This is our first early morning of the trip. We have to leave at 7 am and get a cab to the nearest MacDoanlds for our pick up. Perfect! We can get breakfast! Accept the Spanish don’t eat breakfast until after 9? The MacDonalds legit doesn’t even open until 9am. I guess we’re not getting breakfast today. I’m beginning to think all of Spain is trying to tell me I’m fat. Humph.
Once the bus finally arrives we are taken about an hour away from Estepona to catch our ferry. On the way the view is probably breathtaking-but I’m asleep. So I couldn’t tell you.
Our tour guide is very flustered-like in a huge hurry -he explains that today the ferry is on time-which NEVER happens, so he was expecting an extra hour for organizing everyone-but instead got here and had to actually hustle everyone in through this chaos. I think they run late because they just know they will have extra time-and when it’s running correctly – they lose their minds.
The ferry terminal can only be described as organized chaos. We are told to pass in our passports and they will be returned once tickets are obtained by our guide. He brings them back and irritatedly yells out the names one by one and people come running-and he abruptly tells them to RUN to the security line. we get ours pretty early on and away we go to board the ferry.
Here’s where things started to get interesting. First of all, Chris was scaring all the children. He didn’t mean to….its just…..with his Irish blood-he’s what we refer to as-“white chocolate lite”. I mean I lost him more then once when he stood in front of a stucco wall and disappeared. So the children find him fascinating. This one adorable little girl with the biggest brown eyes I’ve ever seen was staring at him like he was the real life Peppa Pig. And we stood in line with her for almost 45 minutes. He was more then a little uncomfortable. But he braved it like a trooper. We passed 2 security screenings, and 2 passport checks, and we got on board.
It should be noted that this ferry terminal was the scene of a thwarted terrorist attack in 2016- nothing happened, but apparently there was a sleeper cell in Malaga that had planned a few suicide bombers and the Spanish police were tipped off and ended things before they started. But that of course made security much tighter at all the transportation depots. And since the threat was against this particular ferry terminal-the police presence is strong, and the passport checks are many. And you’ll never hear me complain about that.
Unless were on a moving boat, standing in a line up with 200 people, waiting for yet ANOTHER passport check. And when I say moving boat, picture the movie “The Perfect Storm”. That boat is bumpin around like a cork in a bathtub. Nicole and I are Newfoundlanders. We were born with the sea in our blood……but it was more of a calm, blue, summer sea with mojitos in our hands. We’re starting to feel it. Chris is turning even paler, and gary’s perfect hair has flattened. This could end badly. We stand in the line up for about 30 minutes on the moving boat…and finally make it to the start of the line-and the Moroccan police-where we get yet another stamp on our passports and are sent away to enjoy the rest of the sail. Or endure. Or whatever.
Of course the first thing on our minds is a washroom-we all hustle to the nearest and only women’s and men’s…and we are met with pukers in each. I feel so bad for this one older woman who can’t make it more then 3 feet from the stall before she puts her hand over her mouth and runs back in to get sick. And there’s nothing like hearing someone puke when you are feeling like a bag of dead turtles and worried you may hurl at any moment. So, We QUICKLY pee and come out to wash our hands, only to find another woman puking in the only sink. Nicole pulls her hair to move her aside and we wash our hands-trying to breathe through our mouths and keep our eyes closed.
Then we find a seat and collectively tell each other we can do this and we’re pretty and it will be worth it.
We finally get off the boat and are met with yes, another line for passport control, but at least this time we aren’t not moving. So we happily stand and get our bearings. And we look around and realize it was all worth it. We are in AFrica!
After boarding the buss we are taken on a driving tour of down town Tangier.
I was expecting a seedy-“European Tijuana” style city. And thats not at all what I get. What I see is a clean, well laid out, beautiful city, with a million different cultures meeting for an international melting pot of epic proportions. I see business men, children walking to school, young hipsters with beards, working class well dressed women, friends shopping and men pushing strollers.
We are driven through the French, Spanish, British and American quarters. All laid out completely differently to reflect the cultures. The British and American being the most like what we are used to.
The main languages are french and Arabic-so all road and crossing signs are in both languages-and somehow I feel at home seeing all the french.
They drive us to a park first of all, where we can ride camels or take pictures with them in a relatively large area. Honestly, I think this is just a way to get us used to the aggressive venders we will find later in the market-a toughening up for the new travellers in the group. But we’ve been to china “ok ok ok?” We are used to being yelled at to buy, then yelled at for not buying, yelled at for trying to buy cheaply, and finally yelled at for NOT trying to buy cheaply. So we aren’t in too much shock. Some of the others look a little out of their element….and this is VERY tame compared to what is to come.
From there its on to a walking tour. I have never felt so out of my element, and so much like a traveler in my life. We are walked though a local market filled with meat, fruit and veggie stalls-supplies and decor and garment districts. No tourist shops-we are in the middle of it. I wish I could describe the smell-but the words won’t do it justice. It a mixture of cumin and cooking meat, sautéed veggies and hot spices. It smells like we stuck our heads in a vat of the most amazing spicy stew. I can almost taste it the air is so thick with it. Its a large market-takes us about 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other without stopping.
