Archive for January, 2014

Whirlwind

January 24, 2014

Posted from English Harbour, Antigua

WILMINGTON

We flew from Morocco to Wilmington, NC and visited our new house.  It was essentially done – just waiting for them to screen in the back porch –  or as they call it here: the “Lanai.”

The new house

The new house

Obviously we need help decorating

Obviously we need help decorating

ST. LOUIS

Then it was on to St. Louis to spend Thanksgiving with our niece, Nancy, and her family.  It was cold – much colder than Morocco or even Wilmington for that matter.  The visit was great.  Thanksgiving was fun and filling, we decorated for Christmas, and we went to the zoo to see the Christmas lights.

Jackie having some quality time with Sumer

Jackie having some quality time with Sumer

Smiling for the camera

Smiling for the camera

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

Willow models her new hat

Willow models her new hat

Putting the angel on the tree

Putting the angel on the tree

WILMINGTON – AGAIN

We returned to Wilmington after Thanksgiving and spent a little more time in the house and see how the screened in porch turned out.

The porch is screened in

The porch is screened in

DC

Early December found us driving to Washington, DC.  We spent a couple days with our friends Bob and Terri, then I flew to Antigua and Jackie started a round of visiting friends in the northern VA/DC area and family in Michigan.

ANTIGUA

It was nice to get back to the tropics after all the winter weather in the US, but it was strange being here by myself – especially with the mob of people in town for the Charter Boat Show.  I thought it would get a bit lonely, but I started bumping into people who I knew. Everyone’s boat was in the water at either English Harbour or Falmouth Harbour.

View of the Charter Boat Show beyond Slipway boat yard

View of Slipway boatyard (foreground left) and the Charter Boat Show (back and right)

Unexpected visitor on the boat

Unexpected visitor on the boat.  At least he stayed outside – the bullfinch flew in.

Compass Rose

Compass Rose

I commissioned the dinghy so I could get back and forth between the boatyard and Nelson’s Dockyard.  From the Dockyard I could get to stores and restaurants.  I could also visit friends anchored in English Harbour.  Unfortunately the dinghy was leaking water, so I had to pump it out a couple times a day until I could take it our of service long enough to patch it.  It took two tries.

For the most part Compass Rose survived the six month layup pretty well.  The big problems were that the fresh water pump was locked up and I discovered a propane leak when I made coffee one morning.  Luckily we had a spare pump so I could get water out of the tanks and we had a spare pressure regulator for the propane, so I could cook on the boat.  I also found that the cutlass bearing was worn out, and there was no replacement of the proper size on the island.

There were also quite a few small things that either stopped working or needed repair or maintenance, or just needed to be made better.  I spent three weeks getting the boat ready to launch.  I also had to arrange for a survey because the insurance company wants one at least every five years.  Then I flew back to the US for the holidays.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

The trip to Antigua was about 12 hours of waiting in airports or flying.  The trip back had an overnight stay in Toronto.  The weather had been bad the day I arrived and many flights were cancelled.  The next morning the airport was a zoo with people whose flights were cancelled trying to rebook.  It took so long to check in that I would have missed my flight if it hadn’t been delayed.

Jackie met me at the Cleveland airport and we went to my mom’s.  We got to spend Christmas eve opening presents with my siblings, their kids, and even one grand nephew.  The ongoing background entertainment was having the NORAD Santa tracker going on the TV so we could keep track of when Santa would officially arrive.

Big kid - little kid

Big kid – little kid

Eighty eight years old and one phone is not enough

Eighty eight years old and one phone is not enough

We also spent an evening with some old friends who I worked with and paddled whitewater with when I got out of college.  I hadn’t seen them in twenty years or more, but it was like it had been just yesterday.

