My Travels in Morocco Sept-Oct 2011

My Travels in Morocco Sept-Oct 2011

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Casablanca Arrived by overnight train from Tangier Oct 24

This is a special bulletin for my geographically challenged friends.  I am 500 + or – miles west of the earthquake in Turkey.  I was on the ferry from Spain at the time and no we saw no sign of a tsunami while crossing.   I am about 400 miles North and West of Yemen and about the same distance but more north of Nairobi, Kenya.  So other than rain, cold wind and sleep deprived things are good here.  I took a little nap and a shower after I checked into my hotel, walked the streets a bit, had a cup of coffee and lunch and now its time to catch up on my typing and my blogging.

Last night when I got off the ferry I met a young man from Norway who is hitchhiking around.  I guided him to the train station.   He noted my name in the ancient Nordic/Viking was a prince.  Maybe I have an inheritance somewhere.

el Vagabondo.

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Oct 25 noon flight to JFK and on to LAX

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Oct 24 Casablanca

As I noted above I arrived at 4:30 AM from Tangier, which was an extension of my final day in Tarifa.  I hitched a ride to town from my country hotel along the highway west of town.  Another guest visiting from London had planed to spend the day kite surffing but alas one of those rare days there was no wind in the windy city.  He left around noon and was going to meet some friends and play around of gtolf.  He dropped me near the port and pointed out a good fish resturant and I was on my own for the afternoon.  I had a delicious grilled white fish lunch and headed out to expore the town.  There were lots of local tourists out and about and it was interesting to visit the ancient city with narrow streets and high walls.

The ferry is scheduled at 6:00 PM and the 2 hour time difference should put me in Tangier before it is too dark.  I had puzzled earlier about the time difference but when I realized that we motored west for 35 minutes I got out the map and detcted how far west Tangier is relative to Tarifa and Gibralter.  Upon landing in Tangier I heard a young man ask if I spoke English.  His name is Ike and he was looking for the train station.  I said ‘it,s easy walk about 5 kilometers south along the beach front prominade and when you see McDonalds turn right the train station is right in front about another kilometer or so.  Or you canb walk along with me since that is where I,m going.’  We headed out dodging the taxies, the kids and the hustlers.  The brease was appreciated as we each had our packs on and it was still warm from the day.  I stopped at a hunut and bought some yorgurt and water and we made the 7 or 8 kilometer trip in about 45 minutes.

He purchased a ticket to Merikesch and I already had mine in hand for the same train.  We hung out for the two or three hours until train time.  His parents, mom is an American, on a bus tio India via Afganistan and Pakistan I,m guessingt back in the 70s.  He was somewhat impressed that I had  made the similar trip a few years earlier and heading the other way.

My earlier comment about McDonnalds as a sigh post generated some email notes from by friends.  Yes Virgina McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and Dominos have all been spotted as I tour around.  Which leads to a discussion about food.  Never one to intentionally miss a meal I have done my best to keep up my record.  I have done so without having to crash at one of the afore mentioned estqblishments.  They used to say that the way to a man,s heart was through his stomoch and  that might still hold true in some parts but it leads to questions like what do women want any way and I think I,ll leave that subject to another blog, maybe another blogger since I only have opinions and no real emperical data.

The food here has been generally good.  It is the end of summer in the north and the mountains are on the edge of fall frost if they haven,t already experienced it.  This may limit the options for variety when it comes to fresh friuits and vegitables, but in the souq,s , markets and super markets, there is still a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Getting them on your plate is a little more problematic.  The timing of eating here is a late breakfast, later lunch and late dinner.  Add in travel schedules and limited transportation and language ability and things get a little more tricky.

Resturant prices  can be quite reasonable to expensive.  Beer and wine is sometimes available, more later when I talk about bagdad by the sea, and again runs the gamet.  Food here is very much a carb based diet.  Not so cool for a diabetic like me.  Bread, two kinds, rice, potatos salad, and French fries dominate every meal.  The special meal of the week, couscous, is a derivative of wheat.  I,m not quite sure how it is processed, Wikapedia when I get home, but it is not unlike pasta I think.

