Friday, August 29, 2008


WoW! Yesterday we left Granada and made our way to the party island of Ibiza (pronounced I-bi-tha) and that was an all day trip so we arrived at our hotel around 7.30pm. Plenty of time for us to grab some dinner before returning to our rooms to shower and freshen up before hitting our first club in Ibiza.

Hed Kandi were playing at El Divino so we decided to start off at a bar on 'shark street' which is a street lined with bars that clubbers go to before heading out. You can buy tickets here for all the clubs as well as having pre-drinks. The bars also have guys walking around selling drugs (they are discreet as drugs are not legal in Spain, even on Ibiza, but because police can't control the drug situation they kind of tolerate it) and a parade each night to promote the different clubs.

In Spain, people do not tend to leave for a club any earlier than 1am... we struggled with this concept before Ibiza but as our tour guide said, if we wanted to go and stand alone like a loser in this massive club waiting for other people to arrive, go ahead, but we'd be standing alone for hours. So, we stayed at this bar for a while and enjoyed the pumping atmosphere of Ibiza. There were transvestites walking around in skimpy clothes, topless chicks promoting some of the clubs and big banners being held up. It was interesting.

To get to El Divino we caught a ferry across to a small island a few minutes away and walked to the club. It was so relaxing... the club wasn't as spectacular as I thought. It was small and the lighting was average considering it was Ibiza - I was expecting something huge but El Divino isn't as popular as some of the other clubs I'm going to so in a way I shouldn't have expected too much. The music was quite commercial which surprised me because I was expecting something a little harder and not as touristy as it was. Still, people went nuts and it was a really fun night. Think I ended up at home around 6am...

I woke up at 11am and pottered around for a while until it was ready to go to another club. Everyone was heading to Pacha to Flower Power. I wanted to go elsewhere but I followed the group because I didn't want to go to a club on my own. So, Pacha it was and it was a good night. Lots of 60s, 70s and 80s music which surprised me for Ibiza, I never thought I'd hear that in a club here. It was a great night, another late one and I woke up around 11am and went for a wander down the streets before coming back once again to get ready to go out.

We went to this place called Cafe Del Mar - it is really famous because it is right along the beach and plays really chilled out music which starts to pump up as the night goes on - to try and pump you up to go out clubbing. It really works because I was so exhausted and ready to go to bed but then the music started pumping up and I was ready to go out again! The point of going to Cafe Del Mar is to watch the sunset and have a chilled out afternoon. The sunset was gorgeous and everyone clapped after the sun went down. That night, I really wanted to go to Tiesto at Privilege but majority were going back to Pacha to see Roger Sanchez so once again I followed the crowd but I have a little regret I did that now... still, Sanchez was amazing and yet again, another late one. Our tour ended the next morning and the girls I'd become friends with had left Ibiza so I moved to my new hotel and.. wanted to go out again that night but decided sleep before Turkey would be the best thing!

I have been in Ibiza for 4 days and have still not been to the beach. I am just about to go to the beach now and then maybe later I will head back to Cafe Del Mar and watch the sun set one last time before I leave Ibiza.

Yes, drugs and partying are a huge thing on this island but the beaches here are meant to be pretty cool and it is not as bad as some people have made it out to be. I would love to come back here and party some more because I have had the best time here. In fact, I have had the best time in Spain and would be totally ready to finish my traveling now because I am exhausted and I feel that Spain has just been so amazing that nothing else can beat it at this stage.

Gibraltar, Monkeys and Granada

Oh wow. I loved going back into English speaking land! Gibraltar is part of the UK because in 1704 the British managed to secure this land during the War of Spanish Succession and it is now a military base and a fortified town. There is a huge rock here which is called the Rock of Gibraltar which is huge and if it is a clear day you can see across to Morocco - unfortunately, when we went it was not a clear day so we did not see Morocco. We went up the rock by taxi and stopped off at some caves which were cute... I've seen better. The best thing was seeing all the Barbarian Monkeys! They were so cute (and dirty) and there was one who was eating a magnum and then a man threw a banana at another monkey and he unwrapped it SO fast and started eating his banana. I had to take a photo. We then went further up the mountain and stopped to get photos with the monkeys. One jumped on my shoulder and I couldn't help but shriek because the taxi driver we went with quite liked telling me that the monkeys were not potty trained so I kind of wanted this monkey off my shoulder quite quickly after that. Still I got a couple of classic photos with the monkeys and ended up with dirty paw prints on my back. We headed back down the rock and managed to get some very oily but yummy fish and chips for lunch.

