Skins, Souks, Snails, Snakes, and Smells

November 9, 2011 6 comments

 

 

We spent a crazy day in Marrakech. We started of with a stinky tannery tour where leather was being made from sheep, cow, and camel skins. We walked all throughout the wall medina and its many maze-like pathways lined with souks, or shops.

The Jeema El Fna, or the main square in Marrakech, is where we found snake charmers, ate sheep head and snails, shopped for spices and other wares, and watched the sunset over the city and its beautiful madness with a cold beverage.

 

Steve goes bandit-style to hold back the smell of the leather tannery. The place was a gross mess, but we saw the lengthy process by which the many leqther goods in Morocco are made.

 

When we toured the tanneries, the guide gave us handfuls of mint leaves to use as “gas masks” to cover the stench of the process.

 

 

The vats are filled with colors, chemicals, and natural amonia made from collected pigeon droppings.

 

 

 

Many of the shops sell fragrant spices; some good, some bad, some new.

 

 

The light and colors of the Morocco make for a photographer’s paradise.

 

Kurt and Brian enjoy the haggling, smells, colors, light, and wares of the medina in Marrakech.

 

 

Colorful pottery in the souks of the medina in Marrakech.

 

 

The crazy snake charmers with their crazier music got dangerously close to the large black cobras and fat vipers.

 

One of the snake charmers ran up to Brian, threw a water snake on him and demanded 20 bucks before he could say no. Brian made him settle for 2.

 

The same ploy was tried on Kurt. We were able to avoid the monkey trainers successfully.

 

 

Brian senses some liability issues with letter venomous snakes roam in a crowded public gathering place…

 

 

The Mosque Koutoubia dominates the skyline in Marrakech at over 200 feet tall. It was built in the 12th century and stands tall today.

 

Mosque Koutoubia in Marrakesh.

 

 

The amazing stonework of the Saiidian tombs, done in the 16th and 17th centuries.

 

 

 

 
Jeema El Fna, the main square in Marrakech, is a lively place of entertainment, shopping, and food.

 

Sunset over the mosque in Marrakech.

 

Jeema El Fna, the main square in Marrakech, has the most delicious orange juice for 50 cents a glass.

 

 

 

Road Trippin in Northern Africa

November 8, 2011 1 comment

 

 

The last couple of days have been a wirlwind tour of Morocco. We have seen snow and the Sahara, ridden on Camels and stayed in posh Riad guesthouses, seen old mud Kasbahs and tasted delicious foods. The follow are a few picutures of the highlights from the last few days. Much more is to come.

 

We thought we were coming to Africa to escape the cold weather of winter. We had no idea we would find ourselves in a snow storm above 6,000 feet. We were severely underdressed. The road clsure required us to take a rediculous 3 hour detour.

 

High in the Atlas mountains, we found ourselves cold and in disbelief. Does this picuture look like Africa to anyone?

 

Less than 12 hours after being in the snow, we found ourselves in the Sahara. Dunes for miles. This is the view from the place we stayed, the Auberge du Sud.

 

 

We departed from the Auberge du Sud on an overnight camel trek in the Saharan dunes. Earlier that day we tried to cross into Algeria, but we were turned back, as the border has been closed since 1975.

 

This was my camel. Shortly after departure, my camel bit Steve and Kurt’s camels. Mine was exchanged for a much taller and better behaved model.

 

The dunes were amazing and the colors were stunning. The late afternoon created excellent shadows.

 

We rode into the sunset toward our desert camp where we were fed warm food and bedded down for the night.

 

This desert oases tent city is where we camped for the night. The temperature dropped significqntly at night and we found ourselves cold with three wool blankets each.

 

Kurt and Steve working out their camel muscles. Soreness followed.

 

Camels do not ride like horses. And they make gross noises.

 

Painted ceiling of the 17th century Kasbah in Ouarzazate.

 

Many desert themed movies are shot in Morocco. We toured the Atlas Studio lot and saw some set pieces from movies such as Gladiator.

