the sea shore.
Our next challenge is the one that is worst than hills, wind. You can usually see the end of the hill or know that there is some down at the end of the climb. Wind, headwind, just keeps you struggling. We rounded Cap Ghir in a brisk tail wind that turned to a vicious cross wind. It was so intense that Cat found herself off the pavement and had to stop several times. We could see the road curving to the south ahead and I felt that the wind would be more friendly from that point.
The turn brought no friendly wind, in fact there was no wind, strange. We rolled along then past some nice looking beachfront homes. We were beginning to think about options as our legs were tired and the wind had demoralized us a little. A short way down the road we stopped at a café for soft drinks. We asked and the locals told us there were some apartments but no Hotel. A Mercedes pulled up and a guy in Jellaba stepped out and said hello. Charly is originally from Germany but has lived here more than 20 years. He is owner of one of the great looking places on Paradise Plague. He told us that it was his dream back then and he is too old to start a new dream. He’s divorced now and she is back in Germany. He tempted us with an invitation to spend the night at his place. It is about 4 kilometers back and you know how we hate to backtrack.
It is 3:00 PM and we felt a little renewed strength. Thanking Charly we rolled onward, hoping to reach Agadir and our new friend, Luis before sundown.
We made 15 kilometers then came into Taghazout, a well-known surfing beach. Tired and unsure whether we could connect with Luis we decided to find a place here. I tried to ask some locals then a couple of western looking surfers walked up. They told us that there are lots of small hotels and places but they are only surfer standards. A local standing nearby offered to take us to a place. He spoke English and knew his way around. The first place, a small hotel, didn’t have a place to keep the bikes so he took us to Hotel Auberge. It was only 150 Ds for the night. The guy there showed me the room, I decided that Cat should look before we buy but she was tired and just wanted a place for the night.
It is definitely a $15 dollar place. The down the hall bath and toilet are pretty bad. They did keep the bikes down in the Restaurant so we only had to carry our cloths and the computer up the stairs. While Cat got us set up in Camp Auberge I hiked around looking for water and wine. The water was easy, the wine was a ways down the road. They only sell it at a Restaurant that is about ¾ of a kilometer to the south. I walked the walk and bought the bottle.
Despite the dire state of the Hotel the sunset on the beach and the fishermen bringing their boats and catches for the day in, were spectacular. Feeling clean after visiting the dirty shower, Cat went down and arranged for room service. We had a feast and our wine on the balcony as the final rays of 9/26/03 slipped down into the Atlantic.
Some of the kids that had been playing soccer on the beach moved their game to a concrete slab below us that was lighted. A tough court and some tough kids, playing in bare feet.
Though we were a little disappointed not to have made Agadir, we will have this experience in our minds and hearts for the rest of our lives.
September 27, 2003
Taghazout to Agadir
We threw open the wooden shutter on the tiny window or our Surfer room and were greeted by a foggy, chilly morning. Bags down, we paid the cleaning guy for the room then went in search of breakfast. The first place we stopped was okay but only served tea. The second, Café Colorado, wasn’t as neat looking but did serve real Café au Lait. That and a few pieces of bread then we were off to Agadir.
The 20 kilometers was flat and fast. We were in town by 10:15 AM. We found a TeleBoutique and I called Luis. He was on the golf course but wanted to meet us in about an hour. I suggested the Sheraton Hotel that was nearby.
We rode to the Sheraton and parked the bikes in the driveway. Cat went in looking for a map. A security guy approached me and told me to move the bikes. I stood my ground and refused, trying to tell him that we would only be here a few minutes. When Cat came back with map in hand we decided that, though we weren’t sure whether we would be staying with Luis or not we definitely wouldn’t be staying here! We decided to look for the Internet place the girl had marked on the map for Cat, and use the time efficiently.
We found the place and parked the bikes in a hallway across from Suisse Internet. I went to another TeleBoutique and called Luis to let him know where we were. He was on the way so we waited on the corner. He drove up and parked in a lot across the street. We had a cup of coffee and talked. He let us know that he was leaving town this afternoon but would help us find a suitable Hotel.
He walked and we pushed down the street to his office. He had the Janitor keep the bikes inside while we sought shelter. What a nice guy, he is going hunting this afternoon and needs ice. We rode along as he searched. From a meat market to the main fish market before he finally struck ice. We got a look at the town, Cat got meat and cheese and we visited a huge wholesale/retail fish market. He drove us back along the famous Agadir Beach.