Gibraltar was great because everyone spoke English and there were English phone boxes and post boxes and even English shops. It was nice being back in England for a few hours. We even needed our passports to cross the border because the Spanish obviously do not recognise Gibraltar as their own.

We then continued onto Granada. By this stage I was exhausted with the tour and did not enjoy Granada as much as I could have. We went to the Albaicin which was where the first houses of Granada were first built because they were in prime location. We walked through the narrow streets and saw the pretty houses and once again, flowers hanging from balconies before going to La Cartuja which was a monastery. Kind of cool but also I was over it so wasn't overly fussed. Back to the hotel once again and in the afternoon we went to the Alhambra which was kind of like the alcazar in Cordoba. There was too much walking involved and though it was very pretty I was just not in the mood and was cursing myself for not staying by the pool at the hotel. Everyone was wrecked and needed a good night of sleep... which we all did before the loooong drive the next day to... IBIZA!!!


This was one of my favourite places. I really liked it here. It was bloody hot and I was sweating like a pig but it was such a pretty place. We went to some fountain to get our group photo taken and then we headed to the Seville bullring... I loved it! Pete, our tour manager, told us the story behind bullfighting and tried to convince us bullfighting is not as cruel as we think... I'm almost convinced... He said that the bulls who get lead into the ring lead fantastic lives. They spend six months of the year with the boys and six months of the year with the girls.. and can get friendly with whoever they feel like... unlike the bulls who are bred primarily for slaughtering who live in horrendous conditions and don't get the freedom to roam the open fields and smell the fresh air. The bullfighters also live a year longer than the bulls who are slaughtered and Pete said that the slaughtered bulls get a bullet to the back of their brain and the bulls who are lead into the ring get 15 minutes of torture but they have lived a life of bliss... as opposed to the bulls who get slaughtered who have just let a shit life all round and end it with a bullet. I wouldn't say I like the idea of bullfighting but if I had to choose which life I'd rather lead I think I'd choose to be a bullfighter as opposed to a slaughter house bull.

Bulls primed especially for bullfighting are wild bulls. They have never seen people before and when they get into the ring they will charge at anything. There is this man, I think he is called a madagar, and he is responsible for killing the bull. They don't just kill the bull, there are a series of stages they must go through before the bull is killed. I can't remember all the stages but basically the end stage is the final stage where the bull must be killed. Someone of high importance within the crowd, if they are impressed with the way the madagar has killed the bull then he holds up a certain coloured handkerchief and the madagar can cut off the bulls ear. If the person of importance is semi-impressed with the way the madagar has killed the bull then he holds up a different coloured handkerchief and the madagar is allowed to cut off the tail. The madagar is allowed three attempts at killing the bull - and if he doesn't manage it by the third time then he is deemed unworthy to kill the bull and either another person is brought into the ring to kill the bull or he is shot because they don't want the bull to suffer more than it has to. If the bull kills the madagar then that bull is killed and so is its mother because they don't want that bloodline alive anymore. I think this rule is crazy because they breed the bulls to kill them but as soon as a bull kills a madagar they want to destroy its bloodline. The Spanish love this sport and pay quite a lot of money to go and see a bullfight. I think a bullfight would be way too gory for me to watch because bulls DO die in front of you. It all sounds okay written down but seeing it actually happen would freak me out.

In Seville, there is the third largest cathedral in the world. I had to go inside because I've been to 3 out of 4 of the largest cathedrals in the world so I figured I may as well go into this one. In order, here are the 4 largest cathedrals in the world...
1. Saint Peters Basilica in Rome
2. St Pauls in London (although I haven't been inside)
3. Cathedral in Seville
4. Domeo in Florence, Italy.

Inside the cathedral there was Christopher Columbus's tomb... so, I took a photo, had a quick look around the cathedral and headed out to find a tapas bar. I am really over cathedrals. Yes, they are pretty but once you've seen a few of them you do get over them pretty quickly. We had the best tapas and Sangria in Seville. We were going to get Starbucks because it was close, air-conditioned and we were beyond hot and sweaty but there were no seats so we ended up at this delicious tapas bar. Expensive but well worth it. We got some anchovies in oil and vinegar which sounds gross but was actually nice, prawn salad, some beef dish, squid... etc. The choice is endless and different at each tapas bar. Our tour manager told us that the best way to tell a good tapas bar is if there are a lot of napkins on the floor and lots of locals. This was a decent tapas bar though so no napkins on the floor. We also had the best sangria. Definitely worth the money spent.

