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South America 2016: Day 03 (Peru 03): Nov 24

28-Nov-16

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After a nice breakfast at Urubamba, our driver and van shows up to take us to the first stop of the day, the salt mines of Maras. Dusty, narrow, and bumpy roads.

Entering the site, a 10 soles entry. We walk up and follow the arrows through the merchant stalls and finally to the pits of salt. We just… Walked right through, amongst the workers. Crazy. Anyone could’ve really fallen in. The paths are narrow but the workers confidently step along them with huge bags of salt on their backs. Impressive. The pits of salt are split up with rocks, everything looks, if not is, completely natural. Reminded me of the leather tannery in Morocco. Without the smell. There are streams of salty water flowing through the whole thing, I guess depositing salt along the way. Little hills and pockets of salt. It was really cool to see it all. 

Back up and off to Moray, Inca ruins. A nice stroll down and around. Unfortunately we aren’t allowed into the inner rings πŸ™ each ring was to create micro climates of 5 degrees cooler in order to grow different crops. There are three of the rings, but the first is the largest. Starting from the left side was the better choice as the slope up on the right was very gradual. 

Now, an hour ride to Ollantaytambo! An event blocked roads so that we had to be let off a bit further and find our hostel. Good timing, Gayaanan just arrived about 20 minutes earlier! Rest for a bit and then headed out to the ruins, 200 steps up and around. Guhhhh. 

Very beautiful and windy. The steps were very steep though, we took our time and tested. The ruins were cool, preserved, a lot of fun. We walked along the cliffs on to the other side with a hut and down down down. The terrace farming like Moray, is very common.

Finishing around 4, we split up and plan to meet at 6 for dinner. Shopping in the central plaza, pretty expensive, it’s a good thing we have good hagglers. We stopped for tea and ice cream at the choco museo. On our way back, the llamas that were in the square were being herded out, was a cool sight to see. So many of them in the middle of the road, we took a lot of pictures and Gayaanan got kicked by one as the Llama fell from being pushed. Oops. Back to the hostel to meet up.

The restaurant, by the train station, was attached to a hotel. Looked really nice and expensive with live music. Very good food, but we had to have a light dinner, white meat. And Chicha, black corn drink. Done and out of there. It looked like a train just came in from the mass of taxi drivers asking if we needed a ride… 
Back to the hostel to pack our duffel bags for the trek. We were allowed around 3-4kg worth of belongings to be carried by the porters for the next 4 days. Wasn’t too bad… It took a while, but we all packed up and slept. It’s gonna be a long and challenging trek. No instagram posts for a bit πŸ˜›

South America 2016: Day 02 (Peru 02): Nov 23

24-Nov-16

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Waking up at 6ish to get ready and out. Again, crazy traffic. The airport was fairly close though, so that’s good. I had to check a bag, so the check in touchscreens did me no good. Half an hour to drop off baggage :(… Anyways. Go go go, grab some quick bite and we’re all (plus Pat) on our way to Cuzco! The flight went by so fast, we all passed out before we even took off. First thing we notice are the clay brick houses, a lot of unfinished but habitated rooms. And then, the air. It’s not immediately noticeable, but it’s there. Slightly light headed, deeper breathes, gotta climitize to the altitude! Driving through, we end near the city center, and stop at Alpaca Expeditions. Nice people. Met up with Karen’s friends, Sofia and Ronen. It looks like it’s gonna be a tough trek. Had a small briefing, paid in full, had some coca tea, coca candy… Lunchtime! Karen made reservations, at a restaurant down the road, Chicha. Beautiful place, attached to an older hotel. Rosanna and I shared a Curry Alpaca and Peking Guinea Pig. Both were very good. Seemed very Asian inspired. Our first stop, Sexy woman, AKA Saqsaywaman. A quick taxi ride up, we purchased a 3-attractions ticket. 130 soles. Saqsaywaman had a bunch of natural caves, natural slides, layered land with rocks, aaaaand Llama! Oh, man. This little excursion and we’re totally feeling the altitude. Gotta take our time. Once we get to a flatter area and rest a bit, I’m good. A nice introduction to Cusco, featuring a lookout point over the whole city. It was interesting to see that the local teens were having fun with seeing Chinese people :P. Just across and up some steep hill, and after a break or two, we arrive at Cristo Blanco. A large Jesus Christ statue overlooking Cuzco. Back down and back to Cuzco, and on our way to Urubamba, the Sacred Valley. After Pat made some negotiations, we took two taxis, and rode for an hour to our hostel, Amaru Valle. It’s a bit sketchy outside but it’s like a nice little village inside the gate. Large rooms and a lot of space. Shower! For dinner, we went to El Huacatay, a Karen recommended restaurant. We ordered some great dishes and delicious juices. I had the Alpaca Lasagna, so so good. Stuffed, tired, it’s only the beginning.

