Jan6

Farewell To Essaouira

Tom and I headed off on an Eco tour of the surrounding forest and beach south of Essaouira with a tour group. Twelve tourists, 10 French speaking all from France and Tom and me with a repertoire of 10 perhaps 12 French words between us. The Eco tour guide assured us he would translate and he did.

There was much excitement among the French ladies and the cause my hat!! Yes my haute couture hat had impressed the French ladies. Oo la la they wanted to know where I purchased it. “In Morocco?” they asked and when I said no they asked if I would sell it to them. Me, a fashion statement, that is about as ridiculous as me giving up chocolate. I know they were not impressed with the rest of my fashion attire but I do know I wore the most sensible and practical shoes for the day although they were not going to admit that.

Our first stop was the Argan tree forest.  Bedraggled and struggling against the goats and camels who eat the fruit of the tree, the farmers who destroy huge swaths of forest for farming and developers who replace the trees with cement cube like buildings. The forest area has shrunk by half over the last 100 years. It is estimated 6000 hectares are destroyed a year. The goats climb the trees to get to the fruit and in doing so destroy the bark and sadly the trees suffer. Tourists love to photograph the goats in the trees so on the tourist routes some poor goats are placed in trees all day on little platforms so the tourist can photograph them for a price.

Roadway through Argan Forest

Roadway through Argan Forest

Argan Forest

Argan Forest

The oil from the fruit’s nut is used in cosmetics and there are claims it does wonders for skin and hair.  The women remove the fruit and then crack the nutshell open and inside are 2 small almond shaped nuts. These nuts are ground down and the oil from the nut provides hair and skin with nutrients. The nuts are roasted first if the oil obtained from them is to be used for cooking. It is also eaten as oil much like olive oil only with a slightly nutty flavor and a lot more expensive.

Grinding the Argan Nut

Grinding the Argan Nut

The saddest part of travel is to witness the destruction of the planet around the world. We walked miles and miles along a remote beach, the angry sea crashing onto the shore, constantly spewing back the rubbish we have dumped into the oceans.  Returning to us the debris of mankind.

Remember in years past when we explored the beaches we found seashells and not discarded plastic bottles and bags, we found seaweed and not tangled fishing nets and ropes, we found starfish and crabs and not soggy washed up sandals and tires. No matter how far one walks from urbanization one cannot escape the rubbish man dumps into the oceans around the world. The sea continues to constantly vomit it back onto the beaches. Pristine beaches will soon be a thing of the past.

Moroccan Fisherman on Beach

Moroccan Fisherman on Beach

We stopped at a little stream where a small cascade of water tumbled over the rocks. At the top of the cascade women did their washing. We headed for tea with a Berber family. We entered the little cement cube like buildings, with the solar panels on the roof along with the satellite dish. A little boy was fixing his bicycle and an old man with his handmade tire sandals watched the “tourists.” A Berber woman served us sweet tea with mint in little glasses as we sat around small tables all seated on the floor. The floor was covered with rugs and cushions, a clock hung on the wall with the incorrect time along with family photos and plastic flowers. A small TV stood in the corner.

Watching the Tourists

Watching the Tourists

Berber Tea

Berber Tea

Bread was served along with 4 little bowls, each with a dipping for the bread. There were bowls of argan oil, olive oil, honey and amlou. Freshly baked bread was torn into pieces and we dipped our bread into the bowls. Amlou is the favorite, a sweet nutty tasting sauce made of argan oil, crushed almonds made into a paste and honey and sugar. Delicious.

As we walked through the countryside we passed men ploughing the fields with donkeys and wooden ploughs, women picked the crop in the fields and little children led heavily laden donkeys along the rocky pathway.

Plowing the Fields

Ploughing the Fields

Women in the Field

Women in the Field

Back in Essaouira Tom and I packed, getting to leave this little fishing village and head back to Rabat and then Canada.

Essaouira was kind to us with perfect winter weather, sunny skies with a breeze off the ocean. Essaouira is a tourist town with its huge waves attracting surfers, its wind attracting wind surfers, a quaint medina and an intriguing souk to explore. Hundreds of tourists arrived daily over the Christmas season and I watched the dance between the tourists and the guides and vendors over the weeks a fascinating dance.

Farewell Essaouira

Farewell Essaouira

Tom and I said good-bye to Essaouira and to all the friends we made. I thank you all for the kindness shown and I am sorry I made such a lousy student of Arabic I know you all tried hard to get me to say it right.

