Transport in Tangier is a tad complicated. There’s the port in town, and the port out of town. There’s a train station to the south which I was already familiar with, where the trains to the port outside of town leave from twice a day. The first before I arrived, and the second too late for me to be sure of making my ferry. No trains go to or from the main train station in the city centre but the buses to the out of town port do. However, the contract is in the process of being switched from one bus company to another so the local buses are covering the route. The actual bus station is in another part of town and is the only place I was sure I could leave my big bag for a few hours. Taxis and walking filled the gaps.
With all that sorted in my head and my bag dropped off, I walked towards the beach. It was still pretty early and here weren’t many people around. Two horses galloped up and down the beach. When they got closer I saw they were police. The wharf or town port was undergoing a lot of work. The old buildings on the point were fenced off for construction work. In contrast, most of the restaurants along the beachfront looked long closed. Sand spilled onto the paths. One restaurant had chairs out and looked vaguely open. I sat down for breakfast and got a marriage proposal from the waiter before my food arrived. I laughed it off, but it was a sign of things to come.
I walked up to a square that was the entrance to the medina, or markets. The markets here were more commercial style tack. Men’s fashion, brand names and plastic. Here and there traditional shoes like in Marrakech but here they were obviously packaged up and brought in from elsewhere. The women’s clothes were the same traditional style as what was in Marrakech. I didn’t see much else in town.
At the old buildings a young man working there had politely said hello and welcome to Morocco. His seemed the friendliest attention. Later, a random man walked up alongside and started talking with me as I walked up the street. He didn’t say anything untoward, but I was wary of the attention and turned down a busy street. It was raining and I was tiring of the attention. Another man tried to tell me about the celebrations going on at their shop. Back towards the bus station, a fellow who walked past me turned to look back over his shoulder at me several times. At other points I flat out ignored words or looks that I didn’t quite catch. Some of the attention seemed friendly, some creepy, some in between. I’d like to know whether a male tourist on his own would experience any of the same. Perhaps I was being overly sensitive, but because I assumed the attention was because I was a woman on my own with my head uncovered, those four or five hours in Tangier on my own tainted the whole trip and I’m not sure I’d return alone.
Outside the train-free train station, I asked around about the bus. Eventually someone made sense of me and rushed me over to the local bus obscured on another street off the roundabout. This bus took a more coastal route to the port than the train but the view was obscured by clouds, rain and condensation inside the bus windows. I was also damp and tired and wished I could nap as easily as the little girl with her pink glasses smooshed into her face against her mother’s lap.
I had a berth booked in a shared cabin with a view to the water and no one to share it with. I spent nearly the whole of the next day in it. I’d thought to find a spot with a view to write but when I’d come out early in the day it was too much a man’s space with men camping in alcoves, under stairs and on pretty well every available couch. Later there were more women and children around, but I still felt out of place and decided that my laptop was possibly an inappropriate display of wealth. There was barely a smart phone to be seen, and no tablets or the like.
At the bar to buy some food I again had no idea what language to start in. An Italian boat sailing from Morocco to Italy via Spain, the staff turned out to speak more French than anything else. We’d left an hour late on the Tuesday and were two hours late into Barcelona on the Wednesday night. Even then it took another 30 minutes before we could disembark. Passport control consisted of a man on the dock stamping the first page without even pretending to check if I’d already been in the EU and whether I had any time left. With no entry and exit cards, it looks like it would be easy to overstay. Open borders for me. I didn’t see how he dealt with the few other foot passengers.
I covered a lot of ground in a few days. I hope I haven’t out-written you. I had the ferry trip and then a day of trains for writing. On the day I wrote this, I caught the train from Barcelona to Fiesch in Switzerland. It was always going to be another full day’s travel, in line with the theory of travel lots at once to stop longer in the next place. In the south of France the train line ran over coastal water bodies that seem to be called ponds though they’re the size of small lakes. A small flock of flamingoes waded in one, an island of a few buildings sat low in another.
The journey got longer after a two hour delay at the next station due to a bomb scare at the next station after that. Because I was going to miss my connection, I was changed to another train stopped beside us to have more opportunities to make it Geneva before the last train for Brig. Somewhere along the way I noticed that the sky was getting grey, and when we came out of the next tunnel there was suddenly snow lying verywhere.
I was on seven trains for fourteen and a half hours that day. I think that’s some kind of record even for me. By the last train I was really hoping the weather was going to be nice in Switzerland and that I would actually get to see the glacier and maybe a mountain or two. Though I thought I might have been just as happy if it snowed. Lots.