Agadir and Hamman

Part 3 of our Moroccan Adventure; you can find Part One here: Morocco, Marrakech, Souks and Sunshine… and Part Two here: The Sahara.

The next morning we were again up at the crack of dawn, our time in Marrakech was over and we were going to catch the 8:30am bus to Agadir. We arrived at the bus station early to buy our tickets and waited. Finally our bus was loading, we went to put our bags on the bus and were advised that we needed to pay if we wanted to bring our luggage, So we walked back into the station to the desk we brought our tickets from and asked for the luggage tickets, thankfully they only cost about 3 euro each. Luggage on board we climbed onto the bus. The bus was only half full and most people had crammed themselves into the front of the bus, so Guada and I headed towards the back of the bus and stretched ourselves out across to rows of chairs and prepared for a relaxing 4 hour trip to Agadir.

Once we arrived in Agadir we headed straight to the hotel, it was Christmas day and I had not yet had the opportunity to call my parents and wish them Merry Christmas so was looking forward to the WiFi to make a quick call before they went to bed. We arrived at the hotel, wished my mum and dad a Merry Christmas, dumped our bags and headed to the beach. 

DSC_3281The weather was about 21 degrees, had I just come from Australia that would have been baltic, but after almost 2 years in Ireland it was ideal weather for sun bathing. For the next 2 days we strolled along the Agadir esplanade each morning, we would then break to lie on the hotels private beach for a little while before retiring to the hotel pool for the afternoon. Once the sun began to drop we would again venture out to walk along the esplanade and find somewhere to eat.

DSC_3285On the second day we had decided a little spa treatment would be the perfect way to end our trip, so we ventured out to a local spa to try Hamman, a spa treatment everyone was recommending. We arrived at the spa and were ushered into a massage room and given bathrobes and disposable underwear to change into. After a few minutes later a woman walked into the room and showed us to a bathing room, the woman proceeded to disrobed us and started to pour warm water over our heads. Once we were both drenched the woman lathered us in a wax, indicated we should sit back and relax then left us in the warm room to look at each other, shocked and in fits of giggles… this was not what we had expected!

After a few minutes the woman returned and using a body scrubber began vigorously scrubbing at our skin removing the dead skin cells on our arms, legs, tummy, boobs and bum. My poor bum, which was still suffering with the scars of the camel ride from the two days before, did not appreciate the scrubbing! Once we were scrubbed clean our bathing lady lathered us up again, this time in mud. Our bathing lady was very funny, she could not speak English so to try and make us feel comfortable she would use her hands and facial expressions to joke with us as she washed us. After covering us in mud we were again left to lay back and soak in the mud’s natural …exfoliates? dirtiness? honestly we have no idea…. Again our bathing lady returned, she shampooed our hair and washed the off the mud before towel drying us, and helping us back into our robes. We returned to the massage room to dress, and finished off our treatment with a massage / manicure. It was an unexpected but brilliant experience, and the woman who bathed us were such fun and gentle women. We returned to the hotel glowing from our experience.

DSC_3266Although we found a lot of unwanted attention from the men in Agadir which stopped us from spending more time on the beach or strolling the esplanade, the hotel pool side provided us with plenty of entertainment to stop us from really feeling like we were missing out on anything. Ultimately we were happy with our experiences and our tan lines from Morocco. Finally, almost a week after we arrived we reluctantly left the hotel pool and caught a taxi to the airport and back to Dublin.

A week in Morocco was definitely not enough, we didn’t get to visit Casablanca, Essaouira or Fes, and they are just the popular places that the tourists know about. It would have been great to learn more about Berber culture and spend more time in the desert. But ultimately we had an amazing trip and for two girls on a budget we had an amazing time.  

The Sahara

Part 2 of our Moroccan Adventure (part one here: Morocco, Marrakech, Souks and Sunshine…).