South America 2016: Day 01 (Peru 01): Nov 22

23-Nov-16

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Finally! After years and years of me bugging Karen. She finally planned our trip to Peru πŸ™‚ Thank you whatever flight deals convinced my sister and Karen to buy tickets at 1:30AM.

8AM flight, last minute packing, rush rush rush. Boarded about 10 minutes after I got to the gate πŸ˜›
CopaAir, not bad. Small plane, decent breakfast, nothing exciting on the personal media thing. Sleepy anyways. Some rough turbulence at times, but we all got to Panama safe and sound to await our next flight. Delayed by an hour or so because of bad weather… Nothing exciting. The four of us had to switch seats because we had the emergency exit row but couldn’t understand Spanish :'( much more legroom. Oh wells.

Lima! Quick and easy customs. Luggage, and we’re off to our hostel. 1900 Backpackers. The traffic and driving is kinda crazy. But not as crazy as Vietnam or China, apparently. The city seems kinda dirty, lots of cops around, lots of honking. Took about half an hour to get to our hostel from the airport. 

Checked in, aaaaand let’s go! Checking out the water show! The last show is at 9:30, we still have to find it… Karen has unlimited free roaming, comes in handy. Not too far from the hostel, we get there as it starts, 4 soles for entry. It lasts for 15 minutes and is a water, light, laser, music show. Kinda cool. The fountains around the whole park is a lot of fun though, lots of lights and water. Tunnels of water with lights, mazes made with water jets, this place is probably packed during the summer months. Finished our rounds, took our pictures, time to find a quick bite to eat at.. Pardos Chicken. Yum. 

8am flight to Cusco tomorrow! 

Europe/Africa 2014: Day 17 (Dublin 02): Oct 21

21-Oct-14

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Short day.

But we had one goal. Eat a traditional Irish breakfast. Our destination, O’Neill’s. Good deal too. 11 different pieces and coffee or tea. Extremely filling. I could go back to sleep…

And… Time to catch the Airlink 747 to the airport. Goodbye, Ireland. It’s time to go home.

Until next time.

Should be posting my Iceland and Paris pictures soon πŸ˜›

Traditional Full Irish Breakfast at O'Neill's

O’Neill’s Breakfast

Europe/Africa 2014: Day 16 (Dublin 01): Oct 20

21-Oct-14

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After a quick breakfast at the hostel, we go out and explore a little. Damn, it’s cold. Wasn’t it 40 degrees yesterday?

Our walking tour started at 11, gathering a large group of about 30 people just in our tour. We had a lot of people from North America as well as a couple of European countries. Our guide, James, a Dublin native brought us to Dublin castle and gave us a breakdown of Ireland and Dublin. A good mix of cultural and historical things.

