My friends have now flown home and I am sitting in a hotal in Rabat. Here’s the report on the last few days.
The day before Flowie, Mia and Elaine turned up I decided to get a taxi to the location of our Riad and then ask the locals until I found the place. I waited by the road for a taxi but had no luck. I decided to start walking the 5 miles in the hope I’d be able to spot a taxi though there were just none around and I ended up walking all the way. I got to the right area but could not find the Riad so I asked someone who asked someone else who asked another person, etc. After about an hour of wandering around we finally stumbled on it by accident. Getting lost in Marrakesh is very expensive as everyone charges for directions. When we finally found the Riad I’d clocked up the equilivent of about £20 in ‘finders fees’. Having said that my patience was wearing thin and I’d happily have paid double that! I set a point in my GPS so I would be able to find it again and walked back to the hotel. On the way back I found myself in a cafe, one of the street sellers who walked over to me had lots of beautiful wooden boxes. When abroad I tend to find myself speaking in a strange way, seperating out all the words in the hope that someone will understand me, then for some weird reason I tend to put on some kind of accent. I was looking at a wooden box from the street seller and found myself doing a perfect Borat impression. “It is very nice, I like, very much..”. I heard myself and laughed, I said Borat to myself, the salesman laughed and said Borat and made me do it again. We had a good laugh, they obviously know Borat over here.
When I got back to the hotel decided to go through my stuff and pack it all up into the smallest space possible, I found the two cheap teeshirts that I bought from the supermarket. XL they said, shuld be nice and baggy for the bike. I put one of them on which was a bit of a squeeze and then found that the neck was so bloody tight that I was unable to get the bloody thing off! After about 5 minutes of struggling I gave up and just grabbed the neck and stretched it hard. A few minutes later I managed to get it off. Only me!
The Riad is on a tiny lane/path and to get to it you need to make lots of turns. The lanes are wide enough for me to get my bike through but not wide enough for me to turn it around and as I was bound to make a few wrong turns. Even with my trusty GPS I was very apprehensive about taking the heavy bike into the souks/lanes. When I arrived back at the Ibis Hotel I asked El Hucine if it would be possible for me to leave my bike in their secure parking for a few days for a fee. He said it was no problem but they would not accept payment as they would do it for me for free. So the plan in my head was that Flowie, Mia and Elaine would get a taxi from the airport to my hotel. They would up me and my luggage and take us to the Riad. I texted Flowie to tell her I had a plan, however there was a problem. The Riad had arranged for a taxi to pick them up from the airport and taking them directly to the Riad. My plan was scappered.
After thinking about it I decided to take the bike to the Riad afterall. Flowie had emailed the owner and asked if they had onsite and secure parking for the bike and was told that it would not be a problem. I really didn’t fancy the idea of lugging all my heavy stuff with me from where ever the taxi would drop me off to the Riad so the riding there was definately going to be the best option.
So, the next morning I got up, had some breakfast and checked out of the comfortable hotel. I didn’t fancy taking the bike through the souks when it was busy and my friends were not turning up at the Riad until around 9pm so I needed to waste a day. I visited a few cafes and had some coffee, went for a ride around the city walls and visited more cafes. Then I found a nice comfortable cafe that was air conditioned and made it my home for the next few hours. They had a large TV on the wall which was tuned into the National Geographic channel. My favourite! I sat there for about 5 hours and watched loads of programs whilst drinking coffee and eating iced cream and sorbets. All was going well until ‘Banged up Abroad’ came on the TV. It was difficult to understand all the details as it was in Arabic but I got the gist of what was happening. A man had gone on holiday abroad on his own to a place that looked very much like Morocco but may have been somewhere else I’m not sure. He was sitting in a cafe having a drink and all was well in his world. When he decided to leave he was told to get into a van by some gunmen who promptly kidnapped him and held him captive for 3 years! I watched the program for an hour with real interest, it was fascinating. When it was finished I found that my mood had changed, I had gone from looking forward to seeing my wife and friends to being scared of being kidnapped! Morocco is full of what we believe look like shady individuals but are just normal people going about their daily business. Obviously I was not kidnapped and nothing bad happened at all however, if you are going to be travelling alone in a foreign country I would strongly advise you not to watch Banged up Abroad!
