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2013 NOV MOROCCO - Drinking and Driving around Morocco

we did a quick big mini tour to a few new places - Morocco is a big country with lots of open spaces and crazy drivers PLEASE REFER TO MY FACEBOOK PAGE FOR PHOTOS REFERRING TO THIS BLOG

Monday 4th November 13 (day 65)

We had a day in Azrou today, basically did nothing except drink coffee and catch up with friends.
A visit to the small Monday souk in the morning followed by more coffee drinking.

We managed to squeeze in a couple of hours in the hammam. It was a little crowded but still very enjoyable.

Later in the day we caught up with Zak for lunch.

Azrou feels so familiar to me, yet, still also so foreign. It is a little strange being back this time around.

Tuesday 5th November 13 (day 66)

Another day in Azrou, where we did much of the same again. The weather is beautiful during the day with bright blue sky, just at night the temp is dropping down to single digits.

We walked to the big souk today, where the seasonal fruit and vegetables were as usual in abundance. Laid out on tarps on the ground, with flapping tarps overhead to try and shade them from the hot sun.

We ate fish at one of the many food tents where the old guy remembered me and greeted me warmly. This was a place that I went to every week on souk day to eat fresh fried fish and drink his sweet hot tea.

This evening we visited with Zak's parents who are now living in their new house. I saw this place being built and must admit it actually looks bigger now that it is finished and with furniture inside than it did while being built. They both seemed happy to see us and of course Mother laid out a spread of food. Her brother, who lives in Rabat, was there also with wife and kids. I had met them before and had stayed with them in Rabat so it was nice to see them also. Even if there is a language barrier, it was still great to see these people again who had so warmly accepted me into their family when I lived here previously.

Wednesday 6th November 13 (day 67)

Big day driving today. We (or I should say Lyn, as she did all the driving) drove from Azrou to Cascades d'Ouzoud - which is about 330km. This may not sound so far as to take all day, but I assure you it does when travelling on Moroccan roads. The last hour of driving is up the mountains on narrow winding roads.

It was already dark by the time we arrived at the falls so they would have to wait until tomorrow to be seen. After we had a coffee we found a cheap place to stay 150 dh ($19.50) and relaxed for the evening. It was pretty cold here so we were not long out of bed after our long day driving.

Thursday 7th November 13 (day 68)

Another blue sky was presented to us this morning. We are very lucky with the weather as this time of year it is supposed to be raining, but the rain has not yet come. This is nice for us while traveling but the farmers are not happy. And it was evident as we drove through the countryside yesterday that the rain is needed. But its not going to happen today as we have a lovely sunny day to view the falls.

Breakfast of omelet, with tomatoes and onions, cooked in a tajine - great idea by the way.

I was surprised at the amount of water still falling over the falls due to the fact there has been no rain. The view was again spectacular. This is my third visit to the falls, Lyn's first. We walked down the hundreds of steps, stopping along the way to take photos of the water dropping at different levels. Down below we could see the rustic made rafts holding tourists (mainly Moroccans) being rowed out close to the cascade drop. Seemed the rowers were not savvy enough to get close enough to the falling water and spray so as not to get wet as they were drenched, yet the passengers they carried were still dry but had managed to get the perfect photo up close to the falls. Perhaps that was their intention and they did not mind getting wet so their patrons could snap the photo they wanted.

At the bottom we crossed over the river via a makeshift bridge and took a switch back dirt path back up to the top. Not sure if this dusty path through the trees was an easier way up than climbing the stairs as there seemed to be a lot of tour groups coming down this way and going back up via the steps. It wasn't too strenuous and we came upon monkeys when we reached the very top at the point where there water was falling over the cliff. Funny how we noted that there were absolutely no safety barriers anywhere along the top of the cliff where the sudden drop off at least a hundred meters would kill anyone. Not even a sign to say stay away from the edge. Only in Morocco! The monkeys here are the same breed as the monkeys that are in the forrest in Azrou. I think these are the only 2 places in the country where you will find monkeys.