Our criteria for a room was a place to store the bikes, comfort, price and BBC or CNN. I have a lot of journal catch up to do and Cat will go crazy without some English. Luis was very patient and helpful. He led the search from Hotel to Hotel and finally we struck gold at Hotel Tivoli. A resort looking place with big pool we won’t use, a large clean room, a place for the bikes and all for 640 Ds, we had landed.
Though it was nearing time for him to pick up friends Luis drove us back to his office and even took time to have a picture with us. Oh, he has to be ready to really leave home on Monday, he will fly out to see his wife who is working as a teacher this year in France. We thought that he was French with a Spanish name but he set us straight. His Father and Mother are both Portuguese and are retired in Portugal.
It was an easy ride back to Tivoli. We unloaded the bags then had our picnic in the room and soaked up some BBC news. A short walk across the street for Pizza filled our need our dinner then we really lucked out, the sitcom Friends and a Movie in English. Life is GOOD!
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Day Off in Agadir
The included breakfast is a pretty good spread. The rest of this day was pretty much business as usual on our days off. I worked on the journal pages and Cat explored.
We Cabbed to lunch and the Internet where we spent two hours reading and answering.
I went back to my duties and Cat made a trip to Marjane, the Super Marche.
Dinner next door to the Hotel. A nice little neighborhood restaurant, Couscous and Tajine, a big night.
More BBC and it was bedtime.
September 29, 2003
Another Day in Agadir
Up early and over to breakfast, a huge group of Russians landed sometime during the night. Many are the typical heavy weight Buffet fans. I feel good seeing the Russian out in the world traveling and enjoying life. When I crossed the old Soviet Union back in ‘89’ they couldn’t leave the East Block of Nations. Travel is one of the essentials for world peace. As my friend in the USSR, Michael said, “It is hard to HUNT the man you know!”
Cat loaded up the laundry and went a washing. She also stopped at the Tourist Office and a bike shop, looking without success, for a spare tire. She did find a Clinic and a Doctor who would help us get the Malaria pill we’ll need when we get into Mauritania.
She brought back food and we picnicked in the room, again.
That afternoon she went back to meet the Doctor but he failed to show. She did talk with another who spoke only French and they failed to communicate.
I had finished the pictures for the Madrid to Tangier portion of the journal. We took them and several other packages we wanted to mail to lighten our load along and made a loop out to Marjane again looking for gas for our cook stove and writing paper to continue work on the journal. We knew that the Poste would close at 6:30 so timing was crucial. The laundry is close to the Poste so we stopped there first then into the Poste at about 6:00 PM.
The lines there are an example of chaos. We pushed and waited then bought the boxes and got the forms, filled them out and elbowed back to the window. The woman there looked the paperwork over then told us to go to the door at the end of the counter. It was locked, we asked and they said, “Sorry, they closed”. We went Postal as they say back home. Cat was very vocal but the woman just looked straight ahead and talked to other customers. What a bunch of BULL! Here we were, ready to ride south and standing here with an armload of boxes? It was clear that we would have to stay another day. Cat was disappointed but I could use a little rest and we would be able to at least have a little celebration for her Birthday.
Back at Camp Tivoli we walked to another close by Restaurant for Pasta. The waiter spoke some English and laughed a lot. The food was good and he was great. We watched locals drink beer and chat as we ate. A couple of the women sippin’ suds were even wearing Hejad, the head cover indicating that they are practicing. Hey, we have our Beer Drinkin’ Baptists and Jack Mormons too, don’t we?
It was another early evening.
Total Moroccan Kilometers 908 (563 Miles)
Total Odyssey Kilometers 15,646 (9,700 Miles)
Reflections of a Mid-Moroccan Adventure
As of this writing, we are still deep in the south of Morocco and have about 2 weeks before crossing into Mauritania. Distance and attitudes have brought change to our Odyssey here. In the next Chapter you’ll see us faced with theft and threat. Theft can happen anywhere but these otherwise peaceful Muslims all say, “We like America but we don’t like George Bush”! The war in Iraq and the situation in Israel/Palestine is now becoming a personal issue that impacts our lives. Iraq drags on, the violence drags on and the polls we see on BBC and CNN seem to say that you guys back home are getting tired of the mess and starting to wonder whether we should have ever gone there?
We will be in Muslim countries and areas for quite a while. There probably isn’t a quick answer or cure? Maybe turning the thing over to the UN would take the pressure, cost and growing disdain here, off our backs? We guess that only time will tell, both on the issues of conflict and our journey.
Tune in Next Month for the Latest “Tales From the Trail”!!!