So this is it. Our Portugal time is coming to an end this Friday. After five weeks of enjoying the adventurous ride that has been Portugal, we depart for Morocco, Africa at 10:10pm and arrive into Casablanca just before midnight to start a new chapter of our round the world trip.
It’s been an amazing experience getting to know Portugal and its people and culture. It’s a place we could easily call home and one that we would love to come to sometime in the future.
Thank you Portugal.
Steve is running 10km now. He runs on the beach at low tide while I walk up and back on the promenade. I finish up earlier than he does and enjoy a café latte at our favourite café overlooking Carcavelos Beach – what a life! The kids also come down for a smoothie or Acai bowl and we enjoy the morning catch up together sitting beachside where we plan the day or work out what’s due for school.
At the moment most of the girls are in front with their school work. Charlie has finished for the semester, so too has Billie. Dacey has bits and pieces she needs to be working on – although she tells me not – and Ash has a pile up of work to slog through – her choice.
We leave the teen+tween tribe at the cafe to have some time to enjoy lunch out together – burgers are required apparently. I think they’re all a bit tired after a late night of watching scary movies while Callum is here. We leave them at the café to do as they please while Steve and I return to the apartment to shower and plan out more of our new online business.
And it is Sunday afternoon that I finally take action and purchase a domain name and a WordPress.org website called Itching2Travel. Yay first action complete. Now what? I need to learn the ins and outs of building a website on WordPress.org and once I’ve downloaded the software and worked out all the hosting, I’m straight into it and scouring the .org themes looking for something special. And I find it – it’s a new kind of website out called Parallex.
I spend a couple of hours really not knowing what the heck I’m doing, until Steve comes to the rescue and suggests I take a look at YouTube tutorials on setting one up. I look at what’s on offer and find exactly what I’m looking for. Excellent I’m now ready to follow along this YouTube tutorial for 1:40 minutes.
This afternoon is a lazy one. The kids return and are happy to stay inside, and chill on the couch while I’m preoccupied with WordPress.org. Then I have my final Global Degree Inspiration Series on tonight. It’s a Mastermind class – where we all bring a current challenge we are facing in business or life and the group of participants all assists in helping by providing advice, ideas, solutions and thoughts in how to best overcome the challenge and get moving.
I share my challenge to the group online. It is: How can I motivate my children to be more active and involved in this adventure away? All they seem to want to do – well some of them anyway – is to do nothing! Do you recall being a teenager? Help!
I receive lots of great ideas and advice from this group of younger people, who in reality probably have no idea what it’s like to be a parent, but would certainly recall what it feels like being a teenager and to live through the teenage years.
The top suggestions from the Mastermind group are:
- Teenagers are always unhappy so don’t sweat it, just let it be and they will realise what they’re missing out on – yes I remember myself as a teen so I’m not going to sweat it, it’s not personal as they say.
- Just let them stay in if they want and they will see what they’re missing out on or get them doing exploring on their own – yes we have been starting this, so we can have some time apart. I’ll just ask them if they’d like to come with us and respect their decision to stay in the apartment. Harder said than done all of the time.
- Have a regular family meeting about what they want to see, what activities they want to do so they contribute and have a voice in the decision making – this is a great suggestion and we had previously held family meetings together that came with the eye rolls and the “really mum?” comments but we haven’t kept them going lately.
- Teens just want to be listened without judgement – this is another great point and I’ll take this one on immediately. Although we hold the perception that we are always together, and we should know what everyone is doing or feeling by checking in we don’t. I need to bring a dose of presence to each of them when they’re talking.
- Leave the teens and head off and do the exciting things and take photos of it and show them later so they’ll feel that they’re missing out on something – hmmm…I tried that one but it doesn’t seem to work that way. They look at the photo and go “ha that looks grouse” and there’s no sense of guilt or missing out coming from them. It doesn’t work on my kids.
- Create a home base somewhere – that’s more like home than away – I had heard of another travelling family doing this in Penang. They had a place there which was home base and they would explore from there. Good idea but how to establish that one with school.
- Send them back home and we, the parents, keep travelling – …well although I have often dreamt about this one (lol) it’s probably not a realistic solution in our situation. Do I send them back to an empty house and pay for their existence from afar? Or is it boarding school or grandparents or friend’s houses they will stay at? This one really isn’t the solution.