That night was flamenco dancing which overall was terrible. I spent the night talking to the other people on my table because they were as bored as me and we kept looking at our watches wondering when we'd get to leave.

Spanish Spree

Spain is amazing! I am having so much fun. I'm actually feeling a little lame at the moment because half of the tour group is going out partying tonight but I am staying at the hotel to get some much needed sleep... We're saving ourselves for the clubs in Ibiza... and I am getting this stupid Contiki Cough... it is a pretty nasty cough and so far I only have an itch so I am going to buy some antibiotics to prepare for the worst.. you can buy them over the counter here and I figure I may get a few packets in case of getting sick in Canada, I won't have to worry about seeing a doctor. Yep, I am now a pharmacist...

As for Spain itself, I am loving it. This country is amazing. The history, the culture, the clubs... it seems as they don't do anything half-arsed. The Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona is amazing and was designed by a famous architect called Gaudi. He was really into gothic architecture and started building this beautiful cathedral but ended up running out of money and not being able to fund it.. he then died getting hit by a car because he stepped onto the road to admire the cathedral and work on this building stopped for years before it was decided to that the building should be finished. It is set to be finished in 2010 and each year a different architect is asked to give his opinions on the designs of the building to keep with the original idea of Gaudi's work. It's amazing because Gaudi actually didn't plan the cathedral before he started building it which makes it hard for the Spanish to keep building it because there are no plans. I was disappointed though because the inside is definitely not as dramatic and as beautiful as the outside. It will look even more amazing when it is finished.

We saw the 1992 Olympic Stadium and briefly poked our head through the gate to take a photo but couldn't really see much. I couldn't find the Olympic rings either.. disappointing. That's the thing with Contiki - they take you to loads of places and let you stop off for photo opportunities but they don't always take you inside or let you wander around for a while. If you want to see it in more detail you have to go back later.

There was so much to do in Barcelona and I was only there for two days. I went down to the beach and marina which were not as nice as others that I've been to but I am a sucker for harbours and the beach so I thought it was still okay. I asked a lady to take a photo of me and afterwards she told me to check to see if it was an okay photo and I took my hand off my bag to look at the photo... she gasped and said that I must always keep my hand on my bag because the day before she had been pick-pocketed. Spain, especially Barcelona and Madrid, are renowned for pickpocketers who target tourists. I spoke to quite a few people who had told me their own stories about them or their friends being pick-pocketed and our tour guide has been stressing the point a lot as we've been touring.

After a long drive, and a quick stop off at Zaragoza where we saw the basilica, we made it to Madrid but were pretty exhausted because the night before we went out to some random bar in Barcelona. We wandered around slowly but it was a Monday and apparently there is not much open in Madrid on a Monday which was frustrating. We went on a tour of the Royal Palace which LOOKED amazing but the tour was SO boring because I couldn't hear the guide and I was feeling pretty tired thanks to the night before. So I just looked around at the pretty building and counted down until the tour was finally over. We went to the station where the M11 bombings were in 2004 and saw the memorial. It was really pretty, lots of greenery. Basically, the day was spent wandering around Madrid, snapping photos, until we got so tired that we headed back to the hotel and relaxed until dinner. We went to this place called Los Galayos which was in this square in Madrid and had some of the yummiest tapas ever. There were five different kinds of tapas - olives, fried calamari rings, roasted capsicum, fried onions and a potato and egg Spanish omelette. We then had the most amazing salmon but by this stage we were all full because the tapas were filling.. and we still had desert to go which was kind of like a matchstick like you can get back home, you know, the custard and cream thing with pastry.. normally has chocolate on top but this one didn't. By this stage I was ready to pop so I only had a little taste.

Our plan was to go to a salsa bar after dinner which was fine but I wasn't feeling very well so I only went for half an hour before heading back to the hotel and didn't even try salsa... I ended up vomiting up half my dinner but luckily whatever it was had passed by the time I woke up in the morning. I've been very lucky to not get sick on this trip. We made our way down to Toledo where we went to a sword making demonstration to which I once again did not listen to so I have no idea how swords are made. I got a couple of swords out and did some role playing with one of the girls on my tour... that was fun... we pretended to chop each others necks off...