The next morning we were off for our desert adventure. We were collected from the Riad at 7am and taken to a meeting point where an hour or so later we started our journey. We headed across the Atlas Mountains towards the Ksar of Aït-Ben-Haddou. The ksar is  mainly a collective grouping of dwellings. Inside the defensive walls which are reinforced by angle towers and pierced with a baffle gate, houses crowd together – some modest, others resembling small urban castles with their high angle towers and upper sections decorated with motifs in clay brick – but there are also buildings and community areas. It is an extraordinary ensemble of buildings offering a complete panorama of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques. This world heritage listed village is also a Hollywood A lister, having appeared in (Brenden Frasers) The Mummy, Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Prince of Persia, and most recently Game of Thrones just to name a few. As we were taken on a tour through the village, our guide proudly announced that last year running water had been connected to the village and next year they expected to get electricity. Sadly we were on a tight schedule and had little time to wander around the village and take in the eclectic scenery of donkeys, chickens, carpet makers, souks, children and women going about their daily lives as we were herded off to a restaurant in the new village for lunch.DSC_3039Our stomach’s full, we dozed on the bus as we continued to head west towards the Sahara. The landscape changed and we passed through mountains which reminded me of contour lines in geography class. We finally passed Zagora and found ourselves in a long valley of date palms, another hour and we were on the edge of the Sahara Desert. We said goodbye to our driver and hello to the camels. Most of our tour group stood around, obviously not wanting to be the first person to have to fumble their way onto a camel, but the moment the guide called for someone to be the first I was already standing next to my camel ready to jump on. Our journey was to take a bit over an hour, and I quickly fell into the rhythm of the camels movement… to be honest the movement kind of reminded me of being on top while having sex.

DSC_3141Half an hour in and my ass was killing me. I was wearing a tight pair of jeans that had rubbed against my skin along the stitching as I bobbed up and down. The older Danish woman bobbing up and down beside me quietly complained that her hips hurt and a women her age should not be in this position for so long. Finally the sun had set and we had arrived at our camp for the night, a ring of 12 sleeping tents and one food tent encircling a fire pit. Guada and I bunked up with a Columbian mother and daughter, we threw our bag into the tent and headed to the food tent for mint tea and to await our dinner.

Once our group had all settled into the food tent one of the guides joined us with a tray of glasses and a pot of mint tea. He poured us all glasses of tea and we went around the group introducing ourselves, our guide was genuinely interested in everyone and would try to say foreign phrases he had learnt from previous guests. After the tea was finished our guide cleared our glasses away and the men served us a communal dinner of soup, and chicken and vegetable tagine. We ate until we were full and then were served fresh fruit; the fruit was just delicious and we could not get enough of the oranges.

DSC_3090Finally the food was cleared away and we all moved outside to the fire pit. While some of our guides lit a small fire the others grabbed their drums and krakebs and started playing. After the first song was over some of the drums and krakebs where passed among us tourists as we attempted to keep in beat with our guides. After a while one of the older guides and an old eccentric Italian man jumped up and started dancing around the fire, they quickly encouraged others to join them and I found myself laughing and dancing as we circled the fire.  Eventually the many of the tourists started to disappear and head to bed, we sat for a while and talked to our desert guides about the stars and their lives. Our guide had grown up a Bedouin, travelling in caravans through the desert most of his life…. He said desert life had become much more difficult in recent years and so he and his family had settled in the village 6 years earlier. He missed the desert and they still went away for periods at a time, but it was better for them to be in the village.

Eventually we drifted off to bed, but we were not prepared for the cold desert night… Along with the 2 blankets each we found in our tent, Guada and I wore everything we had brought with us. For me that was a turtleneck sweater, t-shirt, and long sleeve shirt, with jeans and summer pants over the top; my winter jacket zipped up and hoodie pulled close around my head; shoes on and my bed socks on my hands like gloves. We were still freezing but somehow we survived the night. The next morning we had breakfast and mounted the camels just before sunrise for the trek back to our awaiting buses. Not everyone was keen to climb back on the camels, and for some of us it may have been smarter if we didn’t. However again I mounted my camel and we set off the way we came. Within 10 minutes I was regretting my decision. This time every time I bobbed up and down on the camel it felt like my ass was being smacked raw. But I refused to admit my defeat and battled on. As the sun rose over the mountains we stopped to admire the sunrise and to take selfies. Finally we arrived back at our bus, we dismounted our camels, bid our guides goodbye and loaded back onto the bus.

DSC_3201We left the desert and traveled back to the town of Oaurzazate which we had passed the day before. We were guided around the old city and the Taourirt Kasbah by a local guide enjoying an education in the the history and traditions of clay architecture before being deposited in a restaurant overlooking the old Kasbah to enjoy lunch.

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After lunch we leisurely made our way back to Marrakech, stopping here and there in the Atlas Mountains for photo opportunities or to stretch our legs. Finally just before 7pm we were dropped at the gateway to the Medina, grabbing some street food as we walked back to our Riad.

Finally I was able to peel away the jeans I had worn for the last 2 days and enjoy a long, hot shower. On peeling away the jeans however I discovered that my desert adventure had left its mark, the rubbing of my tight jeans as I bounced up and down on the back of the camel had left a 2 ½ inch cut on my my ass….DSC_2823

The adventures continue in ‘Agadir and Hamman’.