Anyway, the time ebbed away slowly and before I knew it it was time to leave and ride to the Riad. I paid and jumped on the bike. The cafe was only about 3 miles away from the Riad and I was hoping against hope that with the help of the GPS I would be able to get there using main roads and only the last 200 metres would be small lanes. Unfortunately this was not so! I was hoping it would be quiet in the evening but this was also not so. I rode about half a mile then entered the souks, many of the souks and little lanes have very high walls and corrigated iron roofs which means the GPS jumps around all over the place. This was not what I needed. There were mopeds and people everywhere, donkeys pulling carts, cats, kids playing, people grabbing me as I wobbled along, one chap asked me if I wanted to smoke some weed and shoot a Klashnikov! Everyone was asking me to visit their shop “Gratis they would say”, “Gratis for a butchers” they said which made me laugh. Even with the bike on tickover in first gear it trundles along faster than walking speed. I was having to use my clutch to go as slow as I needed to go. If I went any faster I’d definately run someone over, it was like a real game of frogger, the little buggers come out of everywhere! Then I arrived at my first dead end. I got off the bike and pushed it backwards for about 50 feet until I got back to the next choice of lanes as the bike was too big to turn around. Some of the locals wanted to try to lift up the front to turn it around but couldn’t even get it off the ground. That was the first of 3 dead ended I visited. I had to take my GPS to a place where the sky was visible, work out where I was, then go back to the bike and try to remember where I was supposed to go. Where the GPS simply said “left” the actual options on the ground were sharp left, sharpish left, left, mild left or not right. I just guessed but finally after about 3 hours turned up outside the Riad. Thank Christ for that! I got outside and revelled in the fact that I had finally found the place and that I could get the bike inside and forget about riding through the souks for the next few days.
I turned on my mobile phone and received a text from Flowie saying where are you. I replied “Outside the front door of the Riad”. She opened the front door with a smile and gave me a big hug which was just what I needed. I asked the chap where I could put the bike and was promptly told that they could not have the bike in the Riad. Bollocks! It turned out that Flowie, Mia and Elaine had turned up at the Riad, Mia had been asked if she wanted jiggy jiggy with the luggage man, all the lights were off, all the furniture was packed away and they could not even get a drink. She was not happy! I tried talking the man into letting me put the bike in the entrance of the Riad but he had a better idea. I was to follow him. I dumped all my luggage and got back on the bike. After about 15 minutes of following I was shown a busy place in the souks which was a car park for mopeds. I was told to leave my bike there. As much as it didn’t feel like a great idea from previous experience I knew it would be safe. I locked up the bike and went back to the Riad.
I got back to the riad to find Flowie’s mood had deteriorated further. Yay, the holiday begins! They had managed to find some water in the Riad then we all headed off to the El Fna Square for some food. Needless to say the GPS was completely useless as the high walls meant it struggled to find a signal in most places. In the end I grabbed a bloke and asked him how much to take us to the El Fna Square. He started at 100 Dirhams (about £8) so I walked on and ignored him. The price finally reached 20 Dirhams and I took him up on his offer repeating 20 Dirhams to the square a number of times. After about 20 minutes of walking around we finally got close to the square. He must have taken us the scenic route as we now do it in about 10 minutes. He then told me that 20 Dirhams was rubbish and that he could not even buy one joint for that and that he needed joints of his family! I told him that he shouldn’t have offered 20 if he was not happy with 20. We finally got to the square and I gave him 35 Dirhams as I was so pleased to finally be there. He told me that 35 Dirhams was nothing so we walked off and left him. Unfortunately the first few places we tried to eat at were closed as it was getting late. We finally found a place and sat down to eat. We ordered our drinks and then our food. Elaine and I decided to walk into the square and have a look around. In the middle of the square in the evening they have food stalls like a giant BBQ, you simply park your bottom on a bench and they bring you some food. It’s just a mass of benches and smoke! The first one Elaine and I saw had a sheeps head (including it’s eyes) sitting on the table. We looked around for a while and went back to eat. We had chicken targine and it was very nice.
By the time we finished our meal we were all completely knacked so we followed the GPS, which thankfully worked a treat, back to the Riad and went to sleep.
The following morning we all woke up and all met for breakfast. It was decided that the Riad was not as bad it it seemed the night before. The morning light revealed quite a nice Riad afterall. The plunge pool was cool and deep, the breakfast wasn’t bad and we were all in better moods. We decided to visit the El Fna square again for a look around and then some of the souks. Flowie being Flowie managed to get her head around the directions which was a gift from heaven! So, we set off for the square, after about 10 minutes were were all getting tired of being told “The Mosque is closed, you cannot go that way” and “You want to go to the square?” that Flowie decided on a tactic. The next chap who came up to us didn’t even get given a chance to open his mouth! Flowie jumped in immediately with “You want to know the way to the Post Office? 100 Dirhams!” He looked at Flowie with a confused look on his face and Flowie continued. “Okay 90 Dirhams, I will direct you”. He smiled and got the joke. We continued to the square.
