Next Train to Marrakesh

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This blog entry about the events of Thursday, June 17, 2004 was originally posted on June 18, 2004.

DAY 243:  If there’s anything that the French influenced on the Moroccans during its occupation in the mid-20th century other than language, it’s the idea of a fast and efficient modern railway system.  Morocco has one of the most modern train networks in Africa, linking most of the major cities via rail, with trains that actually depart and arrive on time.  The only drawback to the Moroccan railway is that you have to be at the correct train station for you to appreciate its efficiency.

I HAD BOUGHT A TRAIN TICKET the day before at the Casa Port station, near the port in Casablanca, the only train station demarked on my Lonely Planet map.  Lonely Planet wasn’t to blame in this case; if I had just read further, I would have known that the bigger train station was 5 km. out of the city center.  If I had just read my ticket, I would have seen that the departure gate was at the Casa Voyageurs station, not Casa Port.  Silly me, I just assumed that the train would leave from the station I bought the ticket at.

“Est-ce qu’il y a le tren pour Marrakesh?” I asked a guy on the only train that was departing around my designated departure time.  (I read that part correctly.)

“Non, pour Kenitra,” he answered.  (Kenitra was about two hours in the wrong direction.)  Luckily I got off the train just in time, right before it took off.

Confused, I asked the station manager and it was he that pointed out my error.  “[Where is the train for Marrakesh?]” I asked.

“[It’s gone already,]” he said in French.  “[There is another at fifteen past one, at the other station.]”  He directed me to a train at Casa Port that would stop at Casa Voyageurs, where I could wait for the next train to Marrakesh.  It wasn’t much of a crisis because I had all day to get there, and the ride would only be three and a half hours.  Leave it to the efficiency of the Moroccan railway to have a train every two hours.


A TEN-MINUTE RIDE TO CASA VOYAGEURS and about another hour of waiting, I was finally on the correct train bound for my next destination, Marrakesh.  Train cars come in first and second class, and the second class was just fine with air-conditioned individual compartments that seat up to six in clean, cushioned chairs.  There were only three others in my compartment, each of which were Moroccan and kept to his/herself. 

The landscape whizzed by through the windows, revealing the varied landscape of the Moroccan countryside.  At times it looked like Arabian urban sprawl, other times there were mountains or tropical palm trees, and other times it looked like it might have been a dry European countryside.  The time flew and before five o’clock I was at Marrakesh train station, the end of the line.  A friendly petit taxi driver took me across the modern new town and into the funky old medina where all the action was.


“TOTALLY GEARED TOWARDS TRAVELERS” is how Lonely Planet describes the Hotel Ali, right near the famous Place Djemaa el-Fna, the center stage for Marrakesh’s tourist scene.  “Totally geared” was right.  For about fourteen US dollars, Hotel Ali gave me a private room with a comfy bed, private bathroom with hot water, and air conditioning with a view of the central courtyard.  Two stories up was a roof terrace and restaurant which overlooked all the action at the Place Djemaa el-Fna and two stories down was a cafe, restaurant, gift shop and (most importantly for me) an internet cafe with unlimited use included in the price.  Going once, going twice… SOLD to the Filipino-American blogwriter traveling the world for sixteen months (or until money runs out, whichever comes first)!

After settling in, I was off to explore the Place Djemaa el-Fna at sunset (picture above), the prime time for most of the street performers to come out.  Walking through the plaza was a sensory overload; acrobats, snake charmers, belly dancers, shops, food stands and thousands of people walking around in a space about the size of a parking lot of a Walmart.  Wide-eyed and smiling, I assumed I felt like a country bumpkin who was in New York’s Times Square for the first time. 

So much to see, so much to do.  Where do I begin?  I wondered around aimlessly, in and out of the buskers in the plaza, the shop-filled side streets and the cafe-a-plenty pedestrian malls.  Dusk turned into nighttime, the time when all the plaza food stall vendors got into gear, with aggressive (but not too pushy) waiters urging prospective diners to eat at their establishment.  Presentation was key in their pitches, and a seafood stand with everything laid out nicely caught my eye — it beat out the mutton place nearby with grilled sheep heads as their centerpiece.  Calamari and couscous filled my stomach before I set off again to explore the nighttime scene again.

