Results 1-3of 3 Reviews
December 26, 2002
HOUR 12....As the sun rose, it cast its light upon many roads that were inundated by floodwater from the last few days. The natives were restless, doubly so because of the Ramadan fast during the daylight hours. My friend and I were appreciative of the bright sun, as it had been rainy throughout much of our time so far in Morocco. The crowd were not as appreciative, as they pointed at the curtains and wanted them drawn shut.
HOUR 15....As the morning dragged on, it was not really surprising to find out that our third-rate bus had a flat tire. This unscheduled pit stop allowed me to have a few refreshing slurps of water and some precious bites of candy while hiding incognito on the temporarily empty bus. Everyone stepped out to get some sunshine while gazing at the Tuscany-like countryside or congregating quietly around a wall in a field. The wall also came in handy as a backstop upon which many grateful passengers relieved themselves. We were really relieved after the crew diligently repaired the bus. The timing was good (for a change), as a brief rain shower chased everyone back onto the bus. This was a physically demanding ride, but since we were not sure where we were on the map, it was mentally straining as well. How many more hours would this journey take? It was nearly 11am, and we were not close to Marrakesh.
HOUR 16....We pulled into a town called Ben Guerir, about two-thirds of the way from Casablanca to Marrakesh. Many of the passengers departed for good at this town, but not the man with the hat. It was noontime and there were finally some empty seats! I jumped to the seat behind so my friend and I would have two seats each. This luxury was short-lived, as soon new passengers would climb aboard for the ride to Marrakesh. Oh well, at least it was sunny outside. The roads were drier as we went south, so our bus seemed to be going faster. I chewed gum for hours in lieu of actual food.
HOUR 17....Are we there yet?
HOUR 18....It was now about 2pm, and our dream bus was finally chugging into the Red City called Marrakesh. Thanks to the flooding, our travel time from Fes to Marrakesh was basically doubled from 9 to 18 hours. EIGHTEEN HOURS. Everyone, including the man with the hat, spilled out of the bus. My friend and I were so relieved to jump into a taxi to the Sheraton. Well, at least we do not have to ask for early check-in now.
From journal Bill in Morocco - MARRAKESH
HOUR 10....It was nearly 6am, and we were dumbfounded when we realized that we were in Casablanca, not Marrakesh. This train should have arrived into the Casablanca Voyaguers station about 5 hours earlier! This station was supposed to be the midpoint of our train ride, but it became the unexpected finish. The conductor told us in French that there was some sort of flooding, so the train could not move past Casablanca. So all the sleepy and grouchy passengers crammed into the main vestibule of the train station. We saw swarms of Moroccan men (there were few women and non-Moroccans on the train) demanding ticket refunds from the beleaguered ticket counter attendants on the other side of the glass wall. Eventually, we received partial refunds for the Casablanca-Marrakesh segment. After exiting the train station, we were pleasantly surprised to see some buses lined up in front. Were these shuttle buses to the main bus station, or the actual long-distance buses? We screamed MARRAKESH and were directed to a bus parked to the left. It was a not a first-class bus, since there was no storage compartment in the belly of the vehicle. Heck, this was not even a second-class bus. There was little overhead storage, so we crammed our bags wherever we could. We missed the comforts of the train already. A few poor souls were missing them even more, as they had to stand in the narrow aisle when the bus ran out of seats. We were hoping that this bus ride would last no more than 4 hours.
HOUR 11....My friend and I were the only non-Moroccans on this bus. The man with the hat was on this bus, too. Most of the passengers were getting impatient, as seemingly bus after bus roared past our standing vehicle. After much shuffling about, the bus finally departed with a full load of passengers. Alas, we seemed to be looping back to the train station, so people were yelling and clamoring to leave our bus to catch another ride. After another spin around the block, almost all of the departed were clamoring to re-board this bus. This was a mad scene, with lots of shouting and finger pointing. At one point, one of the passengers stood out as the voice of reason, trying to calmly reassure the masses in the Arabic tongue. We had no idea what he was saying, but it was a dramatic moment. The crowd hushed up, and the bus finally moved on.
(Continued in Part 3)
HOUR ZERO....It was raining in Fes at night, so we were looking forward to a nice dry train compartment and hopefully sunnier skies in Marrakesh. The train departed on time at 8pm. Curiously enough, no couchettes are sold for this night train, so we were hoping to get as much rest as possible in seats. We had bought first-class tickets, which were only nominally more expensive than the second-class seats. Our six-seat compartment was cozy enough, and it felt even better because we had it all to ourselves.
HOUR 1....We heard a man screaming as if he was in agonizing pain. Seemingly everyone poked his head into the corridor to see what was happening. Eventually the wailing stopped, so the only noise again was the constant clacking of the train tracks below. After spending some time snacking and reading a few notes about Marrakesh, my friend and I each stretched out on three seats and turned out the lights. Will we get some much-needed sleep after all during this journey?
HOUR 5....I think I slept for a few hours! The train stopped for a while. Hopefully that was the scheduled stop at Casablanca.
HOUR 9....Hours passed and I gradually woke up about 5am because I needed to use the toilet. Once I returned to our compartment, I was wondering whether to stretch out some more or just sit up and ready myself for the anticipated approach into Marrakesh. Before I could decide, a grizzled older man sporting a hat and briefcase jammed into my end seat, so no more lying down for me. He looked like he needed a smoke, but fortunately he stepped into the corridor to light up. Ramadan is not easy for the devout Muslims: no eating, drinking nor smoking between sunrise and sunset. It was still dark out, so I ate a granola bar. We were minutes away from the scheduled arrival time. My friend was awake by now, and we were hoping that the Sheraton in Marrakesh would allow us to check into our room early.
(Continued in Part 2)