... a travelogue page 3 of 5
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2006
Subject: Morrocan musings take 2
...a quick email this time: about to head for Quartazarate (or something like that) south of Marakesh, then to Zagora and further south... for 2 or 3 days ...
to see a bit of desert, had enough of Medina's and tiny alleys and crowded places and people trying to sell you stuff that you are sure whatever you pay its going to be too much... and all that... this is the last 3 or 4 days before the homeward treck starts, to Tangier, and to the catch the plane in the plains of Spain (where the rain falls too).....
wind back a day: YesterdaY: 9July06:
well, I've finally made it to THE fabled Marakesh...
It was hard to tear myself away from Rabat after 7 days, - surprising given I had never actually planned to go there at all. An advantage of unplanned travel.
its stinking hot HOT. Coming from the station I walked for a what I took to be reasonable distances and found I'd almost crossed half the city. Must be used to Australian distances. I got totally lost trying to find the hotel I had decided on from the guidebook. In the end I gave up, took the first reasonably priced nice hotel, (100Dh) and started to explore - the local cinema first of course... a French movie, with female Asian action hero in an Indiana Jones style of movie. Didn't matter I know no French... ok done that for this trip. In flight movies beckon...
First impressionS: here in the very core of Marakesh, the main square called the "Djemma El Fna", everything is provided for the traveller, from food, to accommodation to internet, to tours, the works.... nice, but too full on for me. A great place to hang out for a while if you are coming in from the desert or the outback...
For the first time I'm seeing other Western travellers everywhere. Strange after weeks of no Westerners. Mind you most of them are French... funny that... Travelling I saw only older French couples occasionally (we didn't talk, -language barrier).
This is as far as I go after this its home, back via Rabat, Tangier, catch the plane in Spain etc... .
I know the penchant of tourists to become instant 'experts' on a country after 2 weeks, so with my vast (.....) experience of 4 cities so far, I can clearly say I like the Medina of Tangier the most because its truly convoluted, there are no straight lanes, no two houses are the same, houses across a lane almost touch each other, its on a hill, and every house and building is custom built at odd angles to fit in with the surrounding ones, truly a surrealist's idea of heaven (or an Australian Building regulator's nightmare) . Every other old city (Medina) I've seen after that has been more straight, less compact, less convoluted and intertwined. I guess for me the more twisted the better... take that as you want :-P
I'll take some extra days to spend there on the way back I think, worth staying in Tangier for. If I make it out of the desert in time that is...
watching from the trains: the new suburbs in the cities are concrete, utilitarian boxes plonked on sand prairie land in the middle of nowhere... truly great examples of ugliness showing an amazing lack of attention to beauty or style, but then again, beauty costs...Perhaps in a 100years they'll be heritage listed and tourists flock to view them ???
earlier in RABAT:
The waiter, I talk with in the restaurant I go to every time I eat, (stability when moving is wonderful), practices his English on me.
Finally after 5 mins he comes clean: "I want a visa for Australia. Can you get me ?".
It's as though I'm supposed to have a spare one somewhere in my backpack, "oh yea, here you are mate, have one of them Visa thinggies, and good on yer mate...".
I've had this request before, many times, there is no point explaining that I have about as much influence as he would have in getting me an interview with the King of Morocco. Quite aside from the fact I'm not interested in helping with this kind of thing in the first place.
He looks disappointed, ok to make a joke and make a point, I open my wallet and take out a piece of paper, "here is a visa for you" (smile).
He laughs, gets the joke and the point and I take off. No harm in asking, fair enough.
Mint tea: the national standard drink. Thank god the yellow dangly label hasn't taken over here.
Where ever you go in Morocco, you can get mint tea like you can a Coke, or a beer in Australia.
The old fellow sitting opposite me in the train, smells of mint.
Walking past shops, - the smell of mint.
Yesterday evening I sat in my favourite tea shop, overlooking the market, the street, the milling crowd, but safely hidden away in a corner (photo below), in the shade, writing , musing watching the crowd and having world shaking thoughts about nothing much.
Next to me a couple of middle aged guys sit down.
Its a bit squeezy and I move my chair to make room and to mark my 'territory',
"Ah English ?" the more talkative one of the two says.
