31 March, 2007

Day Sixteen: On the Way Back Home

We woke up early and took the bus to the airport, eager to get home, even with a long last day of travel ahead of us. A few of the connections were close, but we made it to Trieste without any major drama, and then thankfully found a taxi willing to drive to Rijeka that night. We were tired but really excited to finally get home.

Day Fifteen: On Sale!

After getting off the train in the morning we took taxis to the ferry dock. While waiting for our departure time, it became apparent just how truly nasty we were. Not only had we gone without showers for a few days, but we had been traveling in a sandy desert and on an African train, had been without normal bathrooms or soap and running water for a while, and were dealing with our own general human grossness, plus camel grossness, plus general public place grossness. In addition, Sunny and I both have a remarkable tendency toward oily hair, and by day 3, the grease factor was seriously sick. Hats were mandatory.

We took the ferry to Spain, then a bus to Malaga, where we were dropped off at a large shopping mall. Everything was shiny and glowy and clean and new and... western. We ate some Burger King, then went straight to the hostel to shower. Then it was go time, and the only thing all of us girls really wanted to do was shop, so back to the mall we went!

This taxi driver was great, he sang show tunes to us the whole way. So cute!

After a while we met back up with the guys and went to a great little Irish pub. It was then that I realized just how Irish I was - we were drinking Guinness, I was wearing green, U2 was playing, plus I had been reading James Joyce's Dubliners. (Which, by the way, I can't wholeheartedly recommend. Pretty dry. But I probably just didn't get it...) At any rate, we had fun celebrating the emerald isle during our last night in Spain.

Day Fourteen: On Camelback

After some silliness before falling asleep (for some reason an unknown creature in the night grabbed both Sunny's foot and mine, which startled us a little...), we slept pretty comfortably and soundly out there in the desert - even though it rained, in the desert, which was odd. I mean, I'm used to that back home, but to come all the way to Africa and have it rain there was just unnecessary. We woke up, had bread and tea (they call mint tea 'Moroccan whiskey') for breakfast, enjoyed the pleasures of using the open sandy desert as our own personal litterbox, had toothbrushing/spitting wars, and re-mounted the camels. I have one word for that: soreness. Bigtime.

Here's Abraham contemplating the day ahead. He was actually really cool and we wished we could have had another day to hang out.

John's best effort at 'ninja chic'. Impressive.

Camel riding is a little awkward, there's really no way around it.

We actually all named our camels, but I am ashamed to admit that by now, I've forgotten the name I gave mine :-(.

Graham did some final bartering during one of our pit stops on the way back to Marrakesh.

Can you guess what this says? That's right, 'milk', good job.

Day Thirteen: On the Sands of the Sahara

Camel trek time! We got up super early to get to the meeting spot by 7:00am, piled into a mini-van, and hit the road. The drive to the desert took around 7 hours, including a stop for lunch and many short stops along the way.

The Atlas mountains were beautiful!

It was nice to be able to get coffee, tea, and snacks, and hit the restroom periodically.

Tourist traps exist even in the most remote places!

Here are some pictures of the locals...

I think this was actually built as part of a movie set.

Some more locals.

Finally we arrived in Zagora and met our camels and our guides, Mohammed and Abraham/Ibrahim.

Here's Nova looking smart and sassy.

Sunny looks like she's off to the races.

Taylor looks a little photoshopped here, but I swear it's authentic!

Not quite Arabian Nights, but pretty darn close. Except for the part where we saw a shiny black Mercedes drive by about an hour into our journey...

These were our sleeping quarters in the berber tent.

Our guides made us dinner, and after observing a persistent, deep, bone-rattling cough, along with bare-handed toe picking (knowing with certainty that there were no washing facilities), we were frankly a little nervous.

But a cozy moonlit drum circle before hitting the sack helped calm any fears of illness or food poisoning and we all went to sleep without too much trouble.

Day Twelve: On Her Head There Were Candles?!

The view from the train in the morning was pretty nice. Marrakesh was crazy! We took taxis to the main square/marketplace area for some tea and breakfast. We met two guys from Split (Croatia) in Algeciras who were traveling the same way, and we met up with them again here.

Our fellow travelers from Croatia.

Our hostel was only a short walk from the main square.

Our rooms were compact but fairly comfortable, and the colors and decorations were pretty cool.

The view from up top.

After getting settled at the hostel, we headed into the bargaining fray of the marketplace. After a little while, John and I got separated from the others. We figured we'd run into them again at some point, but as time passed that seemed less and less likely. We were getting hungry, and a little turned around in the labyrinth of stalls crowded on all sides by displays and fellow shoppers, so we decided to try to get some food and get back to the main square. That was easier said than done. This donkey turned out to be a significant landmark for us, although it was not all that helpful once we realized we'd passed it 2 or 3 times and were no closer to figuring out where we were.

John had been searching for a good man-purse, and in one of the little alleys we turned down, we found this shop. He got a pretty good deal on a nice leather bag, but the experience kind of sketched us out. As we gingerly walked down the stairs into the basement-like workshop, one of the guys turned up the radio, and in hindsight, if they had intended any harm, we would have basically been out of luck. After that, we continued on and after a while I thought, Huh. No more tourists... Didn't think I'd ever actually wish I were back in the touristy part of town... We asked for directions quite a few times, which didn't seem to help that much, but eventually, much to our relief, we got back where we wanted to be.

We encountered some pretty crafty henna artists who shamelessly grabbed our hands and started applying henna before we could protest, following it up with a demand for payment. When it happened to me I was literally pulling my hand away as hard as I could and got henna smeared all over it. Kinda frustrating.

The fresh squeezed orange juice was amazing! In general we had a lot of fun experiencing the craziness. Except one time some guys were walking beside me asking, "Ca va? Ca va?" and when I ignored them (thinking I don't speak French and really have nothing to say, anyway...) they grabbed my arm. And when I wrenched it free, they responded with a hearty "---- you!!" in English. Hmm.

Here are some more cool sights...

The square at night!

For dinner, everyone went to a nice local restaurant, but I stayed back to shower, read, and rest a little. If only I had known what I was missing!! There was quite a belly dancing show. Here's John clearly busting some crazy moves. He claims not to like dancing, not to be good at dancing, not to feel the lord of the dance rising up within him. Flimsy claims, I say.
In fact, less than one week ago, the following words issued from John himself, "...I would really feel more comfortable with a dance." This was said seriously, without sarcasm, maybe context had something to do with it, though...

25 March, 2007

Day Eleven: On Another Continent

In the morning, we were determined to get the heck out of Algeciras, one way or another. In an effort to explain/justify our general displeasure with the place, I would like to direct you to Sunny's description of our showering experience.

Thankfully, the boats were running again.

We saw this gem while waiting to board. Yes, that is blood. Sick, no? Also, these little tiny kids kept coming over and walking away with our container of Pringles. We didn't mind, but the moms were very apologetic. It was funny.

Arriving in Tangiers drove home the fact that we had landed squarely in an entirely foreign culture. We bargained for a few minutes to get a still slightly overpriced set of taxis to the train station. The sunset was pretty cool looking.

John, Allison, and I stayed with the luggage while the others went to dinner. We hit up some good hacky sack time before sheepishly remembering that it is a grave insult in Arab culture to show the bottom of your foot. We sat down and read some more.

The night train sleeping quarters were small, but decently comfortable, and John, Graham, Nova, and I enjoyed some random conversational getting-to-know-your-cabinmates-on-a-deeper-level time before going to sleep.