It was midday by the time we were on the road again, but only a short drive today. Less than 200km - about 3 hours to Marrakech. When we hit the city traffic this is when Lyn's driving skills really came into being as city traffic drivers in Morocco are a breed unto themselves. You need to be aggressive as well give way to an assortment of vehicles including horse and carts. And then the pedestrians here who have a habit of not wanting to walk on the perfectly good footpaths preferring the road to meander down the street. A habit we also practiced when walking, just following the crowds. All this and then having absolutely no idea where to go made for very stressful navigation through the traffic. In the end Lyn did really well and we managed to find a parking station where we could leave the car for the night - at a price of 70dh ($9) -but this was the big city and we had little choice but to leave the car somewhere secure.

Best part is we managed to find a spot right next to the main square so we did not have far to walk. Marrakech was crawling with tourist, as per usual. It does not matter what time of year you come here there are always lots of tourists here. Lots of package holidays just come to Marrakech and silly package holiday tourists think they have visited Morocco by coming to this city. This is not the real Morocco, but I guess at least it is a taste for the uninitiated. It's always a madhouse and expensive but I still like it.

First up was lunch and we had a kebab in the Main Street, again noting the amount of tourists here. After our stomachs were appeased, we walked directly to our usual cafe on the square, the Cafe French, funny how we always go back to the same places. The price of coffee here is double anywhere else, but this is the big city and that's just the way it is. This cafe is great to watch passing traffic in the square, a favourite pastime that goes hand in hand with drinking coffee.

We stayed overnight in the riad we had stayed in last visit here - habit.

Dinner was a bowl or I think actually 2 of harira soup in the square.

Friday 8th November 13 (day 69)

We left driving through the Marrakech traffic this morning on our way south towards Taliouine. Or at least we thought we were until we realised we were heading in the wrong direction and had to return to Marrakech to go the right way. Only an hour lost!

Finally on the correct road we drove the scenic road to Tizi N Test Pass. This is the road Zak and I took in a chicken bus last year when we went to see the saffron in Taliouine. I thought it might be a treat for Lyn to actually drive this narrow windy mountain road and I was happy to see the enjoyable to me scenery. The road did not seem half as exciting as the experience we had in the chicken bus last year, but I guess the fact that we were in a chicken bus with a driver who knows the road and is not afraid to go over the speed limit at every bend.

Although we did have a little bit of excitement of our own when late afternoon we arrived at the actual pass, which is 2100 meters high and 100 km up the mountain range from anywhere, and realised we were out of fuel. Yes how clever are we?? Not very, at all!! Lucky for us the owner of the cafe at the pass had some fuel he was willing to sell to us and although it was an inflated price I didn't care. I was just grateful and anyway he could have asked for double the price we had little choice but to buy the 6 litres he had and hope that it would take us down the mountain range and to the nearest petrol station.

It was now getting pretty late in the afternoon and I knew is was going to be dark by the time we arrived in Taliouine so I suggested to Zak that he phone ahead and check that we could still get a room at the hotel where we stayed last year. Lucky he did call because he was advised that this hotel and every hotel in town and surrounds was full due to the Saffron Festival being on. Shit. We had no idea this festival was on this weekend as usually it is held at the end of October not November.

Again lucky for us and lucky for the cafe owner that he had accommodation available. Our only option was to take a room and stay here. Although this was a very expensive option it was all we could do as what was the point of driving on when we knew there was no room to be had at the end. Dinner and breakfast was included and we ended up paying 220 dh each ($29). Sounds like a good deal, but this is expensive by Moroccan standards. However we did have a nice dinner and slept well and a good breakfast and no stress about running our of petrol in the dark with nowhere to sleep for the night.

A couple of Moroccan guys from Casablanca also stopped at the cafe on their way to Taliouine and when we advised them that there were no rooms left they also decided to stay the night. Funny as the owner later told us that the fuel he sold us for the car was the fuel he had for his generator as there was no electricity connection up there. He said had he known he was going to have guests in his accommodation tonight he would never had sold it to us. Lyn later saw him syphoning fuel out of his own car to fuel the generator.

Saturday 9th November 13 (day 70)

Next morning after a great breakfast we started our downhill journey towards Taliouine. Even with the 6 litres purchased the fuel light in the car still remained on. Fingers, toes and everything else was crossed that we would make it to the nearest petrol station before the tank ran dry. This was a big ask although it was all downhill driving, there was lots of winding, breaking and accelerating and the closest station was approximately 80km away.

We thought luck was on our side when we reached the petrol station before the car ran our of fuel. Our relief was soon extinguished when we pulled in an were advised they had no power and were unable to pump any of the bowsers. Unbelievable!! When was the power due back on?? No idea they advised, maybe 2 or 6 hours or tomorrow. Ha!