Then we are walked to our lunch stop. A traditional Moroccan lunch spot, with 5 men happily playing Oud’s(looks like a guitar with a hooked neck), Cabasa’s and Sitars. There are couches with those amazing fluffy colourful pillows you see in the movies about the Middle East, and tables set for 4-6. We get our spot, order a beer each, and are served lunch while we listen to the music and are treated like royalty. Everyone is so very friendly! The soup is the first course and smells so much of cinnamon and cumin that I’m afraid to may be too spicy to eat- but it isn’t at all. Its creamy and has a well spiced flavour, but nothing overpowering. Very subtle with beans providing the creamy-ness and a few noodles to round out the broth.
Then screwers of perfectly seasoned beef- these are very spicy and aromatic-it tastes like I’m eating the market from earlier. Then we are presented with couscous and chicken with turnip and dates. It is SO GOOD that Nicole steals Gary’s and finishes that up as well as her own. This has turmeric in it and it is powerfully seasoned-an assault on the senses in the best way imaginable.
It is finished with Balaclava and sweet tea-and another beer for the Canadians.
The atmosphere is just so-Moroccan! The smell in the air, the music, the attentiveness of the robed men. Gary says “when do the belly dancers come?”….when i have a few more beers Gary. Be patient.
After lunch we are led though a more touristy area and are aggressively approached by sellers and asked to buy trinkets of all sizes, from little wooden camels to HUGE “silver” tea pots. They. Do. Not. Take. NO very easily. Some of the tour group are really struggling. I hear a conversation behind me. This very slight young man-Prob 25 or so- made the mistake of making eye contact with one of the sellers, and then allowing him to place a sliver bangle in his hand. First rule of street sellers – NEVER LET THEM PUT SOMETHING IN YOUR HAND. Just try giving it back. It won’t work. You will end up having to literally throw it at them and RUN. So he makes this mistake, and spends the next 10 minutes trying to tell the man that he doesn’t want or need a bangle. The seller goes from $30 to $2 trying to get him to buy it. It still isn’t working. Then he starts the HARD SELL. He explains to this poor kid that god loves bangles. And if you love god, you will buy the bangle. But hey, if you don’t love god-don’t bother. By this time I’m full belly laughing. This is entertaining me. I see Nicole and gary up ahead getting harassed as are we. And then I see her turn-and point her seller in my direction. I see her mouth move-and she says “back there….she’s the one with all the money”. And thats when all 15 sellers eyes widen, and they look like they were just given a free rub of alladin’s lamp. the tsunami of sellers shows up in front of me. I’m not sure how, or when…..but she WILL pay for this.
I spend the next 10 minutes trying to tell these guys I’m broke. No money. And even if i had money I wouldn’t want 15 wooden hanging camels. Or a tshirt that wouldn’t fit over my head. OR, shocker, not even a jar of “saffaron” that is CLEARLY red cotton tread.
The only really disconcerting thing is when I see a woman in front of me get her but grabbed by a 35ish year old Moroccan man. Now, we had a discussion last night about what to wear to Morocco. We wanted to be very respectful of their religious beliefs-and cover up to some extend. This we learned at the Vatican. When in Rome and what not. But this young woman decided to wear a dress that just bearly covered her chest and had a huge cut out in the back. I’m not AT ALL saying she was asking for it- but I think to this particular man, she looked like an easy target. He walked up behind her and full grabbed her behind. She screamed and then-giggled. Said loudly “DUDE!!!” And continued to giggle. Seriously? I’m pretty sure there would have been one less Moroccan if someone had tried to do this to Nicole or I. He walked away saying “sorry…sorry” and winking at her. In the end, I almost think it was a distraction of some sort….it was just so out of the ordinary….almost like he wanted a reaction that would distract long enough for someone to pickpocket someone in the group maybe? In any case, she tried to seem quite proud of it, but I’m betting her heart was racing after she gave it some thought. Hashtag Me Too Morocco anyone?
As we leave the market the venders are getting even more aggressive. Payback. As the most aggressive of the sellers tries to get me to buy his T-shirt’s-I loudly say-“hey gary-weren’t you looking for one of these?” The seller scurries off to regal gary with his reasons why god needs gary to buy this shirt and if he doesn’t 12000 African children will die etc etc etc.
We stop and buy spices and salt stone and nic naks and are whisked back to the bus for the trip home.
Well, for the wait for the trip back home. We wait for 1 and a half hours for the boat to go. Now I understand why the tour guide panicked when the boat was on time.
Once the boat is moving we crack open a few beers and enjoy the 40 min ride back. Much smoother this time. And we decide that we are cultured out. We are need of some serious westernization. It will be about 10pm when we get back to the apartment. Burger King for supper tonight.
Tomorrow we are visiting a bull raising farm in Ronda! But tonight we eat and have a rum and coke and talk about the day and how many places we’ve now seen together. This is one of the highlights for sure-even if I’m pretty sure we all have the cumin belly and the camel fleas. But we have 16 wooden camel ornaments-so we have that going for us.