Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Les Dossiers des Marrakech - Day 3
To the Ourika Valley
The driver turned up at the hotel at 9.30am to pick me up. I was the last pick up and the mini van already contained 5 others - a middle-aged Spanish couple, a young french couple, and some other random old dude. The journey is about an hour and a quarter and very quickly we cut through the town and the landscape changes to little villages. We make a few stops along the way to take pictures, and here's a clip of me being very lame
Our driver gives us a running commentary in English, French and Spanish. His English is passable. I couldn't comment on his French and Spanish.
We stop again for a tour of a traditional Berber residence along the way. Around noon, we arrive at Setti Fatma, the village at the end of the road into the valley which is between the foothills of the High Atlas mountains. The driver asks us if we want to have lunch before proceeding. It's a bit too early for me, but the others say they want to. I decide to take a walk while the others go to eat.
Feeling rather parched from the burning sun, i stop off at a kiosk to buy a drink. The owner tries to charge me 60 dirhams for a bottle of coke when there is an gigantic sign outside advertising Pizza, dessert and a drink for 40 dirhams. With a 'humph', i hand the bottle back to him and walk away. I eventually buy one for 10 dirhams at the restaurant down the road where we'd been dropped off! I sit down with my drink and read as i wait for the driver to come back. Half an hour later, i start to get concerned and go into the restaurant to ask for the driver, only to be told that the guy is sleeping. Sleeping ke? So what am i meant to do while he sleeps? I eventually piece together that he either forgot or neglected to explain (in English, at least) that his job ended when he dropped us off and anyone wanting to go up into the mountains to see the waterfalls would have to either hire a guide or make their own way.
I retrace my footsteps back to groups of random youths i had brushed off on my earlier walk when they had tried to sell me their services as guides. I find one called Mustafa (what is my own with guides called Mustafa!See Day 1 shenanigans).
Anyway, we cross a raggedy bridge over a little brook, and as i stumble and almost fall, it suddenly dawns on me that trainers might not be the best or appropriate footwear for mountain climbing!!
We pass some tiny settlements (i wouldn't really call them villages) with lots of women and children going about their daily business of washing and hanging out laundry and such like. They barely spare us a glance. Infact, it's quite interesting that up in the mountains and among the Berber people, i'm barely causing a stir, whilst back in Marrakech people openly stare. I wasn't even so bothered about the locals, because they were open and friendly with it. It was the FRENCH tourists who seemed to have an issue. I mean, after hearing 'du noir' (i.e. black) from almost every other group of frenchies i come across in the streets, it starts to get on my nerves. Firstly, because they couldn't be bothered to lower their voices just incase i happened (shock, horror!) to understand French. Or even happened to BE French. And on the way down from the waterfall, we pass another group of French people, and one middle-aged man actually called out to my guide in French, asking him something about 'du noir'. I really really wished i knew the French for 'shut up, grandpa and mind your own damn business'! I asked my guide what he said, but either he chose not to tell me, or the language barrier got in the way of what he was saying because i didn't understand a word he said. Anyway, i digress...
The journey is gruelling! I can say that i am fairly fit. I cancelled my gym membership a little while ago because after the first few months i just didn't go, however, i am fairly active and walk to work quite a bit (it's about a half hour walk). Having said all that, after about 10 minutes of clambering over gigantic rocks in stupid footwear and stripping off as many of my clothes as decency allowed, due to the ginormous fire-ball shining down on me from the sky, i'm practically begging Mustafa to let me turn back, as my lungs feel like they are going to burst out of my chest at any moment. It doesn't help that i also generally suffer from sporadic bursts of vertigo i.e. sometimes i'm not affected by heights at all and other times, i am - go figure! Sod's law is in operation on this particular day as i take a look around me and am overcome by bouts of dizziness. Who sent me? I still manage to capture a bit of it all on camera. Hah!
We finally make it to the top and i cannot lie, it has been well worth it. It's one of the most beautiful, serene, calming views of my entire life! As i sit down to catch my breath and take in the view, Mustafa points to a group of people on the rocks above us and asks if i want to go higher up to the next waterfall. I laugh and say nothing. I didn't come all the way to Morroco to fall off a rock and break my neck, thank you very much.
The walk back down to the Setti Fatma is much easier, as you can imagine, and soon i'm back in the mini van and we're making our way back to Marrakech. I'm dropped off first and as i get out, i realise just how completely and utterly drained i am. I go up to my room, crash out and can barely move.
