sketchy hamams and life lessons in Tangiers, Morocco

the rain had refused to stop falling.  there was no escaping, and it had become maddening.  i made a snap decision and checked out of my hostel, determined to escape the confinement of the indoors by finding another city further north that might have escaped the weathery onslaught.  as i was checking out, a dutch couple i’d not yet met who had been staying in the hostel was also leaving.  i overheard that they were traveling to tangiers, which was where i had been eventually planning on going to.  i knew there were no buses running that day due to the storms, but i knew there would be a taxi driver crazy enough to drive me the 2 hours to the northern coast.  i politely asked them if they wanted to share a taxi and we trudged out into the rain together.

i had expected to be able to get a couple taxi drivers to enter into a bidding war for who would take our business, especially on a slow day in heavy rain, so i was shocked when the opposite actually happened.  the first driver we talked to set the price rather high, and then all the other drivers in the area stuck to the price that they had heard set.  it took us 20 minutes to find anyone who would come down from the price even a little, and when we did it wasn’t much.  but we paid the fare and took off into the storm.

on the ride i got to know thomas and jolande.  they were a couple from the netherlands and actually hadn’t been together very long, so i was surprised that they were traveling together.  i’m not sure why, because when i thought about it, traveling with someone is one of the best ways to get to know the “real” version of them, so why not do it early on in the relationship?  jolande was a small business owner who would travel to exotic countries like morocco and purchase fancy antiques and rugs and the like and then ship them back to her shop in the netherlands where she could sell the items at a premium.  i could tell she was a very shrewd negotiator and knew what she was doing when it came to her business.  she also had a pure heart that shined through when she talked about ideas passionately, and a sweet, caring way about her.  thomas was a musician, and a funny one at that.  he reminded me a lot of jeff goldblum in jurassic park.  he wore thick-rimmed glasses and had a hip style about him and a clever sense of humor.  they both liked to smile and laugh a lot, and they were both really tall, as the dutch often are.  i guessed that they were both around 40 years of age, but they were both young souls, wild and free, and i got along with them quite well. we talked about music and literature and travel, and found that we had a lot of mutual interests and tastes. i took a moment to thank the stars that they were cool, because a 2.5 hour ride in flooding rainstorms in the north of morocco with an awkward cab driver who spent most of the drive shouting into a tiny cellphone with boring or annoying side conversation would have been almost unbearable.

we arrived at the medina of tangiers and parted ways, agreeing to meet up later that night.  almost immediately the touts and vendors were upon me, trying to get me to follow them to a hostel, or buy hash, or eat at their restaurant, or a dozen other propositions.  i didn’t even have the patience anymore, i was tired of negotiating, tired of saying no, i just wanted some quiet.  i put my headphones in and turned on my ipod while i searched for my little hostel located down a dark back alley.

that night i met up with thomas and jolande and we left the old medina in search of an old bar that was famous for being jack kerouac’s favorite watering hole, called the tanger inn.  we knew very little about it other than the fact that it was best known during 50s, 60s, and 70s as central hub for nightlife of the beatnik travelers and iconic authors like allen ginsburg, william s. burroughs, and of course, jack kerouac.  i was reading kerouac’s “on the road” at the time, so i was particularly enthusiastic about retracing some of the man’s paces in a time when i was in the middle of my own wandering journey.

we passed through the old gate of the city and out into the famous square of the grand socco. Continue reading sketchy hamams and life lessons in Tangiers, Morocco

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music monday: airplane mode

nobody likes traveling without a little music to accompany them at some point along the way.  and when i say nobody, i mainly mean myself.  i don’t like going anywhere without my headphones in and my spotify app blowing out my eardrums.  recently i was lucky enough to join some friends on a trip to costa rica, and that means lots of time in airports, on airplanes, and in customs lines.  the only proper way i know to combat the misery that inevitably accompanies those things is to make a superior playlist that will keep you calm and in control (and maybe even help you take a nap on the plane).  this playlist will do just that, even if you’re not going anywhere.  filled with mostly new songs from mostly off-the-radar bands, this playlist will expose you to some songs you weren’t aware of, and may even provide a little inspiration you’ve been looking for lately.

