The bad travel days. You’re bound to have at least one on a big trip. Usually two months later you’ve forgotten about them. When you look back on a trip, you hardly ever remember that day; you remember all the fun stuff. But sometimes you have one of those bad travel days that becomes a good story later and hopefully you can laugh about it.
One Saturday morning in Cadiz, I woke up in my hostel, had breakfast, picked up my bag, walked to the bus station and bought a ticket to Tarifa, Spain. I walked the 15 minutes from the bus station to the ferry terminal, bought a ticket on the fast ferry to Morocco and went through ticketing. I walked to security, took off my bags and put them on the belt. The security agent looked at me – ‘tienes cuchillos?’ (you have knives?) she asked.
The following conversation ensued in Spanish:
I explained: I’m a chef, I’m travelling for work.
She said: You can’t go through.
Me: But I’m travelling alone, I’m a chef, I have all my stuff with me.
Her: You can’t take them on the boat, they’re weapons.
Me: They’re not weapons, they’re work equipment. (No son armas, son equipos de trabajo)
Her: You can’t take them, you can’t pass.
Me: What am I supposed to do? I’m going to Morocco today.
Her: I don’t know, but you can’t pass. You can try and send them.
Me: I can send them?
Her: Maybe. You can go to the post office and try.
Me: What about my ticket? I have a ticket for the ferry at 1pm to Morocco.
Another security agent: You can change your ticket or get your money back.
Well, shit. This ferry is leaving in 10 minutes and I am clearly not going to be on it. (This is why I don’t make reservations for accommodation in advance!) I asked for directions to the post office, got my ticket stub back, and walked back the way I had come. Into the old city, to the post office, where of course there was a queue. It was also just after 1pm on Saturday, and the post office closes at 1.30pm on Saturday. They closed the doors, pulled down the shutters and pretended like they’d gone home while they served the remaining customers.
When my number was called, I went up to the counter. I explained I wanted to send these items to Sevilla, but I needed a box. He got one that he thought might fit. Then to be sure, I said – they are knives, it’s ok? He looked at me – ‘oh no, you can’t send knives.’ Here we go again –
Me: Why not?
Cute postal worker: They’re weapons
Me: They’re not weapons, they’re kitchen equipment. I’m supposed to go to Morocco today and they won’t let me on the ferry because of the knives so I need to send them to my friend in Sevilla.
Cute postal worker: I’m sorry, but you can’t send them. Nobody in Spain, or anywhere, will take knives in the post.
Me: What about when you order a knife on the internet? It is delivered to you through the post.
Cute postal worker: No, this isn’t possible.
Me: Hmmm (knowing that I’ve ordered knives online and they’ve been sent via the post). So I can’t send them.
Him: No, I’m sorry, we can’t take them.
So I walk out of the Correo, find a step, sit down, have a little cry, and get out my phone. I’d already texted Juan Antonio (my AirBnB host/flatmate/friend in Sevilla) from the ferry terminal to tell him what had happened. Now I start telling him the full story, and he tries to think of solutions with me. After looking at bus schedules, thinking about lockers, hostel luggage storage, and private parcel companies, I decide the best option is to just get on a bus back to Sevilla (a mere 3 hours), drop off the stuff, spend the night, and come back tomorrow.
While on the bus to Sevilla, my friend Elizabeth messages me. She can’t meet me in Morocco anymore because she’s had a family emergency and needs to go back to the USA sooner than planned. I had really been looking forward to having a travel companion in Morocco. Que lio! What a mess…this day seriously sucks!
In the bus station in Tarifa, I meet a lovely Puerto Rican couple who have just come from Morocco and are going to Sevilla, and we have a really nice conversation. When I arrive in Sevilla – I know where I’m going. Juan Antonio is waiting in the flat, I can do laundry, and there’s a gay pride parade and party in the Alameda de Hercules tonight. I get to see friends, have a good night’s sleep and leave the knives and chefs uniform behind, which makes my pack significantly lighter. I decide to take an extra day to relax, even though it means I’m losing two of my intended 10 days in Morocco.
When I leave Sevilla on Monday and return to Tarifa, I know the way. But it’s super windy and the port is closed because the fast ferries can’t go with such strong winds! The company puts us on a bus to Algeciras, the other port with ferries to Morocco. I wait an hour and a half before the boat is scheduled to leave. It is starting to feel like I am never going to get to Morocco. I get on a boat that is 2 hours slower than the ones from Tarifa, and finally arrive in Morocco 6 hours later than I was meant to, at the port which is an hour’s drive from Tangier (as opposed to the port in town which you can walk from). It’s only a 35 km crossing on the Strait of Gibraltar, in case you were wondering!
But I’m here! I’m in Africa!
Honestly, there were times in this mess that I thought, ‘maybe I shouldn’t go to Morocco. Maybe I should stay in Spain and keep eating and practicing my Spanish.’
There are positives of the bad luck: I met Paras on the ferry and we hung out in Tangier, ran into each other in Chefchaouen and then travelled to Fes together. I met Corey, Liz, Brett & Adriana and we had an awesome day in the national park together. I met Diana, Lucre and Fede. My whole schedule changed, which means that all the wonderful people I met in Morocco, I probably wouldn’t have met if I had been on the Saturday ferry. I don’t want to say something cliché like everything happens for a reason, but like I said at the beginning of this blog – sometimes you have a bad travel day which equals a funny story later.