(still Wednesday – 20.10)
Before leaving Meknes (direction: back to Fes) Rhys and I sent our parents a postcards. Mine mentioned Chefchaouen, landscapes and that everything goes pretty well. Rhys wrote:
Once you get passed ordinary accommodation, filthy showers, going to the toilet in a hole, crazy taxi drivers and everybody trying to cheat you out of your money, Morocco really is an exciting and very fascinating part of the World”- how wonderful?
21.10 – Thursday
Early in the morning we left Fes by bus going to Beni Mellal. The plan was to arrive by 12.00 and make it to the Cascades D’Ozoud on the same day. The bus was slow as usual an reached our destination after 2 pm. The “modern city” – according to the book – looked really unappealing, to say the least. We headed to the nearest hotel, payed 150 DH for one night and left, still hoping all will be good. Little did we know, Beni Melall was not a “convenient place” to make a stop. None of the taxi drivers wanted to take us to the falls. It turned out it was 120 km away from the Cascades! ( I hate that guide book with passion.) After a while one taxi driver agreed to make the journey if we pay 50 DH for each of the 6 spaces in his car. And that would be one way. It was becoming obvious we were not going anywhere this way. Luckily for us a nice bus driver helped us out, even though he spoke very little English and we spoke even less French. The way we communicated was by drawing pictures and writing numbers in my notebook. After some time it was clear that the only way to see the Cascades is to travel to Azilel (about 80km from B. Mellal). We had few choices: take a bus early in the morning at 5 am and try to make it for our already booked bus to Marrakesh at 12.30 (rather impossible); we could also try to re-book the CTM but from the 22nd to the 23rd, but that would mean having to stay in Beni Mellal 2 nights and pay 300DH for accommodation; another option was to try getting the money back for already payed hotel room, jump on a bus to Azilel today at 5 pm, stay the night there, where the hotels were supposed to be cheaper, and then head back to Beni Mellal on Friday. But we still weren’t sure if we would make it for the 12.20 bus to Marrakesh. All this thinking and analyzing made my head hurt. We decided to blend our options together:
1st – try to change our bus dates
2nd – try to get the money back from the hotel or at least change the date of our stay for tomorrow
3rd – go to Azilel at 5 pm and find accommodation there
4th – come back to B. Mellal and take a bus to Marrakesh on Saturday
All this could work with a bit of luck. So we headed to CTM desk first. We were determined to see the Cascades. We didn’t come all this way to give up now and regret it later. The guy behind the counter said he cannot replace our tickets officially. That last word made me smile. So there is some hope. He was willing to help us. If we left our tickets with him he would sell it to the first people, who would wish to travel to Marrakesh tomorrow. If that worked out he would have 2 tickets for us on the 23rd. There was a risk of course… WE decided to check if we can sort the issue with the hotel first. The lady said it was impossible for her to give us the money back, but if we wished to come back tomorrow she would treat our money as “pay in advance”. Having very little options left, we agreed to take the chance. After trusting the CTM guy with out tickets and having changed our booking in the hotel, we bought 2 tickets to Azilel (2 x 25 DH). The bus was late. No surprise for us anymore. As Maciek said, there is no point rushing in Morocco. It just simply doesn’t work. There was a massive chaos at the bus station. People shouting, rushing, hassling, horns, fumes, flies all over me – terrible. Eventually our bus arrived and of course the madness didn’t stop there. People were running, pushing each other and trying to get their bags into this old rusty, terrible looking piece of junk on 4 wheels. When we finally got on it there was hardly any space left. People were standing in the alley, still pushing and pressing against each other. A I sat down on one of the nearest empty seats, the guy next to me frowned and said something in Arabic, obviously trying to get me off the seat, which turned out to be taken by the massive guy blocking the way to the back of the bus. Very irritated and not caring about whether he will understand English or not, I said that I would be delighted to move but have no options here. He still did very much insist on me leaving the spot.Rhys tried to talk to me but at that point I was too annoyed by absolutely everything to listen even to him. I nearly ended up insulting the guy in Polish, but finally his giant friend left the alley and we could move to the back of the bus. ” I hate this country” – I said loudly, as we were sitting down. My patience for this chaotic, dirty and loud place was melting fast. Very fast.
The bus took ages. The route was going through the mountains, but it got dark very soon, so we couldn’t see much, even though the moon was very bright that night. When we got to Bin el-Ouidane, we could see its reflection shining on the surface of the lake. Unfortunately at that point we were only half way there. The level of my annoyance was through the roof of this shaky, uncomfortable and smelly bus. I regretted trusting our book about Morocco, I regretted booking the hotel before asking how to get to the falls ad lastly, I regretted making a stopover on the way to Marrakesh at all! In that moment I promised myself I am gonna destroy the company who produced that stupid guide around Morocco. But anyway the fun wasn’t over yet. All of a sudden the bus filled up with smoke and terrible smell of a burning clutch. Rhys laughed, while some of the ladies were obviously complaining about the unpleasant odour. I knew the minute this bus stops on its way up the next hill it will not start again. And sure enough not even a minute later after I mentioned that to Rhys, the engine switched off. The driver tried to get the bus going again, but the road was too steep for this rusty piece of junk! And so we were stuck. It is worth mentioning it was dark, we were in the middle of the mountains on a bus, where we were the only non- Moroccans. Brilliant. I say it was a great time to panic. Luckily fr us ( and everyone for that matter) another bus appeared behind us. Everyone jumped up and rushed to get their massive amount of luggage out and into that other bus. I was so stressed we are not gonna make it, it wasn’t funny. Everyone was pushing each other again and trying their best to be first on the working bus. We finally made it as one of the last people. I only hoped no one was left behind.
There was no more free seats and everyone was staring at us. As I looked around, someone grabbed me by the hand. It was the mother of a girl I was playing with, while waiting for the bus in B. Mellal. She took her daughter on the lap and offered me a seat. In the meantime Rhys was also offered one on the opposite side. Things started looking a bit less creepy. We laughed. We knew, that once this whole nightmare is over, it will be a great story to tell.
During the rest of the drive I played with the little girl, joked and ate walnuts crushed with bare hands by Rhys’s neighbor. We finally arrived in Azilel around 9 PM. Only 2.5 hours later than expected. One man fro the bus directed us to the nearest hotels. We were almost relieved. Unfortunately all of them seemed to be full. We ended up staying the night in someone’s living room for 40 DH each and sleeping on one of those corner couches/seats. What a lovely way to top off already quite ridiculous and unreal day.
No pictures were taken that day, mainly due to the intensity and speed of the action. What a shame. I know.
PS. Just to let you know how “modern city of Beni Mellal” looks like, please click here.