An Unfamiliar Land….
….in one very familiar van.
Monday, October 29th- ‘The Land Just Yonder’:
Ray and I always were always so curious to the land that mischievously beckoned us just 15 km’s off of the coast of Spain. We would gaze over all dreamily at Morocco’s shadowy features across the water and wonder if it could ever be possible.
Possible, yes. Easy to achieve with a half ton of brilliant ‘rouge’ metal?
That’d be a big fat No.
*Insert the ‘Big Top theme tune’ here*
…..travelling can sometimes be a bit of a circus act, you see. The proper three ring kind with lions, tigers and and even a few contortionists in-between. There are always a few hoops to jump through and flames to juggle…. but that’s what makes your entrance SO MAGNIFICENT. You have to work for that applause. Maybe even throw out a few ‘jazz hands’ from time to time. So after our Moroccan van insurance papers were signed, (thanks to the swell scanning efforts of Kev and Jan) Diva’s special ‘Green Card’ in order (she is becoming more of a Prima Donna every day) Police and Custom forms all filled out (this is all getting very serious) …. we were finally on our way. Well, sorta’.
As Diva silently idled (okay, old joke….rumbled) when the ferry arrived into the port of Tarifa to whisk us away, Ray and I gave each other a ‘raised eyebrow look of victory.’ (Okay, I may have even pumped my fists into the air like a Rocky movie). Looks like we successfully made it through another circus act…. and didn’t even fall off of the tightrope. But as we looked towards the ferry ramp, the smug looks on our faces instantly dropped- and replaced with horror as we silently mouthed what the big BOLD print on the front of the Ferry said.
The print read ‘2.4 METER MAX’. Our beautiful bundle of rouge metal comes to 2.5 meters exactly. …. Shows not over folks! ….
So by the hairs of her chinny chin chin we drove up that ramp and ‘graced’ those ferry’s ceilings with our top box. It may just have been our most captivating performance yet. I guess you can say we ‘wowed’ em’.
The Beginning of November-‘Morocco must be heaven, because Ray’s Granddad is smiling at me….’:
Have you ever seen colors that your eyes have never taken in before….. or have had flavors from a dish literally erupt inside your mouth. Perhaps once even been deeply moved by a very unexpected gift of kindness…in a very unexpected place? Or felt the need to save ALL the homeless dogs and cats… one stray at a time.
For me, this is Morocco wrapped in brilliantly colored bow.
Ray and I try to go into new experiences with very little expectation. More times then not we are blown away…. We knew very little about this distant land other then it was give or take the size of California (like, totally doable—Diva’s done Cali before!) 99% of its people are Muslim (which = wicked farmer tans on the beach as I will have to ‘cover up’ and behave) and that we would be able to throw a little of our French around as it is their 2nd language spoken (OUI OUI!)…..But even within the first 24 hours, Morocco proved without a doubt that this was going to be a seriously enchanting place.
*I fell in love with the Moroccan Medina’s, first.*
Medina Quarters in Arabic means ‘the old city.’ They are elaborate labyrinths that truly unlock the heart and soul of each village. The elaborate architecture with its twists and turns are unique to each village and tells a story of their past. Almost always car free- and sometimes only a meter wide, it forces you to get up-close and personal to the Moroccan customs & culture… you find yourself enveloped in the dazzling colors of store shops selling their craft. When we were in the coastal town of Essaouira, I found myself absentmindedly strolling (ok, more like annoyingly zig-zagging like a tourist with its head in the clouds) down the medina narrow alley ways trying to describe the fusion of textures and shades that leapt out in front of me. This is when I looked over at Ray, and had one of those ‘ah ha’ moments…you know, where you think you put your finger right on it… and said: “This is SO…. SOOOOOO MorOCCAN, Ray!” Before the words even sputtered out of my mouth I knew I had somehow forgotten where I was standing…..
*And then, well… there is the ever constant hours of eating we do here.*
Because of both the exchange rate from the Dirham to the Euro (10.8 Euros to 100 Dirham—8 Dollars to 100 Dirham) it allows us this lush treat of being able to spoil ourselves silly and eat out at least once a day. (To clarify this indulgence, the 3+ months we were working in Spain, we ate out ‘1 time’ if that helps to prove just how cheap we truly are.) Now, there is no need to go into TOO much detail as Ray has excellently covered that subject in his last blog…. But can I just say that breakfast has never been my most favorite meal of the day—well, now it is. So much that I could do the ‘sitting at hole-in-the-wall café’ and sipping on their rich café au laits and dunking heavy doughy bread into 4 different sauces easily for 3 square meals a day. Its all about rich flavors and heavy courses….. AND EXTREMELY ACHY BELLIES. But then, there is no one to blame but myself…. and of course, the DEVILISH DIPS.
*The unspoken generosity of Moroccan’s is unrivaled. It is nothing I have ever witnessed anywhere before.*
We had just left the coastal town of Essaouira and decided Diva needed a good rub-down to wash off all her salty sea air as Ray and I had just spent 2 nights wild camping right on the beach in Dar Bouazza (Jack Beach). We stopped at a ‘lavage’ (car wash) and waited to hear the price from the mechanic. As we swung Diva into the large Garage I had a funny feeling and insisted that we ‘stand right there and watch them wash Diva.’ Ray thought I was being paranoid (shocking) but still humored me and sat down on the curb beside the garage to ‘watch.’ As I stood there with my arms crossed (very poor body language, shame on me) I noticed a man waiting his turn take the plastic chair he was sitting on and come my direction…. with a newspaper. (Perhaps he thought I could read Arabic?) He came up to me with a huge smile, placed the Newspaper on top of the seat (ooooh, so my bum wouldn’t get dirty!) and ushered me to sit down. I instantly dropped my guard. The kind men then went as far as to bring us Moroccan Tea as we huddled around the front of the garage trying to communicate through broken French our names and where we were from…. Simple kindness. A beautiful culture. I learned right there and then that if you open yourself up you will feel the warmth of this fascinating place and the constant welcoming of its people. It could in the excited waves & smiles of Moroccans as we drive down the road…. the generous offers of parking in front of their shops overnight for free and using their apartment showers (true story, we must’ve been stinky)….or hearing from a bunch of young boys hysterical rendition of the Justin Bieber ‘Baby’ song when we passed them in the town of Kenitra or having a group of kids try to help push me up a hill as I struggled on my bike- giggling all the way (knowing full well they are NOT helping). Experiences can only be as great as YOU allow them to be…. as soon as I dropped my arms at the ‘Lavage’ that day, it has been overwhelming.
*I shutter to think of how many animals would be crammed into Diva if all these dogs and cats were allowed back into Europe.*
I could count on all the hands between us the times we have been confronted by the idea of ‘smuggling’ our new pets back into Spain. You see, its hard to completely separate yourself between what we know as ‘domesticated’ animals to those that are wild. And most almost always, they are better off that way here. Happy, carefree, friendly and clever as all get out. But it doesn’t stop us from thinking we are still trying to ‘save’ one animal at a time by showering them with oodles of love and affection…. giving them a roof over their head for a night (our dog Bandit was feeling a bit under the weather, next day was as good as new) and putting out countless water bowls for them to lap up in. We certainly enjoy doting on them…. however, I am sure they are just thinking as we drive off “stupid tourists… got em’ again! Did you see that Rex? They even cut up my chorizo into tiny little pieces. Pushovers.”
We often do wonder when we leave the destination if they even give us a second thought…. But I guess that goes for everything and everyone we leave behind as they get smaller and smaller out of Diva’s back window..
I’d like to think that sometimes we make a small little dent.