Sunset over the Medina

Sunset over the Medina

The End of the Day

The End of the Day

We Will Be Back

We Will Be Back

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Dec23

Rabat and What I Want to be in My Next Life

I now can relate about traveling alone now that I have experienced exploring and being alone all day without Tom. It is quite a different experience and it has taken me some time to find my own rhythm of “doing it solo.” I did miss him but am now enjoying the time of quiet reflection, going for long walks, exploring off the tourist beat, reading and photography. I am not a golf and lying on the beach type person. I have a restless soul and a curiosity that I can’t switch off. I need to move, to see, to hear and learn something constantly.

I told Tom, “My passion is to be; not where I am” so I keep moving. Tom says I am like a dog, always sniffing air for something else to see or do. And my ‘to do’ list just keeps on growing.

New on my ‘to do’ list is to learn French and to speak it spontaneously. You need to understand my brain is not hard wired for languages, I am a klutz when it comes to speaking foreign languages, as my brain does not appear to recognize there are several foreign languages. When speaking I mix Spanish, French, English and a smattering of Arabic. My sentences come out garbled and muddled. I start in French change mid sentence to Spanish and end in English, with the odd Arabic word thrown in just to make sure anything I have said makes no sense.

A frustrated Moroccan vendor finally asked me, “Do you speak Berber?” I guess he had no idea what I was saying.

In my next life I am going to be a polyglot.

Different World and Different Language

Different World and Different Language

We were in Rabat the capital of Morocco what a lovely city with wide boulevards, fancy shops juxtaposed with the ancient medina with crumbling walls and narrow alleyways. With high priced luxury label brand name products being sold in the Ville Nouvelle and the china knocks off in the medina. Probably made by the same company no need to build two factories.

Rabat a Modern City

Rabat a Modern City

River Oued Bou Regreg in Rabat

River Oued Bou Regreg in Rabat

Feeding the Pigeons

Feeding the Pigeons

In Rabat after a day of exploring it was time for me to head back to the hotel. I knew I had to flag down a blue taxi, I knew that there could other passengers and I knew I would have to give the taxi driver my destination. Seems simple enough. My language skills as you now know are pathetic, so I wrote the hotel name and address on a piece of paper that I planned to give to the driver.

I stood on the curb, waved my arms and finally a taxi stopped. There was a woman in the front. Not sure where the woman passenger was heading I was hesitant to get into the taxi. The elderly taxi driver waved his arms frantically, talking to me in ‘gibberish,’ I took it mean, “Get in.”

I told the driver where I wanted to go and handed him my piece of paper. He looked confused and handed it to the woman passenger who slowly attempted to read my writing. Then the taxi stopped and she got out. I had no idea where he was taking me.

I texted Tom, “In cab, have no idea knows where I’m headed.”

It was getting dark and not only did I have to trust that I was indeed heading to the hotel but the taxi seat sloped towards the passenger door. I kept on sliding and hitting the door especially when he went round corners. I wondered if perhaps the tire was flat, but there was no rumble. Now Moroccan drivers have a strange habit, they need to have two wheels in each lane. So lane changing becomes a scary ordeal for the passenger. We weaved through the rush hour traffic, I did not recognize any landmark, we had been driving 30 minutes and neither the driver or I said a word.

Suddenly we were at the hotel. I paid the driver the amount I thought he said and with a sigh of relief got the out the cab. I had not been in my room for long when the front desk called to say the taxi driver was with security and he wanted to see me. I approached the taxi driver surrounded by several security men. They all spoke at once, in French, Arabic and perhaps Berber but not one word of English. I had no idea what the problem was. They became more animated waving arms, holding their hands to their face. What the hell the problem, I wondered. Finally they escorted me to the taxi and there on the front seat was my camera. They wanted to know if it was mine. MINE OMG there could be no doubt in their minds that was my camera. I was so thankful and grateful to taxi driver who having seen my camera returned to the hotel to give it to me. I did not get his name but to Mr. Rabat Taxi Driver a huge “Merci.”

