I spent my last day on the African continent in the beautiful blue mountain town of Chefchaouen, Morocco. The name is from two Berber words literally translated as "look at the horns" because the surrounding mountains reminded them of their goats' horns. Depending on who you ask, it is blue for different reasons: "To keep away mosquitoes that love the climate of this altitude," says one guide. I thought this was amusing, but in reality, Jewish refugees painted many of the buildings in a traditional style meant to remind them of God.
The maze of stairs and buildings seemingly carved into the mountainside made for fun exploring in a medina (old town) that was much less stressful than Fes (more on Fes in a later blog).
Me: "Parlez vous anglais?"
Next driver: "No."
Me: "¿Habla Inglés?" (Looking at watch)
Third driver: "Si."
Me: "Bien. ¿Como estas?"
Third driver: "Bien. ¿Adonde vas?"
Me: "Estación de tren."
Third driver: "No."
Me: 😡 "TRAIN STATION, S'IL VOUS PLAÎT!"
Man with a van that is obviously not a cab: "30 dirhams."
Me: "I'll give you 40 if you get me there in 5 minutes."
Have I mentioned that this was my second cab ride of the day, after 5 hours on a bus? Suffice to say, rush hour in Fes is much like rush hour most places: marginally faster than a Whole Foods checkout on a Saturday afternoon.
I missed the 5:50pm train by 15 minutes, but there was another at 6:50. Like the bus, the train ride was 4-5 hours from Fes to Casablanca. Why these 1-hour variabilities? The best answer I could get was "Morocco time." I refrained from saying "Airplanes do not abide by 'Morocco time'." If you're doing the math, 6:50pm plus 4-5 hours equals arriving potentially at 11:50pm. And here's where I tell you that my flight from Casablanca back to to Dakar is at 12:35am. (No worries. Right?)
My train gets to Casablanca at 11pm. I walk outside with all my bags to hail my third cab of the day to get to the airport. Every one of the 32 drivers outside the train station speaks some English and demands 300 dirham to go to the airport. I have $107. I take 200 dirham from the nearest ATM and tell the driver "¡Rapidamente, por favor!" We skid into the airport at 11:33pm; I scan my bags at the entrance and find the Royal Air Maroc check-in counters. It is 11:40.
"We're sorry sir. Check-in is closed."
I would like to think that volcanic eruptions are more often quiet and beautiful instead of explosive and violent...
And strangely, while I contemplated it for a minute, I didn't explode. I asked if an exception could be made since I was only 5 minutes beyond the 1-hour check-in window only to be denied.
I wandered aimlessly for a few minutes, trying to find wifi that worked and trying to find any airline with flights still departing in the middle of the night. Get me to Dakar or Paris or even back to New York at this point. The next Royal Air Maroc flight to Dakar was in exactly 24 hours--or at about now, as I sit in a cab back to my apartment in NYC. I went to the RAM ticket office and waited for what seemed like eons before being called as the last customer of the night. It was 12:44am. The agent said I could fly directly to JFK at 3:05pm. For the low price of US$859.
If you're curious, a night in the swankiest airport hotel you've ever been in will set you back another US$150. And so, here I am now, back in NYC. Senegal (and Morocco) have been wonderful, life-changing, and in more ways than one, altogether unexpected. Here's to continued adventures! Bon voyage for now Africa, but see you again soon!