Fri 22/07/11 04:03
and the trip to Madrid

I left the port of Tangier at about ten in the morning on a ferry for Tarifa, Spain. I didn’t know if this was the designation that I wanted, but from the port I was at I think it was the only city I get to. No problems though because for the most part I don’t really have an itinerary. The city of Tarifa was really beautiful, it was a sleepy coastal town with an almost tourist trap look to it– you know, lots of shops, everything perfectly clean, small, personal hotels everywhere. To top it off, getting into the EU has never been easier, the passport control woman smiled, mentioned that it looks like I like to travel and then stamped my passport. Customs waved me past. That’s the way it should always be. 🙂

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There was a free shuttle that took us to Algecrias, Spain where I needed to get a bus to Madrid.I guess I got there a little bit late because the only bus that I could get left at 9pm. No worries, I spent the day wandering around, taking pictures and generally just taking it easy. One of the things that really struck me as odd was how the town pretty much shut down in the early afternoon. I’ve heard of the siesta time, but I’ve never quite seen it this dramatic before. The whole town was empty, there were maybe just one or two people walking around, all the markets were closed, the doors covered with metal shutters. It had a kind of eery feel to it.

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Sun 17/07/11 16:23
but I’m still not feeling that well

It’s 1030 now and I’ve been up for almost three hours, and I still haven’t started my day. That’s not exactly true, I had breakfast and taken a shower… I guess that counts for something. Other than that though I’ve been just sitting in my room surfing the internet thinking that I should head out into the big city. I still don’t quite understand the different ports here and how they affect my choices to crossing the straits. I’ve been trying to read about it, and I have got some information, there just isn’t enough for me to feel comfortable on catching the ferry tomorrow. All I really have to do is ask someone who speaks English for the answers…

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Well, needless to say I did end up going out and walking around. I left shortly after writing the above information and stayed out until about 3. There was still some things that I wanted to do before I leave tomorrow, but I guess they will have to wait for another visit. I’m still not feeling great, so after coming back to the hotel to rest, I ended up falling asleep and didn’t have the energy to go out again. My next stop is Madrid for three nights.

Sat 16/07/11 15:37
Not what I was expecting

It happens all the time when I am traveling, I decided to go somewhere because of the name, or maybe some mystique that I’ve assigned to it, and the city surprises me. Tangier did just that. I don’t know what I was expecting, but when I got here everything was just easy. I got to the riad easy, found dinner easy, walked around the city easily. I like when that happens. For the most part Tangier is more modern than any of the cities I’ve been to in Morocco so far. It has night clubs, lots of open air cafes and lots and lots of tourists. It looks like from the plates I’ve seen on many of the cars that Europeans come here for holiday–makes sense.

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Another thing that surprised me was the prices for things. I had a full sit-down dinner with two drinks for only $5.20. So far I’m really enjoying this city.

The riad I’m staying at is probably one of the more beautiful buildings that I been in on my whole vacation. I haven’t taken any pictures yet, but it’s so incredible that I definitely will. In my room there’s a canopy bed, a couch, mosaic tiles on the floor and half of the walls, and on the ceiling. It really is stunning.

Sat 16/07/11 15:28
On to Tangier

I left Essaouria yesterday at about 1230, to a rather lackluster farewell. Sitting in a dirty little bus station for about an hour before you leave anywhere is not very glamourous to say the least. This was no exception. I did though get a front row seat on the bus with no one sitting next to me, so that was kind of nice… no, that was nice. Ever since the rest of the group left I’ve been trying to get used to traveling alone, and to be honest it has been difficult. Wherever I go I’m second guessing myself on my plans, on timings, and generally anything that has some variable to it. For example I’m feeling a little bit uneasy that right now I’m on the right train and that I’m sitting in the correct seat. Is someone going to come over and tell me that I’m heading to Cairo instead of Tangier? Oh, did I mention that I’m on a train right now?

I stayed last night in the same hotel/riad that the group stayed the last night of the tour, but it really lacked any life without the others there. On the way to the hotel I convinced the driver to make a stop at the train depot so I could get today’s ticket to Tangier, and one other stop to get some food for the night. There wasn’t going to be any last dinner or trip into Marrakech for some pictures of the medina, or any thing else. What I ended up doing is some laundry, check email, and try to get a room when I arrive in Tangier. I also paced around the room for a while, and ended up going to bed pretty early.

So as mentioned I’m sitting on a train making my way to Tangier via Casablanca. The steady methodic roll of the car is putting the majority of the people around me to sleep. It was doing it to me as well, but then I decided to write this, so probably in a few minutes I’ll be just like them.

I think I’ve finally getting over the stomach bug that I’d been fighting, or at least it’s in a kind of, remission. On the other side though last night I started getting a runny nose which may mean that now I’m getting a cold. I really hope not.