Then we went into town and enjoyed a guided tour of the city. It was a very pretty place and definitely looked like a real part of Spain. Very quaint, narrow streets with lots of balconies with flower baskets hanging off them. More cathedrals and then we went to McDonalds and got ice-cream before jumping back on the bus and headed to Cordoba.

The next morning in Cordoba we headed to the Pagan Church which is now a mosque and was once tried to be turned into a cathedral... it was really cool because inside this mosque you could see elements of Pagan design as well as part of the cathedral and some structure of a church. There were Christian sculptures around the room yet right next to it there were Pagan designs and features of a mosque. I can't entirely remember why the people of Cordoba had changed it around so much from so many different religions. Then we went to the Alcazar which had the most amazing gardens. There were small pools filled with water and had fish inside with little water fountains spurting water back into the pools. There were blooming flowers everywhere and they smelt so nice. If there weren't so many people there it would have been a beautiful place to sit down with a good book and relax. We then found a place to eat lunch where I got the most revolting sandwich. I randomly chose something which was written in Spanish thinking I couldn't go too wrong with a sandwich.. yeah, I ended up with.. well, I still don't actually know. I took one bite, spat it back out and prodded with this alien stuff on my bread... I think it was either cured or raw meat but whatever it was it was not nice. Never again will I do the random selection in a foreign country. Yuk.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fez and the Local Guide...

Trying to get a decent night sleep, I was in bed by 9.30pm last night... I was dozing off peacefully when a peculiar noise arouses me from my slumber... It was the phone. Four shrill beeps sounded before I decided to answer it... and who was on the other end, none other than Mr Friendly from down at reception, checking to confirm whether I still wanted my local tour guide for tomorrow to take me around the Medina. After replying that yes, I did still want the tour guide, I crept back under the covers.. only to hear the phone ring again about 30 seconds later. This time, Mr Friendly asked if I was asleep to which I felt like saying 'yeah which is why I'm talking to you now, dickhead' but I kept that to myself. He then proceeded to ask if I wanted to come downstairs because the guide was there now to meet me so I would recognise his face tomorrow - seriously, what is wrong with the people of Fez? I didn't know how to say 'no, I'm not coming down wanker' nicely so I chucked on some clothes and went down stairs to meet the guide...

By the time I got back to bed I was fired up at the stupidity of the whole of Fez and it took me ages to get to sleep. I finally awoke the next morning and got ready to meet my tour guide who proceeded to tell me I was five minutes late... they have issues with lateness apparently.

My tour guide - well, I real wish I had the skill to adequately explain what a creepy guy he was. He took me down all these strange, dark and narrow alley ways that kept twisting and turning like a giant maze. From time to time we popped up in 'civilization' which basically meant more people which reassured me that he was not going to get me completely and utterly lost... He smoked like a chimney and after his ninth cigarette (in an hour) he asked me if I minded if he smoked... I actually found his smoking quite amusing because he smoked and then he had to stop and catch his breath while he coughed up his lungs before pretending that he had stopped to explain a part of the Medina. He in himself was actually worth the money because he was so amusing - okay, so I was laughing at his ailments and not his running commentary but nevertheless, humorous. I found myself pretending to understand what he was saying because he was talking so fast and so unclearly I really had no idea. It was like he was speaking another language but chucking a few words of English in there in-between. He kept telling me how everyone in Fez is crazy... 'ooo they smoke shisha and hash of the night' he kept saying. Morocco is a muslim country and people aren't meant to smoke... hmm.. anyways, he kept pointing out 'crazy' people to me and by the end of the tour I think all he wanted to do was get home so he could have his hit of hash!

He took me to some great places in the Medina though and I am grateful that I had a guide because there is no way I'd have felt safe walking around there on my own. Also, it was so big that I would have gotten lost and I was not in the mood to be harassed by people trying to sell me things. I heard so many 'ooo so beautiful' and 'oooo nice' that I felt like smacking someone.

