Everything went wrong the minute we stepped off the plane.
It was my fault. Having gotten used to traveling within the EU, I didn’t anticipate passport control and had scheduled only an hour in between landing and needing to be at the CTM bus station where we’d meet with our host and take the ONLY bus, which left at 11 AM, to his village that day.
Obviously, it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. By the time we got through passport control, exchanged whatever euro we had on us into Moroccan Dirhams, and bought a few bottles of water, it was 10:10. The bus into the city comes only every half hour and we missed the one we were supposed to take… which left us only one option: get on the one departing 10:30 and hope beyond hope that it would arrive at the station before the bus left.
Would our host wait for us? Only time would tell.
In Morocco, there aren’t really official stops. They operate under a general system of “tell me where you want to go and I’ll tell you when to get off.” The bus driver was extremely nice and gave us directions to where we could buy CTM tickets, thankfully, because where he dropped us off looked like an open square where people gathered to barter and socialize. Even when he said something about a building, I was completely confused. Building? I saw no building… I just saw people everywhere. But by now, it was 10:54 and we had no time to spare.
We started running in the direction he pointed at, hoping that we’d bump into this invisible building. Halfway through the square, I see it: a stone building exactly the same color as the ground we were running on. We enter and instantly—
“Miss, are you looking for a bus?”
“Going to Ouarzazate? Come with us!”
It wasn’t in an overly pestering way… actually, they were easy to ignore because we knew what we were looking for: at the very end of the small, indoor square, there was a huge CTM sign.
“Lamhamid?? You sure you want to go to Lamhamid??”
We vehemently told him that yes, we were sure, paid 160 Dh (16€) for the one-way tickets, and checked in our luggage. A man, who turned out to be the bus driver, picked up both of our very heavy carry-ons and headed out back towards the outdoor square with us in tow. Together, with a few other stragglers, we crossed the road and stood on the other side, waiting for… what exactly?
Within 5 minutes, a large CTM bus pulled up and we were off.
So we had our tickets and we were heading towards the village we had planned to be at. But our problems weren’t over. Where was our host?
He was nowhere in sight. Instantly, scenarios run through my head: arriving at his tiny village with nowhere to stay for the night, contacting him in some way so at least his family could welcome us into their home, getting off at the next possible stop to call it quits and stay in Marrakech.
“Wait, do you even know what he looks like?” my friend asks me. Crap. How did I forget to check what he looked like?! Was he on the bus with us right now? Did he know what we looked like?
I cringed: it was time to bring out the data plan. First, we had to contact him to let him know the situation. Second, I had to figure out what he looked like. We had just started dialing his number into my friend’s phone when we pulled up to a station and everyone on the bus got off. WHAT WAS GOING ON?
Just as I looked up from my phone, I happened to look through the window and saw three Moroccans standing there, waving at us. My heart leapt into my throat. Was my host in this group of people?
“I think that’s them!” I said to my friend.
“… Are you SURE?”
I looked down. My phone was still trying to retrieve his photo from the Couchsurfing site.
“Why else would they be waving at us?”
We looked uncertainly at each other and slowly got off the bus to meet them. But they were gone from the window. As we entered the second bus station, a surprisingly well-dressed guy came out to greet us, holding out his hand for introductions.
“Hi, Michelle? I’m Hicham.”
Breathing an enormous sigh of relief, I smiled broadly and took his hand.
“Did you already buy your tickets?” I nodded.
Then we all settled down to wait for our actual bus to arrive. The most stressful part was over—I could now enjoy my dream trip the way I wanted to… or so I thought. The rest of the trip brought just as much uncertainty, fear, and most of all, adventure; not only was I heading off to Morocco for the first time armed with just a small Japanese friend, I was diving head first into the most remote village possible: M’Hamid.
Linking up with Bonnie!