30 March 2012

gent

Gent is amazing.
Located in Belgium, it is between Brussels and Bruges. It is a mix of an undiscovered Amsterdam+Bruges+Montreal; a city with just enough cathedrals and castles for good measure, but also very livable with a waterfront and museums and universities. Additionally there is a bar with over 300 types of Belgian beer I would like to go back to and check out.
Bird and fish market
Sea of bikes

getting out of the desert

A sandstorm kept us up most of the night and we awoke to this
Door to the desert
Waking up the camels
There will be video from our trek to come. Lots of it.

Once we finally made it back to M'Hamid, it became much more difficult than we thought it would be to make our way back to civilization. We wanted to get to Marrakesh, which was about 10 hours away, but no buses were to come.

The extremely unhelpful hotel manager finally helped us get a ghetto taxi, which we had to pay too much for to drive two hours to Zagora, the next town with buses. The roads were one lane and cars would play chicken until one would move out of the way for the other. We finally were able to take a 7pm bus from Zagora that got into Marrakesh at 2am. We did see a delightful old man on the cutest donkey ever who tried to sell us bicycle sized tire baskets and swords, which was entertaining. "Oh you!" The next day in Marrakesh we did a bit of meandering, drank mint tea and bargained. A night train with a sleeping car took us back to Tangers, where we couchsurfed with a Moroccan engineer our last night. I got sick the last night and day (of course).
 Back to Marrakesh
 Best cafe in town
Ciao, Morocco!

the sahara

We rode camels into the Sahara the morning after our near abduction. Camels are amazing animals, and if you have never been close to one, I highly suggest it.
After riding a few hours into the desert, we took a tea and lunch break at a little hut.
We are somewhere on this map
 Camel love

ouazarzate

The Atlas Mountains, stretching 1600 miles across North Africa, separate the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. As we had planned a trek out to the desert for one night, we had to traverse these mountains with precarious switchbacks via bus. I only managed a few photos out the window, or otherwise was too queasy (like the rest of the bus travelers).
After the 5 hour ride, we luckily didn't fall off any cliffs and made it to our destination of Ouarzazate, which looks like this
It also has this there
Ouarzazate is the last big town before the Sahara and also known for being a popular film-making location (Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, The Gladiator, etc.). It was hot and sunny while we were there and Katie got sick, so that was a bit rough. I got a lot of Hunger Games reading and drinking of cafe au laits done.

marrakesh

Marrakesh: snake charmers, smoke, story tellers, spices. Fresh orange juice, food stalls, henna ladies, call to prayer, camels, kasbahs. Monkeys, motorcycles, mountains, mint tea. This is what I think of when I remember Marrakesh.
After a train ride through scenery such as this,
we bargained our way through riads to find a good one for 50 Dirham, or about 5 Euro, a night, in a central location right off of Djemma El Fna, one of the busiest squares in the world.
We actually did some sightseeing in Marrakesh, and visited old palace ruins as well as the tombs of some dead guys. The best part was watching the birds, which looked prehistoric to me.