Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Morocco in 1990 & the Morocco now are worlds apart! Still every bit as exotic & mystical though but much less daunting for the Westerner.

On my first visit, with my travel buddy Sara, we arrived for the beginning of Ramadan, the month-long fast, a bit weary, but excited, about our new adventure destination. Since we came from mainland Spain, we took a ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta. (Ceuta being the portion that still belonged to Spain.)
On the bus that transported us from the pier to the town, our troubles already started. Unknown to us, the fight for our "business" had already started between the Moroccans  going back home for the Ramadan.

The next day, we made it, on our own, across the "border" into Morocco.  We took a shared taxi, along with 4 others plus the driver! Yes, that's right, 6 passengers! We were squashed in the back with 2 others, with loud music blasting. We were in a very unfamiliar setting, looking at each other thinking: "OMG,  what did we get ourselves into this time?" We were so naive!
So many details in our week-long adventure in Morocco. (It's all we could afford.) I'm writing it all in details in my book but here's what stood out:
-  Hamed's American name, given to him by an American. The name? He told us proudly: Jack Daniels!
-  On the bus, hearing the language, we thought that everybody was upset at one another.
-  Having my first Moroccan "whiskey"! It's an overly sweet mint tea.
-  Being followed up & down the streets of Tetouan.
-  The first time I had a "toke". It gave me nightmares! I was fully awake, sitting on my bed & I could still see a humongous tarantula on the ceiling!
-  Giving all of our money to the bus' conductor for him to exchange  and watch him disappear into the village's souk.  In the end, he came back with all our money sorry that he couldn't find the exchange man! (my Guardian Angel is GOOD!)

I returned, on my own this time, 15 years later & my experience was totally different. On my visit in 2005, I quickly made some new friends. They took me to many different parts of their country. Places with lush green vegetation & vervet monkeys (Ouzoude's falls, breathtaking!), a magical kashba (Ait-Ben-Haddou), the famous city of Ouarzazate (where a lot of film were made) & a few villages on the edge of the Sahara desert! I even took a short trek on a camel's back in the Sahara! Total silence.....until my friend's cell phone rang! Umf!
I learned that any local can get fined & go to jail for being with a foreigner, even if that foreigner is a friend! One needs to get a permit from the police. I experienced that in Fez, staying with a family & being taken around. On subsequent visits, I spent much time in Essaouira, going to Marrakesh, trekking in Essaouira's surrounding mountains, learning Moroccan arabic  and tried to blend in as much as I could into this magical country.
Morocco remains one of my favorite country.

Here, on the picture, Lahtifa is making melouis. It's a corn crepe, delicious with butter and honey. I'm drooling just thinking about it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm still protected!

Very recently (last month) I went to back to Trinidad, my "home" country. Lots of great new adventures but this is not why I'm writing.
From Canada, going to Trinidad is a long trip which includes arriving in Port-of-Spain at odd hours. Therefore I chose to spend a night in Miami to arrive in Trinidad's capital at a decent hour.

So, after landing in Miami, I was looking for the hotel information desk. The airport is HUGE and to my experience, not with clear indications. I had been walking all over, been sent from 1 floor to the next, for about 1 hour when my running shoe's (sneaker) sole came  undone. "Shit!" I said. "A good start to the trip!"  I found a leather-coated bench to sit on to "repair" my flopping sole. I took my bag off my back and placed next to me. I took a chewing gum, chewed it and "fixed" my sole. I got up, found the information desk. Chatted with the information man and phoned my chosen hotel to get their free shuttle to come and pick me up. I, then, waited outside for the shuttle to arrive impatient  and starving. 15-20 minutes passes by, still no shuttle. "Shit!" I said again.
I got up to go phone again inside. It is then that I realized that I didn't have my red bag on my back anymore. I thought: "Man! They are good! I can't believe someone stole my bag already! No one was even near me. How come did it happen? ...Where was my Guardian Angel?"
I decided to go back to see the info guy and ask him if he remembered seeing me with my red bag on my back. It was walking through  the revolving doors that I remembered that when I sat down on the bench, I took my bag off and put it on the bench. I headed straight to the bench. My bag was STILL there! It happened to be in front of a concierge (the airport is so big that it has a fancy hotel!) and there was a security guard next to my bag. I walked to it, breathing better suddenly, not believing that I was so stupid, me a seasoned traveller,  to forget my bag on a bench! The security guard asked me:" Is that your bag?" "yes" "Can you tell me what's in it before opening it?" "You are lucky." he said. "I have called the canines to check it out."  I had nothing of value in it, apart from my newish Ipod, but had all my cameras (those who know me know they are plastic and/or lensless, therefore inexpensive.) and all my films.
I thought: "I'm glad that we are in the 21st century so everybody is scared of a bag left unattended at an airport."
I left with my bag, thanking my Guardian Angel and relieved to know that I'm still protected.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hwange National Park

One of my wishes when I was a kid was to see African animals in their natural environment. I was in a hostel in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, when I met someone who made my wish come true. He had the bakkie (truck, 4x4), the tent, all the camping equipment & was looking for someone to share the costs with.  I quickly said: "Yes, please!". 
We spent 7-8 days in Hwange National Park & 1 day visiting the Victoria Falls. (Mosi-oa-Tunya, in the local language.)
Every morning, we made a "safari" on the trails of the park and spend a couple of nights deep inside the park. 

One time, our bakkie staled in the middle of lion territory. Scary My friend took a knife & bravely walked to last night's camping ground, were he was sure we would get help. I remained in the 4x4, the door open (it was SO hot!), eyes & ears on the look out for potential danger. I though: "Well, if there's a lion, I just close the door & I'll be ok.....but what if it's an elephant? I'm screwed! It can easily smash the truck up if it fancied, with me in it. Oh, God, I hope he returns soon with help." Eventually, all went well as I'm here writing about it all.  On that occasion, like many others, we came back to main camp a bit late & were told off by the guard. 

There's nothing scarier than when you find yourself alone in the ablution block (next to the said fence!) and hear a lion roar close by (it sounded like it was just next to me!) when you know that a flimsy wire fence separates us from the wild. "What do I do if it comes close? I close the door. Shit! It's just a screen door and it's ripped. OMG!" 
Or coming face to face with a hyena in the dark.  It's wicked laugh is bone chilling.
Or being fake-charged by a huge one-tusk elephant bull. "Wait! Wait! I want a closer picture!" I said."Forget it!" my friend quickly replied with fear in his eyes.
Or, on the tamer side, seeing a chameleon on a branch nearby, doing it's signature walk. "Do I go forward? Or I go backwards."
Still there is nothing more exhilarating either. 
Finally, I was in the Africa of my dreams!