Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marrakesh Express pt.1

Once we got settled into the marina, we wanted to make a trip inland and see some Moroccan sights. First stop was Marrakesh! We buddied along with another family boat we met in the marina, a family of four from Chicago on a boat called Begonia. The father Sebastian, is originally from Argentina, and the mom, Carla and their kids, Sophia (8) and Benji (5) are living for a year aboard. They had sailed from the Caribbean earlier this summer and have spent their time in Portugal and Spain / Gibraltar. They are on the same path we are on, though Morocco, the Canary Islands and hopefully, Senegal/Gambia and crossing the Atlantic in December also. It is always great to hook up with other families and we planned the trip to Marrakesh together.

So, after an early morning stroll to the train station, we were all aboard the early train (well, early for people travelling with 8 kids!) and took the 3 hour train ride South to Marrakesh. For starters, the train was an experience all in its own! It was clean enough (except for the bathrooms, more later) and it is basically a hallway with little cabins on one side, each seating about 6-8 people. You kind of just cram in wherever you can and with all of us we wound up spread over 3 cabins, mixed in with Moroccans off to someplace or another. The Moroccan people are just beautiful and extremely friendly. Rachel and I were in one cabin with the little girls and Miles, who of course, is just a magnet. There were 3 ladies in our cabin and they instantly had him on their laps and were feeding him something or another, doting on him. Miles just soaked it up like a sponge and was doing his little devilish grin, looking much smarter than only one year old. We were soon all passing around snacks we’d brought and one of the 3 spoke English, so we soon learned about them, and had 2 invites to come to their houses for a meal. It was a lot of fun. The bathrooms on the train, however, left something to be desired in the way of cleanliness. The bathrooms we’d seen so far, had usually been a porcelain hole in the floor, with raised places to stand over the hole, and no toilet paper, just a faucet near the hole and a bucket. I guess you need to be a little creative to make the components provided get the job done. Well, the train had a hole also, right down over the track, and let’s just say the people earlier had not been careful in the bathroom at all. It was a bit stressful for poor Lily and Zoe, but they managed, and it certainly makes you appreciate some things we usually overlook.
Arriving in Marrakesh, we were a bit disoriented as we got off the train, not knowing where the main downtown was or how to get there, and I’m sure easy prey for a tour guide. Naturally, one spotted us looking clueless and offered his services, basically a glorified taxi ride into town, stopping at some sights on the way. It was reasonable and not worth hasseling to find our own way and he called up a van “he knew” that could fit all 12 of us and we were off. Driving around the outskirts of Marrakesh was very impressive. It had a lot of upscale development and in the desert surroundings, reminded us a lot of Arizona, particularly Scottsdale! Even with a couple of golf courses, and not what we’d expected at all. Closing in on the old city, however, was a quick trip back several centuries and we could see the old city walls, with Moroccan sweeping arched entries and as the streets got increasingly crowded and chaotic, we knew we were heading into the heart of the city. Our new friend the tour guide, offered to pick us up the following morning, and take us on a trip up into the Atlas mountains, stopping at a Berber village, having tea with a Berber family, and hiking to some waterfalls. We knew we didn’t want to spend our whole time in Marrakesh just shopping and wandering, so we agreed to the trip the next day, arranging a time and place. Then we were off to wander the downtown, and headed into a truly unique experience…… 2: 

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