Old friends

Old friends.  Joe, Eric, Joan, JoAnne, Kim, MaryAnne, John, and Dave

From there we drove to Michigan to visit Jackie’s family.  She has enough siblings that we can spend a long time visiting them without ever overstaying our welcome at any one place.  We had an early New Year’s gathering with quite a few of the family and then fireworks in the evening. We started back for Wilmington via Ohio, but the roads were so bad we bailed out at another of Jackie’s brother’s houses.  The weather was much better the next day and we eventually arrived in Wilmington.

BACK TO THE ISLANDS

We did a quick stop in Wilmington to swap winter clothes for shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits and then we hopped a plane for Antigua.  There is nothing like stepping out of the plane and walking down the steps (no wimpy jetway here) into the warm, humid, palm-treed environment – especially when you just left feet of snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

We spent a week in a local hotel while we got Compass Rose ready to launch.  It was nice if you didn’t mind the music from the Improve Rasta Shack next door.  The info sheet in the hotel room said that you should contact the management if the music didn’t stop by 3 AM.  A week passed and our reservation was used up, but we still weren’t ready to launch, so we moved aboard.

The surveyor had looked at the bottom of the boat while we were away and gave us a list of things to check – none of which were on our to-do list.  I was going to list all the things we did to the boat, but it would have been too long.

We found a couple interesting things in the boatyard when we got back.  The first was that the motor mount bracket for our outboard broke.  We usually mount the motor on the inside of the rail where it is supported by the deck.  Luckily it didn’t fall off.

Dinghy motor mount bracket fails

Dinghy motor mount bracket fails

The other interesting thing was that a boat sailing up from Trinidad crashed on the rocks just outside English Harbour.  The single-handed captain was asleep below when the boat sailed into the rocks.

This is what happens when you fall asleep

This is what happens when you fall asleep

Life in the boat yard wasn’t to0 bad.  We got a lot done and met some nice people.  We also had a little excitement in the harbour.  The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge is a rowing race from the Canary Islands to English Harbour and three teams finished while we were here.

Each team is raising money for a charity.  Team Locura was first in the open class and first to finish.  The two rowers raised money for the Generous Hearts Foundation, a foundation set-up in Romania to aid on improving the living conditions of orphaned children

The first of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge boats finishes

The first of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge boats finishes

The second boat in, Atlantic Polo Team, consists of four guys who have been professional sportsmen and horsemen for at least 10 yrs. Their charity is Right to Play.

This is what you look like at over 40 days at sea in a row boat

This is what you look like at over 40 days at sea in a row boat

The third team in, Row2Recovery, consists of two amputee soldiers who rowed across the Atlantic alongside two able-bodied comrades, to raise money for HELP FOR HEROES who work tirelessly to improve the lives of injured service personnel and their Families.  They arrived a little after dark which made for some fantastic photos and pyrotechnics.

Third team finishes at night.

Third team finishes at night.

Crewed by wounded vets.

Crewed by two amputees and two able bodied comrades to raise money to help wounded vets and their families.

What kept you going? Knowing my wife would be at the dock to meet me - and the smell of beer

The reporter asked, “What kept you going?” The answer was essentially: Knowing my wife would be at the dock to meet me – and the smell of beer

LAUNCH

Finally everything we had to do was done and we were ready to launch.  The work list had been exhaustive and exhausting.  We couldn’t ‘wait to get in the water and get the anchor down.

We wanted to fill the water tank, but there was no water in the yard, so after they put Compass Rose on the trailer, they moved her through the yard to another water supply.  Then they ran the trailer into the water and waited while I checked for any leaks.  Then I tried to start the engine and nothing happened.  I swapped in the spare starter and when I was hooking up the wires I found one I couldn’t account for.  It is the ground for the starter relay and I forgot to reconnect it after I worked on the water pump a few days earlier.  Once ALL the wires were connected the engine started right up.

It was late when we launched and by the time we got out to Freemans Bay all the spots were gone, so we had to move into Ordinance Bay and anchor there – just across from Nelson’s Dockyard.

