Escape from Morocco

Our time in Morocco has come to an end and, beautiful photos and a few choice memories aside, I coudn’t be happier. And it’s disappointing to say that, as Morocco was one of the three countries I always listed when asked where I was most excited to go (Scotland and New Zealand were the other two). We knew going in that there would be some petty annoyances — touts, loose dogs, and begging children, to name a few — but there was something far more insidious lurking in the background, ultimately making it very difficult to relax and enjoy oneself. And it was never more evident than during our ten day stay in Merzouga, at the end of the road in eastern Morocco. The hotel, a recommendation from another cyclist and reader of this blog, was comfortable enough. The food ranged from adequate to superb, depending on the night. All in all, money well spent. I’ll spare you the gory details, but just know that nobody — absolutely nobody working in Moroccan tourism — can be trusted. Those who get a beer or two in me and are up for a long-winded rant about a hotel trying to cancel our taxi and a tour guide trying to bait us into leaving bad reviews to bolster their friend’s business can hear the full story in person.

Our bikes were strapped to the roof of a 1984 Mercedes taxi for a 12 hour drive from Merzouga to Tangier.
Our bikes were strapped to the roof of a 1984 Mercedes taxi for a 12 hour drive from Merzouga to Tangier.

But let’s keep things positive. Here’s the slideshow I put together before leaving Morocco. The memories of the scenery, some of the people we met, and of our camel trek and the food will certainly shine brighter in my memory years from now, once distance puts the annoyances and frustrations firmly out of view.


Not wanting to pedal back the way we came, we opted to spend an extra week in Merzouga and hire a taxi to drive us 12 hours back to Tangier on December 7th, leaving us a day to head back into Tangier (surprisingly enough, a town we preferred over Fes) for a haircut and one last meal at Ray Charley’s on the Petite Socco.  Then, the next morning, we pedaled the 20 miles to Tangier Mediterranean Port for, what would be, a 53 hour ferry ride to Livorno, Italy.

We set sail on the Ikarus Palace across the length of the Mediterranean. Krstin was thrilled to see a circus board the ship with us, including a trailer marked "live animals."
We set sail on the Ikarus Palace across the length of the Mediterranean. Kristin was thrilled to see a circus board the ship with us, including a trailer marked “live animals.”

If you’re curious what being on a ferry for over 2 days is like, here’s an in-depth summary of the many ways you can pass the time: Sleeping, reading, playing cards, and eating. That’s it. There’s nothing else to do. So, yeah, it’s kind of like a cruise, minus the really cheesy stage acts. We opted to get a cabin and pre-paid three meals a day, which turned out to be a great bargain. And it was nice to not have to worry about our bags when we’d get up to walk around, though many of the people on board, particularly Moroccans, just slept out in the open in the hallways and lounges. The only downside was we didn’t get to Livorno until well past 11pm, forcing a very cold, dark 4 mile ride to our hotel around midnight. We carried headlights for 9 months and never needed them. Until that night. Better safe than sorry; bring your lights!

Our cabin aboard the Ikarus Palace.
Our cabin aboard the Ikarus Palace.

I spent some of the next day updating the Countries Visited page with route and expense information for Morocco, as well as a bit more commentary on some of the things we liked and didn’t like about the country. I suspect anyone who visits the country as part of an all-inclusive tour will be shielded from many of the annoyances we faced, but those of you out there travelling independently should know to stay on guard. The people in the countryside are wonderful. The professionals you meet in the cities are similarly likeable and trustworthy, but many of the rest of the people you deal with will try to treat you as if you are a money-filled pinata. And they will try to get themselves and their friends as many swings at you as possible.

We met Alessandro in line for the ferry, as he was finishing up a motorcycle tour of Morocco and headed back to his homeland. We ended up meeting up for a few meals so we could hit him up for travel advice and he got to practice his English. I told him my grandmother was from Italy. He replied by telling me his family lived in Pisa for a thousand years. So it's kind of the same thing, right?
We met Alessandro in line for the ferry, as he was finishing up a motorcycle tour of Morocco and headed back to his homeland. We ended up sharing a few meals (and an espresso or two) during the crossing and we hit him up for travel advice and he got to practice his English. I told him my grandmother’s family was from Italy. He replied by telling me his family lived in Pisa for a thousand years. So it’s kind of the same thing, right?