Some quirky tidbits he told us…
The Irish do not pronounce the H in a Th.
They tend to do everything in excess. Last call, they grab three (tree) beers instead of just one. As an example πŸ˜›
When they say welcome, the Gaelic translates to “Ten Thousand welcomes”
They are very good at starting conversations with random people and bringing them together.
A literary saying: Do not let the truth get in the way of a good story.
They like have a lot of craic. “fun”. So much craic to be had in Ireland.

Some other history included the roots of their culture shaped through the centuries. Celtic, Vikings, British influences. Catholic roots, conflicting with Protestant, causing turmoil thoroughout the country. The British rule taking over it’s parliament, moving it from Dublin to West Minster. Numerous failed revolutions against the crown. The potato drought that led to millions of deaths and millions of people emigrating from Ireland. This massive period of emigration bringing Irish families generally to North America, Europe and Australia. Irish descendants are numerous around the world.

Walking through, we are led to the garden beside the castle. It was at this site that the Vikings thought was to be the centre of the city and settled. It was the site of where two rivers crossed, and the name Dublin originated. Black pool.

Just leaving the garden, we come to a small memorial for a reporter named Veronica Guerin. She has also a biographical movie made of what she had done and how she changed Dublin for the better. She was a reporter who was not afraid of facing the drug dealers, murderers, gang members head on. Someone had to do it. It was a dark time in Dublin, the troubles. She provoked the wrong man and it led to her death but also made the government do something about it, taking control of businesses, property, etc, of suspected members. Causing the crime rate to fall dramatically. It never should have happened, but the government only seems to learn from its mistakes.

James brought us to an alleyway with stairs, well known for its part in the movie, P. S. I love you. However, the tour shifted a bit. The town still has a problem with homelessness and drugs. And it’s obvious. There were a couple of people shooting up just at the end of the path, we turned the other way and made some distance before we continued the tour.

Next stop, Christchurch. At one point of its life, it used to be a bar! Anyways, the story goes, (I’m sorry for butchering it) that once it again became a church, there was an organ and a musician was to perform on it on an important event. Being nervous, he went to the church the night before to practice. However, there was something wrong with one of the keys, one of the pipes. He asked the caretaker to take a look. The caretaker really did not want to, who knows what could be up there. But he did. Reaching up there… and pulls out… A cat. Preserved. Something with the heat and stuff that kept the cat intact and essentially frozen in time. The caretaker told the organist to try it again. But still, the same note had trouble. The caretaker had to take another look. He already did not want to do it the first time, but he did again the second time. And he pulls out.. a rat. Dublin’s own real life Tom and Jerry. Apparently they are stuffed and on display in the cellar of the church, but without any explanation attached.

Hitting up the Temple bar district, described as a tourist trap with the high and fluctuating prices of beer. Several musicians come from Dublin and one group in particular was U2. There is a particular hotel in the district that U2 walked into as a young band, to visit the bar. As a respectable establishment, the manager saw them and they were thrown out. They said that one day that they didn’t care, that they’ll have to serve them one day because they will own it. Obviously, that happened. They also bought most of that block.

Continuing with the music trend, there is a famous street in Dublin known for its musicians. Grafton street, musicians come out and setup to perform. On Christmas Eve, as famous musicians come home for the holidays, an event was established which placed these musicians on Grafton street to raise money to benefit the city.

Reaching the River Liffey that divides the city in half, we see the O’Donnell bridge. There was once an event and countdown, the city planned to place a clock in the water and a control box on the bridge. However, the water was so murky, the clock could not be seen at all. After the event, the clock and control box were removed, leaving an empty space in this important bridge. This space was left empty for a long time until a plaque was placed into it to commemorate a hero. Rev Pat Noise. It was said that he died, drowning under this bridge, a hero. For weeks after, flowers and vigils were held in honour of this hero. But as time went on, and research was done, it was discovered that this Rev Pat Noise never existed! It was a prank by a couple of brothers, which drew attention from the city. The plaque was erected by the HSIT. Haha… The sense of humor that the Irish possess shows by the decision to leave the plaque in place, it’s a great story!

