Thursday, March 29, 2012

Morocco Continued

Left Fes/Fez and the two Irish girls were quite feisty; they had every right to be since it is St. Patties Day. We all had to listen to 4 hours of painful, but festive Irish music on route to Casablanca. Once we arrived at the campground we found out that the campground gave our reservations to the “plastic fantastic” (that’s what we call all the French people in their plastic motorhomes). We ended up driving 30km to the closest campground. It was a disappointment; we were expecting to be in town to celebrate St. Pats. We ended up making a big fire and Suse our driver gave us some beers and rum that was in her personal stash, it was a mellow night for most of us. The next day we waited for a bus to take us into Casablanca, we waited a good 45 minutes and still no bus. Suse ended up talking a local Moroccan, and for 200 dirhams (25 US) we piled all 15 of us (we were minus one very hung over Irish girl) in the back of this old school pickup truck and drove to Casablanca.

 In Casablanca there wasn’t much to see except the 3rd largest mosque in the world. It was beautiful; everyone but Rhys, Toby and I, skipped out on going inside, and decided to spend a few hours walking around the city.

The next day we left to go to Rabat. We had about a 6 hour drive to Rabat. Once in Rabat we got to the shittiest campground I have ever seen. We might as well have free camped. The campground had no electricity, the worst squat toilets yet, and no showers. The good news is we found someone’s wifi and hacked into it. The only reason we were there was for visas. The next day everyone but the Americans needed Mauritania Visas, and everyone needed a Mali visa. We gave our passports to Suse to take to the embassies and we all headed into town which was a good 40 minute bus ride. Myself, Ben, and Nico made a gentleman’s bet not to shave our beards until we reached Ghana. Ben and I are going to shave the neck region but not the chin and cheek if that makes sense. I ended up getting my second ever straight razor shave. It was very intimidating and brought back trust issues having a Muslim with a razor blade to my neck. I sucked it up and it ended up being the best shave I have ever had. We spent the rest of the day walking around the medina, and kasbah. That night Suse informed us that we were expecting to be in Rabat another 7 days or so waiting for the Mali Visa. A few hours later, while we were eating chow, she said we were all way to gullible and she ended up getting all the visas and we were going leave Rabat and head into the Atlas Mountains and make our way to the Sahara.

The next two days we had long days of driving and would pull off on a dirt road and free camp. The first night we camped about 70km from a town called Midelt. It was absolutely beautiful and fucking freezing. Who would have thought Africa was cold. It got to 31 degrees and my sleeping bag is only good for 35 degrees. The camping spot was right next to a lake. That night 3 locals came down to our camping spot to see who was camping on their land. We offered them tea, and later that evening they brought out their drums and drummed and sang by the fire. It was a real treat. The next night the camping spot was just a basic spot. I imagine by the end of this trip there will be plenty more spots like this one.

Our new Family
First Free Camping 

The next day 3.23.2012, we met with Rashed our guide, and he took us to a kasbah that was built in the 14th century, it’s in the town of Mahadid. Afterwards we drove to the edge of the Sahara. We had a few hours to chill and wait until 3pm. At 3pm we all got our camels and took off on a two and a half camel trek into where the Berber tents are. I named my camel Bob Marley… He was black, chill and his hair was dreaded up. It was a lot of fun, but I have to admit 2 ½ hours on a camel makes my boys (balls) feel like Tiger Woods (when he was good) teed them up and hit them with his 1 wood. On this camel trek the weather decided to rain. We were told it hasn’t rained in 7 months. I am not sure if this is a good thing on us, or it’s a curse of a Washingtonian. Either way it rained off and on for the next two days. That night we ate a local Berber meal, listened to drums by the fire and slept in their tents. I am sure this is all done for tourist, but it seemed very authentic. The next day half of us went back and the other half did another day. The other day was more camel trekking to the black sands and a night with the nomads… When they got back they said it was great, but no one slept that good.