I have some great ideas, and support from the Mastermind group session and they continue to tell me give them two weeks back at home and they’ll be wanting to get back out travelling. This may be so, but they are really wanting their friendship groups back home and to interact with kids their own age. I plan to hold a family meeting during the week.
It’s our final surfing lesson this afternoon and although we’d like it to be not ending, nevertheless we are really excited to be going to another beach locale for the finale – Guincho Surf Beach. The swell is non existent at Carcavelos now so we’re heading to another beach called Guincho that is located close to the most western point of Western Europe lies – Cabo da Roca in Portugal. This is the place we looked down on while on our mountain bike riding last week. And it works out perfectly with Callum staying with us, as Ash missed a lesson a week or so ago so he can utilise that lesson today.
We meet Pedro at the surf shop at 1.30pm and he sizes us up for wetsuits. We are asked to each carry a board up the concrete ramp to the van that will be driving us along the coast to the surfer’s Guincho Beach about 20 minute’s-drive away. The biggest difference between the two surfing beaches is that Carcavelos Beach (where we are staying near) faces west, whereas Guincho faces north so it’s a lot more windy at Guincho and better quality waves. While Pedro drives he explains this all to us and shares that Guincho beach is always windswept with northerly winds, “Only 10 days out of the whole year are nice at Guincho on the beach, but for surfing it’s great!”
My excitement falters as I think to myself how not that very confident I actually am in the water with the waves and on the board – my last lesson was spent recovering from nose dive after nose dive at Carcavelos beach when the tide was coming in and the waves were gaining momentum and power. I’d felt like I’d lost my confidence but gained a complete salt water cleanse through the nose and the sinuses. Now I was wondering what I was getting myself into at Guincho.
In the van to Guincho the six of us sat along with Callum our friend from England, and also a new surfing recruit Monica from Poland. She has been studying law in Portugal for a semester and was catching a 6am flight tomorrow back home to Warsaw. She told us that it was always on her bucket list to try surfing. She really did leave it to the last minute but here she is with our travelling family tribe heading to Guincho. We had a chat with Monica and it was lovely getting to know her and happy that she got to actually live out a wish of surfing before returning home. Pedro can’t quite understand how we Aussies don’t know how to surf – according to him everyone knows how to surf in Australia.
We arrive into Guincho, and Pedro points out the most western point of Portugal and Europe in fact – Cabo da Roca. We excitedly file out of the van and meet up with Luis who is our surfer friend from the surf school in Carcavelos. He and Pedro are taking the lesson today as Filipe, our usual instructor, is back in Carcevelos taking other lessons.
We haul the boards and wet suits and a backpack jammed full of beach towels down the long walkway to the beach. There are plenty of surfers out on the water this afternoon as we clamber into our wet suits on the beach. Ash has got her leggings on (as usual) and there is nowhere to change with some privacy. So it’s right on the beach. I’m glad she’s okay with this and she places a towel around her waist so she can change into the wetsuit awkwardly.
The boards are arranged in a row on the sand, and Pedro directs us to lie on a board he picks for our height/weight and we practice the three-step move of getting upright on the board. It’s a lot easier on the sand performing this simple three step move of getting upright on a surf board. The eight of us repeat this over and over, skip the warm up and stretches that Filipe had always made us do before hitting the water, and before we know it we we’re hitting the cool water of the Atlantic Ocean. The feet tingle from the coolness.
Luis and Pedro lead the way duck diving under waves, that seem much bigger than anything I’ve surfed on while being in Portugal, while we navigate our way through the continuously rolling and crashing waves that came before us either by jumping up over them or getting smashed by them. Soldier on hey.
We get a fair way out to sea, but it’s calm and gentle all the way out here. It’s nice. I sit on the board like I’m part of the pack but lose balance and look like a fool in the water. The girls are already catching waves and all I can feel is a sense of dread that these waves are too big and strong like last time and I’m going to go for a nose dive again. But I don’t. The waves are different and they’re enjoyable to catch. They roll rather than crash out here. I think overall for the day I had one or two nose dives but most importantly I had the best ride of my three-lesson Portuguese surfing life. I rode the wave! I literally rolled down the wave and stood up on the board feeling the exhilaration in the pit of my stomach as I rode into shore. I was so happy that I jumped off the board squealing with my arms in the air!
