Long Day into Africa

March 28, 2007


We woke up at four in the morning and took a taxi, express bus, walked, taxied again, took a regular bus,ferry, taxi, six hour train ride, taxi and then were led into the ancient medina of Fez which is a maze straight out of the middle ages. Mozart was so excited to be traveling all day, she thought that was a great adventure in itself. A kid’s enthusiasm is a great reminder that getting up in the dark is a fun thing.

It was one of the things I was nervous about on this trip. Some people who have many years of experience traveling in Morocco thought that we were nuts not to be taking a tour, especially with a child. I had heard Tangier (where the ferry lands) was pretty scary so that made me worried and wondering if we could handle ourselves. We had been up too late the last two nights so I was concerned that Mozart might get out of balance just due to lack of sleep and all the traveling.

There was no need to worry as everything went very smoothly and easily. It turned out that it was probably a good thing Mozart was a little sleep deprived because she did lots of sleeping along the way. We could not believe how easy it was even without speaking any Arabic or French and even with a young child.

She is such an excellent little traveler who pulled her wheeled backpack like a pro on all terrain, adapted easily to waking in an instant (from sleep) and walking distances, and finding ways to entertain herself. She really loves to travel and enjoyed the adventure of all the many different modes of transportation and sights along the way. We each just carried a back pack (she mostly rolled her convertible one) along with her violin.

As it happens, the taxi left us off at the Malaga main bus terminal right in front where some homeless people were sleeping in boxes and just on the sidewalk near the building. We were only feet away as we got situated and DaVinci paid the driver. She asked, “Are these the poor people?” as we have been trying to prepare her for things that she would be seeing. Still it took me a little aback to expose my innocent child to this shocking sight in our world so close up.

There would be more poverty and hardship to come and in fact, that is one reason that we wanted to come. I want her to be aware of exactly how lucky she is and to experience and see other ways of living.

The ferry and the train were the most exciting segments although she did enjoy the bus station, busses and taxi’s too. We took the express bus from Malaga to Algreciras where there are ferries and it was crowded on this Monday after Easter. Mozart slept most of that ride which was about two hours.

It was cloudy and sprinkling on and off and the ferries take several hours at this crossing, so we decided to take another bus to Tarifa where the ferries only take forty five minutes to cross. There was one glitch in Tarifa because one has to catch a taxi to get from where the bus leaves you off to the ferry port and there were no taxi’s around. We walked to a nearby gas station wondering how to solve this and luckily a kind woman there called one for us.

The ferry in Tarifa was huge and we boarded right along side cars entering. One gets used to the smell of diesel in Europe, but this was a little different going into the belly of a giant boat. Mozart got a real kick out of saying good bye to Spain and Europe, hello to Africa and adding another continent to our belt. I was
a little concerned about dealing with sea sickness and there were many rolling moments, but we were all fine and it was not bad (as I have heard it is for some).

We got our first stamps in our passports which was something new for Mozart since we mainly travel by road thus far. Mozart loved checking everything out and wondering around all the decks and was happy to get a 7Up that we all shared. It was exciting to watch the ferry approach Africa. Mozart is back to her diary obsession and I noticed that she spelled ferry as “fairy” which made me chuckle.

After all our warnings, we could not believe how easy Tangiers was. People said we would be surrounded by in-your-face, over the top “touts” who would barely take no as an answer. That was not our experience at all nor did we see any of that.

A few people did ask if we wanted a taxi, but we had our mind on getting some money exchanged first as we just got a little changed on the ferry. We met a very nice man who spoke good English who took us to the train station and even showed us a few sights along the way. The station was new and lovely and we were just in time to take the next train to Fez. Easy!

It is about a six hour train ride  from Tangiers to Fez and we got first class tickets. It looked more like second class but certainly sufficient and pleasant enough and what we saw of second class looked very crowded and primitive, so we were grateful. There was a pretty young Moroccan girl chatting away on her cell phone and an older Moroccan man dressed in a suit sitting across from us in our car and we were all going to Fez. They were very pleasant although we did not share any languages.

Mozart really enjoyed the train ride although she slept most of the first three hours. It was quite pleasant and comfortable and we enjoyed looking at the country side as we chugged along. I even used the bathroom on the train, which was not great, but it could have been much worse. It was not a luxurious ride by any means, but getting into Morocco and onto Fez was much easier than I expected.

I was very grateful that the people who said that one must have a guide to do this were dead wrong. It is an expensive country if you do not want to risk getting sick or picking up bed bugs or such and we just did not want to spend the extra money on a guide to hold our hands. I thought we could do it on our own as many do, but of course one worries some when facing the unknown. It was a great relief off my shoulders as it was one of my big concerns about this trip. We were going to make it to Fez long before nightfall and everything had gone exceedingly smooth.









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