Deciding what transportation to take when touring a country is fraught with decisions: flexibility to roam and stop, efficiency especially in long voyages, cost, opportunity to meet people, safety. And a lot more.
In planning a trip to Morocco we leaned toward the well-regarded train system for our long distance trips from Casablanca to Fez and from Fez to Marrakesh. Then came time to decide how to see the Western coast and get back to Casablanca for our departure home.
Rent a car? Hire a driver? Take a bus then rent a car? Bus back to Marrakesh then train back? We’d read that the newer highways eliminated some risks of road ruts. But the prospect of people and animals running into the highway remained, along with apparently frequent tire issues due to screws all over the road.
We chose to hire a dedicated car (versus a “Grand Taxi”) and hire a Moroccan driver who could handle any technical difficulties and deftly navigate the small towns (and oh yes, the goats and donkeys and horses and people leaped into the street like a game of Pink Elephants) and get off the beaten path.
Seeing camels by the beach as well as camels and goats foraging trees for argon nuts was the highlight of our trip.
Had we gone by bus, our encounters with Berber shepherds and camels (chameau, in French) would have been mere, sorrowful blips punctuated with the occasional stop at an argon co-operative or tourist-friendly eatery.
We would do some things differently.
The owner of our riad found the driver, a friend of a friend. While he at first appeared to be professional, his professionalism declined. And declined. (The drive to Casablanca ended up being even longer than the already-long bus ride would have been.) He wasn’t cheap either. The lesson: Vet like mad.
The car, also hired from a Marrakesh-based company, had to be paid for in cash. The whole deal was rather informal. We never heard if the car, which our driver was taking back to Marrakesh, actually arrived back in the city. But we figure no news is good news. The lesson: For the same price we could have hired a small car from an international rental car company — which we would do next time.
All things being equal: we hugged camels on the beach! We got home (despite our driver causing us to miss our flight). And we got to see goats up close and personal doing their thing in the trees. That was a big motivator for our trip in the first place, and turned out to be even more exciting than actually riding camels.