I was getting restless during my second stay at the W Santiago. Using the blissful high speed internet – the first halfway decent internet access in two months – I decided to plan out the rest of the trip. This was early September, and I needed to be in Rome by September 21.
I planned to go to Valparaiso for a few days, and after that Mendoza, Argentina en route to a flight out of Buenos Aires. But at this point I was itching for something different. And while I would have enjoyed wonderful steak and wine in Argentina, I’d been there and decided it was time to do a 180 and find something completely different between then and starting the family vacation portion of the trip.
Plus, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the bus situation with Mendoza’s airport being closed (it would have been 8 and 12 hour bus rides in and out).
So I decided to check out G Adventures. My brother had taken a trip in India with them and was about to start on another one in Eastern Europe. They are a Canadian tour company with a wide range of global adventures. The site was great in terms of filtering by region, activity level, and date. I quickly narrowed it to tours that would allow me to get to Rome in time for my dad’s birthday. Three stood out initially – a riverboat through Burgundy, a week in Morocco, or Jordan. I ruled out Jordan since I couldn’t do Petra without Mr. Chiang joining as it is on his bucket list. The wine tasting boat trip looked amazing, but I’ve learned that more expensive options tend to have fewer younger people and solo travelers (I am using young people loosely – people in their 20s-40s). There were two Morocco tour departure dates, one I could guarantee a spot, but would miss my dad’s birthday and arrive in Rome a day late, or another that I could request, but they wouldn’t be able to confirm for two to three business days. I made sure there were available flights from Santiago to Europe and then Europe to Morocco, and requested the tour a week before it was to start.
A bit more background. I’ve never done an organized tour. I’ve only done short group trips to areas inaccessible without a guide (Salar, the Jungle). And I’ve really never understand why people do tours. With the Internet, it is so easy to plan, and with a tour I would have no choice in hotel, activities, food, etc. But with a week to go, and no familiarity with Morocco, and with warnings that traveling there as a single female could be a less than pleasurable experience, I bit the bullet and requested the tour. I was also a bit fatigued with travel planning, and happy to let someone else figure it out for a week.
Flight to Europe booked, tour requested, I flew to Rome and hoped for the best. On arrival on a Wednesday, I still hadn’t heard anything confirming whether I made it on the tour. Once I got to my hostel, I called G Adventures and was told I would hear that day. The back up plan was renting a car and driving to Switzerland, admittedly not a bad plan B.
I heard late Wednesday I was in. I booked a last minute ticket to Casablanca for Saturday and enjoyed a few leisurely days in Rome (to be covered in an Italy travel guide page).
Arriving in Casablanca was a bit disorienting. I speak Spanish, and understand Rome deeply – so nothing was too difficult the first few months of the trip. This place was what I was seeking – definitely new. After navigating the exit security check at the airport, I attempted to negotiate with a cab and rushed to the hotel, making it there 5 minutes before our tour group met for orientation.
The group was great – a mix of solo travelers (8) and couples (3 couples). Most of us were in the 20s-40s bracket (or there at heart), and we all got along well enough to survive a week together on a small bus.
Speaking of the bus, we spent a lot of time on the bus, including a 10 hour travel day. G Adventures does a really good job describing the trip and I know I was warned when I read the details on the trip. Here is the full description.
Our guide Abdullah was funny, organized, and able to keep our group of 14 on track (yalla yalla becoming the only Arabic I learned, as our group was constantly being told to keep moving!).
Highlights of the trip included the ancient medinas of Fez and Marrekesh and a desert camel ride and campout . Wandering the medieval alleys of the medinas was amazing. The artisan shops – when you got far enough in – were incredible. The sights, sounds, and smells tantalizing. The downside of the tour was that we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore. But I knew going into this quick week-long tour would only be a taste of Morocco.
Scenes from around town:
Beauty abounds everywhere:
We also saw many artisans at work:
Camping in the desert:
A bonus and minus was that we were in Morocco for the holiest day of the Muslim calendar, Eid. This meant that we didn’t get to have time in Fez to explore the medina on our own since it was closed. However, I have to commend our guide for rearranging the schedule to pack in a tour the night before Eid so we would at least get to do a walk through the oldest medina in Morocco. We also saw all of the sheep going into the Medina, and while we weren’t there for the slaughter, we saw the aftermath for a few days.
The food was great:
And I made this!
Lastly, I had an amazing henna. Highly recommend the Henna Art Cafe for great food and artists.
I had never done an organized tour. While I still won’t do many, it was a perfect way to see a country with no planning at the last minute. If I ever travel solo again and want to go to a destination where I don’t speak the language or am not comfortable traveling by myself, or I simply don’t have the time to plan the logistics, I would consider G Adventures again.
Time to go meet the family.