A Travellerspoint blog

I Bless the Rain...

We were up at 6:45, on a mission to be on the move most of the day. We finalized the packs, checked the room for out-of-sight belongings, and checked-out at the front desk. They dialed us up a taxi that was there in under a minute.

We rolled through the empty streets and shuttered bars and restaurants, all of which were teaming with life the night before. It was calm and that gave me relief. I was nervous to drive in city traffic with the crazy locals. We've been pedestrians and know how they work.

We got to Enterprise at the train station and we're in our new Opal in no time. We opted for the navigation and had the dude set it up. I really recommend one over here, even with GPS on on a phone. It got us out of the city pretty quickly, into vast countryside. We had about a two hour journey ahead of us and time was not on our side if we wanted to spend any significant time in Morocco.

During the drive, Kelcy researched ferry tickets. Our rental guy said to go to Tangier from Trajifa. We'd already booked a stay in Algeciras that had passed the time to cancel. With some sleuthing she discovered a ferry that left from our town and went to Tangier Med, about 45 minutes from Tangier. Lining up our schedule was the issue.

Given the best case, we'd get there just about 10:30. The sailing we could potentially get to was at noon but you have to arrive at the ferry terminal at least 45 minutes in advance. Could we do it?!

As it turned out, things did go well and we got to the room, which was already available. This was an enormous weight off of our shoulders because we could put stuff in the room and our valuables in the safe. We didn't want to pack anything unnecessary.

The front desk called a cab which was there super quick. We got to the ferry terminal in just enough time. A quick journey through security and Customs and we were on the boat. It was a large ferry, on the scale of something you'd ride in Seattle, but made for the Mediterranean.

We got situated in probably the best spot, at the forward most table in the Port side, ideal for seeing The Rock of Gibraltar (which you may have seen as The Prudential's logo), as well as viewing the north shore of Morocco.
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The voyage was to be an hour and a half but the rough seas pushed it to two. The boat was rockin' and a rollin' which surprised me none since we'd been on the Diamond Princess for Marcia's birthday and that was a bobbing cork even being about ten times as big. Time passed aboard the vessel but came to a crawl when we reached shore. I took a second to snap a pic of Kelcy and my first steps onto the African continent. Another huge first, for both of us this time!!
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We jumped through one hoop and through another. I'm not even certain how many times I was x-rayed. Eventually we did make it to where we could finally get out on our own.

Taxis are an option for getting to town but they aren't the cheapest. A Colombian family travelling from America who we'd been sitting near on the boat asked us to share a cab. Why of course! This beats taking the free shuttle which drops you off still a ways from town, according to Kelcy's research.

The ride to town was fantastic! The driver spoke Spanish like I learned Spanish. The family, being native Colombian Spanish did as well. I'd say I picked up on 65% of what was said, as opposed to the 15% of spoken I've been listening to in Spain. Reading it either way, cake, but having it sound like the way you had been taught makes a huge difference. I didn't realize this difference until this encounter. I was joining right in and it felt fabulous!

We dropped the family off at the train station as they were continuing onto Casablanca. We stayed in and were let out in the Medina (market) of Tangier proper. We lined up a pickup with the same dude with time and location, and a discounted rate, thanks to the Colombians report.

Once out of the car things turned sideways. A man who seemed to be buddies with our driver assumed the role of tour guide. No bueno. We've been swindled like this in Thailand by tuk-tuk drivers, I was in guard. He whisked us through all sorts of areas of the market like the original US consulate (which was the first in the world because Morocco was the first country to acknowledge us as a nation).
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We were up and down hills, passing by locals dressed in all sorts of religious garb, it was Sunday. The man leading us brought us to a restaurant he assured would take care of us. Hmmm. Apprehension level is peaking. He left and we were stuck at a table with waiters bringing us appetizers.

"Can we see a menu? Hold it with the food, we are not sure we want to eat here," I explained. I think he could sense that we were not feeling right about the deal and tried to reassure us that things were good here. I told him that we wanted something small because we want to try different things throughout the town. He agreed to $15 for both of us which included the apps, soup, and two entrees. Really not a bad deal, if they follow through and don't try playing games.

Out came the large bottle of water. Great, is this an up-charge? The food was really good consisting of tajine chicken over couscous that was fall off of the bone and flavorful as could be. The other entree was seemed like a large samosa filled with seasoned chickpea. It was like having a falafel ball surrounded by puff pastry. It was fantastic. We scarfed it up and headed for the door. We weren't waiting around for them to just bring more and have us pay for it. I gave our waiter the cash and all seemed good, until another one of the lads volunteered to take us through town. I had to tell him repeatedly that Kelcy and I wanted to be alone on our journey, even going as far as to say it was our honeymoon. We left and I felt better. In actuality, I didn't necessarily lie to the man. This is our ten year anniversary of our honeymoon where we spent Thanksgiving in the Bahamas.