Today for lunch I had the traditional soup, harira,  and salad.  The soup is a garbonso bean base, probably with chicken broth and a variety of other staches including pasta, and various vegetables.  It varies from establishment to establishment but it is thickened with starch of some type.  Add bread, dates and a boiled egg and, waha, you have almost a  lunch.  I added a salad which was four leaves of lettuce, a scoop of rice, a scoop of potatoes boiled and sliced, diced beets, a table spoon of canned corn and a table spoon of canned sardeans.  Some sliced tomatoes, shreded carotts and a half a boiled egg.  Not bad as salads go but half the plate was carbs.  I,ve adjusted by taking an extra dose of my med to compensate and get my sugqr levels down.

The fish in Tangier, and Spain, was quite good but often it is deep fried with more French fries.   Tangine, a variety of chicken, beef, and fish dishes are available with squash, potatoes and a deep brown sauce is quite tasty.  The couscous usually has chicken and carrots and is usually eaten family style with  everyone eating out of the same bowel with bread used as the utinsil of chocie.

Ice cream in a variety of flavors is available along with some very tasty looking pastries of various shapes, colors and sizes with honey playing a predominant role in many of these great looking temptations.  I,ve had some great apples and melons to finish off my diner.  A variety of fresh jucies are available along with processed yorgart.  Some places offer varoius kinds of meat on skewers and wrapped in bread.  All good.  Generally I,ve eaten without problem, save one night, although it seems a bit redundant, probably due to limited budget and language.

Language is another frustration.  As you probably know I speqk several languages, I,m still working on English as some have pointed out in my blog postings of late.  But I don,t have any real ability in French, I read better than I speak, and other than a dozen or so words of Aribic I,m pretty much at the mercy of hand jestors, once in a while someone speks q little Spanish or even  English.  As a PeaceCorps volunteer we pride ourselves with having a language ability in our host country.  This follows me all my life and I find it frustrating that I am only scratching the surface.

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Oct 23 boat in the evening to Tangier to catch overnight train to Casablancca

Ike and I talked about travels and life,s twists and turns as the evening drew to a close he boarded his car for Merikesh, I found mine for Casablanca.  Interesting enough at some pôint in the night they must have split the train in two.  When I stqrted the journey I was in the last car and sat facing the direction of travel as wee pulled out of the Tangier station.  Around two I got up to make my journey to the restroom, Sanatariee as they are known here, and realized that my car was next to an engine.  I was being pulled ¨backwards”!  It was disconcerting enough to get out my trusty compas and make sure I was headed south.  As the faint theme from Twighlight Zone played in my head my trusty needle pointed in the right direction.  Every day on a trip like this one feels like a stranger in a strange land.  There  are moments of exilleration and moments of absolute confusion/terror?  The trusty conductor awakened me with plenty of time to get oriented to the new dawn.  And then I was deposited at the train station at 4:30 AM with a hotel reservation for the night.  I,m making my mile stones towards getting home.

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Oct 21-22 Tarifa Spain

rain and lightning last night

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Oct 20 Boat to Tarifa Spain

It´s 7:00 AM and those who know me, this is not my time of day.  My moto has always been ¨the best way to see sun rise is just before you go to bed.¨  It´s been one of those nights where walking the streets might have been a better option than trying to sleep.  At any rate I suppose in every venture, trip or activity, there comes a moment when (an Ah Ha?) when one realizes its time for a rest or change of scenary.  I woke up with the written plan that I was going to catch a taxi to the frontier, half an hour away, walk a couple of kilometers, pass through Moroccan immigration and walk through no man´s land, pass through Spanish customs and immigration treck a bit further and find a taxi to el centro to look for a hotel in Spanish Sebeta.   One of two Spanish enclaves along the coast of Africa in the Morrocan territory.

This all seemed quite rational at the time I was planning my trip but now seemed a bit tedious and more of the same.  While I had been assured ¨the Spanish do it differently” as compared to what the Moroccan´s or as compared to what they do in Europe.  I´m not sure.  It just seemed to be a bit overwhelming at the moment.

One option was to see if I could stay another night in Tangier and see if I was up to the challenge after another in a more or less familliar room.  I could visit the New Paris Cafe, have another cup of coffee and ponder the comings and goibngs of those around me and those who had proceeded me.  There are other places to explore if I check my map.  But the prospects didn´t seem all that inviting at the moment, I don´t think well in the morning.  I guess I´m tired and maybe a bit overwhelmed at the moment.  Maybe I need a change of venue.  The day today confrontational mood of this place does get tiring.  The sights, sounds and smells, theincident with the kids yesterday only enhance my sense of allienation here.

