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.
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.
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!
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’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!