The day was comprised of looking around the square, visiting some of the souks and having a number of restaurante stops. After a long and hard day we followed Flowie back to the Riad.
That evening we decided that we would spend the following day shopping in the souks, then the day after taking a trip into the mountains to see a waterfall.
The following day we made our way through the souks and haggled like never before, Many purchases were made but usually only after an hour or so of hard haggling. Everyone tells you a different story so you have no idea who is telling the truth. When you’re haggling you don’t really know what price you should be paying other than to convert the price into British Pounds so you just do your best. I tried to purchase some scented oil for a friend and was told 200 Dirhams, I just walked away muttering under my breath that I was not stupid. Needless to say I was followed for the next 10 minutes but the persuit ended when I went into another shop and bought exactly the same oil for 40 Dirhams with no haggling. Flowie got the hump too with rediculous starting prices, She asked the price of a crappy plastic fridge magnet that in England would have been about £1, the conversion was around the £10 mark. She made her point by storming out of the shop. She got her fridge magnet in another shop 1 minute away with fixed prices for about 60 pence.
The El Fna square is not the best place to be with a snake phobia and Flowie has a snake phobia. We gave that part of the square a very wide berth but there are people who come up to you all over the square with large pythons and cobras and try to put them round your neck. There are also people who try to sell wooden toy snakes. When someone came up to Flowie with a wooden snake and jigged it in front of her she nearly died, she screamed and run away like Lindford Christie! This happened a couple of times and the word went around that there was a nutty woman who HATED snakes so they all gave her lots of space which was nice of them. For the rest of that day Flowie was very jumpy and on guard and when someone came up to us in one of the souks with some belts and jiggled them in front of us like a snake Flowie screamed and burst into tears. Luckily he was some distance away as my natural reaction was to get thumpy which is never a good reaction. I think the belt seller was more scared of Flowie than she was of his belts but he appologised and showed us that they were only belts. No one likes scaring people and the people there were just going about there daily business, no one deliberatly targetted Flowie and once they knew it didn’t happen again. Seeing my wife scared shitless and burst into tears changed my mood completely and as much as I know it’s the wrong thing to do if it had happened again I’d have thumped someone. Luckily it didn’t. It’s just the heat and out of control nature of the place.
That evening we visited a fantastic restaurant that served the most beautiful food and good wine too. We then made our way back to the Riad for a swim, natter and bed. I think it was here that Elaine told Mia the the jiggy jiggy luggage man would have wanted paying for sex! Elaine started to back track but Mia told her that she had dug her hole and something along the lines of shut the fuck up.
The following day we all got up early and met up with our guide for the trip to the Ourika and the mountains. I think we were all a little sceptical but when we met our guides which was Mohamed, who was only 17, and his uncle we knew we were in for a really good day. Mohamed spoke superb English with an American accent and was so full of beans and life that you could not help but instantly like him. On the journey to the mountains we talked about loads of things including his trip to America where he had spent the last year studying after winning a scolarship, and religion. Mohamed was happy to answer our questions on Islam and on his own life. It was fascinating. We visited a few places on the way which was fine by us and then got to Ourika. Ourike was a large market where to locals go each week to get all their groceries. It was great walking around seeing the market in full swing. We saw some chicks that had been died all kinds of different colours, I know it’s not nice but they were very sweet. Flowie bought a basket and was immediately joined by a chap who tried to sell her a neclace for the entire duration of our visit. Even when we got in the minibus he was standing there outside knocking on Flowie’s window saying “What you wanna pay?”. That’s real persistance!
When we arrived at the mountains for a little trek we found that you have to have to have an official guide so Mohamed got us one named Said and got the price right down for us which was great. He showed us his license and was very helpful. When we finally got the treking part were all realised how stupid our choice of footware was, Me, Flowie and Elaine were in sandals and Mia was in flip flops. We all made it up the first part but Mia’s flips flops were just not up the the job of the last part and waited for us at a kind of cafe. It was a proper climb to get up to see the waterfall but it was worth it. The water was very cold but it didn’t stop Flowie and Elaine from getting in. I took the photographs and we all triped and stumbled our way back down to meet Mia. When we finally got to Mia she informed us that we had taken all the money with us but luckily the coke vendor looked after her and gave her a coke, etc. We paid up and headed back to the minibus. Once we reached the road we could see a large minibus full of kids and women that was trying hard to do a 15 point turn. The front wheels were about a foot from the edge and getting closer. The men, who were safely on the ground, were all shouting instructions. It was mayhem!