Toby and Rhys... my boys 

Bob Marley

The next few days we spent the time at Todra and Dodes Gorge (one night each). Todra Gorge was absolutely beautiful. Most of us went on a good 15km loop that was a VERY rough hike. The path was almost vertical and our guide sucked ass. He didn’t guide us at all, all he did was just walk in front of us and not tell us a thing, about the gorge or the nomads that we passed. If by chance anyone decided to do it, I recommend the hike just do it yourself, follow the path. Dodes Gorge was basically the same thing. I spent the day chilling reading, and relaxing while a few did the hike. That night we found out about Mali. Suse informed us that because of the Coup we might be changing our itinerary. She informed us that Mali has closed its border and by next Friday, her and her bosses will come up with an alternative plan. She said most likely we would go from Mauritania to Senegal, then Guinea, and then Ghana. These will skip Mali, and probably Burkina Faso. This sucks for me because I had plans on seeing Hilary in BF. Suse also informed us about a saying called T.I.A which means "This is Africa". Anything can happen. If we do need to go to plan B then we are off to Rabat again yayyy… puke!

We left Dodes Gorge and drove most of the day to a free camp close to Ait Ben Haddam (this is the Casbah that Gladiator,  Laurence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, and about a dozen other movies were filmed)

Ait Ben Haddam was awesome. I need to re-watch Gladiator, because I didn’t notice the Kasbah that it was filmed in. I think it was the scene where they fight their first fight. They were walking through narrow passages and getting doused with blood and red paint. Next Stop Marrakesh...

We spent four nights in Marrakesh, the first night was our turn to cook. My partners Ben and Steph decided to spent the night in the city, so I was solo until Rhys and Toby decided to step up and help me. I was very grateful and we cooked Mushroom Carbonara. It poured down rain and the boys were troupers and we all cooked and cut in the rain. It was the group's favorite (well that's what they told us that is). The next day, 3 of us (Sarah, Nico and I) decided to go into town and stay in a hotel and get a good night sleep in a real bed. The hotel was awesome, about 30 meters from the main center. Let me tell you how insane Marrakesh is... You go to the center and you have hundreds of people trying to make a buck or scam you. They have snake charmers, henna artist, magicians, street performers, people selling teeth, hats and any possible item imaginable.  If you take a picture of them they will try and charge a ridiculous amount of money for the photo. We stayed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, everyone else came in on Friday and Saturday. It was fun but, I was done and ready to move on by Saturday. All the vendors were hands on, grabbing, yelling and trying to make and scam as much money from you as possible. On Sunday we were told that we were heading back to Rabat to get Visas for Senegal, Guinea, and Ivory Coast. We will get Gambia and Guinea Bissau on route. Its very exciting because we were told we are going to be the first overland truck to attempt this route.

We spent 5 extremely boring and tedious days in Rabat at our dump of a campground. We spent those days waiting on Visas. On Monday all the Aussies spent the entire day trying to get a Senegal visa only to find out they will have to get the Visa in Mauritania. Tuesday we dropped off our forms and passports at the Guinean Embassy. The workers of Guinean Embassy where very friendly and gave the Americans a discount. Instead of paying 100 Euros we only paid 50 Euros. The same as everyone else! The Visas were not going to be ready until Wednesday. On Thursday we all dropped off our visas and passports at the Ivory Coast embassy. We all had to do a mini interview, in the interview they ask you some questions, take your fingerprints and a picture of you. Afterwards they brought a few people in and asked them how many children we had and if we served in the Armed forces. They guy asked Suse about everyone but me if they served in the military. Which is really weird because I am the only one who actual has served. We were then told that the Visas would not be ready until Tuesday because of Easter holiday. Our plans for leaving Morocco by Monday were out the window. Instead of sticking around the shithole of a campground Suse decided to take us 8 hours away to Essaouira on Saturday then take the bus/train back to Rabat herself on Tuesday.
We ended up camping 25km from Essaouira. The campground was a pleasant relief; we were told that it will be the last place we go before we hit some serious roughness. The campground had sit-down toilets, hot showers and was only 500 yards from the beach. The only thing missing was Wi-Fi. We spent the days laying by the beach, going to fish markets of Essaouira and body surfing. I got my very first serious sun burn. We were going to leave on Wednesday, but Suse only got back from Rabat at 0300 in the morning. On Tuesday Suse gave us a call and informed us that Rashid our guide from the Sahara is a film wrangler for this future film called “Intersection”( a romantic thriller about a wife who wants to kill her husband until they get into an accident and all hell breaks loose) and wanted to know who wanted to be an extra. It would be paid work with free breakfast and lunch. Myself, Brittany, Sarah, Brian, Tony, Ben, Steph, Nico, Denise, and Carlos all went. We knew they would only want 6 or 7 people, but we figured the hell it would be fun to try out. Only Brittany, Sarah, Tony, Steph, Brian and myself got picked to be extras. It was one of the most random experiences. Never would I ever imagine myself on a set of a future film in Morocco. I spent the day as Steph's husband walking back and forth over, and over and over again. The Moroccan who was supposed to be the hotel employee kept messing up, so the one scene took 4 hours. It was boring but fun and diffidently a good story to tell. Not sure if we will even be seen in the movie. We all made 800 dirhams, which is $100. That basically pays for my Ivory Coast Visa.  