Sat 16/07/11 15:26

Today is my second day in Essauaria and I’m feeling a little bit bored. I think the main reason is, is that I’m traveling alone now. I realized that I don’t have the comfort of knowing that there is anyone that I can talk to about my day or hear what they did. After all tours it’s the same, and it’s not like I didn’t expect this, it’s just now that I am living it, it’s a little bit more real. No worries though.

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I headed out to get another look at the city, starting with the area outside of the medina. The area I went to adjacent to the wall that shielded the city from the ocean, but isn’t inside the walled area where the shops are. I was surprised how poor the area was. I walked for at least two kilometers along the wall and in that time didn’t see a paved road, though I did on my way back. I remember being in Mexico as a child and walking through the village we were staying at and there was only one paved road, that’s kind of what this reminded me of. I like seeing how people live more than what we’re supposed to see as a tourist, and this morning gave me a feel of just that.

After making my way back to the medina, I wandered my way down alleys watching the shop owners getting ready for the upcoming rush of tourists. They were hanging shoes, sweeping stoops, and stocking up on fruit. I don’t think one of them even noticed me looking in storefront windows and to make it even better, I wasn’t scared off by over zealous sellers because I stayed too long. During this time the medina is beautifully simple. I finally made my way to the end and back to where my hotel is and had a coffee. I went out later and did some shopping, but nothing to talk about.

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There was one thing that I thought was just the coolest thing I had happen to me lately. It happened yesterday as I was sitting on the rocks of the beach waiting for the sun to set. The only reason I am adding this here is that I just want to remember it later on. Anyway, I was sitting about 30 meters from the break wall that I talked about earlier on some craggy rocks, possibly lava, but it doesn’t really matter, I was away from the majority of people sitting by myself without anyone around for at least twenty meters. I hear someone coming up, a small boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old looking in the small tide pools for fish/mussels/crabs or whatever. I turn back to the sun and about 2 minutes later the kid is trying to get around me, it’s really craggy rocks that aren’t easy to walk on, I move my feet and after a couple of grunts, he manages to get past and then sits right next to me. He doesn’t look at me, he doesn’t say anything, but he’s sitting like 1 cm from me. I thought it was so cute that he just wanted to sit there, and maybe he felt safe sitting next to a man. I notice that he’s inspecting some of the things that he’d found in the pools, and seemingly unhappy with his find, he throws them back, one by one. After about ten minutes he gets up, and heads away, at about 5 meters away he turns and yells “au revoir.” It was just a cute kid. I think if I had known how sweet kids could be, I’d have had a couple when I was younger.

I had dinner with Fabien and a friend from his hostel that night. It was nice to be around people as it takes a little bit of the sting off of traveling alone.

Tomorrow at 12:30 I head back to Marrakech for the end of the tour…yep, even though I’m traveling alone, and had the last meal two days ago, I’m technically still on the tour, seems kind of strange to me. I think I’m going to head to Tangier next and then cross the Straits of Gibraltar early next week. That’s the plan at least.

Thu 14/07/11 05:43
A small city on the coast

I got out of the van, grabbed my backpacks, and said good-bye to the driver. The bus station wasn’t well marked, but there were enough people moving around to be sure that the building in front of me was what I was looking for. The first thing I did was to find a place to sit down and the second thing was to figure out the system. It seems that every country/city has its own system for buses (and other forms of travel) and until you do it once you never know if you’re actually going to get where you need to. It’s for that reason that I feel that it’s always a good idea to spend about ten minutes just watching people. While I was sitting there I noticed another backpacker getting out of a taxi and heading in, and not too much time later I noticed him again without his pack. So I asked him where he put his pack, and promptly followed his lead. I later ran into him again and found out that he is from Germany and as luck would have it, was heading to Essaouira as well, it even went as far as our assigned seats were together. It’s always nice to have someone to talk to on a journey, and he was talkative and was an experienced traveller.

kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com   kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com

kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com   kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com

After four hours and a good conversation we arrived at Essaouira. Now to be honest, I’d never heard of this city or village before and I had no idea what to expect when I arrived, but when I did it was a nice surprise. It has some of the bad things that tourist”y” places have, like dozens of people bugging you for hotel rooms, and taxi drivers insisting that you ride with them, but it also had a charm about it. It was dirty, but comfortable, crowded, but simple. Like I said there is/was a charm to it.

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kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com   kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com

The area that I’m staying in is part of an old fort I think, it’s got high wall surrounding it, which are most notable on the ocean side of the souk. The walls are something like thirty feet high, and in some areas the ocean breaks right on the wall, other areas, there are rocks that break the water. It makes for a very picturesque image. I took so many pictures of waves and boats, and walls, that I’m going to have a very hard time deciding which to add to the blog. I hung out on some of the rocks outside of a retaining wall for about 90 minutes to watch the sun go down, and then headed for cover from the wind. Oh, I didn’t mention the wind… very windy here… very, very, windy here.

kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com   kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com

kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com   kenneth curtis summer 2011: kennethcurtis.com