S: Morocco 2009
FC: Morocco | Kendra & Jerrol November 2009 | Moroccan Honeymoon
1: Day 1: We arrived at Casablanca airport at 7:00PM local time after 24 hours of travel time (six hours in Paris airport) to get there. We jumped right into practicing some poorly pronounced French by buying tickets on the local train from the airport to the main train station - Casa Voyageurs. We successfully passed through our first gauntlet of taxi drivers and tour operators to make it to our first hotel -Ibis Moussafir, an adventurous 100 yards from the train station. After checking in, we practiced our French some more in the local market “avez vous un pepsi?” Trs authentiqe. We did come across an area with a bunch of fruit stands where we tag-teamed the vendor with French and Arabic. Jerrol’s single “La” (No! In Arabic) was appreciated much more than any French Kendra muddled through and entertained the street vendors for the night. | Morocco
2: Once in Marrakech we met Bilal, our driver, at the nice new train station. He took us to a very western style supermarket where we bought some staples for our trip to the mountains along with some Moroccan pizzas. Jerrol first thought it had tuna on it, but we soon realized this is what chicken more naturally tastes like. Then off to Imlil about and hour and a half up in the mountains. | Day 2: Awoke the next morning to the only rain we saw while in Morocco. The breakfast was a mix of western and Arabic cooking, including homemade yoghurt, flat bread and yummy eggs. We sat next to a Canadian couple on our 3 hour train ride to Marrakech: Marie, whose mother was a Cormier from Belle Cote (Cape Breton) and Gunnar, a Swede who was a mechanical engineer for Bell Canada in the early ‘80s. Small world! The scenery during the train ride was beautiful - very rural. Most people lived on small farms and used what resources they had on hand, including many pastures contained by cactus fences.
3: Bilal helped us with our Arabic and pointed out little Berber Villages. Valleys looked like what we thought Copper Canyons of Mexico would with narrow roads and lots of families, goats, donkeys and honking horns. Both the colors of the scenery as well as the children were gorgeous. Our first impression was that the people were striking (definitely different than the Arabic Moroccans) but must have a hard life, most getting by with very little. Imlil is a bustling little village of about 1,000 people that is a base for many treks. Hassan, a guide, helped us up (had to carry bags about a quarter mile from road) to Douar Samra, our inn. There we had Mint tea on the roof deck and discussed treks. We decided on no guide, but bought a very good topo map. Beautiful scenery and sunny day.
4: Went on walk into town looking for ATM but there was none. Everyone was very friendly and wanting to sell us something. J practiced Salaam Aliekem (Arabic hello). Back at hotel spent some time on roof deck watching sun set and listening to call to prayer. The calls from 5 villages down the canyon echoed off each other. You could see the shepherds herding goats down from the mountain tops into the village.
5: Dinner back at Douar Samra with Rachida, our house manager, and Mohammad, pushy butler type and three travelers from England. GREAT dinner. Back at the room around 9:00, it took about half an hour to get our fire going (only form of heat since there is no electricity) and snuggled up in very warm linens to end our first full day in Morocco.
6: Day Three: Had breakfast with other travelers, promptly at 8, so we didn't disappoint the punctual Mohammad. Then went for our trail run/ hike of 14 miles around two 10,000 foot peaks. Went through two villages that had no road or electricity. A very nice man helped us through the first village as it was more confusing than you would think a village of probably around 500 or so would be. The women washed the clothes in the river that ran through the village and laid the cloths out on the rocks to dry.
7: Had to climb up over 1500 feet to get back over a saddle of the mountains and then back down another 1800 feet where we met up with the road for our last three miles back up another 1000 feet to our inn. By the time we got back we had climbed over 4000 feet and needless to say were pretty tired. However we did it all in 4 and a half hours and Mohammad said it usually takes people six to seven to do that route so he was pretty impressed. Jerrol inhaled too much Moroccan dust and started to get a little cold.
10: Day Four: The next morning we had to leave very early to make it to our bus back in Marrakech. But we did and the four and a half hours worth of travel to get to Essaouira was totally uneventful if not a little tedious.
11: Essouiara is a beautiful little city of about 25,000 people on the Atlantic. Got checked into our amazing hotel Madada Mogador and then went out to buy a few things including some cold medicine for Jerrol, something to keep our heads cool while on our horse trip and some dinner. We accomplished all three with the advice of our hotels French owner, Sophie. Jerrol had one of the best meals of his life for dinner when he ordered a sweet beef Tangine (meat and vegetables cooked over fire in a clay pot). Then we had a nice evening stroll back to our room inside the ancient ramparts of the medina.
