Sunday, 13 May 2007

some pics from marrakesh, me looking stupid with the water sellers, a shop of nothing but olives,
the square, me and flick looking as touristy as possible, a spice stall and the view over the djemma el fna.

a few days in marrakesh

well im currently in kyrghyzstan and it appears that you cant upload photos to the net from anywhere here so i think the blog will have to be boring and textual for a while.
as far as this blog is concerned im only about to get to marrakesh, which seems like ages ago to me now. so i better hurry up and tell my travel tales much quicker and hopefully they might be a little less dull.
so marrakesh well for starters its a totally fantastic place. our hotel was located in amongst the warren of alleys in the southern part of the medina, just a short walk from the djemma-el-fna. the djemma is a huge square (well really its a strange unsymmetrical shape) which acts as the centre of marrakesh. its one of the most continually vibrant, exciting places ive been too, in the day there are many small stalls of people offering to do henna tattoos, playing music, snake charming or dragging around monkeys on a chain for stupid tourists to take photos of. the snakes and monkeys are pretty horrible sights, the monkeys are just obviously treated badly but with the snakes its a little more subtle. apparently the snakes have their mouths sown up so they cant bite anyone, unfortunately this means they also cant eat and thus the charmers have to get a new snake every couple of days.
all day and night orange juice sellers in little carts line the east and west sides of the square selling freshly squeezed juice for only 50c a glass. considering how damn hot it is in marrakesh theyre juice goes down bloody well. they also use real glasses and wash them, so theres no waste, which is a bit of a rarity for morocco (and just about everywhere ive been).
during the day its pretty busy but at night the square gets really cranking. firstly the nightly restaurant stalls setup in the middle of the square they sell cheap and yummy food, it was great for us cause they sold a heap of different types of salads so we got to have a bit of a change from just cous cous and tajine. outside the restaurants touts try all sorts of concievable tricks to get you to come to their restaurant, strangely all the different stalls seem to have exactly the same menu and exactly the same prices so it really doesnt matter where you go. there are a few different stalls though along one side there are stalls selling fried mussels and snails. in amongst all the normal restaurants is the odd one selling nothing but boiled goats (or was it sheeps) heads. not the most appetizing of things in my opinion but by the time the heads come out of the water the head and brains and all look like they have the same colour and texture as normal meat. these stands were one of teh only spots in marrakesh where you wouldnt see many tourists-marrakesh is FULL of tourists.
in front of all the restaurants are these crazy tea stalls. they only sell one type of tea and its very strange but very very good. its a spicy conncotion sort of like super strong chai with no milk or sugar and with lots of ginseng. it was a really great thing to have in the evening cause it gives you a wake up kick and warms your insides (the evenings when we were there got pretty chilly). they serve it with a scoop of a super rich gingery pudding cake thing which is real good too. apparently the combo of the two is real good for digestion and so is meant to be eaten after dinner.
the real highlight though is the buskers, each night there are seven or eight gtoups of musos surrounded by a circle of people listening. most of the groups were very good and a couple were fantastic. mostly they were berber groups, whose music normally contains several drummers, and some combinations of a ryad (i think thats what its called its basically a strange but cool sounding violin), a berber mandolinesque stringed instrument and a banjo played in the style of an arab oud. generally all the musos sing sometimes the leader does the call and the rest the response. the songs are pretty energetic and surprisingly catchy.
theyre was also two interesting more arab styled groups (not sure if ive mentioned the ethnic divisions in morocco, theyre very murky. basically the berbers were the people who lived in morocco before the arabs arrived in the eighth century. the conquest by the arabs forced them into the more mountainous and arid areas. today, not surprisingly considering the time spent living together many, maybe most, people have mixed heritage. despite this the cultures are still distinct, to the point of having different languages (actually the berbers have three languages) although all berbers speak arabic as well. the arabs live mainly in the cities, the berbers in the villages. estimates of the berber population range form 40-60%. well thats my possibly inaccurate estimation of the situation now back to the music), one of the groups was darabukkas and a guy playing oud through a tiny amp giving it a distorted, electric sound. another was a coke sniffing drummer and a crazy violionist/singer who stood on a round metal tin and tap danced from time to time for percussive effect.
the way the busking worked was interesting normally the group would play two songs and then start a third then suddenly stop. then a faux argument would break out, i couldnt understand the language but im pretty sure i understood the gist of it. basically one person would stop and the others would complain and then the first one would say were not getting enough money im not gonna play until we have more money. then a spiel would eventuate either on their poverty, or their musical skills or both i dont know. then they would ask for money from the crowd and  walk round collecting cash, each donation would be commented upon and thrown into the centre. then the cash would be counted and the total commented upon if its enough theyd play, but more likely another round of 
persuading the crowd to cough up would be necessary.  if you were genrous in your dontations (generally about a dollar would suffice) theyd find a little seat for you and seat you on the inner edge of the circle where the sound was best. i managed to make many sneaky recordings of these buskers that turned out really well.its a bit naughty recording people without their permission    but bringing out an expensive piece of audio equipment in a huge crowd of jostling strangers wasnt a good option either. i decided that seeing as the recordings 
were just for me as long as i was generous in my dontaions it was good for all.
so thats how i spent my evenings in marrakesh, eating yummy food, drinking crazy spice teas and then listening to amazing musos, pretty perfect in my opinion.
in the daytime we did a little sight seeing (ancient mosques, forts etc), tried desperately but untimately unsuccessfully to organise a eurolines bus ticket for europe and went shopping. ok so thats another whole story but im not sure if i can really explain it, every moroccan town or city  has a souq basically a permanent market. Generally theyre a warren of alleys lined with shops, which is pretty much what the marrakesh one is just on a grand scale. it begins on the north edge of the djemma el fna and stretches for miles in all directions. there a couple of 'main streets'  which are like huge crowded indoor boulevades and then off these snake smaller alleyways. inside the souq are smaller specialist sections like the hat souq, slipper souq, blacksmith souq and the rather disturbing apothecary souq which 
featured all sorts of animals used in potions up to and including a poor huge eagle in a tiny cage.
the souq is pretty fun just to wander in, although it gets a little tiring after a while, bit of stimulas overload i think.
yeah so thats what we did in marrakesh, its a crazy vibrant place and despite the touristy nature of it i'd definitely recommend it for a visit.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