View Looking Out of Main Gate to Kasbah Des Oudaias

View Looking Out of Main Gate to Kasbah Des Oudaias

Bas Oudaias Main Gate to Kasbah

Bas Oudaias Main Gate to Kasbah

Mausoleum of Mohammed V behind Mosque

Mausoleum of Mohammed V behind Mosque

Mosque Interior

Mosque Interior

Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Lighthouse in Rabat

Lighthouse in Rabat

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Dec18

Essaouria Exploring the Medina

Tom is working in Morocco and he picked me up at the airport in Casablanca and together we drove south to Essaouira where he is working.

Essaouira is a fishing port built in the 18th century.  The medina is the ancient walled city with a tangled maze of narrow alleys free of cars but filled with locals on rusted bikes, children playing, men pulling loaded carts and women huddled in groups sharing the gossip of the day. White washed walls and blue doors appear to be struggling against the tide of time.  Tiny dark closet size shops sell woven carpets, delicate tin glazed pottery, coloured slippers, bold paintings, leather goods, intricately inlaid wooden boxes, hand knitted hats and scarves, jewelry and African masks all spilling out into streets.  Battle scarred cats wandered everywhere or lazed in amongst the goods displayed.

Woolen Hats Displayed

Woolen Hats Displayed

Olives for Sale

Olives for Sale

In the souk the open air market there was a buzz activities. Vendor delicately displayed their wares. Spices and herbs heaped in piles, strawberries and dates beautifully arranged, olives piled high, fruit and vegetables artistically displayed.

An elderly woman with a plastic bag in her hand shouted at a vegetable vendor as she helped herself to handful of his beans. The young vendor yelled back and watched helplessly as the woman moved onto the vendor beside him where she repeated her open shop lifting manner of getting her day’s food supply. Soon without her paying a cent her plastic bag is full of food.

Tin Glazed Pottery

Tin Glazed Pottery

An Asian tourist haggles with the wood vendor offering “3O0 dirham.”

The vendor shakes his head in despair and said “1000 dirham.”

Dressed in stylish clothing, expensive cameras around their necks to the tourists this is a game to the vendor this is food for his children.

Mustapha a quadriplegic sits in his wheelchair and paints by mouth, selling his postcard pictures for 20 dirham. We first met him in 2008 on our first visit to Essaouira.  He asked me to send him a photograph I have taken of him. I wrote down his address but I will have it developed while we are staying in Essaouira.

Mustapha the Painter

Mustapha the Painter

At the beach the camel herder invites me to, “Come touch the camel.” Youssef offers to take me on a camel ride down the beach to the castle.  There are several camel herders waiting for the tourists but this is the offseason and I am the only tourist in sight. Youssef introduces me to the camel Obama to Moses the camel with blue eyes.

Anyone for a Ride

Anyone for a Ride

At the end of the day, young men and boys are out playing soccer on the beach cheered by the crowds of women, children and older men.

The sunsets behind the fishing village and the cafes are filled with couples and families drinking thé à la menthe a sweet mint tea that is delicious. A perfect ending to the day.

Soccer on the Beach

Light over Essaouira Fishing Port

Light over Essaouira Fishing Port

Reflections of a Fishing Life

Reflections of a Fishing Life

Fish Market in Souk

Fish Market in Souk

The End of A Day

The End of A Day

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Dec12

Why I Drive Rather Than Fly Around the World

Flying from Cape Town to London I was reminded why I prefer to drive across the world.  Settling into a small centre seat, I tucked my arms close in besides me as elbows of others next to me hogged the arm rests. Ready for take off I thought the air vent above must only work once we are in the air as there was no air flow. No air cooled me for the entire flight, I was hot and I am never hot. Even the airline staff complained about the heat in the plane.

I thought I would distract myself by watching a movie except my sound I do believe was connected to the engine of the plane. No problem I thought, I would read.

WTF my lights would not work. Now I kid you not! my remote and light switch turned on the reading light of the passenger behind me and my reading light above me was turned on by the remote of the person sitting in front of me. This is a plane flying a million miles above ground with me in it and the wiring is f…..

I should have driven it would have been safer.

Once landed and a quick google and I find the complainants department alias “Customer Relations.” I send a nice little complainant letter making sure I say the staff were lovely but the maintenance of the airplane needs some attention. I get a nice little letter acknowledging my “concern” and a reference number telling me they are currently experiencing a high level of concerns, go figure, but they appreciate blah blah blah and will get back to me soon.

Back at Heathrow I waited several hours for my next flight to Milan. I boarded the plane and was the last passenger near the very back. You know what that means, I don’t get a choice of meal.