"I can tell by the way you move your things", he adds, smiling.
I tell him I'm from Oz, - 'pity about the (world cup) football, we chat a bit, - don't know how we manage to communicate because neither of us can really understand a full sentence of the others language but we pick out he key words like choc bits in a choc chip bisquit.
I review my pictures on the digital camera for the day and take some surreptitious shots of the crowd around me (see below).
Mr Talkative and his mate want me to take a picture of them, ok.
Then a picture of all us, me with them, all of them with the waiter, etc... (Picture below: the waiter in the middle, Mr Talkative on the right)
They give me their address, I promise to send them the pics (that one above).
The serving guy behind the glass window has been watching us and smiles and points thumbs up, "good you guys are chatting" he waves his arms in the air.
"You are an Engineer", Mr Talkative tells me. Wow, spot on. "
How do you know", I ask....
From a jumble of French I extract: "...sandals (Teva).....waist bag,........ glasses, ...... writing something in a notebook...."
he probably forgot to mention the propeller on the head and the Geeky look, he must have been trying to be polite..
Mr Talkative gives me his mobile number, asks me to call him when I'm back from Marackesh, we go out to dinner. I smile and nod, but have no intention to do so, I can sense a fish hook big enough for a whale just lurking there in the background. But "yes, I'll call" I say and smile.
He lets me know my drinks have been paid for already, - ok I'll make sure I'll send those photos. I would've anyway.
ok eventually someday someone will try and sell you drugs, hashish is the usual offer here, doesn't matter where you go, what country, someone will approach you.
I just say No, shake my head or ignore the offer, if that that does not work, then after a few tries, I will stop and look the person in the eyes directly and quietly talk any kind of rubbish in English, but make sure the word "boo lease" (Police) is mentioned a few times, - they dissappear like a light turned off. Sometimes you get a bit of a reaction, but they leave +++
ok gotta run, catch a bus to Queazatrazaratezatesz....something like that and then to Zagora tomorrow.
heiko from Rabat
On 7/11/06 , heiko....@......com wrote:
quick email this time, about to head for Quartazarate (or something like that) south of Marakesh, then to Zagora and
So: Will this guy ever shut up and actually do some travelling ? and stop writing emails... ?
well, a bit of email a day, keeps the overload away, because I can spill it in words, and that in turn opens up the senses to other new things.
Solo travellers need some kind of outlet. I met a pair of German girls today, who were keen to spill the beans about their experiences *(they were solo travellers of a kind too). Some lovely experiences such of being invited by the daughter of a Moroccan family they met on the bus, fed and put up for 2 nights, taken around the works, given presents.
Sure there was a gentle suggestion that marriage to a Moroccan (such as the eligible young son) might be 'nice' but that was subtle and gentle and not a condition or a problem they felt. They fully understood but declined the kind offer.
More generally. They told me they felt 'hit' on or approached by guys about every 3 minutes.
Mind you this only goes for Single, Western women. Women travelling with a 'husband' type of male person are ok I'm told.
Hey a business opportunity just comes to mind for me as I write this: I could generously offer my services ...... - for a fee of course.... plus expenses... Well, actually, No I won't do that, I have to have some moral standards, I'd do it for just the expenses...(ok ok, just joking).
Ok let me get the place name right: Quarzazate ! that's where I escaped to from Marakesh.
First impressions: 'getting off the bus at 9pm, all is dark, street lights are on, its just plain EERIE, Ray Bradbury style of Eeerieness, other worldly ness, allien time and place and like a place lost in time and space.
Echoes of surrealist dreams as the I walk through the dark deserted streets, high tall empty buildings, feel deserted, don't know if they are, on both sides of me. The hot desert wind blows down the empty desolate street, a few people haunt the odd shop front - most shop fronts are dark and empty. In the distance beckons a light,
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
'This could be Heaven or this could be Hell'
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...
Welcome to Quarzazate
Sorry, wrong track, got carried away. But it was a bit like that, without the girl in the doorway.
Up ahead in the distance beckoned the light of, I kid you not, an internet place ! Like a moth to the light Heiko hits the keyboards...after first leaving and finding a hotel. (NB: I've got good at reconfiguring settings to allow English instead of French keyboards, French keyboards drive me NUTS.).
