December 30th 2012
About two weeks before we left for America, four friends and I went to the desert. I booked a “budget best-value” tour online to be picked up in Marrakech and driven out into the town of Ouarzazate and after that to Zagora. From there we would ride camels into the sunset and sleep in tents with Berber nomads…well, not with the Berbers. So come Thursday night we got out of our class at 7:15 and rushed to catch our four or five hour train to Marrakech. We arrived at Marrakech at about 1am, why it took so long? It’s Morocco. Our next mission was to find the cheap hostel I so willingly put my trust into online. It was called “Trip and Friends” and cost about 4euro a night. Petite Taxis, the kind that stay in the limited area of the city, will only take three people at a time, so we had to split up. I went with the other girl in my group and one of the boys. The taxi stopped in front of a dark alleyway and the man said “Ok this is it”, to which we replied with silence and then a quiet “are you sure?”. He
told us just to walk up the alley a little way and we would be there. I wanted to ask if “there” meant death. So it is one in the morning, we are in an unfamilier city, and walking down a creepy alleyway filled with shady looking men and stray cats. The men constantly were saying “Heyyyy do you need help?” in the least hospitable voices you can imagine. We walked into this maze of alleyways for about twenty minutes then realized we weren’t finding anything. We did NOT want to turn around and make it clear to the men standing around that we, two blonde girls and one American looking boy, were lost. We decided to turn down one last alley and see if that was the right way, and five feet from the end a giant man holding a club came out of the shadows. I’m not kidding. We all kind of froze until the man, who I was convinced was half yeti half murderer, asked what we were looking for. We hesitated and then he told me in French that he was a security officer, BEST SUPRISE EVER. He escorted us to where all the hostels were
within these alleyways, and we arrived at about 2:30am. When we got to the door of “Trip and Friends”, our friends caught up with us—led by a group of young children–and the man outside the door asked if this was the hostel we were looking for. He pointed at the door and we saw that “Trip and Friends” was written in sharpie across a withering grey door…At this point we were too far in to get out, so we went into the hostel and I tried to tell him that we had booked a room for 5 blah blah blah and he interrupted me and said no just got sit down, take your shoes off, i’ll make you some tea. We walked into this giant room only to meet a French man who knew no English and an American man who knew no French casually hanging out and smoking Hashish. The French man told me that the American(a pudgy white man playing a guitar) was named “Jeemee Hendreeks”. So as French guy, Trip and Friends owner, and Jimi Hendrix were all hanging out and asking us questions about our lives and forcing tea on us, we were trying to casually
bring up the fact that we had to be up at 6am to leave for the desert. Then we brought it up not so casually. Then we brought it up bluntly. About ten minutes later the Trip and Friends man said “Yeah so I get the feeling you are tired, let me take you to your room”. When we got there he told us to pay him then, because “Let’s be real I will not be awake at 6am”.
We could not of been happier when morning rolled around and we could get the hell out of Trip and Friends, only to be picked up but a very brusk and unfriendly man weilding a camel sign and ushering us through the alleyways and onto a tour bus. We sat on the bus for about 6 hours stopping occasionnally at different scenic spots and Hannuts. We got conned into buying long scarves to make into turbans (which I do not regret), and then finally made it to the camels. The camels were great as always, we rode them into the desert for about an hour and a half, and it was dark by the time we got to our campsite.
We slept in big tents and ate Berber Harira (chick pea soup) and they put on a drum show for us. We also slid down the sand dunes and talked to the nomads about their lives, they were really fascinating. Most spoke about five languages but were completely illiterate. One was only sixteen years old, and they all just live by wandering around the desert. The whole night I was freaking out that a camel spider was going to attack me, but Hamdulillah we didn’t encounter any. In the morning we could not believe how amazing the view was. We had not seen the desert around us yet since it was dark when we arrived, but now we could see huge sweeping sand dunes and I can’t even begin to describe the sunlight. We just kind of walked around the area in awe for a while until it was time to ride the camels back to the bus. We were all sore from the day before, even though camel riding in this capacity isn’t exactly strenuous. Thankfully it was a shorter ride and we got back to the bus and CRASHED on the way home. We made a few more
touristy stops but mostly we all just slept on the ride back. Then we got straight onto the train and took that four hour ride and were picked up by a family friend. It was the craziest voyage and was exhausting and touristy, but probably one of my best weekends in Morocco.
Horses at f/1.4
Image by Stuck in Customs
Everything looks better at f/1.4! Kids, flowers, horses, and anything else with nice details really look amazing at f/1.4. In fact, this is a tiny little secret in the photography world. Even a rookie can make something look pretty special when using this lens! Sure, it doesn’t always work out, and you still need good composition, but some extremely unique photos pop out from time to time.
Read the here at Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs travel photography blog.
King’s Palace – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Image by ethan.crowley
Another angle from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Let me know what you think about it. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment capture as I was walking by.
So I’m hoping to be in Vietnam sometime in the next day or two; it’s my first visit there, so I’m pretty excited. Who knows where I’ll find Internet, so if I’m off of Flickr for a few days, there’s a good reason. I’ll hopefully share some shots of my travels there, if any good ones materialize.
All That Glitters . . .
Image by faith goble
Still cleaning out my desk and just found another photo I’d been meaning to scan.
I took this picture in Jamaica in the late seventies. Right before we flew back to the US, I opened my old 35 mm SLR Minolta without remembering to rewind the film and ruined the roll–whicn had my best pictures from Jamaica on it, naturally. This photo, which I found later on another roll, was shot from the balcony of our room, overlooking the beach at Ocho Rios.
We stupidly visited Jamaica during a time of civil unrest (Michael Manley was PM and was at odds with the US after establishing relations with Cuba in the early 70s; the US attempted to destabilize Jamaica under Manley’s tenure) and there were riots in Kingston–several American tourists had been murdered that summer. It took us several hours in a van to reach the resort after we landed at the airport, and the driver harangued us for the entire three hours about how the US should help Jamaica economically to help prevent the formation of a closer alliance between the island and Castro; I suppose he didn’t realize how little control most American citizens have over the actions of our government. Like many people, he seemed to believe that our government actually was "by the people."
The houses we passed on the way to the resort were smaller than one room in a modest American home. I’ll never forget passing through the silent streets of a large town and the unfriendly and hopeless eyes of the people lining the roadside. Crowds actually filled the sidewalks to capacity, and they just stood there, watching. I suppose they had no work. I don’t really know what they were waiting for, but only those despairing eyes moved as we drove by.
Because of the violence (foreigners were fleeing Kingston in fear for their lives), our travels in the country were greatly circumscribed and guards with automatic weapons were positioned around the resort day and night. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I was too young and dumb to be afraid.
I remember Jamaica as an extraordinarily beautiful place (made even more beautiful because Myer’s rum and Red Stripe beer was available at very low prices or often free at the resort and the food was excellent), which was crippled with poverty and crime. As I said, I was young at the time and not quite as disturbed by destitution and unfairness as I am now; I don’t think I’d ever want to go there again–I see enough inequity in the States.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this old photograph for the sunshine that glitters on the surface even though the country itself lay under an ominous cloud of want, trouble, and despair.