Facing your fears… Why I blog

It’s been a few (6) weeks since the last time I posted a blog. I have written blogs but not felt any desire to post them. I was finding some of the things I wrote were filled with negativity about Ireland and I did not want to sound like I was always bitching, and other times I felt my life and experiences here too mundane to write about. But today I got to thinking and I remembered why I started to write this blog.

This blog was about sharing my experiences with my friends and family back in Australia, new friends, other expats, and complete strangers. When I first started the blog a friend expressed how shocked she was that I would open up like this; she understood that for me expressing my emotions and letting people see my vulnerable side was especially hard for me.

dublin-hikingOf course she was right, but that was one of the more personal reasons for starting the blog. I wanted to overcome my fear. Writing behind the anonymity of a screen gave me a sense of courage to write about some of my more scary or vulnerable times in Ireland (while sometimes having a laugh at my own stupidity and misfortunes). It also meant that I was sharing those emotions and vulnerabilities with my friends and family who would read about them and be able to offer words of encouragement even if it was from afar. Essentially helping me to learn to communicate better with people.

The first few months were a challenge but they were also an adventure; everything was new and exciting, and although I found it difficult sometimes to share some of those challenges I think I did a pretty good job at opening up. But now I have started to settle into my life here, and I have found I have slipped back into old habits; the impulsive, feisty and self-assertive woman who started this blog has taken a step back and is now sharing the stage with her more pragmatic and sometime very shy side.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, reading back on some of my posts I shake my head and laugh at my brazen honesty about some of the things I have gotten up too. However I do want to continue to write and to work on my shortcomings, I don’t want to let my fears stop me from experiences life to the fullest here in Ireland. So I am going to publish the posts I have drafted and I am going to continue to blog, while I will continue to rely on my friends to give me a good slap over the back of the head when they think I may be letting my fears get in the way of life.  

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Weekend Adventures, Kevin the koala and my Epiphany

DSC_0146During the week I made a new friend, he’s an Australian who’s been living in Ireland the last few years. His name is Kevin and he is a koala.

After meeting Kevin he very quickly grew on me, I think the idea was that he was something familiar from home, but without knowing it actually hit another soft spot. You see my mother has a little teddy bear called Yellow Ted, I gave him to mum years ago and now that my parents are retired Yellow Ted travels Australia with my parents. Yellow Ted even has his own Facebook page  where he shares his adventures… it is very cute and I love reading it and seeing his pictures.

DSC_0202Don’t worry, I am not about to set Kevin up with his own Facebook page. But Kevin the koala reminded me of Yellow Ted. So this weekend when I decided to go on my mini adventure Kevin came with me.
It had been a couple of weeks since my last mini adventure and I had decided to walk from Greystone to Bray via the Cliff Walk before heading to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I started the Cliff Walk at a decent hour, about 9.30am and the track was quiet. The walk itself has a lot more untamed beauty to it than Howth Heads or any of the other trail I have done in Ireland so far and I really enjoyed it.

I had lunch and ice-cream in Bray and headed over to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I love Powerscourt. When my mother was 17 she lived in Ireland and went to Powerscourt. We had a picture at home of her in front of the main water fountain feature there. When I first went there 8 years ago I took a photo in that same spot, and today I went back to that same spot and had another picture taken of me in front of the same water-fountain.

The gardens at Powerscourt are amazing, everywhere there are people, friends, couples, families just wandering around or laying on the grass enjoy the serenity of the place. I could have spent an entire day there, and I wished I had brought a picnic blanket and some lunch to just sit in the sun and enjoy the day with friends. But as usual I was doing this adventure alone, I had actively decided not to invite anyone on my mini adventure and for once I was starting to regret my decision.

I can be stubbornly independent. For the last 10 years I have almost always traveled on my own and am so use to it I find it difficult to  travel with others. I like to decide where I go, what I do, what I don’t do, where I eat, when I eat and not have to worry if the other people do … I don’t like having to spend an entire day in mindless chatter. I can go minutes, even hours happily being in peoples company without talking to them. Pretty much I like things my way. I know, I know, not my most endearing quality but at least I recognize it and can work on improving it.

Anyway being at Powerscourt today, just Kevin and I, brought this all to the forefront of my mind as I wondered the gardens. After sitting in the Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt for some time pondering my newest epiphany I  decided that I am going to make more of an effort to invite my friends to come with me on my mini-adventures. Because lets face it, sometimes the things that we most dread or the events that make us most anxious usually turn out to be some of our best adventures…. or misadventures.

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