mirleft, tafraoute and moroccan food

so we arrived in the little seaside village of mirleft planning to stay in some or other hotel recommended by the LP. when we rocked up however this dude wandered up and told us he had apartments to rent so we went and checked out a couple and decided they were too expensive before finding one that was just $15 aussie a night and so we took it. it was so nice to have our own place with a lounge room and most importantly a kitchen, i got really excited and headed off to the market to buy vegies, spices, pasta and rice. it was such a great break from tajine, tajine, tajine. dont get me wrong moroccan food is good (well pretty good i actually think its rep migth be a little overrated) but i guess being from australia im used to a bit of diversity in my diet. in morocco we had two choices vegie tajine or vegie cous cous. for breakfast we, effectively had one choice, omolette (from poor badly treated chooks no doubt, naughty me). i dont think being a meat eater would have helped that much either then the choice would have been lamb tajine or chicken tajine. actually the tajines were genrally pretty nice but in the end they are just spiced steamed vegies so they can seem a little bland.

oh there were two other foods actually, moroccan salad; tomatoes and cucumber diced with pepper and orange juice pretty nice actually, and harira a beany soup which was really good but you could never really tell if it was vego. the markets do have a lot of good stuff, nuts and dried fruits as well as fruit n veg.

so anyway we pigged out on our own food creations for a few days and hung out in the very chilled out mirleft. its a very small town where the beach has seemed to creep into the town and all the streets are sandy and dusty and everything moves at a very slow pace. we didnt do much at all except made one trip to legizira about 20kms away which is a beach with some nice archway rock formations. the beach was pretty good except for the fact that like everywhere else in morocco it was covered in trash.

after mirleft we headed into the hills to another tiny village named tafraoute. its in a valley surrounded by rocky, boulder covered hills, very hot and kinda like you'd imagine morocco (at least in the good senses). we ended up staying a week in tafaroute as it was really nice and really cheap. we hired mountain bikes for a couple of days and went riding through the surrounding areas. on the first day we went to the ameln valley. this is a prime region for growing almond and the argan nut a locally delicacy which is turned into a yummy roasted oil, amongst other things. apparently its harvesting involves goats climbing the argan trees (we saw this a few times it looks wierd a wiry spiny tree with as many as six or seven climbing around the upper branches) and then apparently picking the digested nut from the goat dungs. anyway we rode to the ameln, a rocky desert valley overlooked by decent sized mountains. the ride was hot work but good fun and we rode through a couple of picturesque villages and lovely palmeraries where we could hide away from the sun for a little bit. we visited a traditional berber house that had been turned into a very interesting museum, the whole house was made of mud and thus very cool, the kitchen was in the centre adn in winter the family slept in the hallways surrounding the kitchen, in winter they slept on the roof. in the corner of the kitchen was a little hole where vegie scraps were thrown and these were eating by the animals that lived in the cellar below.

