Bus travel in Morocco: it’s all about the journey and not the destination

Let me give you an insight into what bus travel is like in Morocco: it’s never on time, it’s crowded, it’s hot, it’s chaotic, it’s dangerously fast sometimes and above all it’s entertaining.

When I wanted to catch a bus from Chefchaouen to Fes the journey time went from being 5 hours to 9 hours. The decent bus company, CTM, was all sold out so my only other option was the local bus which was heading for Sidi Kacem, a place I’d never heard of. The driver assured me I’d be able to get a connecting bus there so I got on. We left an hour late, we stopped for more people standing along the highway even though the bus was already full and the driver sped around the corners like a Formula 1 driver. We had people standing in the aisles, the girl next to me started vomiting from motion sickness and we even got pulled over by the police. Not that they did anything about the speeding, the passengers above capacity or the illegal overtaking, they just checked the luggage compartments and paperwork and let us go.

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I was glad to arrive in Sidi Kacem alive and then discovered there was no bus to Fes for a couple of hours. Then a bus arrived heading for Meknes and the driver assured me I would get a better connection there. So of course I trusted him and was on the move again. I got to Meknes and then got a bus to Fes within 30 minutes. By the time I got to Fes it was dark and the taxi driver didn’t understand where I wanted to go so I ended up paying a shady street guy to walk me through the maze of the medina to my hostel even though you’re warned not to do that. Nine hours later, welcome to Fes.

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I was then in Ouarzazate and wanted to visit Ait BenHaddou which was 30km down the road. Instead of paying $45 for a private taxi I went to the bus station to get a minibus which only leave when full. The driver told me 11am but by 11am the van only had a few people in it so we waited another 40 minutes until it was full. We took off down the road and got to within 9km of the town when the driver stopped and said there was something wrong with the vehicle. We waited for half an hour while he got someone to have a look at it, meanwhile I was trying to ignore a few young guys who were trying to get a photo with me. By the time we started driving again we realised that we’d left a passenger behind so we stopped and waited for him to catch up to us and then finally we headed off again towards the fortress village famous for being Hollywood’s favourite movie set.

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A few days later I booked an overnight camel and camping trip in the Sahara desert and so I bought a ticket for the only bus heading to the town on the edge of the dunes at 1pm. They told me I’d arrive by 7.30pm in Merzouga but it soon became apparent that that would not happen. The bus picked me up half an hour late and that, coupled with numerous stops along the way for the driver to pick up parcels, more passengers and what seemed to be just a general chat with his mates, we ended up getting there at 10.30pm. I stepped off the bus to be met by the camel man smiling and saying, “We go to Sahara now?”. I decided to stay in town and go the next night instead.

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As the saying goes it’s all about the journey and not the destination and I felt like that was very true of Morocco. I learned so much about the culture and the people by just sitting on the bus and observing the passengers or looking at daily life out the window. I saw some of the most amazing scenery and landscapes sitting on those long bus trips and also many unintentional beautiful sunsets. It was such a memorable country to travel through and the bus journeys definitely made it so.

 

*post adapted from my trip here in September 2015 and from my previous blog elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com