Taking the challenge we decided to push on to the next station which was 20 km down the road. God only knows how we made it but we did and this time we were able to fill the tank.

Driving into Taliouine we could see it was busy and the streets were filled with local mountain folk in colourful costumes. We were not exactly sure what the Saffron Festival actually involved but were about to find out. There actually did not seem to be much on offer at all, there was a large tent with a few stalls that some of the bigger saffron growers had little stalls with samples that they were selling. And outside there were a few more stalls that were selling assorted handcrafts. One in particular caught my eye that was selling sandals and little bags that were made from recycled plastic bags. This was such a fantastic idea as these rubbish plastic bags are everywhere and the scourge of this country. This one guy was collecting the littered bags washing them, cutting them into strips and getting the women to crochet/knit bags and sandals with the plastic. Man if every town in Morocco took up this craft not only would it generate money for them but also clean up the country no end. Great idea, hope he manages to spread this around.

Anyway the crowds were not gathering at any of these stalls so I'm not sure exactly what they were doing in town or where they were going. There was a bit of a sideshow alley with some rides and games but again only a handful of people were at these also.

As we were down near our the hotel we stayed in last time I suggested to Zak he go ask if they have a room for us tonight by chance. Again a lucky strike, they did have a spare room tonight so we could stay and enjoy the festivities if there were any. And a bargain price of 150dh ($19.50) made up a little for our overpriced accommodation last night.

Next up was to find some lunch. Back up on the main street we found a cafe where Lyn & I took a seat while Zak went off to buy some meat from the butcher across the street, that he brought back to the cafe and they would cook for us. Yes an odd set up but the cafe did not supply the meat but for a small fee would cook anything you brought.

After lunch, we drove up to the small village just 15 minutes away to see if there was still any saffron blooms growing. This is the exact same time we came last year and managed to still see flowers so I was hopeful that they were still here again.

Unfortunately, there were no blooms left. But we did manage to find the same family we visited with last year and they were kind enough to offer us saffron tea and snacks and we were able to purchase some saffron from them. The price was slightly higher than last year due to a shortage in flowers this year, but I think this family was doing ok as there was a brand new building that was just finished being built in there complex.

While we were there we saw the women of the family sitting around on tiny wooden stools around a low table separating the saffron stamens from the flowers. We asked if we could have a go at doing this also and with big smiles we were accepted into the circle around the table and were show what to do. Handfuls of blooms were pushed in our direction. After about 10 minutes we must have been doing a good enough job as only one of the ladies was left at the table with us pulling the stamens. The other 3 had wandered off to do other chores, happy that this menial task
was being done for them by some stupid tourists who thought this was a cool thing to do. We sat for over an hour, not wanting to go and leave the poor old lady to have to finish off the basket of flowers on her own. Perhaps we had sucker written all over our foreheads but it was a pretty cool experience, and it's not like it was hard work. The hardest part was the sitting on the little stools with bent knees and crippled backs that did not want to straighten after sitting so long in one position. They all had a good laugh as Lyn and I moaned and groaned as we tried to get up.

Driving back to Taliouine it was dark by now and arriving back in town the crowds had really multiplied. I guess they had all come to listen to the live entertainment that was underway on the big stage that was set up just outside our hotel. Yes lucky for us we had the full sound effects very close up. Dinner was a bowl of very spicy harira soup at the hotel and afterwards Lyn retired to bed and Zak and I went to check out the entertainment. He was very happy to see a popular band that he knew was up on stage. They of course sang in arabic but the music was good and I agreed to go with him into the audience to have a look.

We made our way through the crowds to get closer to the stage. It was not possible to get very close as there was a vip section up front. The band seemed to be pretty popular with the crowd and I was very surprised to see young girls in the audience dancing and gyrating to the music. I know this is normal in most places for young girls to do at a music concert but this was Morocco and public behaviour is different here. They actually looked and acted like normal teenage girls would back home. So as I stood there watching them it suddenly hit me that if I am noticing the way they are moving surely the boys are too. Of course I had also noticed that everyone around us was looking and staring at us as well, but this is normal here as most of the time people are staring at us - Zak and I that is. Then the penny dropped, I looked around and there were no boys anywhere around us. The audience was segregated!! Oh my god!! I could not believe it, they were staring at us because Zak was in the female section, and the girls were moving like they were because the males were on the other side of the crowds and could not see them anyway.
Ok, so we left the audience then cause some of the guys on the other side had noticed Zak and although I could not understand or even hear what they were yelling out they did not look happy.

