It may seem weird but I’ve never been to Morocco.
Yep. You read that right.
Much as it’s a key part of European surf travel lore and the first trip many British surfers take to another continent I’ve just not got round to it. Had a few false start trips that never amounted to anything but that’s as close as I’ve got.
Never been to South Africa either, but that’s more because of the bitey fish. I’ve done the Algarve loads and a good few stints in the Canaries, so I’ve been ball park close to Africa. Just never balls deep.
Today I’m breaking that duck and finally en route to the land of endless pointbreaks, minty tea and rugs you never knew you needed.
‘Bit early in the season innit?’ I hear you cry.
Well. Mid-September. Who knows with the Atlantic anymore. Old certainties are certainly out the window.
Driving to Heathrow the temp was 32.5C. Which ironically was hotter than my destination. And the hottest September day in Blighty since the war.
Swell wise plenty is on tap for the week, which is just as well as my trip was a junket from the nice people at the Maroc Surf Federation and Anfaplace Shopping Centre in Casablanca who are, for the second year, putting on Morocco’s only stop on the world tour; alongside them nice folk at Quiksilver for the Pro Casablanca.
The fact Brits Peony Knight and Lucy Campbell would be competing is what swung it for me, as you’ll know the QS grind doesn’t demand much media attention, but with some Brit ladies making rounds it seemed a good time to do some reportage (not just go on a jolly for a week of sunshine huh? Ed) and catch up with two of our brightest stars before they disappear for the winter to warmer climes…
Heathrow Terminal 4 is offensively bland. It’s not got the glamour of the shiny new T5 or the shabby, constantly being renovated retro chic of terminals one through three. It’s the beige middle child. Or more accurately the brushed aluminium and exposed pipework shopping mall slash airport child.
But it does it’s job, the bar has given in and now sells interesting beers, Sam Adams and Punk IPA if you’re wondering, and was thankfully quiet.
A few hours and one tray of strange Royal Air Maroc chicken chunks and just peas, nowt else, later I landed in Casablanca. The legendary city which, as a Twitter friend thought, isn’t just a film.
Passport control anywhere in the world is never a barrel of laughs. What’s really not fun is when your plane is neary an hour late anyway, you’re knackered and you queue for 45 minutes to get to the man and he asks you for your form.
‘What form? No one said anything about a form?’
‘Form!’ said with a stern face and pointy gesticulations to the back of the room.
Which is when your heart sinks and you wish the airline folk had actually mentioned you needed a landing card. I’d checked the entry and all I’d seen was Brits get visa free easy entry.
So. Off I trot. Of course there are no pens. So I gingerly asked for one in one of the side rooms where they interrogate folks. Pen acquired it managed ’Sha…’ before going to pen heaven.
So again. ‘Soz, stern customs man, your undoubtedly marvellous pen is a bit not working. Can I have another. Merci.’
Then I’m queuing again. Forever. All the while imagining the folks supposedly picking me up have given me up as a lost cause.
Not that I could communicate as my £20 phone credit vapourised the second I turned the thing on even with data for everything but email turned off (£6 per MB, 35p per text if you’re wondering?!). So I couldn’t call or text and was hours late. Awesome start.
I finally got through passport control, before getting searched and accused of being a professional photographer. ‘What little old me with ten grand of camera shite in my backpack? No sir. Not I. I’m just on me holibobs innit.’
Having finally escaped the confines of the airport all I wanted to see was a little laminated sign being held with an approximation of my name on it.
Forty minutes of fruitless wandering, even with a copy of Carve coyly wafting from a paw, rendered nothing.
The internal thought process was something along the lines of:
‘It’s 11:30pm, I’m in a fascinating new country, it’s raining, I’ve no idea how far the hotel is, no bugger’s come to pick me up, the passport folks really need to work on their signage, their attitude, and perhaps buy some pens, and screw this … screw this all to hell.’
I might have even booted my luggage petulantly. Thrice.
But this is travel. It’s hardly the first time I’ve gone to a different continent with promises of being picked up and been abandoned. This certainly wasn’t as bad as the time I landed in Hawaii late eve to get a, ’Sorry, we forgot, we’re partying now so no one is a in a fit state to drive to get you.’ And had to sleep on a wooden bench for the night with one eye on my camera bags and one eye on the hobos. That one got the folks involved on my shit list indefinitely.
So when all hope is lost you do the one thing you dread and you resign yourself to talk to the taxi men. I couldn’t even by arsed to haggle. They quoted £40. I knew the hotel wasn’t exactly close and feared the hotel might be shut by the time I arrived so just slumped in the back dejectedly and watched through one eye as my driver skilfully warped time and space to fit his car through holes physically not big enough for a people carrier.
Driving standards here are, let’s say, “informal” or “relaxed”. Those white lines on the roads are more guidelines than anything else and driving in anything appearing to be a straight line is apparently frowned upon. Getting your car as close to the others is a sign of good driving. Horn usage and light flashing is most important. Especially when you’re a psychic taxi driver that gets flashing when the lights are still red to let the car in front know that green light is oh-so-imminent. But. All credit to him, my guy was fast, F1 fast. Which was a blessing. He also seemed REALLY happy with his 400 dihrams so I’m guessing I got porked. But. At midnight. Who cares. I’m all for injecting funds into local economies.
The hotel thankfully was open and the crew here are awesome. I slept like a lamb. Even though I couldn’t get the question out of my head: why put the bidet in a different room to the actual toilet?
It’s now day 2. A fine breakfast has been consumed. I’ve high-fived Peony and bro Taz Knight, who are thankfully staying at Le Lido hotel same as me and the comp site is a few hundred metres down the beach. The surf’s solid, heavy and not inviting but apparently it’s way better at high tide which is lunchtime.
So. I’m going to have a post brekkie snooze. Got to sleep off the omelette and crumpet slash pancakes…
PS: An email did get sent when I was flying to look for a certain transport company on arrival. But obvs didn’t get it due to no free airport wifi ever working and phone mobile credit inferno.
Words by Sharpy