Walking to our next destination we notice one of the older buildings, with columns and stone… With one particular feature, or, mixing feature. There aren’t any windows. It was the Parliament House built in the 1730s when there was a window tax, so the building is devoid of windows. Hmm. Should probably look that one up.

Crossing the street, Trinity College. At one time it only allowed Protestant students. There is a bell tower in the middle of the main square, superstition is that if you, a student, are caught underneath that tower and the bell rings, you will fail your exam. If it is raining and you, a woman, happen to take cover under this bell tower, you will soon become pregnant. O_o. The library in the square was also a great inspiration for Spielberg, he recreated it for the Star Wars movie for the Jedi Academy at the beginning of the movie, replacing statutes of scholars with Yodas. Ireland creates several literary scholars, their imagination is built into their culture of storytelling. As a student, when you get a great grade in your exams, you can become a “scholar” of the college and receive several benefits such as free dormitory on campus, scholarships, etc… Joffrey from Game of Thrones attends Trinity College and is a scholar.

TBC.

Famine sculpture.
One last revolution.
Many sentenced to death.
One prisoner was so close to death already, he had to be tied into his chair in order to be shot.
Changed the views on the street.
Britain granted Dublin it’s parliament back to them. But kept the northern part of Ireland.
Two separate countries, Ireland and North Ireland.
Leo burdock fish and chips.
Free beer.
Shopping.
Murphys ice cream
Chill.
Elephant and castle.
Sleep.

Dublin CastleDublin Crest, GatesTrinity College, Bell TowerLeo Burdock's Fish and Chips

Dublin Castle, Dublin Crest – Gates, Trinity College – Bell Tower, Leo Burdock’s – Fish and Chips

Europe/Africa 2014: Day 15 (Morocco 10): Oct 19

21-Oct-14

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For our last day in Marrakech, our tour started at 10. We would be led through a couple of the last sites and then be on our way.

Starting with the Ben Youseff Madaersa, which closed down in the mid 1900s, once having up to 900 students attending. This would be one of the four pillars for the Medina. Sa’id told us a lot about the history of the Moroccans and went on about several battles in which various European countries occupied Morocco. Their occupation left an interesting influence on their culture and architecture. It actually made a link back to what we saw in Portugal, Moorish being a combination of Morocco and Spanish.

Palace Bahia, built by a grand vizier in the 19th century. Named after the first and favorite wife of the vizier, the first out of four wives that would bear a child for him. Polygamy is a part of the religion, a method of spreading the religion through generations. However, there are rules. It is a maximum of four wives, each must be treated equally, and the previous wives must give permission to the husband for the next wife. In this case however, it was obvious that he showed favoritism and that was seen badly in religious eyes. The wives that he had were to show his wealth and power than to further the religion. He also had a place for 24 concubines… When Bahia became pregnant, he made an apartment especially for her, in case the other three wives would act upon their jealousy.

Our next stop would be the Saadian Tombs. These tombs held the bodies of a Royal family. The next ruler in Marrakech, intentional destroyed the existing palace but out of superstition did not destroy the Tombs, as they were a holy place. Instead, it was covered in garbage and rubble that it would not be rediscovered until 1917 and restored by a French association. The Tombs consisted of three rooms, one for the children, men, and women. The courtyard held the coffins of the soldiers and servants. The bodies are not cremated, but buried on their right side, facing the east.

Walking back towards the market, we pass once again, the oldest mosque in Marrakesh, Koutoubia Mosque. This site previously had another mosque built by the Almorhavids but was destroyed when another group took over Marrakech. This would be considered a great crime to destroy a holy building, but the excuse was that the previous mosque was misaligned to Mecca.

Back in the marketplace, we said goodbye to Sa’id and went for ice cream and lunch before returning to our Riad. Relax for about an hour or so and we’re off to the airport, one last walk through the Medina.

Goodbye, Morocco.
Hello, Ireland.

