Drenched in Tangier

Trip Start Oct 07, 2012
Trip End May 18, 2013

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Flag of Morocco  , Tanger-Tétouan,
Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oct 25, 2012: Rabat - Tangier - Madrid

As before, Eric will narrate our experiences with Sam's comments interjected in italics.


 We woke up in Rabat around 5:00 am, threw on some clothes and headed to the train station.  We started the 20 minute walk with all of our luggage, in the pitch dark, which was not very fun. We were advised that there were no buses that ran this early and that there would be very few cabs. Lucky for us, a cab came down the street, gave us a normal price of 20 dirham (imagine that!), and took us to the train station. We ended up having to sit around the station for awhile, but it was totally worth it to not have to walk the entire way.  We got on the train and started our trip to Tangier.  

After a few hours of a unmemorable train ride we arrive in Tangier. Once again the rain keeps following us and it is pouring as we pull into the station.  We exit the train onto a platform that is only partly covered. We make a dash for the station, but a few feet outside the door a security guard is denying all the incoming people entrance and instead directing us to exit by walking around the building to the front. Here we are, in the rain, soaked, loaded down with our bags, obvious white tourists needing to catch a ferry across town- total sitting ducks for the vulture taxi drivers. Eric and I are used to this charade by now. Cab driver tactics include ushering us over to their cab while trying to make small talk, then attempting to load our stuff into the truck while avoiding the “how much?” question. Or if they do acknowledge the question they only brush it off by making some incoherent and nonchalant “no worries” motion as if to indicate that we should not distress ourselves with matters such as money.  But now we are well used to these tactics, and when approached we tell them where we’re going, and when they assure us that it’s no problem and wave us over to the cab we stay glued to our spots, and ask how much it is. When they start off (inevitably it seems) at “only” 50 dh, we don’t miss a beat and in unison say “no” while continuing in our direction.  (The ride to the ferry terminal, if the meter is used as it’s supposed to, should be around 10 Dh total.) Finally arriving at the front of the building there are more taxis pulling up, but of course there is no organized taxi line, just a mob of people clamoring to get into the car. And naturally the locals seem to get the taxi hook-up first. So we’re still getting rained on, and still getting badgered by a few of the roving grand taxi drivers, refusing to be taking advantage of, despite the rain and what should be our desperation to get out if it. At this point the badgering taxi drivers are not having good luck filling up their grand taxis. And with grand taxis you have to negotiate. Essentially you are paying for a seat in the car. (Four seats in the back and two passengers in the front beside the driver- no these cars are not bigger than the normal American sedan, there are still only three seat belts in the back- so obviously they prefer to load up their car as much as possible for each trip they take.) We stubbornly refuse to agree with the grand taxi drivers’ absurd offers (50 Dh per person), just on principle. Other Moroccans are looking at us with amazement that we would rather get soaked than get cheated. We tell the driver that we will pay 15 Dh per person (still more than using a metered cab), he laughs and walks away, then comes back a few minutes later, thinking our mind would’ve changed in the rain. It hadn’t. After repeating this charade a few times, the exasperated driver finally agrees to our terms and we get into the taxi. (Small victory of us against the Moroccan taxi system!) Along the way many of the roads were flooded, including a main road with that must have had a standing pond of at least 3 feet of water. The driver didn’t even hesitate as he drove straight into it. I watched as the water-level rose almost to the bottom of the window, thinking for sure that at any point the car would flood or just start floating, leaving us trapped. However a long 10 seconds later we came out on the other side of the pond, Eric and I staring at each other in amazement. 

The local woman riding with us got a ride most of the way to the ferry, which I think she only paid 5 dirham for, but I could not be sure.  We got out of the cab, converted the rest of our dirham into Euros, Moroccan dirhams are technically a restricted currency and not allowed outside the country, then went into the station. Of course this turned out to be a process as well, since the customs officer, who didn’t speak English, wouldn’t let us through to the boarding area since we didn’t have some kind of form. We asked where we could get the form  he shrugged and ignored us, we asked another officer where to get this magical form we had never heard of, he also ignored us. Some young Moroccan guy who seemed to work at the ferry station told us he could get us a form, disappeared for a few minutes then came back with two short pink forms. We filled them out, turned them in, and was let through the checkpoint, where the young man held his hand out demanding “something for me” for his “help” (not like it was his job or that the forms should have been out in a public place to start with.) Thus the latest incident to contribute to our eagerness to leave Morocco.  A short while later we boarded the ferry, which ended up being packed.  I don’t think there was an open seat available, which wasn’t too bad with the ride being roughly 45 minutes.  It was noisy so I didn’t nap, but Sam was able to fall asleep. 

After we got off the ferry, we had to board a bus which took us to the main ferry station closer into town. This was a relatively short ride of about 30 minutes, after which we walked the 10 minutes to the train station to catch the next train towards Madrid.  Once there we found that we had missed the last train for the day to Madrid. This was a very small train station and it only had roughly 10 train rides a day, so of course we would miss the one that we need.  I used my basic Spanish to talk to the one man working the entire train station, who suggested that we get a bus to Madrid instead. We walked to the bus station next door, which had a bus that would take us to another station, from where we could get on a train to Madrid.  We got on the bus with about two minutes to spare. The bus ride was interesting due to a couple of strange sights.  The first one involved the lady sitting diagonally in front of us with her little boy.  I couldn’t make out what he was saying in Spanish, but it seemed like he had to pee.  She ended up getting out of her seat, pointing him towards the door in the back, and letting him pee right there.  I don’t think he was very accurate, as there seemed to be a pool of urine near that back door.  I made a mental note for us not to walk out that way.  The second incident involved one of our stops along the way to the train station, an extremely drunk guy got on the train.  By extremely drunk, I mean he walked in the front of the bus, we were sitting about of the way to the back of the bus, and I could smell the booze. He decided to sit right near us, but luckily all of us in the back were able to convince him that someone was sitting in that seat, so he had to go.  He stumbled to the front and sat next to this woman, who proceeded to feel very uncomfortable.  Luckily, some guy in the front of the bus gave up his seat by himself, so the drunk guy could be placed there.  Both of these strange incidents happened about 10 minutes from one another, and lucky for Sam she was asleep for both of them.  I have been on some weird bus rides in my day, especially some of my rugby ones from college, but this would have to be near the top of the list.   


We made it to the bus station and had to walk across the street to the train station.  It was more like a mall than a train station, so Sam’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree because she was hoping to shop.  We walked to the ticket office to make our reservation for the train, when I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I saw a Dunkin Donuts in Spain.  This absolutely blew my mind.  They call it Dunkin Coffee, not Dunkin Donuts, but it was the exact same logo. After Morocco I was craving any sort of decent coffee, so I was ecstatic.  At this point of our adventure, I would say the thing I have missed the most is American coffee.  Obviously, I miss family and friends more than the coffee, but for unimportant items, this was at the top of my list.  Buffalo wings would be a close second place.  We got our tickets to the train, then walked around and grabbed a rip-off subway sandwich.  From there we went back to the Dunkin Coffee to get a coffee, and walked onto the train.  My Dunkin Coffee ended up being more like a cappuccino, but it wasn’t too bad. By the way, I didn’t get any shopping in here.

We were on the train for about 4 hours, before we made it into Madrid.  We felt like old pros with Madrid at this time, so we got off the train, went right to the Metro, and took it to Chris’s stop.  Chris was nice enough to let us stay with him again, which was perfect since we would be in town only a short time.  We said hello to Chris, talked about our trip, heard about his trip to Amsterdam, then went to bed.  
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