Travel

Cruising through the Atlas Mountains

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We woke up around 7am the next morning and scrambled about to re-pack our now heavier bags. A quick bite of breakfast in the lounge and we head out into Marrakech to flag a taxi to the Supratours bus station for an 830 bus to Ouarzazate. Our first bus experience in Morocco was actually rather smooth. We paid 5dh to “register” our luggage – that added some piece of mind that it will actually turn up where we turn up and is somewhat trackable. The seats were small, but comfortable. Big, clean windows, great for photo-taking along the drive. The route was 5 hours long. Ouarzazate is a town enroute to the Sahara and home of the cinema studios where movies such as Gladiator were filmed, as well as the Casbah des Cigognes. We had to drive through the Atlast Mountains to get there. The landscapes were breathtaking. We drove up so high at times, an the roads were rather thin, w edrove so close to the edge of the mountains. It reminded me of the bus ride through the Sacred Valley in Peru enroute to Cusco, except the driver in Morocco drove at a much more reasonable speed (well, this specific bus driver did anyway. Like I said, THIS bus experience was dreamy… haha, foreshadowing.) We took a ridiculous amount of photos with Shai’s SLR so I won’t be able to upload them now. You’ll have to just imagine…

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We stopped for a quick break in an absolutely miniature little mountain town. And here was my very first squat toilet experience (I can’t believe I’m sharing this… but it seems travellers always share bathroom experiences.) There was a plastic plate on the ground in a lockable private stall with a hole in the centre and two platforms for your feet. (Thank goodness it wasn’t truly just a dirt hole in the ground as I had anticipated.) The stall also had a small faucet about a foot above the ground where one could rinse off their pee-splattered feet, a result of poor aim. Haha, I know, too much sharing? Outside the stall there was a proper sink and soap to wash up, thank goodness, but no where hear, even public hotel bathrooms, seem to have hand towels. Then back into the restaurant to finish your mint tea. Ahhh, welcome to Morocco.

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We arrived into Ouarzazate around 130pm and hopped into a taxi to find our hotel we had booked the night previous – Hotel Zaghro – 18$/night. The petit taxi we were in took us to the grande taxi station for 10dh. We knew our hotel was in another town nearby, and started to fear maybe it was so far away it would become a hassle to get into town for sightseeing. We got into the grande taxi, drove for literally 5 minutes, town to town, and paid 20dh. Haha. They have such a system here with their grande and petit taxis. Petit taxis will NOT drive outside of the city… even if it’s 5 minutes apparently. Bit of a hassle, but oh well. Such is travel. Anyway, we pulled up to our hotel entrance way. A 3 or 4 story building with large gates and a proper reception area. In the centre was a courtyard with tables, lounge chairs and a pool. Yes, a pool. Sigh. What a lovely change from the night previous. And for only 4$ additional in cost. While wiating for our room to be cleaned, we sat by the pool and ordered our very first tangine and a bowl of spaghetti for lunch. Amazing food. Fresh and flavorful. (Although we did hav eto pop a couple Immodiums shortly after as we began to experience what’s locally known as Moroccan Belly.) Then up to our room to change out of our smelly bus clothes and head into town.

The front desk attendant, a friendly little English speaking man who seemed to love having us as guests, suggested we walk rather than go by taxi. Directions were simply to walk straight and turn right at the river. We head out into the dusty little down and walked along the main road from town to town for about 20 minutes. There wasn’t a tourist in sight, and the local smust have thought we were a bit mad. But either way, the sun was hot and the fresh air was lovely. We followed along a map we had brought with usand shortly after, came upon the casbah. Conveniently, the cinema centre was directly across the street.

After our sightseeing, we attempted to follow our map and walk into town in search of a grocery store or supermarche. (I realized, I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned about the language here. Everyone speaks either Arabic or French, so I’ve had to re-call on anything I can possibly remember from grade school french classes to get us through. It has worked out alright, although challenging. That’s half the fun though!) We picked up a few essentials and a 4pack of Heineken tall boys. We thought it’d be a nice way to enjoy an afternoon by the pool. So cost-wise, one Heineken tall boy was 18dh, so about 2$ canadian. So about on par with the prices back home I believe. We also picked up a bottle of wine for 90dh and then, splurged for a taxi home, our arms full of goodies.

By the time we got into our bathing suits and down to the pool, the sun had dropped considerably and the pool was completely shaded. It didn’t feel as inviting as it had earlier on. But we paid to have this pool experience, so we weren’t going to NOT use it. So in we went, shaking and shivering for a good 15 minutes in there, sipping our beers sitting on the ledge, pretending to enjoy ourselves, before popping back out and rushing upstairs to get into cozy hoodies for dinner. Haha. Ridiculous.

Before bed we flicked ont he TV in our room (wow, luxury, I know) and saw that David Cameron of the blue Conservative party (remember how I’m all up in UK politics? Oh ya.) was officially the UK’s new prime minister. Should be interesting to see how that unfolds! I have heard a few predicitions that he will make some possibly unpopular but necessary changes in the next year but before the changes can see success and results, there will be a re-election and this popularity will drop putting the labour party back in power. Guess we will see!

Last but not least, the cold that I was battling back in London was still in full-swing. Major sinus issues, such a pain. Although I hadn’t had the opportunity for a full, 8 hour sleep yet, so perhaps that was all that I needed for a full recovery. Anyway, it was on… day 4 now. So annoying to travel with a head cold. I finished all the meds I picked up in London which the pharmacist promised would cure me… no such luck.

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