While wandering around, I noticed that among the thousand or so tourists in the medina, most of them were French or French-speaking, another testament to France’s legacy in Morocco.  Whether or not those French tourists got the correct train en route to Marrakesh I don’t know, but I’m sure upon arrival, they didn’t much care.






Next entry: Splish, Splash, He Gave Me A Bath

Previous entry: Now in Color!




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Comments for “Next Train to Marrakesh”

  • New Number One!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/18  at  06:53 PM


  • HEY GANG… I’m all caught up now…  but I will be in the NIZ for the next three days as I do a camel trek through the dunes of the Sahara…

    In the meantime, make sure you grab a drink and toast your fellow Blog Hogs and SBRs; June 19th is the one year anniversary of my “re-birthday” (the day I got laid off my job, which sent this trip into motion)... June 20th is The Halfway Day, the 8-month anniversary of TGT2004… plus, it’s FATHER’S DAY!

    Have a good one, Dad!

    So grab your dad and a couple of cold ones, blast the Bon Jovi and sing along:

    Oh, we’re halfway there…
    Whoa-oh!  We’re living on a prayer…
    [Read my blog], we’ll make it I swear…
    Whoa-oh, we’re living on a prayer…

    Living on a prayer!

    (air guitar here)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/18  at  07:13 PM


  • What, no pictures of the belly dancers and snake charmers?  Enjoy your camel trek!  Happy half way point too!  It’s been the 20th in Japan for about 3 and 1/2 hours now.

    Posted by Liz  on  06/18  at  09:56 PM


  • LIZ:  Plaza picts in the next entry…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/18  at  11:49 PM


  • HAPPY HALFWAY POINT!!

    Someone else will have to grab their dad and grab a beer, I’ll just have to settle for grabbing a drink and singing along!!

    Cheers - have fun in the desert - can’t wait for those pictures!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/19  at  01:54 AM


  • TOM (TWH):  Hey, thanks for pledging…  I’d ask you for your postal address straight away, but seeing as you’ll be in Spain, sending you a postcard won’t be necessary just yet!

    I suppose in Pamplona I’ll look for the OTHER guy wearing a TGT shirt?  Look out ESPN!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/19  at  01:55 AM


  • HALFWAY POINT!  woohoo…that means its getting even closer to the TGT2 return party!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/19  at  05:23 AM


  • Congratulations on making it to the halfway point. May the next 8 months be even better!

    Posted by Alyson  on  06/19  at  08:51 AM


  • Do you think you can turn the global trip into, maybe, a 32 month thing instead?  I think you should just travel around and entertain us for a few years.  Just an idea! 

    happy halfway point!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/20  at  12:24 AM


  • Congratulations on the mile stone Erik!

    I’m still trying to adjust to my return to the “everyday.” It really sucks.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/20  at  09:18 AM


  • Congrats on the Halfway point ... cheers!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/20  at  04:02 PM


  • wow, time sure passes quite fast when you are having fun. CONGRATS on the halfway point!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/21  at  05:58 PM


  • I agree with Sara, I think you should travel full-time for our entertainment. I don’t want it to be 1/2 over, but count me in for the Welcome Home party!

    Great pics. Also, i hope this doesn’t sound snarky but your righting/tone/articulation has really matured in content, delivery and honesty. It has been a pleasure to be along for the ride! Keep going and keep growing.

    Fun

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/22  at  03:40 AM


  • FUNCHILDE:  Thanks!  I was hoping my evolutionary journey as a writer would come across as a sort of sub-plot in all this…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/22  at  01:15 PM


  • Congrats buddy! See what you can do when you don’t have a JOB?!

    So who’s in charge of the welcome home party anyway? We’re going to need a bigger joint that the bon-voyage party!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/24  at  02:55 AM


  • CHRISTY: “I think we’re gonna need a bigger bar.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/24  at  01:47 PM


  • Hey Erik!
    I was fumbling around on the internet, and you came to mind.  I just spent the last few hours catching up on your recent treks….AND IM SOOOOO GEALOUS!  I wish I could do what you are doing…. thanks for bringing some reality into our safe, inhibited, boring lives smile
    Denise (Rutgers group/Capetown)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/25  at  11:22 PM


  • DENISE (RU CREW):  Hey, glad to hear you’re still reading…  What a way to spend a free period, huh? 

    Pass the good word along!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/26  at  01:07 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Splish, Splash, He Gave Me A Bath

Previous entry:
Now in Color!




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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