Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Crossing

We knew that our trans-Gibraltarian journey would be the trickiest part of this trip. We planned to go from Fez to Granada in one day so that we could see the Alhambra Wednesday morning, but the crux of the schedule depended on our arriving in Algeciras before the car rental office closed at 7:00 PM. Here's how the journey went:

4:45 AM - Woke up after a short night of sleep, showered, dressed, and lugged our bags downstairs
6:00 AM - A groggy breakfast at the riad
6:30 AM - Departed via grand taxi (too many bags for the petit ones!) to the train station
6:40 AM - Arrived at train station, waited for train
7:00 AM - Boarded train, found our seats, asked the conductor if those were the right seats since there was a woman in a brightly colored hijab asleep across the bench with a small child sitting at her feet sucking his thumb. The conductor woke her up and kicked her out, we took our seats.
7:10 AM - Train departs
10:20 AM - We get off train, wait at the new station for our next train
10:45 AM - We take off on new train, this time sharing a compartment with a sleeping Moroccan businessman and a young Japanese couple who were very excited about the flocks of sheep on the side of the tracks.
11:30 AM - Train stops near a market with a lot of donkeys parked around it. We wait 45 minutes for another train to pass before continuing
12:40 PM - We arrive at the Tangier train station, grab our luggage, and hop in a cab to the Tangier MED port
1:10 PM - The cab pulls over on the side of the road to refill the air in his tires. We exchange several anxious glances at each other and the time.
1:20 PM - I pop a Dramamine pill in anticipation of the boat ride after Jason points out the whitecaps on the water.
1:40 PM - We arrive at Tangier MED and find a ferry office with a ferry departing for Algeciras at 2:00. We buy the tickets and dash out of the office to encounter the fellow who had pointed out the office in the first place. He was waiting for us with a luggage cart. He loaded our suitcases on it, pushed it 20 feet to the security gate, then demanded 20 dirhams from each of us. After some argument, we handed him one 20 dirham bill, pried our luggage out of his hands, and dashed through passport control.
1:50 PM - The security guard at the x-ray machine stops Jason to ask about the strange package in his bag. Jason opens his bag to show that it's wrapped ceramic plates. The guard asks if he can open the package.
1:51 PM - Still opening the package.
1:52 PM - Package is open, guard taps the bowl a few times.
1:53 PM - Another passenger comes up to the guard and starts a conversation with him. The guard engages in a lengthy discussion about something, pausing occasionally to tap the bowl.
1:54 PM - Tap tap tap
1:55 PM - Tap tap tap
1:56 PM - We're through security! We run up to the ticket-checkers at the door that leads outside to the docks. They look at our tickets, get on the walkies to talk to the guys at the port, then tell us the boat's still there and to get on the bus.
1:57 PM - We get on the bus. There's no sign of a driver.
1:58 PM - The ticket-checker from before tracks down the driver who was taking a Ramadan nap in another bus. We depart for the docks.
2:01 PM - We pull up to the docks. The boat's still there! We're going to make it! Praise Allah that we're in Morocco and not Germany!
2:02 PM - We run up to the ticket-checkers. They tell us we're too late. "But the boat's right there!" we exclaim. "Go back to the station," they tell us.
2:03 PM - We watch them raise the gangplank.
2:04 PM - We get back on the bus.
2:05 PM - We arrive back at the station. I guard the luggage while Jason goes back inside to change our tickets to the next ferry.
2:40 PM - Back on the bus, out to a new boat.
2:50 PM - We claim some seats inside for our luggage and call the Budget Car Rental office to tell them we're on our way, but we'll be cutting it close to 7.
2:52 PM - Budget informs us that they have no record of our car rental reservation, that the confirmation number they emailed me and for which they sent a reminder email two days ago was meaningless, and that they were out of cars until next week.
3:04 PM - The ferry departs. I sit and read, Jason goes exploring.
4:40 PM - We pull into Algeciras. Time Change! We jump ahead two hours.
6:45 PM - We, along with several other passengers start to deboat. I am extremely woozy from the Dramamine.
6:46 PM - On the staircase down to the deck, a woman keeps stopping and asking me if this is the right way, oblivious to the hoards of people behind me on the stairs and the fact that I'm trying very hard to keep my bag of carpets from toppling down the stairs and crushing her small child. I keep telling her that I don't know in French, only realizing later that she had been asking me in Spanish.
6:50 PM - Lugging bags across various gangplanks, I remind myself over and over that I am saving $200 by carrying these carpets by hand and that it's worth it.
6:51 PM - My arm goes numb. Damn carpets. Damn security guard with a penchant for bowl-tapping. Damn Budget Car Rentals. Murmer, murmer, murmer.
6:52 PM - Passport control! We're officially in Spain again!
7:00 PM - We stand in the station, trying to figure out how to get to Granada. Blackberries and iPhones aflurry.
7:02 PM - Jason spots a sign for a car rental agency outside. He goes to check it out while I try to find the train schedules to Granada.
7:03 PM - Jason runs back in. Success! It's open and they have cars!
7:30 PM - We sign the last of the paperwork to rent a car to Barcelona. We are so happy we could weep and/or kiss the guy. We refrain, but declare it a Ramadan miracle.
8:00 PM - We're on the road! I'm firing up the GPS we rented, Jason's navigating Spanish traffic.
9:00 PM - We're starving to death. We pull over when we spot a sign for McDonalds at an uber-posh and uber-commercial seaside town, but run into a Hard Rock Cafe packed with tourists in beachware first. We dive in.
9:15 PM - We order two hamburgers.
10:00 PM - They finally bring us our hamburgers after we sat through several strange music videos and two birthday celebrations.
10:30 PM - We're back on the road!
12:45 AM - We get lost in Granada trying to find the parking garage.
1:00 AM - Located parking garage, catch a taxi to the hotel (only taxis and buses are allowed to drive in Granada proper)
1:15 AM - Arrive at hotel, a renovated 16th-century mansion. Could weep with gratitude when we see our beds. Decide to sleep instead.
1:30 AM - Set alarms for 6:15 AM.
1:31 AM - Sleep! Oh, blessed, glorious, sleep!


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