Ok, in my defense, everyone on a tour has “those days”. As noted earlier, one thing I learned from the trip is that I am not one for long tours. I think a 5 day tour is about the maximum I can handle without some serious independent time. Various of my compatriots also had had “their days” during the trip, each at various times when things went awry. “These days” are those where happiness and civility are sometimes put aside in favor of being an overt unpleasant bitch.
For me, this was “my day,” as the itinerary called for us to go from the Atlas Mountains to Essaouira, which overall should be a few hours drive. We had breakfast in Armed at 8am. We arrived in Essaouira at 7pm. I was not a happy camper. Now, I should point out in defense of the tour company, many many people were happy with the day’s itinerary. I just wasn’t one of them.
First, we had to trek down from Armed to Imlil. Though going down has its challenges, it was better than going up. After an hour, the group converged back at the van and we re-loaded. Apparently it was on the agenda to stop at an organic farm for lunch. You could optionally pay 100 dirhams for lunch or bring your own. I stupidly did the former.
We drive back to Marrakesh, get a little lost finding the place which was about 10km outside of town, and the road was too overgrown for the van to make it the whole way, so we walked about 5-10 minutes to get to the farm. We get to the farm, run by a guy who used to have a restaurant in WeHo called Indigo, and there are some appetizers put out such as bread and olive oil and tapanade and sun-dried tomato spread — or so I thought! Thinking it was innocent sun-dried tomato I put a big glob on a piece of bread and ate it.
It got about half way down my throat when the huge amount of hot-spice and olives mixed in caused my throat to rebel and it all came right back up again. As I was heaving into the bushes, one of my tour-mates said “what did you eat?” I managed to say “I’m not sure” she said “what did you think you ate?” and I said “maybe we could continue this conversation at a later point in time, I’m a little occupied right now”. Well, OK what I said wasn’t quite as wordy at that, but the point was taken.
The fact that my throat was now permanently scarred was not the only reason I was not able to eat the lunch, apparently for this guy “organic farm” means “make everything with lots of onions. The potato salad was really “potato and onion” salad. The “mixed green salad” was really “mixed green and onion” salad. Raw onions agree with me about as much as very-hot olives-masking-as-sun-dried-tomato spread. The meal-du-jour was tagine of pigeon which at least I can say there were quite a large number of people beside me who don’t find the idea of greasy, bone-exposed, ridiculously red-meat fowl to be all that appealing. My friends who had lunches of canned meat and Pringles were way happier than I was. Fortunately, they were kind enough to share and the extra-cheesy Pringles were damn fine just then.
So, as if this weren’t bad enough, we end up staying at his place for what seemed like hours. Those who were into it enjoyed the tour of the farm and seeing his Dalamation puppies. In addition to farming and cooking, he is also the only Dalmation breeder in Morocco. This is not a country that has a lot in the way of pet dogs. Most of the dogs you see are strays and have a decent liklihood of being rabid, so I don’t know what market there is for them, but as he had 17 puppies in one night and now only had 5 or so left, he clearly is doing all right.
But back to the ennui. In fact, J and D were so irritated with this stop (remember, they were STILL in other people’s borrowed clothes, and had just summited the night before) that they decided to walk out to the van in the hopes that others would follow. Tempted though I was to join them, as neither dessert nor tea had been served yet, I knew it would be a while before we actually escaped.
Eventually people gathered to leave and we ALMOST made the door but then our host recommended everyone go see his organic rabbits first. At this point W and I left hoping it would encourage the rest, but I’m not sure how much good it did.
So, around 2 we were back on the road. We had to go back to Marrakesh and then get on the main road to Essaouira. I was toward the front of the van and after around 45 minutes to an hour I noticed that we’re heading toward some very large mountains in the distance. I might not have polished up too much on my Moroccan geography, but I was fairly certain there were not any high mountains in between the two cities. I ask to see the map, made some hemming and hawing noises and gave the map back to the front row. Fazia then looked at the map and also seemed to note something amiss. After a lengthy discussion with the driver in arabic and much pointing to where we were SUPPOSED to be, it became clear the driver had gone on a side road, rather than go back to Marrakesh before going to Essaouira.
Another hour later the rest of the crowd tuned in to the fact that we had been told the road between the two cities was a major one, and this wasn’t that. We were told we had to take this road because of where we’d gone to lunch (which SO endeared me to the place all the more!) but I really feel the driver just went the wrong way, not understanding we were supposed to go back to Marrakesh so we could take the major road, and by the time it was realized, it was just as well to stay on this road until we could reconnect with the main one.
So we toodled along on our one-lane road (that’s not “one lane each direction”, but just “one lane total”) and eventually made it back to the main drag. A while later we stopped for a bathroom break (which for 20 people means another half hour) and toward the end of the break (note, not the beginning of the break, but the end of hte break) one of the members decided to get hot mint tea. This is where D pretty much had “her moment” as well. She called out of the bus “can you get it to go?”. There ain’t no such thing as “to go” in rural Morocco!
We got back in the bus and drove on to Essaouira. We did see the goats that climb the Argon trees as we passed, so that was cool.
I suppose where I overly lost it was when we were driving toward Essaouira. I got pretty pissy about how long it was taking, though it was pointed out that the driver now went very slowly because he had had his head handed to him on a platter the other day, so I suppose I can’t fault him too much.
We got into town at 7pm and I ditched the group for the evening. I needed some serious alone-time and in today’s world “alone-time” means finding an internet cafe and catching up on email and reading the news. I then took an ambien so that there would be no snoring unrest and slept well through the night.
Tags: Africa, Essaouira, Morocco, Travel