 

This Moroccan, actually Berber, antiques dealer showed us some amazing pieces.

 

With low unemployment, everyone looks to make some money. Here, a girl “helps” Kurt across a shollow river to Ait Ben Haddou UNESCO site.

 

Steve and Kurt explore the amazing Ait Ben Haddou.

 

Ait Ben Haddou, an ancient mud fortress.

 

Steve and Kurt explioring the area around Ait Ben Haddou in the desert. It is the lqrgest intact Kasbah of its kind.

 

We stayed at the Palais Berbere in Ouarzazate. It had a luxury feel and a beautiful pool and grounds.

 

At the night Market in Marrakech, we got the “street eats” sampler. We have been very open and adventurous in trying the Morrocan cuisines. There have only been a few things we could not stomach, while most is delicious.

 

The night Market has many orange juice stands. The BEST we have ever had.

 

“Street Eats” just waiting to be consumed by us in Marrakech!

 

 

Roman Ruins and Mosques

November 4, 2011 3 comments

Again, the computer at this hotel is giving me fits with its French keyboard and inability to uplod photos. The three following took 30 minutes and I give up at this point for the night.

Today in the Middle Atlas mountains has been rainy and wet. We powered through and saw the muslim holy city of Moulay Idriss and the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis.

The weather stqrts to clear up tomorrow and we hope to dry out. With the people, the language, culture, and all the date and olive trees have made Morocco seem much more Middle Eastern than African. It feels great to meet the kind people, see new things, and try the many new delicious foods.

This is the mosque of Idriss, a relative of the prophet Mohammed, who died and was buried here in the 700s. Five trips to this holy city equals one trip to Mecca.

 

This is the view of Fes from our balcony. It has the largest vehicle-free urban zone in the world. We got crazy lost in its maze-like streets.

 

The ancient Roman city of Volubilis is from 300 BC to 40 AD. Although wet and muddy today, it was an amazing site; 99 acres of ruins with beautifully preserved mosaics.

Rock the Kasbah

November 3, 2011 5 comments

Here we are in Fes, Morocco for the first foreign blog post. However, it is proving very difficult for me, as the key board on this hotel computer is completely reorganized. So perhaps I will focus on putting up a few pictures at this time.

Brian’s first time in Europe – even if it was for only an hour in the airport in Paris.

 

Our first night we stayed in Rabat, the capitol city. We stayed at Riad El Maati. A riad is a guest house with an interior courtyard. This place was recently renovated and a great stay.

 

The Souks, or small shops, sell tons of great items. But most noticeable are the fragrant spices.

 

The medinas are generally maze-like and crowded. However this one was empty. Shown is the Moroccan flag.

 

Unfortunately the it has been raining. Rabat is on the Atlantic coast and the waves were pretty wicked.

 

The 12th century Kasbah fortress in Rabat.

 

This Minaret in Rabat was set to be the largest mosque in the world but went unfinished. It is from the 12th century.

 

 

Moroccan Flag and palms.

Hopefully posts will prove easier my next stop. In the mean time, we will adventure on!

 

Ready to Roll to Morocco!

November 1, 2011 2 comments

Plane leaves in less than 3 hours and final preparations have been made. We leave this evening at 6:00 p.m and fly overnight from Salt Lake City, Utah, directly to Paris, France. We have a one hour layover tomorrow until we fly to Casablanca, Morocco, where we plan to pick up our Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 and drive north to Rabat for the night.

Kurt and I have been under the weather. Although the timing is unfortunate, the meds and tissues have been packed and we are eager to see a new place on the vast planet.

Last night Steve and I made a few last-minute purchases at Wal-Mart, including flight snacks. After which, we opted for low maintenance buzz cuts for the trip. Next up update will come from a foreign land.

Categories: Uncategorized

Conference Call

October 23, 2011 2 comments

Planning a ten-day trip a country where none of us have been to before, don’t speak the language, and are unfamiliar with the culture and customs is difficult enough.