On the way back Mohamed asked us if we wanted to visit a place that sold verious oils and herbs. We said yes and half an hour later we turned up. It was fascinating, they had an amazing array of herbs and plants in their gardens and we were told of their uses by a very knowledgable chap who spoke good English. Then we went inside and he showed us the finished products and the prices. He then left us to browse around and decide what we wanted. The first thing that happened was that Flowie somehow managed to squirt a concoction of 35 spices into her eye! She was promptly taken to the bathroom where she washed it under the tap. 10 minutes later her eye was fine, just a little bloodshot. Then Elaine managed to twist her ankle and was taken hobbling to a room where she was given a massage on her swollen foot. Then Mia took off her hat and her glasses went flying across the room and one of the lenses popped out, needless to say they jumped in and fixed Mia’s glasses. We made our purchases and got back in the minibus before any other disasters could occur! I can’t help but feel we would not be welcome there again!
On the way back we decided that we needed some alcohol so Mohamed came to the rescue, he said he could not buy it for us because of his beliefs but he could take us to a supermarket that sold it. Flowie and Mia disappeared into the supermarket and Elaine and I sat by the mini bus and waited for them, and we waited, and we waited. Elaine and Mohamed were going through Elains iPod music collection singing away happily whilst I watched the dented cars go by. Flowie and Mia finally came back after and what had been quite a hard time with two bottles of wine. Yay!
We decided that we would get dropped in the El Fna square and have some food on the benches in the middle. So we said goodbye to Mohamed and his uncle and paid them with a nice tip for being so good. Unfortunately Elains ankle seemed to be getting worse and I had a thumping headache from lack of caffiene so we dicided to go to the nearest cafe for a coffee and water. We toyed with the idea of getting a man with a trolley to take Elaine but she just hobbled on. She found that if she walked on the side of her foot she could get up to almost full speed. Mia’s body had run out of energy so the guards were up. We sat down at the cafe and had some coffee and discussed where we were going to eat. I went out and found one of the BBQ things that was up and running but there was a bloody great python between us and benches. I told Flowie but she was fine. It’s when she is suprised that bad things happen. We had couscous, chicken, lamb, squid and bread and it was lovely though the chicken was not cooked so we left that. There were no sheeps heads thankfully.
Once we’d eaten we walked back to the riad to start on our wine. On the way back through the souks we saw a cart carrying what we thought was a body covered by a blanket. Me being me quietly said “Bring out your dead.” from good old Monty Python. Then we saw another one but poking out from under the blanket was some bread. I think the blanket was there to keep the flies off. Me being me said “Bring out your bread.” We all had a little chuckle.
Anyway, we got back to the Riad, drank the wine and chatted for a few hours. Mia perked up back to her normal self and we had a great evening. I said my good byes to Elaine and Mia as I’d be gone before breakfast. Flowie carried most of my luggage to the bike about 10 minutes walk away. I said my goodbyes to my wife and started getting the bike packed and ready. I stopped and walked over to the middle of the lane and could see Flowie in the disance walking back to the Riad to get ready to go back to the airport. I stood there and watched her in case she turned around but she didn’t. I was very sad.
The lanes were very quiet so my made my way back to the road in about 3 minutes where I set my destination for Casablanca. After about 120 miles I arrived at Casablanca to find that the hotel had no rooms available. I visited 5 other hotels and 2 rooms but they were all fully booked so I got back on my bike and headed north East to Rabat. Luckily the Ibis Hotel here in Rabat had rooms so I booked one. Most of the Ibis hotels I have been staying in are called Ibis Budget Hotels, this one is just called Ibis Hotel and is supposed to be a bit posher but the only difference I have found so far is that it’s bloody expensive for a room and the price of water and coffee is almost double. I’ll be going out tonight to get my drinks and food.
When I got here I was looking forward to pluging in my iPad and giving it a good charge as I’ve got the chargers now that Flowie brought from England. I’ve just plugged it in but guess what. Everything will charge with the exception of the iPad. Luckily it was 80% charged so I’ve been able to write this blog and upload my photographs.
Tomorrow I’m going to ride to Ceuta, get across the border and then get a ferry over to Spain. I’m looking forward to camping again.