And if you think it sounds like I'm on drugs, no, not that, but on the way in the bus over the Atlas mountain range, curving back and forth ever higher and higher.... I was contemplating what would happen if the earth embankments 20cm from the tyres of the bus gave way and slid down the hillside, about 300m almost vertically down. The bus weighs about 24 tons, that's a lot of weight to heave around into corners and bounce around....
bouncing increases the effective weight by up to 100%...
morbid ? Well Engineers are taught to design for worst case scenarios, that's why the wings don't generally fall off planes and bridges don't often just collapse.... when busses drive over them.... ok... enough of that....
I once read about the Moroccan movie making center for Hollywood, turns out this Quarzazate town is exactly this place, I kind of just blundered into it.
Of course, in true efficient business style, of the 100's of millions of $$$'s hardly any of that money touches the local economy here, same poverty and all that as other cities, from what I can see. (yes literally, hundreds of millions, one movie alone brought in over $60m the guidebook says (guidebook is always right ?)).
Quarzazate is pronounced to sound like a drunk saying with slurred speech "wha's s-a zat" (what is that?)
Actually getting a room in Quarzazate was interesting. Guy on street approaches me about getting a hotel,
'got one already mate'
guy: ' oh you make reservation ?'
Heiko thinks, good point this will get him off my back, '...erh yes, actually I rang from Marakesh and reserved a room this morning, thank you for you help (smile)'.
Good trick gotta remember that one. yet I feel sorry for him too, 7km out is a place that attracts 100's millions of dollars and he like many of his fellows hangs about trying to earn a small commissions on hotels foreigners go to.
The hotel I chose from the guidebook is called Hotel BABA. They are really friendly.
Well the owner is anyway, the hangers on are trying to get me to go to a desert treck tour and I may actually succumb as I have little time left I would love to see those Saharan desert dunes.... esp after reading the 5 volumes of DUNE by Frank Herbert.
now here comes the funny part: anyone remember the bargaining scene from Monty Phython ? Doesn't matter if you do, but this one was like that.
Hotel Mananger (HM): ' I have ONLY his one room left, its a bit hot'
Heiko thinks: its in my budget range, its a room, its late, its got bath attached, I take it. 'ok that's fine, 85 Dhirams rights ?' (list of prices says 85)
Hotel Mananger: ' I give you for 80 because its not so nice...'.
Heiko: 'no make it 85 it's really fine, lets not quibble about 5 Dhs.'
Hotel Mananger: ' No no, its 80 don't worry, really its 80'
and we carry on a bit more like this, me trying to raise the price and him trying to lower it. First time for everything.
I've never payed less than 100 Dh for a room with a shower in Morocco, only once at a Youth Hostel I paid 30Dh for a dorm. which I had to myself anyway.
NB: of course, this is not the end of it, just the start of my stay, lets see what happens... while I'm there. (Later: it was noisy, next to bus station, Busses coming and going all night,, open window, hot, smelly toilet...until I worked out there was a door that could be closed... )
It is sooooo hot in Morocco now, sweltering, just what I imagined, hot desert winds. had 4 big glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice one after the other yesterday.
The poeple here really know how to eat well : (and there is no obesity problem in Morocco I've noticed). They squeeze the orange juice, fresh right in front of you, (they don't even have a food handling certificate shock and horror) they don't add sugar or salt, just pure orange juice !
they sell nuts and figs and dates, everywhere, just like that.... maybe that's where I got it from, my penchant or nuts and dates, a past life in Morocco ? Mint tea and nuts and dates, my old favourites....
Orange juice is presented in a glass, no throw away rubbish is generated. Of course you share the glass with everyone else before you, but hey that's part of the deal. YOu can always wipe the area before you drink from it...
I think they kind of wash the glasses in cold water but they don't worry too much about it.
I just really like the idea that my single drink of juice generates no man made waste at all, the orange pulp is reused I think for compost. No drink cup is used and thrown away. I know this might sound really bizarre: but I have images of a society in which everyone walks round with their own cutlery and cup and plate, and food is dealt out that way. therefore no waste of disposable stuff. As I said, a geeky kind of dream.
NB: In Japan some people carry their own chopsticks around to avoid using the disposalbe ones...