“I am sorry we only have sandwiches left,” said the airhostess.

No problem I thought, I eat anything, I was hungry and a sandwich was good.

“We are out of salads,” said the airhostess.

I could not decide if the green stuff on my sandwich was soggy old lettuce or seaweed. Never did find out.

Later I needed to go to the very back of the plane and guess what I saw the airhostesses eating the salads they denied me. I should not have said the staff were “lovely.’ This concern letter is getting too complicated, next time I will drive for sure!

No boarding cards Need if Driving

Another flight ahead. It was time to leave Milan and fly to Casablanca, Morocco.

Good Bye Milano Italy

Good Bye Milano Italy

At Malpensa airport I noticed the sign, “One piece of hand luggage only allowed, Maximum weight 5 kg.”

This present a problem to me as I had 2 pieces of hand luggage. My camera equipment in a small backpack and a computer and jacket in a roll on. I immediately proceeded to fill my jacket pockets with lens, camera batteries, charges and filters. I then placed my cameras and large lens into the roll on bag. All I had to do now was hide my small backpack under my jackets.

Obviously every other passenger had the same dilemma and idea. Suddenly I felt I was in a camel market. Agitated passengers with humps and bumps under their clothing. It appeared many Africans passengers were returning home to Africa with Christmas presents for the entire village. Once on the plane chaos continued I thought there was going to be riots on the actual plane as folk tired to get all the hand luggage stuffed into the overhead bins. I even got my camera out just in case something exciting thing should happen. The airhostess just retreated to the safety of the captain’s cabin. Never seen anything like it.

Camel Humps

Camel Humps

The last time we were in Morocco we arrived from Europe in our Land Cruiser. Driving sure beats flying any day.

Casablanca Morocco

Casablanca Morocco

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Dec1

ADDO NATIONAL PARK

The South Africa was being blown away. The wind howled constantly, trees bend and we ate dust as the southeasterly winds battered Cape Town.

Back in Cape Town after spending a few days at Addo National Park in South Africa, doing what we love best; being in nature and among the wild life of Africa.  Addo Park is famous for the elephant population of over 550. We had hired a Land Cruiser with a tent but when we got to Cape Town we discovered a mix up and the Cruiser was in Johannesburg.

“Lets book ourselves into a real lodge like normal travelers.” Tom said and we did. We flew to Port Elizabeth picked up a rented car and headed for Kuzuko Lodge located at Addo National Park.

We arrived at Kuzuko just in time for the “night drive.” There was some consolation night drive was in a Land Cruiser over tracks, rutted, across dry sandy riverbeds and rocky narrow paths. We were back off roading and I felt like I was in a tumble dryer as we bounced and rocked down the track. We scanned the dense, night filled bush for signs of life. Addo did not disappoint and experienced the thrill of seeing elephants and wild life.

Tom Doing What He Loves Videotaping Nature

Words cannot do justice to the thrill of seeing wildlife in nature. From the largest animal the elephants who rule the park to the tiny flightless dung beetle whose role is to clean up the elephant’s poop and does so by rolling it into balls. The dung beetle rolls the balls into a hole and lays its larva into the balls as well as partly eats the ball.

Family Life

Male Elephant with large family

African Road Block

As the elephants like to walk on the road a lot of elephant poop is on the roads. The tiny dung beetle has right of way and motorists are to yield to the beetle. There are also rules against driving over the piles of poop as the beetles could be underneath.

Yield to Dung Beetle on Road they have right of way

Flightless Dung Beetle Rolling Elephant Dung

We were lucky and witnessed a cheetah kill shortly after it happened. Cheetahs usually do a kill every third day. On this occasion they had brought down a kudu a large buck.

Cheetah Kill

Resting after Eating

Bottoms up

We spent time watching the lions laze under the trees in the midday sun. In the distance zebra, various antelope and buffalo were grazing the grass.  A lone tortoise crossed the road and birds of all chattered in the bushes

Quick look around before getting out of car

Warthog

African Buffalo

Zebra

We returned to Cape Town and from here I will fly to Italy to see family and Tom will fly to Morocco. For those of you who don’t know Tom is currently working in Morocco so I will join him there for a few weeks after Italy. Our stay in South Africa has been refreshing and a reminder how much we love to travel and experience everything this continent has to offer.

Farewell to Cape Town

 

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