All posts for the month December, 2009

Agadir (part 2)

The drive to Taroudant was less hectic than that from Agadir.  We went through rural areas with farms and fields.  We also went through large areas of  Argan  trees (argania spinosa) which grow well in the  harsh environment, surviving heat, drought and poor soil.  These trees are often seen in pictures of the famous “Tree climbing goats” who climb up to eat the higher leaves.  We didn’t see any goats in the trees, at least not close enough to the road to get a photo from the moving bus.

TaroudantTaroudant is a walled city with ramparts about 6 km long.  It was first settled in 1056 and the walls were built in the 16th century.  Today it is known as a market town and our main purpose for going there was to visit its souk.

SpiceSoukBecause of the approaching Muslim holiday the town was busy, especially the souk.  Every kind of goods were available there.  Clothing, leather goods, food, Click to Enlargespices and shoes to name a few.  We visited a shop where cosmetics and medicinal substances were made from the fruits of the Argan tree.  Women there grind the seeds on stone mills and extract the oil which is ArganOilused for all sorts of products. (Excuse the not very good picture on the right.  I didn’t want to use a flash).

We decided to buy a souvenir at one of the shops in the souk and we had been cautioned that the merchants expect to bargain over the price.  That was quite an adventure.  Eventually we managed to get what we wanted for only 1/3 of originally quoted price.  I’m still not sure if this was a good deal but it was an interesting process.

We left the souk around 4 pm and it was starting to get very busy.  In fact the guide had to enlist the help of several others to make sure our group kept together so no one got lost in the narrow, twisting side streets.  We learned later that many people believe they can get the best bargains toward the end of the day when the merchants are tired and ready to go home.

PalaisSalamBefore returning to Agadir we visited the Hotel Palais Salam for refreshments.  Jan and I tried the national drink, Mint Tea.  Very good but quite sweet.  The Hotel was beautiful though it appeared to not have many guests at that time.

Our return to Agadir was rather thrilling.  Incredible traffic with cars, trucks, motorbikes and bicycles everywhere.  The school children sometimes attend school 15 km or more from their homes and ride bikes back and forth.  The bikes have no reflectors or lights and there are no bike lanes on the narrow roads.  Then back in Agadir we encountered a terrific traffic jam.  Some of the most aggressive driving I have ever seen.  We were almost 1 hour late returning to the ship but they waited for us. 😉

That evening they had a fabulous barbecue on the ship with lobster, a whole roast pig, lamb, beef, chicken and more other food than I can describe.   After dinner we went to the lounge where the performer was doing a “TV Theme Song Trivia” contest.  Our team won the first round and a bottle of champagne.  Of course, with eight team members the bottle didn’t go too far.

Agadir (part 1)

(I’m splitting this post into two parts because if was becoming much too lengthy.)

It took nearly 24 hours for the Wind Spirit to get to Agadir, Morroco from Lanzarote.  During that segment of the trip the sea got rather rough with swells to 15 ft.  The ship does have stabilizers but they didn’t eliminate the motion entirely.  Luckily neither Jan nor I suffer from sea sickness though this was enough to make walking on deck a little difficult.

At around noon the next day we approached Agadir, a city of around 700,000 including the surrounding areas.  The first thing we saw was the old kasbah on the hill.AgadirKasbah The arabic words on the hillside say (roughly) “One land, one god, one king”  The city of Agadir, including the kasbah, was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1960.  The new city was rebuilt about 3 km from the site of the old one.

One of the first things we noticed when we approached the dock at Agadir – Trash!  The water was filled with paper, plastic bags, bottles and other unidentifiable junk.  Very different from what we saw in the Canary Islands.  I don’t know why this was but I did notice an absence of things like dumpsters, garbage cans throughout the city.