the second day we rode past a strange rock formation known as napoleans hat and onwards to an artpiece known as the painted rocks. these are huge rocks that a belgian artist painted blue in the 80s. after a long ride we arrived and theyre they were a bunch of big blue rocks. flick managed to fix her kite and got in flying away very successfully. after our energetic couple of days we settled down to our more normal routine of being lazy bastards. me and flick both bought some cool slippers and i picked up heaps of wicked moroccan music really cheaply. otherwise we just lazed about, oh yeah we also found a cool paste made of argan oil, almond and honey yum yum. after our fun time in tafraoute we caught a bus through some insanely thick fog through windy mountain passes and off to marrakesh.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

photos mirleft to marrakesh

ok so heres some piccys
from top to bottom they are:
1) me on the bus from tafraoute, more interestingly in the background is our canadian friend olivier and a berber man wearing the ultra cool traditional coat that we knew by the totally incorrect name of the wizards coats
2) an amazing photo flick took from the same bus, it shows the end of the rainbow, it pretty trippy and supernatural i does think. looks more like the aussie bush then morocco cause of the gum tree (gums are everywhere in morocco) 3) one of the many storks in marrakesh 4) the saadian tombs in marrakesh 5) me with some water sellers in marrakesh 6) flick dancing about in front of the cool rock rormations at the cool legizira beach. 7) me and flick resting during our ride through the ameln valley 8) the old mill made to use argan oil in the berber traditional house 9) a village in the ameln valley 10) flick with her kite in front of the painted rocks.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

buses and taxis

morocco, like many countries, has not only buses but a secondary fleet of people movers known as grand taxis. the average grand taxi is a 60s or 70s era mercades, big old blue things that crusie the streets along set routes or from village to village. they all congregate in car parks or in real small villages in the main street and you sit round and wait while the driver shouts the name of their intended destination to passers by in the hope of persuading them away from their daily shopping and instead into a trip to a nearby town.

the mercades fits the driver plus six passengers and thus is pretty bloody packed. theres also another model, a very old peugot 504 wagon with half the wagon converted into an extra row of seats, these ones fit eight people plus the driver and are, surprisingly, more comfortable than the mercedes model. i remember the first grand taxi we took we were pulled over by the cops and i was thinking i wonder if thats cause theres seven people in here, but then the cop looked in the window and waved us on and i realised thats just how it works in morocco.

the buses, in my opinion, are far more fun and comfortable than the grand taxis. theres a fleet of tourist buses which are apparently rather lush but we never managed to catch one and anyway the normal local buses were heaps fun. like india you buy your tickets off random dudes wandering round the bus station and hope your getting the right ticket (they always are, though). unlike many countries they only ever sell as many tickets as there are seats and so theyre never overcrowded. the buses are decorated with streamers and religious paraphenalia and they play really really cool traditional moroccan music (unlik most places) and so you dont need a walkman. they also are one of the few times in morocco that we had any interaction with moroccan women. oh yeah and there cheap.

our only problem we encountered with our moroccan bus experiences began in ouarzazate. we wandered into the station on the day we wanted to leave and found it strangely deserted, we hung about a bit and tried to find out what was going on, eventually we found out there was no buses that day and the next one was early the next morning. we thought that was strange but we went and found another hotel and hung around till the next day when we returned and found the same dead station. again no buses today, eventually i realised there must be a strike and managed to get a affirmative reply through our language barrier with most moroccans, so we had to take a triple change grand taxi ride to get to our destination:taroundannt.

taroundannt was probably the least memorable place we visted in morocco, it wasnt bad just kinda a bit average. at least the accomodation was cheap. we stayed a couple of days and then went to catch a bus outta there. we jumped on the bus and waited, then eventually it moved...a few metres then stopped, everyone got out and the the luggage started getting unloaded. the damn strike was back! (its almost enough to turn you into a neo-liberal...almost). so we had another complicated grand taxi mission to our destination mirleft.