The main thing I wanted to see was the leather tanning and I had thought that was out of Fez but it was actually in the Medina so he took me to two leather tanning places. The first one we went to, a man explained how the leather was made. It was really interesting but I never want anything leather. Yuk. First, they kill the sheep and then they sell the meat. They take the skin off and then take it to the leather tanning pots.I can't exactly remember what happens next but I think they then take the wool off the sheep and they wash and dry it and use this wool to fill doonas and pillows, etc. They only use live wool to make clothes. Once they've pulled off the wool they put the skin into a bath of water with limestone and pigeon poo. Apparently this takes away all the dirt from the skin... it stays there for 25 days before they take the skin and put it into a huge wooden 'washing machine'. They fill it with water and leave the leather in there for 3 hours, changing the water every hour to make sure it is clean. Once they have done this, the leather then goes into a coloured tanning pot which they leave in there also for 25 days. It was interesting to discover the methods they use to create the colours. I can't exactly remember exactly but they use different spices to create the different colours. I can't remember the different spices that are used to make the different colours but I am pretty sure saffron creates red, mint creates green... I am not sure of other colours. He rattled them off too fast for me to remember. They then take the leather out of the pots, let it dry and then make bags, shoes, belts, etc with it.

We went to a carpet weaving house - again - and saw how they made carpets in Fez. Once again, quite interesting. The women move their fingers so fast and I am surprised they don't have huge blisters on their fingers. It must be painful. I was shown a gorgeous carpet made of silk and it was so pretty and because I said it was pretty I was trying to be pressured to buy it. Pfft, as if I can afford $2500 for a carpet! The carpet man said that the wool they use is imported from Australia because our government helps Morocco. He said that our wool is supplied on the condition that no young children are allowed to work or make the carpets. Apparently an Australian official comes every six months to check that this regulation is abided by.

The smell of the Medina was not pleasing. I found that it stunk like rotting food and the smell from the tanning pots was not nice. However, occasionally I caught a whiff of orange juice which was nice. Donkeys were loaded with so much stock and guided through the Medina, there were stalls with fresh fruit which I eyed off enviously because a peach, nectarine and banana sound so good to eat! I am sick of meat because it feels that is all I have been eating. I don't like being stuck to a menu even though the food is nice, all I really want is a nice, big, leafy salad with vermicelli rice noodles and tuna.

Oh, I am now in my new hotel which I was promised air conditioning. When I was shown a room yesterday it had air con... but, when I was give my room today - no air con. I am pissed off but I can't be bothered complaining. I really have not enjoyed Fez so much which is disappointing, but I am happy that I got to see the leather tanning pots. That was pretty much the only reason I wanted to come to Fez. I have found the people here to be rude and not very helpful. Still, Spain tomorrow and I am excited about that...

First impressions of Fez

I immensely dislike Fez and I have only been here for 30 minutes. I was impressed by the amount of taxis at the station however was disappointed to find that they were impossible to grab.. until someone came up to me asking if I wanted a taxi - to which I replied 'yes'. So, in I get and in gets another lady... who the taxi driver detours me around for to drop her off. Fair enough, no dramas there. Then, he starts to mock my English... to which I playfully respond to because by this point I was getting creeped out. He then proceeded to start whacking me on my legs trying to use my suntan as an excuse ... tap tap tap on the legs and then making some random hand gestures to signify the sun... I discreetly moved my backpack over my legs because I had NO idea how long it'd take to get to the hotel and was hoping we were actually GOING to the hotel and not some random paddock where he'd rape and murder me - honestly, it is creepy being trapped in a car with a random guy. Just because he is a taxi driver does not mean he is a Saint! I always seem to cop the weird ones who want to grope me... honestly..

Finally made it to the hotel only to be greeted with (and I kid you not) 'You're 3 hours LATE, you were meant to arrive at 4pm'... I smile and try to make a joke out of it... 'oh was I?' to which I got the reply of 'you only have two nights here now, not three' and I laughed because I thought he was kidding... He wasn't kidding... Turns out they have some fucked up policy that states if you are going to be later than 4pm then you need to call in advance and let them know otherwise they reissue your room to someone else... I calmly accepted that for a few brief seconds while I thought he was still kidding before I flared up and argued what morons they are. Turns out they don't appreciate being argued with so I decide to calm down and apologise for being such a 'pain', meanwhile cursing him evil death wishes and I am still left with no room for night three. 'It's okay we will find you a NEW hotel', they tell me - fucking brilliant. Just what I want, a NEW hotel, more taxi money, more moving, more pain in my ass. I told him to look for a hotel NOW (lost my calmness again by this point) and he was just about to but then I realised I couldn't be bothered catching another taxi and going to another hotel, I really just wanted a cold shower and some food after my long train journey from Marrakech so I sigh with resignation and huff off to my room.