Our view of Nelson's Dockyard Marina

Our view of Nelson’s Dockyard Marina

foreground - Tank Bay, Ordinance Bay in back.  Compass Rose is the second boat from the right

foreground – Tank Bay, Ordinance Bay in back. Compass Rose is the second boat from the right

View from the anchorage

Our first sunset in the anchorage

SIGHTS AROUND THE ANCHORAGE

Check out the guy in the little boat

Check out the guy in the little skiff – He lives on the boat behind him

Just another visitor to Compass Rose

Just another visitor to Compass Rose

You know you have been in the mangroves too long when they start growing out of your boat

You know you have been in the mangroves too long when they start growing out of your boat

Hummingbird we saw in the Middle Ground between English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour

Hummingbird we saw in the Middle Ground between English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour

NEXT – LIFE AFLOAT

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Going Transatlantic

January 10, 2014

posted from The Anchorage Inn, English Harbour, Antigua.

We have been building a house in North Carolina.  Our builder kept telling us that we should leave town when our house got to the drywall stage because there would be nothing but dust everywhere.  We took the suggestion to heart and not only got out of town – we left the continent.

By plane.

Jackie and Mohammed, our guide, outside Rick's Cafe in Casablanca

Jackie and Mohammed, our guide, outside Rick’s Cafe, Casablanca, Morocco

No, it’s not the Ricks Café from the movie, but we still had to go, because as Louis Renault said in Casablanca, “Everybody comes to Rick’s.”

So here we are in Morocco.  We got a good deal on a last minute tour.

I originally was going to walk you through the tour place by place, but I think it will be better to talk about aspects of the country.

There could easily be twice as much text in this post and I had a terrible time culling the 2000 or so photographs down to what I included.  Here is the story:

We had an overnight flight to Casablanca, met our guide and our fellow travelers, and started the whirlwind tour.  We travelled from Casablanca to Rabat, the capital city.  From there it was on to Meknes and then Fez (the city, not the hat). After Fez, we passed through the Atlas Mountains to Erfoud.  We spent a couple nights on the edge of the Sahara Desert, and then visited Tineghir, Marrakech, and Essaouira.

MOROCCO IS A MUSLIM COUNTRY

Let there be no doubt, Morocco is a Muslim country.  Everywhere you look you will see a mosque.  More that that, five times a day they broadcast the Call to Prayer from every mosque.  In older times, each call was repeated four times – once from each side of the mosque.  Now the call is prerecorded and can be heard in any place of any real population.  It never ceased to be a somewhat unreal experience because it was so pervasive and because of the tone of the announcement.  Our guide even had an app on his smart phone to give the call to prayer at the appropriate times each day.

One of our first stops of note was the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.  It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the only one in the country that can be entered by non-Muslims.

Hassan II mosque

Hassan II mosque in Casablanca

Inside the mosque

Inside the mosque

This amazing structure was our introduction to Moroccan architecture.

Mosques have separate areas for men and women to cleanse themselves before prayer and separate areas for actual prayer.

You can't wear shoes in a mosque

You can’t wear shoes in a mosque

Local buildings may be old or in ill-repair, but you will still see a well-kept mosque

Local buildings may be old or in ill-repair, but you will still see a well-kept mosque

PEOPLE

The people of Morocco were generally friendly and helpful.  Most are Muslims, but they are more relaxed in their attitudes than in many other countries.  We saw a lot of women wearing non-traditional dress, but almost all had some sort of covering for their hair.  Every once in a while we would see a woman in traditional dress covered head to foot with only her eyes showing.  The next picture is a good example of the range of women’s dress.  The one after shows a couple women in the plaza in very conservative attire.

There was a wide variety of dress among Moroccan women

There was a wide variety of dress among Moroccan women

In the next picture it looks like the woman in western dress is considering getting her hand decorated with henna which creates a tattoo-like design that can last up to a few weeks.  It was hard to tell how many women stay with the very traditional dress, because they would be most likely to seldom venture out into public.