Saturday, 31 March 2007


after todra we headed to ouarzazate, this was mainly due to the fact i was really sick and appeared to be getting worse and their was a doctor there. sadly this meant missing the dades gorge which id been really looking foward too and ouarzazate itself sounded dull. as it turned out after a fairly painful and long bus journey by the time i reached ouarzazate i was beginning to feel better. we spent a couple of days not really doing much but ouarzazate was quite enjoyable. the highlight was when we were at a cd store a couple of college girls (both called miriam)approached us and had a chat to practise their english. they were really nice and ended up inviting us too their house and we spent the day hanging out with them and their sister (well the sister to one of them) aisha. it was cool cause it was the first time we'd reallt got a chance to spend anytime hanging out with moroccan women, they dont run any of the shops or tourist stuff (except strangly internet cafes) so you dont have a lot of chances to interact with them. it was also the first time we'd hung with young people in a non-business, money oriented way. it was a lot of fun, they dressed flick up in moroccan wedding clothes, ive got pics but she'll kill me if i put them here. we ate a meal and really confused them with our vegetarianism, their unusual response was after the meal to show us a home video of a sheep being slaughtered islamic style. it was strange cause we didnt really do much but just cause it was so much less touristy than the other things we'd done and cause they were cool it was one of the most fun days we'd had so far.

ali barbar and fatima cous cous

after the sahara we headed to the todra gorge. the gorge is in a valley between dry,rocky mountains. the valley leading up to the gorge is beautiful, palmeraries littered with villages and kasbahs. along the way to todra we meet a nice quebecy guy called olivier and became a little crew. on the first day we checked out the gorge and then went on a walk which climbed up the mountain next to the gorge and then along the plateau and then back down. some fellow travellers warned us that the track gets pretty faint up on the plateau and the best way to follow it was to look for the scratches made by mule hooves on the rocks! needless to say we got lost and so we ended up scarambling down a ravine for a few hours; when we reached the bottom we realised it ended in a sheer cliff so had to go back halfway up the hill and detour. when we got to the bottom we founds the path and it looked like it would have been a pleasant little stroll down the hill, but then again our way was more fun.

in the evening we got invited to a berber guys place for dinner, he was a carpet seller so obviously there was an ulterior motive. still he was a fun guy and we had a jam and then a wonderful cous cous meal with fermented goats milk before the real business began. in the end me and flick each swapped our mobile phones, some random pharmaceticals and 200 dirham for a carpet each. in morocco men are generally referred to as muhammed and women fatima, so the carpet seller in the end said 'muhammed happy, fatima happy, me happy' we agreed so the deal was done.

we were staying at a real shit hotel, they were unfriendly and turned off the power at 10pm. this turned out to be particularly annoying firstly cause olivier was in the middle of having a shower at the time.The second reason was the cous cous and goats milk ended up giving me food poisioning and i woke up in the middle of the night ran to the bathroom, stumbled and then threw up all over flicks bag. i couldnt even clean it till morning cause i couldnt see the damage. very classy.

as i mentioned women get called 'fatima' all the time here and cause shes white flick also gets the added bonus of being called 'fatima cous cous'. as we walk past shops we always here it yelled out, as you can imagine flick REALLY loves it! as im growing a beard my status seems to have changed from muhammed to 'ali barbar' not quite sure why. over here though ali barbar is famous not for having forty thieves but forty wives.
the photos above show flick beginning the trudge down the hill and the dreaded cous cous. note the star shape as each of the five people munched their way towards the middle.

