Traveling without any set plan or itinerary comes with its inherent challenges:
- Constantly changing places to sleep
- Constantly being on a bus/train/plane
- Not knowing where you will be in a week
- Gambling that last minute fares and hotels can be negotiated on the fly
- Figuring out if there are ghosts in your room
- Dealing with people in your hostel who snore louder than you
- Only having two pairs of jeans to wear and wearing one of them for three weeks without a wash.
I have come to accept these challenges as part of the course when venturing to foreign countries. Sometimes, they work out wonderfully and you end up with a great deal in hotel, you meet a new friend and traveller on the road, phenomenal meal or actual altering your trip because of a brilliant suggestion. Other times, you end up lost, confused, angry and ready to murder people.
Today, was one of the days in the second category. The first part of the day, playing with Gibraltarean bus drivers was great, the problems all started when I left Gibraltar. I got back to my hotel in La Linea, and found that my room key didn’t work and there was no one at the front desk because they had gone for their siesta and had no replacement for them. This made me an hour late and I missed the 3pm bus from La Linea to Tarifa. Having missed that bus to Tarifa put in play a series of events that would make today a people killing day.
Tarifa is a Spanish border town which is an hour away but he high speed ferry however only seems to leave from Tarifa. It is possible to take ferries to Tangiers from Algiceras, Tarifa or Gibraltar. Having missed the 4pm ferry, I had to wait for the 7pm ferry, which shouldn’t have been an issue either but the seas were incredibly rocky and the ferry was making people seasick, including two children who were 8 rows ahead of me, who projectile vomited on their mom and someone else.
The ferry itself was typical and quite comfortable except for the scent of spice, cinnamon and wafting vomit that seem to permeate my pores.
After trying not to vomit myself at the aromas, passing through Moroccan customs was a fairly nice process, since the ferry has an immigration officer that does everything for you. The plan after disembarking was supposed to catch the train from Tangiers into Fez at the brand new Tangerville train station. This involved walking from the Port, outside into the streets and catching a taxi.
It was at this point that things really started getting bad. There were 50 touts around me trying to be my best friend within 25 seconds, and it required a ridiculously rude “FUCK OFF!” to everyone in airshot to have them leave me alone, including the one guy who told me the train station was closed – this of course is a classic tout scam to scare you and have you come into their taxi or hotel or something.
Eventually I found a taxi that took me to the train station … of course I don’t recall speaking Arabic and my taxi driver doesn’t recall speaking English, but I do remember that “Gare Central” works for trains, so I used that and he knew where I was going – of course he started rattling off in Arabic/French, something about the trains not working – to which I told him to stop the car and in my best French asked about the train … but I could understand his response, even though he understood my question. Eventually, we started back and headed to the station.
Once I was the train station, I finally understood what everyone was saying by it was closed. There were torrential rain (seriously) between Tangiers and Fez and the flooding had closed the track and there were no trains to Fez till morning. Now completely stuck, I had to find a hotel that wouldn’t rape me on price and was accessible. I got a break in that the train station has free Wi-Fi … where I ended finding a “good” deal for the Hotel Continental for €35.
What the review didn’t mention was the hotel was 150 yrs old, was in the slum of the port, had armed guards at the front and had ghosts in their room. They also didn’t mention that no taxi driver wanted to come here and that it took two policemen taking pity on me after 35 mins to forcibly stop a taxi and tell the taxi driver to take me to the hotel. That was great … but seeing the taxi driver take the money out of his pockets and stuff it into a hidden compartment in the vehicle was not the sight that inspired heaps of confidence. In the end, there was no issue going through the side streets and no incident.
Checking into the hotel, I got a great huge creepy room with a ghost in there. The furniture was old and creepy, the room had weird shadows, and I just felt a little creeped out, but “I ain’t fraid no ghost” … cue Ghostbuster music. The ghost surely had a better day than me, so screw them.