Women in the market plaza wearing very conservative dress

Women in the market plaza wearing very conservative dress doing business with a woman in Western attire

We also found the people to be fairly tolerant of other activities such as drinking alcohol.  Our first night in Rabat our guide took us to a to dinner, but we stopped at a local bar on the way.  A couple days before we went to the desert we stopped at a local store for provisions.  The store was about the same size as the average convenient store here.  There was a separate room that had a good selection of beer, wine, and liquor.  We found that about half of the time a restaurant would serve  alcohol.

But not all locals turned their heads when we did something wrong.  Just as our guide was telling us that it is not allowed to photograph policemen, even at a distance, one our fellow tourists who had wandered off to take a picture was being politely told the same thing by one of the gendarmes.

Oops

Oops

We met a lot of people, but mostly interacted with our guides.  Mohammed, our guide, did a great job.  He was interesting, informative, and had a sense of humor, all while keeping us together – a bit like herding cats.  Her he is in one of his lighter moments guide demonstrating that the cork tree nut is edible – although mostly used for animal feed.

Our guide Mohammed.

Our guide Mohammed.

Earlier I mentioned that Mohammed had an app on his phone to call him to prayer.  He had to do his job as our guide so he couldn’t always observe the call to prayer, but sometimes when we were settled – like in the middle of lunch – he would excuse himself and find a secluded place to pray.

We also had a few local guides for specific historic sites or to shepherd us through a medina.  This was our guide in Tineghir.

Our guide in the town

Our guide in the Tineghir

Roadside vendor

Roadside vendor

Woman cooking traditional flatbread in a wood fired oven

Woman cooking traditional flatbread in a wood fired oven

Local women going about daily life

Local women going about daily life

It was common for us to see men sitting at small roadside cafes, but never any women.

Men relaxing at a cafe

Men relaxing at a cafe

Just one of the many street musicians we encountered.

Just one of the many street musicians we encountered.

Woman in traditional dress waiting for her son to ride back?

Woman in traditional dress waiting for her son to ride back?

Our travel company provides some support to a school in Morocco. We stopped there to visit and have lunch.  A couple students shared a table with us.  One was rather quiet, but the other was fun to talk to.  We even had a geography lesson using a couple big wall maps in the lunch room.

Lunch with student

Fellow traveler, Betty, Jackie, student Lhoussaine and I after lunch

Some businessmen start young.  This fellow would let you pose for pictures holding his baby fox – for a small fee, of course.

Young boy with a baby fox.  You can pay to have your picture taken holding the fox.

Young boy with a baby fox. You can pay to have your picture taken holding the fox. Correction – our friend Ellen tells us this is a Fennec fox and never grows any larger. They are thought to be the precursors to chihuahuas.

 

 

GOVERNMENT

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament.  The king, King Mohammed VI, has broad powers and has ongoing programs to make sure all households have electricity and that school is available to all.  The king has palaces in all the major cities and towns, but the primary Royal Palace is in Rabat.  We visited the Royal Palace , but there are no tours for visitors, so we could only look from the outside.

Main entrance to the Royal Palace.  The king isn't in.

Main entrance to the Royal Palace. The king isn’t in.

ANTIQUITIES

There are many ancient sites in Morocco and we visited a few on the trip.  One site included the Chellah necropolis from the 14th century and the Andalusian Gardens.

Chellah, a 14th century Merind necropolis

Chellah, a 14th century Merind necropolis

Hassan Tower

Hassan Tower

We saw the Hassan tower, an unfinished mosque built mostly in the 12th century.

On the way to Fez we stopped at the Roman city of Volubis.  This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the best-preserved Roman archaeological sites in North Africa.

 Roman ruins


Roman ruins

Original Roman mosaic floor

Original Roman mosaic floor

Jackie looks on while the guide explains the olive press

Jackie looks on while the guide explains the olive press

Roman columns

Roman columns

In Tineghir we visited an old mosque and religious school that is no longer being used but is being slowly restored.