So, to sum things up, I am not enjoying Fez which is disappointing. I don't even want to leave the hotel, I just want to sit by the pool for the next two days... Maybe I will. I can't be bothered dealing with wankers anymore who try to grope me or tell me to come look in their shops, or whatever.

Maybe I just need sleep because at the moment I am extremely irritated... So, speaking of food and that cold shower, I'm going to go.

*few hours later*

Okay have had cold shower and went to the hotel restaurant for food and I am still not in a better mood. Mr. Pleasant down at reception smiles cheerily at me and I smile back although my face totally gives away the fact that I am not happy with the whole situation. I have decided on my plan of attack for the next two days in Fez... Pool and sunbake all day tomorrow and then the day after I will hire a guide to take me down to the Medina. I wanted to go to see the leather tanning pots but I think the dick-job downstairs said the whole trip would cost MAD800 which equates to around $115. That is a decent price and I guess I could afford it but the trip is a taxi driver taking me places and I don't exactly feel safe spending the day with a Moroccan taxi driver for some reason... Plus I've spent way more than I intended to in Morocco so I need to keep my budget in tight control for Spain and Turkey!

I was so ready to unleash a floodgate of tears about an hour earlier but I managed to contain it and am now reasonably calmer... still pissed off but much better. I've been surprisingly good.. it's been five weeks since I have left home and there have been no tears... well, maybe a few trickles but no floodgates.. does that mean I am getting stronger and more tolerant? Let's hope so.. and let's hope it lasts!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Random Moroccan Thoughts...

Some random thoughts I have on Morocco..

* I paid 50c for a can of soft drink yesterday... Ridiculously cheap!
* I did not know that French is the second official language of Morocco!
* Taxi's are different colours in different cities.
* It is not unusual to see donkeys, cars, horses and scooters on the roads in Marrakech simultaneously.
* You can actually flush the toilet paper in Morocco, unlike Egypt where you have to put it in a waste paper basket because the plumbing sucks and can't handle the paper.
* You DO climatise to the heat.. 40 degrees no longer feels as hot as it did 10 days ago.
* I am mastering the art of my bartering skills and managed to score quite a lot of goodies for approximately AUD$70... Unfortunately, I do not have room in my suitcase so I've had to toss out quite a few items of random clothing already. Perhaps if I packed my suitcase better.. but who has time?!
* I have learnt that I am almost a vegetarian.. or am about to become a vegetarian because I am getting sick to death of red meat... every meal... lamb, or beef... and chicken too but I am even tired of chicken. And did you know it takes days to digest red meat.. gross. So, the lamb I had 3 days ago is still sitting in my stomach.. eww... that thought alone makes me not want to eat meat.
* Wondering why the waiter is so intrigued by the fact that I have a laptop and keeps coming over to check what I am doing.... kind of creepy..
* I REALLY want this shop to open so I can buy a drink before I get on the train but it is closed and I have a feeling it won't open until I have left... oh no wait, I see a man.. in front of the shop.. he looks like he is opening the shop.. OH YES! HE IS!

There is no doubt I have more random thoughts but I have no idea what they are right now because my mind is over excited by the prospect of fizzy soda!

*love*love*love* to you all

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Surfin' Safari

Last night (well ok, last Tuesday cos I wrote this a while ago) we made the trek into the Sahara Desert. I'd been to the desert before in Egypt but this was different again because the desert seems endless. It is bigger than the desert in Australia and crosses through eleven countries. We picked up our camels (I named mine Sabrina) and they walked us the 4kms into the Sahara desert to camp with the Berbers. They are a kind of people that live in the desert. Brahim (our tour guide) recommended that we buy turbans in case of sandstorms - and lucky we bought them because we had a massive sandstorm. I never realised how useful a piece of cotton could be. It was wrapped around our head and then we could let it hang loose if there was no wind and we could then stick the loose bit behind our ear to cover our nose and mouth if it was windy. So useful. I looked like a twat with it on but hey, beats sand in the mouth.