We’re currently in Lucca, Italy in the midst of a loop through northern Tuscany, en route to Florence (Firenzi) and Siena, then southward through Tuscany and Umbria to Rome in time for Christmas. Look for an Italian post in the next week or so. Ciao!

Sunset over the Mediterranean. Spain to the right, Algeria to the left.
Sunset over the Mediterranean. Spain to the right, Algeria to the left.

 

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Doug Walsh

Writer, Traveler

Doug Walsh is a writer, traveler, cyclist, and gamer who spent two years traveling from Seattle to Singapore, the long way around, by bicycle and sea. He's the author of the upcoming novel "Tailwinds Past Florence."

8 Comments
  1. The video was beautiful, as always. You always do such an amazing job, yet each is so different (naturally). I think the photo of Kristin sitting on the sand peering out at dusk may be my new fave. Maybe when you’re all done, I will share my personal top ten haha. I don’t need anything to keep me super excited about your travels, but my internal photo contest helps me to play along at home. 😉

    Can’t wait for those conversations over beers where I get to hear some of the b-side stories that don’t make it into the blogs. Love you both. Enjoy Italy. Please share with me your favorite foods (pasta, pizza and dessert).

    1. Thanks for the complements on the video. I really enjoy putting them together and are always glad to hear people enjoy them. The sunset photo of Kristin on the dunes is also one of my favorites. You’ve got good taste!

      You’ll definitely get the b-sides and we’ll be sure to pass along some foodie love.

  2. Hi

    I am so glad you made it out of Morocco, I backpacked for a week there in 1993 and was a bit startled to see you were there. Looking forward to a couple of beer with you guys when back. From your comments, things have not changed. Merry Christmas. Very happy you are safe and sound

    1. Thanks for the comment and the well wishes. It is always nice when a certain post connects with someone who we didn’t know was following us. Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!

  3. Doug, I biked through Tuscany on an REI trip. We started in the walled city of Sienna, went to Montepulchiano and other hill-top towns. Drank lots of Chianti vino! I’ve been to Florence three times. My favorite of all the Italian cities. So much cool art. Was pick pocketed in Rome. : ( Still had a good time. Enjoyed the Sistine Chapel.

    Are you going to Greece and Turkey? Istanbul is a fascinating place!!!

    I love your write-ups and photos! You have the best posts of all my friends! I’ve considered going off FB for awhile, but then don’t want to miss your and Kristin’s world adventures!

    1. Thanks for writing Melinda, and thanks for the nice words about the photos. Florence was awesome, though I wouldn’t want to go near the place in the summer. Sounds way too crowded from what the locals said. Siena was fantastic, as is Orvieto, where we are now. So much great riding in the mountains. Lots of gravelly, dirt roads, super steep switchback descents. Oh, it’s just been fabulous!

      Greece and Turkey are definitely on our route east. You can check the “Cycling Route” link at the very top of the page for more info about our planned route.

  4. A ‘diplomatic’ posting avoiding the details of the negative side of the time spent in Morocco. Well done! I loved the video collage of your trip there. The head gear told a lot of the story. Lawrence of Arabia by day, and cold Norwegians by night. You guys were well prepared with your clothing and the lights for your riding during darkness. Wow, Christmas in Rome! Enjoy!

    1. Thanks Dad. I had written a whole lengthy blog post detailing what happened, but it just didn’t read right. It’s more of an “I can’t believe they tried to do that!” kind of story than anything really bad. We’ve got a Christmas Eve tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums lined up on Christmas Eve and then a walking tour of several Rome neighborhoods on Christmas day. Can’t wait!

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About Us

We're Doug & Kristin Walsh, a couple of Washingtonians who love to travel, both abroad and in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. We set off to travel the world in 2014, primarily by bicycle. We're back home now, but the travel bug continues to be fed every chance we get.

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