Before I burn any bridges I checked with the hotel clerk about extending my stay another night.  He said I could if I let him know by noon.  A quick browse of the internet and I found a hotel in Tarifa Spain where the ferry from the port leaves approximately every two hours.  A trip to the boat dock at the port and I had a round trip ticket to Spain on the noon ferry.  I went back to the hotel with a quick stop in a hanut and picked up some bread, water and yorgurt for a picknic lunch on the boat.  I went to my room packed, made a trip to the bank and paid my room and headed to the boat.

It was a fairly routine pass through immigration and an easy walk on to the boat and a window seat.  The fog closed in and we left a half hour late but it was an easy trip across the channel.  I explored the boat, three decks and about 20other passengers.  I found the restroom and settled infor the hour or so trip across the Medterainian sea to Tarifa, a small town on the southern point of Spain.  It is located abourt twenty kilometers west of Gerbralter.  There is a point in town where the sea to the east is the Medterainian and to the west the Atlantic.

The trip was uneventful and when I arrived Spanish immigration and customs was easy.  I checked on the return schedule for Sunday.  I have a night train Sunday night from Tangier to Casablanca and don´t want to miss it.  I asked the young lady at the booth about an ATM or bank, the reply ¨No ai in Tarifa¨ I will have to wait until the morning when the bank opens.  Surprized I asked again in English, my Spanish is a little rusty at this point, once again wait until tomorrow morning and go to the bank.

I also asked about the time as everything seemed a little scued as I looked around.  It turns out the time here is two hours later than Morocco.  Most of Spain lies to the East of here and most of Morocco lies to the west so I guess it makes sense even though my sense of direction ias that I came straight north.  All of a sudden it is 3:30 the middle of siesta time and belive me they take siesta time seriously here.  Everything including the police station and tourist office seems closed.  I decided to take a little familliarization walk and see if I could find my hotel and get my barings on the town.  Just about everything in view is CERADO.  I did manage to find a couple of Austrailians walking about who directed me to a row of a couple of dozen ATM machines and several, closed, banks.  At least the machines don´t take a siesta!  With spendable money in my pocket I felt a little more secure and figured I could at least buy my way out of most situations.  I managed to find a coffee shop that was open.  A cup of BLACK coffee is always a good way to revise ones faith in the world.     Two important milestones in the life of the traveler, money and coffee.

Oaky a little rest and I´m ready to explore a little more.  It is close to time for things to reopen and I head back to the tourist office to get a map and some directions.  Since this was an unplanned excursion I don´t have any maps, tour books or idea where I have landed.  There was a nice lady at the tourist office that had a map and a ¨guide book¨ for me to get some notions about things.  It turns out that my hotel is 7 kilometers out of town, something conveniantly left off the web site as far as I can remember.  During the summer season there is a bus to accomodate lonsome travelers like me but at this time the tourist season is pretty well over and the buses have stopped runing.  It´s taxi time.  13 Euros is a lot compared to what I have been paying for taxies but its the fare so away we go.  It is a nice ride to the country, along the coast line and pretty much isolated for the most part.  There are othert places along the route to explore.

The town had little to odffer and I was lookibng for peace and quiet so I think this will work out just fine.  It´s a half mile walk to the beach.  My first night here there was a band playing, Abraham Sevilla En Concierto along with a barbacoa of hamburgers.  I think you can find the band on line.  The band played in the front yard of the hotel, my wifi phone works and life is good.  The meals are simple but relatively inexpensive and convenient.

I appologize once again for the spelling, now it´s a Spanish keyboard and spell check in Spanish so evrything is underlined in red.  I will clean this up when I get home.  I am writing in long hand and trying to catch up on posting as I can.  Finding access to a computer is more problematic than I had expected.  I left my lap top at home as another  5 pounds just seemed like too much.  I have been enjoying the freedom of writing with a pen and pad for a change.  I can write much faster and I don´t have the instant chriticism of the spell checker and formating issues.  It takes me back to full page sentances and two or three page paragraphs.  Oh well I´m creative when it comes to the English language!

More to come soon.  El Vagabondo

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