Go to Another Vacation

Spain and Morocco - October 2001


Oct 3: Fly across the Pond

Security was rough but we had an on time take off with British Airways. We flew through the shortened night into a foggy English morning. Note that next time we should try a more direct flight.

Our apartment complex View of Peñon on the way in Bill is lost on the side of the road

Oct 4: London / Barcelona / Valencia / Calpe

A lot of flights but finally we arrived in Valencia and rented a car from Alamo. Alamo shares a booth with several other car rental agencies that probably cost us less for the same car. Alamo sign was missing which caused out first set of confusion. Hablo español.

Now that we have the car keys, we have to explain to the customer service representative that we checked in four bags, but now we only have two. He tells me he understands my Spanish perfectly, but other than that I could not tell what he was trying to say to me. He spoke Catalan. Close enough.

He wants to know where to deliver the bags the next morning and all I have is the phone number for Ian and Rosemary who are the renters of the apartments in Calpe. I give him the number. He says all is well and send us on our way. We have our climbing gear, but no clothes. Oh well!

The drive to Calpe started out in the wrong direction with a U turn across seven lanes of traffic at a toll booth. Only two hours lost in the car and one lost in the airport over rental cars and luggage. maybe we should have driven the five hours from Barcelona.

We got to Calpe and tried to figure to what a phone booth might look like. We find an information center (the only one we will find open the entire trip) and they point us to the pay phone a few yards down the block. Oh. We call Rosemary and tell her we are across from a big salty pond. She comes to get us.

She shows us how to buy parking tickets for the blue parking spaces from the machine with the blue coin and blue hand on the sign. She then tells us our luggage will be dropped off with her tomorrow so we do not have to wait for a drop off between 10 and 2. Our angel! Note: to reserve an apartment, email Ian at ianm@arrakis.es

The price for the rental for the week was a very good deal.

Moorish castle on hill

Oct 5: Castle Tour 1

Since our climbing helmets were in the lost luggage, we decided to take a drive in the country to see the castles. We picked though our guidebook and decided to drive south to Alacante and then come back via a loop inland. Our map was a bit smaller than the country side but we had a nice day anyway. We discovered Moorish ruins not in the book and visited several castles.

View of town from the climb

Oct 6: Climb Peñon de Ifach

A quote from our friend Pauline:

"Peñon de Ifach is the crown jewel of Costa Blanca.
The 1000 feet high limestone tower dominates the landscape of Calpe.
The emerald green water of the Mediterranean surrounds the tower on three sides."

How can you not want to climb that?!? Climbing the Peñon is an experience to remember.

Castle on a hill

Oct 7: Castle Tour 2

Since the weather was a bit questionable and we were a bit tired, we decided to do one more castle loop. This time we would travel north. We saw the best of castles and the worst of castles.

Our hotel room

Oct 8: Barcelona / Casablanca / Marrakech

Drive to the Valencia airport was twice as long and the exit signs were horrible and we barely made our flight. Once in Barcelona, we took a private ride to the city to meet a private tour guide that never showed up. The street corner of Barcelona was boring. Next time...

The security on Royal Air Moroc is the opposite of the US. We got metal knives with our meal and passengers were in and out of the cockpit throughout the flight. We think there is a time change between Barcelona and Casablanca.

Clueless in the Casablanca airport, we actually made our flight to Marrakech.

Our private driver was not who we were expecting. He brought us to a different hotel. He had no idea he was supposed to bring us to the Chez Ali Fantasia dinner show and when we got to the hotel he did not have a voucher for us and called our agent in the US and stiffed us for the $13 phone bill. Oh yeah, and he did not speak English. At least it got better from there. We spent the night at the Grand Hotel Tazi.

Road over Atlas Mountains Cafe in Ouarzazate for lunch Goat hearder and goats

Oct 9: Marrakech / Ouarzazate / Tinghir

Departed to Ouarzazate via Taddart and Tizi n'Tishka pass at an elevation of 11,000 ft. in

"an impressive site dividing these mountains in two
distinct aspects one side acts as a shield to protect the hinterland
from the Sahara harsh and dry expansion, the other side collects the
moisture of the Gherbi winds from the Atlantic ocean, soft and
evergreen. So is life of the Berber dwellers."

Lunch in Ouarzazate with a tour of a kasbah. Mumtaz! Traveled through El Kelaa De Mgouna and Boumalne through the Dades Valley and continued on to Tinghir:

"one large Oasis intercepting the
flow of ages between the Dades, the Draa valleys
and the Majestic High Atlas"


The driver dropped us off in the middle of a gorge at a hotel called the Kasbah Yasmina. I had never felt so far away from home (and homesick) in my entire life. Power was by generator for most of the day. Bring a flashlight for night time.


Oct 10: Tinghir

Homesickness soon subsided and we were able to rock climb in Todra Gorge on our own.


Oct 11: Tinghir / Erfoud / Rissani / Merzouga Dunes

This may have been one of our biggest memories. We brought rain to the Sahara. In the past we have brought rain to Death Valley and snow to JTree and Arches, but the Sahara had not had rain in years. We brought the rain. The rain storm caused a flood which cut off several roads, but we eventually made it to the Sahara to camp over night in a Berber tent.


Oct 12: Erfoud / Azrou / Midelt / Fez

Today was a travel day, but not without adventure. We fed the monkeys in the forested section of Morocco. We checked in to the Hotel Tghat, which we would NOT recommend. originally we had reservations for Hotel Splendid but the driver dropped us off here instead.


Oct 13: Fez / Volubilis / Meknes / Fez

We took a morning trip to Volubilis - the Roman Ruins outside of Fez. It was a really nice day and we had a wonderful little lunch on the way back. The terrain was like New England and some of the farms reminded me of my Uncle Donald's farm.

In the late afternoon we visited the Jewish Quarter of the Souk. It was lovely.


Oct 14: Fez

We spent the day souks bargaining and getting ripped off. I don't quite know how we ended up with the two Berber rugs...

The Souk

Oct 15: Fez

Last day to shop in the souks


Oct 16: Fez / Casablanca / London / Boston

Longest day of our lives. Fly. Fly. Fly. Canceled flight. Fly. Fly. I will never forget coming through customs in NYC and having the man at customs saying "Welcome Back to America".