Tuesday 11Jul06 Zagora, (warning author may be heat affected ... ! read on at your own risk ...)
everyone and I mean EVERYONE wants to sell me Camel rides in the desert.
Doesn't matter what the topic of conversation it ends up coming back to Camels.
- there is nothing else to do here...
"Well actually there is a lot you can do here, there are Camel rides to the desert, and you are in luck my friend because I just happen, by pure chance to know someome who does the best most reliable rides very cheap, (only USD$300/day).." and so it goes on.
The whole town used to do Dates and such, but the desert expanded, water dried up and now there is NOTHING but tourism here and all tourists can do here is guess what ???
Camel Rides ! , I hear you say, how did you figure that one out ?
.... only MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN GO OUT IN THE MIDDAY SUN ... (from a Flandes and Swann Song ...)
This is the hottest part of the year, and there are no tourists (they all know not to come here this time), appart from nuts like me and few others. As I write sweat is poourning offf me and the monotnous drone of Local music in the background, ceiling fans swirling, but its still HOT HOT HOT... it was sooo hot that....my washing dried in an hour this morning before 10am !
When I walk along the main drag, everyone and I EVERY male from boy to old man approaches me and thinks they are going to strike it lucky and I'll book my Camel ride in the desert with him.
I must be getting psychic or something, because the minute somone and opens their mouth, I Just know somehow, mysteriously what they will say, it will always end up with Camels, (the one hump variety). did I make this point already ? must be the heat.
Now I can imagine what being a solo female traveller must be like in this country, only it wouldn't involve Camels of course.
By now the whole main drag of the street knows I'm from Australia:
"Hello Australia" they call to me from the shady shop fronts
"ha ha ha ..." I walk on without changing pace or looking too interested. In Morocco you can't just blank and totally ignore people, don't know why, but one has to find a happy medium that is still reasonable but not encouraging, lets everyone save face, smile and move on... something new I've learnt here...
After listening to a few touts explain their tours and seeeing how things were hanging, I met one with a diffference, his name was Hammundt..He's got something of the cool African American about him, just a bit. He was not intense, but laid back, wanting my business but genuninely open to me going elsewhere, and not fussed too much one way or another, though of course he still presented his case but in a low key take it or leave it way. This is unlike the others where I get this hard sell angle, the subtle pressure which creates an automatic anti reaction in me.
We got "sidetracked" into the politics of Government VS the common good of the broader population.
the problems of allowing rich foreigners to buy land in Morocco and push house prices out of the reach the local people... I fully agreed with that one, not a good thing, not in Morocco or Australia...but hey we bemoan the ways Governments look after the rich and not the poor etc... you get the drift...
Wednesday 12Jul06 Zagora, day 2
We spend the next day continuing our conversation all the while he gently interests me in various items here and there.
Over a period of 2 hours, we talk, bargain, discuss philosophy of life and death, religions, etc... occasionally coming back to bargain, make a counter offer, then veer away from the money and business angle back to the discussing the prblems of the world...etc...
Compared to Hammundt, the ones I've met so far were raw beginners, the intense, undercurrent of a 'forcing current' very obvious and off putting.
In the end I bought something of course, but it was worth the time, the whole afternoon, and the lesson in bargaining, in ultra soft sell, yet so well done, I wish I could have taped it and use it as a case study. (would make a great lecture series.... ).
Confession: YES I DID do a Camel ride in the end, after Hammundt (picture above) sent me off to a town called Oulad DRISS, 100km south, right next to the dunes, where the Camels are, where all the rides leave from ...where he told me I'd get a much better deal, then from here in Zagora, from agents like him. So off I went... I did get a better deal but that is another story, for another time ... this is starting to get too long and I don't have time to make it shorter....
Friday 13Jul06 (day after the Camel ride)
Always look on the bright side of life,..... today I found out another good thing about solo travel: you can change your plans and your mind anytime ! totally ! You can even hop off the bus you were on and go back to the town you just left, just to check out a hunch...
