On the other side of the Atlas

After 12 hour bus ride through the Atlas mountains we finally got off in Tagounite. We looked around feeling unsecure. A total stranger wearing djellaba and turban approached us saying something in French, something we could not understand. He wasn’t a taxi driver but we went to his car anyway. He was trying to talk with us, but after some time realizing we couldn’t communicate he stopped. It was dark as hell, and we were going to the dessert. There were no buildings around. Sand. Sand everywhere. We didn’t know where we were going. We were scared and exited at the same time. Finally something appeared in a far distance. It looked like a castle made from the sand. It was kasbah. Real kasbah in the middle of the dessert.

How have we ended there?

Let me start from the beginning…

There was this period of time when we traveled often and for cheap. That was during our Erasmus in Valencia. There were two reasons: we had money (thank you European Union!) and we had airport with many Ryanair flights. We were buying tickets like crazy. One day we bought tickets to Marrakech for just 15 euro each. We didn’t prepare for the trip, we had other things to do (come on, we were on Erasmus!). We contacted few people on CouchSurfing and that’s all. We didn’t write down any alternative hostels, nothing. We went to the airport and flew to Marrakech.

We took a taxi from the airport to the place where we supposed to meet our host, far away from the city center. Actually the meeting point was at the entrance to the abandoned hospital. The area seemed quite dreary: non-operating hospital buildings, suspicious street, decaying houses. Imagination did the work – it was getting late, with sky full of dark clouds. There were some people around, but we couldn’t communicate with them not knowing Arabic nor even French. Our host ignored our calls, only when we called him from the phone booth, he mercifully explained to some boy standing next to us, to put us on the bus, because he was not going to host us! Yeah, he put us on the bus but we didn’t know where we were going.

We were trying to look where we were going, but it was so dark behind the windows.. It was already night, and for the first time in my life I had experienced that intensively dark night. Finally buildings started to appear, and there were people on the streets. We got off, and started to think what to do. Jakub wrote to his cousin asking about some hotels in Marrakech (she had been to Morocco before), and I was looking around. We even found people speaking English and with the hotel address we asked them about the street. They explained us how to go there and with all our luggage we started walking. We had finally found Jemaa el-Fnaa square (which we were supposed to cross) and we started to walk through it. At that point we were very tired.

There were many people around, a lot of them were on the motorcycles riding so close to us that we nearly died. There was loud noice, and smoke everywhere. That square is quite big, so it took some time (with all the people around) to cross it. It wasn’t all that easy but at the same time we were fascinated by all these smells and sounds – there was exotic aroma of spices and mystery in the air and music of the drums, chanting of the people and at one point also the muezzin’s prayer. We finally found the hotel, luckily they had free places.

When we entered the room, I jumped to the bed exhausted. Then I noticed small, curly hairs on our sheet. It looked like pubic hair!! Oh gosh! What’s more, when I was laying on my back I saw cockroaches on the ceiling. Come on! On the ceiling? Seriously? Well, there were more of them in the bathroom, and there were more of them later in the night when I could hear them walking around us..

The day came and we went to the roof of the hotel to eat breakfast. There we felt really relaxed. Breakfast was delicious, and the mint tea..Oh, the mint tea! Amazing taste. There were even small birds singing, and after previous hard day we started to feeling better. The next day we went to Ouzarzate where things with our host worked out well and we spent nice time with him and his family. We ate couscous and tajine together and we spent some time in his shop waiting for another surfer. It was great opportunity to see how ordinary people leave in Morocco. We slept on the carpet and it was comfortable. We have seen places were movies were shot (such as Gladiator and Game of Thrones) and a big Kasbah.

In Ouzarzate we met our host from Tagounite (the place we were going next) and he explained that there would be someone waiting for us at the station, because he- Kamal, the host from Tagounite – wasn’t going to be there. At least for the first night (because he was in Ouzarzate). It sounded complicated at first but we didn’t mind. We must really mention here that we were satisfied with the bus company. Not only it was on time, but the staff was welcoming and even though the trip through Atlas Mountains was hard (there were people vomiting) we managed it quite well.

