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O Fim duma Viagem

We're Going 100 'Round the Bends

MOROCCO | Wednesday, 23 July 2014 | Views [309]

 On Friday, we finished class and went to the train station. Specifically, we arrived for class, I realized that I'd managed to miss the combination of Facebook message/in-person conversation and left my bag at my house whereas everyone else had theirs with them. So I went back to my hosue, ate lunch, and returned. There was enough time that it wasn't a problem, just a minor additional thing to worry about.

I did take a taxi from my house back to the center. This is important because it was the second taxi I've ever taken alone. Well, “alone.” Taxis always mildly freaked me out. I think I might be over that now, though. I'd gotten some practice trying to communicate with who's language of origin was uncertain (I was about to get more) so that's less of a concern. But my other problem with taxis goes back to being a young child warned to never get into a car with a strange man. That's nothing compared to getting into a car with three strange men.

When we met with the embassy official on our first day here, he'd told us that we should always take petit taxis (blue in Rabat) instead of grand taxis (white) because the petit taxis wouldn't pick up other passengers and the grand taxis would. At least that's what I heard. The reality is that both taxis will pick up other passengers, but a petit taxi will pick up a max of three passengers, so you're not pressed into the other passengers. I was in the front seat and had plenty of fresh air, but it was still a little intimidating to be surrounded by people and having very little idea where they were getting off or what was going on.

Shortly after I got to the center, it was time for us to prepare to head out again. But this time we needed to know where to go. The place that Nathan and I had bought the tickets had in fact been a bus station. Specifically, the bus station we were leaving from. (We passed the gare routiere for “normal busses.” The taxi driver was quite adamant that we left from where we purchased the tickets.) We asked Nisrine for the exact name that we should say, prepared ourselves to say and/or motion with our hands that we were taking a bus, and for good measure had Nathan and I take different taxis, since we'd been there before. And off we went.

After a little bit of confusion (every single taxi ride begins with confusion) he started driving and the rest of hoped we were going the right way. Along the way, Natasha informed us of the dangers and delights of driving through Nevada. Or at least the dangers. The towns are far enough apart that, if go “I'll get gas in the next town,” your car will have run out by the time you realize the next town is way too far away for that. You'll probably die of dehydration before anyone finds you. It's OK, though, because the police are very busy doing their job in the cities. Assuming that by “job” you mean “sneaking drugs into tourists cars.” The fines they can then give tourists pay better than the jobs the jobs they're supposed to be doing do.

At the station, we checked our bags, then walked over to wait for the bus. We walked past a large group of Americans, reached the wall to wait, and realized that we'd lost Nathan. Of course he was over talking to the Americans. When it became clear this conversation would last a while, we joined him.

They were from a decent variety of towns, colleges, and I think even programs. They were studying Arabic, though. (That seems to be a common thing to do in Morocco. I'm starting to feel like exactly six people come to Rabat in the summer to study French.) The people I was talking to were from West Point or, as they called it, South Hudson Institute of Technology. (Think about it...) Two of them were reminiscing about a friend of theirs who was in training to be a covert propagandist. “He'll go to the country of interest, dressed like this, and convince people what they should think. He's scary good. He uses it a lot to pick up girls.” Natasha was rather horrified that such a job even existed. Well, all's fair in love and war...

The first part of the bus ride was pretty quiet. There were technically assigned seats, but no one listened to them apart from two Asian tourists who were rather surprised to find someone else in one of their seats. I read for a bit, knit for a bit, and sprawled because I had two seats to myself.

That changed at our stop. We left to get food and drink and stretch our legs, and came back to find a lot more people on the bus. Most of them were in our seats. So we found other seats, moved, and retrieved erstwhile yarn (not me, for a change. Natasha.) And then we sat back and enjoyed the rest of our ride.

It was much less quiet on the way back. There was a woman a few seats behind me who was either German or Polish. She kept talking to what I think was a Moroccan guide. I think he was pretty tired from Ramadan, because he kept promising to answer her questions later. He did give me the extra little soundbite of “everyone's high where we're going.” The woman expressed mild concerns about the police, but upon being assured that they were also high in Chefchouen, she seemed reassured and content.

I'm not sure what Professor Lasri had been complaining about the roads for. They seemed pretty nice to me. Much better than I'd been lead to suspect. Nathan commented that they were better than a lot of US bus routes, and I could probably believe that. We went through more towns that we had no intention of stopping in than we would for a bus route in the US, but it was still a pretty nice ride.

We got out of the bus at Chefchouen and said goodbye to the Americans we hadn't talked to since Rabat. Then we set off to try and find a taxi to bring us to our hostel. Someone directed us to the front, though I think they were just trying to reunite the poor five Americans who had gotten separated from their group.

Wandering around with our suitcases was enough of a cue for some people to start offering us taxi rides. One of them did with nice sized vans, though he wanted to split us up into two groups. I protested, asking for just one vehicle. He agreed, so Natasha and I got in. Nathan, Erika, and Cynthia were guided to a different van.

Fuck.

The driver got in and started driving without asking us where we wanted to go. We exchanged worried looks, then asked him where we were going. In English and French. Eventually he got the gist of our question, and asked didn't we want to go to some hotel that began with a P? No. “One minute.” He stopped the car and got out. We were in a car in an unfamiliar neighborhood while our driver wandered off to talk to other people.

Natasha and I were prepared to make a run for it. “I'm going to text Cynthia. No, screw that. I'm going to call her.” She did, and was exchanging worry with Cynthia when the driver came back along with someone who spoke better English. He talked with us for a bit, determined where we wanted to go, told us the price (60 dirham), and then, that out of the way, off we went.

Nathan, Cynthia, and Erika didn't have an easier time. They had the driver and another man who sat down in the passenger seat to talk about how nice his hotel was. It took quite the conversation to convince him that they already had a reservation at a different hotel. When they finally managed to convince him to drive them there, the price was 150 dirham.

Natasha and I arrived at the auberge before Cynthia, who had been the one to make the reservation online. But by simply giving her name and the types of rooms we'd requested, the receptionist gave us two rooms. One of them was a triple, one of them was a double. Both had twin beds very close to each other and a small coach. The only difference was the paintings, and the triple had a minifridge. I suppose if you have three people, you need more food?

It was Ftour as we were arriving, which might have explained the excessive taxi rate for the other three. Dinner started at nine. We hung out in one of the rooms for a bit before then, then went to dinner together. I ordered a goat cheese on bread and salad dish which quickly became a favorite. Food took a while to come, so we devoured the warm bread. We even found the olive oil, even if it took me two attempts. (The first was vinegar. Not a pleasant surprise.)

We set up to ride mules in the afternoon and asked about how long it took to get to the waterfall. With plans for the next day in place, we went back to our rooms and went to sleep.

The bed was a lot more comfortable than it was in the last auberge we stayed in.

Tags: auberge, bus, food, taxi, travel

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