06 January 2013

Up early
Bus to Bouarfa
To Figuig
Hotel, Which hotel?
Pea Soup

We're on a road to nowhere

We’re on a road to nowhere

Another early start, but if we are to get to Figuig today we have no choice.  It was a 6am bus, but the other options were earlier or 8pm yesterday to arrive in the wee hours of the morning.  Without knowing where to go or stay, not an option, and I am damned if I am getting up for a 4am bus!

We made the bus, much to Anna’s surprise, and even mine!  The ride out to Bouarfa was long, and went through a few other towns starting with B.  We had asked around and been told there were no hotels along the way, this was proven to be inaccurate at the first town, when we passed a number of hotels on the way in.  Still, we had paid to go all the way, so no point in stopping for a small town now.  We passed through arid landscapes with small hills to small mountains.

Takin' that ride to nowhere

Takin’ that ride to nowhere

It was interesting, when we could stay awake.  There was still a lot of cultivation going on in places though.  The aquifers under ground must be massive.  There were also large black plains stretching all the way to the horizon in places.  It was an interesting trip, just a pity it had to start so early.  The only outstanding section was the police check.  They actually boarded the bus.  Normally it is a precursory glance and you are off again.

Arriving at Bouarfa, we were dropped in a small side street.  Now we needed to work out how to get to Figuig.  As you can read, we have heavily researched this bit on getting to one of the most remote places in Morocco, and knew exactly what to do!  Not that we were worried at all…

I'm feelin' okay this mornin'

I’m feelin’ okay this mornin’

It turned out there were a few hotels in town, but they would not be necessary.  There was a bus leaving in a few hours.  With time to kill, we went for a walk around town.  Bouarfa is surrounded by hills, magnificent in their cragginess.  But first we had to get there.  Walking back to the main street we were stunned by the amount of construction going on.  Not only is there the building spree that has spread across Morocco, but there was a massive urban redevelopment programs.  The streets were wide, with good footpaths on either side, light poles lining the wide boulevards into the distance, and a large roundabout fountain in the centre.  It was even full of water and working!  There is a lot of development going on in town.

Come along and take that ride

Come along and take that ride

Making our way out, it turned back into “normal” Morocco.  Here the houses were smaller again, with the second hand markets lining the narrow street.  It is good to see a developing middle class in the country, but there is still a large disparity between them.  Outside of town, we came to a cemetery in the foothills.  Here we met a nice man and his mother.  They started talking to us, but our French was not up to the task, other than to tell them it was a nice place, and we were going to Figuig.  In consolation, they gave us a mandarin each and headed on to pay their respects.  The graveyard was more colourful and orderly than most we have seen, with proper headstones and a view.  There is no point in being dead if you can’t enjoy where you are going to spend the rest of eternity.  Following the mountains around to a valley and dry riverbed we re-entered town.  The town if full of nice people and all are quite happy to have a chat.  People would stop us to practice their English (We should also say practice our Arabic, but I would choke on the lie) and everyone seemed happy.  For anyone considering going to Morocco, don’t discount this small isolated section of the country, as the people are some of the best we have met.


Back at the bus station, we prepared ourselves for the last section of our journey.
The drive to Figuig was much the same as before, except there were camels along the road.


Some really pretty ones.  Black baby camels and even a completely white one.  I know, we have seen plenty of camels in Australia, Jordan, and the rest of Morocco, but it is nice to see them roaming free.  Not sure if they were wild, or part of a herd, but it didn’t matter to us.  About 5km from town we were stopped at one of the numerous police checkpoints in Morocco.  This one was also slightly different for a change.

And it's very far away

And it’s very far away

There was the usual chat between the driver and police officers.  But this time we had to give our passports when the police boarded the bus. They asked us where we were going (there is only one more town before the boarder with Algeria) on replying Figuig, they then wanted to know how long we would stay.  We said two or three days, and their reply was a quick three.  It must be good if they think that rather than two!  Taking our passports for the next 10 minutes or so to write down all our details.  On receiving our passports back,the bus headed on into town.  Only to be stopped a kilometre or so down the road with another police check.  This time they did not want our passports, but we went through the same process.
On arriving in town we were knackered.  We did know there were supposed to be two hotels in town (we did do SOME research!).  Passing one on the way in, we assumed there may be more.  Asking, we were given directions to one of them.  Starting to walk that way, we thought we would check any we passed on the way, as it was in the opposite direction of the one we had seen.  Turns out there were no other hotels.  The one we eventually reached was Hotel Figuig (listed in Rough guide, lonely planet blah blah blah…)  It was kinda pricey.  OK, very pricey and even though they dropped their tariff, still too expensive.  This meant we had to lug our bags all the way back into town and out the other side.  It was a very long walk.  At the other hotel we looked at the rooms.  No shower, no power point, reeking of solvent fumes as they were repainting.  The room was disappointing.  Even for bad Moroccan hotel standards.  We decided to stay one night and head out tomorrow.

And it's all right, baby, it's all right

And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right

A bit disappointing as we have travelled all the way out here, and it would be a shame not to at least see the place.  Talking seriously about leaving, we gave it a try to see if we could get a deluxe room in our price range.  This had a double bed, western en suite with cold shower.  Better than nothing, and more resembles a bad Moroccan hotel (I am probably over exaggerating, as it really isn’t that bad, just way more expensive than the equivalent anywhere else).  They made a deal with us, that we could both agree on, and we checked in for 3 nights.  We should have learnt by now to check rooms better.  The bed is ok.  It even has clean sheets, but the toilet doesn’t work and the extra money we paid to have a cold shower was irrelevant as there is no shower.  Just the taps.

Accommodation all sorted we needed to find some food.  It had been a long trip, and all we had were blocks of chocolate and pastries!  There are no restaurants in town, but we did find a small place that served us some soup.  Looking at it in the vat, we assumed it was a type of pea soup.  On tasting it, we were not so sure.  After a spoonful, the texture and taste got to me, and I was on the point of not eating it at all, as it was different.  I am not sure how to say that properly.  However we worked out that it was a broad bean soup.  The texture and taste were right for this, and it made it much more palpable. It is amazing how your perception of a food changes when you can identify what is in it!  Now it was definitely time to turn in, and we are looking forward to exploring Figuig tomorrow.



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