To the Hammam
I decide that the perfect way to end this day would be to go for a Hammam (i.e. a type of Turkish bath)and so i rest with the intention of getting up and going back into the Medina and to the Hammam.
Still feeling extremmely tired, i finally drag myself up and set out on the 25-30mins walk into the Medina to my Hammam of choice. As i walk along the road, i pass several locals, all friendly, all willing to make conversation. Unfortunately, i am so knackered, the usual friendly and accomodating undacovasista has given way to her alter ego - pissed off bee-yotch (i am, unfortunately, one of those people who turn psycho when either tired or pre-menstrual. The rest of the time i'm a total angel and a joy to be around. I promise.). After being a bit rude to a random guy who has tried to engage me in conversation, i feel a bit guilty and decide to be nicer to the next person who comes my way. Big mistake!!!
The next nuisance turns out to be a guy called Abelle (or something... i didn't exactly ask him to spell it out). He's quite cute actually - tall and lanky, with nice eyes. Everyone i have met up till now have spoken better English than my pitiful French, but i can safely say that this guys English was probably worse than my French. Somehow, i communicate that i am on my way to the Hammam. I show him the map and he volunteers to show me the way. Incidentally, he is a tourist also. He is from another city called Fes and is visiting his brother in Marrakech. We walk down the well lit Avenue Mohammed V, but soon we have to turn onto a dark, deserted side street. Feeling a bit apprehensive, i nevertheless continue on. We've been making small talk (if you can call it that) as we walk, however, as soon as we turn on to the side road, he puts his arm around my shoulders. I shake him off and move away. He keeps trying and i tell him to back off and leave me alone giving him a dirty glare. He asks if it's a problem. I'm like, "erm, yah"!. Meanwhile, my heart is pounding seriously. Just at that moment a group of people start approaching from the opposite direction and he doesn't attempt anything else. We soon get on to another busy road and to the Hammam, which has just shut for the night! Ok, so now i'm really, really pissed off.
When we get back to the main road, I stop and say thank you and begin to walk away. He follows me, saying he's going back to his hotel also. I grit my teeth and continue walking. He asks if my husband is at my hotel,and i say "yes". Is he African? "Yes, and he'll whoop your ass if you don't leave me alone". He laughs and tells me how he likes African women. "Good for you", i think to myself. I don't say anything and he continues to ramble on. He now proceeds to ask me for a kiss. I pretend i don't know what he means and he puckers up his lips to demostrate. It's so ridiculous, i just have to laugh. At this stage, i have established that he is not dangerous, just a bit of an ass. To cut a long story short, he finally gives up and turns back.
Saved by Macdonald's
I'm really fed up now, so i decide to go against my carefully laid plans to sample the local cuisine at every given opportunity, and i head for the Mcdonald's which just so happens to be enroute to my hotel. Don't you just love Mcdonald's? I don't, by the way, but the familiarity of the place is somehow comforting. It's full of scantily clad teenagers giggling and chatting loudly to each other and on their mobile phones. Could be a saturday night in a Mcdonald's anywhere in the world really. There's a group of girls in front of me speaking a weird mixture of french, arabic and American-accented English. There is only one girl behind the counter serving, so it takes forever and i am getting even more and more peeved by the minute. All of a sudden, this woman comes steaming in from behind, ignoring me, and standing at the counter beside the group of girls. I'm like 'oh no she didn't'! I leave my spot on the queue and stand pointedly beside her. Immediately the counter girl finishes serving the teenagers, i signal to her and state my order. The woman says something in arabic to the counter girl and i tense, ready to daa si rough if the need arises, because, as i mentioned earlier, i am tired and for me, unfortunately, tired = extremely grumpy and confrontational. Luckily for the woman, the counter girl had seen me and knew i was next and she takes my order. I give the woman a look that says 'God saved you'. I would have shown her how we do things sub-saharan African style!!!
Mcdonald's. Whether you hate it or love it you just have to admire the 'system'. I think they should actually be awarded country status and all their branches worldwide declared to be mini consulates. The moment you set foot through the door, you are on Mcdonald's soil and the law of the country beyond the four walls does not apply. These were the thoughts running through my mind as counter-girl procesed my order of a Big Mac meal - medium, with a diet coke (yeah, yeah. The irony is not lost on me!). No "pardonez moi's", "excuse me's". Complete understanding and efficient compliance. Perfect! So what if i'm about to clog my arteries with over 1000 calories worth of goop. All that mountain climbing i did before nko?
Back at the Hotel, they tell me the trip to the beach at Essaouira the following day had been cancelled. You cannot imagine the joy that flooded my heart...
End of Day 3