The route from M’Hamid to the dunes of Erg Chigaga is rocky, the vast landscape stretching endlessly beyond. The air was dry and already hot at 9 am. Dave and I silently bounced around in the back seat of the Land Cruiser, anticipation building. The view of the flat desert was unbroken aside from sporadic glimpses of nomads, slowly passing through with their donkeys and camels in tow. Their journeys seemed endless, out there in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t help but wonder where were they coming from and where they going. They weren’t coming from anywhere and they weren’t traveling to any specific destination – their lives were about the journey.
Ten days after arriving in Morocco, after visiting sublime Chefchaouen, the capital city Rabat, dreamy Marrakech and a feverish stay in Fes, all while struggling with minor illnesses that slowed us down significantly, the biggest day of all had come. Uncertain if we would be able to make it or not, we were doing it. We were going to the Moroccan Sahara.
On the morning of our third day in Marrakech I woke up after sleeping for almost 12 hours straight. I felt terrible. The owner of our riad knew I hadn’t been feeling well and when I asked about seeing a doctor, he gave us the address of the Clinique Internationale de Marrakech. We caught a taxi at the small post office near our riad. The clinic was only 15 minutes away, but it felt like we were in the car for three times as long.
I told the man behind the counter that I needed to see a doctor for an ear infection. He asked me for my passport, glanced at it, stuck it in his shirt pocket, and one minute later I was being escorted to an examination room. He didn’t ask me anything else or get me to sign any forms. My Canadian passport was good enough to get me in. I felt extreme guilt as I walked by the packed waiting room, full of individuals and families, waiting to see doctors or for their loved ones.
Our riad is in the centre of the medina, an easy 15-minute walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa. Every time we turn down one of the narrow side streets, somebody offers to assist us, for a small cash sum, to “the big square.” We politely decline and walk on. We know where we’re going. It appears much cleaner than it did in Fes. The streets are wider. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. It doesn’t feel as claustrophobic.
Even though I had traveled to 23 countries by the beginning of 2014 and I have a goal to visit 30 countries by the time I turn 30 years old, I must confess something: I had never traveled solely with a backpack or a carry on bag. Savvy world travelers everywhere swear by traveling light, and I was starting to feel like a fraud. It was time to take the leap.
It can be hard to write about a city when you only stayed there for 72 hours, and spent 36 of those hours bedridden in what started to feel like a jail cell, although it was in fact a palatial room in a gorgeous dar. Fes is a fascinating, sprawling ancient city that boasts one of the biggest urban car-free areas in the world. But unfortunately I walked away from Fes with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
Dave and I arrived at dusk by bus from Chefchaouen. We wound our way through the outer layers of the city, closer and closer to the central bus station, through a densely packed and dusty city in shades of beige. One brand new white Ferrari passed us by, extraordinarily out of place. Continue reading →
As the bus wound back and forth through the Rif Mountains, ever so slowly getting closer to Chefchaouen, the sun had already gone down. I did not get the spectacular welcome view that I had been hoping for, but two days in the blue washed village would more than make up for it.
It was pitch dark by the time we arrived and it felt like the desolate bus station was in the middle of nowhere. After getting ripped off by the taxi driver to the laughable tune of $1.30, we met Carlos, one of the Spanish owners of Casa La Palma, and dove into the winding, twisting, up-and-down, and full-of-stairs town that is Chefchaouen. It was raining that night, and for most of our visit. The cobblestones were so slick I’m surprised I managed to keep myself upright.
I got my first glimpse of Africa as we began our final descent into Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport. I noticed the vibrant green land, the huge sky and the immensely tall clouds like I had never seen before.
Two and a half years after our first visit to Lisbon, Dave and I returned for a brief visit to the city we love so much. It was a two-night stopover that we planned before a two-week trip across Morocco to celebrate his 30th birthday. We had been interested in Morocco for a few years, since we saw the Alcazar in Seville, Spain. Flights to Morocco from Edmonton are usually fairly expensive, but we took advantage of a seat sale to Lisbon and booked separate flights onward from there. This way we would get to experience something new and spend time in a place we know we enjoy.
As soon as we booked our flights, I had a funny feeling about the trip. I tend to be anxious so I tried to tell myself I was worrying and that everything would be fine. We’ve planned dozens of trips before with success. Before even leaving home, two of our flights were cancelled and we had to scramble to rebook, and that was just the beginning. Continue reading →
Our time in Sorrento was considerably different than our time in Naples. Naples is a bustling, vibrant Italian city and Sorrento is a small seaside town that is a major tourist hot spot. Our travels may not have ever brought us to Sorrento on our own. Dave’s parents, Randy and Lorise, are close friends with another couple, Pino and Rita, who live a few provinces over and who also happen to be Italian. They’ve always talked about traveling to Italy together, and Dave and I have always half-joked about tagging along. They were finally able to make the trip in 2013, so Dave and I worked our itinerary so that we would be able to meet up with them for at least a couple of days. To make things even better, Dave’s aunt Linda and uncle Larry would be joining them on the trip as well.
We hopped on the Circumvesuviana out of Naples again and had an easy journey. The train was amazingly uncrowded and we sat the whole way, even with our suitcases. As soon as we stepped out of the train station, my chest instantly tightened up at the sight of all of the tourists, tour groups and tour buses, and at the sound of so much English.