Steve was doing well too, and so too were the girls except Dacey. She was struggling with keeping balance on her board even when just paddling out. I knew what was wrong straight away – her board was too small for her. She may be just 11 years old but she’s the same height and a larger build than me. So I hollered her over to her and we swapped boards quickly in the shallow water with the waves pushing us in all directions. She caught the next wave and even Pedro was raising his arms up in the air with a thumbs up to her.
And then there was drama. Through the chain of command, the girls were telling me that Billie was hurt. She was bleeding from her eyes and had been hit by a surf board. So I yelled out to Steve who was further out with the instructors and I made my way to her as quickly as I could battling the waves. By this time a group of people had encircled Billie and were quite concerned about her welfare. She looked fine to me – she wasn’t crying or screaming in pain, but she was holding her eye with her hand. Let’s just say she was very lucky. Another surfer’s board had hit her and sliced just under her left eye as she ducked under a large crashing wave. There was a small amount of blood coming out of the small cut, so we walked out to the shore to take a better look. Two cuts. She was going to have a beauty of a bruise on her eye as it had started to swell up straight away and turn a bruised colour red.
I walked her to our bags, grabbed a towel and made sure she was okay. We walked up to First Aid where they put some disinfectant spray on her eye and gave her some ice to relieve the swelling. By the time we got back to the beach, we had five minutes before finishing so I happily stood at the water’s edge and took some action photos of everyone else in the ocean.
It was a great day out at Guincho and we were lucky – lucky about the weather as it was a perfect day at Guincho and lucky the board that hit Billie didn’t do more serious damage.
We arrived back to Carcavelos Beach and helped unload the gear. And then we were off walking back to the apartment so Callum could collect his bag, have a quick bite to eat and head off with Steve and Charlie to the train into Lisbon and then onto the airport to catch his flight back to Gatwick Airport.
The take away pizza we ordered for the rest of us back at the apartment was very much enjoyed after a big day out surfing the waves. We watch as Billie’s eye starts to turn a brighter colour of red. By tomorrow I’m predicting it’ll be purple. And just because my Bill Bill is injured, I offer to do her turn at washing the dishes that are waiting for her to do from lunchtime today (we don’t have a dishwasher so we’re taking in turns in alphabetical order). Dacey gives me the evil stare from the corner of the lounge room and an outrageous comment of some sort.
Pretty much a nothing day. A lie in with an instant coffee – well not completely instant, it’s the coffee that says it’s latte style and frothy. But whatever it is I enjoy a warm cup of it languishing in bed discussing “which country is next” with Steve lying beside me. It’s a wonderful feeling and reality to just dream up where we’re going to next. That is after Morocco. Of course there are limitations – such as budget and availability and interest. The girls slowly wake up and pass by our bedroom door saying, “I heard you talking about Iceland” and we begin the day.
First a run for Steve and Charlie and a walk for me, while Billie and Dacey meet us down at the beach later on. Ash stays at the apartment to finish some school work. The best thing about traveling with older children is that you don’t have to be doing everything for them all of the time. They’re so much more independent and Steve and I get to have more time on our own when we want it. One of the bonuses of traveling with teens. There are at times no bonuses too. But overall it’s great.
We return to the apartment but Billie and Dacey have some café time together – I just know they’re buying chips there. But we walk on. I on the other hand make a delicious breakfast of poached eggs, bacon, tomato, sautéed mushrooms on toast with avocado and sautéed spinach leaves for Steve and me back at the apartment. I’m an expert at this dish now and have all the right cooking times to ensure I serve runny poached eggs. It’s the best brunch ever.
We book in 4pm today to come together and have a family meeting about “where to next?” It goes well – we work out that out of the 90 days we are allowed to stay in any European Schengen member countries (which is most of them) we have used 72 as of the 30th June. So that means we have 12 days up our sleeve if we want to stay in a Schengen country of Europe. We do some research into Iceland and discover the exorbitant cost of living in Iceland – US$12 for a beer (that’s a small one) and food is so overpriced for what you get that our good eating family of six would never survive. Plus, the cost of airfares and accommodation tip it over budget for us on this trip. So Iceland looks like another time, so another adventure is required.
