We're rather travellers than tourists. But we somehow got ourselves into a somewhat sticky situation that at times we thought it might be our last adventure...
Grab a big sweater and a strong drink and follow us to Ouarzazate!
This was the one and only touristy all-day trip that we booked during our 10 day stay in Morocco.
My friend Odett and I preffer to discover the cities ourselves and not get a guide or follow a flock of 'fast-tourism' people that only want to check from their list the most famous and probably cliche destinations and locations.
Somehow we did agree to try this one day trip to Ouarzazate, having heard that it's truly beautiful, with a must-see view.
The pick-up was at 6am as our riad was the furthest from the final location. We jumped into a small van and were soon in the actual bus that was going to take us to that corner of heaven we've heard so much about from almost everyone that travelled to Morocco.
On the outside, the trip bus looked just like any regular one that you see everywhere. Probably the fact that we were incredibly sleepy and that we got seated in the first row was why we didn't notice that on the inside it was a total mess.
We would later find out that it had the looks, facilities and cleansiness of a bus frozen in time since the 80s.
Now here's where the funny bits begin. Grab your popcorn!
As the bus left the city roads the noises that we had to get used to for the entire day were about to make their presence felt. You know the pleasant sound that luggage makes on an airplane when there's a great deal of turbulance? Or the sound that trollers make when angrily pulled on gravel.
Multiply that by ( at least ) 10 and you might get the picture!
It sounded as if our 'vehicle' was about to lose a door, a window or as if the seats were going to just unscrew from the floor.
After about an hour, we heard a loud bang!
You know those huge side mirrors that busses have, right? Well, one was hanging on the side of the bus. The driver stopped, cut the cords and stored the mirror in the trunk.
He assured us that he will try to get another bus to pick us up from the next stop, especially because the shift gear was not working properly as well.
Awesome! Our bus was literally desintegrating!
Hope you have plenty of popcorn because the second surprise was going to be even better!
The day before we left we checked the weather for Ouarzazate, our final destination. 27 degrees. Perfect!
We know we had to go near the Atlas mountains so we each grabbed a jacket. Let's just say we should've brough our snowboard gear as well.
In order to get from Marrakech to Ouarzazate you have to completely cross the Atlas mountains, through the Tizi n'Tichka pass. It involves a 2260 m climb. The temperature dropped to 3 degrees before we could even realize that we were turning into little angry snowmen.
Did you think our "vehicle" had a heat option? Oh, silly you!
We finally arrived at our first stop. Fire!!!
There was a small fireplace on a rather open terrace. All 14 of us received the bad news that we would not be able to get a new bus while trying to get the best spot in front of what seemed to be the only heat source we would get for a great deal of hours.
We had to leave the riad before breakfast was available so we were already cold, pissed off and on top of all, hungry. You cannot even imagine the prices the snacks and hot drinks had everywhere tourists were expected. Rip off!
But we were about to experience fear as well. Yey! The main character of this story, the already famous "bus", was struggling to climb and its engine would die every 10 minutes. Let me paint this picture better. The e-n-t-i-r-e journey was made out of some of the most winding roads you could imagine. And we were about to experience that for almost 10 hours until getting back to Marrakech. We honestly thought we were going to tip into the abyss a couple times.
Don't let those smiles fool you. We were just in shock! :) The view was indeed amazing and I might revisit one day. In my own jeep. With some of my warmest sweaters and boots on. And proper food and drinks.
Back to our not so perfect situation.
Ouarzazate was finally in sight. Quite majestic, I'll give you that.
After 5 hours in what felt like a rollercoaster, we made it! Only to hear this: "Back here in 45 minutes!"
Romanians will understand this comparison: it's like driving 10 hours on Cheia road in order to stay for 45 minutes at Babele!
Oh, I forgot to mention, we didn't have a guide and our driver could barely speak english or french.
Unbelievable! 10 hours in a bus in order to only stay 45 minutes in our destination!
We hurried to the top and hurried back down and still managed to be late. We were now the black sheep of the group as well. Marvelous!
I read about the place the day after our trip, online, as there was no time for an actual tour.
'The door of the desert', as it is nicknamed, is home to the fortified village of Ait Benhaddou is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And I can clearly see why!
After our incredibly short stop we set for the next one, which were the famous Atlas Studios, some of the largest movie studios in the world. Several historical movies and series were shot here, like Asterix & Obelix, Lawrence Of Arabia, Babel, The Mummy, Gladiator or Game Of Thrones.
I won't lie, it was quite entertaining. We had an 1 hour tour, followed by a quick lunch. Finally, some food!
I didn't prepare a certain outfit for this trip as it wasn't going to be the place or the time for fashion. But I was so lucky to have my NITA SAO turban with me. It kept me warm when needed and covered from the sun when we reached the desert again and the temperature went up to those 27 degrees that the forcast promised.
You will be able to buy them by the end of the month from the website or straight from House Of NITA SAO.
It was about time to head back to Marrakech. Same bus, same road, same conditions.
But I was somehow a different person from the one on the way there.
I took a couple deep breaths, put on my headphones, acknowledged that there was very little I could do about the situation we were in and I should just enjoy the pleasant parts of it all. So I took in every little beautiful view and understood it all even better when this song started playing. It's one of my favourites and I hope you enjoy its message as much as I did!
"But if you pull back / To some point / In the stratosphere
From that great height / Just like mice / We must all appear
Think of the mice
Always grateful when the slightest little crumb drops
Finding dinner in the dreadlocks of the dust mop / Never too proud
Maybe we should be more like mice
Not as noisy as a chipmunk or a squirrel
If they argue it's completely intramural / Never too loud
Maybe the mice / Have a lesson / To teach us all
Accepting with joy / Every kindness / However small"
Photos by Odett Andreea Popovici