Former mosque and religious school

Former mosque and religious school

Mausoleum Mohammad V is a modern structure, but it sits on the site of a mosque that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755.  The tower, floor, and parts of the roof support column remain.

Plaza by king's tomb

Columns that supported the roof of the mosque

Long ago they dug aquaducts to bring water from the mountains to the plains.  How do you keep a straight line while digging underground?  Every so often you dig a well. In this picture you can see the rope hanging down to the bucket.

Ancient underground aquaduct

Ancient underground aquaduct

MEDINAS AND SOUKS

Welcome to the marketplace

On the way to a party with a lampshade on his head? Welcome to the souk

Everywhere you go, you have to buy things.  The towns and cities have areas that we would find typical – streets with shops along them.  But the two traditional places where goods are sold are medinas and souks.  Strictly speaking, a medina is an old city.  They are usually walled and filled with narrow streets.  Many streets are lined with shops.  Souks are open air markets or commercial quarters.  Souks often begin outside cities or towns, but can eventually be walled and become part of a town.  The souk might be the commercial part of a Medina.  Thus the distinction can blur – at least to this western observer.

Marrakech has a large market plaza outside the souk

Marrakech has a large market plaza outside the medina

Snake charming in the marketplace in Marrakesh

There is a lot to see in the marketplace in Marrakesh

Many vendors had a lot of inventory

Many vendors had a lot of inventory

We visited quite a few market plazas and they were quite interesting, but they were nothing like the souks in the Medinas.

Every older city has marketplace, or souk.  These are the older portion of the city enclosed within walls.  They are streets lined with stall after stall of goods.  Some are quite open and others are very narrow and maze-like.  Many are covered over so you find yourself in an enclosed maze.

In the souq in Marakesh

In the souk in Marrakesh

Inside the souk you can find almost anything.  In some souks will find similar shops in the same area, but in others they are completely mixed.  Some are large and open, others a little narrow rooms.  And everyone is ready to deal.  “For you a special price”

Spices for sale in the souq

Spices for sale in the souk

They sell everything in the souq.....

They sell everything in the souk…..

...everything

…everything

Some souks are old and dingy – others are more open and well lit.

Typical view in the souq

Typical view in the souk

Sometimes the souks were narrow and crowded and you had to dodge delivery animals and vehicles

Sometimes the souks were narrow and crowded and you had to dodge delivery animals and vehicles

Some souks are restricted to foot traffic although that includes push carts and donkeys.  Other souks are open to vehicles and in those you have to be careful of fast moving scooters and motorcycles.

We toured the large souks in Fez and Marrakech.  Our guides were careful not to lose us in these mazes.  At the end of our trip we returned to Marrakech and stayed in a riad in the edge of the souk.  The people at the riad gave us a map and armed with that and a compass we managed to find our way through the souk to the plaza and back.

SPECIALTY PRODUCTS

We constantly passed rows of shops in very small towns and in the cities.   Some were retail establishments, but most were manufacturing, fabrication, or repair establishments.

Typical storefronts

Typical storefronts

We typically passed by places like those in the picture above, but we conveniently stopped at some places that produced local specialty items.  And even more conveniently most accepted credit cards.

On the way to the Sahara Desert we stopped a place that made furniture and art objects out of rocks with embedded fossils.  They were quite beautiful.

A table made with stones containing fossils

A table made with stones containing fossils

After that we visited a rug factory. Local women made rugs on hand looms. We were served tea and shown rugs that were for sale.

Rug factory hand loom

Rug hand loom

We were served tea at the rug factory

We were served tea and then shown rugs for purchase

We stopped at a place that made leather goods from scratch.  They started with hides and ended with very nice leather clothing and articles.  I didn’t get any pictures of the merchandise, but I did get some shots of the leather tanning vats.

Vats for processing hides into leather

Vats for processing hides into leather

In Fez we visited a ceramics shop where they made a wide variety of items.

