Well here we are in Marrakech, getting used to the smells and sounds of foreign lands, French keyboards, and super-hard beds. Our first days have been spent doing a little sight-seeing and planning our route for the first few weeks and generally lounging around. The weather is good - mild and cold at night but comfortable to walk around and it looks like it hasn't rained here since Noah dropped anchor.
We have found ourselves a room in a cheap hotel on "Cheap Hotel Alley". These places are nearly all the same - rooms around a tiled patio on three floors, with a roof terrace of cast iron garden chairs and tables and a cushioned bank of seats along one wall. It is to here that we retire as soon as the hustle and bustle of the streets and souks gets too much - which is around 2.30pm. There's the usual mix of residents including stoned bearded men chunnering in French. From up here we can easily see the Koutoubia - the tallest minaret in the city and in which there is the loudest sound system of all the minarets. At the call to prayer the muezzin always makes a hesitant cough and a "un,deux.....un,deux" before launching into full call, out-blasting the other calls around the city. From up here we can also hear the snake charmer's pipe from the Djemma el-Fna, the big plaza which becomes a hive of activity at night time, with food stalls and plenty of people who gather for the entertainment: storytellers, witchdoctors, fortune tellers, jugglers, bands with transvestite dancers in full burqa doing a very modest belly-dance. It's winter - everyone promenades in thick coats and fills up on a hot spicy toddy or the ubiquitous mint tea. Trays of glasses queue up stuffed with fresh mint and crowned with an enormous block of sugar waiting for the tea to boil. We have passed on the sheep's head foodstall and settled for sausages and greasy pancakes. We watch somebody trying to putt a golfball on a tiny green - the kind an executive has in his office, or the saps who pay to lassoo coke bottles with a rubber ring tied to fishing rod - all the fun of the fair. Then there's a short walk to our favourite yoghurt parlour for a glass of sweetened natural yoghurt and maybe a vanilla slice............
The souks are the place to shop - but we have not spent long here. There are countless stalls selling the same things - lanterns, spices, leather sandals, jewellery, and shawls. Fortunately, Gayle already has a full rucksack.........
Pillow talk: "What's your's like?" "A sack of sprouts. How about yours?" "Concrete" "Do you want to swap?"
We are heading south on Monday towards the coast to Tiznit, Tafroute and Tarrandant (sound like a bunch of solicitors), before bumbling along beneath the High Atlas and returning to Marrakesh and then ambling northwards. We've scheduled our crossing from Tangiers to Spain for the 20th Feb, and then from Barcelona to Genoa on around the -6th March .