To Fes.

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September 28th 2019
Published: September 28th 2019
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We are on the train and heading towards Fes. No wifi which is not a surprise but the air conditioning is working which is equally surprising. Most reviews you read of Moroccan rail are not that glowing or positive whereas we would say they are fine. Their system of numbering trains, then carriages then seats is intuitive and functional. They have so far been very punctual and the staff are helpful. We travel first class in Morocco although the difference does not appear to be that great, perhaps the air conditioner does not function as well there! There is a basic trolley cart service for water, drinks and snacks but we are travelling with cold water and even a couple of small bottles that our hotel gave us as they realised we were travelling by rail and on the train for a while. Even better is they also provide a traveller’s box of pastries. There’s no such thing as poor pastries here and the hotels have been really good so they should be welcome and enjoyed pretty soon. I think I posted a few shots of mint tea and pastries at the Maison Arabe which made them look really good but on bill paying time I discovered they were also complimentary which made them even better! Originally I thought they were complimentary but then they asked for my room number so I presumed they would bill me but no. Even the tourist bed tax was included here which makes things easy and gives us a little more cash to splash elsewhere.

Breakfast was a repeat of the last few days, which is certainly no grumble. At a relaxed pace, as we did not have to leave the riad until 11 o’clock, it is a delightful time. Around the pool, in the courtyard, among the green foliage, listening to the mixed accents and enchanted by Marrakech things could be a lot worse.

The station at Marrakech is beautiful. Spacious, marble floors and walls, with that decorative mosaic work and repetitive symmetrical patterning they rival the Moscow Underground stations that have such an international reputation. As well as looking good they function. No longer do we search for some unsuspecting soul who looks like they speak English and we are now confident enough for Lee to even check other people’s tickets!

Our train of about 12 carriages seems full. Our compartment is and only after 2 and a bit hours has one person got off. As we have 2 large suitcases and because we were pretty early arriving our cases take up the lions share of the available space. Others have managed to fill the remaining space easily but we are comfortable. There’s not much talk although there’s more than a spluttering of English between the locals. Last time I offered my pastries around (on the previous train) several were taken so I’m not making that rookie error again. Surprisingly they were take by a gruff old man and his wife who gave them the thumbs up, hoped for more (unsuccessfully) and were a little chirpier for the rest of the journey. As I helped them off the train with their luggage he even smiled and thanked me. But it’s still an hour or so before half time and time for pastries.

Just pulling into Garre de Casa Oasis which sounds exotic but doesn’t look it. It’s Casablanca.

And not surprisingly a lot of people are disembarking here. Not many places look good as you approach by rail but it particularly so here. We have never stayed overnight here and it is unclear to me why so many tourists come here. Lots use it as the fly in fly out destination. It’s big and I’m thinking that it’s probably the first place where the rail meets the Atlantic so it would be a port of some significance but that does not make it a tourist Mecca . The houses are white, the sky clear and bright and even more locals are disembarking at the next stop so I’m guessing that it’s sort of a weekend retreat destination for those from Marrakech. There’s even a US accent or two in the mix as people line up in the aisle before hopping off. Fes is the final destination so we do not have to listen carefully for stations in Arabic and/or French and be ready for a rapid exit and that’s a good thing! Just lost another from our compartment but gained another immediately. Oops make that two. Back to full. Both gave the impression of having real tickets with numbers that correspond to the seats but it doesn’t always work like that. Only once have we had to ‘evict’ someone and that was actually in Spain rather than here in Morocco but I think that has more to do with the fact we are usually early enough to get our correct seats before anyone has time to pinch them. If there was a concern the conductor would be expected to come to our aid and in the past has. Lost another passenger. Still have not sighted the ocean but I’m sure I will soon. I can recall being amused by signs last time we were here pointing out surf clubs, surf breaks and surf cafes but they actually exist. We saw the breaks at Rabat and they required some imagination but there were ‘surfers’ predominantly on boggy boards or body surfing so...

