Weather: 13 Degrees Celsius, Overcast and Breezy
We awoke with groggy anticipation at 6:30 in the morning to prepare to leave the apartment and return our rental van to the Malaga airport. The sky was a calming grey over the Mediterranean Sea and a breeze blew, ready to carry us off to our next adventure across the water to North Africa.
The past two days was spent packing and downsizing the contents of our backpacks. We needed to lighten our carrying weight to prepare for all the kilometres we planned to travel throughout Morocco. (By the end of our two-week trip, we travelled roughly 4000km on land.) We sent our heavy red suitcase of homeschooling books and extra clothes ahead to a Barcelona Correos (Post Office) closest to the apartment we would be renting out for the week after our Moroccan trip. [t]
From the Airport we caught a train to the bus station for an hour and forty-five minute bus ride to Algeciras. At Algeciras we bought our ferry tickets and exchanged our Euros for Moroccan Dirhams. Our ferry tickets came with a free bus ride to Tarifa port, where we were scheduled to board a 3pm ferry ride to Tangier, Morocco.
Little Edmund made a friend on the bus between Algeciras to Tarifa. A lovely Moroccan woman offered him an orange, and he accepted it with his charmingly playful smile. Later on, to return the favour, he offered her some cookies. The lady was touched by the gesture and showed it by affectionately kissing his cheek and hugging him, asking Edmund in Spanish if he would like to sit with her. Edmund politely refused with a shy glance and a shake of his head. He tells us he’s going to have a lot of girlfriends one day.
Fresh off the boat, we arrived at the port of Tangier at almost 3pm Moroccan time (1hr behind of Spain). From there we met a well spoken older Moroccan man who offered to connect us with a taxi driver and guide for the afternoon. He asked for 30 Euros for 6 hours of accompaniment and Grand taxi rides to and from Tangier Centrum to the train station. We took him up on his offer, refusing to barter in this bartering culture. The Lonely Planet Guide book suggests that the going rate for a guide was half that price. As we saw it, we had about 6 hours to explore Tangier until we had to board our overnight train ride to Marrakesh. Five Euros an hour including transportation for the six of us was a win-win for both sides.
In the guide books and on-line travel forums, Tangier was described as an overpriced, dirty and shady Moroccan city. We were glad to have Mustafa as our Arabic speaking guide as we walked along its dusky streets. He directed our gaze to the body of water where the Mediterranean sea met the Atlantic Ocean. I imagined the currents of the two large bodies of water colliding and becoming that solid physical force which rocked our ferry about.
Our senses were heightened as we skipped past the garbage in the narrow walkways of the medina, inhaling the unusual smells of animals and their excrement –uncomfortably numerous cats (I’m very allergic to them), penned chickens and rabbits, and work donkeys. Exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, firewood, dirt and grime hung over the lively atmosphere of the souk (market) filled with fresh produce and meats (can’t get any fresher than live chickens), and third-hand thrift stalls. We floated through Arabic and Berber music as we held hands studying the hand crafted treasures of slippers, ceramics, paintings, tapestries, jewelry, and silverware. We didn’t mind that Mustafa took us to all his friends’ stores, hoping we buy a little something from them. We refrained from buying anything, worried about the inconvenience of prematurely adding weight to our packs as we traversed through the country. We told Mustafa this in the beginning, but he took us anyway.
We discovered that our Couchette room was the size of a walk-in closet, layered with the dust of Africa on its vinyl covered bunks. The children didn’t take any notice and staked claim on their top bunks -the boys sharing one and the girls the other. I was grateful for travelling with little children who can fit in just about anywhere they pleased. Brian and I took a bottom bunk each. Brian was confined to sleeping diagonally in order to fit his long frame comfortably. We voted on not brushing our teeth or washing our faces in the urine sloshed toilet room. Brian and I laughed nervously when we discovered that the “1st Class” toilet room directly emptied its wastes right on the train tracks. You could see the tracks at the bottom of the toilet and feel the breeze on your heinie. The sink overflowed and there was no evidence of soap used for hands or the facility. I thanked my lucky stars for the bottle of hand sanitizer I packed.
We settled in quickly for the night, telling our bookworm Susan to turn off the Kindle light and go to bed. That night, our dreams carried us off to Marrakesh, throughout the frequent stops and starts of the train. Sleep was elusive to me, as I couldn’t shake off the excitement of the promises of adventures this exotic country held for us. I kept one eye on the children, moved by the realization that we were living our dreams wide awake.
Written By Jenn
[Tip] I got this tip from Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide: If you ever need to send or receive a package while travelling, you can send it via the poste restante system, whereby you can send and receive packages to post offices worldwide. The post office will generally hold incoming mail for about a month. For the Spanish Correos, packages are listed as Lista de Correos.