Paris gets a mention from Billie, Madagascar from Dacey. She thinks that because we are in the African country of Morocco, getting to Madagascar is simple as pie. Ha! We are also trying to work out how we can get to see our friends in Brighton, London after they return from a holiday visiting family first in Zimbabwe in August and Ireland up until early September while also making sure we are able to complete all the school work assigned to the girls in term 3 through Distance Education Centre Victoria. Planning these continent or country movements on this trip takes considerable time, planning and thinking.
So the plan we have come up with is to get school work complete before the end of the term 3 term, so finishing term 3 around three weeks earlier than expected. That means we can travel without having to find accommodation with decent and strong wifi for four kids to access (that really limits many places) and we can couch surf in London for a week before starting our way back to Asia for term 4. Nothing is set in stone, but we have a couple of ideas that might just work out for everyone. Stay tuned.
I have been keeping up to date with various local Facebook activities and news. And the one that makes me think more intimately at life is that of Lilly de Haas and her family. Here we are on the other side of the world while a young girl back in our home town is about to go in for brain surgery in an effort to remove a tumour that is affecting her life. And although we are so very far away and experiencing an adventure of a lifetime, it is in the moments of quiet contemplation and reflection that I think about the whys of the world. The ability to empathise is hugely underrated quality – the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes and try to understand what it is they’re feeling or thinking or wanting or needing.
My own thoughts about Lilly and her family’s situation got me thinking about a poem I had previously read many years ago by Mary Oliver and I’d love to share it here. It’s called The Summer Day. Hope you love it as much as I do. It always reminds me to live life to the fullest, and to take note of the small qualities and details that are often overlooked in life.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Did you like the poem?
We wake this morning to the sound of cars driving past and water on the wheels. It has been a while since I’ve heard that particular sound. It’s been raining and the day outside is cloudy and grey. I start the process of purging my accumulated belongings (it’s not much) and packing up. It’s time to haul the two suitcases down from the top of the wardrobe and start the big pack for another move to another continent and country.
The girls are a little slow to get going today. They don’t seem keen at all to get out and about. So I employ the technique of letting go, especially when the kids push back and don’t want to venture out of the apartment and do some sightseeing. And today is one of those days. Steve and I plan to visit Sintra this afternoon and explore the town and the castle without the girls. I’d prefer if they did come along, but they are adamant they’re not.
Charlie – I want to do some video editing.
Ash – I need to finish my school work.
Billie – I can’t be bothered.
Dacey – I don’t want to go.
Charlie – I’ll help Ash with her Maths work.
Ash – I’m not interested in another fort.
Billie – I can’t be bothered.
Dacey – I want to make something out of this box. (Dacey has a habit of collecting other people’s things that have been discarded – like large cardboard boxes – and she gets her scissors out and starts making doors and windows and so forth).
There you have it! What an exciting lot of teenagers! So I have to be okay that they will miss out on seeing Sintra. Steve on the other hand gets a bit frazzled by this reality, but we have a quiet chat and decide it’s okay they can stay at the apartment if they really want to while we head out to explore. I think Steve’s silently relieved that we are out exploring together today.
We’ve also started packing up our things; the suitcases are open and starting to get filled with school books, teddy bears (Dacey is travelling with three soft companions that work perfectly well in the suitcase for extra cushioning!) and eating out the food that we have in the cupboard and fridge. I hope that by having the suitcases out and open it will remind the girls we are actually leaving in a couple of days’ time and they may complete some packing while staying in at the apartment this afternoon while we’re in Sintra.
Again each time we have to move on from one country to another or one continent or another, it’s a major interruption in our lives. It’s another uprooting where we have to start all over again – new place, new people, new language, new customs. Sometimes we are happy to move on, and others (like now) we would be happy to stay. The girls are not looking forward to having to cover up their skin in Morocco – long pants and shirt and scarf again like in rural Buldana, India. But that is the lesson of travel – respecting other cultures and adapting to different environments. We have a new destination that we will be able to call home base – the British Language Academy – and in the meantime there’s a whole lot of sorting out what comes along with us and what doesn’t.