We returned to the back of the stage near our hotel where we could see and hear just as good as in the front and we could stand side by side. Zak claims he has never seen a segregated audience at a music festival before, but a french couple that we met who have been coming to this festival for 5 years said it is always like this. Interesting!

Sunday 10th November 13 (day 71)

Big day driving today, we left Taliouine after breakfast at the hotel and headed to Taroudant. This is argon tree country and both sides of the roads were rows and rows of argon trees as far as the eye could see. We had a quick hour stop in Taroudant, a town famous for baboosh slippers. Lyn bought a pair and I bought a silver ring.

We returned to the road and drove for the rest of the day to get to Essaouria. A lot of the road was along the coast after we had reached Agadir. It was a long day and dark by the time we parked the car. As I tried to exit the car I realised that the back suspension in the car had done absolutely no favours for my back and I felt half crippled and in pain.

Friends of ours are now living here in Essaouria and were kind enough to let us stay with them for a couple of days. A quick coffee stop and then we took our stuff to their place which was in the old medina part of the city. Best place to be, I really like Essaouria. It's on the beach but always too windy to spend time on the sand or in the water, but it has a nice vibe to the place and I always enjoy visiting.

Monday 11th November 13 (day 72)

Lazy day, chilling out. We found a bakery/cafe that served grilled cheese on baguette for breakfast and were disappointed we did not discover this place on earlier visits.

Lyn & I visited the hammam today. Hopeful that it would easy the pain I still have in my back but no such luck.

Blue sky and sunny today as we walked around the harbour and around the tiny streets of the old medina.

Tuesday 12th November 13 (day 73)

Another lazy day, chilling out.

Overcast cloudy and windy today, but it's always windy here.

Wednesday 13th November 13 (day 74)

It took the whole day for us to drive from Essaouira to Casablanca today. With a brief stopover in Safi where we purchased a lovely jug like I saw the orange juice lady had.

It was dark by the time we reached Casablanca and the traffic was chaotic. Zak knew his was around a little once we got into the city but we got lost on the outskirts trying to find our way in.
We were fortunate enough to have a room to stay in with Zak's cousin so did not have the hassle of having to find accommodation in this big city, otherwise we would have tried to find something out by the airport as we are flying out tomorrow.

Emptying the car of all our gear to repack and carry up 2 flights was a shitty but necessary task. We left some unwanted stuff behind and managed to pack up the rest in 4 bags to check in plus 2 carry on bags. Best part is that we are way below our weigh limit so no stress there.

Out for dinner to a place just down the street that served camel tajine. Yes we wanted to try it to see what it was like. Starting off with a bowl of harira soup, it was followed up with camel kefta (meatballs) tajine with tomato and eggs and a serve of camel meat strips. Lyn and I both agreed the camel meat tastes very similar to horse meat. Ah yes we have eaten horse meat, when we traveled in Montenegro. The camel was nice enough, a little strong tasting, but lean meat.

Thursday 14th November 13 (day 75)

Early to the airport, our flight was at 12 noon and we had to be there 2 hours before and time enough to drop off the hire car.

The check in line up was long, and as thought we were under weight with luggage so no problems. However our carry on bags were overweight as we were carrying our breakables in there, but they did not weigh these bags so all good.

Dollar car did not check the car over, don't think they really cared as the car has to be returned to Tanger and they will have to deal with it. We did add a couple of extra scratches to the already messy body but I hope they do not notice too much. Will not really find out until they charge my credit card with any damages I suppose.

Time for a quick coffee before saying goodbye to Zak and joining the very long queues to get through immigration. This took almost an hour which made us late for our flight and when we finally made it through we were told to run to the boarding gate. Obviously we were not the only ones they were waiting for otherwise perhaps they would not have waited at all.

I was not looking forward to the flights as my back was still in a lot of pain and sitting for any length of time just made getting up and moving even more painful.

But we are on our way away from Europe and Africa and on to the next leg of our adventure.

Sri Lanka and tuk tuk driving here we come!!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:49 Archived in Morocco

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