Sunday, 25 March 2007


so we headed south, bypassed a particilarly persistant and unpleasant tout, stopped off in erfoud for a night and some fantastic cous cous and then headed further south towards the sahara. we grabbed a lift with a guy who just, by chance, happened to be headed to the same hotel that we wanted to stay in. flick was very unhappy that we got in the car with them. we spent the whole trip trying to workout how to get from the hotel we would inevitably end up at to the hotel we wanted to goto. but lo and behold the guy was telling the truth and he turned out to be the owner of the auberge la source a very nice, chilled, comfy place right next to the dunes. the next two days were heaps fun, it was very quiet and peaceful, in the mornings and early evenings we wandered round the dunes climbing some of the bigger ones to watch the sun rise and set. the changing colours of the dunes as the sunsets is pretty special, especially the rosey tinge they get as the light fades. from the top of the biggest dune you could see all the way to the algerian border, apparnetly the border between morocco and algeria is a black sand desert, but we didnt get that far in. between our hotel and the dunes was a beautiful palmerary, in which little tracks and irrigation canals wound between the small vegie^patxhes, all under the welcome shade of the big palms. we spent the second afternoon hanging out in there watching frogs. then trekked off into the desert. unfortunately the night was cloudy and so very dark, and we'd wandered much further into the dunes then the first night and so by the time we reached the palmerary. then we managed to get totally lost in the palmerary, suddenly there were all these barriers wed never noticed in the day. even though we could see the village lights just away in the distance it took us a couple of hours to scramble back to the hotel, exhausted.
in the evenings the berber guys at the hotel cranked out the tam tam drums and played some cool berber songs and we had a good old jam.

here is a little scarabi there tracks are everywhere but they only come out in the late afternoon when it cools down.
a couple of pics of us waiting for the sunset and below left is the dune we're lying on.

so out in the middle of the sahara (well it felt like the middle anyway) we came across a mute goat herder. he gestured and wrote 10 in the sand. we thought he wanted 10 dirham for no apparent reason and we thought wandering the sahara is a pretty hard life for an old man so we gave it too him. he seemed happy if a little surprised. he climbed a big dune with us and hung out for a while, whilst communicating in gestures. after a while i assertained the 10 hadnt referred to wanting ten dirham rather he was taking his goats (two fingers on his head like horns) to town (point at town in the distance) to have their throats cut (im sure you can imagine the gesture). for each he would recieve 70 dirham (about ten bucks) and the ten had referred to how many goats he had to slaughter. he wrote his grand total he expected from the expedition 700 dirham in the sand and grinned. then he waved and raced down the dune. heres one picture of flick meeting him and another of him heading down the dune, i wish we'd taken a close up of him he was a very interesting looking character.

oops i forgot to mention that our very first night camping in timnay there was an eclipse of the moon,very nice, heres proof.

Saturday, 24 March 2007



finally managed to upload some pictures; albeit the last couple look a little mang.

so the first ones the tourist scrum in front of the venus de milo, then a self explantory note, then, a good old corny tourist shot.

followed by flick in a little lisboa street beneath the castle.

the next one was meant to be an example of lisboas hilly streets and cool trams but the trams been cutoff.

the last one is my lovely abode in london, jane and finns flat in kentish town. you can probably guess which of the flats it is , in the foreground is one of my fluffy flatmates perry.

cool better post this before something happens.

Friday, 23 March 2007

moroccooooo, chefchaouen to timnay

heres a picture of me in front of the timnay campsite front gates.

heres flick in front of the amazing middle atlas.

winnebago warriors have invaded morocco, they are everywhere!!!! unfortunately theyre not keen on picking up hitchhikers.

chefchaouen, check the blueness

and some birds flying over the town square.

chaouen, as the locals call it, is a lovely little town in the rif mountains. its medina is a crazy warren of house and alleys painted in a veryu calming shade of sky blue. apparently the colour repels the flies! apart from being blue chaouen is famous for one thing; hash. the rif is possibly the biggest ganja growing region in the world producing most of the hash for europe. not surprisingly for such a region every second person doubles as a dealer, but more surprisingly none of them managed to sell us any drugs.
the first day we arrived the inevitable tout who directed us to our hotel kept asking us if we wanted any, or maybe to see the hash factory. now i must admit that sounded interesting but we'd just spent 25 odd hours travelling and dealing with tetouan taxi drivers so we werent real keen on commiting to anything. so i said maybe we'd think about it later but now we just needed to sleep. the next day we saw him again and he had hash for us, we said we didnt want it and he flipped and started claiming he'd waited three hours for us yesterday to stop sleeping and how we were disrespecting his culture and time etc. anyone he followed us for about half an hour swearing and threatening and generally being a pain in the arse. so after that we were kinda put off the whole chilling out smoking idea. anyway having every second person you see try to befriend you in order to sell you hash or carpets doenst really sound like the kinda of environment i'd like to be stoned in.
so that was chaouen it wasnt so bad really, very pretty n all, but very touristy, i think we stayed three nights then moved on.