Our flight was a little delayed and we got to our hostel in Dublin around 1am. It was surreal being in Europe again after Africa. Such a different environment, cleaner streets, English. And the temperature. It was about 10 degrees Celsius when we landed. Morocco was about 40 degrees when we left. Ouch.

Sleep.

Door at Ben Youseff MadaersaMarrakech's GateDetails at Bahia PalaceDetail at the Saadian Tombs

Ben Youseff Madaersa, Marrakech’s Gate, Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs

Europe/Africa 2014: Day 14 (Morocco 09): Oct 18

20-Oct-14

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This morning we decided to hit the Gardens of Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent first, then a visit a waterfall.

The garden was nice, flowers and plants from all around the world. Pomegranate trees, banana trees, cactuses, bamboo… The gardens also had a memorial pillar for Yves Saint Laurent and his house repurposed as a museum.

After so many pictures, the next destination was kinda up in the air still. Abdul told us the day before that, although the Ouzoud waterfalls are nice, there is absolutely nothing along the way. You take some steps down to the bottom, and steps back up. So he suggested we take a look at Ourika Valley instead. It would be a more scenic drive, a hike, and he always enjoyed his day trips here. There were 7 small waterfalls that still do not really compare to Ouzoud’s. However, we were split, we couldn’t decide. Karen voted for Ouzoud while Michelle and I chose Ourika. It was now up to Sameer… Who chose Ouzoud, just to tie it, in order to decide by coin toss. Yup, in the parking lot, flipping a coin for our next destination. OURIKA WINS! haha… Off we go.

Drive, drive, drive… First stop, a random shop. We walk up onto the roof and take a look at an olive tree garden. Waking up from a nap, this was very confusing for me. Anyways, “no more sleeping”, Abdul says, as we continue the drive.

Soon, we start passing the mountain side and through Berber villages, roadside souvenir shops or artisanal crafts as well as natural minerals (rocks, fossils). Most of the souvenirs available in Marrakech, if not made there, is brought down from the Ourika Valley. The road forks, one way to Setti Fatima and the other leads to the Ski Resort. Yup, ski resort. However, during the off seasons, it is essentially empty, while Ourika Valley is still an active spot even for local Moroccans to visit and relax. Driving along, there were a number of bridges built out of wire, steel, wood, to cross the river bed. The further we were from the waterfalls, the less water was flowing as most of it was being redirected around the city of Fatima. We made a stop at one of the bridges, just to walk across and back, the first portion of it made of thick branches then planks. Our next stop, for cactus fruit. Abdul had mentioned a couple of days earlier that cactus fruit was very sweet but going out of season, but we never had the chance to have any. So we stopped at a random parking lot where an old man was selling cactus fruit. He cut the ends off, and rolled it open. The flesh of the fruit is very much like persimmon. Very sweet, pretty good, but it had a lot of seeds that could just be swallowed.

Arriving at the restaurant we would eventually have lunch, Abdul hooks us up with a guide. We kind of wanted to venture it on our own, but we went along with it anyways. He said it would take about an hour up and an hour down. I think our guide’s name was Matthew or something, or it sounded like that. We walked through the village as he randomly gave us information. There are 25 other villages beyond the mountain, and it would take about 3 days to travel to each of them via mountain pass… He kept walking and walking through the village, leading us in and around random shops, all leading up and then through a path that was lined with souvenir shops. The unique shops having small handcrafted figures made out of alabaster stone, found in the mountain. Soon, stairs led up, and tourists started to multiply. I really liked this guide, he saw that a group was taking their time on the stairs so he went around them along another path for the four of us.