The process of packing while we’ve traveling this year has been that each time we leave for a new place we get to clean out clothes and stuff that seems to collect. So over the next few days the action of purging items will be high on the agenda so that we are traveling light and that everything we pack has purpose. Sometimes that’s hard with certain individuals in the Cole family who love to collect things like boxes, shells, sticks, glue…
There’s a bit of process for us to get to Sintra. First of all we walk, actually run, to our local train station Carcavelos, top up the public transport cards and make it within a minute of the train’s arrival. We run because we had been debating out the front of the apartment as to whether to should go to Sintra now or wait until tomorrow when the clouds had lifted and the sky was a lovely blue. So we had wasted time.
We’re catching the train to the end of the Cascais line – to Cascais Central. From there we find the bus terminal and catch the 403 bus to Sintra via the scenic coastal road (8.30 euros for 2 tickets). The journey on the bus is well worth going on just to see the coastal landscape and suburban lifestyle of the people living in and around Cascais. But the point of the scenic road is to go to the most westerly point in Portugal: Cabo da Roca. We arrive here at 1:45pm but don’t get out; it’s a tourist spot to wander out onto the lookout platform to view the rugged cliffs and Atlantic Ocean. It’s a fairly isolated spot with only a bus stop, a café, a light house and rolling hills of rugged shrubs and wild flowers. But we have already seen the amazing ruggedness of this coastline on our mountain bike ride the other day so there’s no need for us to get out here and battle the ferocious northerly winds.
As we get closer to our destination of Sintra, the landscape just opens up to one of greenery. It’s lush everywhere – trees, scrub, plants and mountains. It’s absolutely beautiful and as we sit in the front seat of the bus facing the large window, I can’t help but snap away with my camera. Plus, the clouds are lifting and there are sports of blue sky appearing. It’s going to be a magical day after all.
To read more about our half day trip to Sintra please go to blog post Day 192 | Three: Parts of Portugal in Sintra | 28 June 2017.
Later that afternoon…
The kids check in with us via Messenger app, and give us an update and suggest we should stay out longer and have a date night as we are departing Portugal and we should have some time together after all. Don’t you just love their angle? We take them up on their kind offer, and we catch the more direct 417 bus back to Cascais and enjoy dinner out at Dom Prego (where we dined for lunch after our mountain bike riding). There we sat at a window table that overlooked the little cove beach below and enjoyed traditional Portuguese style dishes of cod fish cream pie and stroganoff accompanied by a beer and red Sangria. Plus, we just had to relive their specialty taster dish of fresh cheese all over again. Oh it’s such a lovely homemade recipe.
We missed the 9.30pm train back to Carcavelos, and we had half an hour to fill in before the next train at 10pm. So we wandered down the main street of a darkening Cascais – the sky a vivid blue that looked as if it just went on forever and ever. We were still exploring and walking and loving every minute of being in Portugal together.
Both of said we are returning tomorrow afternoon with the girls to Cascais, having a swim at the beach and then a dinner at Dom Prego to celebrate the end of living in Portugal.
No time to chat as we are packing, completing last minute schooling submissions, and trying to enjoy the very last days we have in Portugal.
Late this afternoon we head down to Cascais on the train and the girls have a swim and a 40-minute session on the sea inflatable obstacle course while Steve and I wonder around the coast enjoying the views and the cafes. Then it’s onto Dom Prego – one of the best traditional restaurants we’ve discovered in Cascais for a celebratory last dinner out in Portugal dinner.
We order octopus risotto, chicken parmas, and the cod fish cream with a Russian salad and French fries followed by a dessert made from the traditional recipe of the waiter’s grandmother. Let’s just say we could last in the desert for over a week!
Afterwards we walk down to the little beach and played tennis with hard bats on the sand until it got too dark to see the ball. Lots of fun together.
Back home, back to packing, washing and the final errands around the apartment before we close the door and leave our Portugal home.
Have to post when we get to Morocco.
Ear phones are found (nearly a melt down after Ash misplaced hers last night).
Showers enjoyed. Lots of wet towels.
Last of the washing is drying by the window.
Whose socks are these under the bed?
Where’s the hairbrush?
I need another coffee.
Spare key is found in Ash’s bag.
Cleaners are expected to arrive in 15 minutes.
We leave our apartment and walk to Carcavelos train station to Lisbon.