After lunch on-board we left for a tour of an orange farm and the nearby town of Taroudant.  It took us over an hour by bus to reach the farm and we got to see good examples of the Moroccan countryside.  Traffic was heavy and drivers seemed to all be Gran Prix wanabees.  This was a day or two prior to a Muslim holiday which required the sacrifice of a sheep or goat.  As a consequence along our drive we saw several markets or souks where animals were for sale.  It appeared everyone was buying and we saw people with sheep in their cars and even one fellow with a live sheep strapped to the back of his motorbike!FarmFlowers

The orange farm was a beautiful place out in what was nearly desert.  They grow several types of oranges along with bananas and many ornamental Click to enlargeplants.  Everything was grown using a drip irrigation system which conserved water.  This system was encouraged by the government through subsidies.  The bananas were grown inside ‘greenhouses’ which were used to provide a higherBananas humidity environment rather than for temperature control.

One thing that Jan was disappointed with in our trip to Morocco was not being able to ride a camel.  There was one tour offered which consisted of a 3 Camelhour camel ride but we thought that might be a little too much for softies like us.  At least, at the orange farm she did get to see a camel up close, along with many other animals including some beautiful Arabian horses.

The orange farm is adding a hotel for tourists which will be called Oranges Farm Hotel and will include all the amenities such as swimming pool and elegant dining.

After refreshments at the farm we left for the town of Taroudant also called The Grandmother of Marrakech because of its similarity to that city.


Even though they did not raise the sails when we left for Lanzarote, weClick to enlarge did have another beautiful sight that evening.  The moon and Jupiter were well placed in the sky and made quite a show.

Lanzarote is a volcanic island with a long history.  It was first settled by the Phoenicians in 1100BC and the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were all familiar with it.

We only had a short stopover in Arrecife, the capital, and the only tour offered Click to enlargewas billed as Very Strenuous.  We opted instead to tour the city and explorer the area around the port.  The shopping area was nothing particularly exciting but we did see some interesting sites.    This sight intrigued us but were unable (with our limited command of Spanish) to find out exactly what it was.  As best we could determine it was some sort of park or resort out on a small island connected to the main island via a causeway.

Click to enlargeAnother feature of the port was Castillo de San Gabriel which was built in 1573 as a defense against pirates.  This was, to me, a very different from other castles we have visited, being quite low and rather small.  I was also a bit disappointed with the cannonsCastleSanGabriel2 on display as they were clearly more modern (breach-loaders) than the castle itself.   The small island where the castle was located was connected to the main island by a drawbridge built sometime later.

DolphinOur next destination was Agadir Morocco and we sailed from Lanzarote shortly after noon on 11/23.  Along the way that afternoon we were joined by a group of dolphins who played in the wake of the ship.  I found them rather hard to photograph but did manage one good image.

Las Palmas

Click to enlargeWe arrived at Las Palmas on Gran Canaria Island  at 8am the next morning  Las Palmas is the capital of the Canary Islands (alternating with Santa Cruz.)

We had an early breakfast as we were scheduled for a “Panoramic Tour” of the island starting at 8:30.  That tour took us on  some of the narrowest, steepest and most twisty roads I have ever seen.  Click to enlargeThe bus took us up to a point overlooking the “Crater of Bandam”, a volcanic caldera that was left from an eruption 5000 years ago.

Then we visited a town called Teror – the guide had to tell us how the people living there were known as Click to enlarge“Terorists.”   It was Sunday so they were performing mass in Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pino. Because of that we only saw it from the outside.  At the same time there was the weekly market going on in the streets around the Basilica.  We wandered around there seeing everything for sale from cotton candy and roast chestnuts  to Click to enlargeclothing and jewelry. We also sampled a local product – Honey Rum.  Quite good though  very sweet – a small amount was enough.

Next we went on to Arucas which is in an area of banana farms and famous for Click to enlargeThe Church of San Juan Bautista.  An impressive structure built from local stone with many intricate carvings.  Construction was begun in 1909 and only finished recently.  Again, mass was being conducted so we did not go inside.

Finally we returned to Las Palmas but before going to the ship we stopped by the marina to see the start of a huge yacht race.  This race starts in Las Palmas and ends up at St. Lucia in Click to enlargethe Caribbean.  We were told that there were 250 boats starting out that day (11/22) and that they would cover the 2700 nautical miles in about 3 weeks.

We returned to the ship just in time for a late lunch and spent the remainder of the day lounging by the pool and getting to know more of our fellow passengers.  We sailed for Lanzarote at 7pm and once again, because of weather conditions, they did not raise the sails. 🙁