Walking higher and higher, through rocks and cliffs, there were so many people. Even a couple of babies, we all questioned why they would bring them, the climb up wasn’t exactly that safe… As part of the irrigation system from the waterfalls, many of the shops had water systems setup that would have the water hit a small fan and spread that cold water over their drinks. The Berber refrigeration method. Climbing up the rocks, that should be completely unsafe and not open to the public, we reach the first base of the waterfalls, beside it, a small restaurant. It was so busy as well, so many people sitting around looking at the waterfall, in the waterfall, brave ones venturing to the top of it, the path looking quite steep and dangerous… It was here that most visitors would turn back.

But us, we venture further up of course. The next route actually had a ladder for a small part of it, as it was impassable otherwise… Good sign? It seemed like we were climbing up rocks that once used to be part of the waterfall, now mostly dried up but still slippery if water was applied. Finally making it up, we arrived at another small rest stop. Selling drinks, snacks, offering an awesome view as well. After quickly taking a couple of shots, we continue on up.

The climb up wasn’t too bad, I really enjoyed the hike, the rocks, the view of the falls, cliffs, mountains, and the Berber villages. Going up to the next spot, we found ourselves at another waterfall, but this one, empty. We had it all to ourselves. It was small but it looked cool enough, a log was wedged into a spot just in front of the falls that was perfect for posing. So obviously, we did. A group of locals came up and started taking pictures and posing at that log as well, which pushed us to do the same. The water was really cold. But for the photos, it was worth it. Haha… I also got pulled into some pictures with the locals, them replying with “Facebook” *thumbs up. As we took our photos, our mountain guide was waiting and then started picking up the garbage that happened to be around. It’s unfortunate that such a natural place has so much litter from tourists and locals alike.

Making our way back down was much easier, taking the fork from the second rest stop. Through the village, you could see that there were a LOT of rocks and boulders. So much so that they were incorporated into the structure of the village, they were used as steps when possible, and just left as an obstruction other times. It was still a lot of walking back to the restaurant where we had lunch. Lunch by the stream was nice, rabbit tajine. Yum. A bee flew into my drink, I saved it’s life.

Driving back to Marrakech was a blur as we feel asleep very quickly. Our plan was to walk around the market for a little bit and then go to a fancier dinner at Le Comptoir.

Abdul met us at the usual spot and dropped us off at the restaurant. They said something about me and my shorts, as we saw a bunch of people walking in with suits and dresses… Oops. But we got in just fine, ordered our expensive water and food, and awaited the belly dancing show for our last dinner in Marrakech. It was hilarious and awkward seeing a family with two sons watching the belly dancing, with their mother right beside them… The show wasn’t bad, the most impressive would be the older ladies balancing some candles and stuff on their head.

One more half day in Morocco.

Cacti at Yves Saint Laurent's GardenFlowers at Yves Saint Laurent's GardenCactus Fruit guyOurika Valley, CliffBalancing at the Waterfall, Ourika Valley

Cacti at Yves Saint Laurent’s Garden, Flowers at Yves Saint Laurent’s Garden, Cactus Fruit guy, Ourika Valley Cliff, Ourika Valley Waterfall

Europe/Africa 2014: Day 13 (Morocco 08): Oct 17

20-Oct-14

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Leaving Ouarzazate, a quiet city just being developed. Usually just passed through on the way to Marrakech.

However, apparently, it is also the site of a movie studio! Atlas Corporation. Filming parts of various movies throughout the ages. Cleopatra, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Alexander, the upcoming King Tut, and some scenes from The Game of Thrones too. Who knew. Unfortunately, because there was filming going on, we weren’t allowed to see most of the studio. Entering the parking lot, we saw a lot of random guys just sitting around hoping to be an extra.

