4 March 2011
I am terribly excited about my upcoming trip to Morocco, and yet I am also nervous. I tend to over-plan things because I like to have info, know my options, make the best choices, not miss out on something extraordinary, and because I just like doing it. I enjoy the ride of antici…. PATION! (Thank you, Dr. Frankenfurter.) I have a guidebook, I'm a member of Couchsurfing, I've been reading up online — heck, I've even been drawing camels — and I actively follow several travel bloggers, yet I am feeling lost. I'll be honest and say I think the nervousness stems from my ever-shrinking budget.
You see, this winter in Ireland was one of the coldest in recent memory. Surprisingly, insulation in Irish apartments is quite lacking. Therefore, it takes more energy to stay warm (I am avoiding a potato joke here; please applaud me for my restraint – it's not easy!). Oh, and our apartment is all electric, no gas heating. I'm guessing Swedes don't have this insulation problem (oh, no! more tongue biting — no IKEA jokes! don't do it, Katrina! control, woman! control!). It's a shame Ireland has not yet caught on to this crazy insulation fad.
What this means is that we recently got hit with two rather large heating bills. The result is that my already lean budget is shrinking like a watering hole in dry season. And all this, despite regularly wearing layers of polar fleece, drinking hot tea, and confining our movie watching to laptops viewed from beneath the safety of arctic-rated duvets.
Shrinking watering hole during dry season picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I had already planned on Couchsurfing as much as possible, eating light, avoiding tourist traps, and keeping souvenirs to a minimum (maybe to a zero), but now I'm wondering if I'm going to be able to do this at all. See, one of the main reasons for going is a decidedly touristy activity: riding camels in the desert.
I know, I know… but hey! At least I didn't do it in Egypt. Ancient Egyptians were primarily farmers, not desert nomads, so I am maintaining a modicum of cultural awareness.
As previously mentioned, many years ago I worked on a film that was shot in Morocco. Camel riding was featured and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I know camels spit and are reputed to stink, but I don't care. I used to train horses and actually loved the stable stench that non-horse folks find so objectionable. In fact, I even kind of like wet sheep and wet dog smell. It kicks the pants off people sewage and car exhaust! I imagine camel stench will soon be added to my list of Strange Smells That I Enjoy.
Picture of heaven courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I have contacted a few Moroccan Couchsurfers for recommendations. At the moment I have a really good lead on an affordable tour company that will allow both the desired camel and dune interaction, but not insulate me too much in pre-packaged glory. Indeed, the CS-er (not Moroccan, but is visiting right now) who recommended it, stressed over and over again how warm and personable the people are, and that the night before the expedition, you stay in a room off the owners' house, meet the family, become friends, and all the good stuff that warms the heart and makes you want to travel more.
I'm not as vehemently opposed to "tourism" (vs. "traveling") as some of my fellow bloggers are, but people connections is why I am such a devotee of Couchsurfing. Not spending money on accommodations is good for the wallet, but making new friends is good for the soul.
Bearing that in mind, here are hopes/goals for this trip:
- meet people, make friends, and learn about the cultures (yes, plural) of Morocco
- take some photos and record some videos (and maybe do some more sketches of camels)
- be very careful with money
- 3 day camel trek
- if possible, I'd like to go to Erfoud and visit the extinct volcano: 1) I love volcanoes, and 2) it was a location for that pesky film I mentioned above; this is not a huge priority, though
- get myself up to Tangier to catch a ferry to Spain (meeting hubby there on 30 March)
It would be incredibly awesome if all of this, including connecting travel, meals, and camel trekking could be done for under 200 euro. I'm sure some of you scoff at this number and could do it for free by washing dishes, smoking a shisha pipe with the right person, shoveling camel poo, and what have you, but that is not me. Not yet, anyway. One day, perhaps, after I fully embrace the nomadic lifestyle. Who knows? For now, I need to know how to do this on the cheap.
Things to know: I hate being embarrassed or appearing awkward. I'd rather march with confidence toward someone who is going to rip me off than look confused and timid while trying to figure things out. I'll do it, but I hate it. I am also impatient and get antsy about making a decision. I prefer making a wrong decision and correcting it later than taking forever to choose. (These two characteristics are theoretically awesome on the battlefield, but not so useful when traveling on a budget.) When you give me advice, please keep these things in mind. Details will help me feel more confident, mmkay?
So, for those of you who have visited Morocco on a budget, what do you recommend? What are the amazing, touching experiences you had that didn't cost a thing? Is there a better way to travel between destinations than trains, buses, and sharing grand taxis? What is the best way to budget for Morocco travel? Do you have any resources, friends, trekking companies, websites, or other connections you would recommend to me? Do you like to just figure it out once you're on the ground? What am I forgetting?