Book a Uber who arrives in 6 minutes. We take two trips up to the station with Carlos our Uber driver who is a retired IT consultant. He’s driving because he loves meeting people.
Luggage placed into train station lockers for the day. There were only 4 available medium lockers unused so we pushed and shoved all our belongings into them. Behind us was a very disappointed couple who had 2 small pieces of luggage but no remaining lockers.
We have 6 hours to explore Lisbon.
Yes, we are ALL going to Saint Jorge’s Castle today girls.
Lunch in Lisbon at McDonalds. We seem to always have a junk food day on travel days.
Explore St Jorge’s Castle.
We go our own ways for 90 minutes. Steve and I see Carmo Convent.
We catch two trains out to Portugal Airport.
Check in. Thinking – that drone better not get us into trouble again pleeeease...
Let’s go to Morocco. Thinking – hope Mr Harim will be at the airport to greet us. Hang on what does Mr Harim look like anyway?
After spending a wonderful last day out in Lisbon where we walked up to Castelo de S. Jorge or Jorge’s Castle (30 euros for our family ticket) to explore the amazing stone structure and grounds with the towers and lookouts over Lisbon and the grounds. We also enjoyed a coffee and bought our very last nata (Portuguese pastry) and sat at the café amongst some peacocks that had made their home perching high up in the old swaying pine trees within the castle grounds.
We went one way and the girls the other as we spent the next hour and a half doing our thing. Steve and I walked up to Carmo Convent (4 euros each) while the girls chilled at McDonalds and connected to the wifi.
If you want to read more about Castelo de S. Jorge and Carmo Convent please watch out for post titled Day 194 | Four: Parts of Portugal in Lisbon | 30 June 2017.
It was time to leave Lisbon. We collected our bags from the train station lockers and ended up purchasing another suitcase at the underground train station – our pink suitcase is broken and we have been talking about replacing it. Done! Finally!
Off to the airport via two trains lines. We arrive with plenty of time of repack and organise luggage weight. We line up to check in. Unfortunately we couldn’t check in online back at the apartment nor could we do it on the machines at the airport. We were still standing at the check in counter 40 minutes later. The TAP airlines ground staff was on the phone for ages – something about having to confirm the credit card against the tickets. Jeez. Then she asked had we paid for luggage (it was an extra 20 euros each on the ticket) and she had to wave over a ground staff member who inputted something into the computer system.
This is the longest ever check in known to mankind! Are we in the 21st Century here?
Finally the last bag to go under was the drone bag. Fingers crossed we have no issues like we did from Delhi to Malaga.
Then we walked towards our gate – number 45A – but before any of that security. The line up was horrendous and ridiculous. The Portuguese should be ashamed with their level of processing with only 2 security lines operating. I thought it was bad enough in India, but Portugal tops the list now. Nearly an hour waiting in a snaking long line to get our hand luggage processed, we were through to customs. Luckily we decided not to stop and get something to eat and doodle around in there. Another line up for customs – again not enough staff to process – finally another two customs booths open up.
There is an option to use the ePassport and it has Australia as a valid country to do this, but none of the machines are working and the ground staff man directs us to the manual processing. We line up again. Steve walks back over to the man in the high vis jacket alerting him to the fact that we are now running late for our plane. He just tells Steve you’ll be fine. We line up.
It’s not often you get a chatting customs dude, but today we did! We all walk over to the window and he is so amazed that Steve is the proud man of not four but FIVE women…of it’s so funny isn’t it (my sarcasm and just over it now). I’m thinking just process the bloody passports comic passport control dude. Three of us are processed and walk towards gate 45A. It’s a long walk but the travelators help speed it up.
We have 30 seconds to grab a couple of chocolate bars from a limited selection vending machine at the gate and we are last passengers to board. We’re not sure if we are getting any food service on this plane. Luckily it’s a short 90 minute trip from Portugal to Morocco but it’s taken us nearly twice as long to get to this point. After all that it really doesn’t feel like it’s worth this short trip.
We think we’re walking onto a plane, but in fact we walk down some stairs and board a bus. We wait and wait and wait and finally we are cruising on the tarmac and abruptly pull up beside a twin propeller 70-seater TAP branded plane. We all look at each other in amazement – this is a surprise! We disembark the bus on the tarmac – the wind is ferocious and cold. I have shorts and a thin knit on. Everyone else is more prepared with a jumper and long pants. Ha I’ve taught them well.