Got an interesting reply from a friend the other day: She writes:
the kinga site is making me long to pack my bags and go. now, before i'm old(er) and decrepid and scared. the point of travelling young, which most people don't understand, is not fear that the places will disappear. it's that you will change, will wither and be sensible and frightened, no longer capable of taking things as they come, unable to be so deeply impressed (impressioned?) by the experiences. it's more dangerous for precisely the same reasons, sure; but let natural selection take its course and the chips fall where they may. deliver me from swedish furniture!
and that leads me to : Odd thoughts that come to one when on the road and away from the 'important' work of being part of a cog in a huge bureaucracy:
Its precisely this idea of danger and adventure VS safety and security I'd been cogitating about. It all started when I got to Marakesh, where all the needs for budget to mid range travellers were catered for in a few crowded streets: internet, food stalls galore, money change, tours, flights bookings, Patiesseries, restaurant with views, cheap hotels, mid range hotels, outrageous priced hotels, all crowded around the main square Djemma El Fna. In some ways that is what I want of course, its a great place to hang out. I look forward to it after the overdose not of Camels but offers of Camel rides.
People actually leave you alone there, they don't just talk about ONE thing, in fact they don't talk to you at all much.
After a while that gets too much...
I find myself: when too comfortable I seek something more, when too dangerous and tough I want nothing but peace and quiet, - nothing profound there.
On one hand I see that many people would like to be able to tell a true adventure story to brag about back home at "Le Club" telling the old boys how one almost got 'gotten' by whatever it was... and just only escaped ... here look at the scar....... but at the same time in real life, when one is actually IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ADVENTURE its the last thing you really want....all you want is to be out of danger, you want that crazy guy with the gun to go away you want the crocodile or the Rhino to stop trying to kill you.... you don't give a hoot about the story back at the Club... you don't know if you will EVER get back to "Le Club" at all....aaaarrggghhhhhhh...... 'just get me outta here !!!!! I don't wanna die .... now... ''
But IF you do make it back alive ok there you have a great story...
. Ok so my Camel ride (back to Camels, so sorry) was not what I would call an "adventure", it was an hour into a ready set up campsite. For me the adventure was getting there on my own, actually doing it and overcoming internal reservations.
But then, what is an adventure and a challenge for one person is nothing for another...and Vice Versa ... There is no such thing as an objective '?dventur-o-meter''. Its a personal thing...
The other thing is of course the adventure has to be genuine. If its just a simulation it somehow lacks something or else we'd all be out playing 'chicken' on the freeways or doing trainspotting... Much of the commercial excitement offered to us is simulated adventure.. you can't possibly get hurt unless you really try.
So does an adventure have to happen TO us ?? ... can we open ourselves to it ....(by doing Camel rides - sorry no more about Camels from now on..).
On a personal level, we can always seek the balance ourselves, if we feel too safe we can for example go out and do a Camel ride? No, not that, but we do whatever it is that pushes our personal envelope. (sorry about that Camel, it they get in everywhere nowadays)
What I wonder about is what happens if a whole society gets too 'safe' too secure ? I ask this question because I feel there is a fundamental need inside people, for that touch of adventure and 'reality''
If a whole society gets too safe do they somehow subconsciously call up conflict like wars or blow up minor problems into big ones ? I wonder...
And if there is this need in people, what do we give the younger generation who need to actually feel real limits not simulations of limits ? Or is the only way for them to feel that 'reality' by creating another hard time , wars or whatever, like their greatgrandparents before them ?
Perhaps too much of the solving the world's problems talk rubbed off on me - things usually do come down to looking within and dealling with that... " oh no, anything but THAT...." he screams...
Gosh this did get a bit deep and heavy... blame the Camel ride if you will.
As I said these are idle thoughts when I don't have those important bureaucratic administrative emails to write, things like:
''Dear X, you need to see Mr A, and fill out Form B, to get permission from Ms Y before you can spend amount $100 on Z. -
PS: don't email me its not my department, write to Mr C"..
all for now, 250Km north of the Camel ride country, back in the town called Quarzazate (War-za-zat).
back at the same internet place I first found like a light in the darkness upon arriving off the bus 3 or 4 days ago... before the Camels came into my life...
PS: actually the Camel I rode was called Mimune and was lovely, even tempered and relaxed.
I think there are Camel rides in Australia too aren't there ?
>>> click here for next page (page 4 of 5)
<<< previous page