Kat’s Morocco – Third in a continuing series…
A snowstorm of historic proportions had closed New York to all incoming and outgoing flights, including my flight from Los Angeles to Morocco, via JFK. After spending Friday night on the floor of the Atlanta airport and running around to the various terminals begging to get on a flight to New York, luck was with me and I was soon on my way to LGA. I might just make my Saturday connection to Morocco! I did have a passing thought about where my luggage would end up since I was confirmed to JFK for Monday, but like a wise old man told me once, either it will or it won’t. Either my luggage is with me or it is not and I’ll deal with it later.
I had never been to LGA but heard it was relatively easy to get to JFK from there. I was making good time as I got off the plane and was actually going to make my connecting flight to Morocco! I had planned to arrive for my tour a day early so I had time to recover from the long flight over. I had lost a day with the snowstorm, but at least I would meet up with my tour, so I was happy about that. Just as I walked through the LGA baggage claim toward the cab stand, low and behold, what should be sitting right out there where I nearly tripped over it, but my beautiful leopard print suitcase! I guess this AI stuff is more advanced than I thought, since my bag was savvy enough to get an earlier flight to LGA in order to meet me at baggage claim!
So with all my bits and pieces in hand, I trudge out into the deep snow with my sandals, gauze skirt, tank and light jacket. Good thing I love cold weather and I wasn’t going to be in it for long dressed like I thought I was in, well, I don’t know…Morocco? I managed to pal up with a couple of other people so we shared the cab ride to JFK. I arrived with the required two hours lead time to make my flight to Morocco. I can not believe my good fortune! Elation over my success was to be short lived.
While I couldn’t fly into New York, no one could fly out either. All the passengers that didn’t fly out to Morocco Friday, pretty much filled the plane Saturday and all remaining seats had already been assigned. Rats, stuck again! I heard the Friday flight (my original flight) sat loaded and on the runway for thirteen hours before the runway was officially closed and there was an available terminal where they came back to deplane. I am very happy to have missed that flight! Another of those silver linings I referenced in my previous article!
This time the airline put us up in a hotel. I immediately found the local pizza delivery and got myself an authentic New York “pie”. I ordered a couple of Newcastle’s from the bar and had a terrific evening before crashing for the night. Life was good and I was POOPED!
As I woke up Sunday morning, I came to the realization I was going to have to do some research before arriving in Morocco. My tour group would be leaving Casa early Monday morning for Fes, before I made it in country and I had to figure out how to catch up with them. I had befriended a couple the day before who were in the same predicament with their tour group, so we would work this thing out together. Many of us who were stranded by circumstances, formed brief friendships to help get through the twenty four hours until we were on our way. I’d been on trips before where passengers had to catch up to the tour and they made it, so it couldn’t be that tough. I was questioning how conservative I’d actually been about my packing. Hauling a fifty pound roll around suitcase and a thirty pound hand carry bag is a bit unwieldy when you don’t know the conditions you will be facing.
I had brought along a few country guide books and found there was a train system that ran to Fes from Casa, great, no problem. I’ll figure out how to get money to pay for it when I get there. Morocco has very strict regulations concerning their currency and it is not allowed out of country. With few exceptions, you can not get their local currency, Dirhams (MAD), until you get into country. When exchanging USD, all bills must be in good condition with no tears, missing corners or graffiti or they are not accepted. There are ATM type machines to get cash and during business hours, there is a currency exchange in the airport train station.
The flight into Morocco was uneventful and made better by the fact I had a chance to rest before this leg of my journey. We landed and I waited for my bags. The other passengers I had been with managed to make contact with their tour groups and made arrangements to meet up with them. I had advised my tour group of my circumstances and said I would meet them at the hotel in Fes. I was looking forward to the challenge I had set for myself. Could I successfully manage to navigate through a country I was unfamiliar with and where I did not speak the language?
The terminal was small, but clean and easy to navigate. Once I passed through the baggage claim doors though, it was a different story! As I recall the morning arrival now, things are kind of a blur. There was so much activity, strange languages, surroundings and faces. I was stoked with excitement, I had made it! I easily found the currency exchange and immediately exchanged USD for MAD to get me around the country. The exchange rate at the time was about 1 USD to .0822 Morocco Dirham (MAD).
There are many men standing around offering “assistance”. For 50 MAD, I hired myself an assistant. He spoke enough English and I understood enough through expressions, for us to communicate. He immediately took my bag and led me down this long flight of stairs toward the train ticket window and platform. I was glad he took my bags. I hadn’t been as conservative in my packing as I thought. After two days of dragging my bags around through airports, snow and cabs, it was becoming tiresome. I will have to work much harder on my ultimate goal; to travel with a small hygiene and make-up bag and a pair of underwear.