12: Day Five: Next morning we drove to the next town over to meet at the café Hendrix (yes named after Jimmy Hendrix) for the start of our three-day horse trek. There we met the other guest that would be riding with us, Natalie, a nineteen year old girl from Switzerland that had just done the same trip back in August. We met all the staff at Zouina-Cheval that would be accompanying us. Then we met our horses. Jerrol would be riding Chocolat, a dark brown Arab Barb stallion that was five years old. Kendra was riding Oscar another Arab Barb stallion that was nine years old. Natalie road a horse named Kissme that was very dominant but beautiful.
13: Chocolat | Etoile | Oscar | Kissme | Salaam
14: Actually, Barb Arab stallions are known for being very “hot blooded” horses with attitudes and physical abilities to match. We found this out right away when we were leaving the corrals and Kissme got a little too close to Kendra’s horse Oscar. So Oscar started kicking at Kissme and Kissme decided to rear (attempting to kick Oscar with his front hooves) all the while Kendra and Natalie were riding them.
15: That was when we learned that these stallions have a definite pecking order and don't do well when they get to close to each other especially certain combinations of horses. Having said that Jerrol’s horse Chocolat (The second fastest horse) was a very easy horse to handle and never gave him any problems.
17: What can we say, the next three days were easily our favorite part of the trip. Our guides, Najiib and Yassine were great. Najiib our trail leader and part owner ,was a little quiet but very nice. Yassine had only been riding for four years but was a natural and spoke some English as well as French, Spanish, and Arabic and was a very funny guy. There was also Abdesalaam who would drive ahead with the truck to our lunch and camp sites to prepare the meals and set up the Arabic style tent that we ate and slept in. He sang for us the first night and it absolutely blew us away. He had an amazing voice and the others started playing percussion with buckets and clapping. Just awesome and that was right before we had our goat stew tangine which was also amazing.
18: Day Six: Our second day on the horses we road for about five hours total with a two hour break for lunch and nap thrown in the middle. We were able to gallop (run at full speed) the horses a number of times before lunch and after lunch we had about a one hour ride down towards the ocean. When we got to the ocean we could do whatever we wanted but it took so much strength and coordination to hold on when the hoses galloped that we just followed the others. When we ran the horses on the beach it was so exhilarating and scary at the same time. So we ran the horses for about fifteen minutes and trotted some before we got to our camp on the beach.
23: Another amazing meal and Jerrol had started to feel better and had got his appetite back. Unfortunately, later that night Kendra came down with some sort of stomach bug and was throwing up throughout the night and would continue to be sick for about 30 more hours. By the time we stopped for lunch the next day, she could barely stay on her horse. Yassine arranged for one of his friends to come get her on a four wheeler and take her back and let her rest. The rest of us took about an hour and a half more to get back to where we started and where Kendra was resting in the Care of Abdesalaam.
24: That night we layed low back in Essaouira and got up early the next morning to have breakfast on the hotel roof. Kendra’s appetite started coming back and was feeling better.
25: Day Seven: We were staying in the old Medina In Marrekech and it is CRAZY. Jerrol developed ulcers as Kendra tried to work with the driver in French on how to find our riad. Really and truly think of a city built like a rat maze where streets narrow so much only a scooter can get through and where some streets look like they should connect to other streets but then mysteriously dead-end and where most of the streets, and no alley-ways, don’t even have names. We had to get out of the car at some point and walk the last five minutes with the luggage. When we finally arrived the front entrance gave no clue at how beautiful the interior of our hotel would be.
26: Once we checked in and settled ourselves, we were able to gather enough courage to head out into the medina on our own. We were able to do this with a relative amount of ease. We had dinner at the edge of the Jma Al Fna. It could be the best place in the world to people watch. Sights included people playing musical instruments, story telling, snake charming, and selling almost anything they could carry. There were about 100 different food vendors set up, selling orange juice, tea, spices and tempting goat heads. On our way home, we decided to be adventurous and walk through the local’s souks (market). We got a turned around a couple of times but were able to make it back without help. Off to sleep in our little piece of paradise amongst the chaos.
27: Day Eight: The next morning we had breakfast with an interesting couple form London. They hadn't been into the medina without a guide, so we all decided to head back into the heart of the medina for a little sight seeing and to do what tourists do in Marrakech, bargain hunt! It took us a few minutes to get into the practice of haggling, but we soon found our feet and picked up a few souvenirs. We had to catch a train, so we left our London friends in the middle of the medina, slightly scared to be by themselves. Day Nine: The rest of our trip back to Casablanca and then back home was very easy, but a bit long. We had plenty of time to reflect back on the first trip on the journey that will be our life together as Mr and Mrs Lackey. The one thing that we feel most strongly about was that we want to go back to Morocoo again and maybe some day experience what it has to offer with family and friends.