What did you do this weekend? Oh, just went to Africa.

By: Tommy Tofield

This is an entry for our Spring 2012 Why We Ride Blog ContestClick here to read the original blog post on Tommy’s blog, “¿Cómo se dice “Roll Tide” en español?”, as well as his other adventures while studying abroad.

Photo by: Tommy Tofield – But seriously.
Nice gates, right?

Tired of a mundane European life? Interested in seeing things from a whole new perspective? Want to set foot on a new continent just a step from Spain? I suggest you check out Marrakech, Morocco. To date, the most incredible trip of my life!

Well hey there!

Now, before you wonder how I could have possibly created this journey I will stop you and say I didn’t. I had no idea where to begin. That’s why I decided to book my trip through Bus2Alps. Aside from my flight, they took care of just about everything.

I left Spain on a Thursday morning, Ryan Air’able duffel bag slung over my shoulder. While I do despise flying on that wonderfully cheap airline, something was different this time. I knew that upon landing, I was setting foot on a whole new continent… Africa.

Just like that, and there I was, Marrakech, Morocco. I was greeted at the airport by Jon, a member of the Bus2Alps team, who was easy to pick out thanks to his email describing his to-be attire… oh and his being the only 6 foot something American looking man in the entire terminal. We waited for some fellow travelers to arrive and loaded in a van to the city, the whole way over getting a brief intro of what was to come.

Marrakech from our hostel rooftop

Just a short ride and we made it as far as we could before huffing it out on foot through the streets of Morocco. Within an hour of landing, I already realized how incredible it was all going to be. Why? Crowded streets, mopeds zooming by, donkeys pulling carts along, snake charmers playing away, monkeys thrown on your shoulders (I actually got snakes around my neck) and everything in between… oh that was just crossing the square. After some winding through the streets we arrived at our hostel, Riad Equity Point, which could really be called a resort. Open courtyards, rooftop terraces, a pool, bathrooms in every shared room, and even towels. Yep, towels- not typical hostel amenities.

Some of the souks

After we situated ourselves we met in the lobby and got to meet one another. Take into account the fact that you have study abroad students, so you know they will be open and adventurous, then realize you all decided to venture into Morocco and you notice y’all are a pretty dynamic group. Just a few days and I already had friends I didn’t want to part from. Anyhow, we then set off for a walking tour of the city with local guides. We weaved through the souks (markets) and got our first lessons in bartering and checked out some well known cultural spots along the way. It was like entering through the shallow end.

That night we had dinner at our uber-hostel on the terrace. It was delicious, authentic Moroccan cuisine. Oh yeah, it was also free as it was included in the Bus2Alps trip. Winning. Beyond food, we also had some entertainment as live Moroccan music broke out only feet from us and dancing ensued. Post dinner we chatted a bit before getting some much needed sleep. Tomorrow held a lot in store for us….

Tea in the valley

Friday after breakfast (also free!) the group went on a historical tour (free again) to learn more about the wonders of Marrakech. That afternoon I opted to go canyoning in the Ourika valley just outside of the city along with another fourteen of the group. At just €50, it was a hell of a bargain. Our Bus2Alps leader Jon joined us as well, GoPro camera in hand, promising fun to come. After a scenic drive we arrived at our local base, a neat building nestled on a hillside where we squirmed into our wetsuits before heading to the valley to begin. It started out just hiking down some rocks, gradually finding more water as we went. Eventually we were jumping down bits, and when it picked up, we had to be roped down.. As in rappelling down big drops. I felt bold so I opted to go first, it was awesome. Our second big drop, oh just 70 feet along a waterfall, was quite possibly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life (only behind skydiving).

Samir- like a boss
Fatima, our local Berber host!

After our ‘Survivor’ type adventure, we returned to the hillside building where a Moroccan, Samir, greeted us with hot mint tea, a picturesque terrace, and some amusing jokes. We hung around a bit before heading back to the city for some more exploring before cleaning up and heading to the square for dinner. Again, included in the Bus2Alps trip, and again, delicious.

The next morning we all met and set off to the Ourika valley again where we got to meet a traditional Berber family, explore their home, and drink authentic mint tea in good company. From there we went further up the road and found some camels. Yeah, we got to ride camels, no big deal. Just kidding, IT WAS AWESOME!

After a bit of a hike, the reward
Simply perfect

Then we rode on out to the Atlas Mountains (shuttle, not camels) for a hike up to a gorgeous waterfall before returning to the city below for a three course meal, included once more. When we made it back to Marrakech I joined some new friends as we bartered and got lost in the Souks. Great times.

That night we were on our own, but we roped Bus2Alps Jon into joining (and leading) us to Kosybar where I had the best lamb of my life. It was a good way to cap off the best trip ever, and with the best people at that. That night back at the hostel we stayed up and shared stories, played games, and enjoyed the last of our time together.

Sunday morning I arose, ate breakfast, and was shuttled off to the airport with Bus2Alps‘ final gesture, as a reminder, they coordinated every aspect of my experience in Morocco. I never thought I would be so disappointed to have to return to Spain. Did I just say that?

Back to Spain, the adventures to continue

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