A potter shapes what appears will be the top to a tagine - a covered serving dish

A potter shapes what appears will be the top to a tagine – a covered serving dish

All ceramics are decorated freehand

All ceramics are decorated freehand…

picture 2

…with a practiced eye…

picture3

…and attention to detail

We watched quite a few artisans decorating the pottery.  They drew simple lines like these – straight and smooth – and repeated identical patterns on piece after piece, all by hand.

A table that looks like this...

A table that looks like this…

It was quite interesting to see how some things were made.  For example, the table pictured above was made face down as shown in the picture below.

...is made by placing the colored pieces face down and pouring the grout around them

…is made by placing the colored pieces face down and pouring the grout around them

We stopped in a textile shop where they did very nice needlework and beautiful weaving.

Women doing needlework

Women doing needlework

Samples in a textile shop

Samples in a textile shop

Not a product, but more of a service, decorating the body with henna is a popular addition to a woman’s outfit.  One evening we went to the home of a woman who creates this body art.  She paints it on and the customer dries it under a lamp into a hard crust.  The next day the customer cleans off the henna and the result is a temporary tattoo.

Jackie gets a henna tattoo

Jackie gets a henna tattoo

These tattoos are generally used for decoration, but they are also part of a bride’s preparation for her wedding.  The groom has to be her servant as long as the henna lasts – as much a two weeks if good quality henna is used.

The finished product

The finished product

Jackie removed the crust to find a rather pale design on her hand.  We were a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a bit darker.

ARGAN OIL

Although argan (pronounced like the gas “argon”) oil is a specialty product it merits its own section.  It is used as a cosmetic and as a food product.  Argan nuts are harvested, the shells cracked open and the meat is ground to release the oil.  We visited a coop where the oil was processed and sold.  This was one of the few places where we felt we could get the pure oil.  The oil in the souks was often cut with other substances.

Even tourists get to grind the argan nuts

Even tourists get to grind the argan nuts

Some livestock – notably goats – like argan nuts.  They eat the nuts, but do not break the shells, but the shells soften as they pass through the goats.  We have been told that people collect and process these nuts to produce oil.

Yes, goats climb trees to eat argan nuts

Yes, goats climb trees to eat argan nuts

I saw this with my own eyes on the way to and from Essaouira.

THE SAHARA DESERT

We spent two nights in the Sahara desert in the tour company’s camp.  The  terrain has areas of hard packed dirt and areas of massive sand dunes.  We travelled by camel and 4-wheel drive SUVs.

Resting up for caravan duty

Resting up for caravan duty

Jackie the camel jockey

Jackie the camel jockey

Sometimes 4-wheel drive is not enough.  I am the second butt from the left.

Sometimes 4-wheel drive is not enough. I am the second butt from the left.

Our tent in the desert

Our tent in the desert

The first morning we got up early to watch the sunrise. It was nice.

Sunrise

Sunrise

To the west we saw camels on the ridge of the high dunes.

Camels silhouetted against the sky

Camels silhouetted against the sky

Sunsets were pretty cool, too.

Sundown behind the dunes

Sundown behind the dunes

Sand dunes

Sand dunes outside our camp

We visited a nomad family.

Nomad tent

Nomad tent

Nomad woman and her daughter host the tourists

Nomad woman and her daughter host the tourists

You can't even leave the nomad camp without checking out the trinkets for sale

You can’t leave the nomad camp without checking out the trinkets for sale

Jackie tries on some headgear

Jackie tries on some headgear

More nomads

More nomads

We also visited a small farm irrigated with water pumped to the surface with pump powered by solar panels.

Solar powered water pump for irrigation

Solar powered water pump for irrigation

Young children man the "gift shop" at the farm

Young children man the “gift shop” at the farm

IRRIGATION

We left the Sahara and passed through the Atlas Mountains.  We passed a small river that has been dammed up.  The impoundment is used to generate hydroelectric power and then the water downstream is used for irrigation.