On our way to our next stop, we stopped to take pictures of the scenery in the Atlas mountain range. At this stop in particular there was a random old man without teeth… and he pulled a snake out of a bag he was holding. Just a water snake, nothing fancy. Kinda creepy with the noises he was making though…

Just down the road, Ait Ben Haddou. Lined with souvenir shops, we walk up the pathway to a small stream. Not too sure where to enter from… So eventually we cross over a bridge made of bags of rocks and follow some random guy towards a gate. At the gate, locals, possibly residents of the qazbah, asks for 10dh for entry and we are on our way. Again, we shoo away a random person who wants to be our guide and we venture into the ancient neighborhood alone… We checked out one of the watch towers then up and around the qazbah all the way to the peak. Offered a nice view of the city and the new city across the stream. A life I could not imagine living…

Driving through the mountain side of the Atlas range provided an interesting view, a bumpy ride, and views of real, traditional Berber villages. So many sharp turns and narrow lanes. We drove up to the peak and stopped to take a picture of a sign to tell us our altitude and to avoid the shopkeepers shouting out random Asian countries. One of them saw Sameer, INDIAN! and he got dragged in to his shop by a handshake that he wouldn’t let go of. Suckered into a purchase, and we’re on our way.

Making our lunch stop, I ordered Lamb Tajine while the rest had couscous. Next door there was a shop that sold Argan oil, which is used for food as well as beauty products. The Argan nut is famously known as the but that grows on the trees that goats climb. Goats on trees. On trees. They are only in a specific region in Morocco that we did not have on our itinerary. The nut has an outer shell that the goats eat, then an inner shell that looks like a pistachio with a nut inside. This inner shell and nut are then grinded into the Argan oil. Interestingly, the Argan oil industry was given, by the government, to the female cooperative, allowing only females to be employed, which helps provide income to single mothers and such.

Although Abdul is familiar with this route, where the speed traps are, he got a speeding ticket :P. Not me this time! The driving in Morocco is very aggressive and kind of… Fend for yourself, so it’s no surprise that his driving is very fast as well. Anyways, we drove back to Marrakech, hoping to see a couple of sites before they closed in order to cross them off the list.

Gardens of Majorelle, or Yves Saint Laurent. We got there at around 5:15, they would close the garden at 6 so we opted to come back another day.

Another item on the list was oldest mosque in Marrakech, since we can’t go on anyways, we just walked around and took some pictures.

Aaaaand… back to Riad Princese du DΓ©sert to drop off our stuff and settle in before going back out into the market. Cheap food and drink. Avoid the salad in the square. The juice is good though, orange and/or grapefruit. Cart 44!

Knowing we would be coming back to the square for food we asked both Abdul and Abdil (our Riad host) about where to go and eat. Both suggested Chez Hassan, which we easily found by the mass amount of smoke they were producing. They greeted us warmly, just like every other vendor as we passed by, but their selling line was “Guaranteed no diarrhea!”. Sold. We were still being cautious because it is Morocco, an open marketplace, and there was so much smoke, so we bought one skewer plate to go and decided to eat elsewhere where we could sit down and get a cool view of the square from above.

Settling on trying something different from the tajine and skewers we’ve been having, we found pizza. But the pizza was crappy. πŸ™ oh well.

By the time we left, and started walking back to the Riad, the souks and random shops were all closed. An eerie sight when during the day it’s incredible busy and loud.

Ait Ben HaddouAit Ben HaddouLamb TajineCart 44, Juice in the MarketplaceThe Marketplace in Marrakech

Ait Ben Haddou, Ait Ben Haddou, Lamb Tajine, Juice, Marketplace

Europe/Africa 2014: Day 12 (Morocco 07): Oct 16

16-Oct-14

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SO MANY FLIES. Not in the tent though, at least, but outside. They are everywhere and there are so many. They weren’t so annoying at night. Waking up around 630, it’s still a bit dark. But good to catch the sunrise coming over the sand dunes. Good times.

The only reason we got up so early was to sand board but no one else was up… When they did get up, the first guy we asked said something like… Yes, there’s a board over there, have fun. Wait. One board? We have to walk up the sand? Mm… I guess sand boarding was an optional random, kinda just there activity. We got one more board and two butt sled things and made our way up. They were seriously just snowboards. The bindings were for snowboard boots and everything. And the boards were not waxed either… *sigh. Karen and I put the boards on and got up……. And. No. No gliding, no sliding. We had to move ourselves essentially. So we made the most of it, let’s get some photos! Action shots! Jumps! Hahaha… Oh well. Maybe on another trip.