we caught a bus outta chaouen heading for the city of meknes. only problem was when we arrived there shortly before nightfall we changed our mind and decided we didnt want to stay in a city and so jumped on another bus to the small town of azrou. azrou means 'the rock' and is named thus cause of a huge big chunk of rock sitting right in the middle of town, otherwise its nice but a bit unremarkable though so we flitted off the next morning.


next we moved on further south, our bus climbed up into the mountains (past a few barbay apes) onto a huge rocky, barren plateau. after about an hour of driving along this plateau we reached the complexe de tourisique de timnay. this was a strange hotel/campground in the middle of the plateau which amazingly had the only soft shady bit of ground for miles, so we took advantage of this and setup our new tent. then we had a wander round the area the landscape was fantastic, at the edge of the plateau the huge snowcapped mountains of the middle atlas rose out of nowhere. the owners of timnay were cool, and taught us a few words of berber. the berbers make up about half the population of morocco but the cities are made up mainly of arabic moroccans which means that most of the small towns are predominantly berber.
the next days we waited by the side of the road till finally a bus arrived and we continued our journey south over the middle atlas towards the sahara.

it appears i am too stupid to work out how to upload pictures to this blog.

well ive now tried to upload pictures to this blog maybe seven times on probably five different days. to be fair too myself it could be that my stupidity is not the only cause of the problem, as on most occasions (or at least those rare occasions when the internet connection doesnt crash mid way through) this wonderful website informs me that the picture was uploaded sucessfully and all i have to do is click 'done' to add it too my blog. a simple enough process no doubt the only slight glitch occurs when one realises that there is no 'done' button to click, a seemingly insurmountable problem. now i know that the 'done' button does exist and that this is not some strange paradoxical zen puzzle for me to decipher. once i did see it and even click on it and it did even work. sadly here my stupdity came into play when i realised i had forgot to flip the picture and it was sideways.
along with my stupidity and bloggers buginess there is one other possible explanation this being the incredible ability of moroccan computers to fail in any circumstance. they are fragile little beasts the last one crashed from me spiteing it with the controversial act of putting a cd into the cd player. and the internet connections are not much better than the computers, infact theyre worse. oh well i guess i should be just glad theres so many cheap internet cafes and be happy that i can, sometimes, use email and anyway i didnt come to morocco to sit in front of a computer all day.
well the point of this winge is there wont be any pictures at least till i hit europe again.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

entering morocco

ok so we left lisboa and had a bit of a complex mission to get to our first destination in morocco. firstly we had two coaches and one local bus that got us through the night and to the ferry in algerciras at the southern tip of spain. then we jumped on a ferry cruised past gibraltor, which in the perfect sunshine that we were blessed with looked pretty cool, and over the mediterranean. then we took our first step onto the continent of africa, but whilst we were geographically in africa we still weren't politically as we had landed in ceuta a little peninsula that in some colonial era throwback still belongs to spain. so then another local bus to the border (or its much cooler spanish name the 'frontera') and we got off and were herded into these long wire corridors for a long trudge over no mans land and towards morocco. it was reminiscent of the film 'children of men' (which if you havent you should cause its absolutely fucking brilliant). then we jumped into a shared taxi and headed for the city of tetuoan.

as we arrived in tetuoan i was thinking how efficeintly and easy our days travel had progessed despite our many how many changes and potential probelems were involved. then we hit tetouan, we had chosen the ferry to ceuta to avoid tangier which has a reputation for being like jumping into a pool of piranhas for new arrivals (with the piranhas being money hungry touts and taxi drivers). unfortunately we hadnt reckoned on the taxi drivers of tetuoan. after 24 odd hours of travel we were tired and susceptible, and its been a while since indioa so i was well out of proactise in dealing with touts and the like. anyway they managed to convince us not to catch the bus (the dude selling bus tickets lust have been in on it, even he told us not to catch the bus) and then proceeded to quote us insane prices. we kept walking away from the two or three who were particularly annoying and rude and trying to find others but everytime we found another driver suddenly the same touts would pop out of nowhere. eventually we found another one who wasnt in on it (or more likely was only in for himself) and were discussing prices when all of a sudden a police van rolled past, opened the side door, grabbed the guy, chucked him in and gave us a pleasant 'bonjour' all in the space of about a second. if only they'd been so efficent with the first dudes. then we got another taxi agreed a price, put our baggage in the back and got in only to find that the first, worst tout was sitting ion the front seat. then his mate started demanding that we pay him and not the driver so i shut the door in his face and paid the driver and off we went. but sadly we only went about 500m and were told we had to swap taxis, so we got out and there was the guy who id slammed the door on! so we got in the new taxi but couldnt leave till i paid the original tout for his 'help' man i do anything to get that 20dh back. anyway after about an hour and a half of stress and hassle we were on the road again, our new taxi driver was nice and he asked how much we paid we told him 100dh each (we were originally quoted 300) and he started yelling apparently he'd only been paid 30 for each of us. anyway the rest of our journey the driver and the rest of the passengers had a heated discussion the only words of which i understood were 'taxi', 'islam' and 'koran' but im pretty sure if hinged around the touts not being real muslims. anyway that was tetuoan it sucked but eventually we arrived in our mountain village destination of chefchaouen.