However, the fact that Steve, Kurt, and I live in three different places, are all employed, and juggle additional responsibility, has made it extremely difficult to make any concrete plans for our trip to Morocco.

With less than a week and a half before we depart, we have no hotel reservations, no car rental lined up, and don’t even know in which city we are going to stay the first night.

Are we worried?

Not at all. That’s how we roll. It provides for more adventure (although others might call it “stress.”).

On Thursday, we aligned our busy schedules in order for a BrozTrip conference call.

Topics Discussed were:

Spain/Gibraltar: we had originally planned to cross the Strait of Gibraltar in Spain and also visit the Rock of Gibraltar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Gibraltar. However, after discussion with a friend who had crossed the strait by ferry, it has been decided that the two days required for the border and strait crossings would be too much time and too far out-of-the-way, cutting into our Moroccan experience. Gibraltar will have to wait.

Rental Vehicle: As the Director of Transportation for this trip, Kurt stated that he wanted to rent something awesome for our touring vehicle. Because we spend so much time in the vehicle traveling on our trips, it becomes our second home.  In Morocco, we expect to travel well more than 1,000 miles on the road.

In the 2007 Ecuador BrozTrip, we traveled fr hours on end in our rented 4-door Chevy Love pickup truck. Although it had its short comings (i.e. a bumped that wouldn’t stay attached), we enjoyed our time with it through the curvy Andean roads.

In Morocco, we are hoping to find an old Land Cruiser, Land Rover, or even and original Hummer that would allow us to take our travel to the extremes in the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert.

Itinerary: We discussed the loop we plan to travel; starting in Casablanca, heading to Rabat, then through Fes and Meknes, down the back of the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate, then to Marrakech, and over to the coast and back up to Casablanca.

The Sayaxche Rule

October 19, 2011 1 comment

The fastest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. Or so one would think…

As we prepare for Morocco, Steve carefully outlined a possible driving route for our exploration of the country in a rented 4×4. Although it is ideal to cover as much new ground as possible when traveling, he noted that there would be a few “backtracks” necessary that would save precious time. This theory would be based on the Sayaxche Rule.

The Sayaxche Rule was created during the 2005 BrozTrip to Guatemala. As part of our trip, we decided to travel by car from Guatemala city, in the southwest of the country, to the remote Mayan ruins site of Tikal in the far north jungle.

Each person we asked, each guide-book we consulted, and each map we studied directed us to drive out to the Caribbean Sea before heading north, instead of taking the more direct route on the map.

We followed the longer, recommended route to Tikal where we experienced the ancient Mayan temples in the dense jungle. For our return to Guatemala City, we decided that there was no good reason not to take the direct route back.

After several hours of traveling in our rental car at a swift 90 km and hour on a beautiful two lane highway through the Mayan hills and towns, we came to sudden stop in a line of dozens of other cars and transport trucks.

 

Waiting patiently for some time, we exited our halted vehicle and walking a quarter-mile up the highway to understand the delay. We were baffled to find that the highway ended at river, with a small town on the opposite bank.

No bridge.

We learned that there was a barge powered by two out-board Yamaha motors that ferried vehicles and people to each side of the river.

…and there was a massive oil drill big rig on the barge.

…and the barge had sunk under the weight of the truck, embedding it into the near-side river bank.

We gathered with others and watched for what seemed like forever, while many futile attempts were made to free the barge. The barge was ultimately dislodged and floated far down stream before control was regained.

Hours passed, shuffling waiting vehicles back and forth until it was our turn. As nightfall came, we were left with no choice but to spend the night unexpectedly in the small town on the riverbank, Sayaxche.

Although the route was direct and the highway was smooth, no map nor guide-book stated that no bridge existed at Sayaxche crossing of the Rio La Pasion.

The Sayaxche Rule was born: Even if a route appears to be more direct on a map, there is no guarantee it will be faster or better.

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