The lines have been entirely electric and I have not seen a diesel engine here in Morocco. The system is known as ONCF and is obviously French designed, built and maintained. There’s no speed read out screen or anything like it but they manage to motor along and I’m sure they must reach speeds in excess of 150 km/hr but the frequency of stops pushes the average speed down a bit. The road and rail times for the journey are very similar, with the road being a fraction quicker. Flying is faster again but thwart with little hurdles like arriving 2 hours prior to departure, getting to and from the airports, baggage allowances, security screenings...

And we are now 4. The remaining 2 have big luggage too so they may be with us all the way to Fes. And the Atlantic is now our travelling companion for a while, quite a while.

Just managed to scoff my entire little box of treats so that is my half time feed. We should be able to find something to eat after arriving at our new home. It’s not that we are familiar with the area we are staying in but usually we manage to locate a cheap eat without too much difficulty. Becoming more familiar with prices also helps. The toughest bit is locating a place that is not fully gluten dependent. Lots of cheaper eats here build a menu around pizza, tacos, sandwiches or wraps which Lee needs to avoid so grilled chicken, kebabs and salads have become a staple although we have to be careful with salads and how the lettuce etc. is washed. She thinks that some lentils she had in a salad may have taken a bit of a toll for a day or so lately. I have my heart (or should that be my stomach) set on a traditional pigeon pastilla for our anniversary so I’ll be on the lookout. At one restaurant they did mention that Fes does rabbit and even a rabbit pastilla so I will be on double lookout.

Just stopped at Rabat so back to full compartment and quite a full carriage as lots of English speaking tourists boarded. Obviously we go to Kenitra like last time and we go on to Fes but some will change to Tangiers. I thought there was an Aussie accent in between the Canadians and Americans but Lee didn’t hear it so I probably didn’t either. There are some Aussies here but we are pretty thin on the ground. The hawkers at the markets, restaurants and souks have a patter for Aussies that is quite defined though. Once they find out you’re an Australian they fire with Neighbours, Kath and Kim, Home and Away, kangaroo and one even asked if ‘a dingo got my baby’? I usually get ‘Mr Moustache’ and I don’t think that they’re referring to Lee.

Heaps of gum trees here at the moment too. Many have been deliberately planted and not sure why but they seem to do well here and provide shade and perhaps even wood. I have not seen eucalyptus oils anywhere in the markets but even that is possible. Dotted between the trees are also bee hives in the hundreds. We have seen so much honey I expected to see lots of hives but they seem highly concentrated here and almost nonexistent elsewhere.

Window break. That’s a break to look out the window not a breakage of the window!

The bee hives are still scattered throughout the gums here. For some reason they are only a single hive high so they look like little bee metropolises all white and all in rows. A new conductor or some employee of the railway just got on and despite the fact it’s 38 degrees he has a collar and tie and a jumper on! I think the air machine may have admitted defeat and simply given up as I can not feel any cool or any air coming from it. It’s irrigated land around here so there is some colour and life in the land. The irrigation conduct is above ground and consists of concrete half pipes that stretch off into the far distance. They are probably only a meter at most in diameter but I can see water flowing through them and it evidently does the trick. Another brief stop and we lose a carriage passenger. With the irrigation comes lots of prickly pears (even without irrigation there are lots), sugar cane and some green crop age that is feed to the donkeys and camels. There are also plenty of fruit trees

A delightful English/French couple joined our carriage and chatted the last hour away. They lived and worked in Paris and had taken a long weekend in Morocco (as you do!).

We are now firmly ensconced in our new home. On the edge of the Médina and on the edge we are not so familiar with so again navigation will be a challenge as the Médina here is as convoluted and labyrinth like as any. I managed one block which is more impressive than it may sound but there are a scary lot of alleyways and laneways here. Some are so small and tight they are almost tunnel like. But we are in for a cooking class (currently the group size is one!) and a hamman (spelling?) which is some form of corporal punishment inflicted whilst in or near a sauna. You can probably guess who is doing which.

Anyway I will try and download some photos but the internet is a little touchy here so it may take some time.

Ciao for now.

Lee thinks this blog is too rambly, there’s not even such a word! And it’s not anyway.

treesand olive trees but again olive trees seem pretty ubiquitous too.

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