belfast to morocco

so me and flick left our cosy little home in belfast and jumped on a very early morning ferry to scotland, then jumped on a train to edinburgh. i really like the train/ferry combination it was how i got to ireland as well, its a little slower than the plane but much more relaxed and you get to see the country your travelling through.we spent a couple of very nice days in edinburgh. edinburgh's obviously a pretty special city seems to be able to keep a little of the medieval feel to it despite all the cars and tourist industry. we did the usual touisty things and blew out on all the little windy,hilly alleys coming off the royal mile its certainly a picturesque city. it was all very pleasant and a nice way to begin our travels.

from edinburgh we headed to newcastle (via the most expensive transport ive ever caught 39 pounds, thats over 100 bucks, for a one hour train trip). we were going to newcastle to visit my relatives, my dads from gateshead which borders newcastle, and many of my relatives live in the area. it was great to see them, as being at opposite ends of the world we dont see each other too often. we stayed at my aunt geraldines and had dinner at my cousin claires with her husband david and another cousin paul. if any of you are reading thanks cause we had a lovely time.

next we headed to york another medievalesque city where the white and black tudor buildings seem to crowd in over the narrow cobblestone streets. we had a lovely indian meal which during my time in england was something i tried to do whenever finances permitted. i cant really say much in the way of positive comments on the food situation in england in comparison to australia but the one area they easily surpass us is indian cuisine. i guess its obvious considering there is huge indian population. infact it seems kinda sacreligious but i think i ate better indian food in england than india, than again i had diahorrea half the time i was in india so maybe i wasnt as appreciate as i could of been.after a sleepless night in a terrible hostel over a horrendous house nightclub we headed for my cousin marks place. tragically i must admit i cant remember where it was! some little village in the yorkshire dales very atmospheric, windy, beautiful and kinda spooky. flick said it reminded her of wuthering heights which turned out to be very perceptive as it was based round there. anyway we had a wonderful evening with mark, jo and the kids, jo cooked such a good moroccan meal that im not sure if its yet been matched by any real moroccans. hope you guys are all well in your mysterious little village.

next up it was back to old london, we arrived there before i managed to tell anyone i was coming so had to spring a surprise call on sammy whitehead asking for a place to stay, luckily he was his usual charming, affable self and we had a fun couple of days hanging with him and cella. then we headed back to my old place at janes a very appropriate place to spend my last couple of days in the uk. in between this we ran around like headless chooks trying to organise everything and got ourselves into an advanced state of the meantime we bought a camera which should mean i can add some photos to this blog.then we caught an overnight bus/ferry to paris. wow paris is pretty grand hey. you sure can tell those frenchies plundered good and proper in the old colonial days. londons got bits of it round whitehall and all but paris is just like one huge mega monument, pretty impressive and all but a bit much in my personal opinion. we spent a good three hours rushing round the louvre which was about 3% of the time it deserved. saw the mona lisa mainly cause judging by the crowds that seemed to be the thing to do. i dont know i find when youve seen someting in pictures that many times before it isnt as exciting as seeing something new (i think that applies especially to art but even sometimes a bit to buildings although they often benefit from seeing the actual scale).