Free Camp

On the set of Intersection 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gibraltar, and Morocco part 1.

Alarm woke us up at 0300 and Jareb, Brittany, Denise, Maria, Talbout, Nico, Tony and I were off to the airport to catch our flight to Gibraltar. We took an Easy Jet, which probably was one of the most uncomfortable plane rides ever… getting off the plane in Gibraltar we met with all the other passengers. Ben and Steph, Sarah, Rhys, Toby, Brian, Carlos, and Suse (our driver)… There we go, this is everyone. Suse took us to our Truck, which we named Rosie. She is about 10 years old and about as basic as it gets. Our original truck got seized going through Syria, and so African Trails had to get Rosie out of retirement. Suse let us know that there is no point crossing to Morocco tonight, because by the time we get there it will be late. We spent about 3 hours walking around Gibraltar. We then drove about an hour away to Tarifa, Spain. This is where we got the ABC's about our trip, we also were informed that the group in front of us was in a section of Mali which they weren’t supposed to go to and one passenger got murdered by Taliban. Suse, our driver, told us she was going to be 100% honest with us. At this time I definitely had second thoughts. I looked around at the campground, the truck and the people, and thought "what in the Fuck was I thinking, doing this for 8 months… Is it too late to turn around and go home?" That night I skyped a friend and she gave some really good words of advice and I woke up the next morning rested and knew I had to make the best of it.


Passenger guide..

Whole thing
Whole thing
South Africa
South Africa
Whole Thing
Whole Thing
Whole Thing
Whole Thing
Whole Thing

After closing down camp, we drove about 40 minutes away to where the ferry crosses into Morocco. I thought the ferry crossing was awesome, but not for everyone. The waves were huge and Sara and Denise got very sea sick.

The border crossing into Morocco only took about ½ hour and was very easy. We drove to the campground in Tetoun. We arrived early enough that we spent the day going through the markets and city.

We left early and drove to the remarkable city of Chefchaouen. Through the whole city, streets are painted blue. It is also known for large amounts of hash. We arrived at noon, set up camp and then Ryece, Toby and I left to explore the city. We walked around and explored for a bit. We ended up meeting up with Ben and Steph, who were eating lunch. By the time lunch started Jareb, Brit, Brian, and Tony all joined us. We had a 3 course meal for $6 US… I think I am starting too really like it here in Morocco. After lunch Ben, Steph, Jareb, Brit and I walked around the city. Ben and Steph are journalists who also have tons of knowledge about cameras so we spent the day taking pictures and playing with our SLR cameras that all of us bought not really knowing how they work. Chefchaouen is by far one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. Truly remarkable! Ben and I bartered with a guy selling Jalabiyas (wizard suits). I bought a blue one which I’ll use for Seahawks games and Ben bought a brown one. We bought them for 150 each (less than 20 dollars). We found out later that some other girls bought theirs for 500 each. So I say we got a good deal. Ben, Steph and I left the group to buy a pillow and beer. In doing so, we observed a girl get run over by a car, she got up and started crying and limping badly. I rushed to help her. I got her to sit down and keep her leg straight. Once I did this, all the locals grabbed her and forced her to walk on it. At this time, the amount of locals that were helping, I knew I couldn’t help so we decided to take off. We walked around and found this unmarked restaurant/ building that had beer for sale. Morocco is 90% Muslim and alcohol is forbidden, so it’s easier said than done.
After we picked up a 6 pack, we took a taxi back to the campground. I somehow ended up buying Hash from a local. I ended up smoking my first blunt ever and first time getting high in 11 years. Hash was very mellow and not nearly as bad as I remember.


