So Part 1 of this post concluded with my final ‘favourite things’ about Marrakech, implying that our time there was over…wrong. It was time to begin our ROAD TRIP! And to do this, we hired a car with the intention of making tracks all the way to Fes over the next few days. But before we could embark on this epic journey, we first had to navigate our way out of Marrakech – one of the most chaotic, thrilling, life-threatening situations I have ever voluntarily put myself in. It was crazy! They really have wasted good amounts of paint, marking lanes, as no one sticks to them – and they drive on the wrong side of the road. It really did remind me of the unspoken rules of snowboarding – if you are behind me, then it is your responsibility not to hit me. If I am in front, I can go wherever I like. However, snowboarders don’t have wing mirrors. So it goes without saying, I take my hat off to my boyfriend who managed to not only get us out alive, but without a scratch (with a little kudos to his ace map navigator and sign spotter).
So we are out and on our way, moving deeper into the country. Our first stop over is in Dades Gorge, and the drive out to it was breath taking. We travelled up, around and through dry, rocky mountains following a trail that almost seemed like it would never end! Often we couldn’t see where the next corner was coming from, or could look behind us when up high and see the road for miles. What was just amazing was the amount of little, tiny stalls selling crystals they had obviously gathered from the mountains. There was literally NOTHING around – no houses, no villages, nothing we could see anyway – yet one after another we passed a Moroccan man waving at us and holding crystals, trying to entice us to stop. I’m kicking myself now as we both said “we will get one at the next stall,” so many times that we ended up missing out! I can hear my Dad now, his pearls of wisdom accompanying us on our family travels, “If you have the money, buy it, because you’ll miss out otherwise.” So true.
So after about 5 hours driving, we made it to Dades Gorge – what a sight. The main road through the township was nestled in a valley full of palm trees, grass and other green shrubbery. If you have been to Morocco, you will appreciate my documenting of this. Morocco is such a dry, dusty, hot country, that when you come across anything ‘green’ its almost as if you can breathe properly again. Then we found our hotel – wow. Now, we don’t exactly travel ‘rough,’ but the last thing we want to spend our hard earned cash on is fancy accommodation, but thanks to booking.com, we must have got a smashing deal on this one. It was up above the valley, so dinner and breakfast was over looking the town, and our room was inside some old Berber caves – Berber being one of the four different Moroccan groups – that were hundreds of years old! Couple its history with a swimming pool oasis and amazing food, you can appreciate it was hard for us to leave!
But leave we did – onwards and upwards as they say. Next stay over was in Merzouga, deep in the Sahara. But first we took a little detour to visit Todgha Gorge, a huge crevasse with walls so vertical it feels like they are falling on top of you. So I was a little surprised to find a hotel nestled in there – one big earthquake and surely it would be lost…
We still needed to make tracks as this was a 7 hour trip, so it was back on the road again. What I found amazing about the Moroccan highways was not their conditions – they were surprisingly good – it was the fact these big roads would go straight through the middle of towns. Back in New Zealand, you technically venture ‘through’ towns, but still, you bypass the city centres. Not in Morocco. At one point we found ourselves smack bang in the middle of a food market that had spilled onto the road! That was fun to try and navigate through.
Then we hit the desert planes and oh my lord, the heat. It was like nothing I have ever experienced. Unfortunately our little Fiat didn’t have A/C, but it was hotter to have the windows down than to close ourselves up in this heat box. The only thing I can compare it to – and this is with no exaggeration – is like holding yhour hand under a hair dryer. We found out when we got to Merzouga that it was 48 degrees, so that explained a lot.
So we reached our destination in Merzouga and I was offered a cold shower – an act of kindness that resulted in me almost hugging the man in utter appreciation. But we weren’t staying the night here. This was where we were picking up our transportation of the rest of the day…camels! We joined Morroco Excursions to ride camels into the desert and camp over night. Hassan, our multi-lingual guide got us saddled up and we were off.
I tell you what, camels are not that comfortable – let alone easy – to ride. But boy it was fun. It was hard not to immerse yourself in a daydream, imagining those who, thousands of years ago, ventured through this hot, desolate land. Our camp was nestled at the bottom of a huge sand dune, and it was here where we ate more tagine, smoked sheesha and star-gazed most of the night.
Then it was an early start to see th amazing Moroccan sunrise, and we were off again. This was our last leg of the journey – but us being us, it had to be big’n. An 8 1/2 hour journey to Fes. So we hit the road as soon as we could, and really didn’t stop the whole way. It was such an amazing drive though. At one point we just suddenly left the generic, dry, rocky surroundings which we had become accustomed to, into green fields, luscious pastures and rivers! It was so weird! And the difference in air was astounding. At one point we drove through a huge pine-tree forest and came across these guys:
So after the long trip, we made it to Fes, where, to be honest we just blobbed. Our flight home was at 5:00am the next morning so we didn’t do much there as we were knackered.
So that concludes my huge post about Morocco! Hopefully people thinking about going there have stumbled across my post and it has helped them decide on how to see this epic country. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. While the drives may have been long, they were never boring. If anything, we would have seen more than most people by driving through the little towns, stopping off to eat in random eateries along the way etc. I would recommend hiring a car to anyone.
Morocco was what I would call an eye-opener. I am lucky enough to say that I have done a lot of travelling both with my family and with my boyfriend – but I haven’t quite been as immersed in a different culture as we were in Morocco. Saying this, I absolutely loved it. Being so far out of your comfort zone, yet finding that you are quite comfortable in doing so, is quite an achievement in itself. With plans to travel the world in its entirety, it is reassuring to know that I will be OK. Morocco is a must-do. If you haven’t been there, put it on your list in permanent marker.