Our 1-month insurance policy is slowly ticking down and we are quietly exiting Morocco.
Under overcast skies, we arrived at the port town of Essaouira and against our inclinations, we book an accommodation inside the medina once again because the city hotels were too expensive. We did the familiar Moroccan dance - Neda staying with the bikes outside the old city's walls while I dodged hustlers looking for our riad. I've been taking point on all scouting and communications forays because of my (slightly better) knowledge of French, but after the last few weeks it has really started to wear on me.
While it has a typical Moroccan medina, Essaouira is also known for its picturesque port and docks
We're staying a couple of days here to catch our breath before continuing the trek out of Morocco. It seems like the salt water breeze carries seagulls from all over the coast to this one place, hoping to pick at food coming in from the fishing boats and falling off the tables at the tourist restaurants.
Boats under construction at the shipyard
These blue-coloured boats all parked outside the medina walls are perhaps the unofficial symbol of Essaouira
A hooded figure surveys the boats coming in
Lining up the boats so they all fit nice and tight
Sorry Mr. Seagull. No food for you!
Since we are still on the coast, we had another seafood meal. There's a spot right in the docks where you can order fresh shellfish that's just come in. Unfortunately, there are no prices, as the locals see this as another opportunity to gouge tourists. We were getting a bit hungry, but I hung around and watched as other people haggled to get an idea of the prices. When we approached the table, I asked the waiter how much, he replied, "1000 dirham" ($100). We started to walk away and he smiled broadly, "Just kidding, it is 200 dirham". I negotiated more shellfish, some expensive octopus and eel and that seemed fair for the both of us. So we sat down.
While waiting for the food, more people streamed in. I listened to the haggling and was dismayed when I heard some locals haggle down to almost half of what we paid! We're so bad at bargaining... When our food arrived, we enjoyed it much less than if we had paid half price for it... :(
Our riad was inside the medina, so we spent some time walking around
After visiting all the other Moroccan cities, the medina here was typical, not as big as Fes or Marrakesh
From Essaouira, it was basically a highway ride, back into the interior of the country, taking the central road to the north. Having read up beforehand, we skipped Casablanca and stayed in smaller towns.
Outside of Rabat, we saw some spring flowers blooming by the side of the road. What is Neda doing?!?!
Last stop before Tangier
In all our research, everyone recommends to skip Tangier. Nobody ever has a nice experience in that city. We skipped it when we arrived, but now we're headed there because our fellow traveller, Trevor is arriving to Morocco and that's where he's staying.
How bad can it be? We are about to find out..
Trying to find parking, we have to make room for a funeral marching through the narrow medina streets
When we got inside the Tangier city limits, some boys tried to steal Neda's dry bags from behind her bike while stopped at a traffic light. They ran away when I motioned to get off the bike. *SMH* We arrived at the riad that Trevor was staying at. He was in the middle of an argument with a parking lot attendant that fleeced him out of some money.
Although we had experienced lots of hustlers in Morocco, they had always stayed within the boundaries of the law. Tangier in comparison was lawless and disrespectful to tourists. The minute I arrived in the city, all I could hear in my head were the words of a famous old man, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy".
I felt bad for Trevor. He was just starting his journey into Morocco and this was his first impression. At least we had done our research and had a much better experience in Chefchaouen.
Trevor welcomed us into the riad with some liquor. After a month of dry country, we guzzled the schnapps he had smuggled in with relish. That almost made it worthwhile coming into Tangier for. Bless his heart!
Catching up over dinner and drinks
We've run into Trevor over and over again, first at the HU meet in California, then on the Stahlratte between Panama and Colombia. He stayed with us in Croatia and he returned the favour opening up his villa in France to us.
It's amazing how small the world is!
We spent the evening comparing routes, hints and tips, and also the all-important hard-drive exchange. Every long-term traveler keeps an external drive full of music, TV shows and movies which we all share when we meet up. It's a well-established ritual.
I know food trucks are popular in North America, but have Escargot Trucks caught on yet? :)
The snails on top of the truck have creepy glowing eyes and there are big, silver bowls in the middle for everyone to spit out the shells. I thought this was hilarious!
Next morning, Trevor heads out to explore Morocco
We were on our way further west back to the Tangier Med port
If we hadn't had to meet Trevor, we would have totally bypassed Tangier and went straight to the port for our departure date. Everything we had read about Tangier was true. The fact that it's a popular port for cruise ships to dock at means that it attracts every low-life looking to make an easy buck by stealing from the cash-laden tourists that never stay long enough to fill out a police report.
It was such a dirty place, totally unrepresentative of the country. It really reminded me of the first city we stayed at in Mexico: Ensenada, also a port town for cruise ships. We were wisely told to get the hell out of there and experience the real country. Tangier was exactly the same.
While we were packing to leave, one guy who was trying to sell me a bag of weed (which looked suspiciously like oregano) asked me indignantly when I turned him away, "Why do you tourists even come to Morocco?!"
The question really should have been, "Why do tourists even bother coming to Tangier?"
Despite this final city leaving us with such a bad taste in our mouths, and despite the hustlers in all the medinas constantly pestering us (they were only trying to make a living), we will remember Morocco fondly.
The last hustler in Morocco
Out of Africa
We are exhausted. We've been constantly on the move since the Pula girls picked us up in Spain for Christmas. We're long overdue for a long break from our travels, so we're just going to hunker down for awhile and continue our journey as the weather starts to warm up in Europe.
See you in awhile.