Back to the story from the beginning. We arrived to Kamal’s Kasbah flabbergasted (we didn’t expect that he lived in Kasbakh) and we got our own room. From the windows we could see… sand. In the morning people appeared to serve us breakfast! Coffee, mint tea, amazingly good bread, honey, olives.. Wow! We were sitting outside at the pillows. During the day Kasbah looked even better. There were palm trees around, daktiles on the ground.. The atmosphere was really idyllic.

Then Kamal came, sat next to us smiling. He looked at us and said ‘I’m going to take you on a trip!’.

Really? Where?’ We asked.

To some really nice place, we are going to spend night there so take your things with you’….

To be continued.

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43 thoughts on “On the other side of the Atlas

  1. Morocco can be exiting – but it reads like you guys need to get more of a travel routine (eg never take a room UNTIL you have inspected it), make use of more online resources ahead of time, etc..

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    • Now we know that 😀 Trip to Morocco was one of our first trips. We didn’t know what to expect, although the beginning was hard it turn out it was one of the best trips we ever had :))

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  2. I love your pictures! Something about them is very intriguing. Sounds like you had a rough start at the beginning (but that always makes for the best stories…) and I’m excited to read about where he’s going to take you… 🙂

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    • The fact that there were cockroaches in the room was terryfing for me and we were sleeping with the lights on (I was hoping they would go to other places since there was the light on and they are nocturnal but.. no). We survived somehow, and we even came back later to the same hotel 😀

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  3. Nice host you found on couchsurf… and even nicer hotel. OMG! How did you manage to stay despite the cockroaches?

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  4. I will have to check the next post. 🙂 That sucks about your first Couchsurfer. Hope you left him a review. Then the pubic hairs and cockroaches…..you poor things. Yuck! Glad your other Couchsurfer hosts were great. We love Couchsurfing. Just meeting locals and getting to know them and all the cool places in their city/town. Travel safe.

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    • Actually we had the issue with leaving a proper review. Eventually we put neutral one- because he wanted to meet with us the next day and explained what happen (but we didn’t have time). I know that it could really happpen sometimes that you can’t host, but it’s important to let people know earlier. Anyway – we use CS very often and we had only one situation like that. Love Couchsurfing too :))

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  5. Haha, Couchsurfing in Morocco doesn’t seem to be very straightforward! But it’s those adventures that make for the best memories afterwards!

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  6. Shame your trip didn’t get off to the best of starts, but I hope you still left with fond memories of Morocco! It’s my favourite country, and we travel there frequently, just can’t get enough of the stunning scenery and warm berber hospitality.

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  7. yikes what a hard start to your trip!!! I am glad it worked out in the end. I have heard so many horror stories about couch surfing in Morocco, I think if I ever go back there again I will definitely pay for a hostel….even one with cockroaches on the ceiling. :p

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  8. What a crazy adventure and well done for managing with cockroaches.. Shame about the first Couchsurfing host, that never happened to us. We love CS and so far we never had bad experiences but as I always say, never say never 🙂

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  9. Oh wow, what an adventure. Well, I guess that’s how the best experiences happen 😉
    We stayed in Marrakech in a riadh in the medina and it was a pain to find it! We were hopelessly walking around Jemma-el-Fna, it was already dark, and we were constantly being approached by locals who wanted to help us find the way.. some were really pushy and we ended up with 2 guys showing us the way and had to pay them.. lots of haggling and no fun :/
    But overall, Morocco is awesome! I’m looking forward to reading how your story continues 🙂

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  10. Baskets Life ~ Hmmm I really want to go to Morocco but cockroaches and sleeping in pubic hairs is like my worst nightmare ughghgh I would have not been able to sleep and would have been so creeped out – mint tea or not, I would have never made it YUCK!!

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  11. Very cool! I love the structure of this post, that you started in the middle of your story and then re-wound to the beginning. Marakesh is awesome, although its been a few years since I went, so I don’t remember it super well. Thanks for refreshing my memory, sounds like an adventure!

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  12. Pingback: Under the Morrocan sky | Polacos de Polonia

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