Epic Journey Madrid to Casablanca

Trip Start Dec 26, 2005
Trip End Jan 25, 2009

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Sunday, August 13, 2006

I've made it to Casablanca, and Africa for that matter!

As I disembarked the ferry in tangier, I sighed a sense of relief that I was back in the developing world for I love it. To tell you the truth, I am over the developed world for it is too similar to back home... defeats travelling if you go to far away countries if it's exactly the same as home with a few deviations. This trip has reinforced in me that my preferred mode of travel is to experience things new and different to back home, hence my love of third world countries such as those found in South East Asia, China and Africa. If my first 24 hours in Morocco are anything to go by, I am in for a real treat.

The journey from Madrid to Casablanca was long, tiring but so rewarding, interesting and enjoyable. Travelling amongst the locals within Morocco was exhillerating... even though I couldn't converse with them, simple smiles and other gestures was all it took to make new friends. The Morrocans were very friendly to each other as well... a little girl received milk and kisses on the cheak by a very friendly man she just met (permission first granted by mum of course)... this would never happen back home.

I left Madrid at 11.10pm and arrived in Algecires 10 hours later. I slept most of the way with ear plugs and an eye mask... noone spoke English in my compartment.

I arrived into Algecires at 9.30am where I purchased a combined bus and ferry ticket to Tangier. For 29 euro, I caught the 10.00am bus to Tarif where I waited 1.5 hours for the express 35 minute ferry to Tangier. Given that I was starving and dehydrated, I refuelled on the ferry... baguette and water for 5 euro. Tarif is the most southerly point of the European continent. I was happy to leave Europe for I felt as though I had done it justice on this trip. I spent most of the ferry trip outside on the deck, taking in the beautiful views of the ocean and ships.

Morocco is 2 hours behind Europe, 8 hours behind Perth. I had a 2 hour wait at Tangiers very modern train station before boarding my next train to Sidi Kasem. Arriving into Tangier was very much like my first taste of Egypt 6 years ago... chaotic, fumes, delapidated houses, rubbish everywhere and beggers... but I loved every bit of it. It instantly took me back to the slums of South East Asia (especially Cambodia) and the middle east... close similarities to Syria. I caused a bit of a disagreement amongst 10 or so men when negotiating a taxi fare to the train station... for 5 euro I was away, but this guy wanted to take me to his hotel but I explained to him that I already had a reservation at the Hotel Rio. Leaving the ferry terminal was a sight in itself for there were hundreds of cars queing to get out and beaping their horns in unison. My experiences in other developing countries of the world have prepared me for this chaos and turmoil.

After a very hot wait at Tangier's train station, I was away to Sidi Kasem. A very slow train, this journey took 4 hours. I shared a 1st class compartment with 4 other Moroccans, one of whom brought me a diet coke. Kind of him. The scenery was mixed but mostly sand with concrete boxed homes.

After an hour's transfer at Sidi Kasem I caught another train to Casablanca. I arrived into Casablanca at 7pm after nearly 24 hours travel from Madrid. I shared this compartment with a Moroccan Millitary guy who got 75 per cent off the cost of his ticket... I paid 175 dirham (30 dollars whereas he paid 52 dirham). I've been surprised to learn that French is mostly spoken here along with Arabic.

After an epic journey of 3 trains, a bus, 2 taxis and a ferry, I arrived at my Hotel Rio to a very friendly reception. The girl behind the counter was so friendly that she shared her coffee with me, complimented me and offered to be my 'girl' tonight... said how much she LOVES Australian men. She was also very honest in saying that she is very fat and eats like a pig... she wasn't that bad! Every time I see her, she smiles and offers me everything that I could ever want. After the check in to a very nice room with a comfortable bed and English movies, I went across the road for dinner. Talk about exemplary service... table cloths, fine silverware, friendly service and LOW prices. For under 10 dollars I ate like a king... great big salad and prawn pizza with water and orange punch. This is what I LOVE about developing countries for you can live in relative luxury for such low prices and genuine service. Bring on Morocco... can it give Thailand the run for being my favourite country on this RTW trip?

I start my Intrepid tour tonight at 6pm... meet my room mate this afternoon. Keep posted for this person could be absolutely anyone, of any age, background, nationality etc (I'll be happy if it's no Brian). May not be able to update this travelpod as regularly as Europe for I doubt the internet service will be as reliable...
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