Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Crossing Atlas Mountains (Day 9)

Our plan for this day was a trip from Fes to Meknes. Those two are both referred to as Imperial cities and as such offer many sights worth visiting.

We left the hotel and headed for the bus station. There we were informed that the bus for Meknes is not leaving until 6 PM. It was a long wait so we started looking for alternatives.

After a couple of minutes we were approached by a local and after a short conversation he offered to arrange a ride for Azrou for the same price we expected to pay for the bus. Azrou is a crossroad on the way south. From there the road continues across Atlas Mountains and into the sand dunes of Merzouga.

We didn't trust the guy, but we were very curious what he was up to. "Curiosity killed the cat" says an old proverb, but we decided to play along nevertheless.

He promised us a cheap ride with a Grand taxi to Azrou, where we could catch a fancy bus to Rissani. We liked that idea, because that meant skipping the town of Er Rachidia, against which we were warned a couple of times.
Different touts are supposedly especially pushy and persistent in that town. They know almost everyone getting off the bus in Er Rachidia is on the way to the desert. When trying to sell you a guided tour into the desert they just won't take no for an answer.

Even though we still didn't think the guy was telling the truth, we took his offer.
An old Mercedes was already waiting for us and all we had to do was pay the driver and hit the road. With us in the cab, the car was full. This meant six (yes, that's 6!) people plus the driver.

I guess we were lucky that all four of us sitting in the back seat were quite skinny. Two local guys sharing the back seat with M. and me were obviously amused with the two unusual passengers but unfortunately didn't speak any English to share their reasons with us. It was the same with the driver and other two passengers.

I guess this seems like a pretty uncomfortable event but it wasn't. Besides an occasional not very safe overtaking manoeuvre (on some occasions M. didn't feel very comfortable watching the road, so she tried to focus on something else), the two hours to Azrou passed pretty quickly.

From there on we boarded a bus to Rissani, which was just leaving when we got to the station. Unfortunately it wasn't a new, comfortable one we got used to until this point. CTM buses don't cover this destination, so we were stuck with a less comfortable option.

It is funny really... we always opted for CTM buses, almost the only exception was the longest destination over Atlas mountains.

We didn't have any problems with the winding road. Unfortunately this can't be said for quite a few of other passengers. Some of them were throwing up most of the way.

Despite all of those things we enjoyed the beautiful Atlas scenery. The most annoying thing were a couple of breaks during which we were pestered with locals trying to sell us something.
Some had various fossils to offer at supposedly very affordable prices, others were selling the best desert experience ever. We didn't give any of them a chance.When I was speaking with them and tried not to look too irritated and turned them down politely. M. on the other hand got annoyed by them quite quickly and was soon "a bit" more direct.

As we were nearing the desert, thunderstorms and heavy rain were picking up. In some places the road was totally flooded. On a few occasions I would feel much better if we were on a boat instead of a bus.

When we got to Rissani it was already late and we were pretty exhausted. To top it all we found out that our backpacks stored in the luggage compartment of the bus were soaking wet and covered in dirt.
Besides all that we still had a hotel to find. It wasn't easy but we succeeded after a couple of tries. It was just for one night so this time we weren't too picky.

After a quick shower we fell into the bed and slept like dead till next morning.


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