So, I arrive in the desert and find that the W.C is this dodgy swat port-a-loo thing or the option of peeing behind a dune... well, one look at the toilet and swatting in dunes it was for me! It wasn't so bad actually, it was kind of fun and we had to bury the toilet paper in the sand and I have never loved anti-bacterial hand cream so much in my life!

Brahim, our thoughtful tour guide, brought sandboards up to the dunes. We trekked up one of the dunes and I tried sandboarding for the first time. My first go resulted in me going about 2 meters before crashing painfully onto my ass. My determination then kicked in and I had about another nine attempts at sandboarding and by the third go I was pretty balanced and made it down to the bottom with minimal effort.. Bringing the board back up the hill was a task in itself. Snowboarding in Canada, here I come! I loved it. I really think that was one of the highlights of my trip into the desert... Sandboarding!

We headed back to camp (well, I raced another girl down the sand dunes on our sandboards) and a soccer ball was then brought out. By this stage it was dusk so there we were, a group of 10 of us, trying to play soccer with the sun going down. It was pretty crazy and there were a few falls but no major injuries to report and I can happily say that I assisted our team score a goal...

The Sahara is amazing. As we went in it wasn't windy but as we went further in, it's almost like the wind could sense 'intruders' so to speak. It felt like the wind had emotions because it felt so angry and rough. The sand from the dunes whipped my legs and face but when we neared the Berber camp, the wind suddenly died down and there was such a sense of serenity. Because it is constantly windy, the dunes never have footprints in them, they are always there for a while but disappear. It's almost like taunting you saying 'haha I know what the secrets of the desert are but you will never find out because you don't have the power to cover them up'. It was an amazing feeling. The one thing that surprised me and I didn't like was the rubbish that was being chucked around in the air by the wind. There were a few empty water bottles and plastic bags and it makes me sad that even in this country and in such a beautiful place, it can still be tainted.

We ate our Berber dinner of rice and some beef (which I am sure is what gave me my upset stomach for three days!) before listening to some Moroccan music on drums... we slept underneath the stars and woke up early to watch the sun rise.

I totally rate this experience as one of a kind. Definitely a highlight of the trip, even the peeing behind sand dunes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Flying Carpets

After leaving Marrakesh we headed to the heart of Morocco! We drove for hours on this long, windy road and along the way we passed countless mountains which were the most amazing browns and reds and occasionally a hint of orange. We spent the night at this gorgeous hotel which overlooked Gorge du Dades and the scenery was amazing. The next day we climbed up to the top of the gorge and got some amazing views. It was hot and it was very rocky and surprisingly quite an easy walk to the top. I'm not particularly fond of hiking, especially in hot weather but the weather in Morocco is actually quite bearable. The heat is dry and generally there is a breeze which helps keep me cool.

Our tour included a visit to a carpet making place where they showed us how the handmade carpets are weaved and I fell in love with a carpet that I wanted to buy you mum but two reasons stopped me - lack of money and lack of room in my suitcase, so sorry about that! A big Moroccan carpet takes about four months to make. Can you imagine anyone in a big city spending four months trying to make a carpet? We also tried Berber Whisky which unfortunately is just green tea with mint. I was excited - alcohol, I thought - but alas, no, just tea. They showed us how to make it by putting the tea leaves in and then water, mix it up to clean the leaves. Strain the leaves them put them back into the pot and add more water. Place it onto a hot fire, wait for it to boil and then add the mint in at the end. If you want sugar in your tea then you must add this before you put the 'clean' tea leaves back into the pot. I'm not normally a tea drinker but it was really nice actually. I want to start drinking green tea anyway because it is meant to be good for you.

Just a quick side note because it is on my mind - the Polish girl I'm sharing a room with is angry at me because I refused to barter for a bracelet that she wanted. I told her if she wanted to buy the bracelet she needed to barter for it herself. So, now she is having a bit of a teary because she told me "friend's are meant to do stuff for each other" and I thought to myself 'yeah and I've known you for 3 days and you snore like a camel, I'm not exactly sure that qualifies for a D&M friendship right now. Buy your own damn bracelet.' I felt a bit bad thinking that but she is so moody and can't take a joke and takes everything I say too seriously and I just can't be bothered.