A man made lake used for irrigation and hydroelectric power

A man made lake used for irrigation and hydroelectric power

Our next stop was the town of Tineghir.  This city is built around a small river.  The land along the river bank is fertile and much of the water is used for irrigation.  The result is a green strip of dense farmland through the valley.

Water cascades into this gorge and is channeled off for irrigation throughout the valley

Water cascades into this gorge and is channeled off for irrigation throughout the valley.

It's amazing what a little irrigation will do.

It’s amazing what a little irrigation will do.

Crops being raised in the valley

Crops being raised in the valley

LANDSCAPES

Morocco has a very dry climate.  Except in the heart of a city, earthy tones of brown and red and pink and yellow dominate.  But when you look closely you can often see a light undergrowth of green tinting the landscape.  Despite the arid environment, small grasses and shrubs find a way to grow.

landscape

Rolling hills were common

Sheep grazing in the desert

Sheep grazing in the desert

Much of the land was flat or rolling hills

Much of the land was cultivated

The Atlas Mountains were impressive.

View of the local countryside

Atlas Mountains

Mountains tower over a fertile strip in a river valley.

The view from our hotel room

The view from our hotel room

Sometimes the green in the landscape was quite amazing

landscape

Lush green in a dry land

But more landscapes were like the next one where a faint hint of green could be seen in the pinks and browns.

Adobe, brick, and concrete blend into the surroundings

Adobe, brick, and concrete blend into the surroundings

The roads through the Atlas Mountains were twisty – and sometimes exciting.

One of the many winding roads we encountered passing through the Atlas Mountains

One of the many winding roads we encountered passing through the Atlas Mountains

We actually encountered some roads more impressive than the one above.

landscape

More rolling hills

We would see planted fields where we least expected them.

We would see planted fields where we least expected them.

OLIVES

No one serves a meal in Morocco without olives – yes, that includes breakfast.  Olive trees grow everywhere. People use ladders and special small, rake-like tools to pull the olives off the trees.  Olives ripen in the sun, so olives in the middle of the tree ripen more slowly than olives on the outside.  A single olive tree can have a variety of olives.

Olives in the market

Olives in the market

Harvesting olives

Harvesting olives

Olive picking tool.  All these olives came from the same tree

Olive picking tool. All these olives came from the same tree

TRANSPORTATION

We travelled by tour bus most of the time, and by four-by-four and camel in the desert.  The most common form of local transportation was the scooter.

Everyone rides scooters

Everyone rides scooters

We saw a few of these livestock trucks.

Sort of like those double decker tour buses except they are for livestock

Sort of like those double decker tour buses except they are for livestock

Typical donkey drawn cart made from car axles and wheels

Typical donkey drawn cart made from car axles and wheels

Horse drawn carriage we toured Marrakesh

Horse drawn carriage that we rode. Not exactly the Marrakesh Express

Luckily these carriages do not operate at high speeds

Luckily these carriages do not operate at high speeds

It was entertaining to see what people would carry on their vehicles.

Who needs a pickup truck?

No wonder you don’t see any U-Haul franchises in Morocco

But the most interesting vehicle we saw was this hand powered tricycle.  Evidently the rider has a problem with his legs, so he rigged up this tricycle with a hand crank using bicycle sprockets and pedals.

Hand powered tricycle

Hand powered tricycle

ESSAOUIRA

Our tour ended in Marrakech.  We said farewell to our guide and fellow tourists and got on a bus to Essaouira, a seacoast town a few hours ride from Marrakech.  The bus ride was uneventful.  Someone met us when we got off.  We were sort of expecting a taxi, but we weren’t sure because our riad was in the souk and cars usually can’t travel there.  The fellow who met us piled our bags in a hand drawn two-wheeled cart and set off into the streets of the walled city.

Cart and motorcycle

Cart like the porter’s and motorcycle

This souk was more open and had wider streets than most we had visited and soon we were at the door of the riad. The road in the following picture is typical for this souk although some were wider and some were very narrow.

