On Tuesday morning we were up at 6am in order to make it to the bus stop across the road by 7. We waited for a while since the bus was running about 20 minutes late, but finally it arrived and we got onboard. Shortly after we got onto the bus it started raining and didn’t stop for hours. It rained for the whole hour bus ride to the port of Tarifa, where we sprinted through heavy rain to get on the ferry to take us to Morocco. It pretty much rained the whole time while we were crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. It continued to rain while we were on our Moroccan tour bus trying to get a good look at the city of Tangiers, and was still sprinkling as we passed by the Atlantic Coast.
Our first stop was at the Hercules Cave, a very iconic location for Tangiers. The cave has been around since the beginning of time or something close to that, and its main feature is the opening out to sea. I remembered visiting this same cave about 6 years previous with my family, and it looked exactly as it had before. The opening out to see clearly resembles the shape of the African continent, for those who know a bit about geography. Tourists in Tangiers just must go to visit this beautiful cave, and given the yucky weather, our group was lucky enough to be the only ones there at that time. When coming out of the cave, we got to see the coast line, dotted with angry looking clouds, which gave it quite the dramatic effect.
After this little excursion, we toured the newer areas around Tangiers, with many construction projects that just sprung up in recent years. Our guide told us that the population of Tangiers has more than doubled in the past 25 years. I remember the last time I visited, they had been hoping for a huge soccer stadium. This time I got to see their impressive new stadium, which just opened in June of 2011. Our next stop was at a super touristy lunch place. We were served chicken, couscous, oranges, and Moroccan mint tea. During the meal, we were entertained by musicians, dancers, and even a belly dancer. But on the way in, I had seen an adorable little baby camel with its mom that I just had to go visit.
I snuck away while everyone was starting to eat to go take a look at the mama and baby camel. They were just so cute together, but obviously not too happy in their situation. Then, a guy came out and asked me if I wanted to ride the mama camel. I said sure and for 2 euro I got to ride the camel around for a couple of minutes. When the camel stood up, I felt as though I might fall, but when it was walking around, it was totally fine. In comparison, I think riding a camel is much smoother of a ride than a donkey! I was pretty surprised about this. The man told me that the camel’s name was Ahbi Dahbi… I’m not sure if I believe him, but it was pretty funny. When I got off of the mama camel, I grabbed the rope of the baby camel and pet its neck… Now it didn’t like this too much so it tried to bite me, but missed so instead it decided to eat my hair. At this point the owner of the camels is cracking up as I try to extract my long hair from the baby camel’s mouth. If you think I’m kidding, not to worry, I have photo evidence of this event.
After lunch/ camel riding, we headed to the Medina, or the old part of town, and got to go shopping in the market. We made our way down narrow alley ways past vendors offering all sorts of interesting products, all the while being assaulted by a variety of men offering us carved wooden cameras, scarves, purses, wallets, and more, all for “the very best price”. Yes, the whole thing was quite mentally exhausting and physically demanding. The tour guide directed us to 2 places, one of which was this huge Moroccan rug shop which I had visited with my parents years earlier. I was pretty impressed by my negotiating skills when I got a little 3 by 5 rug to match with the rug my mom already has for just 20 Euros; they had started by asking for 350! Maybe I am learning something in school, after all… 😉
I also got a pretty green ceramic teapot, and my usual postcards while at the market. After spending some time shopping, our guide collected us all and ushered us back onto the bus and then back on to the ferry. All in all, we spent about 6 hours in Tangiers, and more than that traveling there. After the hour long ferry ride back, there was another 2 hour bus ride and finally we were back at the resort. The weather was still icky and cloudy, so I mostly relaxed for a bit, read a lot, and headed to bed early since I was worn out from a long day.
On Wednesday, we were up early at the bus stop for 9 in order to spend the day in Gibraltar. Pretty soon after getting on board our lovely tour guide, Chris, regaled us with information about Gibraltar for almost the whole entire one hour long bus ride, it was quite the information overload. When we got there, we had several hours to explore the town area, shop, and eat lunch. Gibraltar is all tax free, so it’s a popular place to buy drugs, alcohol, and jewelry. We mainly focused on the jewelry, admiring the sparkling diamonds and gleaming pearls. For lunch I ate fish and chips; after all, we were technically in the UK.
After lunch came the best part of our day, a bus tour all around the rock & a visit to the beautiful St. Michael’s Caves. The Caves are often used for musical performances because of the acoustics, and have been used for a variety of reasons throughout time. Especially during war, the caves were used as a bunker and as a hospital. The stalactites were all gorgeous, but we walked quickly through the entire cave so that we could have some time to take in the beautiful view and play with the wild monkeys! Gibraltar has hundreds of these apes that just run around all over the island, but are mostly confined to the area near the top of the rock. A bunch of them hang out by St. Michael’s Caves so that they can steal food and more from the tourists who come there.
We all got some good pictures with the monkeys. And luckily we had a really cool tour guide named Charlie, who enjoyed taking a water bottle and allowing the monkeys to drink out of it. I asked him if I could try, and he obliged. The trouble came when I went to give a little baby monkey some water. The alpha male monkey got jealous and attacked, smacking into my head. I thought the whole thing was hilarious and continued to carefully pet the monkeys. The secret was to pet them with the back of your hand, not the front, because if you did that they may thing that you were trying to hit or to grab them. When our rock tour ended, we got back on the bus and drove the hour back along the coast to the resort.
Right after we got back, Susie arrived and she and I went for a nice hour long walk along the beach. The weather stayed nice for most of it. I spent the rest of the afternoon in the gym and reading.