We left for Fez/fes the next day, which is known for its tanneries and the largest medina in the world. Fez was a 7 hour drive. Our first long drive day of the trip. Arriving here was a nice feeling. We have two full days here which we will spend walking the medina, doing laundry and I will be buying a blanket because nights in Morocco are freezing cold. I really thought it would be much warmer. I didn’t bring enough warm clothes.
So far the first night in Fez has been the most entertaining. After warm showers Ben, Sheph, Nico, Brian and I walked to the local Wal-Mart type of store which we were informed was a 10 min walk. We also heard it had beer. The walk took us 40 minutes with cars buzzing right by us. Once we arrived I bought a pillow case, and beer. Nico bought a pillow, Ben and Steph bought two mattress, and beer. Brian bought some hard alcohol. We waited around for 30 minutes for a taxi, and no one showed. A local guy in a Jetta stopped and told us he will take us to the campground. We put the mattresses and beer in the trunk. Steph and Ben got into the front passenger side (I should mention that Ben is 6’3 probably 220-240) myself, Nico and Brian were in the back seat. This guy who drove us was a riot. He was smoking a blunt, blaring Arabic music. A few times I saw an image of the local newspaper saying 5 idiot tourists got into a car with a stranger who drove them off a cliff. We did arrive safe, and sound.
The day in Fez was very entertaining. We had a guided tour who took us through the medina stopping at shops where our guide would make a commission. This is all part of the process, but thankfully we had a guide because there was no way any of us could have found our way to the tanneries. If we did then there would be no way we could have gotten out. The medina was the biggest maze of local shops and street food. After the day ended we must have walked 6 miles. The tanneries were the best part. It was absolutely amazing how they dyed the leather. From the outside looking into the city, you would have no way of knowing there was a huge tannery. That evening we did a 5 course traditional meal with a very cheesy touristy show. The guided tour and meal cost $13 US dollars… Again I am loving Morocco. 

Roman Ruins on the way to Fez

Jewish cemetery in Fez  



Thursday, March 8, 2012


So I consider myself to be an experienced traveler, as I have been traveling most my life. Today I made a rookie mistake which almost ended my trip before it really started. I landed in London and took the tube to green station. There I transferred to the light blue Victoria line. I got off at the Pimlico station, stopped at the crossroads of St. Georges Sq. and Rampayne. I looked left... all clear and I took a step in the street. I completely forgot that the British drive on the left side. I hear a loud hand, a few screams and an old fashioned taxi cab almost made me eat his bumper... What a newbie I became.
for us idiots

I arrived at the hostel around 8 o'clock where I met with another fellow Trans African overlander named Nico, from Edmonton, Canada. Nico (short for Nicolas) is a 23 year old civil engineer. Nico and I decided to walk to one of London's tourist traps called the EYE... 

After finishing up with the Eye, we walked to the Big Ben tower. From there we went to watch the guards at Buckingham Palace. 

London Continue

 Met with two more travelers on the Trans Africa, Brittany and Jareb. Both of them I instantly got along with them and glad that they are going to be on the trip. Myself, Nico, Jareb, and Brittney went to the British Museum. We walked around and saw the Rosetta Stone, Samurai Armor, Parthenon sculptures and about 1000 more antique artifacts.

Rosetta Stone 

Nico and I left Jareb and Brittany to walk back to the hostel, while we went to Madame Tussauds. Madame Tussauds is a wax museum full of replicas of celebrities, movie characters, torturer chambers, rides and super heroes. It was a lot of fun, very crowded, but worth every penny.

Day 3... Last day!

Brittany, Jareb and I walked to meet one of Brittany friends, about 3 miles away in the center of town. For anyone who knows me, they know my sense of direction is complete shat... Well I will be pleased to let everyone know that I got us to Garden Covent without getting us lost and on time.  Jareb had to take off to a meeting and Brittany and I met her friend and her husband. We decided to eat lunch. What I didn't know is her friend's husband owns 26 restaurants in London, 25 of them are a sushi joint called Wasabi and the other one is a very nice 4/5 * Korean restaurant called Kimchi. We ate a 4 course traditional Korean feast. It was unbelievable.


Later in the evening I told a friend that I would look for the graffiti artist Banksy... After asking around  for a couple of hours no one knew who he was or if they did they had no idea where his work was located. I finally found one person who knew where one piece was. I took the tube to Oxford Circus and walked about 1/2 mile and found the Fallen Shopper... I now understand why he is my friend's favorite artist. Amazing work considering he uses a spray paint can.


Tomorrow we leave for Gibraltor, then ferry across to Morocco... from there who knows when I can update this.