Had a quick breakfast and back on the dromedary for the ride back. Destination: Shower.

Quick lunch on the road to Ouarzazate, should have went somewhere else, bleh.

Finally arriving in Ouarzazate after a long drive, mostly napping in the car as Abdul drove. We settle in at Riad Ouarzazate, a very nice place, fancy. Shortly after, we head out to the souks to look for some souvenirs. The souk area isn’t too big here, but they have a lot of antiquey pieces as well as cheap touristy ones as well. They did not seem busy at all, which may explain their pushiness and desperation to make a sale. Good opportunity for Karen, Sameer, and Michelle to put their bargaining skills to the test. Good job, guys.

Back to the Riad, for some really good soup, tajine, and dessert.
Goodnight!

Camel in the SunriseCamel~SandboardingThe Sahara Desert

Camel, Camel, Sandboarding, The Perfect Sahara Desert

Europe/Africa 2014: Day 11 (Morocco 06): Oct 15

16-Oct-14

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Leaving Fes. But before that, we have to settle some bills. Our laundry, which was ridiculously overpriced and by item, we got a discount on. Did they wash it by hand or something? Jeez…

Then she brought out a bill for dinner. And it was high. We thought it was included… That’s what our itinerary said anyways, so we let Abdul deal with that. We had to cover the water and tea we had though… Just get us out of here already before they charge us for something else.

On the road. Heading to the desert.

First pit stop, Ifrane, the city where the water is bottled, we stop by a ski resort. Apparently it snows enough to ski, who knew. The city is so out of place within Morocco. Abdul says it is referred to as little Switzerland. It feels like the cottage, with the clean streets, cookie cutter architecture, lush green trees and lawns.

Driving through the mountains and small towns, it’s a long long long drive. It’s been about 7 hours since we departed from our beloved Riad. Still about an hour to go and wet have yet to eat. Poor Abdul didn’t even eat dinner last night.

Desert! The freaking Sahara Desert! That took long enough, but we made it. In time for the sunset camel-back or dromedary or whatever ride. Jumped right on. The group of four was led by rope by a guide, I got on the last one, then Karen, Sameer, and Michelle at the front. It was fun! Tougher on the hills just to hold on. It was beautiful, riding while the sun was setting behind us. We spent a lot of time taking photos. These animals don’t really seem to think for themselves, or they are well trained. At one point, Sameer’s got detached from Michelle’s and the three dromedary just stopped moving. Our ride lasted a good hour and a half, enough to make our thighs sore when we dismounted.

Joining our camp, we were the last group to show up, they were all still waiting for dinner. We were too sleep in nomad tents, which are not bad at all, we have actual beds, it’s kinda crazy. Anyways, our dinner showed up soon after and it was pretty good, I enjoyed it more than Fes’. We were with a couple of small groups. 4 older people from France, a couple from Germany, and a couple from Malta. The Maltese couple was the most interesting. Trying to disconnect from the industrial world, they are in the desert for about four days to deconstruct their lives. Arriving in Morocco a couple of days ago they just continue and travel along with no set direction, a nomadic lifestyle, but they will eventually return to Malta.

It got dark fairly fast after the sun had set. Definitely not sand boarding tonight. But shortly after, the stars came out. It’s… Incredible. We tried, but our cameras were unable to capture the natural raw beauty of the heavens. It’s kind of surreal thinking about it. We’re in the Sahara desert, admiring the stars at night. This is life. After some fun by the fire, drumming, more star gazing, sleep.

Camel RideSunset Camel RideCamel Ride!Lost in the Darkness

Camel Ride, Camel Ride, Camel Ride, Flashlights.