We blazed the streets, smelling the wonderful spices and fruits. There were far less meat vendors that I would have expected, perhaps because of the dietary practices. Leather-goods were abound which stands to reason, Morocco is known for having the best leather in the world. There were also plenty of shops hawking fake handbags. This always catches of the attention of my "newlywed bride." The difference between here and what'd we'd seen in Busan or Hong Kong was that they were out in the open. In our previous experiences in the counterfeit trade, the vendor would only have look-a-likes out on display and take you through a series of hidden alleys and false walls to see the goods.

We walked downhill, towards the Mediterranean Sea. Crossing the wide road without cross-streets was a challenge but we made it. While strolling along the waterfront, a rain cloud began to empty its load. We were far from anything resembling a roof. We hurried west towards what looked like a museum which was still far away. Kelcy spotted a double-decker "hop-on, hop off" bus. As things would have it, 5:00 was was just about to strike. They were getting ready to embark on the tour of the city. This wasn't in the plan, but screw it, we'd be dry.
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We paid for the one hour tour and climbed aboard. We were given headphones and guided upstairs. We were leery because the sides were open air and it was rather windy. To our surprise, the front portion of the bus rooftop area was covered with a windshield and side window panes. How perfect. We plugged into the sound system and were off in moments.

The bus is like what you are envisioning, giant. There was only the glass between us and our environment. It was crazy and exhilarating to be up that high, seeing everything, including the near-miss with every turn the bus made. Countless tree branches hit the bus up where we were at and everyone in our path, even the sidewalk, got out of the way. We used the whole road and some places, the curb. It had no business being out there in the traffic.

We went by so many sights with excellent narration from a prerecorded audio track. It would have taken us a long time to see what we did if we were hoofin' it. One hour went by really fast and we were back where we started. What a way to ride out a squall!

We cruised the street along the Med and stopped in at a bar for some grub. We ordered the Tajine Kefta which consisted of fifteen or so meatballs in a tomato sauce with an egg in the middle. They tasted familiar with the mint, like something you'd get from a Lebanese place. I guess that makes sense since it is sort of the general region and I am totally guessing anyway. We could only get through half of them, partially because they came with a bowl of bread that was delicious with the sauce. We ate slow and nursed our beers, watching the locals go about their business as daylight drew to a close.
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I went into pay as Kelcy used the restroom. The sink portion of the restroom was open to the area I was standing and I saw her getting a napkin from an older lady as she finished washing her hands. I then went in and the same lady turned on the light for me since the men's room was dark. After washing my hands, she had a hand out with her palm up with a coin in the other to show me what I apparently needed to do, tip. Ok. I reached in my pocket and gave her the 2 Moroccan Dirham coin I got in change from dinner. She gladly accepted it and almost ran through the dining area out into the street. That was odd. Even stranger was that when we passed by our table, a guy was sitting in my chair, finishing what we could not! How is that not perfect for our huge issue of waste!

We left and meandered up the hill to our rendezvous point. We were hoping to recognize the driver in the dim light. That wasn't an issue because he saw us and came out, ready to go. We hopped in and bucked up. I think he'd be the one to pick if you needed to get to the port in the shortest amount of time. I also think that the other drivers knew this because he was honking and passing where there didn't seem room. It was dark and wet and could have ended badly more than once. Interestingly, we lost our lead of the other drivers when we stopped in at a petrol station. That is something new, but also really different to see. To us, getting gas is another brainless activity but when travelling, it take on a whole new meaning.

We were soon at the port and ready to start the long process of getting on the boat. We walked around the building, checking out the pictures. It was a fairly new facility that was enormous. It was also the receiving docks for countless new vehicles. We got through the Customs procedure and were on the boat. We left fairly promptly.

The ride back to Europe was definitely faster than it was going thanks to calmer seas. We passed the time with me walking around having beverages while Kelcy slept. It was raining as we got to our first port of call, Gibraltar. Apparently this was not a direct ferry ride. Whoever and whatever bound for this destination debarked the boat and we were on our way to the other side of the bay. I asked a ferry worker gal about what was going on since I had missed the announcement because I was on the back deck watching the awesome hydraulic ramps be deployed and retracted. Holy cow, she laid into me. I guess I needed to hear and understand the general announcement regarding what was going on and from where I was at, I could do neither. At least she was yelling at me in Spanish and sort of cute. Even passengers who overheard the exchange called it "ugly" and "impolite." Had it been a Brit I would have lost it because they sound like they are educating you even in friendly conversation. It bugged me but I figured it made for a good story if nothing else.
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I went to a vending machine and got a brew because I could. I had only done this before in Japan and have always loved the concept. I had to wait about three minutes to open it because it came down from mid-machine just like a sack of chips. Even after I waited I still got sprayed!!

We docked and made our way off the ship. Customs was a breeze and we were soon outside looking for a cab. As luck would have it, one showed up right as we breached the doorway. The rain was coming down so incredibly fierce that any sort of time spent in it would have resulted in a complete soak down. If we get that sort of rain in Oregon, it is for less than a minute, if that. I have only been in that type of situation in other places and not what is considered the Rainy State.

The cabby was friendly and told us that the rain was a blessing. Funny since the Toto song "Africa" was playing in my head the whole day because we had been to Africa!!

Posted by bendurbin 08:02 Archived in Morocco

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