21 December 2012

Where did you want to spend the end of the world?
We spent it on a Bloody Bus.

Yet another Bus (with free mandarins)
Countryside like Australia
Hills, Olive trees, more hills
Arrive in Sefrou
No accommodation
Mama Aisha & THE Cave of . . .

Well, the world is supposed to end today.  We were thinking of getting a few bottles of vodka, finding a nice view and watch the fireworks.  However we spent most of it on a bus.  Still, I would prefer that than to die in Guercif.

Prettiest bus yet

Prettiest bus yet

While waiting for a bus, we were given nuts and mandarins.  This was nice, and the young man was quite helpful.  When we were asking about the right bus, a policeman came up to listen to the conversation.  We think it was to make sure the poor tourists were ok.  When he realised that we were under the wing of the young man, he wandered away happy.  Knowing we would be looked after.

Goodbye Riff Mountains

Goodbye Riff Mountains

The right bus arrived, and our new friend helped us up with the bags, and tickets.  Boarding the bus, finding some seats, and getting comfortable.  It turns out that our friend was one of the people selling tickets for this bus, and would be joining us.  About ten minutes in, we were all given more mandarins.  A trend that continued for the rest of the trip.

Its not a painting!

Its not a painting!

Here the countryside was a lot dryer.  There were snow capped mountains in the distance, that we never actually got near.  Not sure if it was part of the Rif or the end of the Middle Atlas.  We think it is the latter.  The areas we were driving through was fairly hilly, with the usual rock walls and rocky plains.  Numerous olive trees all around.  In fact there were so many olive trees, that we didn’t think there was anything else.

Was that a Kangaroo we just passed?

Was that a Kangaroo we just passed?

We did pass the occasional eucalyptus tree, or plantation, but mainly there were olives…  Beside the road, on the hills, between the fields, and then there were the olive orchards.  To say there were lots of olive trees would be an understatement.  Although the locals didn’t seem to think there were a lot, as there was also a lot of new plantations going in.  In 20 years or so, you won’t be able to move between the olives!  This is not that bad, but olive trees have a tendency to pop into photos you are trying to take from the bus (not the easiest at any time, but with the egotistical olive trees, it is a nightmare).  They are the most useless tree on earth if you don’t like olives!
Other than this, the countryside was very reminiscent of Australia.

More landscape.  It is amazing how much of the stuff you see from a bus.

More landscape. It is amazing how much of the stuff you see from a bus.  Just ignore the Olive trees.


Sefrou.  There is a big dispute between Fez and Sefrou.  It used to be the capital, but has been superseded by Fez.  As such, most of the tourists go to Fez, and not here.  We thought we would see what it has to offer.

On arriving at the square being used as a bus station, we grabbed a couple of coffees, and talked to the waiter about where to stay.  There are apparently two hotels in town.  Not much choice, so we made our way towards the one we had been told was cheaper.  On the way, we passed a stall where a man pulled us up.  Finding out we were Australian, he wanted to practice his English.  This was fine with us.  He also knew of a place that was cheaper than the hotels and would take us there.  It was worth a try.  On the way through the Medina, we found out that he had graduated uni with an engineering degree and spoke fluent Spanish and English.  Along with Berber, French & Arabic!  No real surprise, but always reminds me of how sheltered Australia is with only one language.  It is sad but very common to find highly educated people working in sandwich shops like him, or even unemployed.
At the house, we were taken upstairs to look at the rooms.  They were magnificent.  It was a large room with sofas and a four poster bed!  Well done, and obviously above our price range.  It is 300Dh a person!  This was supposed to be less expensive than the hotels?  She did have a room on the roof we could use.  150Dh a person for the four of us in a cramped room.  Right.  The man with us explained that the house was owned by a French woman, but was surprised we could not negotiate on the price.  Back to the original plan of the hotels…
Unfortunately the hotel is all the way across town, and up a rather large hill.  Still, with a few directions we made it there.  350Dh a person.  Well the Auberge was cheaper!  This was not an option for us though, and now we found out the other hotel was closed…  We are starting to understand why tourists don’t come here.
After a group discussion, we decided to head back to Fez, it is only about 20km from here.  We knew a place we could stay, and if we wanted we could day trip here tomorrow.  Going to the Grand Taxi station we passed the other hotel.  It was indeed closed for renovations.  We also found a bottle shop and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to celebrate the end of the world, or not.  Any excuse for a drink.
At the Taxi station, we ran into Zachariah.  He started talking to us, and is a guide.  However he had another tip on a place to stay in town.  David went to check it out.  After a while, he returned.  This was also not an option.  Yet Zachariah had said we could stay in his place.  David had also seen this, and we would not be able to fit.  However it was a sweet offer.  Zachariah had one more card up his sleeve.  There is a cave house we could stay at.  This is in the next town over.  About four kilometres away.  We thought why not check it out, and all jumped into a taxi.

Mama Aisha

Mama Aisha

The taxi took us to Bhalil.  It was a town we wanted to see anyway, and the cave did sound like a bit of fun.  On arriving, we were taken down a few streets and came to a couple of doors in the hill.  This is Mother Aisha’s house.  On going in, we found Mother Aisha in bed.  She is at least 75 years old, and not doing so well.  Still, we were invited in for tea, and to talk.  One of her sons came around, and we all chipped in for some food to cook dinner.  During the evening, Mother Aisha came down, and like all women of her generation, was more worried about making us happy, than herself.  We were welcome to stay in the cave, or we could stay in her son’s house.  She would prefer that as it has all the facilities she thought we would need.  We decided to stay there.  This was out of respect, as the last thing she needed at the moment was a few tourists that don’t speak the language hanging around.

More stuff than Mimili

More stuff than Mimili

The cave:  It is an old hollowed out section under the hill as mentioned.  Houses have been built all around and over it.  Originally it was two levels.  The bottom was used to keep the goats and a donkey, with small narrow steps leading up to another room for the family.  Now there are no animals, and upstairs is Mother Aisha’s bedroom.  Here there is a window overlooking the street for her to call out to family as needed.  Downstairs is one long chamber with a couple of nodules carved out.  Now these serve as storage.  There was more furniture here than we have seen in any other Moroccan house.  A couple of wardrobes and shelves.  The back of the room was lined with mattresses to sit on, with a few tables in between.  Modern amenities have been added, with a small gas stove at the front with a sink, and electricity cabling running along the walls and ceiling.

Zachariah helping make Tanjine (Sans Alcohol)

Zachariah helping make Tanjine (Sans Alcohol)

While we were there, a few people dropped in to check out the new guests, and we got to meet many of the people that call Mother Aisha Mother.  She is a pillar of the community, and everyone looks after her.  It was a fun evening, with Zachariah drinking our bottle of Fig Vodka as his “tip” going on about how he was a hippy, and now a blues man.  A self proclaimed alcoholic, and having trouble finding tourists to guide.  He has not had customers in three months.

Sophia & David did all the work, under Mama Aisha's watchfull eye

Sophia & David did all the work, under Mama Aisha’s watchfull eye

With a son that he has only met once living in Norway.  A lot of the stories started being repeated by the end of the night.  We had wanted to drink our wine with dinner, or after, but the circumstances did not lend themselves to this.  (We thought Zachariah would drink it all as well!)

Mother Aisha made it down for a while, to sit with us, and make sure we were happy.  When she started tiring, we made our leave and moved over to the other house.  We were welcome to stay up talking, but all of us were a bit drained from the long day, and turned in.



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