Food is amazing! Tagines full of meat and vegetables, cous cous with the most amazing sauces, skewers, Moroccan salads which consist of rice, beetroot, cucumbers, tomato, red onion and a delicious dressing... I never want to leave! They also serve bread like it's going out of fashion! We've also had awesome soup! Speaking of food, it's almost dinner time so I'm going to go find the restaurant. Enjoy your spag bol tonight while I am off to feast on some delicious Moroccan cuisine.


Magical Marrakesh

Words cannot describe my first impressions of Morocco. Vibrant, bustling, friendly are just some of the words that spring to mind. Marrakesh greeted me with a blistering 39 degrees but it actually isn't as hot as it sounds because there is such a sweet breeze that drifts by and really cools you down.

Marrakesh is the most amazing city and I have already had such a blast. I met a girl in London at the airport who is doing the same tour as me so we checked into our hotel and pretty much chucked our luggage in our rooms and disappeared in the hunt for food... We found this cute restaurant and sat on the balcony which overlooked the main street just before the souks. I had a lamb tangine which was very tasty! Tangine is a traditional Moroccan dish (I think it is also in Turkey too) which is cooked in a clay pot. The aim is that the pot is sealed so that the water from the top drips back into the dish making the meat really tender. It was really nice and as you can see in this cheesy photo, I am enjoying it!

We then decided to head into the souks which is basically just a term for MASSIVE market place! By the time we went it was dusk and there were people everywhere. They had games out where you had a fishing rod and a cap and had to try and pick up a bottle of coke to win... then there were muslim girls trying to sell us henna tattoos, young girls running up to us trying to sell us slippers. I was surprised at how well they took 'no' because after being in Egypt and being so hassled I was expecting them to be more pushy but they were okay.

There were nut stalls, dried fruit stalls, fresh orange juice stalls, sandal stalls, bag stalls, traditional Moroccan dress stalls, spice stalls, sunglasses stalls - you name it! They had a bit of everything. The best bit is everything is really cheap and it is so much fun haggling with them to make a sale.

I wish I could put this into a way which describes how amazing the city of Marrakesh is. Every person we have encountered so far has been extremely friendly and helpful. Sure, they are talking to us in the hopes that we will buy something, or become their sixth wife but hey, it's all in good fun and they know not to take things too seriously - much unlike Egypt. I actually felt quite safe walking around the souks although I probably wouldn't have liked walking around there at night so much if I'd been alone - although I still would have.

We got to hold a chameleon whose owner was selling spices in the souks. We took a few more cheesy photos and decided it was time for us to head back to the hotel and get some rest before tomorrow! We're planning on going swimming at the hotels pool in the morning and then heading back to the souks to check it out before our tour pre-departure meeting tomorrow night.

Our second day in Marrakesh was spent lazing about and taking things at our own pace. The city is really is vibrant and bustling but it comes alive at night more so than during the day. The Moroccans who are out and about during the day seem to be the ones who are aimed at the tourists and they chase you around offering you henna, photos with monkeys, photos with cobras, orange juices, etc. There was this one kid who came up to us trying to sell biscuits and he couldn't have been older than six. He was beautiful, I wanted to take him home with me. It makes me sad that children so young are subjected to haggling with tourists on the streets because their family needs the money. Compared to Egypt it is not as bad but still a complete culture shock.

Another thing that makes me really sad is the animals.. the poor horses are so thin and the donkeys even look sad. I swear I saw one look at me and then it brayed ' Simone, please save me' and I wanted to cry. In a way, the Moroccans can't help the way the animals are treated - it is a world of survival and it is either them or the animals. In your position, which would you choose to spend your money on? The animals are their income.

Moroccan roads are crazy. Less crazy than Egypt but still crazy. There don't appear to be any specific rules. Cars stay on their respective sides of the road but our taxi overtook other cars by going over the other side of the road when there were no cars there. Donkeys, horses and scooters are a common sight on all roads. It's normal to see a car giving way to a horse and cart or a scooter zipping in and out of traffic. The amount of times I've had to dodge getting hit by a scooter is laughable. It's so much fun though, I'm looking at the scooter trying to judge what it's going to do and they're looking at me trying to figure out where I'm going and in the end we do one of those left-right dances until I pretty much jump out of the way and it zooms around me (usually followed by a beep of the horn).

I am in love with this city. Nice to visit, nice to spend a few days in and I would love to come back and do some shopping but unfortunately my suitcase and budget both don't allow me to do this so I have to be content with many happy photo memories.

More to follow as my adventures continue!