from paris we had a very long busride to lisboa. luckily it was enlivened by a crew of elderly frenchies in front of us who seemed to be treating it like a big party. one guy spent the entire 20 odd hours standing in the aisle ranting and gesticulating, man i wish i could have understood him. they even passed the hat round for the driver who then gave a speech over the intercom which was greeted with a round of applause.lisboa is so beautiful i think its my new favourite european city, narrowly edging out berlin. its all cobblstone and hills, colourful terrace houses with washing hanging on the balconys and the wonderful trams. the trams are so cool they're tiny and i think i read theyre WW1 vintage which i could believe. i reckon it'd be a great city to live in seems really vibrant but relaxed and really easy to get around even the flash new underground wasnt well as wandering around the lovely city we also hung out with a very cool couple shiva and anita. shivas a street performance artist and anitas a puppeteer and she put on a performance of one of her shows for us, it was hilarious.then, sadly, after a couple of days we had to leave and head for morocco.

from oz to belfast an overdur update on my ramblings

well well, after a couple of failed tries ive finally setup a blog in order to note my travelling experiences. in my mind the main purpose of this blog is to ease my slight guilt at my pathetic attempts to keep in email contact with anyone.ok so first to very briefly update anyone who i haven,t contacted since i left australia.

me and flick left in april 06 and had a few days in bangkok then five weeks in india and one in jordan. summing up all that is pretty impossible so i,ll just say it was great. particularly memorable were the food in thailand, sharing the roof of a bus with 42 indians as it raced along some tiny mountain roads in the kullu valley and the overall magnificance and improbability of the archaloegical theme park that is petra.then we headed to germany for the world cup where we drank a truckload of fine beer watched heaps of soccer and enjoyed the very cool city of berlin. got to hang out with fulton and megsy, and catch up with clemens and jan again which was fun. we also spent a week in each of poland and the czech republic.

by that stage we were well and truly broke so we had to leg it too london and crash on my sisters couch, ta celia, and get ourselves work. flick ended up working like a slave as an in home carer in portsmouth for three months. as for me after a trying period of unsuccessfull job hunting jem managed to line me up a job at boots, ta jem. the job mainly consisted of giving advice to rich snobby middle age bitches on what type of facial cream/harispray/makeup would best suit them so obviously i was a complete natural. well actually thats a little bit of a lie i desperately tried to avoid any advice giving and instead concentrated on a concerted but predominantly futile campaign to avoid giving the aforementioned bitches a plastic bag to wrap up the box of panadaol they,d just bought and were about to put in their handbag.actually boots was kinda fun i didnt give a shit and neither did the rest of the fantastically cool little crew of co-workers i worked with. there were lots if comic moments but i guess there of a you had to be there type and this is dull enough already.

living in london itself didnt really do it for me as much as it does for most people. there were definite ups like getting to hang with my sister again after not seeing each other for three years, and hanging out with conor and jem who amazingly lived right round the corner. i was also lucky enough to move into a cool, if messy even by my standards, flat with jane, finn, lucky the dog and three cats! they were great and it was a fun place to live. overall i found london just too expensive, difficult to get around, busy and generally big. so after her three months in hell were over flick returned to london and at about the same time sturt and charlotte arrived. we all decided to ditch london for somewhere cheaper and smaller and so ended up in belfast.

belfast was great, we managed to get a very comfortable and cheap house and living with flick, stu and char was lots of fun. the location was certainly interesting, we were deep in the protestant heartland of east belfast, a wierd area of fish n chip shops, chavvy little brats wandering the streets at night, threatening murals, scary skinheads walking their (alost exclusively) pitbull terriors and more fish and chip shops. those bloody dogs shat on the footpath so much that the pungent aroma permanently lingered in the air.

belfast is an interesting place. in the slightly less than three months i spent there i felt like i was only just beginning to get a glimpse of the reality that lurks just below the dreary but friendly exterior. certainly the place must be a lot better than it was back when the 'troubles' were really cranking. it seems like a lot of people of my generation and younger think its all a bit of a load of bollocks and would rather get on with being happy little consumers than get into any sectarian nonsense. nonetheless its still a city truly divided and, unless your an outsider like we were, your always marked by which side you belong too. the communities are still almost entirely divided, theres still full on murals, protestant areas are sperated from catholic ones by huge barriers and the police vechiles look more like tanks than cars. its obviously improving but it,ll be a long time before the dynamics are anything like a 'normal' city.while in belfast i mostly worked crazy fifty plus hour weeks doing insanely tedious, mind numbing and ethically dubious data entry work for a consumer credtit company. still it was easy, there was a few good crew there and i saved a shitload of cash so it was all good really.ok so that about sums up that, around the 10th of feb me and flick headed off travelling but that can be for another post.