We board this smaller than usual plane clambering up the stairs and are greeted by a happy TAP flight attendant.
The propellers start and they’re very loud. We are lucky we have service on this plane – somehow two flight attendants manage to serve the 70 passengers via a very narrow aisle. The chicken and mayo roll is delightful along with a large glass of cool water. I’m dog tired and nod off momentarily.
I wake as we are preparing to land. The golden lights of Casablanca are below stretching out forming long golden rows. We are all excited and scared of what lies before us – the unknown and having to start all over again in a new place and new environment. Then we notice that we’ve have given the incorrect time for Mr Harim to collect us at the airport. TAP said we would land at 11:50pm on 30 June, but in actual fact there is a time difference between Portugal and Morocco of an hour. I’m trying to work out why TAP airlines told us it would be 11:50pm when in actual fact it’s 10:50pm local time. (*we were told later on by one of the volunteers that after Ramadan the clock changes back an hour to summer daylight savings).
So we have no internet connection, except whatever we can muster at Casablanca’s Mohammad V Airport, to get in touch with Mr Harim and let him know to come earlier. Steve’s Android phone manages to pick up a signal so I sign into Messenger app and send him a message. He responds he’ll be there in 30 minutes. Phew.
In the meantime we line up at Moroccan passport control, but they have all booths operating and it’s not a long wait. Our passport control man was another happy go lucky man who wanted to have a chat about Australia. On the passport control booth window is a sticker that says, “Smile…You’re in Morocco”. I view this an omen for a great journey in Morocco as we are little unsure what the reality will be once we land.
I change into long pants at the airport toilets. We are completely unsure of the cultural nuances of Morocco so best plan is to play it safe with long pants and top. We walk out to a balmy night and stand and wait out the front for Mr Harim. The wifi signal is low, so Steve stands at the entrance door trying to get internet connection so we can continue communicating with Mr Harim. It’s getting much later now. We realise there are two gates to exit from and as I am about to walk up to the other gate a man approaches me with a smile and arms outstretched saying, “Hello Lisa?”
Mr Harim is a slight man, with a short wispy greying beard and a soothing voice and a huge smile. He says that he first saw the girls and knew it was us. After quick introductions all round, we walk to his car in the parking lot. Mr Harim says he didn’t realise how much luggage we had and he has only got one car. I’m too tired to care how we’re going to get to Berrechid. When we arrive to his car, we realise this car is probably not going to fit us all in. But Mr Harim doesn’t flinch and pops the boot, pushes his belongings in the boot aside and starts packing the car.
Somehow it works. Moroccan magic. Mr Harim slams the boot shut, although it’s not completely closed tight due to our bulky luggage, but enough that it stays shut while driving.
I did’t get a photo, but it is a funny sight. I think Charlie has some video of the moment that she’ll show in her vlog soon. Five girls piled in the back and Steve in the passenger seat holding a massive suitcase that his chin rests on but which he has to move to the side for Mr Harim to change gears in the car properly. Dacey is asking, “So how long are we like this for?” as she and I crouch over Billie and Charlie and mould to the bend of the cars door and roofline. 30 minutes apparently.
But it went by quickly. And before we know it we arrive at the British Language Academy. We walk inside and it’s a large building, it’s dark, two other volunteers are up who we meet and chat with – one from Istanbul, Turkey and the other from Maryland, USA. Mr Harim gives us a quick tour of the school – it’s four levels with a rooftop and we occupy a six-person dorm downstairs. It’s back to a very close quarters living arrangement two bunk beds and a double mattress on the floor. There is another person’s suitcase in the corner and we discover that she is out traveling in Morocco and will return next week. She will move to a bedroom upstairs.
As we head to bed, I know exactly what the girls are thinking, this is another Buldana situation that we’ll have to survive. But I believe it will be different. Sure the accommodation is no Airbnb like we are used to; it’s dorm accommodation shared with a bunch of other young travelling volunteers from all over the world. Shared kitchen, shared toilet, shared shower. Time will tell soon enough how long we plan on staying here.
But for now we are just trying to find pillows and bed sheets and some bottled water before heading to bed for our first sleep in Berrechid.