Probably my worst travel experience ever

The ferry from hell in "real time"
The ferry from hell in “real time”

Ok, my travel companion and I didn’t get physically hurt and no objects were stolen from us. But our sanity was temporarily stolen, or lost, or both. I had never felt so wretched while traveling, and I do travel quite a bit. Bad karma (from stupidity?), or something, hit us at that point and there was nothing we could do to stop it, until whatever it was the universe was doing ran its course. What I describe in this post was just the beginning of a very, uh, strange and see-sawing experience in Morocco. (I wrote this some time ago and retrieved it from a defunct “musings” blog of mine. It died quickly, I think, because I lost my patience feeling that I had to write such long elaborate posts all the time. It won’t happen here.)


Arrivals – or trying to arrive somewhere – can make for some of the most desperate and memorable moments of a trip. Our saga trying to get to Morocco definitely falls into this category, and foreshadowed the insanity our time there would be. It took me nearly three years to be able to write about this trip, of which Morocco was the biggest third (there were also Portugal and Spain). 

The bus stops before it’s supposed to.  Everyone gets off. It’s around 4 a.m. in Seville, and the station is closed. The rude Portuguese bus driver refuses to give me and my travel buddy any information. He takes off. It starts to rain. I must still be drunk from a whole week of partying in Lisbon for New Year’s, because I laugh about it. Ironically, it’s not until we manage to enter the station and find out where and when the bus to Algeciras comes in that my travel buddy and I have a spat. It’s bad. We sit apart and don’t talk to each other the entire way to Algeciras. Slowly, the hangover and exhaustion start to kick in. I haven’t slept in 36 hours. I try to sleep but am too paranoid we will miss our stop. I am thinking I will turn around as soon as we arrive in Algeciras and go back to the handsome blue-eyed Moldovan expat I took up with in Lisbon. At that moment, I hate the friend I’m traveling with.

We arrive at the Algeciras port and decide we must speak to each other if we are to get through this. She tells me off at some point and I cry a bit. We make up. In keeping with our desire to be, uh, spontaneous with this leg of the journey, we have no clear plan or hotel booked in Morocco, so I get on a computer at the port and book something in Fes. After that we find out the next ferry doesn’t come for a few hours. With the way things are going, I am not surprised. I feel sicker than ever before in my life (except for when I once had a stomach flu and thought I was going to throw up all my internal organs). I lie down across some seats in the waiting area and once again fail to fall asleep. Finally it’s time to board the ferry – but not before getting through border security. Even nearly throwing up all over the security official, I make an effort to be nice to him and speak Spanish. Big mistake, because I have my U.S. passport on me. I don’t know if it’s plain stupidity or just assholeness on his part, or maybe a combination of both, but the guy does not believe my passport is real, that I can be an American citizen and speak Spanish at the same time. I tell him I used to live in Miami but that does not convince him either. It takes him half an hour to clear my passport. While I am waiting, I run into a fellow Brazilian girl I used to know in high school and hadn’t seen in 10 years, and it turns out the jerky security guy is giving her boyfriend a hard time, as well.

We get into the ferry and find seats. They look like airplane seats and are quite comfortable. It’s a nice, big ferry with a big bar. Windows go around in a dome-like shape. Little round white lights line the ceiling. TV screens hang from above. I feel relieved and not so sick anymore. I settle in to watch the journey to Tangiers. I start feeling like I am living the good life. The feeling is fleeting, however. As soon as the ferry sets off, huge waves start to hit it. The big ferry is being tossed about like a little rowboat. Soon the TV screens (pictured above) turn red and plead, “Asseyez-vous, s’il vous plait.” (“Sit down, please.”). No one is about to disobey, I think. The ferry crew members start to look uneasy. They hand out sick bags. Someone does throw up at some point – but not me. Oddly, I am fine. (Perhaps numb would be a better word.) I don’t even panic when plates start breaking, tumbling down from the bar shelf. It feels like the ferry is taking turns sailing on its right and left sides, but never straight. It goes on like this for the entire journey, which is an hour or two but feels much longer under these circumstances, naturally. Suddenly, calm is restored. The ferry stops where it’s supposed to. After more security delays and my nearly hitting someone (which would probably have gotten us thrown into a rotting Moroccan jail and set off a diplomatic crisis), we finally get off the ferry and into Tangiers.

Surprise, surprise, we haven’t booked a hotel there. My brilliant drunken mind thought about our second stop, Fes, but not about our first. Moroccan guys in traditional garb are devouring us with their eyes as we walk across the dusty street. Slightly frightening vibe, and not the prettiest city on earth at least at first sight… but needless to say, we are too exhausted to give it a second look… even the next day. We check into the first hotel we find, which is actually kinda nice with its chandeliers and Arabian-Nights-style drapes (duh, this is Morocco), but once again, we don’t explore much. We go into the room and I take a bath and almost fall asleep in the tub. We pass out in the bed for 15 hours. We wake up, take a cab and go straight to the train station. We catch the train to Fes… nice train, with cabins. We get a lot of male attention once again (duh, this is Morocco) but thankfully this time we get a reprieve from creepiness. A semi-cute Moroccan guy sits in our cabin and we decide to share Arabic songs with each other on an iPod. We dance while sitting down and take pictures of each other. He decides to call me Salma (like the Moroccan king’s wife), then Mimi. He gives my friend a nickname too. He gives us his phone number. An older guy comes in at some point and gives us a business card with the name of a riad (traditional Moroccan hotel) and its address printed on it. It looks nicer than the one I booked on the port’s computer and offers to send someone to pick us up. So we decide to go for it.

Big mistake (or was it?).


Made you curious, perhaps? I might write more about the trip here at a later time, when writing long posts doesn’t appear so daunting given the amount of other work I have to do. Please feel free to share your travel experiences for me to post here. In fact, I highly encourage it. My e-mail is

A Global Studies doctoral degree holder and former newspaper reporter, avid eater, pseudo-philosopher and poet, occasion-propelled singer, semi-professional socializer, movie addict, Brazilian-American nomad. In this space, she will share some of her experiences and (mis)adventures regarding various topics, with special attention to social issues.

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