Typical road in the souk

Typical road in the souk

This was the third riad we stayed in and similar to the previous ones.  It had four floors of with the common rooms on the ground floor and bedrooms on the rest.  In the center was a nice little courtyard and there was a small patio/dining area on the roof.

The rooftop where we ate breakfast each morning

The rooftop where we ate breakfast each morning

View of the sea from the riad rooftop

View of the sea from the riad rooftop

The riad was very nice inside.

The riad courtyard

The riad courtyard

Our room in the riad

Our room in the riad

We walked through the souk to the sea wall.  The view was impressive in many respects.  The seawall and fortifications were quite substantial and the coast looked so rocky that you wouldn’t think canons would be needed,  But even more memorable was the relentless wind.

Old fortification along the seawall

Old fortification along the seawall

The coastline outside the fort was very rough

The coastline outside the fort was very rough

We walked out of the fort into the harbor area where we found many small fishing boats like the blue ones in the picture below as well as larger fishing boats.

Just some of the many small fishing boats in the harbor

Just some of the many small fishing boats in the harbor

There were many large fishing boats in the harbor as well

There were many large fishing boats in the harbor as well

Boats were built in the harbor.

Wooden boats at different stages of construction

Wooden boats at different stages of construction

Boats are floated onto frames and dragged up the ramp for repair

Old boats are floated onto frames and dragged up the ramp for repair

We also found a few cruising boats and met a couple who had recently arrived from Europe.

We met a pair of cruisers who worked their way down from Europe

Inna and Nikolche on their boat, Nikita

Hopefully we will see them again in the Caribbean.

We walked around the harbor and came to a magnificent beach.  Once through the surf the water was pretty flat and the steady wind made a great place for wind surfing and kite surfing.

The amazing beach was home to wind surfers and kite surfers

The amazing beach was home to wind surfers and kite surfers

We met a British couple who were staying in the riad.  They had heard of an interesting market and we thought it would be fun to go.  We talked with the riad owner about it and his description didn’t quite match what we were expecting, but we thought it sounded like fun.  He arranged for a taxi and off we went.

We drove out into the country and he dropped us off in a little village.  We arranged to meet him at the same spot a couple hours later.

We wandered into the market area – sort of a free form souk.  The people were wall to wall and at first we were going against the flow like salmon swimming upstream.  We obviously didn’t look like locals and we were the only foreigners there.  Other than a couple guys walking around selling cheap jewelry no one seemed to pay us any attention.  After a short time we realized that outside of our group there were only a couple women in the souk.  We spent almost two hours wandering around.  It was probably the closest we got to a pure, non-tourist experience on our trip.  Finally we met the taxi driver at the appointed place and drove back to  Essaouira.

After marching along on a guided tour for so long it was nice to have had a couple days to just relax.  The porter took our bags to the bus station and as we were about to check our bags we realized that we had left our passports in the safe in the riad.  We had fifteen minutes until the bus would depart, so Jackie waited in line while I ran back to the riad.  I found my way with only minor hesitation and was there in five minutes.  The owner ran up to our third floor room and brought down our passports.  He offered to go back to the bus station with me on his bicycle, but I told him he didn’t need to.

I started running back, but I had time to spare so I stopped and walked a couple times.  I went out through the city gate only to realize that I missed a turn somewhere and had to run around the outside of part of the town.  I arrived at what we thought was the departure time only to find out it was the boarding time and I had another fifteen minutes to cool off after my morning exercise.

We spent the next night in Marrakech, flew to Casablanca, and then back to the US.

A FEW ODD PICTURES

Storks are common in Marrakesh

Storks are common in Marrakesh

Wardrobe adjustment

Wardrobe adjustment

Mosque at dusk

Mosque at dusk

COMMUNICATION
It’s funny how signs translate from one language to another.

Hotel Rehab?

Are you checking in?

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