a 30,000 foot view of belize

chefchaouen, morocco: the blue pearl of north africa

i met ben and abby in a dingy little coffee shop next door to the bus station in fes.  the coffee wasn’t particularly good, but i’m not sure what could be expected from bus station coffee shop.  i opted instead for a takeaway yogurt and boarded the bus.  we chatted idly for a couple hours, trying to enjoy the sights on the drive, but a strong tradewind from the north had sent storm clouds from europe sweeping down into morocco, dampening the sights and the air. thick clouds blocked many of the scenic views of the rif mountains, and when we did eventually stop for a break, everyone only piled off the bus and then huddled under the overhang of the gas station.  when we eventually arrived in chefchaouen hours later, it was raining lightly and we all just wanted to get to our hotels.  we parted ways and agreed to meet up again somewhere in town, though we never did.  i was okay with it;  they were on their own adventure and probably wanted some time alone, and i had a new city to explore.

chefchaouen is not a big city, and once again i incorrectly assumed that i could just find my own way to my hostel at riad baraka by navigating from memory.  after not being able to locate the hostel and stumbling up and down the uneven, serpentine streets, i began speaking to an old man who had been trying to lure me into his restaurant.  i ended up making a deal with him that he would show me where the hostel was if i ate at his restaurant.  fair enough, i was hungry anyway.  as i sat and ate, i noticed the horrible smell of rotting fish drifting from my pack, and suddenly remembered it as the same smell that had been emanating from the cargo hold of the bus i had ridden in.  something in that abyss of despair had spilled onto my gear, and now i smelled like yesterday’s garbage.  perfect.

harmony hotela spanish omelette and 2 pieces of bread later, the old man led me a few minutes walk away to the riad baraka, making sure to stay upwind of me.  when we arrived there he began asking me for some sort of token or gift to remember me by.  i didn’t really understand what he wanted at first, but i didn’t really have anything i could share with him and i felt badly about it.  i pack relatively simple, clothes and toiletries, and camera and laptop, and that’s about it. i don’t buy mementos or souvenirs. ever.  so i disappointed the man and Continue reading chefchaouen, morocco: the blue pearl of north africa

Morocco. “Medina Navigation: there is none”

i awoke with a minor hangover and a concerned tourguide urging everyone to get ready with a little more haste than usual.  i was too haggard to question why, so i stuffed my clothes into my backpack and loaded myself into the van.  after we had been driving about an hour, our tour guide, zuzu, explained to us that there were extremely large rainclouds unexpectedly approaching and we needed to hurry if we had any chance of making it up and through the mountain pass in the atlas mountains before the storm settled in above us.  zuzu was uncharacteristically and visibly nervous, and after a few follow-up questions we were able to determine that there was a high chance of heavy flooding coming with this storm, and that was cause enough for some concern among the group.  the middle of the desert is not where you want to be in the middle of a flash flood, and neither is a narrow mountain pass with one way in and one way out.  our driver stepped on the accelerator and began whipping the van back and forth along the curvy mountain roads as the rain began to come down.  i was suddenly aware of how few guardrails existed on this perilous road, with steep cliffs shooting straight down into nothing for hundreds of feet, leaving no room for any margin of error. Continue reading Morocco. “Medina Navigation: there is none”

Music Monday: the Costa Rica Tica Mix!

hey folks, got a brand new little playlist for you to welcome in the warm weather with!  last week the blog took a break from moroccan storytelling to soak up a little sun down in the costa rican jungle.  in between morning surf sessions and afternoon rainforest ziplining adventures, there was ample time to relax and listen to some new tunes.  this playlist is ripe with fresh new beats that are sure to have you bouncing your way into the warmer weather months of summer.  enjoy…